Recently, I saw A&E's Duck Dynasty for the first time. It made me think a lot, which may come as a surprise to anyone who has seen it. On the one hand, it's just more of the same old "Redneck Reality" tv hat's been around for the last few years. We've seen stuff like this before, not to mention that the dialogue sounds scripted. This kind of sameness and lack of authenticity is something that really bothers me a lot. Why don't people want something innovative and interesting? Why don't they see that what they're being offered is a cheap, poor imitation of reality?? Wait, are we talking about buildings or tv??? I forget.
On the other hand, in one of the three episodes I watched ("Frog in One", from Season 1), the show portrays men so dedicated to their beliefs that one of them shows up at a local school's career day dressed in camouflage and guts a duck in front of a room full of horrified middle-schoolers, while another one tells stories about his experiences in Vietnam. Later in the same episode, five of the men sneak onto a golf course (at night) to go frog catching in the pond. This, despite the fact that these men are rich and can buy all the frogs they want without falling into a pond. The show is a great tale of real guys living an authentic life doing what they love.
Wrong, of course.
The problem is (as you probably know), those incidents were likely staged for the show. What should be a nice reminder that there really are authentic people out there who live their life with deep sincerity about their beliefs turns out, instead, to be a cynical, insincere joke.
Sincerity is important, and is unfortunately hard to find much of the time.
It's sort of the same thing with architecture. What does it mean to be a sincere architect? It means a building that responds to its site. One that tries to solve a well-defined problem, whether that's a home that needs to be suitable for a specific person and their way of living, a store that needs to sell lots of widgets, or a classroom that needs to inspire students to learn. This sort of work takes time and effort, and I love doing it. Yet constantly, I come up against those who see buildings as a commodity, something that should be done as cheaply and quickly as possible, squeezed for profit, and then abandoned. This is the difference between shows like The Sopranos or The Wire and shows like Honey Boo Boo or Hillbilly Handfishin'. It's not just better for the author, who gets to take pride in their work and create something that will stand the test of time and extend the medium beyond where it had previously been. It's also good for us, the consumers, who will be educated, edified, and uplifted by the authors' dedication, talent, and, yes, sincerity.