Wednesday, February 07, 2007

the patron

The patron in architecture has historically been an important part of the profession; this importance should be revisited.

Fluor Engineering Corporation has contracts around the world in various sectors. This is wonderful. Tonight, though, I was watching Iraq Reconstruction contract hearings on C-SPAN, and one of the companies under question at the hearing was Fluor. Sitting next to two men of equal stature and occupational focus, the Fluor representative worked in security and had been previously a member of the Armed Forces.

Fluor has water and electrical infrastructure development contracts in Iraq.

Why would a corporation seek to bid on contracts in Iraq? Why would someone seek to bid on a contract anywhere? Various reasons... a good work opportunity, a means to generate revenue, a means to extend the reach of the company's work and relationship with hiring bodies. More than likely it was a good opportunity, work-wise and in terms of generating revenue. But isn't Iraq a terribly dangerous place? Yes, I'd say it is -- and so did the Fluor security representative.

Maybe Fluor sees it also as a good opportunity to help the people of Iraq. Maybe Fluor sees it as civic and public duty both to the United States and to the people and government of Iraq; such is a noble and meaningful cause. But -- and I am mostly ignorant on the complexities of this matter -- I must admit I am a tad skeptical. It is true that, for example, when I first heard about the destruction in Lebanon and Iraq, one of my initial reactions is to say -- they need help in reconstruction! they need help in infrastructure! they need help in planning! And I still hold this opinion. But questions remain....

Why didn't Fluor agressively bid for contracts in water and electrical infrastructure in New Orleans? Well, the contracts were not really there... at least not on the scale of Iraq.

The patron is the person or body who provides the financial means for the fruition of a project.

There are different kinds of patrons, and each patron can serve different roles in the site, in the design, and in the institutional effect on place and time.

Louis Kahn, for example when designing the Salk Institute and the Capital of Banglesdesh, had a deep relationship to the site and the patron.

Michelangelo, Bernini, and Vasari, as well, for example, also had complex ties to their patrons, whether the Medici Family or the Papacy.

Architecture for Humanity and still-developing nations also can serve as interesting patrons with interesting needs, such as TunaHAKI in Tanzania.

And UC Santa Cruz and the University of California system has been the appreciative patron to EHDD Architecture.

Whatever you do, wherever it is done. Think of the patron. Think of your service and think of their role and your relationship to them. What is the context; patron is a vital part of this. Pride in patron, pride in expressing the icon of time and labor. Value the institution and the human, together. Be at the site and be in the place. Patron -- who are the people, what do they need, what are their values, how can you deliver vision and manifestation?

(c) M. Waxman 2007

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