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will today be the day you use your color pencils? February 17, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types.


Who is the architect when not working? Who is the architect when not being an architect? Who is that architect? Who is the architect that is underutilized, underappreciated, underemployed? Who are you when you are forced to work at a level below you because those who once aspired to be wearing your shoes are no longer there and you find yourself in their shoes aspiring to be who you once were? Who are you when you aren’t doing what you were put on this planet to do? When you are not working in a state of Flow? Or a state of Frenzy? When you are not using your talents, your core competencies, when you are not utilizing your competitive advantage? When you are not being who you are? When you are not able to be you?

The act of creation, coming up with the idea, instant prototyping, modeling – making, breaking, fixing, making, breaking, fixing – let’s face it, is such a small part of what the architect does – at least in terms of time. Three minutes – bang – done. Five tops. You got yourself a…a what? Idea? Parti? Some vague notion of what to do next. Basic instructions that will in more favorable times perhaps keep a small army of a hundred gainfully employed for years. Five minutes is generous.

There’s the story of the squeaky floor board that won’t stop squeaking and the pro who’s called in and with a single stroke silences the board. “What’ll that cost me?” “Ten cents for the nail. And 80 bucks form my knowing where to put it.”

Those five minutes is the nail. Or at least hitting it on its head.

The secret to remaining an architect throughout one’s career is finding ways to be resourceful, of ultimate usefulness, from the time of inspiration and inception forward, throughout the entire process. Throughout one’s career.

Many designers – not just architects – are only interested in the conquest of design and once the idea is consummated they lose interest. Some design architects come up with the building design themselves, while for others the design occurs, happens, from out of the ether of a collaborative encounter. An hour max.

The architect may then spend the rest of the project – upwards of 3, 4, 5 or more years – tweaking the design. Modifying it, nurturing it along, nuzzling it, messing with it.

Think about it: Are you an architect when you are not designing?

Who are you when you are sitting in a meeting, and some part of the process is being discussed in great detail that seemingly doesn’t concern you.

Are you at that moment an architect?

Are you an architect when you go to the movies? Passing popcorn between your companions in the dark. Is this something an architect does?

Are you an architect if you do not wear fancy pajamas?

If not, what are you then?

I own 96 Prismacolor markers – the scent of which I am sure leaks out from under the never tight enough caps into unsuspecting lungs – a certain undiagnosed silent killer of architects in their prime.  I own 148 Prismacolor pencils, like fine tea bags nestled in their black felt lined wooden case. They have, as far as I know, killed no one. But perhaps every day that they sit there, unused, they kill the small silent voice inside that says “I am an architect.” I tell myself everyday that today will be the day I use my color pencils. And every day I end the day, their silent rebuke asphyxiates as it ridicules. Will this be the day that you finally take your color pencils out for a spin?





1. Federico Vidargas - February 17, 2009

randy, i am surely taking this entirely out of its intended context, but when you say: “architecture is ideally independent of the real world” , do you mean: in order to understand one needs to remove oneself, to become marginal? i am intrigued by this …it doesn’t match the idea that one needs to participate more fully; to become more influential, to “USE YOUR COLOR PENCILS”.. that’s why i think:

architects sleep in a warp. the warp itself defines the creative root. getting up in the morning to discuss ideas requires traversing another plane. navigating both is unique

i like your blog. keep writing


2. phyllis - February 17, 2009

Are you an architect when you go to the movies? Passing popcorn between your companions in the dark. Is this something an architect does?

Great question – I think that we all face questions like this in our professions. Where do we draw the boundaries between who we are and what we do? And do we need to draw those lines? I know this is something that I struggle with a lot….

Great post!

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