Dear Chicago Reader:
The cover story about architect Donald Hackl and the firm he heads [August 25] might have been halfway interesting if only the author knew anything about the architecture industry.
According to the article, Donald Hackl is a great guy who through hard work and dedication and a little bit of luck made it to the peak of a challenging profession. How heartwarming. Hello! Look at the old guy. He wears double-breasted suits and bow ties. He's a walking, talking archaic stereotype if there ever was one. He's one who marched lockstep in accordance with what he was told an architect should be. He was "born" to be an architect and is so focused that he eats architecture for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The author perpetuates the myth that architects must have an unselfish devotion to their jobs. Employee Richard Drinkwater is quoted as saying, "I see this as a chance to fully exploit my abilities. . . . I wouldn't have come over if the place was just going to do bland, developer-driven architecture." What a holy man. Can we infer that Mr. Drinkwater would turn down a job designing profitable buildings for those big, bad developers even if he was paid twice as much? This guy is either a hero or he's pathetic.
A better cover story would have talked about how Hackl and the soon-to-be-retired crop of elder architects he represents wrecked the profession. Somehow these dorks got swept up in a fanatical, cultlike movement. They all wanted to be like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. Their uniform is round glasses and bow ties or sometimes turtleneck sweaters with patches on the elbows. Their legacy is an industry plagued by incompetence, inadequate compensation, and old men hanging on beyond their prime.
William J. Barry, AIA