The Architecture Meltdown?

There has been in interesting series of essays recently ruminating on the future of the profession. The dialogue was started by Scott Timberg writing in Salon.com. It’s mostly dark and discouraging:

But for all its soaring lines and innovative solutions, architecture is exposed to the realities of the marketplace like few other fields: The surging sense of possibility that lasted through the ‘90s and the early 2000s flagged when the housing market crashed and turned the U.S. economy upside-down. Gehry, whose Walt Disney Concert Hall has become an iconic part of downtown Los Angeles and whose widespread fame led him to a gig designing jewelry for Tiffany, complained recently about the lack of work in the States and grumbled that he wishes he could move his staff to China, where there are more opportunities. Thom Mayne, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect (the field’s top prize) who has gone from one of the field’s rebels to one of its most successful, joked grimly about the need for a party for depressed architects.

Happily his post triggered one by Tom Fisher, Dean of the College of Design at Minnesota entitled Architecture for the other 99%. Fisher suggests that architecture is not vanishing, it’s changing, and I couldn’t agree more:

Along with the emergence of public-health architecture has come the realization, especially in the healthcare community, of the value of architects’ design-thinking skills when applied to the invisible, but no-less-designed world of processes, procedures, policies, and flows. Medical systems like the Mayo Clinic and the Allina Hospitals and Clinics have hired architecture graduates, like Jess Roberts and Allison Verdoorn, to design – not their facilities, but their services. Architects, says Roberts, are “well suited to dealing with big, complex problems that require a lot of people to achieve an outcome,” and those same skills apply to the redesign of healthcare delivery. Verdoorn adds that “the methodology of architecture effective in understanding the problems in healthcare settings,” giving us “a set of tools that get people to think and see things in new ways.”

Read both of these articles. Sooner than later. And then let me know what you think.

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