Systematic and anti-system marks. The importance of being Silvestre (or Cirugeda)
Oscar Wilde hinted at the fundament of what is now known as personal branding when he asserted: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken”. Sometimes it’s those people we expect nothing from that turn out to be able to conceive what no one imagines (this time I’m borrowing the phrase from Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game).
Applying this empirically, a professional in transit has to pay special attention to the essence of her values. Personal branding mirrors attitudes more than knowledge. All of us architects don’t have the same talent, or the same passions. We have to define our modus operandi in order to adapt to a voluble environment that did not consider architecture to be suited for permanent full time employment.
In principle, any architect’s firm has to establish who the client is and what services the client actually needs. The type of client that turns to Fran Silvestre is not the same as he one who turns to Santiago Cirugeda. Silvestre designs standard homes, that is, basic structures systematically focusing on the plot and its physical location (it may be a house between party walls, a house with a central courtyard, or an overlook). His works appear perfect, pristine, clearly identifiable 1:1 scale models. With this approach, he draws a fairly affluent public interested in design with a desire to live in an exclusive home, more like an art gallery than a dwelling. The clients’ needs are tied to the sphere of affection.
Meanwhile, Cirugeda appears to be concerned with the working class. And I say appears to (in reference to the link between his ideas and the design) because because his discourse is geared more to savants (i.e. architects themselves) than to neophytes.
Is he seeking an actual solution or is he questioning the system?
In the Silvestre business model, home and owner identify with and love each other. It’s the perfect neocon love at first sight. It is viable as it is known, although I wonder what the appropriate caché is for a single-family home, with all the luxury in the world, to be profitable. I also wonder whether the el Cirugeda installation model is viable. He intervenes on rooftops with self-assemblable and disassemblable housing units. Given the lack of precedent, Cirugeda’s social undertakings implicitly involve significant study of the design, greater than that required for a conventional (luxury) single family home design. The profitability of Cirugeda’s style depends on whether his subversive ideas for a business model work, or whether, contrarily, they yield to more conventional objectives, and this “revolutionary” work is conjugated with teaching and communication or designing housing units for cooperatives to attain more clients, and therefore more income.
In ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’, Oscar Wilde pressed the point that a congruous discourse needs to be added to attitude. Silvestre and Cirugeda are identifiable. You can see them coming. In all likelihood, both of their visible works are combined with other less tactical and more practical features. But both intelligently know how to show their cards, or their brands, to try to attain their own personal xanadú. Branding has this as the result of a successful strategy. So before you start putting endless lists of services on your calling card, close your eyes and think of a slogan for your dream design. Put that in writing, set up your website…and get down to work.