On Benefactors and Waiting

On Benefactors and Waiting

I think all architects want a benefactor. One, in the classical sense, where we’re Andrea Palladio, and one of the Medici family is waiting in the marble-clad lobby. The Medicis want a grand Palazzo. We can help them with that.

At least that’s the dream. A wealthy patron who appreciates our talent and commissions us to erect a monument to their own success, or ego, or hubris, or the like. So, we labor over it until it’s complete, and both our name and their name are chiseled onto the dedication stone placed just under the cornice.

But it doesn’t work like that.

Edith Farnsworth isn’t going to come into our office wearing a dirty bathrobe to ask us to surround her in travertine marble and glass. She didn’t even ask Mies van der Rohe for that. There was no robe.

Architects don’t have benefactors or patrons anymore. Architects have clients.

Clients come into our lobby with a shopping list and empty pockets. They have a need for something built. Their school district has grown and they need more classrooms, their business has expanded and they need extra warehouse space, their congregation has grown and they need more pews, they had triplets and their house is too small, and they need a new super Target, really bad.

So, they come to us. And, they wait in our white-birch-veneer-clad lobby.

But, they’re not waiting to become our muse. They’re not waiting to be inspired by our art. They’re not our patrons. They’re in our lobby because they need our help, and they’re probably late for a meeting.

Maybe architects are still holding onto the ideal though. We’re still imagining the perfect client, and we’re waiting for them to find us. Maybe this is them in the lobby.

Our Benefactor.

Meanwhile, our client is just waiting for us in that lobby, hoping we can help them.

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Drawing of Palazzo Valmarana by Adrea Palladio – HERE

Photo of Palladio’s columns by Seier + Seier - HERE