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Death to the mission statement

I wouldn’t usually recommend that you read something in which the first paragraph is mind-numbingly dull, but you should make an exception for Maria Smith’s latest column for RIBA Journal. (You can see her in the image below, shamelessly nicked from the website). 

Because the tedium is the point. Maria is a clever and witty writer (as well as being a clever and witty architect) and in this column she starts by guying the cookie-cutter mission statements that appear on most architects’ web sites. How many, for example, say, as Maria’s fictional practice does, ‘We seek to create timeless design by taking inspiration from the latest technology.’? Tens? Hundreds?

She goes on to riff into a fantasy world, as the practice reveals its megalomania, the secret thoughts that one suspects lie behind so many such mission statements. The real question, of course, is how do you get it right? ‘We design buildings. They usually stand up. They don’t cost too much. Our clients are happy. We’ve even won some awards. Have a look [link].’ That wouldn’t be a bad start. But would again do for many. Just how do architects distinguish themselves from other practices, especially when they are not that different?

There are plenty of things to think about there. But perhaps not yet. Why not put it off by reading Maria’s column, and smiling and cringing? And then having a sneaky look at your own website. And cringing again.

Ruth Slavid

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