The Stack Rock Group is a landscape architecture practise based in Boise Idaho, with an office in Salt Lake City, Utah. While Stack Rock’s market is clearly local and specialized, it has produced an exceptionally well-designed blog that serves its intended market and reaches beyond to include content that is worthy reading anywhere.
I especially enjoyed Jesse Buster’s article: Is Design at a Paradigm Shift, where he discusses the challenges (and practicalities) of really good architectural design in a time of technological change and incredible pressure on designers’ productivity and fees.
Buster pulls up some provocative quotes to start the story, notably this remark by architect Frank Gehry who wrote: Today’s Architecture is (Mostly) “Pure Shit.” He alleges only 2% of everything built is not pure shit.
“Once in a while, however, there’s a small group of people who does something special. Very few. But good god, leave us alone! We are dedicated to our work. I don’t ask for work. I don’t have a publicist. I’m not waiting for anyone to call me. I work with clients who respect the art of architecture. Therefore, please don’t ask questions as stupid as that one.”
Buster offers his answer, which, like most answers to painful questions, probably won’t satisfy everyone, but at least he takes a shot at it. I’ll stretch copyright to quote it in full, because the messaging here needs the entire response to make sense.
My question (which I’m working to educate myself, and hopefully be further educated about) is whether this is truly a problem as perceived by our predecessors, or simply a symptom of today’s climate. Are our challenges of today’s aggressive market and somewhat marital slavery to our craft different than they have experienced? Or are we at a paradigm shift, to reclaim the integrity of our professions?
Could it merely be a numbers game regarding many more people practicing and just going through the motions? Or is it simply that we as a whole have regressed with the exponential growth in technology and rapid development? I haven’t the answer and I know I’m not the first to touch on this.
There are so many factors, and a blanket statement is never something to take to heart, but their claims have merit regarding the adaptability and resilience of a craft over time. Not everyone has the benefit to pick their clients, and I’m not going to assume that designers aren’t standing strong in their own truth of taking care of a client to deliver something within their monetary and time restrictions; working within strict parameters.
It’s not always just about design, its also about customer service and providing for our families with a strong sense of responsibility, and a tiptoe approach to liability.
There are bad doctors, bad teachers, bad apples, and of course those practicing designers who the occupation is simply not suited for. We’re fortunate to team with so many professionals who truly emulate what architecture is. All of us here at Stack Rock Group continually aim to achieve that on the side of site and land. Hopefully our efforts are blindingly apparent. I truly believe most do their best with the information available at hand, understanding there’s room for humility, growth, and a desire to push the (alleged) 2% higher.
Perhaps we really are at a paradigm shift, where we must push back and reclaim timelessness in our craft and products. Where space and place are synonymous, materials aren’t just a cost effective after thought, and it continues to become about the human, and not a result of the market variables.
While this post/observation certainly relates to an in-the-clouds topic, most of this blog’s content is much more down-to-earth, describing specific projects, best practices, and ways Stack Rock Group serves its clients and community. And that is the way it should be in an effective blog.
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