In his book Four Walls and a Roof, Reinier de Graaf —an OMA partner— described the current architecture scene in the conviction that ideals are always eventually dissolved by the corrosive action of forces bigger than architecture: markets and politics. He follows this up with The Masterplan, a novel about ambition and disenchantment that has documental value, being written by someone familiar with the arenas of globalization, but also some moral substance, addressing the question of what an architect today can be or come to be. In this sense, The Masterplan recalls The Fountainhead.
If Ayn Rand’s hero Howard Roark – virtuoso of individualism and obvious copy of Frank Lloyd Wright – ultimately triumphs over herd mediocrity, so does De Graaf’s Rodrigo Tomás see the opportunity of his life in collaborating with the government of an African country that wants to give itself a shine through architecture. While The Fountainhead is the tale of a great artist’s titanic fight against the system, The Masterplan tells of a no less titanic, albeit certainly less heroic, battle: that which a well-connected but modest architect wages with the merciless reality of economics and politics.
But the destinies of the two protagonists could not be more different. Having overcome any manner of social and personal rites of passage, Roark reaffirms himself in his anti-altruistic ideals, whereas the sentimental education of Tomás as an architect becomes a painful apprenticeship in disappointment: “In the end, life is right, and the architect is wrong.