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Sunday, July 29, 2012


My comments are a response to the note in italics below and appear after the quotation.


Glad you’re engaged in the conversation and we at the AIA are listening.

This research is indeed intended to identify the connection between what the public cares about and the purpose architects strive to deliver on. We are giving the same survey to 3,000 members of the public as well as 7,000 to 10,000 architects...looking to see where the intersections are...because we have to not only discover what the public cares about, but more importantly what they care about that architects believe they deliver. If the public cares most about some purpose that architects do not actually embrace as their purpose, then that is a losing proposition -- it's a disconnect.

We have to find the intersection between whatever purpose the public values most, relative to whatever purpose/benefit that architects feel most strongly they provide. That is the sweet spot of relevance.”

Kyle McAdams AIA
Sterling VA

Relevance is associated with a topic. My impression from this response is that the questionnaire is attempting to correlate current architectural services with broader market appeal, and any improvement in appeal will be considered relevant. It will certainly be relevant to employment and profit. The term “public” may be confused with the term “market segment” in this note, however. Market segments are relevant to business interests and expansion is considered one form of growth.
Professional improvement in the tools, skills and knowledge offered for public benefit is relevant to the public interest. This interest is defined as “health, safety and welfare” in the trinity of 20th century legal protection. Public welfare includes the protection of its physical, social, psychological, environmental and economic quality of life. Protection cannot always wait for an intersection of public and private interest, however.
If science sought direction from the general population there would be little protection of the public interest. For instance, the public did not ask for the dissection of cadavers. The practice carried the death penalty at one point in time. This hardly indicates an intersection of interest, but it has produced an acknowledged landslide of public benefit.
A profession must find its own way to a body of knowledge and legislative influence that will improve public benefit and demand for its services. Improved marketing of an existing product is a business strategy that may increase short term sales but not expand long term relevance.
The word “relevance” is a good choice since it may force everyone to ask, “What is relevant to whom?” It’s a political question with leadership implications. Let’s face the fact that architecture is a collection of small businesses searching for clients/customers with fleeting concern for competitors. It is not a round table of professional equals with a public mission at the present time. Further, the public does not understand that this format of architectural service leaves the public interest to private investment discretion. The last time this was recognized the public health and safety were threatened. “Welfare” was thrown in to cover all remaining threats. Building and zoning codes were introduced, but they have not prevented sprawl, pollution and population that threaten our source and quality of life.
I don’t know where this is all going, but I don’t believe we are close to finding the “sweet spot of relevance” for a growing population that has been poorly served by special interest, but has seen life improve for some. I do believe, however, that this “sweet spot” involves symbiotic functions within sustainable geographic limits -- and that shelter is one of the ingredients. If I were to put this in a single sentence it would read:

"Survival depends on symbiotic systems and shelter within sustainable geographic limits." In other words, SVL = S4GL.

This does not only apply to architecture. If all systems were symbiotic we would be less concerned with climate change, but geographic limits for growing populations would still be a challenge.

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