There is something that has been brewing in our city for some time — we’ve been seeing peers stepping way too far over the line in pitching ‘optimism’ to potential clients. We’ve good-naturedly gone along with the spirit of competition and seen some deft sleight of hand from other firms. But this piece about Chris Pardo in the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog is so much uglier than we could have ever imagined. Now, we don’t plan on getting down in the mud on a regular basis, but the levels of deceit and trail of corpses found here are at best dishonest, unethical, alarming … at worst, well, dear reader, we’ll let you be the judge. We don’t want to hear about “getting caught in an economic downturn” or “businesses take risks” or any of that other stuff.  This goes so far out-of-bounds that no flippant excuse applies.

In our on-going effort to make lemonade out of lemons (or in this case, valuable observations for our beloved readers out of what we see as appalling behavior), we think it’s time to clearly state principles that every professional architect should practice, and today’s post takes a deep-dive on three of them.

1. Professional Architects practice good business with everyone.
Perhaps the most important mind-set of practicing good business is thinking about each and every client as a long-term relationship. The decisions an architect makes should foster lasting trust with not only clients but investors, consultants, tradeswomen & tradesmen, employees, etc. A project should never be thought of as the only time you’ll work with someone (be it the client, the contractor, or the intern); architects don’t burn bridges. Most importantly, practicing good business should demonstrate to the next generation how professionals navigate challenges and hurdles.

2. Professional Architects are financially responsible for the decisions they make.
There is a certain amount of speculation and risk in just about every project, from something as small as a home remodel to a project as significant as a multi-family development. The professional’s job is to analyze the variables and manage the risk. A professional does not reach further than what they can take responsibility for, and when the outcome is financially unfavorable, a professional does not walk away from debt accrued. Most ambitious professionals like to set bigger goals and reach for better achievements. But part of the professional’s duty is to properly set the boundaries for doing so.

3. Professional Architects take care of the community.
Professionals have a long-term commitment to the places and people around them. They think about the built-environment in terms of how the next generation will be affected by the decisions made today. More so than most professions, a professional architect’s job is to make the world a better place.

Our home town of Seattle, like many places around the world, is emerging from a stagnating recession. The market is picking up, architects are going back to work, and there are tower cranes all over the place. This is tremendous progress, and we’re grateful for a recovering industry. But as a city, as communities, and as neighborhoods, we’re just now starting to deal with the repercussions of the individuals who used poor judgment and behaved unprofessionally, both before and during the recession. A rash of greed, shady financial transactions, and a trail of careless decisions have scarred Seattle; it will take decades to simply mend portions of our built-environment, to say nothing of forward progress. We refer to the architect-developer-builder teams who, when the reality of a downward economy set in, simply walked away from their projects and presumably the banks that financed them and the communities that accepted them. Dozens of projects have been left in various states of completion (or incompletion, really,) to rot, shifting the responsibility from the accountable individuals to the neighbors and communities.

As a community, if we’ve learned anything from the recession, it should be that there is distinction between mindful professionals invested in their communities and those simply masquerading as such for the gain of money, leverage, and stature. If we want to foster a sustainable built-environment and create a better quality of life for future generations, the latter group has got to go. They are a blight and a threat to the rest of us, the professionals AND the clients.

All professionals, architects included, should be held to the highest standards in society; and as with any single thing we ask of others, we hold ourselves to that same standard. We welcome the ‘challenge’ of hard questions and thorough inquiry from our own clients and peers. And in that spirit, we look forward to your comments and thoughts.