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A Better Way for Architects? August 28, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in architecture industry, change, collaboration, marginalization.
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We have to live in the world we create. – Peter Janko

Note from blogger: I just received this email from Peter Janko, Lumenelle President and Product Design Engineer for Lighting Restoration, Design and Manufacturing. While the email was addressed to me, it ought to be read by all architects. I have always benefited from Pete’s advice, thoughts and suggestions. His insights into the world of architecture and construction – and his creative mind and clever way with words – make Pete a model collaborator and teammate. These may be tough words but he always has architects’ best interests in mind. Thank you Pete!

Randy,

I have followed all of your posts and blogs for quite some time and think that you have some great messages for your fellow architects. But there is one aspect of architecture that I feel is very important but I see slipping away. That is architects should make it a priority to get closer and more personally involved in their projects.

Yesterday we finished our lighting restoration project at the Rialto. Unlike most projects, where after you finish, you just sort of “ride into the sunset” off to the next project, the completion of this project was bittersweet. It took us an hour to say our goodbyes as Rialto staffers stopped by one by one while were packing up our equipment to leave. Even though it is a 1 1/2 hour drive (in good traffic) they made us promise to visit often and stay in touch. Two days before we finished, the Rialto held an open house to see the work on “The Duchess” close up. By the time they opened the doors, it was estimated that over 100 people were standing outside waiting and turnout was 2-3 times what they expected. I made a 30 minute presentation on the restoration. The question and answer session afterward went for over an hour. People came up to us after my talk and shared their personal connections to the Rialto with us. We all felt like family. This is what makes being in preservation/restoration so worthwhile.

Although all of us like to see stories about us in the media, I am disappointed at how this story was told. There are a few bullet points on the history but I think the articles totally miss the real significance of the whole purpose of the work at the Rialto. The whole human interest/history aspect is absent. I think this is one of the major reasons why saving out historical treasures is such an uphill battle. To the media, I would like to say, “It’s the people behind the building, then and now, – otherwise, it only a pile of bricks and metal.”

The backstory is pretty profound. The Rialto Square Theater – “The Jewel of Joliet” http://www.rialtosquare.com/ was saved from being torn down in order to build a parking garage…

A feisty, spirited group of citizens took the challenge and began the wildly successful “Save the Rialto Campaign.” Dorothy Mavrich, president of The Rialto Square Arts Association, got the campaign rolling, and all stops were pulled out to offer an alternative plan to the awful thought of selling the land to developers,.. ” See http://www.hauntedhouses.com/states/il/rialto_theatre.cfm

By isolating themselves from the day-to-day life of their projects, architects deny themselves so much in the way of personal fulfillment and trap themselves in the mundane.

I hear complaints that they can’t make it out to the project because they are trapped at the office having to get caught up on paperwork. I have heard architects complain that when they chose to enter the field of architecture, they did so to be creative – not to deal with mountains of paperwork. I can tell you from personal experience that a two hour visit to the project site to solve an issue in real time can eliminate two days worth of delay and hours of paperwork on the project. Forms and documents are prominent on the AIA website.  So what is AIA really about? Iron clad forms? In contrast, our contract with the Will County Exposition Authority (for the Rialto) was simply their signature on the bottom of our 8 page proposal (one page for each chandelier type defining the work to be done on each one). We worked out a calendar schedule (1 page) with Rialto management so that our work did not impact there event schedule. That became our only addendum. Nine sheets of paper plus our insurance certificates and we were off on our two month project – get this – with a government agency.

We have to live in the world we create. So tell those architects out there that there really is a better way.

Regards,
Pete

Peter Janko, Lumenelle President and Product Design Engineer for Lighting Restoration, Design and Manufacturing, restores and recreates historic lighting fixtures, designs and manufactures custom lighting products in styles ranging from vintage to contemporary. Lumenelle has created custom light fixtures for clients from casinos to hotels to museums (Glessner House Museum – Chicago.) In addition to their work at the Rialto Square Theater, Lumenelle was involved in the largest hotel renovation in North American history with their restoration of 23 crystal chandeliers for the Grand and State Ballrooms of Chicago’s landmark Palmer House Hilton. http://www.lumenelle.com/ 

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Comments»

1. Hollie Holcombe - August 29, 2010

Thanks for sharing Pete’s letter. He’s right. Some other architect friends have said the same thing.

Looks like a great project too.

2. Tweets that mention A Better Way for Architects? « Architects 2Zebras -- Topsy.com - August 29, 2010

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Randy Deutsch, kajaxbuild. kajaxbuild said: RT @randydeutsch: A Better Way for Architects? http://bit.ly/d2Ao0a #architects #aec #construction #architecture #renovation #restoration […]

3. Ted Pratt AIA LEED AP - September 9, 2010

Pete’s email is a great reminder of the importance of personal involvement with our projects but I don’t think I know single architect who isn’t. It certainly isn’t the case at MTP Architects. Our value proposition is based on principal involvement.

We always pick up the phone or answer email when clients call on us.

The same holds true for project visioning, programming, design, delivery, construction observation and administration, we just don’t take shortcuts, ever.

Taking shortcuts provides a disservice to clients and this makes for unhappy clients. Isn’t the goal to have happy clients?

That’s the way we look at it.


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