EAVESDROP 09_05.24.2006
Introducing our new Eavesdropper, Philip Nobel.

Greetings, all, and thank you for having me. It is truly a great honor and a greater pleasure to take over this estimable franchiseeso brilliantly brought to life by my colleague Mr. Aric Chennand to be given the opportunity in this way to serve the community of New York architects and fellow-traveling enthusiasts alike. Yes, serve the communityynot savage it, not subvert it without cause, though at times, I'm sure, it will appear that way to the more skittish or (bear with me) shortsighted reader.

Just before deadline, as I was canvassing the usual human resources for that thing we call gossip (I prefer the term raw newss), one Titan of the Loose Tongue offered up a compact bit of wisdom. What are you going to write, he asked, and I said I planned to begin by speculating on the topic Why We Gossip. Why,, he said, that's simple: to show your commitment to the group.. That comment caught me off guard, programmed as I am to think of any information exchanged in low tones as contraband.

If it were truly so honorable, truly a mark of fealty to a grand enterpriseeand I think we can all agree that there is no grander enterprise today than answering the call of the rich for ever more comely houses and headquartersswhy would the sharing of such stories be so universally scorned? Secret abuses of power, of station; sexual amusements; the absurdity of ego-soaked man (and, in much rarer cases, woman))this is the stuff of scoundrels. Should we not instead cede the discourse to the most serious among us and let intemperate curiosityyand with it, all colorrfade from our common world? But as we bandied on, sharing unsubstantiated storiessa prominent architect displaying his prominence in a local bath house, a dean possibly leveraging his deanship to the advantage of his firmmthe sagacity of my source's remark sank in: to know these things is a mark of membership; to share them is a mark of concern.

It is also, as in any playground, a measure of distance from wrongdoinggI would never do such a thing!!and as such a proven self-corrective for the group. Shame binds Japan and guilt the Jews, and those mechanisms have functioned successfully for millennia. Who among us would say architects don't at times need a dose of both? What has been lost in the recent, decades-long surge of celestial fascination in the profession is precisely that sense of joint endeavor: It is no secret, and requires little exposition, to state that our so-called avant-garde elementssthose most likely to appear, and therefore gaffe wildly and be called on it, in the pressshave lost touch with the great army they ostensibly serve. Using the machine of publicity to their own ends, they have constructed and furthered their own myths, leaving others to suffer the consequences of a profession divided. Is it not right, then, that they should occasionally be brought low, if for a moment, to remind them of their larger responsibilities? Is it not fitting that those adopting the tropes of a star culture should also inherit the principal feature of that culture, tabloid coverage?

I believe it is. And as we go forwarddtogether, I hope: tips and leaks are more essential in this corner of journalism than any otherrI think we should all keep these sky-high ideals in mind. I won't mention them again. Because earnestness, however tempered by sarcasm, is no fun.

Tips and leaks:

Philip Nobel