There is a video floating around the internet of a two-part interview between Mike Wallace and the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright was in his late 80s at the time of the interview, which took place in 1957. Being that he is one of the most well-known and well-respected architects of all time, the interview with Wright caught my attention and I took the time to watch it in its entirety.
As it turns out, the interview focused very little on architectural design or Wright’s design philosophies, as you might imagine it would. Instead, Wallace’s questions were more geared toward life and culture—aiming to get an understanding of the man behind the iconic architecture he designed. What was revealed was a man that appeared to be what I would call a “timeless thinker.” His opinions weren’t necessarily the most popular ones of the era. For example, he had very little personal use for organized religion and was not opposed to mercy killings—not widely-held views in the 1950s. Rather, he seems to have had a perspective that was all his own, and not influenced by the popular views of his time.
This interview got me thinking about the good architects I’ve worked with throughout my career and how they too seem to have a timeless outlook on things. Some of this probably has to do with the types of people who are drawn to the field of architectural design, but I think the nature of the work we do may have an effect on us as people and our views on life and design.
For example, if an architect is going to be successful, he or she can’t hold on too tightly to any one idea or opinion. Building codes are always changing on us, causing us to have to adapt and evolve in our thinking about design. Staying away from certain or static opinions is, I think, one characteristic of a timeless thinker. In addition, architects often have to prove to the city’s Plan Checkers that our project meets the “spirit” of the code. Understanding and being able to effectively verbalize the origin of a thought seems to be a characteristic of this type of thinking and also helps make a successful architect.
Another reason I think architects tend to be timeless thinkers is that we tend to delve pretty deeply into the lives of our clients. We see, up close and personal, a lot of different lifestyles that seem to work equally well. This makes it difficult to make the judgement that one lifestyle is better than another, and it helps us stay away from popular generalizations about groups of people whose lives may differ from our own.
I realize that this blog post is very different from those we usually publish on our website (I promise we’ll get back to talking about our projects and processes next time), but we thought the idea of “timeless thinking” was interesting topic, and one that would help you get a better understanding of one of the characteristics that makes a good architect.
Before you hire a Long Beach architect for your next project, take the time to get to know a little bit about him or her. Don’t just look at their portfolio or pricing—learn about their philosophy on architecture and on life. Yes, it will take more time and effort, but it will likely pay off when you find the right architect for your project.