Pritzker prize-winning architect Thom Mayne was the final keynote speaker at the AIA Colorado Practice + Design conference in October 2014, and I was able to catch his presentation since I was in town as one of the speakers. Thom said something in his presentation that stuck with me – I wrote it down after he said it but this is not a direct quote. It would take about 5,000 words to set this up but the short version is that Thom said that he will always address the clients programming requirements but the aesthetics of the project are off the table – “Why should I listen to them? They know nothing about aesthetics.”
I was blown away by this statement and considering that I am a fan of Thom Mayne and the work that Morphosis does, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since. My immediate reaction was “Really?” As long as he solves their requirements, he gets to decide what the project looks like and the client has no input? There was a lot more to this comment about the role that clients get to play, comparisons between American architects and their European Architects, how the power of the client as owner shouldn’t give them the authority to direct aesthetic solutions …
“Why should I listen to them? They know nothing about aesthetics.”
I suppose if you are a Pritzker prize-winning architect, you get to make comments like that and people [the client] will just politely nod and say “Yes sir, may I have another”. I must really suck because it has literally never occurred to me that my clients don’t get a say in how their project looks.
Does that mean I am destined to never be a Pritzker prize-winning architect? I already know that I don’t have the name for it [What’s in a name?] but surely there’s more to being good at what you do than having the right sort of name and ignoring the aesthetic opinions of your clients. For the last 24 hours I have been trying to figure out what makes someone great at what they do – whether it’s architecture, or any other profession…
Here’s my list of the 5 things that a person needs to be successful:
1. They must take their work very seriously and consistently perform on the highest level.
2. They constantly aspire to improve their skills.
3. They demonstrate consistency in their delivery and their product.
4. They are impatient, frequently better leaders than collaborators.
5. They are passionate for what they do, motivated by improving themselves rather than monetary gains.
I’m sure there are other items worth considering to go on this list, there are assuredly more than these 5 things that someone can work on to become successful – this is just the five I came up with on my own. I think that on a list like this, some of the items have to be things that you can’t truly “cross off”, that there are some things that no matter how hard you work on achieving them, there is always room for improvement.
Since I didn’t know anybody at the conference, and Thom Mayne was the last person to speak, I had a lot of time to sit around and think the traits and characteristics a person should have to achieve personal success. Everybody who attended the conference cleared out and I was left to my own thoughts until I left the hotel Sunday morning to make the 2 hour drive back to Denver and ultimately home to Dallas.
Now that you’ve read through my list, how do you think you are doing? I know that I’m not able to put check marks by all of these items.
Keeping it real …