Our provincial government is in the process of choosing if the design our public light Rail stations will be done by individual architects or will a large design-build consortium be used to design the chain of them instead of local architects? The Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) is frightened because large national or international firms would likely control the process and control prices better than local architecture firms and therefore local firms will not get the commissions.
Here’s the thing, most of the successful and reasonably talented firms are already doing international projects in order to stay alive and stay relevant to GOOD DESIGN.
Frank Lloyd Wright freelanced while he worked in Louis Sullivan’s office. In other words young architects were, for a long history, able to work on their own projects outside the office of their primary employer. These young architects would try different approaches to design, process while developing business skills and people skills to aid them and the profession while making design accessible to many who could not or would not afford the big named firms. Eventually many of these young architects would open their own firms and style such as Frank and many many others. Sadly in Ontario, Canada this process has, for all intents and purposes, become illegal. The young architects must bring the projects through the office they work in for legal and insurance reasons. Failure to do so will probably result in a suspension of their OAA membership or penalty of some sort, further they cannot submit for building permit without being a registered architect in good standing or a licensed and insured designer registered with the province.
So the young up and coming architect must then NOT take on this, often-small work, because their often-small client cannot or will not afford the now onerous process, which by the way more expensive. This present state of process must now pay for added legal protection from litigation in the form of much higher insurance costs. Clients hold some responsibility for increased climate and cost of litigation fears as well as the provincial government.
Further, the young designer cannot experiment and have small successes along with the small failures so important in one’s present and future development in business and design experience. Failure has become too too expensive. So how does one become a good lover if one has never learned to kiss well? Many of these young architects develop as a result, to be afraid of ANY risks at all. They become cogs in the wheels of designing NOT TO GET SUED! In other words their talents become mute in relation to a predictable – mechanical process of achievement.
So many designers and architects have become that partner (the marriage metaphor) who only have sexual intimacy in one or two positions for fear they might offend their partner or family.
So if the Ontario government wants big predictable and efficient and the OAA says they want no changes in the present process of selecting architects and builders for public projects, then I really don’t care either way.
New and better ways of doing things come through adversity, necessity, creativity and passion …. And the younger designers leading and learning working in concert with caring experienced people willing to take ‘considered ‘ risk is key to the needed evolution in design and architecture in this province and city. In my opinion, we have lost these key components of our design and building tradition … at the moment.
Architecture has not died but it is in a marriage that cannot continue to live within this aggressive state of mediocrity and fear. We have too many beautiful minds to let that happen … don’t we?