Do not innovate?!

The crucial part 3 of an architect’s training often emphasises the mantra: Do not innovate.

When first I heard this, many moons ago, I understood why. By then I had worked in 3 different practices over 6 years, and completed a degree and 2 years’ post grad diploma. Part 3, the final, professional practice segment of training, lasts for probably 2-3 years in all, gathering and documenting experience, culminating in an intensive 6 month course, during which most students are also holding down a full time job in architectural practice. So by the time you sit down for your final year’s lectures the risks of architecture should be familiar to you. If you “innovate”, for example produce a detail that is novel, you need to be absolutely certain that it will work. If it doesn’t, you might be held liable, and the consequences of that are potentially very serious. So just don’t innovate. That’s what part 3 says.

At that moment I also understood the difference between architecture the profession and architecture the art. Producing work that is innovative, exciting and rich, and does not “innovate” – yes, innovative but does not innovate, is a challenge. I understood that the professional side of architecture has nothing to with design, except in terms of competence. Your design training tells you if something is boring, or architecturally mean, or experentially wonderful, whatever – it is up to you whether you care (for the record yes I do) and your professional training tells you when something needs to be monitored, reported, checked, certified, rejected, etc, and it is NOT up to you whether you care, it is not discretionary.

So how to reconcile the whimsical with the meticulous? The joyous with the poe-faced? That is the job.

Of course, I am simplifying matters too much, but I intend in the blog to present my take on the job of architecture now, where I live and work. This will include snippets from “real” projects past and ongoing, and a few that never got past the drawing board or model shop – the paper tigers. And I might disclose if I ever innovated… or was innovative.