The Architect: What Now?

Synopsis of a discussion point to be delivered at Architect Now! An exhibition exploring the present position of the architect and how this may differ in 2050.

As architects working today, it is arguable we are at a junction when what it means to be an architect and what is asked of us by society is dramatically changing from the previous generations. As a direct comparison to this a number of commentators have pointed to a recent digression from the usual role of the architect in Hollywood movies over the last 100 years. What they found was traditionally a stock character that was used by directors to show, and they were almost always male, an actor as honest, strong, courageous and rational among other noble traits. Such performances as Charlton Heston in Earthquake (1974), Paul Newman in Towering Inferno (1974), Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men (1957), and Gary Cooper in The Fountainhead (1949), I could go on, all used this persona to great effect.

What sparked this reflection was the release of a spate of films in the summer of 2006 that turned this notion on its head, and has continued. The unrelated films had an architectural character that was instead more of a journeyman, unambitious and willing to compromise their beliefs… Charlton Heston they weren’t! If Hollywood films hold a mirror up to our society, as they believe they do and can arguably be agreed with to a certain extent, then this was a wholesale change to the perception of the architect in society. Leaving aside the fact that none of the films were ‘blockbusters’ and one of them even had Jenifer Aniston in, what it showed, on a superficious level at least, was our industry is changing.

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