Why bother?

Originally published in OAA Perspectives Summer 2016 on page 6.

A FEW WEEKS BEFORE WRITING this, I was in Vancouver with colleagues from across the country, reviewing and validating the fall edition of the Examination for Architects in Canada (ExAC), as a committee member. This was followed by a meeting, again with national colleagues (mostly different ones), on the International Relations Committee (IRC) reviewing updates to the on-going discussions on various mutual recognition agreements being established between Canada, the USA, Australia/New Zealand and other jurisdictions. As I looked at this group of dedicated, hardworking people, coming together in common cause, it struck me that it is unlikely any of these people will reap any benefit from the years of hard work they put into these committees.

A short while later, I met with the Director of one of the 11 schools of architecture (come on, Laurentian, we need you to make it an even dozen!) to talk about an undergraduate course in professional practice that the schools are thinking of starting. The course, whose working title is “Why be an Architect?” would be offered to students at the third or fourth year level to address their questions, before they leave to pursue a professional Why bother? PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE TOON DREESSEN, ARCHITECT OAA, MRAIC, AIA, LEED AP PRESIDENT master’s degree (and presumably become architects someday), or leave the program.

Conversations with my daughter-inlaw, of whom I’m already proud, led to discussions about her classmates and how some do, and some don’t, want to actually be architects. Some still believe that it is their destiny, while others, now two years into the program, want to pursue graphic design, or another program. Many are questioning why they are in their program if, they already know that being an architect isn’t for them.

Likewise, conversations in our office, concerning projects, proposals and the types of work we pursue, inevitably lead to discussions about why we want to pursue a certain RFP, or how we want to inject some design quality into an otherwise ordinary program.

What binds all this together, and is relevant to this edition of OAA Perspectives, is the fundamental question, “Why bother?”

Why do we volunteer for committees and Council? Can’t someone else do it? Why care about students and interns? Isn’t it a rite of passage to have poorly organized lectures, a lengthy internship and terrible, irrelevant, exams? Why push the client to see the advantages of good design when they’ve accepted mediocrity before, and will again?

It comes down to being passionate about what we do. We care, as a profession, about the world around us. It matters to us that someday, maybe years from now, it will be easier for that generation to move between countries or jurisdictions and be able to work in their profession. It matters to us that, 10 years from now, the small office building on the side of the snowplow maintenance shed still looks good, and performs as it did when we designed it. It matters to us that the world is a better place for our efforts.

And in this issue of OAA Perspectives, we see a range of projects that show that same passion for making the world better, one building at a time. We see how two projects made their world better a generation ago and are still part of our cultural landscape. We see five people who have spent a lifetime in service, teaching, educating, volunteering and making the world, the OAA or the profession a little bit better. We see the conceptual work that is at the heart of what we do, showing our passion for design. We see an emerging practice, leading the way in innovation.

Why bother? Because Architecture Matters.

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