The Gifts of a Son of an Architect March 13, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in books, career, change, creativity, fiction, identity, nonfiction, possibility, reading.
Tags: career, Catcher in the Rye, Frank Lloyd Wright
Before having kids I decided I was neither going to push them in the direction of architecture nor, if they showed interest at any time, discourage them from pursuing it as a career. I’d wait for them to show an interest in something and when they did help make it available to them to explore and study as they saw fit. Less of a catalyst than an enabler, the interest had to come from them.
When it comes to which career a child pursues: How much is nature and how much nurture?
I realized that this was a largely irrelevant question after attending my 10 year high school reunion, where I discovered that the vast majority of my graduating class had rejected their first (or sometimes second or third) career choice in favor of another. I wasn’t going to sweat what my kids became obsessed with when they were 9, 10 or even 15.
That said, if my son had chosen architecture as a career path, it would have meant, in part, that my frequent absences, long nights working and preoccupations with all-things-architecture wouldn’t have left a bad aftertaste for him. It would have been an affirmation of my career choice as though to say, “what intrigues you intrigues me. I want to give it a try.”
My observations about architects and their sons is not new.
There was of course the film MY ARCHITECT: A Son’s Journey written by Nathaniel Kahn, son of Louis Kahn.
Saif Gaddafi, considered by some to be the most powerful son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, is an architect.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s son and architect, John Lloyd Wright, invented Lincoln Logs in 1918, and practiced extensively in the San Diego.
My own son showed an early interest in art, but not architecture. A few years back, when I was working at Adrian Smith-Gordon Gill Architecture, I took Simeon to spend the day with me up in their studio. Surrounded by some of the most interesting and intriguing models of high-rises being designed and built anywhere in the world, he sat beside me the entire day not looking up once from his book – Catcher in the Rye. Either he had no real interest in architecture or, more likely, the book had him mesmerized.
When Simeon was 10 he painted a series of acrylic paintings that were impressive by any standards, not just his proud parent’s. But his interest turned out to be in the subject matter – African animals – and not the artistic media, and his involvement in painting waned as soon as he outgrew his interest in animalia.
Of late, he has taken-up photography and glass art – at both of which he excels.
He also blogs. He and a friend purport to review “EVERYTHING EVER MADE” at The Greatest Review.
I’ll watch a DVD with him and afterwards ask him what he thought, and like most teens he’ll say “it was fine.”
Later that night I’ll log onto his site and read a 1200 word incisive critique of the film that is sharp, entertaining and, in some cases, especially critical of his father’s taste in films.
He may not care for Shakespeare, but his reviews of Shakespeare plays and film adaptations have influenced other film reviewers, who tell him so in their comments.
Even his enlightening list of top Radiohead albums got me to rethink my favorites.
My relationship with my son reminds me most of architect Gunnar Birkerts’s relationship with his son, the literary critic, Sven Birkerts.
Gunnar, because of his long career in Michigan, not far from where I was born and raised; because of his metaphoric architecture; and because he was a visiting critic at University of Illinois in the early 1980’s when I was in school there.
His son, Sven, interestingly enough didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps but in every way is as accomplished in his chosen field, of literary criticism and as an essayist, best known for his book The Gutenberg Elegies as well as others.
It is as though Sven had to blaze his own trail so as not to be extinguished by the shadow cast by his domineering architect father.
Like sons, daughters of architects often have to find their niche as well.
A son’s birthday wish list
My son, Simeon, turned 16 today. A few weeks back he emailed a list of things he wanted for his birthday to his mother, and she forwarded the list to me. Of all his creations so far – the cleverly designed but painfully slow award winning Pinewood Derby cars, the paintings, glass art and blogs – I think his birthday wish list is his greatest creation to date and that of which I am most proud.
I think he would be mortified if he knew I was posting it (probably why he sent it to my wife and not to me) but as in so many cases, I would rather ask for forgiveness than permission. I intend no harm in sharing this with you.
No matter how he decides to spend his life, anyone who has created such a list before turning 16 is on track to live a rich, fulfilling inner life. Writing, art and social media gives him a chance to share that inner life with others.
I especially like item j) below. I hope you do so as well.
Sent: Saturday, February 26, 2011 5:44 PM
Subject: Birthday Presents
It seems like M. really wants to get me Halo: Reach and I’m not really sure why because I continuously tell her that it wasn’t on my original list and that if I wanted a video game it would be that one but otherwise I don’t necessarily have a particular need for it.
Here’s a list of some things that I’d like for my birthday that don’t have to be ordered from the internet and would simply require someone to drive her to Borders or something: but if she’s gotten Halo already then maybe this could be more suggestions for you guys or other people or something like that. Not saying you need to get all this stuff………… just some suggestions for individual things.
Anything by Hermann Hesse (except Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, or Damien)
Everything by John Steinbeck (except the one’s I already have which are lined up consecutively on my bookshelf)
Big books that we don’t own; like Moby Dick or Don Quixote or War and Peace or a copy of Anna Karenina with a less feminine cover
The Possessed or The Idiot by Dostoevsky
Anything by Jean-Paul Sartre
Anything by George Orwell (except the obvious two that I’ve read already)
Anything by Thomas Mann
The Rebel by Albert Camus
Amerika or The Castle by Franz Kafka
Anything by Jack Kerouac (except On The Road)
Anything by Kurt Vonnegut (except Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle)
Franny and Zooey by J D Salinger
Anything I’m forgetting by an author I like
The Trial- Orson Welles version
Othello- Orson Welles version
War and Peace- Russian version from the 1960s
Some posters would be nice; like the ones I listed in the previous e-mail. I’d like one for Apocalypse Now or Grand Illusion or The Third Man or There Will Be Blood or Chimes at Midnight (Falstaff) because I like those movies and the posters look cool.
I have enough music
Any guitar pedal that’s not a “Distortion” or a “Wah-Wah” pedal, because those are the two I have. Preferably a pedal that changes the guitar’s octave (“Whammy” pedal or “octave changer”) or just a pedal that has multiple effects to choose from on it. Ask a guitar guy and he’ll probably know what I’m talking about. Or any other pedal really, just not a Distortion or Wah Wah pedal. It’s been something I’ve wanted for a long time but I’ve never gotten around to it and this, above most other things on the list, would probably be the one thing that’ll be the most fun/engaging/distracting/fun for me to use.
Another guitar (relatively cheap “Stratocaster”?)
Don’t get me anything to GameStop or any major stores like Target or Sports Authority because you know I’m not going to spend it for a year or so probably.
a) Obscure/hard to find movies
b) Many Books
c) Guitar Pedals that aren’t “Distortion” or “Wah-Wah”
d) Movie Posters
f) Clothing that may appeal to me (example: has a picture of someone I revere on it/band I like/comedic phrase or pun or something)
g) All of the above
h) other things you can think of because this is all I can come up with.
i) Not video games/electronics/accessories or decorations of any kind unless listed above/anything I might not care for but could be useful to someone else like say for example a light-up Ipod speaker
P.S. Most of the stuff I’d like for my birthday. Some other stuff too. I’ll e-mail that later.
Amazon.com: The Trial: Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Elsa Martinelli, Suzanne Flon, Akim Tamiroff, Madeleine Robinson, Arnoldo Foà, Fernand Ledoux, Michael Lonsdale, Max Buchsbaum, Max Haufler: Movies & TV
And if we don’t end up finding this:
Do Architects Have the (Mindset) to Face the Future? March 1, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, BIM, books, career, change, identity, technology, the economy, transformation.
Tags: BIM, Building Futures, Carol Dweck, fixed mindset, global economic crisis, growth mindset, Mindset, The Future for Architects
1 comment so far
Here is your future.
Do you know where your mindset is?
And do you have the right mindset to face your future?
The future was presented to us the other day in the form of a PDF.
That is, as the future will unfold according to Building Futures’ “The Future for Architects?” the result of a year’s inquiry and research into the future of architectural practice.
Here are some of the takeaways from this cautionary study:
- Architecture is “a profession that has an unenviable reputation for being notoriously insular and more focused on what it can offer than what its client wants.”
- Smaller practices expressed a resistance to integrated technology such as BIM.
- Technology is a more significant driver for larger practices – and an essential tool required to compete.
- The vast majority of the demand side of the profession (clients and consultants) could see design slipping further down the pecking order in the next fifteen years.
- Building technology is becoming increasingly more complex, so much so that design work is increasingly being carried out by subcontractors
- The concept of the architect as a technician who composes all the constituent parts of a building that are designed by the subcontractors was widely thought to be a realistic vision of the future
- The architectural profession unfortunately does not view itself as part of the wider construction industry, and that this was a fundamental value that needs to change
- Whoever carried the risk would drive the design, and so in shying away from taking on risk architects are diminishing their ability to influence design outcomes.
- Many saw the label ‘architect’ as restrictive and as creating barriers between themselves and other professions such as planning and urban design.
Interestingly, students and graduates of engineering were more positive about their education process, and said they felt well integrated into the other built environment professions – putting them in a good position to lead the design team.
Victimized or energized
How do we know that their findings are accurate?
But when you look at their two previous studies – Practice Futures 2005 is an update to The Professionals’ Choice, a 2003 Building Futures publication that examined the future of the built environment professions – they predicted everything correctly.
Only the global economic crisis wasn’t anticipated.
“The Future for Architects?” calls itself a speculative exploration of the imminent changes likely to affect the industry over the next fifteen years whose stated purpose is for “generating scenarios, cautionary tales and alternative futures to stimulate discussion and debate rather than perfect answers.”
Whether you feel powerless and victimized by these changes, or empowered and energized by them, will have something to do with your age, status and position within your organization.
But more importantly, it has something to do with how you see yourself – as someone who is seen as being intelligent and having the answers.
Or, instead, as someone who is open to learning.
The Big Idea
On this last point, I’ve been thinking lately about Carol Dweck who’ll be visiting one of my kid’s schools here in Winnetka, Illinois USA in the coming weeks.
Her book, Mindset, is a familiar fixture in our household having spent time on just about every coffee table, night stand and otherwise flat surface in the house at one time or another.
Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, like the hedgehog has one idea – but it is a BIG one.
I’ve written about Dweck and her big idea in my other blog.
Here’s her big idea:
She proposes that everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
And that determines how we succeed at work and in life.
Her idea has huge implications for how organizations professionally develop their employees, and the way design professionals go about professionally developing themselves.
A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure.
So an architect with a fixed mindset would have rigid thinking, be set in their ways, practice their profession as a tradition with conventions that are time-tested, unvarying and inflexible.
For architects with fixed mindsets, architecture has to be practiced a certain way otherwise they will not be able to protect the health, welfare and safety of people who inhabit their buildings. You can see how architects, through education, training and practice, could develop fixed mindset attitudes concerning practice and the damage this attitude inflicts on us and those we work with.
Architects with a fixed mindset tend to
1. focus on proving that they have fixed knowledge or expertise in one area instead of focusing on the process of learning and
2. avoid difficult challenges because failing on these could cause them appear less knowledgeable
Their disregard of learning and challenge hinders their performance which in turn hinders their professional development of knowledge, skills and abilities.
A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress.
Your fate is one of growth and opportunity.
An architect with a growth mindset recognizes that a change of mind is always possible and even welcome.
Note that this isn’t about positive and negative thinking – but about fixed and growth mindsets.
According to the dictionary, a mindset is an established set of attitudes held by someone.
When it comes to your career, which mindset do you possess?
How to develop a growth mindset
The good news, says Dweck, is that mindsets are not set.
At any time, you can learn to use a growth mindset to achieve your goals.
This is perhaps the best reason to read Mindset.
In the book Dweck tells how we can develop a growth mindset and improve our lives and the lives of those around us.
To change from a fixed to a growth mindset, follow these four steps:
Step 1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice.”
Step 2. Recognize that you have a choice.
Step 3. Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice.
Step 4. Take the growth mindset action.
For those familiar with cognitive theory, you may recognize some similarities. For more detail, look here.
For us visual types, here’s an illustration that effectively describes the differences between the fixed and growth mindsets.
We’ll all need a growth mindset if we’re to meet the challenges facing the future for architects.
Despite the steps listed above, I cannot think of a more important first step than reading this book.