8 Reasons Why Architecture Needs More Artists

Before I offend the very audience that I hope to persuade, please allow me to clarify something up front… if there’s any debate surrounding whether architecture is a form of art, I am firmly planted in the “yes” camp. I also believe that many architects are, in fact, artists. 

Though, having spent the last 15+ years as a consultant bridging the gap between the worlds of art and architecture, I can say from experience that most architects and artists approach and view things differently. And both could benefit from more overlap. 

A review of the 2020 AIA SD Design Award entries demonstrates that we have tremendous design talent in our state. It’s exciting to have these firms and projects recognized. 

And while I understand that not every project can be an award winner, I also regularly recognize untapped opportunities for art and architecture to intersect within our everyday lives. 

When I see vast residential and commercial developments devoid of any distinctive art or design, or reflect on public projects where artwork is the first item value engineered out of the budget, I can’t help but wish to do better for and by our communities. These spaces shape who we are and how we live!

So how do we do better?  

Let’s commit to engaging in discussions with or about artists and artwork at the beginning of client discussions and project design. Let’s move beyond simply placing lighting for future applied art, to truly integrating art into the physical space and materials. And let’s strive to work harder toward finding creative solutions to deliver projects that are both economically feasible and beautiful/inspiring/delightful!

Sanford Imaginetics, Koch Hazard Architects and HDR

Continue below for the top reasons why I believe that architects could benefit from working more closely with experienced artists and qualified art consultants:

  1. To challenge and sharpen your design. Science has proven that architects and artists see things differently. Allowing your design to be reviewed and challenged can be uncomfortable, but if you’re willing to open yourself up to feedback from your fellow creatives you may expand your boundaries and sharpen your design.
  2. To win projects and win-over clients. In a highly competitive world of formulaic RFP’s, set yourself apart by bringing in a creative partner. Consider that Diller Scofidio + Renfro was selected to design theShed for the highly competitive Hudson Yards project largely because of their reputation as the “architects of the arts”. And in a related plug for artist as architect, let’s not forget Thomas Heatherwick’s “Vessel”!
  3. To turn your firm into a brand. I’m amazed by the number of new architectural firms and offices opening throughout our region. It’s a good sign that things are healthy and growing. But that also means that firms will need to find new ways to establish their brand in a competitive creative industry. Why not establish a reputation as the most sought-after firm for creative design by collaborating with the most diverse group of artists and design professionals? 
  4. To allow your walls to talk. Most artists are masterful storytellers. They’re adept at using a visual medium to communicate a strong message. Allow them to help you bring your client’s story to life through the built environment. To understand the power of this approach, check out Ole Scheeren’s Ted Talk on the topic. FYI, he and Rem Koolhaas were thinking about more than big pants!
  5. To deliver surprise and delight. We often think of art and architecture in grand scale and at significant cost. But sometimes art integration is about delivering personal experiences at unexpected moments. Tiny gestures, like the blue tiles at the State Capitol, can also be the most memorable. 
  6. To extend the experience of a space beyond its walls. Like it or not, we’re living in the age of Instagram (and Snapchat, and TikTok, and…). Leading architects and designers have hopped on the bandwagon. Embracing the trend and collaborating with artists and designers to create delightful spaces for photo-ops can introduce your work to new and expanded audiences. 
  7. To solve problems and contribute to the conversation. Historically speaking, artists and architects have served as some of the most powerful change agents and documentarians. Artists are interpretive communicators. Architects are critical-thinking problem solvers. By collaborating with the artists, architects will better understand a community; how to address its needs; and how to express its identity through the built environment.
  8. To improve health and design outcomes. I could go-on at length here, but will attempt to keep it short. Evidence and research inform us that familiar, nature-based artwork and imagery can shorten lengths of stay, reduce stress and anxiety, and minimize the need for pain medication in health care environments. Who better to supply such artwork for your projects than your regional artists? Further, in the time of Covid-19, a talented designer or graphic artist can help encourage social distancing and deliver health education in a manner that complements, rather than disrupts, your thoughtfully designed environment. 

We, as a creative community, have the ability to positively shape the places where we live, learn, work, heal and play. I challenge each of you to engage an experienced artist or qualified art consultant (shameless plug for Oland Arts Consulting) in the design process at an early stage to transform your next project. Let’s work together to allow the impact of our complimentary crafts to be amplified through collaboration!

About the Author

Ivy Oland Dandar, EDAC
Owner, Oland Arts Consulting

Ivy Oland Dandar specializes in the development of transformational built environments through the integration of art. She has worked with more than 200 regional artists and helped develop design solutions for commercial and healthcare clients throughout the Upper Midwest.

She currently divides her time between her consulting business, a facility design role with a large non-profit healthcare organization, and chasing her two small boys around downtown Sioux Falls with her husband and high-strung dog in tow. 

Feature Image: Sioux Falls Regional Airport Renovation; TSP, Inc.

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