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
‘Dreamlike and ethereal’ stories
Insurer: Payment delays, fragile construction industry conditions mean more building subcontractors go out of business
The first warning sign that a project is in trouble. Sometimes it even begins before the project does
Model of San Francisco, made with 100,000 Toothpicks, began in 1976 – 3000 hours later
Renter Nation: Since housing meltdown, nearly 3 million households have become renters. 3 million more expected by 2015
“There’s nothing off-putting about sustainability. Find someone who is in favor of purposely ruining the future”
THE construction industry, regarded as a barometer for economic activity, is now a volatile, unpredictable barometer
Why crumbling of America’s transportation infrastructure is a good thing, according to developers
In a modern day Dark Ages with the potential for another great Renaissance? The 21st Century Renaissance
Polymath, Renaissance person, Multidisciplinarian (!) – Why we all must become one
To compete in a knowledge-based economy business leaders need to reinvent themselves as innovators in services
Connections, James Burke’s iconic BBC series on the history of innovation, free to watch online
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
The Strategic Agenda: Securing the Future. 2 day exec ed seminar 8/01-8/02 Harvard U Graduate School of Design
Granite countertops cost the same around the world. Just like oil. As wages go up, US will make more of its own stuff.
Thinkers who are challenging designers? Bruce Sterling, John Thackara, Sir Ken Robinson, Roger Martin, John Maeda
Video of Mansueto Library’s 5-story robotic book retrieval system in operation. Now to get robots to read them!
Take your eyes on a scroll. Eye-popping drawings of Lebbius Woods’ UNDERGROUND BERLIN: the film treatment
So everything’s OK after all? “Office of National Statistics accused of exaggerating construction slump.”
Dear Architecture Graduates: Be Ready, Relentless, and Lucky
Despite economy, logic, gravity & common sense, young architectural firm lands major projects, expands staff
MORE (and IMHO even better) visual notes from IIT Institute of Design Strategy Conference 2011
How visual types take notes
Tags: AIA, Architectural Record, BIM, Coxe Group, elitism, integrated design, john brockman, knowledgenet, Record Houses, third culture, two cultures, Weld Coxe
Between us and them.
It’s not a matter of who’s on top and who’s on bottom – one being high and the other low – for they are both high-minded.
High-minded, that is, about different things.
The Two Cultures was an influential lecture, given just over 50 years ago this week, by scientist and novelist C. P. Snow about how the breakdown of communication between the “two cultures” of modern society — the sciences and humanities — was holding us back from solving the world’s major problems.
Architecture’s two cultures, similarly, can be best described as “high design” and “high delivery”.
In other words, architects devoted to architecture as art, and architects devoted to serving clients.
This model owes something to Weld Coxe, founder of the service professions management firm The Coxe Group, who passed away last month.
You can find a clear description of their model, published 25 years ago, here.
For simplicity’s sake, I am clumping together service and delivery, for they have one big thing in common: a client.
For some this might be likened to clumping together Vitruvius’ commodity and firmness and pitting them against delight.
Whereas, for high art (paper architecture, etc.), while patrons are welcome, they aren’t necessary.
It’s almost impossible to describe the two cultures without making a value judgment.
Innovators vs. Perpetuators of the status quo.
Ideas vs. Things.
Form vs. Function.
Thinking differently vs. The standard of care.
Sophisticated urban architects vs. Prosaic suburban architects.
AIA members vs. SARA members (or any other so-called alternative-AIA organizations.)
Local office continuing education events sponsored by USG Corp. vs. Outlier office sponsored industry events by Big Ass Fans.
You get the idea.
In fact, it was a magazine that got this whole discussion rolling.
At the AIA Committee on Design Knowledge Community, an architect started a KnowledgeNet discussion thread last month concerning the Record Houses 2011 magazine issue.
The argument boils down to one word: elitism.
Record Houses, the argument goes, is elitist.
Exclusive, exclusionary and undemocratic.
Various voices chimed-in, leaving messages that, generally, complained the houses awarded year after year exhibit poor construction decision-making.
Or are uncomfortable to live in.
Or aren’t code-worthy.
Or don’t use construction best practices.
Or are unsustainable.
Or they leak.
In other words, their comments seem to say, “they may be art but I wouldn’t want to live in one.”
Several mentioned that these high-design homes perpetuate the image of the architect as designing for themselves, for each other or to receive awards and recognition.
Anything, really, but for what the world needs from a home today: shelter, safety, solace.
That Record Homes, if viewed in a doctor’s office by a non-architect, may leave the wrong conclusion of what we truly stand for as a profession, of where our true interests lie, and of what we value and believe.
In defense of the Record Houses issue, one architect admitted liking one of the houses:
“Do I design this way? I don’t have the client, the budget or, let’s face it, the talent.”
“There are some beautifully resolved and detailed houses in the article, why the hate? I will argue for the issues of safety in public buildings but to use that as a metric for the merits of design for a home is misplaced…”
One counterpoint sums up the opposing side’s argument:
“Great architecture should be based on more than art alone. Otherwise it is sculpture.”
Architecture’s Third Culture
Just as CP Snow’s Two Cultures were welcomed by a Third Culture 20 years ago, so are ours today.
Snow’s Third Culture was a group envisioned as “curious non-scientists who could bridge the gap between scientists and humanists.”
In 1991, literary agent John Brockman wrote an essay entitled “The Third Culture.”
Architecture’s Third Culture could also be best described as a bridge.
One that can bridge a gaping hole between design and construction.
Architecture’s Third Culture would bridge the gap by removing the “vs.” between the two sides.
Replacing “vs.” with an “and.”
Today, for the world we face, we need to do both.
We need to be both.
Both/and. Not either/or.
For a world in need we, as architects, need to be more.
Because the world needs more.
And we have what it takes – as individuals, teams, firms and profession – to rise to the occasion.
We cannot afford any longer to stand apart.
To emphasize one side over the other.
Or ignore one side altogether.
Yes, the world needs beauty as much as it needs our services.
We need, today more than ever, to integrate our predilections and capabilities and stand together as one profession, however diverse we may be as individuals.
And we can start by dropping the divisiveness.
Replacing “vs.” with a simple “and.”
Architecture’s Next Destination (AND)
Call it the Yes AND movement.
We commit, here on out, in our work and in our lives, to address both ideas and things.
Both form and function.
Technology and process.
Academics and practitioners.
Design and construction.
Both thinking differently and exceeding the standard of care.
Beauty and sustainability.
BIM and integrated design.
To creating sophisticated, urban places and the revitalization of the suburbs.
To belong to – and volunteer at – any organization of our choosing.
Despite our schooling and training, which may have emphasized one over the other.
What we ought to have been doing all along.
It’s like the old improv “Yes And” game.
The game represents a vital rule of improvisational theater:
Never deny your fellow actor.
Take what you’re given, whatever line you’re fed, and say “yes and…”
Be willing and able to accept the ideas the other person conveys.
Then, it’s your turn to add to the scene.
This improv principle is known as “Yes And.” Here’s how it works:
At the beginning of the scene, Character #1 will begin by establishing setting and plot.
Character #1: What a terrible time to be an architect!
Following the “Yes And” method, Character #2 will accept the premise and add onto the situation.
Character #2: Yep and the boss said we don’t get no salary until this model is coordinated.
Character #1: Yes and ain’t he the meanest cuss we’ve ever worked for?
Character #2: Yep and it’s made me think about leaving behind this cowboy life and headin’ off for bluer horizons. (Learn more about the method here.)
Seated with the project team, someone tosses out an idea that troubles you.
Never deny your teammate. You respond by saying, “Yes and…”
Don’t like what the client has given you in the way of a program, schedule or budget?
Never deny your client. “Yes and…”
Don’t like what the economy has given you?
Never deny your circumstances. “Yes and…”
Or the site. Or the budget. Or the schedule.
Yes And: Not either/Or.
Yes And: A Collaborative Attitude.
Yes And: Architecture’s Third Culture
Yes And: Architect’s New Direction
Yes And: Architecture’s Next Destination
This is the message we want to be making to others.
Do you agree?
Watch for Architecture’s Two Cultures (AND a Crucial Third) Part 2
Unlearning to Collaborate November 28, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, BIM, books, collaboration, IPD, management, problem solving, sustainability, the economy.
Tags: BIM, collaboration, Glenn Murcutt, Howard Gardner, IPD, Michael Tomasello, Peter Zumthor, unlearning, Why We Cooperate, wicked problems
Are we wired to collaborate?
Michael Tomasello in Why We Cooperate argues that we are – up until a certain age. Then – through conditioning – we forget. Tomasello’s book itself is an interesting act of cooperation, where the author invited his severest critics to poke holes in his argument and explore the implications of his work in light of their own research.
To put it another way: as we grow we cooperate conditionally, attending to the behavior of others. This has huge implications for architects and design professionals who might be naturally collaborative – through sharing knowledge, learning, mentoring and teaching – but are otherwise conditioned by the culture of the firm where they work.
Some firms encourage collaboration while others discourage it by focusing exclusively on individual achievement or by not valuing knowledge sharing. In a sense, you are collaborative because the culture of your organization is one that promotes and encourages collaboration.
The Latest Buzzword?
The word “collaboration” seems to have been invented to provide adults with a serious sounding activity that we, as children, seemed to do naturally.
We like to think of collaboration as the latest business buzzword but of course is nothing new. The word is actually 130 years old, making headlines nearly 100 years ago in the New York Times. We are all still trying to figure out how to do it effectively or at least how to sell it as a unique way architects work.
In any event, there’s a great deal we need to unlearn in order to return to our original sharing attitude and collaborative ways, including bad habits we’ve picked up since we left the cocoon of school and embarked on the hard knocks of a career in architecture and construction, where we learned to be mistrustful, skeptical, competitive, secretive, working independently out of silos. We unlearned all of the critical natural habits, attitudes and mindsets necessary to work effectively on integrated teams.
While collaboration extends and reorients insight, increases efficiency, creates credibility and community, the word itself is too often loosely defined.
A definition of collaboration particularly relevant for our age of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a process through which people who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible. (Grey, 1989)
Collaboration is simply when people work together to create something that couldn’t be done by someone on their own. We do it all the time when designing buildings, resolving problems or working with owners to deliver solutions. The difference today is that we need to get even better at working together and sharing knowledge to solve problems, which are getting larger and more complex.
Moving beyond our boundaries – personal, organizational – requires that we see our blind spots and who better than our fellow collaborators – seeing-eye professionals – can help us see our blind spots?
To do so we have to seek out people who have other pieces of the puzzle.
Collaboration is best used to solve what Howard Gardner called “wicked” problems with “imperfect, changing or divergent solutions.” The problems architects face today are wicked in that they are complex, defying simple formulations and easy solutions, such as fighting global warming or increasing productivity in the construction industry.
Problems aren’t only wicked – they’re simultaneous – occurring at the same time. Buildings aren’t only complicated, becoming increasingly complex; they also change quickly, marked by a sense of urgency.
To remain efficient and effective, recognizing when it’s unhelpful to collaborate can be important. There’s no need to collaborate, for example, on simple, repetitive, fast turnaround assignments.
Conditions for Successful Collaboration
We don’t trust that this diverse group of people we hardly know will be able to perform better than we can on our own and tend to feel more comfortable and self-assured managing tangible things such as projects over people and relationships. Fortunately, architects are more people-focused later in their careers.
In addition to being people-focused, here are eight preconditions for successful collaboration:
Chemistry – because how can you work well together if you don’t like each other?
Equal, multiple expertise – it’s not truly collaboration if the manager cannot participate in design and the designer cannot participate in managing – it’s an assembly line.
A willingness to play – because fun leads to better, more creative results.
Listening – because it’s about the process of making something together.
Having an open mindset
Willingness – you must choose to collaborate – it can’t be done at gunpoint
Willful effort to work together to get things done; and
Trust between those involved
Because architects find themselves questioning their relevance, their collaborative participation is crucial. We perhaps sent the wrong message by recently honoring sole practitioners such as Glenn Murcutt and Peter Zumthor because it glamorizes autonomy over working together.
Why collaborate? Because if you don’t you will not fully participate in public, community, creative and economic life. We may be natural collaborators, but now it is time for us to build collaborative cultures.
62 Reasons to be Optimistic (and 18 to still be Pessimistic) September 15, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, career, change, creativity, employment, management, optimism, possibility, pragmatism, survival, sustainability, technology, the economy, transition.
Tags: AEC industry, Bondy Studio, Donald Trump, Google, NBC, Olson Kundig Architects, positive psychology, positivity, The Apprentice
Not since my post from last year 32 Things to be Optimistic About Right Now have I tackled this subject head-on.
It’s about time.
That’s not to say I have avoided it altogether. I have addressed the positive side of practice on a number of occasions, not always to positive reception.
I started paying attention to not only what he said but the number of positive things he mentioned, despite the general gloom in the economy right now.
He was positively optimistic – and it was admittedly contagious.
There’s scientific research that backs a 3-to-1 “positivity ratio” as a key tipping point where, essentially, it takes 3 good experiences to block out one bad one.
A 3:1 ratio of positive statements or experiences to negative ones is considered the ideal for staying optimistic.
This ratio answers the question for many of how you can be generally positive and optimistic while maintaining some negative emotions and thoughts.
The following list roughly reflects this ideal ratio.
Agree or not – just by reading the lists here you have done your part today in remaining positive and optimistic.
Here are 62 absolutely fresh, upbeat and practical reasons to be positive (and 18 to still be pessimistic) about our chances of recovering, enduring or otherwise surviving this recession as individuals, organizations, profession and industry.
I would love to hear – optimistic or pessimistic – reasons of your own, by leaving a comment below.
Let’s get the pessimistic out of the way first (a commenter’s brilliant suggestion.)
There are times of course when it is advisable to be pessimistic, and we don’t have to look far to find them. Being pessimistic at times gives you an insight to your problems and situation by allowing you to realistically assess challenges, obstacles and roadblocks you may face which otherwise you might overlook – by being overly-optimistic. After all, you wouldn’t want an overly optimistic commander taking you into the war zone underestimating the enemy or one so paralyzed by indecision they end up doing nothing.
- We are seeing firms close that were once great, however amicably, due to economic pressures
- How can we get reciprocity in other states if we can’t get an NCARB certificate because the firms we once worked for – who can vouch for our tenure – no longer exist?
- Career stage: Being a mid-career professional – at no fault of one’s own
- Salary: Finding oneself too costly, too expensive, for most firms
- Finding one has not kept up with technology – and while that wasn’t a hazard in the past, it is an indictment against you today
- Statistics: Research shows once unemployed over 6 months – the odds are against you finding employment
- Compensation: If you made a good living before – one might rightfully doubt finding employment that would come anywhere close to what you made before
- Flexibility: If you had a great deal of freedom in your previous position – chances are under these circumstances that it is unlikely that sense of freedom would continue
- If well-rounded; firms seem to be looking, when they look at all, for experts, not generalists (thought see anexception below)
- M&A: Large conglomerates are buying-up well-established design firms, firms that helped give the profession variety, diversity and high profile design. In M&A news, according to Archinect, Stantec is on a tear. The mega-A/E company announced recently that it will acquire Burt Hill — just weeks after similar news about acquiring Anshen + Allen. Who will be next?
- Construction: Contractors are hiring graduates right out of school – potentially resulting in, or adding to the likelihood of, a lost generation
- Unemployed architects may never find work in the profession and be forced to leave, not to return
- Knowledge transfer: A great deal of knowledge and experience goes out the door with them
- Phil Read (Phil Read!) leaving HNTB (what is this world coming to?)
- Many architecture firms continue to shed staff and struggle to keep the lights on
- Ownership transition: Aging owners ready to monetize on their business, who in the past passed their practice on to the next generation internally, increasingly result in more acquisition activity because younger architects are not interested or in the position to buy.
- Intuition: This time around just “feels” different than any other downturn – very hard to compare it and therefore manage or act on it
- Being human: Even the best leader cannot maintain optimism in the midst of layoffs, salary reductions, increased workloads, missed payroll or bounced pay-checks.
Note: The following are optimistic without being rah-rah. And no qualifiers are necessary: these are not cautiously-, rationally-, pragmatically-, realistically- or conservatively-optimistic. They’re just:
- Experience: We ourselves are the reason to be optimistic – our training and experience have gotten us to where we are – and will also provided us with the tools and best practices to confront these changes
- Change: It’s all about change – and we’re not immune to it
- Resolve: We will design our way out of this
- We’re creative, resourceful, when it comes to seeking solutions, and this situation is no exception
- Training: We’re trained as problem solvers – we can solve this problem
- We needed a course correction; this situation provided us with the opportunity to change
- Change was imminent – something our industry has been wrestling with for ages
- Determination: This gives a chance to see what we are made of, how strong is our resolve
- An opportunity to look at our convictions – what it is we are really good at, what it is we believe in, what we ought to be putting our energies into, what really matters to us and to others – and to drop what isn’t as important
- Transparency: A chance for firms to share as much information as possible with each other, be transparent and open book – compare notes – not size each other up
- Our industry and profession has changed in the past – and will again
- Provides a chance for firm leaders to leverage the talents of those who work for them that otherwise may never have been tapped
- Design Excellence: The world will always need good design
- Owners will continue to need someone to sign and seal exceptional documents
- There are problems – such as retrofitting suburbs – that really only an architect can tackle
- Rest: This down time allows us to restore our energy and creativity
- Much-needed time to define and refine the current standards of care for our profession
- A chance to give to others – to help others out who may be in need
- The profession is no doubt smaller – but as the constant exchange of information makes the profession feel smaller, more accessible and manageable – we’re more likely to hear from and learn from each other
- Jobs: Everyday there are more and more jobs listed – and not just in NY and California
- Thawing: Word on the street, from developers, is that banks are freeing up loans for development
- Owners: Our clients are more and more cautiously optimistic
- You have to be optimistic to be in this profession
- Funding: Google Invests $86 Million In Low-Income Housing
- Governance: Great leadership opportunities and hope for greater voice and influence: More and more architects, such as Stefano Boeri, Italian architect in Milan and editor-in-chief of Abitare, announce plans to run for public office.
- Green design: Sustainability is no longer a specialty or added service and is on the verge of going mainstream and becoming standard procedure
- Olson Kundig Architects had an ad recently where they were seeking “Generalists Needed” in Seattle, WA
- Technology: There are iPhone apps for our profession and industry – including apps that allow us to read and CAD and Revit models and now “Buildings” – an iPhone app that help you find local architecture
- Marketing: The economic downturn has allowed us to refocus our energies on marketing, determine what it is that distinguishes us, and put it into words and images; to become better marketers of ourselves
- Selling: We’ve learned from the downturn how to make what we sell – which as a service is largely invisible – visible and tangible and therefore more likely to deliver
- Competition: The increase in competition and dearth of new projects has opened us to new markets and project types that otherwise may have remained outside our comfort zone
- The current situation itself, and all it entails, has widened our comfort zone considerably
- The truth is that nobody really knows what will happen next; why side with the negative?
- Correction: The optimistic scenario is that the recession is correcting the excesses of the euphoric bubble years, when the global economy was on an unsustainable path.
- Efficiency: We’re ushering in a new era of doing more with less
- Stabilizing effect: Instability leads inevitably to stability
- Green saplings: Optimists see the recession as a forest fire that clears out dead brush, making room for new growth.
- Progress: A lot of what we’re doing now would have been impossible even five years ago.
- Start-ups: There are a number of new firms and new ventures started because of this downturn, including completely new business models
- Global practice: Things look more optimistic if you adopt an international perspective
- Education and training: Those remaining or returning to school will be more highly educated forces when they return to practice
- Cost of materials: Prices on many materials are down after many years of climbing
- Recessions clean out the excess of past boom periods
- Registration and licensure: A recession results in an increase in individuals applying to take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) to better position themselves in the workforce.
- Educators: A recession results in an increase in individuals applying to architecture programs and schools
- Sustainability: More people taking the LEED exam to give them the leg up when things pick up again
- More stabilized workforce: Many architecture firms have seen a leveling-off of the need to shed staff resulting in some stability
- M&A: We’re seeing some interesting mergers brought about by strategy and the need to fill specific niche needs as much as by the economy, such as the combining of OWP/P with Cannon Design.
- Learning: Professionals have had more time to learn and to catch-up on continuing education
- The lull has allowed some professionals to share information with the rest of us in the form of videos, webcasts, white papers and tutorials that we otherwise may never have benefitted from
- Helping-hand: Downsizing provides colleagues with the opportunity to secure another position for these individuals at other firms – the chance to contribute, help out, give and give back. A year later those individuals would often as not tell me ‘it was the best thing that happened to them.’
- Leadership: More leaders avoid mincing words, painting a false picture and putting spin on what is not know, while rising to the opportunity to be truthful, tell the truth, good or bad, be authentic in words and actions, will go a long way to assuaging what otherwise can be a devastatingly difficult time for some
- Doing this provides the right person with an incredible opportunity to lead
- And to (re)build trust
- Access to information: Accurate information about our profession and industry is right at our fingertips 24/7 – this was not always the case.
- Communication: The situation we find ourselves in forces you to communicate more frequently with others, showing you how connected you really are and how much you rely on one another; a valuable lesson lost on those who operate exclusively within their comfort zone
- Higher performance: Most people can sense a change in themselves when around optimistic people, feeling motivated, inspired and energized. That’s almost reason enough to be optimistic and be around optimistic people.
- This time around provided us with the chance to learn from our mistakes and move on.
- Resilience: Treat this as an opportunity to show your resilience.
- Attitude: As difficult as it might be to stomach, realize that “this too shall pass.” Remind yourself that there will be other challenges, that this is one among many and that you never went into your chosen field because it was easy. On some level you understood how difficult it would be. And that you were equal or better than the difficulties it entailed and that would ensue.
- Mindset: Without blame or recrimination, see this as an opportunity to face the situation with acceptance and peace.
- A sign: Recognize that pain of any type is to give us a message. Once you got the message, stop dwelling in the pain. See this situation as a sign that things, as they existed, were not sustainable. Come to realize that situations that present challenges have been brought to you so that you may learn and become more aware of your strength, resilience, ingenuity and ability to overcome.
Bonus item: Donald Trump and Co. are returning for a 10th season of NBC’s “The Apprentice.” In a new twist on the reality competition, this season’s 16 candidates have all been hit hard by the current economic downturn – and there is not one architect in the bunch. A sign of the times? You decide.
BTW 62 – the number of reasons to be optimistic – is the same number Edward De Bono used in his book entitled, Creativity Workout: 62 Exercises to Unlock Your Most Creative Ideas, a book that encourages you to make connections, think beyond your peers, recognize possibilities and create opportunities.
Not a bad place to start in keeping your 3-to-1 ratio intact.
107 Reasons Why You, Architect, Matter June 25, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect types, collaboration, creativity, environment, identity, marginalization, optimism, sustainability, technology, the economy.
Tags: career, collaboration, economy, environment, needs, passion, profession, wants
But how about a world without architects?
That’s not so hard to imagine.
It’s easy if you’re mostpeople.
Because mostpeople never so much as meet an architect.
Let alone engage one in a building project.
It’s also relatively easy to imagine if you’re an architect.
Because this is what we do, what we’re good at – imagining things that aren’t there.
Then relentlessly realize them until they are.
If architects were to disappear tomorrow – who would care?
At the moment – facing a double dip in the economy – architects feel overlooked and underappreciated.
So to say that we matter. To whom exactly? And what for?
To matter means to be of consequence, of importance (but not self-importance;) significant, relevant, worthy of note and of crucial value.
To feel appreciated and valued, not left-for-dead, abandoned or ignored.
But why ask whether architects matter when so clearly other things matter more.
The unchecked ravages of genocide, extreme poverty, child labor, AIDS, environmental degradation, Alzheimer’s disease, global warming and compulsive consumerism – these certainly matter more.
But this isn’t a contest. Architects can still matter.
Why the world still needs architects
The 107 reasons that follow may seem like overkill. A tad bit much.
But we need reminding. Really need reminding.
Some will inevitably say – tell it to our clients or convince a contractor – that we’re not the ones who need convincing.
Before we can convince anyone else that we matter we must first convince ourselves.
From the architects I’ve talked to and heard from we need a talking to.
And if we’re not going to remind ourselves – who will?
This is not a desperate attempt to justify our existence nor rationalize our cosmic importance. These reasons came easily, rolling off the pen and hammered out in an evening.
And as with most things worth doing, if I had more time there would have been far fewer.
You need to know you matter
The world may not always affirm what we do (try this: google “architect appreciation” or any facsimile thereof and what comes up?*)
People are not born with an appreciation for architecture.
Nor, for that matter, for architects.
Your employer may not always tell you that you – and the work you do – are valued.
But that doesn’t mean that what we do and who we are doesn’t have a profound impact on our world.
It does. And we do.
In the big scheme of things – we make a difference. A big difference. The world would be a very different place – a lesser place – without us.
And our interventions. Our ideas and ideals.
Think of these as the gifts architects give to society.
Think of these as The Gifts of the Architect:
How a Tribe of Tectonic Nomads Changed the Way People Everywhere Live and Feel.
Think of these as – in the spirit of Yale’s Why X Matters series
107 Reasons Why Architects Matter
(or the 107 Things I Like About You)
Reason1: Architects are optimists. So what? Otherwise we couldn’t survive, anticipate and prepare for an unknown future and imagine what is not there. Imagine a world of pessimist designers, planning for the worst. That’s the world without architects.
Reason2: Architects balance multiple intelligences. So what? It’s a job requirement and for some a liability. Architects use all of their faculties when they design and document – including spatial intelligence.
Reason3: Architects are wired to care. So what? Architects naturally empathize. We have the empathy gene. In abundance. More than our fair share, allowing us to put ourselves in other’s shoes. Others may be in it for the money – we’re burning the midnight oil because we care.
Reason4: Architects are strategists. So what? We ask tough, penetrating questions, seldom taking assignments or answers at face value. We reframe questions that are lobbed at us. And go about our work less as object designers than chess players or basketball coaches parlaying the playbook.
Reason5: Architects think in terms of systems, not just things. So what? Because we understand that the world is not made up of individual, disconnected things. And that everything is causal, interrelated and connected. We design the spaces between things as well as the things themselves – and help others to see what they were formerly unable to see and was certain wasn’t there before we gifted them with a new pair of eyes. We’ve all done this for someone in our lives.
Reason6: Architects think laterally and simultaneously – not linearly. So what? The very thinking skills that we need to nurture in others as we move ahead into the 21st century.
Reason7: We do more with less. So what? So there will be more for others – including our children – when they need it. Eaarth will thank you for it.
Reason8: Architects design outdoor spaces. So what? Think Central Park. Designed by a landscape architect (architects of all stripes.) Architects gave the world outdoor rooms, helping people to feel comfortable in their surroundings, to feel as though they belong, and on a good day, to dwell poetically.
Reason9: Architects are well-educated. So what? Who is most qualified to lead integrated project teams? (Those who deem this elitist need not respond.) The person trained to think of other’s needs before their own, the person who is licensed to protect the health, safety and welfare of the project’s inhabitants. The person dedicated to continuous learning.
Reason10: Architects are T-shaped – both deep and wide. So what? More than mere experts at what the do and know, architects – due to their training and education – are able to see through other’s eyes, empathize and understand what is important to others at the table. We have deep skills and wide wingspan breadth.
Reason11: Architects are “keepers of the geometry.” So what? Form-givers, architects give shape to our world. Who else provides our buildings, cities and lives with a sense of continuity and coherence?
Reason12: Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul. So what? Life speeds by fast. We need to slow down. Architects design places that help us to slow down, look around and take in the view. And then, before we realize it, we’re no longer in the place but of it. Architects have the ability to design places that touch the soul.
Reason13: Architects transform chaos into order. So what? While nature, animals and biomimicry are definitely trending, one look at architecture without architects and you wish you had called an architect.
Reason14: Architects give the world meaning. So what? So what? Architects may be involved in only a small number of projects, but just think of places where you have been happiest, felt most at home, felt a sense of purpose and accomplishment, at ease with yourself and your surroundings – and more than likely an architect was involved.
Reason15: Architects uplift the downtrodden. So what? Architects raise not only roof beams but eyes up toward the sky, and awareness to a higher plane altogether. We provide worthwhile, heightened experiences, naturally. (Ever walk across the structural glass floor to the outdoor amphitheater overlooking the Mississippi on Jean Nouvel’s Guthrie Theater? Then you know what I mean.)
Reason16: Architects think differently. So what? Yes, Apple thinks differently – but what of what Peter Bolin FAIA and his cohorts did for Apple? For Apple! In NYC. It’s no easy task wowing Steve Jobs. Architects do so on a regular basis.
Reason17: Architects are masters of branding. So what? Not corporate branding, but identity, genus loci and placemaking. Branded environment architects give places identity – to orient, so that you know where you are in the world and, in the best of places, why you are there and why you’ll return.
Reason18: Architects traffic in beauty. So what? Beauty is perhaps a dirty word these days – but we cannot live without it. While nature does her fair share, architects – in their riffs off of nature – certainly supplement in wondrous ways.
Reason19: Architects provide the wow effect. So what? Because life is not just bread and water. That sense of awe when standing before something manmade, masterful and inexplicably beautiful or grand. That’s the gift architects give to the world.
Reason20: Architects create the places that inspire – and where we live out and realize – our dreams and destiny. So what? You are here, on this planet, for one reason and one reason alone. And more than likely an architect was involved in helping you to recognize this. Just think about it.
Reason21: Architects are technologists, artists and craftsmen. So what? Architects learn with their hands, create with their imagination and put the human touch into technology. This assures that what we help to create will be useful, bring about joy and remain for some time.
Reason22: Architects serve the underprivileged. So what? Architects have a reputation for pandering to the wealthy. Creating low income housing is a higher calling for many architects where good works are the ultimate goal. Fee-wise we may take it on the chin, but the work we produce means a great deal to the people who live there.
Reason23: Architects are custodians of the built environment. So what? If not architects, whom else?
Reason24: Architects keep moving the ball forward. So what? Neither sentimentalists nor futurists, architects as optimists recognize that humans are still evolving. And so too their work. So so what? With each commission architects attempt to push the envelope just that much farther, to do their part to advance things. That is how the world progresses – and architects share in this movement.
Reason25: Architects bring poetry out of doors into the world. So what? Art and poetry reside almost exclusively indoors. Museums and libraries may contain these – but architects work hard to bring their qualities to the design of the outdoors, through their sensitive integration of their buildings into the landscape.
Reason26: Architects are master shapers of light. So what? Kahn in particular was transfixed by light: The sun never knew how great it was until it struck the side of a building. Nor did anyone else for that matter.
Reason27: Architects are for the most part fascinating people. So what? My uncle, when I was 5, told me his best friends were architects: they’re the most interesting people I know, he’d say. Architects try to live their lives by this credo.
Reason28: Architects are intrinsically motivated. So what? It’s better in the long run for all involved. As “I Types,” architects are not in it for the token gift card. We do it because we love it, because it is the right thing to do, because – we trust – it makes a difference in people’s lives.
Reason29: Architects operate from both sides of the brain. So what? Neither exclusively right nor left – architects are the original whole brain thinkers. In doing so, we help to keep things whole.
Reason30: Architects are practical dreamers. So What? Floating ideas like prisons in the sky. This is how we’ll solve large-scaled, complex and intractable problems facing millions: through the persistent application of our imagination, looking at things sideways until they appear to others right side up.
Reason31: Architects get design. So what? An understanding of good architectural design is vital for creating livable buildings and public spaces and architects understand how to design buildings. We make a difference to the positive outcome of the design of our world.
Reason32: Architects give others something inspiring to aspire to. So what? We have all heard someone say that they would have liked to be an architect. Going about the world as an architect is one of the last callings commensurate with our ability to imagine and to create. So so what? Architects have one of the few careers that guarantee that, while practicing, you will remain a lifelong student.
Reason33: Architects involve all of the senses. So what? While we’re lampooned for wearing all black – we know the value of color, the meaning of light, the importance of involving all of the senses in our work.
Reason34: Architects consistently provide people with what is important to them. So what? Some people know what they want while others look to the architect to tell them. Architects adapt to the client – and make it their goal to meet their needs. Sounds simple enough – but this in itself is all-too-rare in the business world, let alone the arts.
Reason35: Architects take ideas and pay it forward – by giving it a twist. So what? In doing so, we create something new. What we produce fits – because it gives the impression that we’ve seen it before – but at the same time it is fresh, unprecedented – keeping life interesting. Architecture, not variety, is the spice of life.
Reason36: Architects turn what is used, old, broken and decrepit and reinvent it into something living and healthy environment for people to use, in cities as well as in the suburbs. So what? Don’t take my word. Take Ellen Dunham-Jones’ word. Click on any of these links or read a sample chapter – and argument for doing so – of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs here.
Reason37: Architects are sexy So what? The world has become increasingly bland, globally with little that distinguishes itself. The architect, in the midst of this sameness, has retained her appeal. Why else would we be chosen as the number one career for lead roles in movies? Far from superficial, architects manage to keep things both relevant and interesting.
Reason38:, Architects are problem identifiers. So what? Not only problem solvers, architects recognize that identifying the right problem to solve is often 80% of the solution. Often, the problem they have been assigned is not the one that truly requires addressing. Architects work efficiently and effectively to make sure that everyone is focused on the most pressing, pertinent problem.
Reason39: Architects’ small acts have huge impacts. So what? You only have to think of the Bilbao effect. Don’t let statistics that architects design or impact less than 5% of buildings built. The buildings that count, that create a sense of place and pride of place, the places we take visitors to see and inhabit when in town, that best represent us – public places large and small – these are the buildings we remember and return to. And these are designed by architects.
Reason40: Architects got your back. So what? Architects assure that someone is watching out for you. We make sure you are safe by watching what’s behind you when you’re busy looking ahead. Who else besides the architect watches out for the health welfare and safety of society?
Reason42: Architects draw by hand, mouse and by wand. So what? Creatively ambidextrous, flexible and agile, we are not stuck on any one means of communication or delivery. Architects make the best use of available technology to get their point across – but we are not above using a stick in sand, rock on pavement or a burnt piece of charcoal in order to connect and help you understand.
Reason43: Architects design like they give a damn. So what? We care. We make a difference. This matters.
Reason44: Architects give something back. So what? Architects don’t go into architecture to take or even to make money but to give something back. We’re continuously giving, whether going the extra mile, burning one more end of the candle, or by putting their talent and resources in the service of those who need it most. Such as the The 1%, a program of Public Architecture, connects nonprofits with architecture and design firms willing to give of their time pro bono.
Reason45: Architects are change agents. So what? Not merely open to change, we assist in moving change along. No matter how traditional or conventional the assignment, architects make great strides to incorporate the latest advanced technologies. For example allowing for earthquake resistance in tall buildings or in the case of Wright’s Tokyo Hotel. So so what? But at the same time expressing and infusing local or regional character so that the buildings appear to belong to the place where they reside. We may be comfortable with change but recognize that we first have to make it palatable and acceptable for others.
Reason46: Architects – by just being architects – give hope. So what? This is something we do for others. So many aspire to do something interesting with their lives, belong to a profession that offers endless opportunities to challenge yourself. Being an architect is one of the last callings that matters.
Reason48: Architects serve as role models. So what? Citizen architects, such as Sam Mockbee of Rural Studio
, urban activists, getting involved at the grass roots level, some going as far as government.
Reason49: Architects make connections. So what? As systems thinkers, by connecting elements in a project with its surroundings, architects create a social fabric: the semblance of a cohesive, consistent and meaningful world. Architects create worlds that hold a mirror up to life.
Reason50: Architects rise to a good challenge. So what? We challenge ourselves – and each other, our organizations, the profession and industry – to keep moving the ball forward. Improve improve improve.
Reason51: Architects draw crowds. So what? Imagine the world without Frank Lloyd Wright, Antonio Gaudi, Frank Gehry, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto, Louis I. Kahn, Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano and Herzog and de Meuron. Doesn’t matter to “mostpeople?” Think again. Then why are these (in order) the 10 most visited architects in the world..by non-architects!
Reason52: Architects are driven from within. So what? No carrot? No stick? No problem. Architects are self-starting, self-motivating and self-activating. That’s why architects like to think of what we do as an inside game.
Reason53: Architects are linchpins. So what? And being so, are an indispensible part of the design and construction process. We are at the crux of real estate, development, concrete and plumbing. On projects where there may be well over 100 independent entities – from interior design to energy analysis – all pass through the architect. Architects are the common link between project constituents.
Reason54: Architects see the big picture. So what? So many it seems have a difficult time seeing the forest from the trees. Not architects. As I explained here, Malcolm Gladwell in Blink called this ability to see information in its wider context: coup d’oeil or court sense or “giss,” the power of the glance, the ability to immediately make sense of situations. So so what? Architects may not be born with this all-too-rare and exceedingly important ability, but by the end of their formal training they’ve got it. In droves.
Reason55: Architects are meaning-makers. So what? While many make it their job to provide meaningful work for their employees, or to help people find meaning in their own lives, no one but the architect is dedicated to making the world – the built environment – meaningful and coherent.
Reason56: Architects make the world a better place for all. So what? Making the built environment useful, safe, comfortable, efficient, and as beautiful as possible is the architect’s quest. No one else makes this their ultimate goal. The world is a better place for our having been there.
Reason57: Architects are rare. So what? At a time when it seems like there are too many architects for the work available – an imbalance of supply and demand – architects make up just a tiny percentage of professionals, let alone the workforce. Architects are a rare but powerful breed.
Reason58: Architects represent and serve all clients – paying and non-paying. So what? Architects matter because they are the only entity who serves not only the paying but non-paying client (society-at-large.) So so what? Who else is going to represent the needs and wants of the neighbors, community, stakeholders – while balancing the client’s wishes? Architects respect the needs and aspirations of both the individual and the community.
Reason59: Architects are a luxury. So what? Admit it. Human beings the world over have built homes with nothing more than their own two hands. Up until recently, the world existed for millennia without architects and can very well do so again. But why do so? Architects – for all we do – are a luxury that most cannot live without.
Reason60: Architects understand the patterns of everyday life. So what? Architects get urban design. Architects know that the design of cities and buildings affects the quality of our lives – whether this is acknowledged or appreciated is another matter. The bottom line is this: When it comes to creating urban form, places where people live, work and play, architects matter.
Reason61: Architects are influencers. So what? Not everybody has their own ideas for how to live, work, shop and play. Some architects, such as Christopher Alexander, not only influence their own tribe but worlds beyond their own (i.e. urban planning to software engineers. The adoption of Alexander’s pattern language by the software community is one such instance.)
Reason62: Architects keep things whole. So what? Since Deconstructivism died, architects – irrespective of style – one way or another have focused on whole building and holistic design. Our hemisphere needs architects to keep things whole, to distinguish east and west while acknowledging the best of both, much as the olympics have. So so what? To keep globalization from creating an indistinguishable world. To provide order but also character and pride of place.
Reason63: Architects look to the beyond. So what? Beyond the immediate problem. Beyond the immediate issue at hand. Beyond their immediate surroundings – to look at the impacts of what they’re creating on the world beyond. The universe needs architects…to explore how to inhabit other places beyond our planet.
Reason64: Architects touch sp many walks of life. So what? The world needs architects – the earth, our continent and country needs architects to address national issues. Our region needs architects – to represent what distinguishes one locale from another, to make sure that our work belongs to specific place and time, so that we might place ourselves in it. Our state needs architects, our cities needs architects, and especially our suburbs.
Reason65: Architects save lives. So what? And not just hospital design architects. “Architecture can save lives”— Newsweek. Just look at what we are accomplishing in Haiti. Producing housing structures for displaced and disadvantaged populations, rethinking humanitarian assistance and pursuing innovative solutions to contemporary housing crises. Focusing on disaster relief and inexpensive and affordable design solutions.
Reason67: Architects are as diverse a group as those they design for. So what? Some will try to tell you that architects have a diversity problem. Forget the stereotype – it doesn’t exist. Architects themselves are a diverse bunch making them particularly effective at designing for diversity. We champion the values of diversity in a beautiful way — values essential to creating livable cities and housing.
Reason68: Architects give good design. Daily. So what? Architects, some may feel, are a luxury. So be it. But architects, as purveyors and perpetuators of good design, are truly needed. Good design is not a luxury, but a necessity.
Reason69: Architects have respect for the past, perform in the present and aspire to have their work help create the future. So what? Architects work attempts to represent the time in which they build – which for us, today, represents turmoil. As Frank Stella said: Architecture can’t fully represent the chaos and turmoil that are part of the human personality, but you need to put some of that turmoil into the architecture, or it isn’t real. For many architects it is not enough that their work represents a specific time and place – they strive to have it belong to both their time and all time. So so what? It matters because our work will not look dated and have a sense of permanence and inevitability, not leave the user with a sense o f otherwiseness. As another Frank has said (Gehry): Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.
Reason70: Architects are gifted. So what? Not a wrapped keepsake voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation but a notable capacity, talent, or endowment. Whether born with talent or acquired along the way, architects are made, not born. So so what? We owe their many gifts to their professors, educators and trainers along the way. Everything they need to know they learned in school.
Reason71: Architect’s work is a gift. So what? No matter how much they are paid – or whether they are paid at all – what architects leave behind outlasts them. More time is always put into a project’s design and making than our fee could cover.
Reason72: Architects give it away. So what? Architects worldwide regularly provide pro-bono services to communities that have survived war, government oppression and natural disasters. It’s also an antidote to apathy.
Reason73: Architects create nations and destinations. So what? Architects gave the world the Roman Colosseum, Sagrada Familia, Fallingwater, Pantheon and Guggenheim Museum to name but five. Creating timeless destinations serve as evidence of some of man’s highest achievements and something for every artist and architect to strive for.
Reason74: Architects get sustainability. So what? We not only get it – we act on it. We knew long before the recent revelation that location of a green project mattered as much – if not more – as the project siting, orientation and inclusion of systems and products.
Reason75: Architects make connections II. So what? Another sort of connections – we’re literally connectors – but also associative thinkers. The world needs more of us – to feel less isolated. Our product – buildings – may be one-offs, but not the way we design or plan them. We’re always linking and making connections between things. We can’t help it – it’s the way our minds work.
Reason76: Architects make cities real. So what? Architects have given the world the best architecture cities in the world. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and they had vanished. Barcelona, Spain, Beijing, China, Istanbul, Turkey, Chicago, USA, Athens, Greece – Parthenon vanished. Millennium Park and FLW home and studio. No more. Sydney without the Sydney Opera House? The work disappears – but so does its host. So so what? Architects create works that are inseparable from their environments –and the way we think about them.
Reason77: Architects listen. And listen. So what? People are helped when architecture is democratic. Take the underprivileged. Three past and present California architects come to mind: Michael Pyatok, David Baker, Charles Moore – all as well-regarded for their exuberance as for their participatory design approaches.
Reason78: Architects need to know it all. So what? Architects work with what they know, creating a harmonious balance our of disparate parts. As Vitruvius wrote over 2000 years ago: An architect should be a good writer, a skillful draftsman, versed in geometry and optics, expert at figures, acquainted with history, informed on the principles of natural and moral philosophy, somewhat of a musician, not ignorant of the law and of physics, nor of the motions, laws, and relations to each other, of the heavenly bodies. So so what? A career in architecture, as one parent of an architect put is, is a never-ending learning experience with a myriad of “career spokes” springing from the hub of the core disciplines. The architect takes it upon herself to continually learn and grow, remaining throughout their career a student not just of architecture but of life.
Reason79: Architects are lifelong learners. So what? And not just because they’re required to gather tally, and document their continuing education credits. We’re curious types – in the best sense of the word. We want to know it all – everything – and are thirsty for knowledge. Which is a good thing – because we need to know it all.
Reason80: Architects are all alike. So what? There has been some grumbling that there are now too many architects – software, enterprise, business – and not enough design architects. Or that design architects aren’t getting their fair share of the airwaves. So be it. So so what? The bottom line is this: all architects is alike. We share similar values, obsessions, fixations and interests. We can learn a great deal from each other. So stop complaining – and join the tribe.
Reason81: Architects are action-oriented. So what? Remember Mies’s “Build – don’t talk.” That’s not just a Chicago credo. Architects design to build – with building in mind. So so what? We use words, images and action to get our ideas across and accepted. But in the end, most want to get their designs out in the world, for others to use, live in and among and yes, even critique and judge.
Reason82: Architects are master puzzle makers. So what? Architects are needed because they can put it all together. We fix what is broken and repair what’s been devastated. When given a 500 page program containing 1000’s of input and data – it doesn’t even occur to us that the end result will be anything less and a complete, cohesive and coherent work of whole building design. Bring it on!
Reason83: Architects are pleasers. So what? Architects are comfortable with ambiguity. We keep everyone’s needs, wants, aspirations and wishes – their ideas and ideals – in mind throughout the design process. With many balloons in the air you’d think it would be hard to make everybody happy.
Reason84: Architects are in it for the long haul. So what? Architects matter because they know what they produce will be around for a while – and therefore carry the additional weight of responsibility for their choices and actions. So so what? For, as Lord Byron said: A man of eighty has outlived probably three new schools of painting, two of architecture and poetry and a hundred in dress. Architecture changes a lot less frequently than trends. This means that architects cannot be at the whims of fashion – what we do, what our designs look like, have to make sense and last for many generations.
Reason85: Architects are never satisfied with good enough. So what? Why settle? Life is too short. If you can give everybody what they need and want – and at the same time, through trickery or talent, perseverance or insight – find a way to deliver more, why not try to do so? No architect strives to do good enough design – but rather, good design that is enough.
Reason86: Architects use what they got. So what? Architects try to make the most with what they have and are given – even if it is not expected or asked for. Had they not – the built world would be confined to making shelters. Like Helmut Jahn, we strive for an architecture from which nothing can be taken away.
Reason87: Architects, ever patient, persevere. So what? Architecture takes a long time to plan, finance and build. It requires not only the long view but the vision for the long haul. So so what? The architect has the perspective to provide this. Who else on the design or construction team can same the same?
Reason88: Architects work in flows. So what? Architects not only improve the build world and environment but also design in order to improve processes. Architects understand it’s not about the building – it’s about the business and the people and what they do when there. Upstream, downstream and throughout the project – architects follow the flow of movement and energy to and from their projects.
Reason89: Architects put is all into perspective. So what? Architects know the price of their art – the hard work that goes into it, the sacrifices they make, often impacting their family life and sleep. They’re willing to put in the extra effort, to go the extra distance, to pace ourselves over a long career. We truly are the change we want to see.
Reason 90: Architects pay the price. So what? Architects work hard, very hard, at achieving their goals. FLW said: I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.
Reason91: Architects are of two minds. So what? Architects are able to think in both business and design terms, to use their design sense to further the business ambitions of their clients. Call it design thinking. Architects are leaders when it comes to design thinking – the ability to apply design sense to help others with their business needs.
Reason92: Architects envision what is not there. So what? But it doesn’t stop with sight or foresight. Architects are trained to be creative thinkers. We see things others don’t or can’t and are able to describe and explain them in ways that help others to understand and act.
Reason93: Architects make others look better. So what? Architects matter because they are there to help their clients succeed. Architects and our professional services firms don’t succeed unless the client does. Architects love to help others achieve their goals and reach their dreams and find imaginative ways to help them get there.
Reason94: Architects learn by doing. So what? Architecture is too broad and deep of a subject to ever really know it all. Continuous learning – there’s always something more to learn – keeps us perpetually on our toes.
Reason95: Architects thrive on less. So what? Our’s really a case where less is truly more. Architects recognize that in tough times such as the current one we’re facing better architecture can be the result. That tough times may in fact lead to better architecture. So so what? This is important because the opposite could occur – where fewer resources result in lesser buildings, less pride of place, and all of us being the lesser for it.
Reason96: Architects are here to serve. So what? Despite the reputation of some, architects exist to serve others. Except for the occasional architect-designed museum, it is what happens inside their buildings and spaces that matters – not the building itself. Architecture is basically a container of something. I hope they will enjoy not so much the teacup, but the tea. Yoshio Taniguchi.
Reason97: Architects operate both in the world – and outside it. So what? Architects practice an art that is in the world and also of the world. But at the same time – stands apart – is its own animal. As Thom Mayne has said: Architecture is involved with the world, but at the same time it has a certain autonomy. This autonomy cannot be explained in terms of traditional logic because the most interesting parts of the work are non-verbal. They operate within the terms of the work, like any art.
Reason98: Architects are markitects. So what? Architects help people and organizations make their mark on the planet – and do so with the widest appeal and the smallest carbon footprint. For better or worse, the first subject Prince Charles really went for as Prince was architecture. It made an impact. He was very intent to use his years as Prince of Wales to make his mark and architects helped him to do so. So so what? Wouldn’t you rather have an architect help make built statements than any other entity? They will at least be responsible, keeping all of the factors in mind. So make your mark!
Reason99: Architects play well with others. So what? Architects may come across as Howard Roark types – lone wolves in sheep’s clothing. But we are all born collaborators. Architects are trained and educated to work productively in teams, and despite the current interest in autonomy know that they get the best results when involving all stakeholders and working well with others. So so what? This matters because we live in a time of crowdsourcing, of co-creation, of participatory design. Architects are there to work with others to come up with the best solutions for all involved.
Reason100: Architects connect the past with the present and future. So what? Architecture serves to connect us in time – with works from the past, with past civilizations. Helping to locate and place us in time, to provide us with a sense of continuity, help us get our bearings and makes us truly inhabitants of this planet, not just hangers-on.
Reason101: Architects work with a palette of possibility. Architects are concerned not with the necessary but with the contingent – not with how things are but with how they might be. So what?
Reason102: The work architects perform touches so many parts of life – and of learning. It has so many facets, it can keep a person interested for a lifetime. As Richard Rogers said: I believe very strongly, and have fought since many years ago – at least over 30 years ago – to get architecture not just within schools, but architecture talked about under history, geography, science, technology, art. So what? Attorneys leave law due to burn-out as well as a lack of meaning in their work. Architects may leave the field for financial reasons, but few if any have done so for lack of what was found there.
Reason103: Architects strive to heal the world. So what? Architects still believe that their works and deeds can help to heal the places where they are privileged to work. Despite what Thom Mayne has said: I’m often called an old-fashioned modernist. But the modernists had the absurd idea that architecture could heal the world. That’s impossible. And today nobody expects architects to have these grand visions any more. Nobody expects this – except us architects, ourselves.
Reason104: Architects hake the hard decisions. So what? When a sales rep calls and asks for a decision-maker they hand the phone to an architect. Why? Architects matter because we have to make the hard decisions – thousands of them in every project. As Arne Jacobsen said: If architecture had nothing to do with art, it would be astonishingly easy to build houses, but the architect’s task – his most difficult task – is always that of selecting. Architects are first and last decision-makers. We make the decisions that count.
Reason105: Architects design for the heart as well as the head. So what? Architects create projects and places that affect us emotionally as well as intellectually. We address the whole person.
Reason106: Architects are passionate about design. So what? Architects do what they do because they are passionate about architecture and design. Despite the rigors of school and the relative lack of money to be obtained in the field, architects that have been in the field already for some time do what they do because they love to do it: plain and simple. So so what? This assures that we will go the extra mile, which is often necessary, to achieve a successful outcome.
Reason107: Architects matter because they sign and seal documents. So what? Exactly!
Don’t see a reason? Make it an even 108. Please let me know. Chiming-in by leaving a comment. Thanks!
Please Consider the Environment before Printing October 3, 2009Posted by randydeutsch in change, environment, questions, sustainability, transformation.
Tags: Chicago, Design Futures Council, design professionals, Leadership Summit, sustainability
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I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)
Just back from the Design Futures Council’s 8th Annual Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design held Sept 30 –Oct 2 at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago where I served as a delegate, observer, and participant.
Why did I attend this conference and not the BIM Forum in Phili, or the AIA’s Changing Times|Time for Change conference just down the block? I suppose that I went for a number of reasons: the promise of stimulating and challenging discussions between thoughtful professionals, out of curiosity and plain flattered for having been invited.
But most of all I attended the Summit because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of sustainable design, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach me, and not, when I came to return to work on Monday, discover that I had not learned.
I came to kick-start and reboot something in me that had – despite my LEED –AP cred, become dormant. For me, the Summit was a reboot camp for the soul.
So, at conference’s end, two weeks into a 21 day detox – having voluntarily (some would say foolishly) given up caffeine, sugar, alcohol and gluten in addition to meat and dairy that I abandoned long ago in becoming a vegan – I make the following observations. I don’t pretend that they’re definitive or objective – this is a blog after all. Nor are they entirely representative of what went on at the Summit. Think of these as things to think about if we are to remain relevant for a while:
- Our charge as designers, to do more with less. As poets have for millennia
- What was particularly moving about Adrian Smith’s presentation is that he didn’t talk about himself or even his work. (A first for an architect?) In presenting AS+GG’s self-funded, in-progress Chicago Central Area De-Carbonization Plan, one soon comes to the realization that even if the entire city went carbon-neutral overnight it wouldn’t be enough to meet the 2030 challenge let alone offset the onslaught of global warming. We must look elsewhere to meet this challenge.
- Self-guided tour of the new Renzo Piano designed Modern Wing is just a fancy way of saying walk around the museum for an hour
- Art/design and sustainability are mutually supportive, mutually beneficial
- We were wisely encouraged by Greenway founder and author Jim Cramer to look at the presentation subjects and data with a “constructive paranoia,” not with myopia or blind optimism
- Our goal: to minimize the impact of climate change on the city
- A realist defines sustainable development as that which meets all the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. An optimist defines sustainable development as that which meets all the needs of the present while improving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
- A pessimist asks: What future generations?
- Raising animals in order to eat them leads to land degradation, climate change, air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and the consumption of 760 million tons of grain – to animals – that could otherwise help feed the starving.
- And so: The wisdom of serving steak at a sustainability conference?
- Not convinced? The amount of feed it takes to feed an animal to create one 8-oz steak could fill 50 bowls with cooked grain.
- Veganism is the new Prius
- Autonomy is the enemy of collaboration
- Unless its an autonomous team
- We all know the benefits by now. Let’s move onto co-benefits.
- Someone ought to revise Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid to reflect the fact that people don’t care about climate and the environment until their basic needs are met
- We ought to first focus on meeting people’s basic needs (and fast)
- Dfn. Sustainability: not cheating on the grandkids – David Adamson
- There are metrics available that can put hard numbers on soft effects
- “We’re just about Burnhamed-out.” – Wellington “Duke” Reiter
- People are not excited by charts. People aren’t motivated by statistics. They’re motivated by statistics they can feel. Challenge: How to make the message compelling?
- We need to talk about what we know in a way that people can understand
- Problems growing faster than the solutions
- U.S.’s #1 export: suburbia
- We don’t have to be experts in each of these subjects. The beauty of design is to be the catalyst
- Developers are motivated by money, fear and guilt. The rest of us by money, fear and consciousness
- Guilt is Jewish/Catholic consciousness
- The essence of religion is faith. The essence of science is doubt. – Richard Feynman
- Our #3 problem: How to reach out beyond the design community? How to get the message about global warming and sustainability out to people who will be impacted by it?
- Our #2 problem: Nobody wants to hear it from an architect. Architects cannot come across that they have the answers.
- Our #1 problem: Architects are implying that they have the answers.
- Recognize what it is we do have
- Architects ought to borrow a page from doctors and – in building on this planet – strive first and foremost to do no harm
- Learning is remembering what you are interested in. – Richard Saul Wurman
- You have to have a purpose bigger than your product
- So we resorted to focus-group brainstorming sessions arriving at advertising-like taglines in time for lunch
- Please Consider the Environment before Printing
- What the design community needs to do. What people need to do.
- You get the sense that we’re waiting for someone to step up. A hero, someone to champion the cause. To provide hope. To provide direction.
- FedEx days: when you have to deliver something – at work – overnight. – Dan Pink
- “The Sentence comes from a story Clare Boothe Luce told about a conversation she had in 1962 in the White House with her old friend John F. Kennedy. She told him, she said, that “a great man is one sentence.” His leadership can be so well summed up in a single sentence that you don’t have to hear his name to know who’s being talked about. “He preserved the union and freed the slaves,” or, “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped to win a World War.” You didn’t have to be told “Lincoln” or “FDR.” – Peggy Noonan
- What is your sentence?
- “Make sure what you do doesn’t turn around to bite you in the ass.”
The real value for having attended something as rich and diverse as a Summit cannot be summarized in a sentence (not even The Sentence.) What resonates after the last session is over are the relationships and friendships that were made, the meeting of minds and hearts, and the knowledge that there is a community of likeminded individuals that is greater than the sum of its however impressive parts. And for that reason alone the Summit ought to live on as long as the planet is able to support it. I came away from this event recharged, and yes, remembering what I am interested in.