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June 11, 2006 » 9:13 pm

Wright on Professions

I often talk about the craft of collaboration, and how we need to treat collaboration as a discipline. There needs to be enough cognitive structure there so that we can get better at collaborating on collaboration. You have to be careful, though, because over-formalization creates its own set of problems, and the line between that and just-enough structure is a thin one.    (KOO)

After Jeff Shults and I wrapped our April Tools for Catalyzing Collaboration workshop, Matt Taylor approached me and showed me a letter Frank Lloyd Wright had written to Talmadge Hughes, the head of the American Institute of Architects on January 22, 1945:    (KOP)

My dear man:    (KOQ)

You put me up against the same old hard-spot! Forty years past I’ve had to seem uncooperative and ungracious by refusing to join the Institute. Perhaps I can make clear to you why I refuse again.    (KOR)

I do not join the A.I.A. because I am more interested in Architecture than in the Profession and I felt, as I still feel, able to serve not only Architecture but the Profession better outside the Institute than in it.    (KOS)

I crave good-will and the comradeship of my kind — every man does. But I’ve felt that I couldn’t do the work I wanted to do inside any “Profession.” I’ve had to be a free-lancer and become anathema to the good old guard: the A.I.A. As I then felt, I still believe that Architecture (my real objective) is more than ever Discipline in deciding this matter.    (KOT)

I believe no man can really cooperate except as he maintains the independence of his Spirit. If he becomes interdependent, he is gone, in the same way that (so it seems to me) our National Democracy is gone. But I have never refused anything the boys ever asked me when I could render it on decent terms.    (KOU)

The Profession is in reality more Personal than Principle. Besides this, I know my own limitations in the personal way. Principle makes bad fellows of us all when we come against the hard choice between good-fellowship and the interior discipline of Principle.    (KOV)

There is enough to struggle with when all is fine. Imagine then how much the strain is multiplied by intimate association with congenital opposition or inordinate comradeship.    (KOW)

Does this seem to you as though I consider myself superior to my fellows in the Profession? If so, you are wrong. I frequently envy some of them and wish it all were for me as it seems to be for them. Not that I would trade places — or, even now, regret the isolation that seems to have chosen me.    (KOX)

What I have, what I have done and what I am belongs to my fellows whether either I or they like it or not. But, my dear Talmadge, I want what I have given and what I still have to give to be unhampered by personal or professional considerations.    (KOY)

I hope you won’t misunderstand and resent.    (KOZ)

Faithfully yours,    (KP0)

“We have to be careful,” said Matt. “We may be reaching a similar point with Collaboration.”    (KP1)

By “we,” Matt was talking about those of us who self-identify as folks in the field of collaboration, whatever the heck that is. And that was part of Matt’s point. We have to start talking more seriously about what it is, but at the same time, we can’t get so caught up with it that we become a Profession (in the worst way) and lose the essence of what we’re supposed to be about.    (KP2)

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