Is the Business of Architecture Doped up?
If you follow professional cycling, you would be aware of the problem of doping in the sport. The cases of Lance Armstrong and Sir Bradley Wiggins present two interesting counterpoints.
In the case of Lance, he was eventually charged and stripped of titles and sponsorship for cheating over the course of the better part of a decade. In the case of Sir Bradley, suspicions linger from events in 2011 associated with the delivery of a jiffy bag containing a pharmaceutical drug that was delivered to the team doctor at the Criterium du Dauphine, that purportedly related to a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption – issued to treat a preexisting medical condition) – but arguably was used for performance enhancement.
I have seen interviews of both men and was struck by a particular phrase that they used in their defense. They said that they wanted;
‘To level the playing field’.
It is interesting to consider what that means. On the surface it sounds like they were seeking parity in the competition which bears some truth until you consider its darker meaning:
They took performance enhancers to compete in a field dominated by performance enhanced competitors.
(ie. drug cheats).
When you look more closely over this period of cycling, almost all of the top performers were at some stage charged or suspected of doping, with only notable exception, such as Australia’s Cadel Evans. Cadel is arguably one of the most accomplished cyclists of our generation yet won the Tour de France just once, in comparison to Lance Armstrong’s seven! Cadel was very vocal about the problem of ‘doping’ in the sport but was relentlessly beaten by ‘doped up’ competitors. Can you imagine his frustration?
Furthermore, ‘doping’ contributed to the death of several cyclists from adverse side effects associated with several doping tactics – some grotesque, which leads me to my question:
Is the business of Architecture doped up?
A comparable tactic to ‘leveling the playing field’ in the Business of Architecture is pricing projects at an sustainably low level to ‘win’ the project, against a competition of unsustainable bidding, but is there collateral damage, and what are the ‘doping’ tactics? Are they:
- lower wages?
- longer hours?
- lesser service? via insufficient experience, training or competence; or
- Excising service? eg. D&C contracts which only require the Architect to produce something akin to a sketch design for further D – ‘Design’ by the builder in a D&C contract.
These tactics are currently in play, and we are clearly seeing the symptoms of an unsustainable ‘doped up’ profession. To continue the metaphor the ‘deaths’ in the profession are exploitation of staff, mental health and the absence of family caregivers due to prolonged work hours, in addition to buildings that are not fit for purpose – the Opal tower as a case in point.
Unless we truly ‘level the playing field’ and stop the ‘doping’, then the ‘deaths’ will prevail, and like Cadel, any rising talent will be frustrated and relentlessly overshadowed by doped up competitors.