Columns Editor's Note: Ego … Humbly Offered
"Listening to people is important. And this is especially difficult for an architect. Because there is always the temptation to impose one’s own design, one’s own way of thinking or, even worse, one’s own style. I believe, instead, that a light approach is needed. Light, but without abandoning the stubbornness that enables you to put forward your own ideas whilst being permeable to the ideas of others.”
Renzo Piano, Hon. FAIA, Pritzker Acceptance Speech, 1998
Having an ego gets a bad rap these days. The lingering stereotype of the egotistical architect who is extremely passionate, overly confident, all-knowing, and narcissistic may be a bit misguided. Don’t we want our architects, like our surgeons and attorneys, to be self-confident and self-assured? Ego (some might call it “arrogance”) should be looked at as confidence, passion, excitement, drive, creativity, and individuality—all qualities one should embrace within an architect. While it may seem clear to look for creativity and confidence in an architect, it is finding that quality balance that is most important.
Knowing how to use one’s ego can be a good thing. It is the balance that comes from finding the right relationship between the architect, client, and those that inhabit a building that creates a healthy ego that can elevate a community. As we recently celebrated the 100th birthday of one of the original “starchitects,” we can look to I.M. Pei as someone who, with extreme confidence and acumen, was so influential in shaping the architectural landscape of Dallas. He said it best: “It is not an individual act, architecture. You have to consider your client. Only out of that can you produce great architecture. You cannot work in the abstract.”
That humility, balance, confidence, and ego is worth striving for.
We hope you’ll enjoy this issue of Columns, where we explore ego—from personal recollections by your colleagues and “starchitects’” perceptions to the confidence of Dallas developers and the bravado that is truly Texas. An architect’s worst enemy and best asset may be his or her ego. Embrace your ego’s different forms and intensities with respect and confidence; and be sure not to forget your alter ego (your own “Art Vandelay”) when in a sticky situation.
Harry Mark, FAIA
Editor, AIA Dallas Columns magazine