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Heirloom Architecture
Architecture has to be measured in elephant time
Posted on August 1, 2023 @ 5:42PM
"When you make things well, it's an ethical thing." ~ Stanley Tigerman

Instant gratification in architecture is highly over-rated. As an architect, being published and winning prestigious design awards is validating and gratifying, but this kind of recognition also tends to be fleeting, capricious, and superficial. 

I have arrived at the understanding that for me, the only meaningful goal related to professional recognition as an architect is to create work that be valued by my clients in the short term and will ultimately be valued as being potentially worthy of historical preservation.

Not that my hope would be for the work to be deified and 'preserved' as a work of art so much as found useful, delightful, and valued over time; and somehow maintained and productively adapted for future generations to enjoy on their own terms. I want to do work that stands the objective and unforgiving tests of time.

"What you newspaper and magazine writers, who work in rabbit time, don't understand is that the practice of architecture has to be measured in elephant time." ~ Eero Saarinen

Architecture represents huge investments of resources - financial resources, and environmental resources. Producing buildings that will not have long term value is one of the most environmentally irresponsible things we could do, regardless of how 'green' that building may be represented to be. To design responsibly is to design a legacy for future generations. To produce buildings that will be valued far into the future, we must invest in their lovability, energy efficiency, flexibility, and durability.

Key aspects of building better mean investing more in the initial design and construction. To achieve that within our means usually means designing and building smaller projects; building better, smaller, and smarter. Not building for the short term and the human ego, but rather, for the future and our individual and collective humanity. Build smaller, better. Build once, well.

Author: Sam Rodell

Sam has practiced as an award winning architect for forty years, and has also built many of his clients' projects.  He is licensed throughout most of the western USA and Canada, and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) which expedites registration in other states and provinces. He was the first Certified Passive House Consultant architect in eastern Washington and northern Idaho.