From Howard Roark to Steve Jobs

There's a book that all architects should read called "The Fountainhead", written in 1943 by American Novelist Ayn Rand. The book gave birth, a few years later, to the famous film by King Vidor, in which Gary Cooper played the leading role.
The story chronicles the life and career of Howard Roark, an architect of great talent and convictions and a righteousness above any suspicion. Unable to make compromises, Roark suffers for years successive coups and plots of his rivals, who often leave him in big trouble and on the verge of losing everything. These hard setbacks don't make him move, not even an inch, of the route he marked out for himself: The integrity of his work, without concessions or contemplation of any kind.

Roark eventually gather the fruits that he planted throughout his career, because his customers are loyal and keep coming back to give him work and recommend it. His work is of a flawless perfection and of a remarkable consistency.

Being a fictional character, Howard Roark has all the qualities to be a hero within the profession (which actually happens - many architects define him as the model to follow, regardless of whether there are far more real examples that could serve for this purpose). Some find in Howard biographical features of a famous American architect - Frank Lloyd Wright - he too brilliant and utterly incompatible with situations of compromise. This association will probably have to do with the messy emotional life of both character and person of flesh and blood, and in particular to a romantic relationship with a customer while designing her house.

What is essential for me to retain from this fable is that however difficulties we find, and blacker the future may seem, if we follow the path which our instinct shows us, and if we are persistent, we will eventually triumph.

I remembered all this at a time when Steve Jobs left us and much has been written about his legacy and admirable journey.

The disclosure on a planetary scale, in the days next to his disappearance, of his ideas, speeches and quotes, by the media and social networks allows us to recognize, without going into deification, a man with character traits similar to those of H. Roark.

Both suffered betrayal, had ups and downs, lived with much and also with almost anything and have developed extraordinary things with a simple idea in mind: Anything less than perfection is insufficient.

Stubborn, obstinate, obsessive, visionary and revolutionary. Sometimes intractable. But as a rule brilliant.

I really think that Steve Jobs was the real Roark. Howard was just a character.


2011, October