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RE: the economy March 29, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types.
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What better excuse than The Great Sluggishness for these ten REasons to

1.      REset your expectations of yourself as though you were resetting an iPod or clock twice a year. Allow yourself to start over with a clean slate and give yourself 100% to something you truly believe in.

2.      REinvent yourself. Use this moment in time to be the person, the professional, you always envisioned for yourself and allowed circumstances steer you away from.

3.      REcharge your batteries. Learn a new skill, complete a long-shelved task, go after something you’ve put on the back burner. Get excited about something. Store-up your REserves for when things return to a more harried pace.

4.      REevaluate your goals. What you formerly thought was so important may no longer appear that way to you. Substitute what you truly believe in and want for yourself – or for your team – from here on out.

5.      REalign your allegiances.  Ask yourself what it is you truly believe. What is more important to you: Making every project a green project and being known as a sustainability go-to person or being a whiz-kid when it comes to the latest 3D software? Train yourself on a course of action and stick with it for the long haul.  

6.      RElegate once and for all habits that have been holding you back in the workplace. You know what they are: just REference your most REcent performance REview. Arriving later to work or to meetings, talking too much or not adding your two cents when appropriate and really needed? Zero-in on that which holds you back and REmove it forever from your traits.

7.      REclaim what is rightfully yours, what you might have given away during earlier times of duress. Bolster yourself with all that you’ve earned and make it yours once again.

8.      REciprocate. Think about those who have extended themselves to you in the past and extend yourself – make yourself completely available – to them. What goes around comes around – this is your time to make the rounds.

9.      RElinquish that which you do not have control over and let it go. For good this time. REfocus your energies on what you can control and make something of it. Something BIG!

10.  RElish this time, for it will all too soon pass. You heard that right. And though you might look forward to some future time like you have never before, there is no time like the present – so be present here and now. Make the most of this down time to recreate yourself for the 21st c. 2.0



dancing about architecture March 15, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in attribution, change, collaboration, credit, integrative thinking, IPD, the economy.
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Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.
Laurie Anderson

Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.                                                                      Steve Martin

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture, it’s a really stupid thing to want to do.                                                                                                                                                                   Elvis Costello

This memorable quote has been attributed at different times to none other than Frank Zappa, Steve Martin, Laurie Anderson, William S. Burroughs, Elvis Costello, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Nick Lowe, Martin Mull, Miles Davis, George Carlin and John Cage. The earliest verifiable source seen for this quote is in an interview by Timothy White entitled “A Man out of Time Beats the Clock” Musician magazine No. 60 (October 1983), p. 52 attributed to Elvis Costello. Does this matter? Especially when you consider the fact that Costello has no recollection having uttered these words?

We experience buildings everyday without giving a second’s thought to whom the design might be attributed. Despite this, architects demand to be recognized in both subtle and more overt ways. Evidence of this is the prizes they bestow upon themselves as a profession. With a new way for the design and construction team to work collaboratively together on the horizon, could we be upon the Age of the New Anonymity?

As defined by the AIA, Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to reduce waste and optimize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication and construction. These teams include members well beyond the basic triad of owner, designer and contractor and very frequently involve everybody at the table day one, ideally including attorneys and insurers. At a minimum, though, an integrated project includes tight collaboration between the owner, architect/engineers, and builders ultimately responsible for construction of the project, from early design through project handover.

In the near future, when work picks-up again, role clarity and ego-suspension are going to be critical for team-making. Choosing the right people to begin with is where it all starts. It’s about chemistry and respect, and it helps when team members grow to like to work together. But the issue of credit goes beyond these niceties, touching the very core of the architect’s vision of himself as the project’s design leader.

Architects everywhere are reeling from the steep cliff the economy has fallen from and they are about to go thru an equally exasperating credit crunch of their own. Here I’m not speaking of graduate school credits nor LEED credits but the credit architects feel they deserve for their artistic and creative contributions. I am not talking exclusively about ownership of the plans, one of the issues that is sometimes neglected in architectural agreements – where the owner is paying for a unique structure and does not want to see the design replicated elsewhere – though that too will come into play in coming years as IPD becomes owner’s delivery method of choice.

Nor am I referring exclusively to architectural drawings and completed architectural works being entitled to copyright protection under the Federal Copyright Act where the owner of the copyright has exclusive rights to reproduce the copyrighted work and to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work.  Generally, copyright protection extends to the “author” of the work, unless there is a written agreement to the contrary or the work is a “work for hire.” 

By credit, I am talking about Authorship – not in a legal sense so much as an ego sense: the need architects feel to be the “author” the work. Why is this a problem and why now? Because of the previously mentioned tight collaboration between the owner, architect/engineers, and builders ultimately responsible for construction of the project, will require trust from each player and a selfless regard for the project above all else – including that of the architect’s sometimes sensitive ego.

For many who have been practicing this way for some time this will be easy. Whereas for others it is going to come as a shock to their very core and a personal offense to their understanding of what an architect is and does. I have seen it already, in public venues where civil lecture halls turned into arenas, where architects became almost violent, as though their livelihoods were on the line. And, in a sense, they were. For, as Thom Mayne FAIA forewarned his fellow architects four years ago at the AIA Convention dedicated to IPD – “Change or Perish.” If architects use the downtime of the current economic situation wisely, to their advantage, by learning to collaborate better with trust and respect for all involved – including trusting and respecting themselves as design professionals and trusted advisors to all – once things turn around economically they will once again have reason to be dancing about architecture.


The Other Four Questions March 12, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in creativity, possibility, questions, the economy.
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Here’s something you won’t find on Google, in any textbook or school course.

With Passover soon upon us the Four Questions are on the mind (and no, “Why is this recession different from other recessions?” is not one of them.) When it comes to showing the world what’s possible in any situation, for my gelt I can think of no better thinking tool than the other four questions.

And what might those be? To start, the entire known – and undiscovered – universe in these eight simple words

What’s actual?

What’s necessary?

What’s desirable?

What’s possible?

(OK don’t quibble about conjunctions and how there’s really 12 words…) Let’s start with the first three questions.

What’s actual? What’s given? What’s existing? What’s the site and what’s the situation? What are we dealing with here? What was here before we came to the place, problem or prospect? What is? – IS

What’s necessary? What’s critical? What’s a deal breaker? What’s a must? What can’t be lived without? What’s needed here? – NEEDED 

What’s desirable? What’s on the wish list? What would be an advantageous outcome? What do we want here? – WANTED

Let’s pause for a moment. The secret is to this: you really want to exhaust all responses to these questions. For, to the extent that you do this, you create space in your subconscious for the unknown – for the world of possibility to appear and to fill the space with ideas and designs, suggestions and visions that may never otherwise have been conceived or considered.

As for the final question? This is the fun part. Having met needs and desires – who like Daedalus, the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world, flying ever closer to the sun – goes for the gold.

What’s possible? This is the province of the architect. Having thoroughly vetted the existing conditions, bare necessities and desires, the possibilities will come to you. What – CAN BE

Once within budget, having met the level of expected quality, the schedule – program of functional needs, client and stakeholder wants – the architect is free to achieve whatever else she can. Free to make as much out of it as I am capable. This is the moment, what you went into architecture for. You want to stay in this forth question as long as you can.

As a handy formula it might look something like this

Q4 > Q1+Q2+Q3

Where Question 4 – What’s Possible? – must answer all that came before, finding itself at the intersection of what is real/actual/existing + needs + wants plus, what? Perhaps it’s the ineffable, that je ne sais quoi, that something extra, that something more, that only you as an architect can bring to the seemingly intractable, impossible situation, not unlike the one we find ourselves in now. What do you have to lose? Why not give these other four questions a try?

For Having Made the Journey March 8, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in change, survival, the economy, transformation, transition.
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With Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser has written a book that is capable of changing ones outlook on life, and it is hard to think of a better guide and companion to have in these trying times.

I wouldn’t waste your time if this book wasn’t on my short list of most important books I’ve read. This is one of those rare books that will have you grappling with what to do with yourself once you have come to the last page. Subtitled “how difficult times can help us grow,” this is perhaps not the first book you might think of turning to when seeking answers to the questions life throws your way. But perhaps it ought to be?

Frequent words used to describe the book have been extremely well-written, clever, honest, entertaining, inspiring and transformative. Lesser, calling this last process of transformation “The Phoenix Process,” illustrates in clear and evocative prose how difficult times really can help us grow. Her image of the Phoenix rising from the ashes may resonate with some, for ashes are perhaps an apt metaphor for the times in which we live now – what has been done to our economy and environment – and will soon with some luck be building upon and growing out from.

This book of stories from Lesser’s life – and those of her well-known colleagues – told in short chapters has been on bookstore shelves since 2004 but it is only now that the bulk of people are discovering it, perhaps because they are seeing through different eyes than in the mid-decade halcyon days. These stories illustrate how times of pain and strife can awaken us to new ways of living more meaningful lives, offering a humanistic understanding of what it means to seek, grow, evolve and endure until we can ourselves each transform.

One of the themes of this book is the nature of life as change and constant transition. Other helpful books that explore this theme of thriving in times of change, that we will explore in a future post, include Your Job Survival Guide: A Manual for Thriving in Change, Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within and Learning as a Way of Being, evocatively subtitled Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water. Lesser’s book is in some ways perhaps less practical – but it is more immediate and really ought to be read first.

As in now. Lesser’s mission is to help the reader see how fear and pain are normal reactions to crisis. Lesser acknowledges the unbearable and out-of-control nature of the crisis and loss experience and helps the reader grow in confidence that she will come through it all, lucid and stronger for having made the journey.

Architects everywhere, whether employed, under or un, sense that they will need to grow from this experience professionally and personally if they are to come out of it stronger. Whether every-man-for-himself in the office or lone-man-out at home, these times can no doubt be lonely ones. Lesser’s book provides the reader good company and just may give you the courage to keep on facing reality, being present with your feelings, and have your mind quieting down as if your life depended on it. Most importantly, it will allow you to understand that you are not the only one going through some drastic changes in life at this time in a way that, even if you rationally know that to be the case, you can understand emotionally, on a deeper level.

Written by someone who was willing to learn from her experiences, it is hoped that Broken Open will inspire you to write down and learn from your own – not so you won’t repeat them – but so you can perhaps give meaning to your personal and professional experiences, for yourself and for others. And, as it will have you feeling less inhibited about sharing those experiences, perhaps after putting the book down you will find yourself helping others through their own tough times through coaching and mentoring, serving as a resource or by simply shoring up support.

Becoming Choice Architects March 1, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types.
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We are stymied by regulations, limited choice and the threat of litigation. Neither consultants nor industry itself provide research which takes architecture forward. Arthur Erickson

I believe that the way people live can be directed a little by architecture. Tadao Ando

A “nudge” is anything that influences our choices, a little coercion, a little push toward one outcome or another. The person who instigates the nudge is called a choice architect. A choice architect is anyone who influences decisions or choices.

Nudge, written by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, is based on the simple idea that behavior can be greatly influenced by small changes we make in context. The example that the book opens with shows how, by simply rearranging the location of food items in a cafeteria, the consumption of many items increases or decreases.

The paperback edition was just released at Amazon and can be had for about $10. Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University, Nobel Laureate in Economics says that reading Nudge “will improve your decisions and it will make the world a better place.” Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics, writes “I love this book. It is one of the few books I’ve read recently that fundamentally changes the way I think about the world.” My telling you this is a nudge.

What does this have to do with architecture? Actually a great deal. Besides having the potential to make the world a better place, architecture manipulates and coerces people to use or not use, react to or avoid buildings and places. There’s nothing new about that or how buildings nudge. The interesting idea here is how architects nudge clients, community and various other stakeholders to decide one way or another.

In this time of global economic turmoil when the race toward a new commission is exceedingly competitive and the opportunity to design buildings hard to come by, perhaps – until things free up a bit – we should consider not becoming better design architects or Revit architects but work on becoming better decision architects? Choice architects.

I say this because one of the movements anticipated to take center stage when credit and the market returns is Integrated Practice or IPD (Integrated Project Delivery.) One of the hallmarks of this new way of practicing is having everybody – client, contractor, architect, consultants, attorneys, everyone – at the table day one, working collaboratively toward a common outcome. In ideal circumstances suggestions are offered, ideas vetted and decisions made right from the start. But currently there are many clients that architects can think of who would be hard-pressed to make the quick decisions necessary to make IPD function optimally, working to the benefit of all.

Architects are starting to make great strides in performance-based and evidence-based architecture, where metrics and other measurable means help determine the client’s course of action. But these methods – inspired by health design and applied to other building types – still only represent a small slice of the decisions that need to be made at project’s commencement. This is where architects – and nudge – come in. What better time than now – when things are slow or looking to slow down – for architects to focus on the skills, attitudes and aptitudes required to help clients make informed, responsible decisions? Especially now, when construction costs are rising, owners fed-up with construction waste, demanding faster schedules, lower costs, and higher quality, while architects are pushing their green agendas?

The question we ought to be asking ourselves now, coming out of all of this, is this: How can we improve the upfront decisions our clients need to make so that we don’t sacrifice inspiration in preference for efficiency and expediency? How we answer this will determine how we rate and relate as choice architects.