The Architect (2012) January 8, 2012Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, BIM, change, employment, marginalization, technology, the economy, transformation, transition.
Tags: academy awards, BIM, CAD, George Valentin, Hollywood, oscar contender, Peppy Miller, silent films, The Artist, the oscars
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.)
Why Didn’t You Teach Me How to Practice? November 21, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, education, employment, IDP, pragmatism.
Tags: architecture education, architecture school, bridging the gap, education, IDP, Intern Development Program, law school, lawyering, training
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.
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.
Architect 2Tweets – The Week in Tweets May 28, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, books, career, collaboration, creativity, employment, identity, management, sustainability, technology, the economy, transformation, transition.
Tags: architect Barbie, architects, architecture, CONSTRUCT, construction, retweets, tweets, twitter
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Take a look. Click on the links to find articles, websites and other resources.
If you are not a Tweeter, by browsing the list of micro-posts you will get a good idea of how I use it. And if you like what you see, follow me on Twitter @randydeutsch
Online Attendee Registration Opens Early June for @CONSTRUCTshow Free Exhibit Hall Admission & Discounted Education Packages thru Aug 11
The Architect of Flowers http://amzn.to/jrXJCh ‘Dreamlike and ethereal’ stories
Insurer: Payment delays, fragile construction industry conditions mean more building subcontractors go out of business http://bit.ly/lPLWWQ
The first warning sign that a project is in trouble. Sometimes it even begins before the project does http://bit.ly/aRY7fp
Model of San Francisco, made with 100,000 Toothpicks, began in 1976 – 3000 hours later http://bit.ly/juD4iK
Renter Nation: Since housing meltdown, nearly 3 million households have become renters. 3 million more expected by 2015 http://bit.ly/kUt51j
“There’s nothing off-putting about sustainability. Find someone who is in favor of purposely ruining the future” http://bit.ly/lV2GcG
THE construction industry, regarded as a barometer for economic activity, is now a volatile, unpredictable barometer http://bit.ly/jCwYcp
Why crumbling of America’s transportation infrastructure is a good thing, according to developers http://bit.ly/f6l6Cp
In a modern day Dark Ages with the potential for another great Renaissance? The 21st Century Renaissance http://bit.ly/a2wPeb
Polymath, Renaissance person, Multidisciplinarian (!) – Why we all must become one http://zd.net/kRoKem
To compete in a knowledge-based economy business leaders need to reinvent themselves as innovators in services http://bit.ly/ixxU24
Connections, James Burke’s iconic BBC series on the history of innovation, free to watch online http://j.mp/fcppDy
Architect 2Tweets May 22, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in BIM, books, career, creativity, employment, optimism, questions, survival, sustainability, the economy.
Tags: AEC, BIM, construction, David Meerman Scott, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, John Maeda, John Thackara, modular, prefab, Roger Martin, RT, Sir Ken Robinson, Thomas Friedman, tweets, twitter
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Architect- and Architecture-related Tweets that my followers on Twitter have shared with their followers (retweeted or RT in Twitter parlance.)
Take a look. If you are not a Tweeter, by browsing the list of micro-posts you will get a good idea of how I use it.
And if you like what you see, follow me on Twitter @randydeutsch
Finally, some good news for the hard-hit design profession: Firms are hiring again! Architecture Employment on the Rise http://bit.ly/lZ4caM
The Strategic Agenda: Securing the Future. 2 day exec ed seminar 8/01-8/02 Harvard U Graduate School of Design http://bit.ly/e8zljY
Granite countertops cost the same around the world. Just like oil. As wages go up, US will make more of its own stuff. http://nyti.ms/mrka7v
Thinkers who are challenging designers? Bruce Sterling, John Thackara, Sir Ken Robinson, Roger Martin, John Maeda http://bit.ly/jZAEDb
Video of Mansueto Library’s 5-story robotic book retrieval system in operation. Now to get robots to read them! http://bit.ly/ikFcD0
Take your eyes on a scroll. Eye-popping drawings of Lebbius Woods’ UNDERGROUND BERLIN: the film treatment http://bit.ly/qQMNi
So everything’s OK after all? “Office of National Statistics accused of exaggerating construction slump.” http://bit.ly/khMVWX
Dear Architecture Graduates: Be Ready, Relentless, and Lucky http://bit.ly/d2z71P
Despite economy, logic, gravity & common sense, young architectural firm lands major projects, expands staff http://bit.ly/mzzGk8
MORE (and IMHO even better) visual notes from IIT Institute of Design Strategy Conference 2011 http://bit.ly/jieG7m
How visual types take notes http://bit.ly/mpSheY
The Architect’s New Titles: to Use or Abuse May 14, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect types, BIM, books, career, change, employment, management, software architects, the economy.
Tags: architect positions, architect titles, bimworker, change management, design anthropologist, design consultant, design ninja, design strategist, design thinker, design thinking, freelancer, intrepreneur, job titles, service designer, thought leader
Not that they’re going to give up the title architect anytime soon.
They’re in search of a title that more accurately qualifies – and clarifies – what they do as an architect.
With the advent of social media, what we call ourselves in our profiles goes a long way toward how others treat and work with us.
Re-titling it turns out is no longer just for cars
Sometimes we find ourselves using titles that we ourselves aren’t certain what they mean.
And good thing. Because we often use them as much to obfuscate as to communicate.
Many of the newest titles are conjunctions, conflations or co-joining of two or more existing titles – such as business and design – that are meaningful when used independently but when combined leave us ashamed and others feeling abused.
In fact, if you hear someone say “I’m at the intersection of design and business” don’t meet them there – they’re probably lost.
We’ll skip trendy titles such as “Director of Chaos” because architects are more likely to be a ”Director of Form.”
And “Director of First Impressions”? A euphemism for Receptionist. (We’ll spare you the Dilbertisms)
Here’s a field guide to some of the ways we are referring to ourselves – and to each other – in this make-it-up-as-you-go world we find ourselves living and working in.
One definition is offered to confuse or Abuse.
The other you’d be better off to Use.
Abuse: A designer
- is someone who sees everything as an opportunity for improvement.
- is someone who has to sell themselves and their talents every time they walk into a room.
- primarily concerns themselves with how to create a successful communication, product, or experience.
- is an agent who specifies the structural properties of a design object.
- is anyone who creates tangible or intangible objects
In other words, there are as many definitions as there are designers.
Use: Architect. Use Designer if you’d to be retained by an owner. See An Architect With Low Self-esteem
A Design Consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, designs a new one for you, sends you a bill for it and puts a lien on it when you don’t pay in 120 days.
Abuse: Specialists in human factors, psychology, business, design, engineering and manufacturing who provide full service consulting for building and product innovation and design.
Use: Freelancer. An architect who can’t find full-time employment.
Abuse: Uses project management, design, strategy and supply chain techniques to control a creative process, supports a culture of creativity and build a structure and organization for design.
Use: A manager of design projects.
See: This is a comprehensive reference book for anyone seeking an introduction to the basic concepts and principles that inform the management of design projects, teams and processes within the creative industries; and her earlier work, here.
Abuse: Belonging to an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand the role of design artifacts and processes in defining what it means to be human. See also: Design Sociologist
Use: Someone with an undergraduate anthropology diploma and a 3 year degree in architecture.
Abuse: An unorthodox or unconventional designer. Used more often in web and graphic design.
Use: Design Mercenary (忍者)
Pure unadulterated business jargon. An entity that is recognized for having innovative ideas or business ideas that merited attention. ‘Go to’ subject-matter experts in your industry. Period. Here’s how to package your ideas to share with others.
Abuse: Calling yourself one.
Use: Only when others call you this. And even then, don’t ever use it to describe yourself.
Abuse: Someone who writes his/her thoughts and feelings online.
Use: Anyone who contributes to a blog or online journal. And I mean anyone.
See: Arbiter of Knowledge and Wisdom
Abuse: Someone who knows what it means to manage the people side of the change equation.
Use: Someone adept at soothing the staff when management changes their mind. See Change Management
Abuse: Business people trained in design methods.
Use: Design people trained in business methods.
Abuse: Design Principals and Senior Designers used to hand off their building designs – and Project Managers and Architects their redlines – to CAD operators. With BIM, it no longer works this way. Like Artworkers in graphic design, BIMworkers initiate, commence, pursue, resolve self-edit and complete the work. If they had money, they would also own it.
Use: BIM Modelers. BIM Managers, BIM Coordinators and BIM Operators will thank you for it.
Abuse: Someone who uses the word “wayfinding” in casual conversation.
Use: An architect knows that if you have to use signage, you’ve failed. Architecture is its own wayfinding.
Abuse: Someone who provides innovative insights on using design as a strategic resource. Someone who hangs with CEOs of major brand management firms, business school deans, IDEO alum, engineers and professors of design
Use: Someone who uses design to achieve key business objectives. See Design Thinker and Design Guru.
See: To be a design strategist, you either have to be an IDEO veteran, Stanford University lecturer on design, the founder of a customer experience design company – or know someone who is one. Here are the eleven skills sets for what it takes and here and here.
Abuse: Someone who organizes people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality, the interaction between service provider and customers and the customer’s experience. A cross-disciplinary practitioner who combines skills in design, management and process engineering.
Use: Someone who provides numerous benefits to the end user experience when applied to project types such as retail, banking, transportation, & healthcare. See Social Entrepreneur
Abuse: See Form giver. Someone who gives shape to products, objects and buildings.
Use: Someone who really gets design, puts it to good use and will lead others into the twenty-first century with creative strategies.
See this, probably the best new book on the topic.
Chief X Officer
Where X can be Culture, Interpretation, Learning, Systems, Collaboration, Co-Creation, Creativity, Innovation, Mischief, Imagination, Technology, Information, Fun. As in Chief Storytelling Officer. Someone who has traded real work for knowledge work. A begrudging strategist.
Abuse: A corporate title indicating hierarchy, authority and power. A high ranking officer who gets an office with a window.
Use: Leader. A high ranking officer who gets a windowless office.
Abuse: Entrepreneurs who operate by creating business opportunities and practices inside their organization. Employees who – in addition to their workload – develop client relationships and bring in work.
Use: An employee today runs their own company within their company. Any employee who sells wrapping paper or cookies to captured employees on behalf of their kids. See Social Intrepreneur
Use: Someone with a short attention span who can’t make their mind up. Someone who comes up with an idea then abandons it, usually for another equally compelling idea. See Serial Intrepreneur
Design Director (especially when conflated with Founder, Owner, CEO, President and Managing Partner)
Abuse: Principal responsible for client, project, financial, design management and coffee making.
Use: Freelancer. Sole proprietor.
Founding Principal and Owner
Use: You. Your name.
Abuse: Whether Sustainability Advocate or IPD Advocate, they’re a person who publicly supports and recommends a particular cause or policy.
Use: Someone who facilitates the process for others but won’t be seen doing it themselves. See X Evangelist
Director of Product Strategy and Innovation
Use: Cell phone sales. See Verizon Salesperson
Abuse: Passionate arbiter of knowledge who enjoys learning while teaching.
Use: Job seeking.
See: Speaker, Author, Educator, Mentor
Abuse: Someone who wastes other people’s time and resources by laboriously advocating the use of such systems as Six Sigma, TQM, Lean and other business management methodologies.
Use: Someone who creates value for others by eliminating waste. See IPD Advocate
Abuse: Someone who works at any of the tasks of planning, acquiring, searching, analyzing, organizing, storing, programming, distributing, marketing, or otherwise contributing to the transformation and commerce of information and those (often the same people) who work at using the knowledge so produced.
Use: Employee. Anyone who works for a living – using something other than their hands – at the tasks of developing or using knowledge. Anyone who develops, works with or uses information in the workplace. See Anyone who works for a living
Abuse: Someone who uses industry techniques such as gathering intelligence on competitors, generating leads and prospects, managing presentations and designing and generating successful business models, aimed at attracting new clients and penetrating existing markets.
Use: Client-building, client relations and marketing. See Rainmaker
Abuse: Someone who engages clients by focusing attention on the issues and individuals at hand, listening both to what they say and what they leave unsaid, framing the immediate problem from their perspective, envisioning with them how a solution might appear and committing jointly to the actions and resources that will bring it about, all to gain the confidence and earn the trust of their clients.
Speaker, Author, Educator, Mentor
Use: Retired. See Scattershot Approach to Capturing Attention on LinkedIn
Now it’s your turn. Are there any titles you are aware of that you don’t see here?
Architects 2Zebras Celebrates 2Years January 2, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, change, creativity, employment, optimism, possibility, survival, the economy, transformation.
Tags: AIA National, anniversary, ARCHITECT magazine, blog, Wordpress
The 81 Reasons Why There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be an Architect post immediately went viral, reposted on dozens of sites around the world, including for a time on the AIA National website. To this day several people view this post from as far flung places as Hungary and Japan.
And best of all, you came back again and again despite my not having always delivered on my promise: to uplift while I inform.
Here are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010:
81 Reasons Why There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be an Architect February 2010
107 Reasons Why You, Architect, Matter June 2010
55 Ways to Help You Evolve as an Architect May 2010
A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius: One Architect’s Detour of Duty September 2010
My birthday is July 5, the day after Independence Day, so I get to celebrate an extra day every year. So it is only natural that I would celebrate the birth of this blog the day after another holiday: New Years Day.
WordPress, ‘Zebra’s host, sent out an email this morning identifying some of this blog’s highlights over the past year:
- · In 2010, you wrote 30 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 69 posts.
- · Your busiest day of the year was February 26th.
- · The most popular post that day was 81 Reasons Why There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be an Architect.
- · The top referring sites in 2010 were linkedin.com, facebook.com, twitter.com, architecture.myninjaplease.com, and architechnophilia.blogspot.com.
- · Some visitors came searching, mostly for “change,” “architect” and “to be optimistic about something.”
What WordPress failed to mention is that I did not always deliver on this last count.
It has been a hard year for many architects. I have been out of work for nearly a year and there are times when the state of the economy gets to me – someone who considers himself an eternal optimist.
My previous post was indicative of this state of mind. While several readers wrote to me – by email, or on LinkedIn – that what I said in that post was largely accurate, the vast majority found it to be depressing.
It is never my intention to add to anyone’s misery – I thought I was just stating it as I see it.
I was wrong.
I can see now, through WordPress’s stats, that no one visits my site after searching for “just the facts,” “reality” or “to be pessimistic about something.”
One of my resolutions for 2011 is to be, as always, honest with you and true to myself, but not at the expense of providing hope, pertinent information and sharing my normally optimistic outlook.
There is a world of good out there – and in each and every one of us.
I’ll do my best in the coming year to share with you resources, insights and knowledge that is growth promoting, nurturing and, whenever possible, inspiring.
That’s my pledge to you.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you here again soon.
Have a happy, healthy, prosperous and creatively fulfilling 2011!
Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED AP
What it Means to be an Architect Today December 26, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, career, employment, identity, possibility, questions, reading, the economy, transformation, transition.
Tags: manpower, out of work architects, underemployed architects, unemployed architects
dragging themselves through the vacant-lotted streets at dawn looking for an angry commission,
angleheaded architects burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…
What does it mean to be an architect in 2011?
For every architect putting the finishing touches on a set of construction documents, or starting a design study for a prospective client, there’s one thinking outside the bun.
And another reading this for free at the public library.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says between 6 and 13% of architects are out of work.
The 53% of architects who are actually out of work believe these numbers are accurate.
The vast majority of working architects are severely underemployed, focused on getting work, marketing their own or their firm’s services.
The vast majority of architects, in other words, are now working in marketing.
Taking-on work outside their comfort zone.
Whether beneath them or above them, work of an altogether different caliber.
Like an actor, architects are awaiting call-backs. Waiting to be called back by the firm that let them go.
In the mean time, architects are driving cabs, working at Lowes.
Masters in Architecture now means we’re becoming masters of another art: the art of losing.
Tracking unemployment is logistically difficult, requiring a great deal of manpower, according to AIA chief economist Kermit Baker.
47,500 unemployed architects hired full-time by AIA and NCARB to track unemployment in the industry.
Finding themselves in new, unfamiliar situations with people they hardly know and – digging deep into their bag-of-tricks – making the most of it.
Architects in retail hawking e-readers and housewares.
Architects moving across the country, or out of the country away from their families, to help pay their kids’ expenses.
Asking not what the AIA can do for them; asking what they can do for the AIA.
Getting used to being “between projects” and any of a dozen other euphemisms for having been – for a loss of another euphemism – shitcanned.
Not waiting to see who will take the lead in the green movement.
Asking not what the world can do for them; asking what they can do for the planet.
Would-be architects turning their eyes and education to the gaming industry.
To pay back their student loans.
Notwithstanding, with 12 high school applicants for every 1 undergraduate architecture slot, it would seem that architects are gamblers from the start.
Architects working for food conglomerates, driving forklifts, putting furniture together.
Architects working for food.
Applying for positions that will go to exact matches – down to the hair follicle color.
Or to no one.
Job applicants asked to undertake DNA testing – to see if they’re an exact match for the position.
Architects who will gladly work “pro-bono” just to stay in the game are still rejected because they’re “too expensive.”
Questioning the wisdom of being a generalist.
Architects of lakefront manses taking-on basement renovations.
Gladly taking-on basement renovations.
Questioning the wisdom of being a specialist.
Or the wisdom of having sought and ultimately attained that Theory of Architecture advanced degree.
Is it possible that they don’t know that the phrase “pro-bono” means “free?”
2008 tested your mettle. As did 2009. 2010 tested your mettle. So will 2011.
If architecture is a calling, how come the phone doesn’t ring?
Maybe there’s an opening for mettle-testers?
Architects selling life insurance to other architects.
Who void their policies by killing themselves.
Who kill themselves by losing their sense of humor.
Who lose their sense of humor from dealing with former colleagues who are now selling insurance.
While women are getting paid 75 cents to the dollar, architects are getting paid 25 cents to the dollar.
Women architects are finally getting paid the same amount as men.
Justice after all.
Trying to find a way to monetize 30 years of professional working experience.
Otherwise known in the industry as a job.
To lay there flailing and writhing.
And they still don’t hire you.
You still owe money to the money to the money you owe.
You remember being so busy a few years ago that you might have committed some lines to paper, or said some things to a colleague, that you now regret.
You remember thinking at the time that you would change when things finally slowed down.
Coming to the slow realization that what you had been practicing all these years was a luxury that few could afford.
To be an architect means to be at once both fragile and all-powerful.
To go from under-utilized to over-committed on a dime.
Or for a dime.
Wondering how on earth we – at this time in our lives – are supposed to reinvent ourselves.
Where to start?
Who, to be competitive now, must consider themselves certified-virtual construction-lean-accredited-design/build-BIM-IPD-VDC-LEED experts.
To be experts at everything means that we’re…generalists?
Find yourself humming Eric Clapton’s Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.
To be an architect today means to start over. Every day.
Able-bodied, talented, smart and eager young interns sitting this one out in the penalty box in perpetuity, for the sole reason that they are able-bodied, talented, smart, eager and young.
I get my hands on a dollar again, I’m gonna hang on to it till that eagle grins.
Starting over means to see with beginner’s eyes – because we’re reentering a new economy, a new profession, firms with new organizational structures.
To be an architect today means to consult, to borrow space, workstation and another’s air.
To be a product procured by means of a purchase order over being retained as a professional service.
Wondering if you’d be better off moving to Canada where there are purported to be more jobs (and where it is also purported to be warmer in winter.)
Or get up and move to NY or CA because it seems that these are the only places with job listings.
To understand that the current decline is the most severe and will probably take the longest to recover, but that the profession will recover nevertheless if the past is any predictor of the future.
And to wonder if the past is any predictor of the future.
Where design architects find themselves for the first time in the minority of all “architects” including computer, business and IT.
To adjust expectations so that pay, benefits and seniority are no longer primary drivers in your job pursuit.
To be wary of the easy temptation of cynicism.
To be underrepresented, ill-prepared and overlooked.
Always the bridesmaid. Never the bride.
It is as much about who you know now as what you know.
Network, reach-out, get involved. But to make any inroads you’re going to have to pave your own way.
Notice phrases such as “skeleton staff,” “trending downward” and “where’s dinner coming from?” have mysteriously entered your vocabulary.
And words like “salary” have disappeared.
All the tools in your toolbox. And nowhere to use them.
Beating against the current of a veritable ocean of regulatory design requirements.
While taking-on water.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Otherwise we sink.
To be an architect means to persevere.
To do all one can, each day, to hold on and not let go.
Learning to persevere from American Indians.
Learning from cancer survivors.
To not give up, no matter how bleak.
To maintain your sense of humor.
To keep things in perspective.
To remain resourceful.
Ready to take-on whatever assignment you are offered.
Whatever comes your way.
To not lose heart when you find that you have lost rank.
To work hard at creating communities: of practice, of hope.
But also just of belonging.
That’s what it means to be an architect today.
(Apologies to Allen Ginsberg)
Making a Case for the Value of Architecture October 14, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in books, career, change, employment, optimism, possibility, pragmatism, survival, the economy, transition.
Tags: a case for architecture, Architecture for Humanity, Down Detour Road, Eric J Cesal
I’d like to share with you a personal letter from the author of Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice, featured here in a previous post. Eric Cesal’s words are eloquent, earnest and heartfelt. And his approach to architecture and life inspires and for me represents hope and salvation so many architects today are in search of. Thank you Eric. Eric writes:
Thank you so much for your very kind and generous review. It is a great thrill to know that my small book is resonating with at least a few people. It began as a series of disjointed thoughts on architecture, and through the support and prodding of many, evolved into what it is.
I’m still in Port au Prince, if you’re curious. We have an office of about 15 people and are working hard at school reconstruction, among other things. I’ve been here 8 months now, with only a few days off sputtered here and there. Its been a surreal thing to watch the book come out and gain traction while I’m here entrenched in Haiti’s recovery. The book and its course seem very distant to me now. I haven’t written much about my experiences here, owing to an inability to get appropriate space from the situation. I don’t know how you write without reflection, and I don’t know how you reflect at the heart of a disaster. We’re all here with our whole heart and its tough to imagine stepping away enough to write anything meaningful.
I did want to elaborate on something you mentioned in your review, specifically on your suggestion that my work in Haiti is somehow a detour from a normal course of practice. I’m referring specifically to the line “Architects who are considering doing a tour of duty helping the world in some selfless way while they wait out the Great Wake.” I’m not sure if you were exactly implying that that’s what I am doing, but truthfully I’m not really waiting out anything anymore, because I’m exactly where I need to be.
The title as metaphor, was really meant to suggest that unemployment was a detour – from the normal expected life of architects. That may seem strange, in that many architects have come to expect long bouts of unemployment as a necessary fact of life. But I was also, at some level, trying to argue that we shouldn’t expect such things. That we should treat unemployment, wage suppression, and general professional dissatisfaction as aberrations in what should be the life of an architect. If we really believe in what we’re doing, we should believe in its value and treat it as such.
I view my move to Haiti, and the work that I’m doing here, as the high expression of the ideals espoused in the book. I believe that I am here making a case for the value of architecture and its relevance on the planet as it exists today. I don’t believe that someone would need to move to Haiti to do so, but I had a certain flexibility in my life that the book’s publishing made possible, so I moved forward with the decision. Similarly, my work on the Katrina reconstruction was not a detour or a distraction, but an attempt to find for myself where architecture’s value lies. In no small way, I believe that the work that Architecture for Humanity is doing in Haiti (and everywhere else, for that matter), makes the case for the small practitioner doing residential work in rural middle America. It identifies architects as responsible citizens, adept problem solvers, and true professionals.
In that sense, I’m not waiting out anything. I have already moved past the Great Wake at a personal level. I have a job, a mission and a family of truly wonderful architects that I work with.
My editor and I went back and forth many times about the sub-title. “In Search of Work” “In Search of Meaning” “In Search of a Job” were all considered. Ultimately, “Practice” won out because that was really what I was searching for and that is ultimately what I found in the end. At the story’s close, I hadn’t found a job, the earthquake hadn’t happened, and I was still, in some literal way, sitting around. But I had found something: a way to practice. A way to understand what architecture was and how to do it. Not in some external, universal way, but in a way that worked for me, a way that allowed me to sleep at night and not feel like I had wasted the last ten years of my life.
Barring some unforeseen event (and to be honest, Haiti can give you plenty of those) I don’t plan on coming back to the U.S. anytime soon, or practicing anything within the conventional world of architecture. Even if the architecture job market were to recover tomorrow, I don’t think that I would feel any draw to come back. My architecture is here, among the survivors. Hope that makes sense.
A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius: One Architect’s Detour of Duty September 25, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, books, career, change, employment, identity, management, optimism, questions, reading, software architects, the economy, transformation.
Tags: Architecture for Humanity, Cameron Sinclair, dave eggers, Down Detour Road, Eric J Cesal, Great Wake, Haiti, MacArthur fellowship, out of work architects, The Huffington Post, The MIT Press, unemployed architects
Today’s post will be brief: I have a presentation to edit and packing still to do. But I would be remiss in leaving town without first letting you in on a brand new book that I just read that I predict will take you and the architecture profession by storm. Before reading further, grab your wallet. You’ll need it by the time you get to the sixth line of this book review.
The book title: Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice
The author: Eric J. Cesal
Why you never heard of him: He’s a recent architecture graduate with 5 years experience as an intern and has built little.
Why that shouldn’t matter: You will be hearing a lot more of and from Eric J. Cesal.
The consensus: This may well be the best book by and for architects ever written. And (to my wife’s chagrin) I own and have read them all.
What the book will set you back: $14.93 ($21.95 + tax if you happen upon it in a bookstore, like I did. See “chagrin” above.)
Who should read this book: Out of work architects. Architects thinking of leaving the profession. Architects who have left the profession but want back in. Former architects who have left the profession for good but on deep, dark nights lie sleepless in bed wondering if they made a wise choice. Neighbors of out of work architects who wonder why they wear a tie when taking the dog out for a walk. Anyone who has ever had to wear a tie. Katherine Darnstadt would like this book. Parents who find their recent grads living once again under their roof. Or in their tent. Employers. Architect’s spouses, friends, relatives and roommates. Architects who think they might have a story to tell but question whether anyone will care to listen. Architects who are considering doing a tour of duty helping the world in some selfless way while they wait out the Great Wake. Architects who think they may be the next to be let go. Architects who sometimes wish they were the next to be let go. Architects who read architecture blog posts in hopes of finding someone who deeply, passionately understands their situation. Architects.
Why you should get it: This book speaks to you where you hurt. Cesal is wise beyond his 31 years (33 today) and whip smart. He knows what matters and he (and no doubts his talented editors) cut to the chase.
Why you should get it now: The sooner you read it, the sooner we’ll all be out of this mess; the sooner you’ll decide to stick it out in architecture; the sooner you’ll find a place for yourself in this new world.
Author’s espoused purpose in writing the book: “We want to find ways for the architecture profession to prosper as our world economy transitions.” p. 42
Why you should read it: Cesal wrote the book during a period of unemployment. Nearly every architect – employed, underemployed and unemployed – can relate.
Why else you should read it: Cesal names the Great Recession the Great Wake.
What will linger long after you’re done reading the book and give it to your colleague to read: The author’s voice.
What this book could also be used for: Like a commonplace book that soldiers used to carry around with them for reassurance and companionship on the front lines, you can keep this book nearby on your own detour of duty.
Why I love the book: Interjected throughout the book are short personal essays describing the author growing up, personal incidents and events that helped shape the architect/ author/ artist/ humanitarian he has become today. I love how the book captures timely subjects (the co-opting of our title by others) and timeless ones. I am most impressed by the way the author maintains a line of thought, without jumping around from subject to subject: a real feat and welcome revelation in contemporary writing. Like the late, great architect and author Peter Collins, Cesal asks hard questions and isn’t afraid to linger in them until he offers a solution.
Why this book may not be appropriate for all audiences: There’s an excruciatingly painful scene involving a tooth being pulled. Alcohol plays a part in a number of chapters.
The author’s eye for detail: How Cesal knew the recession had reached his city: “The coffee shop I usually passed by seemed to have too many people in it.”
Why I think Eric J. Cesal is architecture’s answer to Dave Eggers: Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius if it were written for architects.
Favorite passage from the book: The author’s attempt to find work at a temp agency. (p.117) Priceless.
The author’s education: Three master’s degrees in four years: business administration, construction management and architecture from Washington University in St Louis.
What book you might compare Down Detour Road with: During the deep recession of the 1970’s we had Harris Stone’s incomparably endearing and well-illustrated Workbook of an Unsuccessful Architect (available here for a penny.) But let there be no doubt: Down Detour Road is our age’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Walker Evans and James Agee. This book is our The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.
Someone famous the author hangs with but doesn’t once mention in the book (very classy): Cameron Sinclair, co-founder and ‘chief eternal optimist’ (CEO) for Architecture for Humanity.
Representative quote from the book: “For all the things I had intended my life to be, for all of the things I thought I would be doing at 31, I was sitting in the dirt, on the side of an empty, unlit road, jobless, homeless, cold and hungry, lusting after a street sign.”
The author’s solution: Cesal recommends that we have to come to some hard truths about the limits of what we do “and then leap beyond those boundaries.” He goes on to describe 10 types of architects.
What are the ten architect types he writes about? The financial architect; The value architect; The risk architect; The paid architect; The idea architect; The knowing architect; The named architect; The citizen architect; The green architect; The sober architect. He refreshingly doesn’t over-use capital letters and dedicates a chapter to each architect type.
What it says on the dust jacket: As the world redesigns and rebuilds in the face of economic and ecological crises, unprecedented numbers of architects are out of work. What does this say about the value of architecture? That is the question that confronted architect Eric Cesal as he finished graduate school at the onset of the worst financial meltdown in a generation. Down Detour Road is his journey: one that begins off-course, and ends in a hopeful new vision of architecture.
Like many architects of his generation, Cesal confronts a cold reality. Architects may assure each other of their own importance, but society has come to view architecture as a luxury it can do without. For Cesal, this recognition becomes an occasion to rethink architecture and its value from the very core. He argues that the times demand a new architecture, an empowered architecture that is useful and relevant. New architectural values emerge as our cultural values shift: from high risks to safe bets, from strong portfolios to strong communities, and from clean lines to clean energy.
This is not a book about how to run a firm or a profession; it doesn’t predict the future of architectural form or aesthetics. It is a personal story—and in many ways a generational one: a story that follows its author on a winding detour across the country, around the profession, and into a new architectural reality.
Where you can find the author today: Port-au-Prince, managing and coordinating Architecture for Humanity’s design and reconstruction initiatives in Haiti until 2012.
No, really, where can you find him: You can find him here. But seriously, he lives in Haiti with a family of two dogs, 11 chickens, 5 cats and a goat named Newfie. Read more about it in the Huffington Post here.
What’s next up for the author: As Cesal explains on his webpage, “Two projects are currently in slow, agonizing, one-sentence/week progress: NCARB & I, a chronicle of architectural licensing, and Lets Just Finish These Beers and Go, a semi-autobiographical romp about how to become an architect while making every self-defeating effort you can.”
What does the word “detour”mean in the book’s title: de·tour, n.
1. A roundabout way or course, especially a road used temporarily instead of a main route.
2. A deviation from a direct course of action.
Likelihood that the book will be made into a movie: Very good odds. I’m not a betting man but I’d bet on it.
Final thoughts: Someone get this guy a MacArthur Genius Grant. And a second one to The MIT Press for having the foresight and gumption for publishing this staggering piece of exceptional writing from an otherwise little known entity. Cesal may very well be doing wonderful, necessary work in Haiti but we very much need him here back home with us.
The quickest way to get the book in your possession: Steal it from an architect in the coffee shop. Or click here
What to do while you wait for your copy of the book to arrive: Tell everyone you know to read Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice.
A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius: One Architect’s Detour of Duty by Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED AP 2010