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The Architect’s Missing Manual August 28, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, BIM, books, change, identity, IPD, marginalization, survival, technology, the economy, transition.
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3 comments

You never forget your first.

Do you remember yours?

My first was the twelfth.

That is, the twelfth edition of The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice.

That was the last edition to be offered in four separate three ring binders.

White, grey and red.

And crisp, with an off-center AIA logo super graphic emblazoned across the front.

I read the entire contents cover to cover to cover to cover.

Here, I thought, at last was the architect’s missing user’s manual.

After 4 years of undergraduate schooling and 2 years of graduate school, I still didn’t completely understand all that an architect was and could become.

And with the deep blue “backgrounders” ample history of what the architect once was.

For the first time you sensed that you belonged to a long tradition.

One that you were proud to be a part of.

Here, at last, contained in four binders was “the answer.”

There it was, in red ink on the first binder:

“Volume 1: The Tools. The Architect. The Firm.”

It would never again be so simple.

Nor so innocent.

Volume 2 was even simpler.

All it said was: “Volume 2: The Project.”

Could it be laid out any more straightforward?

The last two binders contained facsimiles of the AIA documents.

Here was the be-all-and-end-all D200.

“The checklist” that promised to give you a step-by-step explanation of every move you would make, from initial handshake to final handoff.

That was 1994.

In 2001, the thirteenth edition of the AHPP was issued.

And it was a new world. For the US, and for architects.

The contents were reduced to a single bound book.

With the AIA Documents sequestered to a CD-ROM.

And for the first time, the edition was printed on the binding – henceforth resulting in readers referring to the AHPP by edition.

[The twelfth was known by the three-ring binders.]

If the twelfth edition was for me “Paradise Found,” the thirteenth was “Innocence Lost.”

The table of contents said it all:

“Part 1: CLIENT.”

“Part 2: BUSINESS.”

The first 9 chapters were devoted to markets, marketing, financial operations and HR.

All good. All much-needed.

But the AHPP no longer told us who we were – or who we could become.

Not in our own right, anyway. But instead, we only existed so long as we had clients.

No client, no architect. And while practically we understood this to be true from a business perspective, the architect was clearly no longer front and center.

The off-center logo of the twelfth edition now had been shifted almost completely off the cover, so to speak.

The architect – in the first 250 pages – was almost nowhere to be found.

The center – had there ever truly been one – did not hold.

Each architect had to discover and define who she was for herself.

The fourteenth edition, printed in 2008, returned the architect to their rightful position in the AHPP.

“PART 1: THE PROFESSION.”

“PART 2: THE FIRM.”

And so on. But by the time this last edition was delivered, the world’s economy was in disarray with architect , profession and industry scrambling for survival.

The fourteenth edition, thick as a tombstone, was a memorial to what the architect had been.

What would become of the architect was anyone’s guess.

And while we suspect who the architect is – and will become – will have something to do with BIM, IPD, sustainability and digital fabrication, many architects would sooner be defined by their unique attributes, by their education or experience than by technological or global trends that reside outside themselves.

With the world in flux, the industry and profession in transition, and who or what the architect is or needs to be anyone’s guess,

I do not envy the task the esteemed architects and educators who are undertaking the next – the fifteenth edition – of the AHPP.

There has never been a more important undertaking for our profession than the definition of who the architect is and needs to be in the immediate future. 

Here is how you can help bring about the new edition of the AHPP.

What can you do to help?

Help shape its intent and content by taking a short survey.

The deadline is coming up quick (Wednesday, August 31) so take a couple minutes right now to answer a couple questions here.

What is your first memory of the AHPP? Has it been of use to you at any time in your career? If so, how? Please let me know by leaving a comment.

The End of the Architecture Firm? August 27, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in BIM, IPD, software architects, survival, technology.
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23 comments

I don’t often mention my work in building information modeling and integrated project delivery in this blog.

Because that is what my other blog is for.

But this, I felt, is just too important not to mention.

Next week my BIM book finally ships.

What’s important is that In the book is a series of in-depth interviews with some serious VIPs in our industry discussing BIM and the collaborative work processes enabled by the technology.

One of my interviews is with Kristine K. Fallon FAIA of Kristine Fallon Associates, providing information technology consulting and services related to design and construction.

In the interview, I asked her three questions about her current concerns:

  • One about her business.
  • One about the construction industry.
  • And one about the architecture profession.

Her responses to the first two questions were insightful and intelligent.

Her response to the question concerning the architecture profession blew me away.

Completely took me by surprise.

And stopped me cold.

Let’s start with question one:

What would you say is the #1 concern for you and your business right now?

Kristine K. Fallon (KF): To be on the leading edge of the technology curve. We work very hard to be ahead of the rest of the industry. There’s no real roadmap for doing that. I worry about whether we’re identifying good technology directions and quickly galloping up the learning curve and getting good at these technologies before they’re in big demand. I actually have an incredibly vast, international network of contacts. A lot of the leading edge stuff isn’t particularly published – it’s in people’s heads or buried somewhere. Not stuff you can Google. So you have to go to the people. That’s why I am so active in so many organizations. That and staying in touch with people – it’s something I got used to doing very early in my career.

What would you say is the #1 concern for the construction industry as whole?

KF: I see the potential for the agglomeration – for the contractors getting absorbed into a couple big firms. That said – for all my championing of change – I enjoy the industry as it is. I love the fact that you work with different people, personalities and teams. I find that really invigorating.

What would you say is the #1 concern for the architecture profession?

KF: There’s a good chance that the architecture firm will go away. At this point, in England, I hear that the architects mostly work for the contractors. At that point – why have a firm? What is the role of the architecture firm? There’s certain training, skills, capabilities and qualities that architects do bring that engineers and contractors don’t bring. There’s a role for those skills and capabilities. As for being able to rely on the architect’s model for construction documents – if architects drag their feet for much longer about that, people will find a way to do without architecture firms. Because it’s just such a stupid waste of time. People will perceive firms as adding absolutely no value. You want an architect on your team somewhere to come up with creative ideas and solve problems. But why would you need an architecture firm?

[The full interview – it’s a great interview – can be found in Chapter 3 of my new book, BIM and Integrated Design.]

Now it is your turn:

Do you agree that there’s a good chance that the architecture firm will go away?

What is the purpose of having an architecture firm today, as opposed to independent architects?

Do you believe that architecture firms continue to provide value? If so, what kind?

And how is this value different from the value an independent architect brings to a team or project?

Please let me know by leaving a comment.

The Architect’s Journey August 13, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, change, marginalization, questions, survival, technology, the economy.
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2 comments

A few years back, right before the economic downturn, the AIA came out with a promotional piece entitled The Architect’s Journey.

The pamphlet was subtitled “Exploring a Future in Architecture,” with the focus on becoming an architect.

Then came the upheaval.

Whereby merely remaining an architect today is a hero’s journey.

Not ‘hero’ as ‘architect-as-hero’ in how director Sydney Pollack presented Gehry in Sketches of Frank Gehry.

But rather hero-as-in-heroic.

To be an architect today requires bravery, courage, ambition – qualities rarely discussed in these do-all-you-can-to-stay-on-the-boat days.

Architect’s careers once followed archetypes common to what Carl Jung (CJ) or Joseph Campbell (JC) might have called “the hero’s journey.”

Mythic structures that all architecture careers follow.

Something along these lines

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. (Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, p.30)

Mythic, that is, but not formulaic.

Recognizing that each individual has their own story of how they arrived at where they are

  • The Call to Adventure
  • The Road of Trials
  • Meeting with the Mentor

And so on.

And yet, with

  • the convoluted process of earning one’s architectural stripes, stamp and seal
  • the downturn in the economy and the subsequent loss of colleagues and mentors
  • the inevitable flattening or organizational hierarchies
  • the loss of loyalty on both ends
  • the advent of new technologies in the workplace
  • work processes redefined
  • design itself becoming more collaborative
  • risks, responsibilities and rewards shared

Can it still be said that an architect’s career path has a recognizable structure?

In terms of storyline, can it still be said that one’s career has a dramatic arc?

Or – in lieu of former goals to attain one’s license, start a firm, win recognition from one‘s peers – is one’s career closer to an undulating succession of successes – and travails?

Becoming an architect is one thing.

Remaining one is something else.

There are many impediments one faces everyday

  • Unwitting clients
  • Unappreciative public
  • Demanding employers
  • Insensitive plan reviewers
  • New technologies and work processes to master

So many hurdles, in fact, that to remain an architect today you have to be driven from within.

And possess a fire in the mind.

Only, for perhaps the first time in our storied history as a profession, one has to wonder: is that enough?

Some other questions to consider:

  • How important are myths to the architect today?
  • Do you believe that a career in architecture can still have an underlying mythic structure?
  • Is it still possible to create careers with mythical power?
  • With eyes glued to monitors and seats to bouncy balls, could it still be said that architecture – as a calling – can be something more than the daily struggle to honor the bottom line?