Architects standing for…

Standing for something builds respect, identity and confidence, in yourself and as others perceive you. It's also the most effective way to create lasting change in the world.

We all know social media is a bin fire of opinions and reactionary posting. I’m nevertheless curious about what percentage of posts stand in favour of something rather than against something. One is constructive whilst the other is destructive. I start here not in an interest in social media but to pull a thread from a previous post, Architects finding their seat at the table. The thread, Stand for something, not against something.

Before pulling that thread, I need to go on a brief tangent to note the challenges of overcoming the negative. Humans have a predisposition to focus on the negative. Here’s a worthwhile read to go deeper on that, You are naturally biased to be negative. Here’s how to change. The point here is that overcoming the negative is hard, but by taking a stand we can be, in the terms of the article, a Positive Emotional Attractor for those around us and our community.

“You need the negative focus to survive, but a positive one to thrive.”

Dr Richard Boyatzis

So how might we build an environment in which we thrive? We need to start with building change, and one of the most effective ways to do so is through standing for something and then actively shepherding this change out into the world.

It’s easy to get angry about something and fight against it and standing against something can deliver the change you seek. It doesn’t, however, deliver broad and lasting change. The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo Sydney, for example, was saved through a concerted campaign against its closure. An alternative, to create broader and lasting change, might be to stand for championing and valuing all existing cultural institutions, their preservation and expansion, instead of a one time stand against the closure of a single museum. That’s not to criticise the action against the closure but to illustrate the difference of standing against as apposed to for something and its potential for more significant and lasting change. It’s more challenging to do so and of course that is the point.

The value to architects for standing for something should outweigh the negatives. It’s an opportunity to show leadership. To the demonstrate the worth of and build more respect for the profession. To deliver lasting change. It’s not always easy work, it is far easier to spout the negative or stick with the status quo. As P D James observed,

“The world is changed not by the self-regarding, but by men and women prepared to make fools of themselves.”

There are many areas architects already stand for something at the risk of ridicule. Architects Declare standing for action on climate and biodiversity. Philip Thalis’ constant championing of #publicsydney. Lacaton and Vassal’s stand for adaptive re-use. There are many many more examples of architects standing for something (or many things). There are opportunities and it’s important to start.

It’s not necessary for all architects to support the exactly same things, simply they should consider what they do stand for. One way for to do so is to think about the most important aspect of your work, the thing you will never compromise on. Alternately, it’s worth asking questions. What are you passionate about? or What are your core values? It’s quite likely in doing so you might identify something that is worth telling more people about, not just your clients. Stand up for it and spread that message.

So next time you’re inclined to take a stand against something, think about what you might stand for instead.

Image by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra on Wikimedia Commons [edited & cropped]

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach. I help architects rethink their practice and support them as they uncover better ways to work. I’ve worked in architecture for over 25 years, and I ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I believe improving practice takes asking hard questions and deep listening.

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