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Mr. & Mrs. Architect

Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio (m. sometime in the eighties or nineties; they say they can’t remember).  

While inspiration can provide a basic form or an ingenious solution, most of the work of architecture involves churning out and discarding options by the dozen. Busy studios are papered with sketches thumbtacked to the walls and cluttered with foam-and-paper models tracing the fitful evolution of a final design. Perfectionism reigns, so being able to inflict criticism, and take it, are essential tools of the trade. “Ninety percent of problems get resolved very fast,” says Amale Andraos of WORKac. “But 10 percent of the time there’s violent disagreement, and that’s where the interesting stuff happens. Over the years we’ve come to realize that if one of us disagrees, that means it’s not good enough.” Andraos’s husband, Dan Wood, finishes the thought: “There’s a short period where you try to defend your side.”

Those arguments can be awkward for their employees, who are captive witnesses, like children in a fractious marriage. “A lot of the fireworks come out in front of everyone,” admits Andraos, whose office employs about 40 people. “I’m sure it’s uncomfortable for the staff, because it can sound personal even when it’s not. The advantage of being a couple is that you’re not wearing any gloves. There’s no fear of hurting the other’s feelings. It’s almost as if you were arguing with yourself.” It’s not that feelings don’t get hurt; it’s that, as in boxing, bruises come with the territory. “We’re both very thin-skinned and hypersensitive,” says Marion Weiss, “so we’re constantly feeling tender. But we’re after something beyond our own egos.”