Service or Product

I’ve been wondering lately what I do for a living. Seems like it should be obvious, right? If you go to the ATXA website, seems like the answer is pretty clear, but I have been focused lately on whether I am in the business of providing a service or product.

If architecture is a service, then architects are just there to guide clients through a maze of options which, once turned into a tangible architectural artifact, will most represent the clients programatic, economic and aesthetic needs… and that’s all. In this case the architect is involved in a form of negative project in that his purpose is not to propose solutions but to point out impossibilities. Some idea will not be code compliant, some other idea is structurally impossible, this idea will put you over budget. Here it seems there are no right answers in architecture, but there are definitive wrong answers and the architect’s job is to keep the owner from moving towards wrong answers. This type of architecture, service architecture, seems at the root of the removal of the architect’s signature from architectural work.

If architecture is a product then architects are a type of craftsman whose work will be identifiably theirs, who have a particular set of tools, systems, and philosophies that lead their projects to maintain their signature. The architectural product relies on the architect to believe he has the answers to your problems. Your budget, your program, your site, etc. are not restraints, they are the the ingredients of a new creation, there are no wrong answers, there are no right answers, there is a creation that results from some set of conditions.


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