I am not exactly sure where I should begin on this subject. I guess by just saying that Pharrell Williams, the singer everyone knows from Daft Punk’s massive summer hit “Get lucky”, is designing a prefabricated house with Zaha Hadid.
It must have all started in 2005 when he was voted the world’s best dressed man by Esquire magazine (even though the award should probably be given to his stylist because I am sure he had one). I think that this success led him to believe that design was his true calling thus he started producing some chairs and other objects along with a clothing line. It is known that Pharrell has not received any sort of formal education in design, which might seem irrelevant to many.
At this point let me share with you that due to my architectural training I have a very stable hand and that I am additionally a huge fan of medical shows. Deep inside I always dreamt of being a surgeon and I have not yet given up on the hope that one day I will take a scalpel and cut someone open. According to the omnipotence of branding in our culture today, I guess going to medical school for a couple of decades could be skipped. If I were hugely famous like Pharrell is, I would be able to convince everyone that I do not have to study in order to be a good surgeon. I guess some starstruck teenager with a death wish would surely agree to let me cut into them.
This seemingly absurd analogy is not nearly as absurd as one might think. In places struck often by earthquakes like my home country Greece, architects train to be engineers as well. There are also laws that can throw us in jail if a building we design collapses, because architects do hold the lives of people who live or work in their buildings into their hands. Architectural students in most universities that I know of, go through arduous training that tests their intentions. This is done to educate them but also to strengthen their convictions and theories on which their designs are based on. This process is very psychoanalytical and most of us question ourselves and ours skills at one time or another. To be frank I think we should never stop to contemplate whether we have what it takes to make an addition to the built environment. I strongly believe that if the hint of humility that instigates this question of ethics disappears, all that we are left with is a horrible thirst for posthumous glory. Or even the vanity that architects have the power to build the world for the simple folk to live in. After all god is mentioned as the Great Architect in the bible!
Going back to Pharrell and an interview I read on his collaboration with Zaha in “Hyperbeast” (read it here), I was even more outraged to find out that he believes there is no difference between music and architecture other than the materials one uses. I cannot even find the words to express how generic and utterly naïve (I am being very kind in my choice of words) I find this quote. This statement truly does not signify anything. How can music notes be compared to bricks? I guess in a very poetic and symbolic way. But we all know that buildings that put roofs over peoples’ heads are real, not symbolic. They are as real as the food we eat, otherwise we would be fed with music.
I could go on for days but let me close by saying that Pharrell is not satisfied with designing any house (not even his own house) he dreams of. He wants to design a prefabricated house, which means a house for mass production. How about that for an illusion of grandeur? Not only he will decide on how one person lives but he actually has an opinion on how ALL people should live! And Zaha is there to facilitate his dream of producing humanity’s ultimate dwelling as I am sure she believes in him and his unique talent and not because she wants his extreme pop-stardom to rub off onto her.
And here I rest my case, having witnessed the architect’s true death. May he/she RIP