An Architect's Guide to Fame Edited by Paul Davies and Torsten Schmiedeknecht. Architectural Press, 2005. 380pp. £19.99
A recent Guardian G2 supplement featured a photo of Renzo Piano on the cover and a 've-page interview inside, with a full-page portrait.
There was also a three-page piece on David Chipperfield by Jonathan Glancey; no portrait but illustrated with buildings. This, then, is fame - the celebrity kind, written up by a national journalist and the cultural version by an architecture correspondent. But how does the young architect get it? There are no 'fame' units in schools of architecture giving instruction in the arts of networking, publicity and getting published, the key ingredients for getting noticed.
Nor will this book tell you, if you thought it was a quick guide to acquiring fame. It is rather a pot-pourri of diverse articles by a variety of academics, architects and artists (often sloppily written and edited) about the famous, how they became so and, vaguely, what is wrong with the current state of architecture.
These are presented in four segments: 'Paper architecture', with swipes at the pretentiously self-promoting (the Smithsons and Archigram, Boyarsky and the AA ); 'Bricks and mortar', featuring sour assessments of the climb to fame of Botta, Rossi, Koolhaas (the Emperor's new clothes) and the loquacious Libeskind, who gets a mauling from several contributors; 'Conduits', covering the architectural press, especially AD (the book is a spin-off from AD's far more apposite Fame and Architecture from 2001), plus histories of the RIBA and the ARCUK/ARB; and finally 'Portraits' - several A-list architects together with unit master gripes. The book is illustrated with 43 photobooth-like portraits of firstyear students from South Bank University for no apparent reason. More interesting might have been portraits of the famous in their first years.
So what does this motley melange tell us about the path to fame and fortune? Well, the route seems to be: hire a good photographer, take the editor of an architectural magazine out to lunch (preferably a classy 'representative' journal (AR) rather than a 'reporting' one (AJ )), get published, get recognition from your peers, hope work flows, try to get covered by an architectural correspondent for a national, get short-listed for the Stirling Prize on TV, get international recognition, buy a helicopter.
The old heroes Le Corbusier, Bucky Fuller and Philip Johnson made the cover of Time magazine, but real starchitect celebrity global fame in Britain seems to have arrived with the 1980s, the demise of local authority departments, the privatisation of the profession and the shedding of constraints about competition.
Now it is all about image and silly shaped architecture as a brand, not to mention the international starchitects' own self-branded images.
And the remedy? A return to architecture-asservice, recognition through quality, and a concentration on content rather than style.
Some hope! Strangely enough the book does not feature Norman Foster, probably the most famous architect the world has ever known. Odd that.