The student firmly raised his hand at the luncheon, catching my attention over the turkey sandwiches and cold drinks. We were there to talk, after all. Most of the questions thus far had been softball—related to publishing or favorite architects and their work, or to travel, but not to pushing the boundaries. He appeared eager and young. Then he spoke: “Can you tell me,” he asked, “why media like Architectural Record have continued to promote icons, when we are interested in a different kind of architecture today?” All eyes opened up around the long table, and heads seemed to be nodding. His curve ball had come from out of nowhere, but hit the mark.
After pausing a moment for reflection, the answer came, not so much as an emphatic reply, but rather as a series of rhetorical considerations. What, I asked, do you think the role of the media should be: to reflect the ideas of any given moment, to lead an audience in a specific direction, or a combination of the two? Second, what has been the meaning or role of architectural icons? And third, what are students interested in today? The delivery, I hoped, provoked speculation on the students’ part: I needed to know what was on their minds.