After graduating from architecture school I felt cynical about the value of architects. Emerging from New York City in the 1980’s, I felt like I had stepped out of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities or Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City. I was a carpenter who often worked for the wealthy and sometimes felt more like a servant than a craftsperson.
And after seeing a few of my designs demolished I believed that I was providing a disposable and marginally important service.
It took me a few years to understand the lasting power of good design. While sitting in my sun-filled 1920’s-era house, with its thick stone walls and slate roof, I often think about its designer. Was there was an architect involved? Who knows, or cares? What’s important is that the many generations that have inhabited this house benefited from its thoughtful design. The thinking someone did more than 80 years ago still has a direct impact on people’s lives.
While we enjoy designing for homeowners, the work we do for the public, for non-profits, schools, and museums can have a significant impact. We create spaces that have a lasting positive effect on people in the future. I now believe that our ability as designers to change in the physical world is a powerful and important skill, something that will (probably anonymously) contribute to peoples’ lives for many years after we are gone.