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Katherine Shonfield

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Last week was marked by a memorable leading article in London's Evening Standard . In it, the writer stated categorically that 'everybody hates architects' - and this despite the assertion of this magazine's editorial of a couple of weeks ago that architecture is the new gardening. According to the article, architects are, moreover, the quintessential universely loathed dinner party companion - which is news to this particular one, since it is at least four years since I have even received an invitation to one of these events.

The reason? Smugness.Citing the buck-passing over the wobbly bridge, and architects' lofty ability to pontificate (no pun intended) on every subject under the sun, I squirmed - or would have done, had I been sufficiently smug to think that the author had clapped eyes on anything I'd written.

An extraordinary TV interview with Phillippe Starck the same day was a heaven-sent antidote to this tirade. In a curious but classic French twist on Descartes 'I think therefore I am', Starck said that he designed in order to be reminded that he existed.

Apparently disingenuously, he said that as a teenager he saw 'all these beautiful girls' and was unable to feel he was even on the planet. He struck hard the arms of one of his own chairs and declared that 'this stuff tells me I am here'. So the will to design, for Starck, so far from a smug mission-to-enlighten-from-onhigh, was to do with the perception of a personal lack: a personality defect, if you will.

Perhaps as a consequence, he does not want his work to be taken seriously: rather the opposite. But, like a consummate comic actor, that in no way belies his personal commitment and passion. What it does do, though, is exclude him from the smug stakes. The interview reminded us that of all a designer's qualities, the ability to delight is the most memorable - and the least smug.

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