An Architecture Love Affair

Here’s a little quiz:

What do these people have in common?

Richard Gere, Adam Sandler, Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Steve Martin, Tom Selleck, Gary Cooper, Woody Harrelson, Tom Hanks and Ashton Kutcher.

Beyond the obvious ­­– they’re all actors, what if I said “Click, The Fountain Head, Sleepless in Seattle, or Three Men and a Baby?”

The list of distinguished actors all portrayed architects in the movies. Hollywood seems to have a love affair with architects. In fact, the above list is very abridged. Do a Google search on the subject and you’ll find numerous movies and actors. The love affair does not end with movies either. Who can forget Mike Brady, of TV’s “Brady Bunch,” or Wilbur Post, who played the owner of “Mr. Ed,” the talking horse?

Hollywood’s perception

I love movies and though I’m not always that perceptive, it struck me that a very high percentage of the shows I saw featured architects. I began to ask myself, why? What is Hollywood trying to portray and is it accurate?

In general, what I have discovered is that Hollywood portrayed architects as the hero and they most commonly project the following profile:

Male, independent, hard working, passionate, idealistic (sometimes uncompromising), moral, socially conscious, creative, self-confident (sometimes arrogant), humorless and wealthy.

Exceptions to the rule…

…being male? Michelle Pfeiffer played an architect in “One Fine Day.” Increasingly, real life architects are women. We have several great female architects on our staff here at CMBA.

…being wealthy? Me and most of the architects that I know. Hollywood likes to show us living large, driving up in our Mercedes and stepping out in our tux, with a jewel-encrusted diva at our side, to the $1,000-a-plate benefit. Don’t worry – I won’t ask you for a loan, but I don’t own a tux or a Mercedes; and I don’t know many architects that do.

…being humorless? I’d like to think there are exceptions (my wife would tell you I really can be funny). We are, however, a serious lot, and maybe that’s a good thing. Architect jokes tend to be scarce and we are happy to leave that prize to attorneys.

…being independent? Wrong! Our work is very collaborative, both with our clients and with the team of professionals it takes to design a building. We value a team attitude and approach.

Finding the truisms in Hollywood’s generalizations

I do think we are often idealistic and socially conscious. Who can forget the Brady Bunch episode where Mike’s moral dilemma was whether or not to facilitate the pink powderpuff office building that his cosmetic company client wanted to construct? Ultimately, he could not compromise his ideals and scar our built environment.

There may be some truth to some of the less flattering traits too. Architects are self-confident, are required to lead, and sometimes come off as arrogant. When you think about it, an architect spends millions of dollars of other people’s money, makes a very long-term impact on their clients’ daily lives and our built environment. They do so, believing with great passion, they are well suited for the job. That requires an ego. (P.S. we are great at it too!)

I’m thankful Hollywood loves to feature architects and features us regularly in a flattering way. I’m thankful to make architecture my life’s work and professional passion. I’m thankful to work with the great people at CMBA and you, our clients. Hopefully we’ve been your hero, or at least, a great help in creating facilities that help you achieve your mission.