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Architects don't need to have an ego to be good at their job but it does seem to help. Having just begun the architecture program at the U of O, I've noticed how much you need to be able to defend a good concept or design from being picked apart.

A strong sense of self worth (i.e. ego) in your design skills seems important to creating good work. Why should a client like an idea the architect isn't willing to be proud of?


I've had more problems with architects that had no reason to be so egotistical than I have read amongst the Masters.

And it was interesting, a lecture I attended on a similar subject in Los Angeles had David Hockney on the panel. His feeling was that we shouldn't have architects, but draftsmen who would listen to what the people wanted and give it to them.

Not surprisingly, he was appalled when someone asked if he would be open to the same sort of arrangement for the public commissions that he was hired for at the time.

I think if we feel a certain worth for architecture itself as an art, the personality is of little importance.


The following from keith's comment is very interesting:

"His feeling was that we shouldn't have architects, but draftsmen who would listen to what the people wanted and give it to them."

The feeling expressed raises important questions about the form and character of our architectural environment and how it comes to comes to be the way it is.

Why is that the role of creating structures that support and enhance human life goes to sometimes extraordinarily egotistical individuals rather than just basically anybody?

It's because people in general commonly do not have an over-riding reason to imagine, aspire to and incorporate features in architecture that go beyond those that answer needs represented by their own individual requirements for daily life.

It's the less common person that sees something beyond that, and because it can suggest an unconventional and extraordinary project, they often have to fight by force of personality to see it through to realization.

The primadonna personality in architecture that people of late refer to as starchitects aren't unique to architecture, as most people are well aware of. They're basically a known quantity that can be challenging to deal with. People are willing to do so when the idea offers the possibility of an extraordinarily great outcome.


Well said, ws.


...except it's almost like reading a summary of "The Fountainhead."

I would say that reality is quite a bit more complex than that: one of the things that truly sets architecture apart from artists is the incredible amount of collaboration and compromise that must be made between the designers, engineers, public and clients in bringing a project to fruition... and this can be for many reasons, aesthetics notwithstanding.

For instance, what if an architect proposes an impossible structure that would collapse under its' own weight, but his own ego won't let him listen to his structural engineer? Good thing we have permitting in instances like that!

Similarly, many times it is the contractors who are actually more privy to innovative and new construction techniques and materials, and can bring them to the attention of an architect that would work better than what they may have been proposing.


Bill, I read Moshe Safdie's book, Beyond Habitat, in which he relates his experiences in bringing his design for Habitat 67 to realization through co-operation with many different kinds of professionals.

Safdie's unconventional design presented numerous significant challenges to the engineer he selected for the job, who relished the opportunity to meet them. I got the impression from his book, that Safdie might be a bit high strung, but also that he seemed to clearly understood the importance of being able to co-operate with and rely on others to get his project to work.

Safdie was in Eugene February 14th. Wish I could have gone to hear him.


Actually the Safdie lecture has been postponed, I believe it was rescheduled for April. Maybe they figured that attendence would have been low on Valentines day, or he realized he had dinner plans with his wife, anyways.
I'm sure the UofO website has the exact info.

Richard from the Pearl

"Sara Graham, is a good example of this. I'm glad she fought hard!"
I disagree and believe she is the perfect example of a
"diva who cops an attitude as l'artiste extraordinaire"

So much so was her "attitude" that she apparently felt above the requirement to get licensed in the State.

An attitude that cost her a $15,000 fine.
I wonder if the city found some way to pay her fine for her.
That would have been par for the course.

Ray Whitford

This comment relates to the design of the area between the two bridges and the hopeful look and feel to the campus. My hope is that OHSU, ODOT, and the City see that this land could be where I-5 needs to be placed under the river. The design for the land could include a corridor for a park that would arc toward the river (55 mph safe turn). Any below ground development/parking should take this issue into account. Even buildings (parking structures?) could be above the corridor but would need to be designed with support for the tunnel in mind.



Come on! There are a lot of talented architects in our community; hard working; quiet yet extremely personable; technically competent and brilliantly design minded; confident yet humble; nice, smart, talented people. These are the people who are hurt by the primadonnas.

Every day I work in the wake of arrogant architects that have left an impression so negative, that when I propose an idea, no matter how practical, the immediate reaction is a roll of the eyes. It is hard enough to be the only professional on a design and construction team who is concerned about the human environment; who is interested in infusing ideas that tie all of the elements of a building together to make a beautiful whole. It is hard enough to do these things, but to do them AND try to repair the damage done by primadonnas is depressing.

In my experience, architects are seen by the general public as a profession that is aloof, and arrogant. I have to say that we as architects seem to buy into our own fatal stereotypes. We think that Wright was great BECAUSE of his arrogance. Owners give in to the same stereotype. This public perception of architects is so strong, that owners think if they are going to do a landmark project, they have to hire some jack-ass to design it and they brace themselves to endure arrogance. They abandon the competent and talented people who have designed the rest of their projects. The greatest opportunities are given to primadonnas. This is self perpetuation.

In our industry, it is critical to nurture relationships and build trust between the owner, contractor and design team members. Primadonnas damage relationships, they hurt our profession. The more we support this stereotype the more we hurt ourselves.

There are many more “less common persons” out there WHO ARE NOT JERKS. Overblown self importance does not have to be the “over riding reason to imagine.” Sure, ego is important. It is part of confidence, but most of us do not let the ego dominate our personalities.


It seems to me that for better or for worse, the egotistical variety in any sector seem to obtain the most public notice. In the residential sector where I work, some of the nicest projects have indeed been produced by the most difficult to work with individuals. With this in mind, sometimes one has to bite his tongue & keep focused on the end result to maintain sanity throughout a project...

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