Art direction is something I have thought often about. Any design business like architecture or retail should have a good leader or principal leading the company design sector. In directing a group of people (like the office of zlgdesign) to produce or create something architecturally beautiful and meaningful, I had often thought that it is a good precursor to instil at first, a sense of having some sort of philosophy for what they all do. How this was done in the olden days of Le Corbusier or Sir Christopher Wren is where I am quite clueless, but I could imagine that in a studio such as theirs, there might only be one such person as Wren or Corbusier in these circumstances, who would have the best ideas, and that it would have to be them to decide on all matters of design or what I call art direction, and therefore they would the ones to propose all designs and that they themselves might in fact design everything. It follows then that the entire office just does the drafting or the production, accordingly, aligned and obedient. It would be quite unthinkable for someone else to be taking on this role of leading design other than Wren or Corb. So I supposed that for today’s much larger firms and design houses such as that of BMW, Gensler or RSP, or VITRA, that the project architects or designers or art directors had in fact been the key person or designers and that the many other bosses such organisations must have had to employ, would most quite likely have “lost it”. This is meaning to say, the philosophy or ethos of the organisation might have either been compromised, diffused, or in fact worst case, not even followed through or perhaps does not come into being and therefore non existent. There seemed absolutely no way to allow just one designer or head person to make all the decisions (although it could be possible in an office like Zaha Hadid) some decisions at high levels can be as minutae and irreverent as door selection, a mere decision which is yet easily quite important to the “scheme of things”. Or is there. How does Norman Foster do it, I wonder. He just looks at a sketch of a drawing and at once he would say, ‘that’s not me, please do it again.” Or something to that effect. Is this how it should be done to preserve a philosophy or an ethos, a style or art direction or brand. Perhaps, and why do it at all if the business is already good without the singlehanded approach. What is it that makes this more important than the business protocols can allow, the efficiency and the alignment of work flow and teamwork frames. If there was such a thing as method would foster be able to share this with Zaha Hadid or would say RSP rely on the same methods as Gensler, to preserve the identity of brand of the company. Surely a company that is design based must have some philosophical approach to build from, defining all ideas and creativity pursuits, to form a basis or design strategy, in other words, in this context, a philosophy. But how do we not single out individuality and original design if it’s all about not delegating the act of design. How does one translate or issue an ethos or a clear philosophy across as many as twenty hundred architects whom are armed with only building plans and ‘Boring’ statutory regulations, all furiously working away to meet artificially tight datelines. How can the philosophy not be faced with a compromise nor diffused by less able persons as junior architects and inexperienced or worst, hopeless project managers. Therein lies many questions, among them the most important critical one we might ask is how do we preserve an ethos above other priorities such as business sense. Is it counter productive or would it in fact generate better value and in the long term secure a more permanent and higher quality of existence.






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