'Why do architects wear black?' In a small sketchbook-size format, bound of course in black, the writer Cordula Rau has collected the answers to this question given by 100 architects and designers, acquiring in the process an impressive collection of signatures.
Architects wearing black is a stereotype on par with architects wearing black, plastic-frame spectacles. Most architects don't abide by these fashion recipes, but if somebody outside the profession comes across just one architect fitting the Corbusian mold then, all architects must do the same.
That Le Corbusier's and Philip Johnson's proclivities for a certain attire has trickled down to numerous enough architects to become a popular stereotype is caught by this volume.
Cordula Rau told how the little black volume was born:
"An industry manager who left his white-blue, silver-shimmering world of car bodywork and dove into the pitch-black, mysterious world of architecture for the first time during a competition asked me one day: "Ms Rau, why do architects actually wear black?"
Although I was wearing black and I am an architect I didn’t
have a spontaneous answer, so I responded: "Ask the other architects!"
That was in 2001, and it is why this small book came to be. I have asked the question at an international level and whenever it seems appropriate ever since. The sometimes amusing and other times programmatic or hair-splitting answers I have received over the last seven years are listed chronologically in this little black volume".
Many of the responses are simply one short sentence: the answers combined honest sighs of 'No idea' with an explanation in terms of practical clothing, or with an indignant denial of 'I never wear black'.
'Because they don’t have a sense of fantasy and imagination' said Massimilliano Fuksas.
'Don’t wear black. But rather grey or dark blue always in combination with a coloured shirt' is the answer of Wiel Arets.
Peter Zumthor responded: 'I don’t know. I wear coloured clothes'.
'I never wear black!' wrote Rem Koolhaas.
Odile Decq: 'I wear black because around the lunatics everything is white'.
Why do architects wear black and why do we ask such questions? Probably the best thing we could do is simply to follow the inscrutable Konstantin Grcic: 'I don't know!'
Why do architects wear black? Cordula Rau (ed.); Springer Verlag, Vienna & New York 2008, 228 pages