Architecture and integrity

Posted on August 29, 2014 · Posted in Architecture, Uncategorized

First I must thank Bob Borson and his blog ‘Life of an architect’ for triggering the theme for this post. It deals with the question “What does integrity mean to me and does my being an architect influence my own understanding of the word?”

The dictionary defines “integrity as ‘the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles’.

Integrity concerns honesty, character, virtue and morality and out of these we build our own moral code. We all know the difference between right and wrong and good and bad, but when “hard” and “easy” get introduced into the mix, things start getting more complicated.

As a London architect writing this blog over the past 18 months has been interesting in that I cannot pretend that either I or any of my colleagues are people we are not. If I did I would be discovered in due course. I present myself as I am and our Studio as we are. The process starts with being honest with oneself and in writing this blog I try and follow the maxim “say what you mean and mean what you say”– and then “do what you say”.

Everyone has integrity and I’m not convinced personal integrity is something you can be taught. I think personal integrity comes from exposure to our role models – our parents, our social groups, our colleagues, our faith, and so on and I have been remarkably lucky in this regard.

Architects are within a profession that is closely associated with personal integrity. All registered architects in the UK are bound by a strict Code of Conduct that is underpinned by obligations of honesty and integrity. The first stated obligation is “Be honest and act with integrity”.  Architects who, like myself and my colleagues, choose to join our professional institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects, are also bound by the RIBA Code. That Code also states “Members shall act with honesty and integrity at all times”

I believe that given a choice most architects will put their personal interests aside and withdraw from a process that will yield an undesirable result or at least one that is in conflict with their own beliefs.

Most architects aren’t motivated by financial rewards to the same level as other highly educated individuals, and most architects strive to leave the world and their environment in a better place then how they found it.

The question I keep asking myself is “am I making things better?” and because I keep asking myself this it shows that I have not yet found the answer.

I would mislead you if I said that I share the bad news as much as good news. I try to keep morale high in the Studio and so tend to talk things up not down. I am very proud of what we have achieved over the years. We’ve designed and built some great buildings, created environments that have enhanced lives, mentored and coached young architects and designers who have gone on to great things and run a business that has through both good and bad times paid its debts and supported the families who depend on it.

Could I be doing more? Of course I could. I still like watching TV and reading books, going out to eat with my family, and all sorts of things that take me away from doing things that others could benefit from … but there has to be some sort of balance and I don’t think that these activities undertaken for my own self interest are eroding my self respect.

John Muir