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Column Marianne Loof | Guilty Pleasure

12 December 2017

Cobouw marianne loof 180122 guilty pleasure

We regularly welcome young, recently graduated architects-in-the-making to our office. After years of study, they are eager to finally get their hands dirty on the real stuff. Our large and open work-floor gives them every opportunity to do so. But invariably, the reality of the job turns out a little different from the expectation created inside the bubble of Dutch and international universities: a beautiful idea can become drastically altered after a conversation with the client or due to budget cuts.

We call it the ‘Howark Roark-test’ for new arrivals: how should one deal with the reality of being an architect? Howard Roark is the genius, uncompromising architect from Ayn Rand’s timeless novel The Fountainhead. Roark would rather go work in the mines than see his creation be altered by the lesser minds for whom he produced it. Directly opposite Roark stands Peter Keating, an architect who does not think twice to copy-paste and edit architectural styles to meet his client’s every desire.

During a LEVS movie night, last week, we watched the black-and-white film from 1949, featuring the towering figure of Gary Cooper as Roark. This literal and figurative black-and-white representation of our profession has become part of the architectural DNA as it is being propagated inside the universities. After the film, the younger generation of architects guiltily admitted to preferring Roark slightly more over Keating. Which is absolutely fine. The opposition certainly reflects different attitudes which we must work with: the ambition and coolheadedness to create and innovate on the one hand, against the flexibility and willingness to connect to client’s needs on the other.

The film for a long time used to be a guilty pleasure of mine. Naturally we believe in collaboration and the power of the collective, but every once in a while it is a delight to dream away with your ‘inner Roark’, although one quickly realizes one lacks Roark’s original genius.

But since Ayn Rand seems to have inspired organizations like the Tea Party, the ‘pleasure’ becomes perhaps a bit too guilty. Now that even Thierry Baudet lauds Rand as a visionary, the time has come to take her ides at face value. And then the pleasure is absolutely lost for me.

January 2018,