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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!

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

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.
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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?

The Architect (2012) January 8, 2012

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, BIM, change, employment, marginalization, technology, the economy, transformation, transition.
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Last night I had the opportunity to see Oscar contender, “The Architect,” a film whose story begins in the late-CAD era.

“The Architect,” whether you consider it a screwball comedy, a sentimental melodrama or a spoof, is a 2D black-and-white film that has received a great deal of praise from critics.

The story is a simple and familiar one

The story focuses on a declining male starchitect and a rising starletchitect, as CAD grows out of fashion and is replaced by BIM.

A valentine to early computer-aided design and drafting, “The Architect,” stars leading man Jean Dujardin as a CAD-using starchitect named George Valentin.

At the top of his profession, Valentin meets eager would-be starletchitect Peppy Miller.

She dreams of success in architecture, invests time in learning BIM, and as her demand rises in the industry, Valentin’s shine is eradicated.

Architect Valentin faces untold obstacles: the fickleness of the public’s changing taste, the adoption of disruptive new technologies, waning powers that come with age, competition from fellow industry professionals and unemployment, among others.

Faced with the economic insecurity of the Great Recession and technological change that threatens to make him obsolete, George is being crushed in a vise grip all too familiar to mid-career architects.

Refusing to adapt to the onset of BIM, he puts all his money into one last CAD production.

George has owners in the palm of his hand, at least until BIM arrives

It turns out George isn’t well-suited for BIM, not least because of his mindset and attitude, dependence on 2D CAD and archaic drafting style.

But BIM is perfectly suited to a vivacious ingénue named Peppy Miller, who crosses paths with George, first as a fangirl, then as an intern in the office of his firm.

In 2009, just after Wall Street crashes, George’s studio stops making CAD documents.

The studio head announces the end of production of 2D CAD documents, but Valentin insists that BIM is just a fad.

It’s fitting that the next time he meets Peppy, on Rapidograph Studio’s main stairway, she’s on her way up and he’s on his way down.

When the studio head lays-off all his 2D CAD starchitects, George decides to open his own office where he could work in CAD.

His project is submitted on the same day as Miller’s new BIM project, and Valentin is ruined.

His wife kicks him out and he moves into an apartment with his valet, while Miller goes on to become a major 3D starletchitect.

“If that’s the future, you can have it!”

However reassuring excursions into bygone golden ages may be – whether drafting in pencil or CAD – they carry with them the potential for revisionism, soft-focus complacency and the refusal to embrace uncomfortable but necessary change.

This is why some critics are grumbling about “The Architect,” which has won a cache of critics’ awards and looks to be a contender for the Best Picture Oscar.

Whereas naysaying design professionals can appreciate the fond look back at the medium they adore with equal devotion, they inevitably see “The Architect” as an all too-comfortable 2D nostalgia trip that represents stasis rather than genuine innovation, provocation or artistic risk that working in 3D enables.

Those skeptics may be missing a modest but meaningful truth buried under “The Architect’s” surface and story, which is that George’s plight could easily be transposed into any modern-day profession or industry.

In one of “The Architect’s” most poignant scenes, George plays a character sinking in a cement pour, an aptly desperate metaphor at a time when so many architects feel they are in over their heads.

It’s a film that taps into our anxieties as we encounter seismic economic and technological transformations.

Having just witnessed his first BIM model, George says at one point:

“If that’s the future, you can have it!”

He could be speaking for an entire generation of architects who feel as if they’re in mortal danger of being left behind, forced into early retirement they can’t afford — literally or psychologically – or leaving the profession altogether.
At the risk of revealing a spoiler, it turns out all is not lost for George.

Disappointingly, it involves a work-around – when everyone recognizes the only way out is the way through.

“The Architect” may be drenched in the romance and visual values of CAD’s bygone era, but it’s a motion picture uncannily of its time.

(Apologies to critics of “The Artist,” which – like this post – is a shameless pastiche.)

Architects 2Zebras Top 10 Posts for 2011 December 31, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, BIM, books, career, change, education.
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Architects 2Zebras ended 2010 on a down note and readers let me know it, many of whom came to Zebras expecting positive, uplifting posts.

Not walks down reality lane.

You made it clear:  there are plenty of reminders of how hard it is out there for architects and no one needed reminding.

You needed encouragement, resources and guidance.

I heard you and responded with a year’s worth of what I hoped would be more helpful posts.

Here are the ones you responded most positively to.

Thank you for sticking around, engaging and helping to make this another great year at Architects 2Zebras!

In Search of another Type of Architect

http://architects2zebras.com/2011/01/29/in-search-of-another-type-of-architect/

A response to an article entitled “A Difficult Character” about how, when a leadership consultant reviewed the Myers-Briggs tests of 100 architects, he discovered there really is an “architect type” — and maybe a difficult one.

Architecture’s Star Making Machinery

http://architects2zebras.com/2011/04/17/architecture’s-star-making-machinery/

In Princeton in the ‘80s, I twice lived in – or next to – Michael Graves home and office. Here’s what it was like.

49 Ways to Increase Your Influence as an Architect

http://architects2zebras.com/2011/02/26/49-ways-to-increase-your-influence-as-an-architect/

The End of the Architecture Firm?

http://architects2zebras.com/2011/08/27/the-end-of-the-architecture-firm/

This post received a very strong response, in part because – despite the title – its message was ultimately positive and empowering for architects.

Doctor, Lawyer, Architect, Fail

http://architects2zebras.com/2011/02/

Ask not what our profession (and AIA) can do for us. Ask: What can we do for our profession?

The Architect’s New Titles: to Use or Abuse

http://architects2zebras.com/2011/05/14/the-architect’s-new-titles-to-use-or-abuse/

Re-titling it turns out is no longer just for cars. Architects, in an effort to distinguish themselves in a competitive market and work environment, have started to call themselves different things.

Architecture’s Two Cultures (AND a Crucial Third)

http://architects2zebras.com/2011/05/01/architecture’s-two-cultures-and-a-crucial-third/

The Gifts of a Son of an Architect

http://architects2zebras.com/2011/03/13/the-gifts-of-a-son-of-an-architect/

Why Didn’t You Teach Me How to Practice?

http://architects2zebras.com/2011/11/21/why-didnt-you-teach-me-how-to-practice/

A Lifeline for a Profession Adrift

http://architects2zebras.com/2011/05/07/a-lifeline-for-a-profession-adrift/

In-depth review of Building Knowledge in Architecture is a new book and lifesaver by architect, educator, researcher, scholar and poet, Richard Foqué.

Why Didn’t You Teach Me How to Practice? November 21, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, education, employment, IDP, pragmatism.
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What architects don’t get from architectural education has to be made up in practice.

But can it?

That’s certainly the intention of Intern Development Program (IDP), the comprehensive training program created to ensure that interns in the architecture profession gain the knowledge and skills required for the independent practice of architecture.

Setting aside the validity in today’s economy of an independent – as opposed to integrated – practice of architecture,

Is the office the best place to train to become an architect?

In firms, these days, almost everybody draws.

And everyone is as close to 100% billable as humanly possible.

No more can architects consider themselves “knowledge workers,” unless that knowledge includes working knowledge of such software programs as AutoCAD or Revit.

With many architecture firms pared down to skeleton staffs, training is a luxury few can afford.

And teaching recent grads on a client’s dime is something most clients will no longer tolerate.

Building clients have never warmed to the idea that they are footing the bill for an intern’s education on the job.

As one senior designer said to me over coffee, rather loudly with an emphatic pounding on the table:

“Work is not school! Not school! Not school!!!”

Tell that to any firm that has set-up and administered a corporate university.

Building bridges

Neither academia nor practice, we’re beginning to see emerging entities that are starting to fill-in the gap, gaping hole or (for those attending Cornell) gorge between architectural education and practice.

Hybrid education. Just-in-time education.

Enroll in the equivalent of a four-year lunch-and-learn.

Don’t pass go don’t collect 200 dollars go straight to jail.

At the same time, we’re seeing bridge students who take-up architecture and engineering; or engineering and construction management; or architecture and an MBA, to help segue between academic and real-world pursuits while presumably making themselves more attractive to an employer.

Perhaps it is best that training – whether in continuing education or in practice – stay outside academe’s ivy walls.

Training is still seen by some as parochial, vocational.

In some academic circles “practice” is a dirty word.

Why sully your pristine education with practical consideration?

Some architecture schools won’t have practitioners on their faculty so as not to infect their student body, as though practical considerations were a disease.

This, despite the fact that practical knowledge is a job requirement on the road to becoming a full-fledge professional, every bit as much as residency is for a doctor.

Before building-up $150,000 in student loans, would-be architects – in most states – know that they will have to pass through an apprenticeship prior to sitting for the licensing exam.

Remind me: What exactly did you get for your $150,000 education?

Learning in school vs. learning in the gap vs. learning on the job

Architects like to think that they are alone in many things, not the least of which is their inadequate education and training in the face of a constantly moving picture of practice.

They are of course wrong: they have plenty of company.

This is evident in the many parallels with other areas of study.

Just consider these quotes:

“What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training.”

“Schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful”  

“Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship”

 “They are (practitioners) in the sense that they have…degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.”

First-year associates at one…firm “spend four months getting a primer on corporate (practice.) During this time, they work at a reduced salary and they are neither expected nor allowed to bill a client. It’s good marketing for the firm and a novel experience for the trainees.”

“This has helped to hasten a historic decline in hiring.”

“The essential how-tos of daily practice are a subject that many in the faculty know nothing about — by design.”

“One 2010 study of hiring at top-tier…schools since 2000 found that the median amount of practical experience was one year, and that nearly half of faculty members had never practiced…for a single day.”

“The academy wants people who are not sullied by…practice.”

“Where do these students go?…There are virtually no openings. They can’t hang a shingle and start on their own. Many of them are now asking their schools, ‘Why didn’t you teach me how to practice…?’ ”

These are just a few quotes from the New York Times article, “What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering.”

They  sound remarkably – and uncomfortably – close to what architecture students go through.

What is one thing you wish recent graduates, interns or emerging professionals were taught in architecture school?

  • A better understanding of ___________
  • Greater familiarity with ____________
  • Deeper knowledge of  _____________
  • Basic skills, like how to perform ______
  • A stronger grasp of _______________

Let us know by leaving a comment.

The Architect’s Missing Manual August 28, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, BIM, books, change, identity, IPD, marginalization, survival, technology, the economy, transition.
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You never forget your first.

Do you remember yours?

My first was the twelfth.

That is, the twelfth edition of The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice.

That was the last edition to be offered in four separate three ring binders.

White, grey and red.

And crisp, with an off-center AIA logo super graphic emblazoned across the front.

I read the entire contents cover to cover to cover to cover.

Here, I thought, at last was the architect’s missing user’s manual.

After 4 years of undergraduate schooling and 2 years of graduate school, I still didn’t completely understand all that an architect was and could become.

And with the deep blue “backgrounders” ample history of what the architect once was.

For the first time you sensed that you belonged to a long tradition.

One that you were proud to be a part of.

Here, at last, contained in four binders was “the answer.”

There it was, in red ink on the first binder:

“Volume 1: The Tools. The Architect. The Firm.”

It would never again be so simple.

Nor so innocent.

Volume 2 was even simpler.

All it said was: “Volume 2: The Project.”

Could it be laid out any more straightforward?

The last two binders contained facsimiles of the AIA documents.

Here was the be-all-and-end-all D200.

“The checklist” that promised to give you a step-by-step explanation of every move you would make, from initial handshake to final handoff.

That was 1994.

In 2001, the thirteenth edition of the AHPP was issued.

And it was a new world. For the US, and for architects.

The contents were reduced to a single bound book.

With the AIA Documents sequestered to a CD-ROM.

And for the first time, the edition was printed on the binding – henceforth resulting in readers referring to the AHPP by edition.

[The twelfth was known by the three-ring binders.]

If the twelfth edition was for me “Paradise Found,” the thirteenth was “Innocence Lost.”

The table of contents said it all:

“Part 1: CLIENT.”

“Part 2: BUSINESS.”

The first 9 chapters were devoted to markets, marketing, financial operations and HR.

All good. All much-needed.

But the AHPP no longer told us who we were – or who we could become.

Not in our own right, anyway. But instead, we only existed so long as we had clients.

No client, no architect. And while practically we understood this to be true from a business perspective, the architect was clearly no longer front and center.

The off-center logo of the twelfth edition now had been shifted almost completely off the cover, so to speak.

The architect – in the first 250 pages – was almost nowhere to be found.

The center – had there ever truly been one – did not hold.

Each architect had to discover and define who she was for herself.

The fourteenth edition, printed in 2008, returned the architect to their rightful position in the AHPP.

“PART 1: THE PROFESSION.”

“PART 2: THE FIRM.”

And so on. But by the time this last edition was delivered, the world’s economy was in disarray with architect , profession and industry scrambling for survival.

The fourteenth edition, thick as a tombstone, was a memorial to what the architect had been.

What would become of the architect was anyone’s guess.

And while we suspect who the architect is – and will become – will have something to do with BIM, IPD, sustainability and digital fabrication, many architects would sooner be defined by their unique attributes, by their education or experience than by technological or global trends that reside outside themselves.

With the world in flux, the industry and profession in transition, and who or what the architect is or needs to be anyone’s guess,

I do not envy the task the esteemed architects and educators who are undertaking the next – the fifteenth edition – of the AHPP.

There has never been a more important undertaking for our profession than the definition of who the architect is and needs to be in the immediate future. 

Here is how you can help bring about the new edition of the AHPP.

What can you do to help?

Help shape its intent and content by taking a short survey.

The deadline is coming up quick (Wednesday, August 31) so take a couple minutes right now to answer a couple questions here.

What is your first memory of the AHPP? Has it been of use to you at any time in your career? If so, how? Please let me know by leaving a comment.

The Architect’s Journey August 13, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, change, marginalization, questions, survival, technology, the economy.
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2 comments

A few years back, right before the economic downturn, the AIA came out with a promotional piece entitled The Architect’s Journey.

The pamphlet was subtitled “Exploring a Future in Architecture,” with the focus on becoming an architect.

Then came the upheaval.

Whereby merely remaining an architect today is a hero’s journey.

Not ‘hero’ as ‘architect-as-hero’ in how director Sydney Pollack presented Gehry in Sketches of Frank Gehry.

But rather hero-as-in-heroic.

To be an architect today requires bravery, courage, ambition – qualities rarely discussed in these do-all-you-can-to-stay-on-the-boat days.

Architect’s careers once followed archetypes common to what Carl Jung (CJ) or Joseph Campbell (JC) might have called “the hero’s journey.”

Mythic structures that all architecture careers follow.

Something along these lines

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. (Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, p.30)

Mythic, that is, but not formulaic.

Recognizing that each individual has their own story of how they arrived at where they are

  • The Call to Adventure
  • The Road of Trials
  • Meeting with the Mentor

And so on.

And yet, with

  • the convoluted process of earning one’s architectural stripes, stamp and seal
  • the downturn in the economy and the subsequent loss of colleagues and mentors
  • the inevitable flattening or organizational hierarchies
  • the loss of loyalty on both ends
  • the advent of new technologies in the workplace
  • work processes redefined
  • design itself becoming more collaborative
  • risks, responsibilities and rewards shared

Can it still be said that an architect’s career path has a recognizable structure?

In terms of storyline, can it still be said that one’s career has a dramatic arc?

Or – in lieu of former goals to attain one’s license, start a firm, win recognition from one‘s peers – is one’s career closer to an undulating succession of successes – and travails?

Becoming an architect is one thing.

Remaining one is something else.

There are many impediments one faces everyday

  • Unwitting clients
  • Unappreciative public
  • Demanding employers
  • Insensitive plan reviewers
  • New technologies and work processes to master

So many hurdles, in fact, that to remain an architect today you have to be driven from within.

And possess a fire in the mind.

Only, for perhaps the first time in our storied history as a profession, one has to wonder: is that enough?

Some other questions to consider:

  • How important are myths to the architect today?
  • Do you believe that a career in architecture can still have an underlying mythic structure?
  • Is it still possible to create careers with mythical power?
  • With eyes glued to monitors and seats to bouncy balls, could it still be said that architecture – as a calling – can be something more than the daily struggle to honor the bottom line?

The Collaborative Designer May 23, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect types, books, change, collaboration, problem solving, questions.
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Summary: You don’t need to be a designer to benefit from the best practices espoused in this magnificent new book. A must-have for designers, but also for those in project management and anyone who works with designers.

Based on over 100 interviews with designers, researchers and educators, The_Strategic_Designer by David Holston provides an overview of the design process and best practices.

The Strategic Designer: Tools and techniques for managing the design process, published by F+W Media and HOW Design, is billed as a Strategic Graphic Design Thinking book.

Despite this categorization, the subject matter transcends graphic design and can be universally applied to any of the design trades and professions including product and environmental design.

The book description will sound familiar to anyone working in architecture and related design professions:

As designers look for ways to stay competitive in the conceptual economy and address the increasing complexity of design problems, they are seeing that they must not only be experts in form, but must also have the ability to collaborate, to design in context and be accountable through measurement.

By adopting a process that considers collaboration, context and accountability, designers move from makers of things to strategists.

The book focuses on the designer’s workflow, ideation techniques, client relationships and methods for measuring the success of their projects.

An excellent foreward by Shawn M McKinney gets things off to a fast start – which, alone, is worth the investment in the book.

Each chapter covers a specific design phase emphasis, providing a practical step-by-step approach, complete with tools and techniques.

The Conceptual Economy – where those who have the ability to collaborate and manage the increasing complexity of design will have greater opportunities

Overview of the Design Process – a process rife with opportunities for misinformation, dead ends, and divergent tracks, as well as amazing outcomes

The Value of Process – the benefits of having a well-defined design process

The Collaborative Designer – emphasizing co-creation, communication, mutual benefit, respect and trust in a strong client-designer relationship. This is a particularly rich chapter, addressing and answering such questions as: What makes a Good designer? What Makes a Good Client? and Clients to Avoid. There’s a wonderful sidebar on: Seven Principles for Managing Creative Tension.

Empathic Design – explaining how research provides a path and imperative for moving forward

Understanding the Business – includes a breakdown of basic strategy techniques and an explanation of the purpose of business analysis as understanding and defining goals of the client

Designing with the End User in Mind – with an emphasis on facilitating and moderating participatory and collaborative work sessions. The Designing for People chapter focuses on research as a valuable tool for gaining insight into the organizational needs of clients and their prospective audiences.

Managing Ideas – especially when ideating with others in a participatory or collaborative setting, relying heavily on the experiences and knowledge of people involved.

Making Strategy Visible – how the designer takes an empathic approach to design that connects business goals with user needs.

Design Accountability – asking: Why is design hard to measure? And answering by sharing significant research findings and metrics. Salient quote: “The price for a seat at the decision-making table is accountability.”

Planning in a Turbulent Environment – the days of using a linear design process are over. Strategic designers face increasingly wicked problems. A helpful framework offered by project management.

Refining Your Process – so it can provide a common understanding for “how things get done” mitigating wasted efforts while creating value for the client and user alike.

Holston’s text anticipates your questions and concerns and places each topic in a larger context. He is clearly in control of his subject.

The author places the book and subject squarely in Dan Pink’s Conceptual Economy, a term describing the contribution of creativity, innovation, and design skills to economic competitiveness, especially in the global context.

In his book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink explains how the economy is now moving from the information age to the conceptual age.

Later in The Strategic Designer, Rotman School of Management dean Roger Martin says that the world is moving from the Information Economy to a Design Economy. A small distinction, but one that unnecessarily complicates matters. I would look to a book such as this to clarify the playing field, at the very least to acknowledge that the labeling of epochs and phraseology are still a work-in-progress.

The book’s strength is not in creating new knowledge – but in repackaging what is largely already known, experientially by every designer – in an easy to carry tome.

Readers, for example, who have perused Wikipedia articles on various topics related to design strategy will recognize the source of several of the author’s summaries.

In this sense, the book is not a product of the Conceptual Age, but instead is a well-designed, convenient and accessible agglomeration, aggregating both explicit and, perhaps the greater achievement here, tacit knowledge on the subject. The book is no less of an achievement for doing so.

The design world is a much better place for having this book at its disposal.

Conclusion: The Strategic Designer is a must-have book for designers, those who manage design projects and those who work with designers in a collaborative setting.

Addenda: How can this book not have a single review?

HOW books makes books on high quality paper, books that feel good in the hand, and themselves serve as exemplary reminders that ebooks should not be our only option. The Strategic Designer is no exception.

See this short video with author Dave Holston presenting the introduction to The Strategic Designer Brand and here on competitive strategy.

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