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First, Be Promiscuous May 25, 2015

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types.
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people_brian-vitale_03_(2)_275_197_100Architect and educator Brian Vitale, AIA, Principal and Design Director at Gensler, Chicago spoke recently at the Convocation Ceremony of the 2015 graduating class of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. A graduate of the program, Brian’s speech was truly memorable and inspiring, and he was, as always, generous in sharing the transcript of his commencement speech.

Thank you! Thank you, for that humbling introduction and to Director Mortensen for the invitation and privilege of addressing the class of 2015. It is absolutely surreal to be standing here addressing you all in an auditorium that I freely admit to having fallen asleep in one too many times as a student, which given my invitation here today apparently did not matter. So thank you again for this honor and allowing me to get that off my chest.

I would also like to congratulate and more importantly thank the faculty. Though a lot has changed over the past 22 years when I was last a student here, many of you haven’t, and for that I am grateful (and surprised, quite frankly). You have played an instrumental role in my being asked to deliver this speech and I am sure, once this class catches up on the sleep that you all are responsible for depriving them of, they will all eventually appreciate you to. Your dedication, patience and wisdom often go without formal appreciation, but know your influence on us all (even if you all don’t realize it yet) is beyond measure.

To the parents, family and friends, you also deserve to be congratulated, because for all the pride that you feel and deservedly so, it was your sacrifice, your friendship and your unconditional support that has made this all possible, oh, and the beer money, let’s not forget about that. And if they told you that the money was for “model materials” at a place called the “art coop”, they were lying, that place does not actually exist.

Now, to the class of 2015!! Congratulations!! You are the most recent class from a school with one of the longest histories. You all have worked incredibly hard, you have made it through the infamous weeding out year, you have survived many all-nighters, difficult juries, and countless toxic fumes from a panoply of adhesives; your day is finally here! And make no mistake, you all are the stars of this event, far outshining me, which would lead you to assume that you have the best seat in the house, but your vantage point is not as clear as mine, blurred with concerns and nervous about the unknown. What will my first position hold, what kind of firm will I work for, will I be a success, and how hard is that damn A.R.E. exam? The view from where I am standing is much clearer, for I get to look out at you all, and know what the future holds for you, the possibilities that lie ahead and the raw potential that you all are about to capitalize on.

Well, 22 years ago, I was sitting in the same place that you all are, receiving my Bachelors of Science in Architectural Studies otherwise referred to as a “BS” in Architecture, really. My experience at the University of Illinois was invaluable and had unknowingly prepared me for my eventual career. (So you should all take comfort in that). Throughout these years, I have been recognized with both personal and project awards, I have been published in magazines and books, I have been exhibited in museums, I have had the opportunity to teach and have traveled all across the world collaborating in the design of buildings and working with some of the world’s most amazing people. At this campus alone I have been a visiting professor, built a building for the world’s fastest supercomputer, and now this. This school and its amazing network was my foundation and has served me well, and it will for all of you.

In preparing this speech, everyone tells you to share with the graduating class the path to your achievement; I would rather, however, tell you what I wish I would have known before I started….so you can make your own path. So I want to share with you 3 principles. Some will seem counterintuitive others obvious, but all are crucial to the way architecture is and will be practiced. After that, I have one simple request, and it won’t be to “fail” or “take risks” or “change the world” (I mean for god sakes, do those things), but rather something very simple but I believe incredibly powerful and will change the trajectory of your careers.

But first, here are a few musings:

First, BE PROMISCUOUS:

Now parents, before you try to usher me off the stage, what I am asking you all to do is be promiscuous with ideas, concepts, spaces, program, and the people that you have sitting around the table collaborating. Create hybrids, live in the middle of those Venn diagrams we are always drawing, mix it up, then re-mix it, because that is where real innovation comes from.

In Maria Popova’s review of “Dancing About Architecture” she cites the author, Phil Beadle as focusing on creativity’s combinatorial nature, quoting,” We create the new not generally through some mad moment of inspiration in fictionalized accounts of ancient Greeks in baths, but by putting things together that do not normally go together; from taking disciplines and seeing what happens when they are forced into unanticipated collisions.”

Now when you work in this manner, please be prepared for some push back, as many of the firms that you will be employed by will be practicing architecture like it was 1995 and will not understand what you are trying to do, they might even tell you that “you can’t do it that way”, I am here to tell you to stop listening to those people immediately turn around and carry on.

Second: Give up the ownership of ideas:

I know this may be counterintuitive, because if not for our own ideas, what do we have? “More” is the correct answer. You must worry less about being the initiator of ideas and focus on being the connector of them. Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things”

In order to do this, you must always invite more voices to the table rather than less, and make sure they are varied voices, not from a singular point of view. We at Gensler work this way every day, my job at times is more of editor rather than initiator.   I will freely admit it takes courage to do this, because at its core, its process means that you have no idea where a solution is headed, no preconceived notions, there is no certainty from having formulated an answer before the process even begins (which gets harder the longer people practice) but that is precisely the point. Voltaire said, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” You have to trust the process and then hang on for dear life.

THREE: BE CURIOUS, Really curious:

Throughout your career, you will be looked upon for answers to problems posed to you by clients, your colleagues, and society. As you progress in your career, you begin to rely on your perceived knowledge to answer those very questions. “This is how we did it last time” can be valuable to a point (like not touching fire a second time), but ultimately, in the case of architecture, deadly. When Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” He was making this very point. We often lose that discovery trait as we gain experience, we stop looking, and we create Best Buys. You must question relentlessly, test and re-test, train yourself to act in this manner and maintain the curiosity of a child for rest of your life and you will always arrive at innovative answers.

AND NOW MY FINAL REQUEST:

A student that had attended an event that I was speaking at recently asked, “What do you attribute your success to?” or as I took it to mean from his inflection, “How the hell did you get to be where you are?” And admittedly, I did not have a great answer; hard work, dedication, late nights, an incredible amount of support and some God given talent was my answer. But as I pondered this question, I began to remember a couple of similar events in my career, which I will share with you before I leave you with my request.

During my first week of High School, you can all remember that, I was brought in, with a group of my peers, to meet with our appointed guidance counselor. We sat around a conference table in an uncomfortably small room and listened to Mr. Sime speak about High School, future careers and how to be social, but not too social. When he was through with his speech about this new academic endeavor, he posed a question to the group, one whose content I don’t remember (and is not important to the story). What followed was typical, awkward teenage silence, everyone trying very hard not to make eye contact as if that would help in this incredibly small room. I was sitting at the head of the table (where I like to sit), opposite of Mr. Sime and decided to speak up. I answered the question, and his response to my answer was, “Brian, you are going to be successful because you had the nerve to speak up, to answer a question when no one else wanted to, to be the first brave enough to share your opinion”. Many years later I confirmed with Mr. Sime that he did this every year with every new group of freshman and that he really didn’t care what the answer was, but was instilling a life lesson to the group.

Fast forwarding a number of years to my first position after Grad School, it happened again. I was the most junior member at Booth Hansen, a well-known Chicago firm led by Larry Booth, one of the Chicago 7 architects as they were known. Within the first couple of weeks of my employment there, an all office design review was being held in the basement during lunch with the client present. The project was presented, and it seemed to me like very little thought went into it, and that bothered me enough that I mustered up the confidence to speak out and suggested different ways to think about the project. I remember Larry Booth agreeing with me as well as the Client and then Larry asking, “Who are you?” Later that day I was called into Larry’s office, which was pretty cool especially for a young kid like I was, and he was asking me a lot of questions and began sharing with me things he had been working on and books that he had lying around. Afterward, I noticed that I was being treated differently not only by him, but by everyone, people noticed me and asked my opinion of which I was always happy to give. What had happened, by contributing unexpectedly is that I had created an immediate value. Soon thereafter, I was assigned to projects that Larry was working on, presenting with him to clients and becoming a trusted designer. I was now being exposed to opportunities I would not otherwise have been exposed to, I was seen differently by others; my career path was changing and I capitalized on it.

Now I have been focusing on the number 22, the number years that have passed since I was sitting in your seat, because it is also, for many of you the number of years that you have been on this planet. Let me assure you that these years go by in a blink of an eye. So to the Class of 2015, what I am simply requesting of you all as you enter your next venture is to speak up, immediately, let your voice be heard, now, and begin contributing to the dialogue of your firm, community and beyond, as soon as possible. Don’t be intimidated, don’t be shushed, and most importantly don’t think that you are not ready to contribute, I promise you that you are, I have seen it over and over throughout my career. And when you do, it will open up opportunities for you that would otherwise pass you by. Your time is valuable and precious, the profession is changing and it needs your skills, the profession needs your talent and the profession needs your voice now more than ever before. It is now time to turn the tables and let us begin learning from you!

Congratulations, again, Class of 2015, we are expecting great things! Thank you.

This Is Your Career on Cracks April 25, 2015

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types.
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Slide001If you expect to become the next Frank Lloyd Wright leave now

Those were the first words I ever heard as a college student

Admitted to the school of architecture

Attending orientation with my parents

A senior administrator got up in front and said to a roomful of 200 freshmen future architects and their parents

Slide002If you expect to become the next Frank Lloyd Wright leave now

A questionable student retention tactic – even then

Had it been a Simpsons episode you would have heard the rear door slam

But as the Simpsons wouldn’t be invented for another 10 years, nobody moved

Next the administrator said the 9 most important words I ever heard

Only 3 of you will ever design a building

This was before everybody gets a trophy

Apparently, back then only 3 of us would get trophies

The remainder would go on to toil away in management

Slide003Perhaps our prospects would have improved had we worn shoes?

When the administrator said: Only 3 of you will ever design a building

My first thought was: I wonder who the other two are?

It wasn’t: I wonder if I should double major and get an MBA?

I wanted to design buildings, and while I also wanted a job after graduation

No one will let you design buildings with an MBA.

It’s not as if for me designing buildings was a forgone conclusion

I grew up in a split-level house in the suburbs

Slide005The architectural equivalent of living in a van down by the river

We didn’t come from either money or good taste

And we clearly didn’t know any architects

In your career you will spend 5 years sitting at a desk & 2 years sitting in meetings.

No one ever goes into architecture because they want to sit in meetings

Yet apparently this is what all but 3 of us were signing up for

What all but three students would get to do with their lives

Slide008Architecture students are a confident and resilient bunch

Every student in that room must have wondered who the other two are?

And yet, we didn’t all go on to design buildings

Some became technical architects, some became managers

The ones with MBAs – became our clients

And about half went on to other fields

Slide011And so, at my first career crossroad

I chose the design of buildings  over meetings

And spent 30+ years – a career – doing what I love

And in all that time I never had a bad day.

While I never became Frank Lloyd Wright, I became something even more important for me to become: myself

And I got to do this because at every career crossroad

Slide115
I again and again chose the design of buildings over meetings

I did this because a life NOT designing buildings – not acting on our world, not making a positive contribution, not adding value – was for me unimaginable

But as importantly, a life NOT designing buildings was somebody else’s life

And as long as I remembered this – and acted on it – everything would work out

And it did, both creatively and financially. And it can for you as well.

Slide017You can be one of the three

One of the three who designs buildings

One of the three who creates an innovation

One of the three who experience meaning & purpose in their work

One of the three who makes a difference

One of the three who helps transform the world

But there comes a time in every career, for some sooner, some later

When we no longer see ourselves as one of the three.

Why is that? Why do we give up on our promises and dreams?

There are times when we choose money over our dreams

Slide018And work for a paycheck.

Other times when we’ll be frustrated or bored with what we do.

And be dissatisfied with our job.

Our dreams change, or we forget our dreams.

We give up on our dreams. But, as often, our dreams give up on us.

During an internship I designed my first building – before I graduated college

And very quickly realized I had achieved my dream of being one of the three.

Michelangelo said: The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.

Slide019Our dreams, in other words, are too small

They’re too easily achieved

They’re not enough to sustain a life-long career

So what does it take to sustain a long, fulfilling career?

Upon graduation, I decided to find out and treat my career as an experiment

In this experiment I would do two things:

  1. Always have two careers
  2. And I would change one of them every 7 years.

Slide020You can think of your two careers like majors and minors:

  1. Always have a minor to go along with your major
  2. And change your minor every 7 years.

It turns out that to sustain a long, fulfilling career

You need to have a bunch of short, fulfilling careers.

Think of each as a 7-Year Career

Most careers look like this.

Slide023Which really mean they look like this.

We all know people like this.

Following the formula: Work. Repeat. Retire.

If careers were meals, most people’s career looks like this:

all meat, no potatoes

Slide025Instead, think of your career as a main career with a side

I wanted a well-balanced career

To major in salmon with a minor in broccoli.

If it works for nutrition, why not for our careers?

I didn’t want sequential careers, one after the other

Slide027So I made my careers concurrent. Like this

Slide032And yes sometimes they can be really concurrent.

While I haven’t written a play in over 20 years, a day doesn’t go by when I haven’t used something I learned while being a playwright.

You can think of your 7 year careers like microbrews

Only with your life’s work, not beer

The key thing is to stick with it for 7 years

No dabbling, with one thing one day, and another the next

Slide037Doing something else alongside your main job has multiple benefits:

  • It guarantees that you are always learning and growing
  • It acts as a relief valve for the pressures and sometimes disappointments of your main job, and
  • It can positively impact your main job, and vice versa

For example, in my own career, when I wasn’t able to design buildings – due to the economy, or a fickle client – it didn’t bother me because I was writing plays on the side. One creative outlet relieved the other, until building design picked up again.

Slide042Think of your main job like a puzzle

and your side job like a second puzzle.

Each made up of your skills, talents, interests and passions

You would think having two jobs would just add two lines on your resume.

Or mean that you are working twice as much. It doesn’t.

What happens between your two careers is closer to alchemy

Slide044When you have two careers, the overall effect is like taking the two puzzles apart and, using the same pieces, putting them back together again, creating something new and compact.

By doing so, you are in essence creating a better version of your former self.

And when you do this every 7 years, you’re assuring that you are growing and transforming throughout your career.

Slide045Why 7?

Besides the 7 days of creation

We regenerate our skin every 7 days

Our body’s cells renew every 7 years

We’re essentially a new person every 7 years

Allowing land to lie fallow every 7th year

returns moisture and nutrients to the soil, restoring productivity.

As a professor, it takes 7 years to achieve tenure

7 years to earn a sabbatical

There’s the 7th inning stretch and the 7-year itch

But there’s a more compelling reason you change your career every 7 years

People have a hard time thinking more than 7 years into the future.

Slide050Here’s a case in point demonstrated by this career timeline exercise

The career timeline is an experiment I do with my students

With birth at one end and the proverbial milk truck on the other

I ask my students to place their career goals along this timeline:

  • Graduation; Employment; Taking exams and licensure;
  • Falling in love; Getting married; Finding a home;
  • Starting a family; Starting a firm; Winning recognition

Here’s what I discovered: They inevitably placed all of them in the first 7 years

Slide055Who can blame them?

Who can really say what will happen beyond the 7-year time horizon?

No one knows what will happen in even a decade ahead

The future is fuzzy

Creating a career is like writing a novel

E.L. Doctorow said that Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

Careers are long – it makes sense to break them into chunks

To break them into chunks, it helps to think of your career in terms of successive sigmoid curves

Slide059Each chunk of our career has an arc

We start by learning something new, then get gradually better at it

Then we become something of an expert

There comes a time when we peak – and our output becomes less and less effective

Slide064At the same time our interest wanes or we get burned out

And we’re looking for something else to keep us – and our interest – active

You cannot earn a high income just by showing up on time and doing an average job. So you must constantly improve.

The goal should be to jump off onto something new, starting the whole process over

Slide078Ideally you would do that before your effectiveness starts to decline

And your expiration date arrives

The problem with successive sigmoid curves is knowing when the inflection point (crossroads) occurs: You can’t

No one knows when that pesky inflection point occurs

A lot of times you don’t know until after you look back in retrospect and say

I should have gotten off (the second red x) and it is just too late

Slide080Since you can never know when the best time is to move on

I decided to jump off and onto a new interest every 7 years.

As an architect, I like to think of a career path like a concrete sidewalk

Slide084This is my walk home from the train

In 20 years I made this walk 6000 times

Those keeping score with fitbits that’s 60 million steps

Sidewalks aren’t made in one long ribbon

Why should our careers be?

Now lets look a little more closely at our career path

Slide086Not quite as smooth as you were led to believe

We build sidewalks over all sorts of things: roots, utilities.

Metaphorically what are the roots underneath your career?

Ever-shifting technological trends

Fickle employers

An unpredictable economy

We’re building the foundations of our careers over roots!

Slide087One of the dirty little secrets I share with my architecture students is this:

All concrete cracks

We confront microscopic cracks everyday

Like a concrete sidewalk, our careers need to accommodate these cracks

Otherwise they’ll take over

Cracks will sometimes appear in your careers due to

  • Your interests waning
  • You get burned out doing one thing
  • Your salary prices you out of a position
  • Emerging talent steals your place

When cracks do occur in our careers we can try to hide or mask them

Slide093Crack what crack? I don’t see a crack…There’s no crack here. Just us birds!

And sometimes there are just too many to try and hide them.

This is what your career looks like when you don’t control the inevitable cracks

This is your career on cracks!

Slide094Cracks appear when

  • We aren’t happy in our career
  • We can’t be ourselves
  • We can’t speak our mind
  • We are playing by someone else’s set of rules
  • We’re biting our tongues
  • We’re swallowing our pride

Constantly addressing these forces drain our psychic energy and take its toll

Slide099Concrete cracks – but you can control where they occur

We do this in architecture by creating control joints.

By creating a break, we induce a crack

The crack goes where we want it to go, not randomly where it can catch us by surprise

Slide100In your career path, it leaves you in control

You can saw cut a seam in your career path

Think of it as creating a career control joint

You can relieve these tensions by creating a career control joint every 7 years

Before I leave, let me leave you with this.

If you are working toward one career, start planning for your next

Either once your current one has played out or to run along side it

Careers are long. To assure that yours remains that way, do these 2 things:

  1. Always have two careers, and
  2. Change one of them every 7 years.

You change your side career every 7 years

  • to avoid an existential crisis midway through your career
  • to keep from becoming complacent and bored
  • to keep from falling behind and becoming obsolete
  • to keep from falling into the trap of living someone else’s idea of who you are

You can look at having two careers two ways:

As an unfortunate economic and social reality, or you can view it as an opportunity to expand meaning, purpose and possibility in your life.

By changing your career every 7 years you are in essence, with each iteration, creating a better version of your former self.

And in that way you assure that you are always evolving and improving

Always doing what you love

Slide112Always doing what it takes to sustain a long, fulfilling career.

While you may never became Frank Lloyd Wright, you’ll became something even more important for you to become: YOU!

Author’s Note: This is a transcript of my TEDx talk delivered on 041915. Due to technical difficulties, nearly half of the slides were projected blank (white on white); and since the speaker’s clicker didn’t advance the slides, but instead the stage monitor, the advancement of slides were not in sync with the oral presentation according to those present. Thus the representation of the content here. Hope you enjoyed it!

Minority Report: What Drives Success in Architects? January 31, 2014

Posted by randydeutsch in books, career, education, employment, survival, the economy.
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TripleIt’s hard to become an architect.

There’s education, training, taking the exam.

Retaking the exam and licensure.

Then, once you’ve become an architect, it’s hard to remain one.

And there are so many forces that seem to work against you.

The economy. Fickle clients. Work/life imbalance. The hours. Competition…

I don’t need to spell them all out (because you know them all too well, and Roger K. Lewis has done so here.)

So what does it take to succeed at architecture?

To become and be an architect?

In the airport returning from the AIA 2014 Emerging Professional Summit in Albuquerque, I came across an article in The New York Times, What Drives Success?

The article was written by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, husband/wife professors at Yale Law School and authors of the forthcoming book “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.”

(You may recognize Amy Chua as the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, published in 2011. The Tiger Mom is now Tiger Couple?)

There has been a lot of backlash (a lot) in the days since the article appeared.

I want to focus on one point: What the author’s call the Triple Package.

About a third of the way through the article they write:

It turns out that for all their diversity, the strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success.

The authors then go on to describe each of the three traits:

The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.

The article – and the book it is based on – talks about cultural groups – not professions – but hear me out.

Let’s break out these three traits:

  • superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality
  • insecurity — a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough
  • impulse control — the ability to resist temptation

Wouldn’t you know, these traits not only – as the authors state – describe successful ethnic, religious and national-origin groups, but they also accurately describe architects.

Architects?

Let’s look at the traits one at a time.

Architects have a superiority complex. They’ve survived the tribunal of education, studio culture, and finding, negotiating and doing projects. They have design thinking and other transferable skills that everyone’s clamoring for on their side. They represent both paying clients and a non-paying one: society-at-large. They’ve put in the time and paid their dues. You would think architects have a right to think highly of themselves.

Architects are insecure. As a profession, architects justifiably feel insecure when compared with other professional groups such as doctors and lawyers, who appreciatively are paid a great deal more for the time they put in and the work they do. Architects are beholden to owners who – on a dime – can stop projects that are progressing in their tracks for reasons having to do with actuaries and their pro forma – things architects know little about. Architects are engaged at the whim of an economy that they can’t influence and have little chance of predicting.

But how can architects be simultaneously superior and insecure?

Let’s look at the first two traits:

superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality

insecurity — a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough

As the article acknowledges:

It’s odd to think of people feeling simultaneously superior and insecure. Yet it’s precisely this unstable combination that generates drive: a chip on the shoulder, a goading need to prove oneself.

Many people who work and/or live with architects will recognize them in that description.

Architects are famously motivated not by money or attaboy gift cards but by intrinsic rewards, as Daniel Pink spelled out in his book Drive, animated here.

So how does impulse control fit into the mix? Again, the article:

Add impulse control — the ability to resist temptation — and the result is people who systematically sacrifice present gratification in pursuit of future attainment.

The only architects I know who suffer from impulsiveness are those who are impulsively driven to work harder and longer to achieve more.

Looking at impulsivity in another way: Knowing that it can take years before they see their designs built, architects have no trouble passing the Marshmallow Test.

The article’s authors go on to admit a truism that could not apply to architects more:

We know that group superiority claims are specious and dangerous, yet every one of America’s most successful groups tells itself that it’s exceptional in a deep sense.

Architects, deep down, know they are exceptional.

In fact, I recently posted this in another blog acknowledging as much:

Recognizing that nothing incites a non-architect’s derision, ridicule and ire swifter than to start a sentence “The architect is uniquely qualified to…” here are six qualities that make architects ideally suited to lead collaborative, integrated teams.

That’s Architectural Exceptionalism: which states that architects are unusual (check) and extraordinary (check) in some way and thus do not need to conform to normal rules or general principles.

Others are taken-aback when you point out that any group is exceptional in any way, as I learned myself, when several readers contacted me about the post above suggesting I substitute the word facilitator for the word leader.

One advised me: “No one wants to hear that the architect is the leader.

Are architects a minority group?

We’re in agreement that architects are in the minority.

Architects, of course, make up a tiny fraction of the AEC industry.

There are 1.5 million employed engineers in the US.

The number of architects licensed in the United States?

105,847 according to NCARB and AIA (103,657 according to DesignIntelligence.)

Three quarters of these (74%) practice in architecture firms.

In fact, there are as many construction companies in Texas and California as there are architects in the US.

And there are 7,316,240 construction company employees in the US.

That’s out of 311,591,917 people (and counting) in the US.

So, architects are in the minority.

But are architects being in the minority the same thing as being a minority?

Can architects explain their success in terms of their minority status?

These success traits very well may have implications for a more diverse profession.

But the question remains:

Is it possible that part of what makes architects successful is that they see themselves as a minority?

Let us know by leaving a comment below.

5 Gifts Seasoned Architects Receive from Emerging Professionals (& vice versa) January 20, 2014

Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, career, change, employment, management, problem solving.
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giftsThere are so many things I have learned over the years from working alongside emerging professionals (EPs), it’s hard to know where to begin.

Recognizing that it is artificial and arbitrary to clump any demographic into a group, generally speaking, EPs bring a lot more than energy and imagination to the table.

Emerging professionals have a lot to offer firm leaders.

That is, if firm leaders would only take notice.

What gifts can EPs offer more senior architects and firm leaders?

Here are five that have made a difference in my life:

1. EPs are Wired to Care

EPs can help cynical, skeptical and burned-out architects to care again.

To care about people: building owners, users, neighbors, constituents.

About the environment.

And about design.

They may not always express it, but firm leaders who deal with clients, legal and insurance matters often need your enthusiasm and interest in the work you’re doing to remind them why they stay in the game – and why they’re in the game to begin with.

You remind them of who they once were – and soon hope to return to being.

You’re the thread to their former selves.

2. EPs are Collaborative T-shaped People

Not T for Technology.

But as in broad knowledge and deep expertise.

EPs, curious types, certainly bring their range of interests to the office.

But expertise?

Absolutely. Though not the old school form of expertise – acquired slowly over time.

EPs are social learners so if they don’t know something, they know where to find it.

Or whom to ask.

EPs recognize that things change so quickly in our industry that to dig deep into any one area can be a death knell for an upstart career in architecture.

And, over time, with experience on a range of projects, they do acquire deeper learning in a variety of areas.

EPs can help senior architects see the value in their becoming more T-shaped, less pigeon-holed into one task, skill-set or area.

But as importantly, firm leaders need to hire T-shaped practitioners – because things do evolve so quickly – not word-for-word matches to their job ad specs.

And who better than EPs to serve as examples of the new model for firm hires.

3. EPs are Change Agents

EPs – compared with more seasoned architects – are fluid, flexible and nimble.

And so, they inspire normally risk-averse architects to invite change.

To not be afraid of it.

Never satisfied with the status quo, EPs know we – as a team, firm, profession, industry or planet – can do better.

And won’t settle for less.

EPs hear what they are asked to do – and if they’re smart – they do it.

But then something happens.

They offer something different.

Often something even better. Something we hadn’t considered.

We, in management, are counting on EPs to do this – even if we don’t explicitly ask for it.

Especially if we don’t explicitly ask for it.

It shows you’re thinking.

It shows you care.

It shows that you listened – then offered an improvement that no one else had considered.

Yes, if we decide not to go with your idea, we hate having to say no.

My ideal day is one where I can go from morning till night without having to say the word “no.”

So don’t make me say no.

Make your idea so intelligent, well thought-out, compelling and great that we have to say yes!

Change is a gift you give us. We make a promise to ourselves – and our profession – every year to innovate more.

Sometimes innovation gets lost among more bottom line goals.

EPs help to keep the promise to innovate alive (thank you.)

4. EPs are Courageous

Whether from naïveté or boldness, EPs can help seasoned architects to be more technologically courageous.

They don’t know to be frightened, to be afraid of risk.

When a senior architect walks by your monitor and says “how is that going to stand up?” – trust me – there’s a way to make it stand up.

We are grateful you tried to do something that we would have shied away from.

If it’s a worthy idea, we’ll help find a way to get it to stand up.

Thank you for attempting to do something with architecture that we are now sometimes too afraid to try ourselves.

5. EPs Seek Meaning

Meaning is one of the greatest gifts EPs give to seasoned architects.

Not only do EPs expect their work to be meaningful, but by their giving importance to work/life balance, they remind Boomers (some still single or divorced) that placing work first before all else is not the only – or best – option.

We see you having a life and say “oh, just wait till things get complicated!”

We may complain that EPs should have a more singular focus on architecture.

But the truth is, you have the answer, not us.

You have your values in the right place, not us.

If only we learned that lesson sooner!

EPs are all about adding meaning.

For their work to be meaningful.

For finding shortcuts and templates to minimize the busy work and maximize what is important to them.

Like using your core competencies for a greater portion of each day.

Using your brains, not just your fingers.

We used to think that way – and have come up with excuses (did I just hear myself say Architecture is first and foremost a business?!)

When making payroll, meeting clients demands, is now front and center.

Meaning takes a back seat.

Then you send us a link to a film about another firm – one that places meaning first – and our eyes well up.

We know we can do more and be more.

And we have you, EPs, to thank for reminding us.

Now, let’s turn this around.

Naturally, EPs aren’t doing all the giving.

They must be getting something in return.

So what, besides a paycheck, warm Aeron chair and beer Fridays can architects and firm leaders offer EPs?

Here are 5 Gifts Emerging Professionals Receive from Seasoned Architects.

1. Seeing the Big Picture

Architects see the big picture.

Emerging professionals sometimes need help seeing the forest from the trees.

EPs (rightfully) don’t trust forests – or long-term plans.

EPs become long-term employees, for example, not by making 20-year commitments but by showing up one day at a time.

EPs have a hard time seeing where it’s all leading.

Architects recognize time horizons and building cycles.

I’ll never forget when a senior architect told me, years ago, that hotels and hospitality have a seven-year boom/bust cycle.

Put that in your iCal.

Firm leaders can help EPs see the big picture – and have a responsibility to do so.

2. Comfort with Ambiguity

Times today are uncertain.

And architecture is filled with uncertainty.

Will the client accept and support the design direction?

Will neighbors and constituents vote in favor of the building’s height?

Will the developer be able to get a loan so the project can move forward?

If you’re thinking piece of cake, you’ve been at the game a while.

Not everyone has the perspective you have.

So share it.

Just don’t make it sound patronizing, condescending, or like old wise architect speaks!

Architects are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.

EPs? Not so much.

Firm leaders can help bridge this gap (so do it!)

3. Systems Thinking

Senior architects have the perspective and experience to see individual acts in a larger context.

Because they see the big picture, they have an easier time helping to keep things whole.

Firm leaders can show EPs how their seemingly isolated, individual decisions can impact the bigger picture.

And how everything in architecture can be thought of in terms of flows.

(Or perhaps this is something EPs already know and just aren’t articulating?)

4. Lateral, not Linear, Thinking

Seasoned architects don’t complete tasks sequentially.

You would think that the multitasking generation would do this as well.

Due to their experience and perspective, architects know they can look at assignments from many vantages simultaneously.

Think of architect Cesar Pelli who could think through every pro and con in his head, anticipating every consequence for any course of action, then make a decision.

Call it an ability or insight, this is a gift that senior architects can share with EPs.

5. Architecture as an Art + Science

Architects know that every decision – every architectural act – is a combination of art and science.

They may come across as conservative, gravity-bound and risk-averse.

But they mean well.

The reality is (there they go with reality again!)– we balance art with science every time we venture into making architecture.

As boring as it may appear, architects know your brilliant idea won’t mean a thing if it can’t stand up, hold water, shed water and be accessed, serviced and maintained.

One participant in the upcoming AIA 2014 EP Summit shared the following:

I’m always learning from the emerging professionals. They seem to teach me more than I teach them!

What do you say?

Does this match your experience? Do you see any missing? Which – if any – would you change or add to?

Let us know by leaving a comment. Thanks!

8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming An Architect January 16, 2014

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types.
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emergingDear Emerging Professional,

I am so excited to be able to participate with you in the 2014 Emerging Professionals Summit in Albuquerque next week.

If for some reason I am not able to attend, there are a few things I would want you know – a few things I learned along the way to becoming and being an architect.

1. If you want to design buildings, design buildings

I actually learned this about writing. The best way to be a writer is to write. If you want to write, put butt in seat and write.

The same holds true for designing buildings.

I was fortunate to be given the opportunity early in my career to design buildings.

A large firm I was working for at the time made me an associate of the firm.

But there were only so many design positions. If I were to continue working at the firm, I would be a technical architect.

So I said thank you and left the firm to work at a firm that had a strong design reputation.

Then I left that firm and thereafter, associated with that strong design boutique, was given the opportunity to design buildings for a living.

I have been a designer ever since.

The world today gives you so many opportunities to design.

So, if you want to design, design.

2. You can reinvent yourself at any time

There’s nothing wrong with being a project architect or project manager. These are worthy career tracks, and in the case of being a PM, has a greater career longevity than being a designer.

But I asked myself, at the end of my life how would I feel knowing that I hadn’t designed buildings?

While acknowledging that everyone is different, this thought made me feel empty.

I knew then I would not be following the dictates of my personality if I decided to spend a career in architecture as anything but a designer.

So I chose design. And by that I mean I dedicated myself to designing buildings.

I took a cut in salary at the design boutique, and worked way too many hours.

But I saw it as an opportunity to reinvent myself.

Like going back to school, this short commitment to a professional transformation has paid off for nearly two decades.

And I can see now, looking back, that my life would have turned out very differently had I not taken this less trodden path.

3. Anyone can be a designer

As with anything worth doing, you just have to really want it.

It isn’t so much about talent as it is about listening.

Knowing what it is that your client – or your manager or you boss – is looking for.

And then using the resources you have available to you – including tools, processes, consultants and teammates – to help you deliver the results.

All the talent in the world will get you nowhere if you can’t discern what it is others are looking for.

When you present your designs, what you’re saying is, look: I heard you.

And that’s all people really want: to be heard.

The greatest gift you can give others is to show them that they’ve been heard. That you’ve listened.

Then, once they’ve been heard, if you have a better idea – show them.

They are much more likely to see what you see if you first show them that you heard what they said.

I grew up in a cookie-cutter split-level home in the suburbs outside of Chicago. We didn’t know any architects. If I can be a designer, anyone can.

4. You can see your designs built

For the longest time, the most important thing for me – besides my family and my health – was to wake up each day and design.

Design, but not build.

If you want to see your designs built, then you will spend time designing your buildings in such a way that they are buildable.

You will make the ability to put buildings together on equal terms with the ability to design.

Otherwise, you’ll be a paper or digital architect.

But not an architect who builds.

If you want to see your designs built, you have to be excited about discovering cost-saving, value-adding, waste-reducing ways to see your designs built.

If you can be as excited about putting buildings together as you are about designing buildings, you have it. You have what it takes.

5. You can make a killing in architecture

This is probably the greatest myth in our profession.

That you can’t get rich being an architect.

It probably helps if money isn’t important to you.

Money was never important to me. It is part of the reason I went into architecture.

People – your boss, co-workers, clients – recognize when you’re not in it for the money.

You do what you do because you love it.

If you don’t love it, get out.

Or take a vacation, take a break, and see if the feeling has passed.

If you can’t wait to get out of bed because you have the opportunity – the privilege – for one more day to be an architect, then money probably isn’t your first concern.

Which is good.

Because the universe will recognize this and make you bloody rich.

I will never forget the time, years ago, when I was first offered $100,000 to design buildings – to do the thing I loved – for a living.

I showed my wife the email with the job offer and said “watch this.”

And before she could stop me from doing something stupid, I replied to the email asking for $10,000 more.

We sat in silence watching my computer monitor for what seemed like an eternity.

It was thirty seconds.

When the reply said “sure. OK.” Deal.

Rule of thumb: If someone is willing and able to offer you a $100,000 salary they probably don’t care if it’s $110,000.

You don’t make over $100,000 in architecture because it matters to you.

You will make over $100,000 in architecture only when it stops mattering to you.

Money is still not important to me. But it is important to my family.

And so, like going to the dentist twice a year, I make sure it’s covered.

Check.

Don’t give it any more attention or energy than that.

6. You can open an office without any clients

One of the gifts of being an emerging professional is that you don’t know enough – haven’t been around enough – to be scared away from doing unwise things.

Like opening an office with no clients.

I remember when I announced to my colleagues that I was opening a firm, one took me aside and asked: “Aren’t you scared?”

At the time, it seemed like such an odd question. Scared of what?

OK, I learned soon enough. Who knows, perhaps had I known what I was getting into, I might not have made the leap.

But call it naïve or fearless, I opened my firm without any clients.

And by the end of day one I had three.

How? By putting myself out there.

Before launch, I hired a graphic designer and designed professional looking letterhead and an announcement.

And sent the announcement out to everyone I knew.

I got out of my office and, wouldn’t you know, while putting gas in my car, I heard a voice – a former client who, having received one of my announcements, asked if I would be interested in doing some work for him?

It’s all about putting yourself out there. You’ll find if you put yourself out there, people will meet you halfway.

Make it easy on others to find you .

7. You can teach and practice architecture

Before I graduated grad school, I went into the dean’s office and said there was something weighing on me:

Will I be able to practice architecture and write plays?

At the time, I couldn’t imagine being an architect without also being a playwright, and I wanted to know if there was a precedent for this, if this was possible?

The dean said: “If you want to do both, you’ll do both.”

And so, for the next dozen years, I was a playwright writing plays (some won awards and got produced) while being an architect.

I took that same thinking – if you want it badly enough – and applied it to teaching architecture.

And so, for half a dozen years, without any teaching experience, I taught in Chicago while running my own practice.

So, how do you get your first teaching position if you haven’t taught?

8. You can do anything if you have a sponsor

Join the local component of the AIA.

Participate in committees, attend events.

You not only benefit from exposure to interesting subjects, but as importantly – others see that you are someone who gets involved.

If you volunteer and serve, you’ll do so because you care about the profession; about the environment; about giving back.

The thing is, someone will notice you. It may not happen right away.

But one day, you’ll get a call to serve on a board, to organize an important event, to rise within an organization; to teach at their university.

Someone has been watching you.

When this happens, turn off your iPod and take off your earbuds.

You’ve been sponsored.

People will see that you have time – you are the sort of person who can create time – to do something outside of the office.

And they will push you a little, by presenting you with opportunities.

This person is your champion. They may not be your mentor, but they’re no doubt your sponsor.

Most emerging professionals don’t want to make decisions because they feel it limits their options, and in doing so, closes doors.

But in one’s career only so many doors will open for you in the first place.

You need to be there – and recognize – when it happens.

And when it does, ask yourself if you are truly interested in where it might take you.

If you are, well, go through the door.

I have seen it many times – and have experienced it myself.

The way you get your first teaching gig is to show up and get involved in the AIA or another worthwhile organization like Architecture for Humanity.

And care.

It won’t be long before you feel that hand on your shoulder.

Or you get that email or the phone rings.

And if you care about something, don’t be afraid of showing your enthusiasm. Enthusiasm helps. There’s not enough of it.

Being an architect is the best job in the world

Think of it like this. You are given so many days on this planet.

How do you want to go about spending them?

Being an architect is like the spacesuit you are given.

Only you get to choose which spacesuit to wear while you’re here.

I can think of no greater way to live on our planet than to have a position where you can act on it, change it, grow it, improve it.

But this is something I suspected all along. I hope you come to find this is true for you, too.

Wear your spacesuit well.

A Handy Toolkit for A Great New Integrated World January 14, 2014

Posted by randydeutsch in BIM, books, change, collaboration, education, IPD, technology.
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41tbr-d2kaL._SY300_Collaboration is no longer a “nice to have” skillset to take along in one’s toolkit.

Collaboration is a must-have.

In an industry not known for it’s warm relations, AEC practitioners need to build their relationship muscles as they enter this great new integrated world.

The AEC industry has a productivity problem – one that has grown worse in the past half century.

It was hoped that technology – first CAD, then BIM – would add value and reduce waste for building owners – our clients – but that doesn’t seem to be the case, as indicated by Paul Teicholz,
 Professor (Research) Emeritus, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
 Stanford University, in Labor-Productivity Declines in the Construction Industry: Causes and Remedies (Another Look.)

In other words, if BIM cannot save us, what will?

The answer is collaboration. Working together, strategically, earlier in the design process and ever more effectively – together with technologies such as BIM – will assuredly increase productivity in our profession and industry for the first time in over fifty years.

So, how best do we go about collaborating?

I have written about Andrew Pressman and his enormously prolific and influential writings for architects before.

Here, I would like to introduce you to perhaps his best, and most important, book.

A review of Andrew Pressman’s new book, Designing Relationships: The Art of Collaboration in Architecture

You know it is going to be a great book when the formidable Professor and Head of the School of Architecture at University of Minnesota, Renee Cheng, pens the Foreword.

First, a quick overview: In Chapter 1, Pressman explains,

This is more than a simple guidebook; it challenges the status quo—and the reader—to think critically about collaboration, and to change the design process from project inception to completion.

Anticipating that some readers may ask why collaborate?, the book opens with a rationale for collaborating.

The author also explores Why have architects been inherently non-collaborative and provides many relevant reasons.

In Chapter 2, alternative collaboration models for architecture are introduced, including managed collaboration and an integrated approach.

Chapter 3 provides examples of and precedents for traditional collaboration in practice, and touches on the art of being a good team member.

The next chapter importantly discusses the role of collaboration in technology. It is to Pressman’s credit that he doesn’t shy away from the subjects of building information modeling (BIM,) and integrated project delivery (IPD,) both enablers of collaboration in the profession and industry.

The book, short in length but long on useful information, closes with case studies, including the best (and worst) practices, team failures, strategies for design excellence on large projects, and views from a crossover career: architecture to construction.

You can see more of the book’s contents here.

Designing Relationships is the type of book that cites a multitude of relevant sources in support of its theme, even if some of the sources are surprising for an architecture book. Take this quote by John Cleese of Monty Python fame, who – as Pressman explains –

captured the essence of a collaborative process in the following vignette.

The really good idea is always traceable back quite a long way, often to a not very good idea which sparked off another idea that was only slightly better, which somebody else misunderstood in such a way that they then said something which was really rather interesting.

Some of my favorite quotes include:

It takes a team to realize projects of scale or complexity. There may be a prominent and aggressive project leader, but it does indeed “take a village.”

“Collaboration does not curtail the architect’s overarching vision. Collaboration becomes a medium that makes the vision possible.” – Michael Schrage

Think like an architect. The conventional wisdom about integrated project delivery is to stop thinking like an architect, i.e., do not emulate the cliché Howard Roark control freak. No, no, no! Rather, keep thinking like an architect—design and maintain control of the process.

This is the sort of book that can be read again and again, each reading eliciting different responses. My second reading of the book provoked a number of thoughts on my part. Here are just a few observations that arose from having read the book:

  • One ought to be wary of definitions that include everything as collaboration
  • The team leader needs to be a seasoned facilitator, equal parts intuition and intelligence
  • Is managed collaboration like a managed care: HMO vs. IPD as a PPO for design?

To this second bullet, Pressman writes:

The leader can be the facilitator for the session but also the designer of it, ensuring appropriate engagement and accomplishment in accordance with the distinctive role of each collaborator, and of course, the agenda.

A typically excellent insight – the book will challenge many of your preconceived ideas and thoughts about how architects ought to practice.

The book – which reads more like an engaging conversation than a non-fiction book – will have you writing in the margins and asking questions of yourself, your colleagues or classmates – and the profession – throughout.

Andrew Pressman FAIA in his new book Designing Relationships offers general axioms that support traditional collaborative dynamics, or in other words, eleven counterintuitive and provocative statements promoting collaboration in architecture, and a great deal more.

What the book boils down to is a penetrating and immensely valuable toolkit for design professionals who are weary of – or wary from – working on teams.

This is a book that every emerging professional needs to read. I will definitely make it required reading for my university students.

Pre-order your copy here.

About Andrew Pressman FAIA

Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico, and Lecturer at the University of Maryland, leads his own architectural firm in Washington, DC. He has written numerous critically acclaimed books and articles, and holds a Master’s degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Andrew Pressman FAIA has authored several books, all classics:

Designing Architecture: The Elements of Process.

Professional Practice 101: Business Strategies and Case Studies in Architecture

The Fountainheadache: The Politics of Architect-Client Relations

Architecture 101: A Guide to the Design Studio

Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition

And, as Andy Pressman, he co-authored what was, prior to Designing Relationships, my favorite of his books (I wore through two copies):

Architectural Design Portable Handbook

Portions of Designing Relationships are based on previously published articles by the author. Pressman has also recently authored several important, extremely well-written articles, all published in Architectural Record

Integrated practice in perspective:
 A new model for the architectural profession

Good leadership helps practice, the profession, and society

Creating a firm culture that supports innovative design

and

It’s a very good time to develop your firm’s collaboration skills

Professionalism as a State of Mind December 19, 2013

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, education, employment, essence, principles, survival.
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professionalismBack in summer, architect Rob Anderson tweeted:

‪@Architect1122: AIA will be emerging professionals, now or later.

Erin Murphy AIA, the Director of Emerging Professionals at AIA National in Washington, DC tweeted back:

@erinmurphyaia: I argue this point every day.

Because I teach large undergraduate and graduate architecture lecture courses at a major state university, I get a pretty good look – at least number-wise – at the future make-up of the profession.

And what I see concerns me.

It’s not their intelligence. Most are very smart.

Nor is it their work ethic. They clearly work hard.

And it’s not for a lack of talent that they got into a competitive university.

What concerns me is this:

Being a professional requires an independent mindset.

In this age of collaboration, to be a professional means one has to think for oneself.

That’s not to say that they cannot seek advice. In fact, having people and resources you can turn to is a critical part of practice.

When starting a firm, for example, it’s important to line up a support system including a banker, management consultant, accountant or bookkeeper and an attorney.

And yet, to be a professional means not to be swayed by outside forces.

Architects cannot, for example, take kickbacks from contractors.

In fact, for an architect to receive payment outside of the client and still be considered independent, they should never accept a finder’s fee, share contractor’s profit or accept rebates from suppliers or manufacturers.

For an architect to be considered independent, they shouldn’t receive payment outside of the client.

There are other factors that distinguish the professional. Academically, an attribute of being a professional involves knowledge that is more than ordinarily complex and is an intellectual enterprise.

Being a professional means that one will apply theoretical and complex knowledge to the solution of human and social problems.

And to be a professional means that you will pass your knowledge to novice generations.

What concerns me about the current crop of students is this:

For them, being professional is conditional.

If you give me an A, I will like you.

If you make the assignments a breeze, I will give you a good teaching evaluation.

Give me what I want, and I will acknowledge you outside of class.

I will tell you what is important to know and what is not. Not you.

Here’s the thing:

Professionalism, like your mama’s love, is unconditional.

You have to love what you do and act from that passion.

You have to think for yourself and not be swayed by outside forces.

Each week, I had my professional practice students write a journal entry on the online blackboard course site.

I’d ask them to provide feedback on a guest lecturer’s presentation or a reading we had discussed in class.

Then I’d read each and every one.

Most of the students thought that these journal entries were a waste of time – and told me so.

I actually believe they were incredibly important indicators of who will and will not become valued professionals in the years to come.

Many of the journal entries told me what the student thought I wanted to hear. For example, in order to reach the minimum word count, they usually repeated the question or questions, and unnecessarily provided background information – the equivalent of throat clearing before getting around to a speech.

I warned them in class about providing “boilerplate” content – information one could find online or elsewhere without much effort.

Most ignored this advice.

I told them what I was interested in was their opinions. Their points of view. I wanted to hear about their experiences – and what they believed in.

The students who did this grew exponentially from the earliest journal entries to the last.

They were able to express themselves in writing. They were able to incorporate content that they had learned from other courses, or from experiences outside of school.

Others merely phoned-in their entries. They showed-up at the online site, usually at the last minute, as though to fulfill an obligation – one that was obviously not as important as the other demands on their time, especially design studio.

I saw reading 82 journal entries each week for 16 weeks – 1320 essays in all – as a gift.

It gave me a perspective into the future of the profession – like looking into a crystal ball.

Some of what I see concerns me, but I also like a lot of what I see as well.

I wish I had a dozen openings in my firm because I would hire at least that many students based on their journal entries alone.

Based on their writing, logic and critical thinking, based on their ability to articulate their feelings, communicate and care, we can rest assured that our profession – and the AIA – will be in good hands in the years ahead.

The others who merely showed up – they will have to decide what is important to them.

My whole contention in my professional practice course is that you cannot act one way at one time and act another way at another time.

As an architect, you’re more slab stone than laminate or veneer. Who you are on the outside is who you are inside.

Being a professional is something you take with you – it is the way you carry yourself and handle yourself not just in class, or in the office, but all of the time.

Whether you think someone is looking or not.

One day, I accidentally double-booked my calendar and didn’t sync my iCal. When my student showed up for his schedule timeslot, I apologized and told him I had another meeting I needed to go to, and asked if we could reschedule?

In my experience, there are students who handle this situation graciously, and others who will make you feel like a total heel.

The first type of student is, in my opinion, well on their way to being someone others will want to work with. Their level of maturity and perspective – their ability to suppress their disappointment, and to think in terms of the other person’s needs – is what distinguishes them.

They place long-term relations above expressing immediate feelings.

I will want to work with them because I know that I will continue to be imperfect and make mistakes in the future, and will want to work with people who are understanding, who handle the situation maturely, reschedule and move on.

For our profession and industry to thrive, we’ll need to send the message that to be a professional, you’ll need to do more than graduate from an accredited program, put in office time and pass an exam.

To be a professional means to behave in a way, even when alone, as though someone else is watching.

Because someone probably will be.

Bridging Gaps That Don’t Reside in Building Skins December 6, 2013

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, education, management, transformation.
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spanningNegotiating a book contract, writing and giving conference presentations, proceedings, and journal articles, along with teaching my college courses, I overbooked my calendar this fall.

What resulted for the first time in my public speaking career, I gave a talk at an AIA conference that I didn’t prepare for.

And by that I mean, at all.

I spent three months preparing for my keynote at the 2013 AIA Illinois Conference in November.

But my breakout session later that morning – Through Architecture We Bridge Gaps by Embracing Change?

Not so much.

And wouldn’t you know, it was hands-down the best talk I ever gave.

Or I should say, that the attendees gave.

Because the success of the session was due in no small part to the attendees and the lively discussion that ensued.

The subject of the talk – caulk – really seemed to strike a chord, and the architects in the audience shared lots of examples from their own careers.

The Culture of Caulk

In over a hundred talks I have given around the country, I never had a talk bestowed with the strongly sought-after HSW designation.

Until that November day.

The session offered attendees 1 AIA/CES HSW lu because the AIA powers that be thought the talk was on applying caulk.

The session description starts off thus:

Architects know that the most vulnerable parts of a building enclosure are the joints, connections or gaps between two building systems, and spend an inordinate amount of their time trying to successfully fill them.

The institute officials probably read that first sentence and thought “caulk – that’s good for an HSW LU.”

But had they read on, they would have realized it was a metaphor. And you don’t get HSW LU’s for metaphors:

While their designs and details are fortunately airtight, there are many other gaps that remain wide open and unresolved.

Still about caulk, right? It continues:

These gaps cannot be addressed by architectural technology because they do not reside in building skins, but in the education, training and practice of architects: gaps between academia and professional practice; between internship and licensure; between mentoring emerging professionals for leadership positions; and ever-widening gaps facing those concerned about career advancement and firm succession, including practitioners in all phases of their careers.

Uh oh…

Using the metaphor of the detailing of building joints, this presentation will show attendees that they already have the skills, tools and mindsets to successfully bridge the seemingly unbridgeable gaps at their various career stages, reconnecting training with practice, management and leadership in our architecture firms and those we serve.

So it appears that you get the coveted HSW when you speak on caulk, but not when you try to solve entrenched issues in architectural careers.

Hopefully posting this here won’t result in attendees’ HSWs being revoked.

All Detailing is Joints (apologies to Patrick Moynahan)

I told the session attendees that we’re here to talk about another type of gap.

And the need to bridge these gaps – through architecture.

I told them this session is participatory (code in speakers’ circles for my being totally unprepared) – I don’t have all the answers: none of us does.

But, I offered, as a believer in the collaborative process, all of us might.

I am your presenter, I continued – but so are you: I am here to facilitate a discussion (because I didn’t prepare one.)

I showed some slides of nifty bridges from around the world, hitting home on the point that it is possible to cross over necessary career transitions with panache.

What Gaps Require Spanning?

Does it help to think of our career transitions as gaps that require spanning and/or bridging?

And whether we’ll attempt to fill them metaphorically with caulk – or silicone sealant?

One such gap is between academia and practice.

Do we agree that it needs bridging?

I mentioned to the attendees that the past weekend the SAIC Design Educator’s Symposium in Chicago was such a gesture in bridging with firm visits, Archiculture film viewing and panel discussions.

Architectural Record featured an article recently on how the phenomenon of transformational change—in technologies, systems, materials, sustainability, management, and demographics—is unfolding faster in professional firms than it is in higher education. This gap is a concern.

The article offered remedies:

  • more practitioners should teach
  • more faculty should be professionally licensed
  • business and management skills need to be introduced in the studio
  • no longer does tenure benefit students
  • real estate finance should be a basic part of architectural education
  • heavier doses of reality, not theory
  • practitioners and architectural educators should work together

Another gap that requires spanning is from emerging professional to firm management.

One of the firms I worked for had a Sink or Swim (vs. training and mentoring) approach to bringing up project managers. When an employee graduated from emerging professional to management, the firm would throw them in the deep end and, well, stay afloat or sayonara.

Gaps We Need to Bridge

Other gaps need addressing, especially those between:

  • internship and licensure
  • mentoring emerging professionals and leadership positions
  • technology and reality, or
  • digital technology and building technology
  • men’s and women’s salaries
  • those concerned about career advancement and succession

On this last gap, SAIC’s Chuck Charlie (@charliechuck) tweeted:

How do we resolve the gap between the old guard now leading the industry, and the digital-native emerging profession?

Perhaps the biggest gap that needs spanning is this: Where our industry is today and where our industry needs to be.

Namely, adding value, reducing waste, growing and become more resilient and profitable.

That’s a bridge worth crossing. And as designers, we ought to be able to span it with panache.

Goodbye Architects. Hello Equal Partners in Design (EPD) November 28, 2013

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, IPD, management, survival.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
4 comments

codesignWhatever they end up doing in their careers, architects originally go into architecture to design buildings.

Somewhere along the way – perhaps recognizing that other students or architects are more talented, or willing or able to sacrifice more – many would-be designers give up their dream to design buildings and instead opt to manage teams, schedules or budgets, document and detail other people’s buildings, or undertake any of a hundred other tasks required to get permit sets approved and buildings built.

Whatever first drew them to the profession, it is safe to say that they didn’t become an architect to be a designer among designers.

They became architects to design. Period.

Whether architecture students, architectural interns and emerging professionals realize it, this is what the profession and industry offers them today.

Founder and president of Nissan Design International, Jerry Hirshberg, in The Creative Priority: Driving Innovative Business in the Real World, describes a scene where, in a workplace safe for people to provide input and express their ideas, the receptionist – participating in a design review – provides the idea for the direction for their new line of automobiles.

That, in a nutshell, is the future of architecture.

To bridge the divide between design and construction, improve communication, better coordinate documents, and increase collaboration, firms have started to prepare for Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).

IPD requires the participation of all project stakeholders early in the design and decision-making process.

Whether working in pure IPD or an IPD-ish process, with IPD the lines of responsibility are blurred when compared to traditional “design bid build” project delivery.

IPD removes barriers that, in traditional project delivery, kept design and construction professionals from collaborating.

With IPD, contractors contribute to the design and architects address construction issues, with risk distributed across the team.

With IPD, contractors made aware of and contribute to design direction and design decisions by the entire project team.

In IPD, key participants are encouraged to contribute to the design intent, just as designers are free to comment on and contribute to means and methods of construction.

While intended to remove obstacles and encourage collaboration, architects are sometimes threatened by the blurring of roles brought about by working in the IPD.

Collaborating is hard. Architects often have individualistic ways of working. IPD may be antithetical to the way many architects design projects.

To persevere in this new world of collaboration, architects should consider getting off the project pyramid and rebrand themselves as Equal Partners in Design (EPD).

Becoming an Equal Partner in Design would have implications for school and practice. Imagine architects being educated, trained and tested not to be independent building designers but designers among designers.

Are you prepared for the day when the plumber makes the winning design suggestion and everyone in the room lets out a resounding Yes!

How will it make you feel to sit beside a teammate who is sketching?

How about when your co-designer is a computer?

Building designers participate in man-machine collaboration every time they work in computational design.

But we don’t have to imagine a cyborgian future to recognize that whomever – or whatever – we will be collaborating with, from here on out we will be collaborating.

Take Aditazz, a collaborative team of not only building architects and planners, but also microchip architects, software designers, mechanical and electrical engineers and materials scientists.

The hospital design that vaulted his unknown company into the round of a hospital competition shortlist of nine had been designed largely by an algorithm.

Barry Schwartz has warned that as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear.

Too many options remains a problem for architects, engineers and owners. But not for Aditazz, whose algorithms are able to compute thousands of options in a fraction of the time to find the best solution.

Gone, along with the architects’ Prismacolor pencils, will be the concept of design intent.

Participatory architects such as Charles Moore and Michael Pyatok have been doing this for years. But will you be comfortable and satisfied letting others provide design input?

Or will you be threatened by other’s participation in design?

Could you be personally and professionally fulfilled playing the role – not always of designer, but – of design refiner?

Can you see yourself being an Equal Partner in Design?

For Architects, No Leadership Outside Of Technology November 27, 2013

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types.
1 comment so far

technoleaderIn a discussion over at the KA Connect LinkedIn Group, the question was asked:

How will the role of a senior architect change over the next five years?

Looking into my crystal ball, I responded first – largely in terms of technology.

While no one knows where the profession will be in five years, I listed some changes that one would do well to be mindful of.

I wrote:

While developing skills is important, mindset and attitudes are equally important.

Be flexible and open about exposing yourself to digital technology. At the start of every project, ask which technologies will help you achieve your project goals and work for everyone involved. No one solution will work best for all involved in every situation.

We will need to become more comfortable working directly from our models to fabrication – not just in terms of technology, but taking on the associated risk. If possible, take a class in how to code.

Architects will be expected to customize their tools, making them optimal for each project, especially by looking under the hood – or risk losing out to those who are comfortable doing so.

Be prepared to work in a less linear manner (linear checklists like AIA document D200 will come in handy only in retrospect.) In the near future, a barrage of information and insight will come at us simultaneously, from the earliest stages of design, from every party involved in the project, including trades.

In the future, your professional judgment will have less to do with applying the knowledge and skills your learned from books and in school – even from experience – than from developing the ability to aggregate the input of experts and other sources you have access to, including analysis and building data. We will need to resist the temptation to seek consensus as we’ve done in the past. Our architectural judgment will best be thought of and appreciated as a social act of filtering and aggregating input from others.

You can read the rest of my and others’ comments here.

The discussion that ensued followed two lines of thought: one emphasizing the architect’s future technological role, the other emphasizing leadership skills.

To this last point, Ed Friedrichs wrote:

All of the above is interesting, but the most salient talent today and going forward will be leadership skills – the ability to inspire an entire team of participants to collaborate, to contribute the best they have to offer, in order to bring value to a client. We’ve all experienced the chaos which ensues when there is no leadership talent on a project, whether from the architect, contractor or another participant. We also know that when that leadership skill and style becomes manifest, the project flourishes, no matter who steps up. The leader keeps everyone focused on achieving solutions that will explicitly contribute to the enhancement of the client’s business – more sales in a store, higher repeat and referral guests in a hotel, less absenteeism and higher employee satisfaction and engagement in the workplace.

Bob Buday concurred with Ed and added:

I imagine these leadership skills will become even more important in the years ahead as projects become far more complex: more technologies that must be managed, more “moving parts,” more firms that must be coordinated and from more parts of the world, etc. I imagine that raises the game of project leaders (and their bosses in upper management at an architecture firm) — but especially leaders of big projects who must (more than ever) periodically (or more) remind everyone on the project of the goals, timelines, mission, etc. 

Or to use the words of Francis Ford Coppola, the famed moviemaker (“The Godfather,” “Apocalypse Now,” and more): “One of the secrets to making a great movie is making sure everyone is making the same movie.” 

I’m not an architect. But I imagine that as projects get bigger and more complex, it becomes easier for everyone on a project “not to be making the same movie.”

RTKL’s Michael Woods mentioned the importance of providing metrics:

To Ed’s point, the leadership of an architect that understands, manages and communicates the metrics of design that really matter to the client are probably the biggest change. This isn’t something that we are prepared for in school or in practice until very recently. I’m concerned by the emphasis I see on the tools and technologies instead of metrics that really matter. Design matters even more than it did in the past to our increasingly sophisticated clients, but metrics are an important dimension that we must master.

So there you have it: the changes that will come about for architects in the next five years will involve adjusting to new technology, acquiring leadership skills, and mastering the management of design metrics.

Except for this: I believe that these three areas will be inextricably integrated and linked.

In other words, in five years there will be no leadership outside of technology. There won’t be project leaders and teammates who work in technology. We will be leading projects not as in the past, top down, but from the middle – and by extension – from the model. To imply that leadership will be a separate package of skills is not to thoroughly imagine where the profession and industry are headed. The development of leadership skills will come about from working within the technology, not as a series of workshops, seminars or from executive coaching. There won’t be one without the other.

Similarly, leaders will be held accountable for their acts of design volition. The burden of proof will be in the data. We won’t be able to lead without it, nor the means for acquiring and analyzing it.

So, how will the role of a senior architect change over the next five years? Technology, leadership and metrics will become inseparably intertwined and the architect will be ill-prepared and ill-advised to master one without the others.

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