Recently, I was seated in the waiting room of a medical centre, when someone rushed in desperate to see a doctor. “What seems to be the problem?” asked the receptionist.
“I looked in the mirror this morning and I saw my hair was falling out, my skin looked pale and wrinkled, my eyes were bloodshot with bags below them. I looked deathly. What do you think might be wrong with me?” they asked.
“Well, there’s certainly nothing wrong with your eyes.” intoned the receptionist.
It may be a joke, but there’s a truth to slow, unseen deterioration. We can also be too close to spot that the symptoms are only half the story, recognising symptoms only in isolation.
I used to live in an old house where a surly stain wrestled with the carpet, the face of a prophet stared down from the ceiling and the hint of smelly shoes had claimed the air rights. I could have cleaned the carpet, painted the walls and emptied the air freshener. Issues solved, or at least for a while. If, however, I took a moment to stand outside, I would understand that there was a hole in the roof and instead fix that first.
Sometimes, we need to stand outside.
What’s happening in architecture? What symptoms are apparent?
It’s facing issues in and around gender equity, unreasonable fees, decent wages and hours, mental health, the lack of a public voice and numerous more minor symptoms of a profession in potential decline. Therefore, many strategies are being devised to address each and every one of them.
Architects love a good strategy.
If they were to stand outside for a moment, they might however recognise that this an issue of culture and leadership. Without leadership and cultural change, the prospects look to be only a temporary fix.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Strategies are important, but without strong leadership and culture, delivery and realisation of even the best strategies can be a challenge to implement.
It makes me curious.
How might the architectural profession forge a better culture? A culture that drives change, that shapes and encourages leadership at all levels, rather than assuming leadership from the top.