Quality and Quantity

With roughly 2 years of professional experience and even more working with personal and private clients side projects, I know at least a little bit about how the design world works.  While this experience is valued above all else and seen as a positive in my career, it has also shown me the darkness that lies beyond the gold gilded gates of the universities. It has demonstrated to me the inability of the world to conform to a quality standard and instead continue to push things faster and for less money.  This is the prime reason we have seen a loss of art and expressionistic projects in our society.  We have - as a whole - eliminated the ability for an artist to craft, a designer to design and even a chef to cook. We're so caught up on doing things at a hare pace forgetting that the tortoise is the one who wins the race.  This loss of quality and increase of quantity only proves that our fundamental beliefs and desires aren't really bothered with the end product, only that it exists and is inexpensive to produce and procure.

Time to Think

I have a huge problem with the rapidity at which I'm expected to work.  I'm not talking about forging a full CD set (race me in CAD or Revit, please) or coming up with quick ideas on how to solve problems.  Instead I'm referring to the time I have to actually think through a problem, plan out my attack and then implement it.  I only have time for two things now, start and finish. Everything is done by the seat of my pants and since I am a designer I can react relatively quickly to whatever I need to, but the end result loses potential.  Clients demand that things get done quicker and quicker and with higher quality, but when they realize that's impossible they just want to scrap the high quality and see what they can get in a shorter period of time.

Rapidity of Production 

Speed is everything.  In production mode I can quickly produce just about anything in the shortest amount of time possible.  When it comes to putting thought into something, however, I feel like it's a constant strain just to write a line-item into a budget for "thinking time".  This ultimately results in a larger percentage or charge-per-hour rate to compensate for the time (usually after hours) I will have to spend thinking and planning.  This phase of design has been forgotten a long time ago and today the designs say so.  I know many people have disdain with starchitects such as Gehry, Zaha and BIG, but these designers are expensive because their designs are relatively well-thought through by their teams.  Smaller firms lose the ability to spend as much time creating a thoughtful design but so do the larger corporations.  While I understand that as designers we need to be able to make and produce at rapid rates, our best bet for improving the qualities of life and design in our world is to slow down and learn from everything. Reacting to a set of research or observing an environment to learn from it is just as important as ensuring we work quickly when production time comes around.  We should really ensure that we have time to stop and think every once in a while, it is crucial to the design process.  It's hard to do this when every client is focused on the bottom line and rapidity at which that line is met and hopefully not overdrawn from.

Designers are in a weird place right now.  Coming out of what was possibly the worst economic depression in our modern history, jobs are few and far between so there have been instances of taking work without even wanting to.  I think as the economies around the world begin to ease up on their overarching fear that a downturn is around the corner any day now, we should begin to think about how we want to approach the issues at hand - specifically restoring quality, thought and depth back into our projects.  It may still be a while out, but it's imperative that we maintain our beliefs that architecture is not really capital "A" Architecture unless it is thoroughly designed and thoughtfully implemented.  I'm not quite sure when we'll have that much power back in our hands (since our clients now probably are all bigger corporations who really don't care about the idea of localized quality-controlled designs), but when we do let's not lose it again.  We have a value but let's remember that we should be designers for all, not just the wealthy and the privileged.  Architecture is a beautiful thing, but is it possible that in the near future it will be accessible to all?