Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Curing the Fountainheadache

I was originally looking to see what books the store might have by/about Louis Sullivan, having just read his Autobiography of An Idea, after reading an review called "Louis Sullivan: What's the Big Idea?" by Peter Cresswell, at Rebirth of Reason. (Sullivan, you may know, was the basis of Henry Cameron in The Fountainhead. Highly recommended reading.) Anyway, in the process, I had an "accidental" Ayn Rand sighting in the same section: Curing the Fountainheadache: How Architects & Their Clients Communicate by Andrew Pressman. It came out in 1995, I believe, with a second printing in 2005. I took a quick glance through, and it seems like a straightforward how-to book for both architects and clients on how to communicate. (It's even seasoned throughout with pictures and quotes from book and movie.)

Here is the product description from the original printing's back cover:

Howard Roark's attitude toward clients was guaranteed to cause him endless headaches. Most architects understand that they must balance their creative ambitions with the client's need for a building that solves real-life problems, can be built for a reasonable cost, and doesn't leak. Learning to strike that balance, however, can be a painful trial-and-error process that produces its own special brand of headache.

The Fountainheadache investigates the complex, sometimes rocky relationship of architect and client through the personal recollections of some of America's best-known and most successful architects. Roger K. Lewis, Charles Gwathmey, Stanley Tigerman, and many others discuss their methods for establishing working relationships with clients, describe the impact of these relationships on the design process, and offer insights and advice on a broad array of issues covering a range of projects from single-family dwellings to large commercial buildings and public facilities.

Andy Pressman's often hilarious stories of his own fledgling practice illustrate the kinds of client-related problems that can take a young architect completely by surprise: A married couple can't agree on how to remodel their house, a client wants to have his house redesigned without meeting the architect, a couple allows a contingent of neighbors to grill the architect about his design. But from each jarring experience, Pressman draws a valuable lesson. He develops a set of guidelines that help bridge the gap that often separates architect from client, replacing frustration with satisfaction, conflict with collaboration, and disappointment with delight.

The Fountainheadache offers a candid and completely human perspective on the frustrations and joys of the architect-client relationship. It also provides plenty of practical advice that will help architects and prospective clients turn this potential headache into one of the most rewarding aspects of any building venture.

Having only thumbed through it, I can't say if it stays true to the ideas expressed in The Fountainhead. But its existence was a pleasant surprise, at least, and although the title originally led me to suspect some Rand-bashing, it does seem to treat the source material with respect.