The fictional character of architect Howard Roark had passion for his creative effort, for his creations. I understand his feelings. My peers in architectural circles laugh at him today, and I don’t recommend nor approve of destroying buildings when they are altered by others, but I do understand. I designed a clinic once for a husband and wife doctor partnership. After the plans were completed and we moved to building the project, my client told me that my services were no longer needed; that my oversight was not wanted because they would build it exactly according to the drawings. No amount of my “why I was needed” education was going to help these “smart doctors”. It will never happen…”exactly like the plans”, I knew better. I was disappointed because I find it thrilling to experience my work as it takes on form and dreams become reality. I asked if I could put my sign out and come on-site from time to time. They were pleasant and happily agreed. One day I saw the roof was of a strange and different design, and then…all these ugly little metal boxes on the roof! Electric ventilating fans! How awful, how unnecessary, how ridiculous! You see, I had designed the roof form to collect prevailing winds and to have natural exhaust; through convection and architectural form I had created natural ventilation requiring neither electricity nor the purchase of a dozen mechanical fans. When I called the doctors to ask them why they altered the building so drastically, they said that their builder had told them the fans were needed. I politely said the fans were not required by the original design, but now they had not only increased the first cost of their building by the installation unnecessary mechanical equipment. Now they had ugly little boxes all over their roof, but that they would also be paying for it every month for the life of the building in their electric bill. The doctors replied, they didn’t know; they had believed the contractor. Through my disappointment, I felt sorry for them. Other changes and alterations soon took place and it wasn’t long before I took my sign off the building site. I got a call one day, “Haven somebody stole your sign!” I said thank you for your concern but that I had taken my sign off the property. But why would you do that? I heard. Because what was being built was not “my design”, I replied; it was not mine so my name should not to be associated with it. She expressed her regrets and I wished them good luck; as I hung up the phone I thought of Howard Roark…no I was not going to dynamite the clinic, but I understood the pain.
This unfortunately happens way too often by “blind owners and contractors” that think they know more about the design of architecture than the professional. To be fair, sadly many architects content with lifeless buildings could care less about producing spirited architecture. I think we should think about the creative effort, individual inventions and achievement. There is a passion and spirit that brings vitality to our cities. The mistakes and failures in our society usually can be boiled down to a collective lack of focus, compromised process, and arrogant altruism. As Howard continues in his testimony and final summary at his trial, he says:
“I destroyed it because I did not choose to let it exist. It was a double monster. In form and in implication. I had to blast both. The form was mutilated by two second-handers [those that use others property] who assumed the right to improve upon that which they had not made and could not equal. They were permitted to do it by the general implication that the altruistic purpose of the building superseded all rights and that I had no claim to stand against it.
I agreed to design Cortlandt for the purpose of seeing it erected as I designed it and for no other reason. That was the price I set for my work. I was not paid.” (page 685)13
To care so much for the creation of your effort that you would rather see it destroyed than to exist so altered is rare; I sense that creative integrity and passion for it is escaping from us. Please, I’m not promoting that we destroy our buildings. What I’m trying to suggest is that this creative energy has value to the individual and to the collective; that we should work hard to not have or accept the lifeless trash in the first place. Without passion for goodness, quality, and spirit in our art and architecture; society will grow dead. Don’t you already see the deadness in society all around you? I do. You only need to have the eyes to see.
So, on a grander scale, what would drive a creator to destroy his creation? We’ve been looking at this question from an architecture point of view; now let’s look at it from a Biblical point of view. Rather than just one building project, let’s look at just that “Fountainhead situation” on a worldwide scale. Moving from fiction to nonfiction, the Book of Genesis tells us in the sixth chapter, verses 5 through 7 (NIV):
“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the Earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the Earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the Earth – men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air – for I am grieved that I have made them.”
We will never know the extreme magnitude of the Lord’s pain and how He grieved over mankind making the wrong decisions, and the need to destroy His creation. It would have to be like losing part of Himself [we were created in the image of God]. We are the poema [poetry], the grand workmanship of God. Of course, what He destroyed wasn’t exactly the way He originally created it. Something happened. In the first chapter of Genesis we see God saying “It is good”, after viewing that which He had just created. However the creation He destroyed wasn’t good; the creation [we people] had been altered for the worse by our own self-ishness and by our desire to be like God (Genesis 2:5+6). We made our own choice to not obey God; that is the same as putting ourselves above God. This was made possible though the gift of free-will, lovingly granted by God at His great risk. To not grant free-will would have been the same as placing us in prison chains; we would simply be puppets on the end of strings dancing to the whim of the “Master Controller”. But God loves us; He is not into control but seeks relationship! We read that one afternoon God was walking in The Garden and called out to Adam, where are you? (Genesis 2:8+9) To walk in The Garden with God…but the people did not have the vision of the Creator, they had their incomplete vision. How could they think they could stand equal to the One that got the whole thing started in the first place? To cover the Earth with water and start again would grieve God to depths we can’t possibly understand, but it had to happen for God is in control and still seeks relationship. Maybe we’ll learn one day! In His effort to finally reach us, God sent His Son Jesus to show us the way…we need nothing else, but did we change our evil ways?