Architects and Firms
Architecture is an art, a profession, a business. Architectural firms exist to design buildings, to serve social needs, to make profits. And many architects find that the goals of the firms that employ them run counter to the values that first attracted them to the profession. Sociologists of the professions have looked at law and medicine, but Blau is the first to make architecture the subject of an in-depth case study. This book vividly depicts the contradictions and dilemmas inherent in architectural practice, and corrects many assumptions about design professionals.
While there are no easy recipes, Blau is able to identify the core ingredients of success and failure that correspond to the actual experiences of 152 Manhattan architectural firms over a five-year period. More than 400 architects were surveyed, their convictions and attitudes were assessed, and their values measured against management agendas and priorities. Whether architects agree with her conclusions or not (and there are many surprises in the book), they are strongly supported by data. Since the survey period spanned a severe economic recession, during which mere survival was an issue for many firms, the book's analysis of why some firms flounder while others flourish under the same conditions is particularly valuable.
In the section called "Heroes and Rascals," Blau reveals how respondents ranked 50 wellknown architects, critics, and firms according to various standards, thereby revealing a lot about how professionals view themselves and the range of design approaches, mentors, and models available to them. The study exposes a great disparity between the attitudes of rank-and-file architects and firm heads; the clear inference is that younger architects place a much higher value on the humanistic and creative dimensions of architecture, which could be a major reason for the now chronic crisis the profession finds itself in.
—Herbert J. Gans, Columbia University