A hall; two architects are waiting to present their competition entries.
The scent of coffee hangs in the air. There is a long silence.
ARCHITECT „I“: Excuse me, but you look a little familiar.
ARCHITECT „M“: Perhaps from another pitch?
I’m representing the architecture firm of Mainstream & Co.
ARCHITECT „I“: Oh! I must have mistaken you for someone else. My firm is called Individuality & Architecture. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.
ARCHITECT „M“: Well, to be honest, no.
ARCHITECT „I“: That’s a good one, you’re funny.
ARCHITECT „M“: No, no. I’ve really never heard of you.
ARCHITECT „I“: We’re not a band. You don’t have to “hear” of us, if you’ll pardon the joke. But seriously: You must know some of our work.
Connoisseurs will recognise it. We’re different, we stand out from the crowd. We’re unusual, special, out-of-this-world.
ARCHITECT „M“: Oh, I’m sorry.
ARCHITECT „I“: Excuse me?
ARCHITECT „M“: Then you must be nearly broke.
ARCHITECT „I“: What? Why?
ARCHITECT „M“: With a mission statement like that, you won’t get much work.
You earn money by appealing to the masses. Architecture is for the people, not just for one person who wants to create a monument to him- or herself.
ARCHITECT „I“: Architecture is art. It is not just function, the form is important too.
ARCHITECT „M“: Form follows function.
ARCHITECT „I“: That’s a matter of opinion. After all, you don’t just eat with your mouth. Food should also be a feast for the eyes. Just as food is not only about filling your stomach, architecture is not all about having a warm place to sit.
ARCHITECT „M“: And what are you going to pitch? A flagship idea? For this of all projects? You definitely won’t win the contract with that.
ARCHITECT „I“: It needs to be eye-catching. We want to take a stylistic stand – there is enough average architecture.
ARCHITECT „M“: If lots of people like it, it can’t be bad.
ARCHITECT „I“: Sure, pitch something that’s been done thousands of times before. All the better for us.
ARCHITECT „M“: Individuality is not necessarily aesthetically pleasing. If everyone paints their front door in their favourite colour, that doesn’t necessarily make the neighbourhood beautiful. And if it impresses the masses, it must have impressed many individuals.
ARCHITECT „I“: But what is beauty? That’s a big question. We are fighting
mainstream monotony. We don’t do standard architecture. We want to be unique.
ARCHITECT „M“: Did you mean unique or peculiar? Some people don’t know the difference.
ARCHITECT „I“: And what are you going to pitch, if you don’t mind me ask?
ARCHITECT „M“: A design that fits in, that blends into the urban landscape, that matches the buildings around it, one that is accepted by the citizens.
ARCHITECT „I“: Yawn! You should just design round buildings. Then there wouldn’t be any corners to offend people. But that would probably be too innovative.
ARCHITECT „I“: You only live once. You should be able to become anything you want. And you should make the most of architecture too.
ARCHITECT „M“: Yes, and you can re-invent yourself every day. And one day, you won’t know who is staring back at you in the mirror. That is crazy.
ARCHITECT „I“: It’s more about taking opportunities. There have never been this many. We have been given the opportunity to design. Pursuing individuality means trusting your own taste, and knowing yourself first. I’m sure you don’t want to live in an apartment that looks like the showroom of a furniture store, like an interchangeable backdrop.
ARCHITECT „M“: First and foremost, my apartment is a place where I want to feel at home, not a business card. I don’t want to pretend to be something different or use it to say something, I just want to be myself.
ARCHITECT „I“: Aha!
ARCHITECT „M“: Aha what?
ARCHITECT „I“: There it was: that little word “I”. You want to be able to be yourself. I bet you have some special pieces at home, maybe even some design classics.
ARCHITECT „M“: I bet 90 percent of our friends and colleagues have the same or similar items. So the question is whether it would be more individual not to have them.
ARCHITECT „I“: As long as you like them, they are an expression of your self. What I surround myself mirrors my personality.
ARCHITECT „M“: But styles and design classics are copied, and suddenly they are available to everyone inexpensively in furniture stores.
ARCHITECT „I“: There you have it. The unique wins out. People want something special.
ARCHITECT „M“: That is precisely what makes it a product for the masses.
ARCHITECT „I“: So what are we arguing about?
ARCHITECT „M“: I’m not even sure any more.
A large wooden door opens with a creak. A head pops out.
“The firm of Middleground & Partners next please.”
The two architects look at one another, stunned.