Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Centre of Excellence

Scott said to me 'well, excellence doesn't have a centre' and he's right. Maybe it's branding, pigeon holing, or specialisation in general that brings the contradiction. Certainly the academic world can behave as badly as The One Show where rather ordinary people find themselves suddenly VIPs. Specialists rise by default. Thus whilst championing competition and originality, capitalism promotes a rather tawdry mediocrity in to it's top heavy inverted pyramid (to visualise this just imagine the size of the pyramid above the eleven England players back in 1966 and now in 2014- include all the media of course). Everybody assumes that Oxbridge academics are the best in the world but perhaps they're just there because it's Oxbridge. Maybe we should be thinking about that.
Scott's vision of excellence may be Descartes, roaming around rather desperately trying to find the peace and quiet ruined by sociality. On that basis nobody really excellent would ever want to live in Oxford or Cambridge or Yale or Princeton, they would prefer to be themselves elsewhere. It is the less than excellent who like those crowds. Having worked at the Architectural Association for a long time, I especially remember it's horrible claustrophobia (reminiscent of my time living in Cambridge).
I was really pleased last week my own department, which has steadfastly refused to brand itself unless as 'maverick', got through it's validation process with a vote of confidence in not establishing it's brand identity (unless, perhaps, it's brand was 'diversity'). It felt like a step forward, to recognise branding as unhelpful.
Meanwhile we should remember, architecture is a subject where you have to know a little about a lot of things. Architects are by definition generalists, otherwise they would be cogs in the machine having completed courses in 'Architectural Illustration' 'Architectural Management' or 'Expertise in Health and Safety for Building Sites'. I guess that's what the RIBA is for, and in the present climate I'm glad they can stand up for the dilettante.

1 comment:

  1. Not forgetting that other Centre of Excellence and 'Expertise in dance', which is certainly 'maverick'.
    To mis-paraphrase Descartes, they dance therefore they are.