Dear Fellows: Our profession is being challenged, but I would argue, not on a stylistic basis, but on a value basis. The merits or demerits of individual styles of architecture fail to illustrate the myriad issues faced by benefactors and designers in their times. Style for its own sake is worth nothing. Architecture is more than the sum of its style and system components. Buildings do not become architecture merely by being buildings; they are architecture by possessing and transmitting transcendent value to society. The "style police" discussion demonstrates a deeper chasm between the value of our profession and the public that lives within its products. Technocrats are merely extensions of that divide. While the AIA did take appropriate action in its 6 February letter to the President, the effects of this "Ah-ha!" moment shouldn't be lost on political disagreements. The fact that we're even having this discussion underscores a wide gulf between the value that architects and their work and the value that the general public has toward design. You may recall about five years ago, Prince Charles directly voiced his opinions about contemporary architecture (see this link). While the he carries some influence, the long-term effect appears to have been inconsequential. In my opinion, a greater design travesty relates to myriad home and garden shows, which feign empowerment to the masses as a thin veil of product commercials, and which distorts the complexity of real design into 30-minute video vignettes for the benefit of the advertisers and product placement gurus.
So, regarding this current brouhaha, I suggest that all architects seize the opportunity to talk publicly about our profession, our work, and their collective value to shape lives for the better. Consider this current controversy a gift as a platform to discuss the value of design and those that shape it. Arguing with the style police is akin to elevating designers on television. Let's be above that and demonstrate our greater value!
William J. Hercules, FAIA, FACHA, FACHE
President / CEO
Orlando, Florida, USA
2018 President, American College of Healthcare Architects