Big-A and little-a architects January 10, 2009Posted by randydeutsch in architect types, creativity.
Big-A, little-a, what begins with A? I recently had the pleasure of participating in a stimulating online discussion on the CSTC forum concerning the artificial construct of, or all-to-real divide between, big-C creativity and little-c creativity. To author and psychology professor Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, the big-C creative person is a towering figure, a person whose work is well known to people in a particular field, whereas the little-c creative person is not. Big-C creativity leads to the transformation of a domain such as Architecture. Little-c creativity is used in everyday life, as in problem solving or placement of the proverbial bicycle shed.
This got me thinking about whether there is a similar difference between big-A architects and little-a architects. It would be natural to assume that Big A’s, at least in the building design field, are the Starchitects familiar to media, stage and screen – and the little a’s, well, the rest of us. The comparison I have in mind runs deeper, involving a lower and higher order of magnitude – but of what? Talent? Creativity?
Perhaps the biggest difference between big-A architects and little-a architects isn’t measured in degree but in kind. Let me illustrate:
Little-a architects Big-A architects
React w/o reflection Reflection-in-action
Focus on selves Focus on the problem
“Green” solutions Sustainable
Cradle to grave Cradle to cradle
Concerned with image Concerned with substance
Have an agenda Are open and flexible
Come to a solution ASAP Comfortable with ambiguity
Appeal to constraints Appeal to their higher selves
Describe and explain Justify
Speak architect Translate for others
Work in teams Orchestrate
Continuing education Lifelong learning
Big-A architects appeal to their higher, or if you prefer, aspirational selves. Their high-octane, fuel-injected selves when confronted with an intractable problem, assignment or opportunity. As Architects to Zebras is a blog (Blog?) covering architects from A-Z (or is that a-z?) I hope for this to be the beginning of an ongoing discussion. I would be interested to know what items you would to add to the list.