"Happiness is not entering competitions"
1 May, 2008
By Marguerite Lazell - bdonlineBauman Lyons director Irena Bauman gives her tips on how to be a happy architect in a new book.
A new book on how to find happiness as an architect has ignited the debate about the culture of competitions and awards in the profession.
In her book, How to be a Happy Architect, Bauman Lyons director Irena Bauman unveils a radical formula for wellbeing, revealing her firm will no longer enter for awards or for competitions that don’t pay, will not work on schemes more than two hours’ travel time from its office, and is growing vegetables in its car park.
The publication of the book follows criticism by HOK chairman Bill Valentine and RMJM chief executive Peter Morrison that many architects are predominantly driven by their egos.
Bauman said a core part of her argument was that architects failed to realise their true worth.
“Architects persistently offer their most precious asset, their creativity, free of charge in hope of winning competitions,” she said. “Our vanity makes it acceptable to produce large amounts of excellent work in return for the possibility, no matter how remote, of instant distinction, and maybe even fame.”
But Bauman’s advice for her fellow professionals received a less than ecstatic welcome.
Charles Holland, a director of Fat, said: “[the two-hour limit] would mean we wouldn’t have any jobs unless you count east Croydon, and that’s sometimes two hours away.
“It seems a little retrogressive. That view of a sense of place, genus loci, is slightly romanticised, and it ignores the contemporary reality of shared culture.”
Nevertheless, Holland expressed admiration for Bauman’s “brave” rejection of awards and questioned the reliance on contests.
But Moxon Architects’ director Ben Addy insisted competitions were an essential part of architectural happiness.
“Even if you’re not paid to enter a competition, you still enjoy it,” he said. “Even if it doesn’t go anywhere, the dialogue in the office is enjoyable. It’s a big part of why we exist as a practice. We like designing, we like drawing.”
How to be a Happy Architect
by Irena Bauman, is published by Black Dog Publishing, 192pp, £24.95.
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