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Why every architect SHOULD read the Fountainhead

”Hi, it‘s nice to meet you.”

“Hey, yes, you too. What do you do ?”

“I‘m studying to be an architect.”

“Oh, that’s so interesting.. Have you read the Fountainhead ?”

I can‘t count the number of times the Fountainhead has been referenced to me because I am an architect. I get their point. The protagonists are both architects and it‘s their career paths that are being narrated through the book.

I read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead when I was in the first year of my undergrad. A professor mentioned it (because someone referenced it to him, I am sure now) and I was 18, fairly new to reading(it‘s an acquired habit) and admittedly, the book flew over my head. Even if you asked me to recall what the plot is, I wouldn’t be able to. But what stuck with me was something way more important than remembering Howard Roark or Peter Keating’s lives stories.

The author, Ayn Rand, wrote the book where the characters acted as vessels for her version of the ideal man. Howard Roark was the ideal man - the temperamental genius, gifted with creativity, who doesn’t need a formal education(he’s thrown out, btw) to validate his worth. He’s also the egoistic architect whose ‘starchitect-ness’ we worship(flawed!) within the profession. The anti-thesis of Roark is Peter Keating, the hard working one but sadly not gifted, who networks himself to the top. The former, despite his gift, operates on principles and tastes a very different version of success than the latter, who constantly returns to Roark to help sustain his success.

The reason that the book is important is because of how much every reader craves to be like Roark. Throughout the entire read, you find yourself wanting to be like the man, the creative genius who doesn’t need commercial gratification. On the other hand, you find yourself shirking away any resemblances to Keating, with all his insecurities exposed by the author as undesirable.

I can guarantee that any creative person will be able to relate to the insecurities of our own work - Are we good enough ? Will I make it ? Am I as talented as my peers ? These are questions that plague every one of us and that’s just the nature of the field that depends on both evaluative and descriptive criticism. The book, whether it idolises a genius or dissects an insecure man, holds up a mirror to the reader. Who do you want to be more like ? The answer to that question reveals a lot more about ourselves than we’d thought the book would end up doing.

Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, the individualistic philosophy at the core of the book, might be it‘s own undoing for in reality, the fact is that we’re all a little bit of both and that while we crave to be the ideal version of man(or woman!), there’s many (ugly) nuances to our lives that are hard to shake.

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