Is The Term “Excellence” Overused?

Venturi and Rauch's Fire Station No. 4 in Columbus, Indiana

By Aaron Trahan, COD Spring Conference Knowledge Scholar

In our opening symposium of the Spring Conference, Ed Feiner, FAIA made a bold statement that “[excellence] is probably the most overused word after professional” in today’s society. He wasn’t just talking about architecture either, everything is “excellent” these days, he said.

This may speak to younger generations not using proper adjectives to describe something, or our inability to be as critical as we could/should be. As a product of Gen-Y, I would have to agree with his statement. This poses the question, architecturally speaking, is the term “excellence” overused?

The most memorable conversations from the Spring Conference were those where disagreements occurred in what is and is not excellent. Is excellence too subjective to truly be used properly? Or are these debates that we had over Venturi and Rauch’s Fire Station No. 4, and the Hotel Indigo, what is missing in architectural discourse?

This isn’t to say that architectural criticism is absent from our culture, however I believe that we must remain critical in order for architects to be innovative and progressive. Remember what it was like when you were in school, and a “bad” review could leave you or your classmate in tears? Remember how much that criticism motivated you to refine or completely rethink your design?

Those critics that you loved to hate, were the people who gave you a reality check as an architect, not everything is excellent! So I ask you again, and please leave comments, is “excellence” overused in architectural discourse?

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