Dezeen Magazine

Architects are suffering from "originality syndrome" and should copy more, says Winy Maas

Architects and designers are too obsessed with being original and should get over their aversion to copying others, according to a new book co-written by Winy Maas of MVRDV.

Called Copy Paste, the book argues that the cult of uniqueness is slowing down innovation.

"Instead of mocking the culture of copycats, design could learn better how to make good fakes," it states.

The Cover of Copy Paste, subtitled "The Badass Architectural Copy Guide"

Maas, co-founder of Dutch architecture studio MVRDV, said architects and designers are suffering from "a kind of syndrome surrounding originality".

"They're required to be original, and if you somehow source something, it counteracts to your originality quota and could harm your career, because clients are in the search of originality," Maas told Dezeen. "That's kind of stupid."

Subtitled "The Badass Architectural Copy Guide," the book is published by MVRDV's research institute The Why Factory.

It is co-authored by Maas along with architects and lecturers Felix Madrazo, Adrien Ravon and Diana Ibáñez López.

Spread from Copy Paste pointing out typological similarities between supposedly unique buildings

The book compares architecture unfavourably with science, which progresses via researchers building on the work of others.

This refusal to acknowledge and build on solutions from the past is leading to "a generation that suffers, untethered from history," it states.

It continues: "Why not deepen our architectural analyses? Why not be open and honest about the references we make? Why not improve on the explorations, innovations, and suggestions of our predecessors?"

Collage from Copy Paste

"Copy Paste is an invitation to copy with finesse and skill," the press text states. "Copy Paste understands the past as a vast archive on which we can and must build."

Maas said: "We train our architects these days to be original, and the whole domain of star architects is cultivating that. The industry demands that architects should be original, which is partly okay, but I think 90 per cent of the built environment is not about that. It's actually production that is building on top of existing knowledge."

An example of a "Copy Paste" strategy based on AutoCAD's "Polar array" function

Chinese architects have come under fire recently for aping the designs of Western architects. Buildings that have been pirated include two projects by Zaha Hadid.

However earlier this year musician David Byrne told a design conference that "copyright has gone too far" and that ideas should belong to everyone.

In a column for Dezeen last year, architect and writer Sam Jacob argued that copying is "an act that has always been intrinsic to manufacturing a contemporary architectural culture."

Phineas Harper, another Dezeen columnist, argued this summer that an obsession with originality "weakens the power of architecture".

Copy Paste will launch in Eindhoven next week during Dutch Design Week.

Maas is one of the ambassadors at this year's Dutch Design Week, along with design studio Atelier NL and Dezeen founder Marcus Fairs.