The passing of William Krisel last week was noted in the New York Times and on the COD website. Mr Krisel represented the very best that our profession can be. While he practiced in one of the meccas of the upper one percent (Palm Springs, CA), his most important work was for the rest of us.I believe our profession is divided into two very different worlds; one world of excellent architects working for appreciative clients, and the other world of clients begrudgingly forced into using (often unhappy and underpaid) architects in the process of building a new facility.
The first category includes a small percentage of the membership of the AIA, those who have the good fortune to work for institutions, corporations and individuals who come to the table valuing the importance of design in their developments. These architects and their clients select each other based on their shared interests and the high quality of service provided both in terms of aesthetic skills and programmatic and technical expertise. This culture perpetuates itself by attracting the best and brightest architecture graduates.
The second category includes the vast majority of AIA members. These architects are generally hired because their clients cannot get a building permit without them. Like their counterparts in the first group, these architects think of themselves most importantly as ARCHITECTS(those who see monuments as their goal), their primary contribution being the certainty that a project will be aesthetically pleasing. Across the country we give ourselves awards according to this standard and not in terms of client satisfaction. Clients in this category may not embrace the value of aesthetics. Beyond being forced to hire an architect, they hope that their architect can guide them towards the most efficient use of their resources. The lack of correspondence between the goals of the two sides leads to the marginalization of most architects in many communities.
Bill Krisel, on the other hand, bridged this divide. He worked for profit-oriented developers. His work incorporates what he knew about aesthetics, function and technique. It also reflects the market realities that his clients faced. Although I accept that Krisel may have been exceptional in his ability to practice in the merchant-oriented world, I also think many more of us could do so if we would soften up our determination to be ARCHITECTS!
In Madison, Wisconsin, (arguably a culturally advanced community) the many FLW homes are generally sad misfits in neighborhoods of more conventional houses. Palm Springs on the other hand is not only a mecca for the rich, it is also a mecca for what we call modern architecture. Bill Krisel's willingness to carefully design speculative homes and commercial buildings may well have been the essential piece in Palm Springs' unique evolution.
I strongly recommend that you take time to watch "William Krisel, Architect", a video available at https://vimeo.com/153836200. Among others, Alan Hess, one of my favorite architectural historians, is featured in this video. It would be great if he weighed in here. Alan, are you out there?
Mike, I would like to watch the video, but it is password protected. Any help?
Greg Burke, AIA, NCARB
2017 AIA Florida Pullara Award Winner
2017 AIA National Committee for Equity and the Future of Architecture
2015-2016 AIA Florida Vice President
2016 AIA National Diversity & Inclusion Council Vice-Chairman
GREGORY JOHN BURKE | ARCHITECT, PA
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