Tooting Your Own Architectural Horn Via Coffee Table Books

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Saying that architects have some degree of ego is like saying that sand is usually sandy; it’s a given. There’s ego in any sort of creative endeavor, right? But this piece in the Sydney Morning Herald makes an interesting distinction in “Architects Are Egoists By Their Own Design.” It concerns the strange phenomenon of architects writing big heavy coffee table books about their own work, with mainly lots and lots of photos included. Not so much an autobiography, but in open direct praise of the thing they built. It’s an interesting op/ed to think about. Here’s some:

So most architecture books are the coffee table sort, where huge, empty glass-eyed images, like big-eyed kittens on velvet, are held apart by that pureed pig Latin they squeegee into the gaps. Architecture books with people in them don’t sell. That we know.

But something most people don’t realise is that those glamorous architecture tomes are mostly vanity press, paid for and even — improbable as it may seem — written by their architect subjects. This is a peculiar architectural phenomenon. You don’t see historians making films on themselves, or pop groups painting self-portraits. You don’t see Whiteley on Whiteley. Flannery on Flannery. Even Howard on Howard.

Even the most towering of egos usually refrains from total control of history. Most professions get on with it and let the commentators comment. Not architects.