Speak to Them in a Language That They Will Better Understand

Residential Architect magazine sent me an email today introducing a new video series, Value of Residential Architecture. Each video will feature an architect discussing his/her thoughts on why residential architecture is important and where residential architecture is headed in the future. If you subscribe to Residential Architect, you may have received the link in your inbox as well.

The description included with the email is as follows:

Residential Architect magazine introduces a new video series that explores the importance of residential design and the value architects bring to the housing industry. Throughout the year, we’ll talk with residential architects who are passionate about their profession, so please join us for the entire series and find out how the spaces we occupy in our everyday lives shape us as human beings and as a society.

I was excited. I thought this would be a great tool. I could send it to clients to help them better understand residential architects and the importance of working with an architect. I thought with the title, Value of Residential Architecture, it would be geared toward everyday people, showing them that architects are not only for the elite few, but for all. That EVERY house should be “architecture”. That when architects are involved, families are strengthened, lives improve, people are healthier and, in fact, happier.

The first video features acclaimed architect, Will Bruder, AIA.

Although I am in agreement with much, if not all, of what Mr. Bruder says, I will not be sharing this video with any of my clients. I do not fault Mr. Bruder or the publisher, but once again we are faced with an architect proclaiming the virtue of architecture and the beauty of proportioned space.  It is a video produced for consumption by architects and Mr. Bruder speaks in a language that only architects will understand. We love to speak about architecture in such poetic terms, but unfortunately it reinforces the notion that architecture is for the elite and that architects are only for people who seek art and poetry.

I understand the passion Mr. Bruder has for architecture. I feel it too. I understand the language in which he speaks… but most of my clients will not.

A recent discussion at the Entrepreneur Architect Linkedin Group has been about how the American Institute of Architects may better assist small firms. We are discussing the importance of communicating with the general public and educating them about the role of the architect. I understand that this video is not intended for the general public, or to educate them about the role of residential architects. It is what it is; a celebration of architecture for the viewing pleasure of other architects. It is though, a perfect example of what we are up against when attempting to shift the paradigm of the people.

Mr. Bruder designs beautiful houses; most certainly worthy of the term “poetic”, but if we are to ever position the residential architect as “important” and “necessary” in the eyes of the general public, we better speak to them in a language that they will better understand.


How can we educate the general public about the importance of the residential architect? Do we celebrate the “art” and “poetry” of architecture too much? Do publications reinforce the false image that architects are only for the elite? What are your thoughts? I’d like to know.


7 Responses to “Speak to Them in a Language That They Will Better Understand”

  1. 1 Greg La Vardera February 21, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    Even if they had duct tape over Mr. Bruder’s mouth, images of his work would do little to persuade most people, and certainly not the builder and developers who are really the ones that could plug architects into the process. Those are the people we need to persuade. And I’m afraid Will Bruder’s work would only be confirmation to these players that this is not something they can sell to the public.

    Architecture is Architecture. If architects want to learn how to swim in the big ocean of the housing industry they have to prove that they understand how to make Architecture as a Product. I see very few that even understand this, never mind willing to go there.

  2. 2 Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP February 21, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    “Architecture as a Product” is something so many architects not only misunderstand, but totally reject. I agree. Architects need to be better marketers, better salespeople, better entrepreneurs.

    If architecture schools do not begin to include business education in their programs, the profession of architecture will most certainly be replaced by eager, more efficient, less expensive alternatives.

    • 3 Greg La Vardera February 21, 2012 at 10:30 PM

      The fact that the majority reject the notion of Architecture as Product does not give me much hope for the profession. Can you imagine taking that notion to other industries?

      Imagine that you insisted to every car manufacturer that they come to your driveway and build you a car that was custom designed to your liking. Its so preposterous, nobody would deny it. Yet this is the position taken with regard to houses.

  3. 4 nung chong February 22, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    In this global internet age, ideas are getting cheaper everyday especially in client’s eye.

    Most clients do not know the amount of works required to bring a customized design to built form. They just go door to door to shop for lower fees.

    Many architects eager to please clients or desperate to see projects getting build typically also underestimate the amount of works required.

    Small and new architecture firms with very little business skills typically compete with each other in lowering fee, pleasing client, expanding scope; it is the race to the bottom .

  4. 5 Joshua Lloyd February 25, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    I have to agree, the video was not something that you share with clients. It does not convey what the profession can bring to the table. And it is not that our clients are uneducated, as stated, architects have a language that others do not understand. These videos need to be in laymen terms because the majority of potential clients don’t want poetry & symmetry, they want a space that fits them and improves their lives.

  5. 6 Ian Toner March 1, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    Mark, I had the same reaction you did, but I didn’t even make it to the end of Mr. Bruder’s video. I was really hoping for practical information, things I could use in presentations to potential clients. But instead, we got more “architecture for architects” instead. As a small (one person) firm owner, I can’t ignore the business side of things, but there aren’t a lot of resources out there. These are the things that we need the help of publishers–and the AIA, especially–to create.

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