Looking Forward to Monday Morning
A series of essays on business, architecture, and the business of architecture.
Critical Romance
by Daniel Frisch
Posted November 1st, 2018

“Critical Romance” and Thoughts on a Monograph

This writing comes easily. “Critical Romance” has been with me since the start, and has been a guiding principal throughout my career. I began tinkering with the idea in graduate school at Columbia University and have written about it numerous times since. It’s been a tag line on our business cards and part of our marketing materials since the mid 1990’s.

I have always believed that architects and designers are driven into polarized camps. Either we believe in an engineer’s methodology that all decisions relate to function; Or, we believe an academic or aesthetic priority should dictate design.

I believe in neither and am certain that for design to succeed, the simultaneous satisfaction of both criteria is essential. Form can neither blindly follow function, nor can function solely follow form. Form and function are indivisible; the head and the heart are intertwined. “Critical Romance” is defined.

A few years ago, Jamie and I were talking over lunch about why we have not pursued publication more aggressively, or sought having a monograph published about the firm’s great work. Our staff, our contractors, and even our clients, would certainly take great pleasure in seeing the work published and for the firm to gain the notoriety it so deserves.

In balancing the head and the heart and by following our principles of “Critical Romance” (not to mention, “Yes, and…, and the K.I.S.S. method), our best work has a certain timelessness and appears effortless. Our work is characterized by depth as opposed to surface or style, often forming more of a background than foreground. This observation prompted us to remark, “if we were to publish a monograph, even we would be bored.” And to be truthful, we are never bored, the work is its own end, and our client’s happiness is our trophy.