Sunday, 31 August 2008

A Team Sport

The Pritzker Prize is often regarded as the Noble Prize of architecture, and is awarded annually to a living architect "honouring his contributions to humanity and the built environment." In this interesting article, Witold Rybczynski seems resentful of the idea that Architects get all the glory when a building is complete, which is further endorsed by this prestigious award.

The author points out that buildings are the result of teamwork. Architects today work with armies of engineers and specialists responsible for everything from structure and electricity to acoustics, lighting and energy conservation. In addition, construction has become so complex that responsibility for design and building is usually split between design architects and executive architects, who prepare construction documents, supervise the building process, and often make critical design decisions on the building site.

The fact that architecture is a team sport is what makes buildings so interesting. Art is often chiefly the reflection of an individual sensibility, but architecture tells us something about the society that produced it, its technology, its values, its taste. In that sense, building buildings is more like making movies than creating personal works of art.

The Oscars are awarded in many categories including best picture, director, screenplay, leading and supporting actors, sound mixing, visual effects and the list goes on. Should the Pritzker Prize in the same way acknowledge the efforts of glass, concrete, steel specialist companies? Should they acknowledge the efforts of acoustic and lighting consultants? What about structural and M & E Engineers? Project managers and quantity surveyors? The CLIENT? Although there are different awards given from different organizations honoring those consultants, specialists and engineers; wouldn’t it be better for the building business to bring all those fields together under one umbrella, like the Oscar did in the movie industry, to strengthen the fact that architecture is a team sport?

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