The Art of telling your story
By Iñigo García de Vaumm arquitectos
Amid the fog of a cold morning in 1991, a giraffe strolled through the streets of a residential area on the Saint-Cloud hill. Its silhouette, added to that of the Eiffel tower on the Paris skyline, made for one of the most surreal pictures that have ever filled the pages of architecture magazines.
The animal came from the Paris circus and Rem Koolhaas walked it through the gardens of his latest work, the Villa dall´Ava, for a photographic report. Since those days, architect theoreticians and critics have read all sorts of intentions into that act. Endless explanations, from the those that link the broken zigzagging of the giraffe’s legs to the iconic figures of the Villa, to the most diverse philosophical architectural theories that would go on to be inscribed in the annals of architecture, much to the comfort of the trade. But other readings are also possible, for instance that Koolhaas was clamouring to the world that he was a different kind of architect that could break free from the tethers of dogma. I’ve even come here with a giraffe, and I can build your dream house. That’s my job. That would make it an act of propaganda, a publicity stunt.
Yet this reading of that far-off event would break with the spirit of many architects and would reveal their inability to even remotely think that it could have been no more than a publicity stunt where the architect makes the statement that his work is different. Among architects, marketing, accounting for no small number of headaches for thousands of company managers all around the world, is, with only a handful of exceptions, non-existent. If fact, it is frowned upon and until recently, it was even prohibited by the by-laws of architects’ associations as publicity or propaganda was considered to be foul play, lowly among gentlemen who were to spend their time on lofty ideals instead of doing business. However, to advertise is not to deceive, and it does not need to involve lying. It is merely to communicate, to tell of what one can offer.
The times have changed and rationales have changed with them. Today it seems more crucial to inform the public of what architects do, their abilities and, in short, what they as professionals can offer their clients, and, at the end of the day, what they can offer society. Communicating our work, what we do and how and why we do it, will not make our designs any better. But it will undoubtedly narrow the gap separating broadly trained professionals in architecture from a society that is unable to ascertain architects’ true function.
In all likelihood, the only way to gradually overcome the lack of a meeting of minds between society and architects that all of us perceive is through effective, perhaps even one-on-one communication highlighting the broad repertoire and great abilities that we as architects have to offer. Some will be giraffes, others admirals on submarines, and yet others precision surgeons. In the end, that is the variety of fields that architecture encompasses. But let’s go out and tell our stories. Otherwise, no one will know that we are the ones who do these things.