Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Public Relation vs. the Ethical Architect

During lunch today, we had an opportunity to discuss and see what Public relation and marketing is about, especially in a big corporation. There was a list of slides, a whole bunch of numbers and facts that were shown, and polls that were taken; that I can’t quite remember all very clear. However, there was one topic in the presentation that stuck in my mind, all so well. The topic was, getting to know your client really well; meaning, getting to know them on a personal level. That topic made me think, how well do we want to know our clients? Is there a boundary where we have to stop? Okay, it’s good to know there hobbies, families, kids, spouses, activities, favorite dinner and etc. But where does it cross.

I wonder did Frank Lloyd Wright, think that he was PRing with his clients, and then ended up getting so close to them that he had affairs and many relationships. Or Louis Kahn, what was he thinking, when every time he had a client he had an illegitimate child? And Mies, luring in doctor clients and creating “less is more” an architecture legacy. Why is that all male architects have had many relationships with their clients? Is that true one article true, that the sexiest profession ranked # 1 is an Architect?

So, why is it that we are the hottest thing on the market! I thought I should find out, I’m an architect myself and as a female architect there are some things that are quite different than a male architect.

During our education, we were trained to rescue the client. We learned architecture by studying the best buildings of all times. I remember being a student of architecture and talking to people about the St Louis arch , the Seagram, and the Veteran’s Memorial acting as if we personally know them and are in touch with them on a daily basis This gives us confidence, and this confidence is one reason for people to be attracted to us, to fall in love with us.

However, as a female architect we have to let the male still be the hero… We are not only a hero but also a therapist. I find myself listening to clients most intimate details of how they use there particular space and environment.

Then, there is the great misunderstanding about money, that we are loaded, hence the attraction HA! From our fancy cars, to the fabulous glasses, the designer clothes and shoes. Thanks to Hollywood, where any side character who is passionate, wealthy and screwed over is an architect.

Finally, I think the most important factor in how the architect and designers became the most attractive professional is their imagination. We are creators. I start the job with a clean slate and build it with layers of information and ideas that then the engineer can come up with a solution, the estimator can calculate, and the lawyer can write a contract. Where other professionals solve problems, I give them the problem to solve. Other professionals are working with reality, we only do potential.

So I guess I can understand where the attraction exist, however, where do we draw the line? Or should I say, where do my male counterparts draw the line? ( note see how I quickly refer myself to the legends like Wright, Mies and Kahn). Females don’t have it that bad; we can talk to our clients about shoes, and their spouses and where the next Gucci and Prada sale is… Something to think about the next time we all are at a meeting. Okay back to Public Relations.......