Today, we announce the 2014 winners of the A+ Awards, which reminds me of a video we made more than a year ago introducing the Architizer A+ Awards to the world. It was sparked by one simple observation: looking solely at the numbers, there existed a wild inequality in the architecture world:
Film has the Oscars: 24 Winners
Music has the Grammys: 81 Winners
Online has the Webbys: 141 Winners
Architecture has the Pritzker: 1 Winner
One of these things is not like the others, and it didn’t make much sense to us, so we created this:
Here is another number: 90%. That is how much time the average American spends indoors according to the EPA. That means that the average American spends 90% of their time surrounded by architecture.
And another number: $3 million. That is the average amount of economic value a single architect controls in one year. Compare that to $400,000 for the average lawyer or doctor, and you start to understand that architects aren’t just designing the spaces to love, or maybe hate, we are controlling a huge piece of the economy.
How can an industry that controls so much money, and designs the places where most people spend most of their time, have one winner? Architecture is a broad industry that has a huge reach—and we designed the A+ Awards to celebrate that reach and diversity.
The Pritzker Prize has the best intentions: to honor those who make “significant contributions to humanity and the built environment” through architecture. The problem is that it perpetuates a kind of elitism and exceptionalism that has made the field of architecture distant and arcane to the general public.
Proponents will tell you that we need to elect a star every year to efficiently connect to the public and showcase “good architecture.” That’s nonsense. All it does is educate the public that “good architecture” is the purview of the few and only trends on Twitter once a year. Some more numbers:
Oscar winners are chosen by the Academy of Motion Pictures: 6,000+ members
Grammy winners are chosen by the a panel of experts: 150 members
Webby winners are chosen by the International Academy of Digital Arts: 300+ members
Pritzkers winners are chosen by a jury of experts: 9 members
Our winners are chosen by a jury of nearly 300 innovators and thought leaders from the diverse fields of politics, fashion, art, tech development, education—really, anyone with a stake in architecture. And that is everyone! That is why we also open voting up to the public. I’ve heard from people dismissing the public vote as a “popularity contest.” My response: “That's good!” Architecture needs to be popular if we are going to survive as a profession.
This year, we are proud to celebrate our 129 winners from all over the world because they have all done spectacular work. As a profession, we need to raise our heads up from our desks and tell the world about the buildings and spaces we create—and that it isn’t about one winner; it is about a world of innovation that addresses the issues facing our society.
Lisa Phillips, Director, New Museum, presenting the 2013 Relevance Award to Iwan Baan, Photographer
Robert Hammond and Joshua David, Co-Founders, Friends Of The Highline, receiving the 2013 Advocacy Award
With all of your support and the support of our sponsors at the Wall Street Journal's WSJ Magazine, Microsoft Surface, Autodesk, Cool Hunting, Gizmodo, and more, we are breaking architecture out of the echo chamber to change the numbers that really matter. The average salary for professionals leaving graduate school for doctors is $145,000, lawyers $132,000, and for architects it is $44,000. Something is broken.
The A+ Awards is a launching pad for changing the public’s perception of architecture by celebrating more than the lone genius and celebrating the profession as a whole. With your support we can make lasting change. Our mission is to empower architecture, and the best way we know how is to break architecture out of its echo chamber.
Scene from the 2013 A+ Awards Gala
Special thanks to Phil Bernstein of Autodesk who explained the economic value of an architect and their starting salaries at a recent event at the Boston Society of Architects sponsored by Autodesk. He ascertained the economic value of individual architects by dividing total dollars under architect's control by the number of architects. The referenced salary figures represent 2012 statistics for top earners from Yale University.