23 April 2012
From The newsdesk blog
Are architects afraid of dialogue?
I only ask because I’ve been to several events since joining BD that were billed as “in conversation” but which turned out to be a series of monologues.
It could be your big egos or, more charitably, a lack of confidence in your ability to perform in public. But either way it’s frustrating.
Maybe that’s because I’m always looking for a story and architects are more likely to say something newsworthy when you’re unscripted.
I guess long project spiels probably do interest architects in the audience, but it’s not everyone’s idea of a great night out.
The worst offender was Michel Mossessian, “in conversation with curator, author and critic Lucy Bullivant” at the V&A in February. Bullivant barely got a word in. At best she was interviewing him, but he batted away her tentative questions and ploughed on with his thinly disguised PowerPoint presentation.
Nearly as bad was “OMA in Conversation”, for which the practice’s US partner Shohei Shigematsu invited Bjarke Ingels to the Barbican for a chat about inheritance.
Shigematsu joked that Ingels was only there to ensure a full house and said he’d spend the next 90 minutes talking about his own projects. It was no idle threat.
Eventually they both sat down for a chin-wag, and what was by far the most interesting part of the evening. Yet after a few minutes Ingels leapt up to the podium, exclaiming, “It would be much easier to show you” and proceeded to talk through a string of slides.
So it was a pleasant surprise to be in the audience for this week’s “discussion” at the V&A with Richard Rogers and David Adjaye.
Self-effacing Adjaye got it just right. He resisted the temptation to present his own work and spent the evening eliciting anecdotes from Rogers.
My favourite was about how close the Pompidou Centre came to being won by someone else.
Rogers claimed he was reluctant to bid for a vanity project at all, but lost the office vote because he had to look after a sick child.
Then their entry wouldn’t fit in the post box so Marco Goldschmied had to hack off one side of the drawings.
To their horror, the package reappeared in the office three days later, after the deadline had passed, marked: “Insufficient postage”.
Some quick thinking followed and they managed to foil the judges by resubmitting their entry with a smudged postmark.
Entertaining stuff – but ultimately history. My brief was to return to the office with news.
We were warned there wasn’t much time for questions because Rogers had another appointment. I couldn’t risk them vanishing afterwards so I stuck my hand up and asked: “Do you have any advice for us on how we should be voting on May 3?”
It earnt me a laugh – and an accusation on Twitter that I fancied myself as Paxman – but it failed to elicit a newsworthy quote.
Fortunately Rogers and Adjaye hung around long enough afterwards for me to have another crack.
And that is how BD’s lead story this week was hatched: in conversation.