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I ran into this quote today in my research for another article:

“We are eager to share the shedkm ethos of clear, award winning, design led, deliverable space that transforms perceptions and works for the community.” – Hazel Rounding, Director of shedkm Architects

Whaaaa? Nobody cares about “design-led, deliverable space that transforms perceptions.” This is mostly because nobody, except other architects, even knows what that means. Architects love to talk about how their work will positively impact the community but how could it if they can’t even find it within themselves to speak like regular human beings?

I don’t mean to pick on Ms. Rounding, but this was her statement to the press about a project her firm just won to redevelop a municipal market square in Brighton. There was no reason whatsoever for her to speak “architect” because her audience was much broader – it was the entire globe which, last I checked, is composed mostly of non-architects.

The reason this bothers me so much is because I see it all the time. Architects in general have a very difficult time talking about their work  without thinking they are writing a dissertation on architectural theory. It seems like architects don’t really want to communicate their ideas to people, they just want to impress other architects with their erudition and their deep understanding of the latest esoteric theory that they read in a book like The Architecture of Happiness.

But really, where is this going to get the profession other than having it exist as a bastion of self-adulation. “Oh so and so architect is so amazingly versed in the tectonic versatility of the folding plane” is the type of remark that architects snootily throw around.

Also, while we’re at it, can we please make our websites more accessible? The Bjarke Ingels Group website is a perfect example of an architect’s website that might get an A+ in a graduate architecture studio class as a diagram but makes absolutely no sense to a person who just wants to know what these people do. The truth is nobody is impressed by how painfully minimal and therefore inscrutible your website is except for other snooty architects.

People care about things like family and friends, being happy, being able to move around easily and comfortably, and having interesting places to go. We need to be able to translate what we do as architects in terms of what most people care about, not in terms of what our architecture professor taught us.

If we don’t make this leap, we’re going to become increasingly irrelevant. Let’s learn how to conduct ourselves like real people who eat and shit like everyone else instead of some snooty academic incarnation of what an architect is supposed to be. If we don’t, we won’t have a place at the table when it really matters.

We need to be more accessible and speak in a language that resonates with real people who aren’t architects themselves. Because think about it – other architects don’t hire you, real people do.

Photo Credit: Le Corbusier. Photo from Berard Collection.

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