Every so often an architect strides onto the architectural stage with a building which belies their inexperience: Brisac Gonzalez with the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg; LAB Architecture with Melbourne's Federation Square; and, at a more modest scale, Lars Gitz with offices for the World Health Organisation in Copenhagen (see the Building Study on pages 23-35). Such projects are rarely commissioned by British clients. We prefer the security of a tried-and-tested product and the clearly-defined promise of a well-respected brand. As with designer clothing, the label is deemed to bestow a certain status on the client.
The British susceptibility to designer names is explored in the book Afuenza by clinical psychologist Oliver James. Drawing on extensive research into the values and emotional wellbeing of comparative cultures, James argues that materialism and unhappiness go hand in hand.
The Danes are, apparently, the least affected by the afuenza virus. James illustrates the extent to which they are concerned with personal fulfilment, rather than keeping up with the Joneses, with the quaint observation that Danish women are more likely to choose their own sartorial style than to follow particular designers or trends.
Despite identifying 'security (emotional and material), connectedness to others, authenticity and autonomy' as fundamental human needs, James sees fit to assess national well-being without so much as a passing observation on, say, the design of communities, the attitude to public space, or the quality of the housing stock. So it is little surprise that he fails to draw a relationship between susceptibility to branding and the extent to which a populace is taught to recognise and value good design. In clothing, and in architecture, designer labels provide a security blanket for those who lack the confidence to make judgements of their own.