Tags: AEC, AIA, architects, architectural education, architecture, emerging professionals, EPs, innovation, problem solving, professional practice, t-shaped people, wired to care
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Recognizing that it is artificial and arbitrary to clump any demographic into a group, generally speaking, EPs bring a lot more than energy and imagination to the table.
Emerging professionals have a lot to offer firm leaders.
That is, if firm leaders would only take notice.
What gifts can EPs offer more senior architects and firm leaders?
Here are five that have made a difference in my life:
1. EPs are Wired to Care
EPs can help cynical, skeptical and burned-out architects to care again.
To care about people: building owners, users, neighbors, constituents.
About the environment.
And about design.
They may not always express it, but firm leaders who deal with clients, legal and insurance matters often need your enthusiasm and interest in the work you’re doing to remind them why they stay in the game – and why they’re in the game to begin with.
You remind them of who they once were – and soon hope to return to being.
You’re the thread to their former selves.
2. EPs are Collaborative T-shaped People
Not T for Technology.
But as in broad knowledge and deep expertise.
EPs, curious types, certainly bring their range of interests to the office.
Absolutely. Though not the old school form of expertise – acquired slowly over time.
Or whom to ask.
EPs recognize that things change so quickly in our industry that to dig deep into any one area can be a death knell for an upstart career in architecture.
And, over time, with experience on a range of projects, they do acquire deeper learning in a variety of areas.
EPs can help senior architects see the value in their becoming more T-shaped, less pigeon-holed into one task, skill-set or area.
But as importantly, firm leaders need to hire T-shaped practitioners – because things do evolve so quickly – not word-for-word matches to their job ad specs.
And who better than EPs to serve as examples of the new model for firm hires.
3. EPs are Change Agents
EPs – compared with more seasoned architects – are fluid, flexible and nimble.
And so, they inspire normally risk-averse architects to invite change.
To not be afraid of it.
Never satisfied with the status quo, EPs know we – as a team, firm, profession, industry or planet – can do better.
And won’t settle for less.
EPs hear what they are asked to do – and if they’re smart – they do it.
But then something happens.
They offer something different.
Often something even better. Something we hadn’t considered.
We, in management, are counting on EPs to do this – even if we don’t explicitly ask for it.
Especially if we don’t explicitly ask for it.
It shows you’re thinking.
It shows you care.
It shows that you listened – then offered an improvement that no one else had considered.
Yes, if we decide not to go with your idea, we hate having to say no.
My ideal day is one where I can go from morning till night without having to say the word “no.”
So don’t make me say no.
Make your idea so intelligent, well thought-out, compelling and great that we have to say yes!
Change is a gift you give us. We make a promise to ourselves – and our profession – every year to innovate more.
Sometimes innovation gets lost among more bottom line goals.
EPs help to keep the promise to innovate alive (thank you.)
4. EPs are Courageous
Whether from naïveté or boldness, EPs can help seasoned architects to be more technologically courageous.
They don’t know to be frightened, to be afraid of risk.
When a senior architect walks by your monitor and says “how is that going to stand up?” – trust me – there’s a way to make it stand up.
We are grateful you tried to do something that we would have shied away from.
If it’s a worthy idea, we’ll help find a way to get it to stand up.
Thank you for attempting to do something with architecture that we are now sometimes too afraid to try ourselves.
5. EPs Seek Meaning
Meaning is one of the greatest gifts EPs give to seasoned architects.
Not only do EPs expect their work to be meaningful, but by their giving importance to work/life balance, they remind Boomers (some still single or divorced) that placing work first before all else is not the only – or best – option.
We see you having a life and say “oh, just wait till things get complicated!”
We may complain that EPs should have a more singular focus on architecture.
But the truth is, you have the answer, not us.
You have your values in the right place, not us.
If only we learned that lesson sooner!
EPs are all about adding meaning.
For their work to be meaningful.
For finding shortcuts and templates to minimize the busy work and maximize what is important to them.
Like using your core competencies for a greater portion of each day.
Using your brains, not just your fingers.
We used to think that way – and have come up with excuses (did I just hear myself say Architecture is first and foremost a business?!)
When making payroll, meeting clients demands, is now front and center.
Meaning takes a back seat.
Then you send us a link to a film about another firm – one that places meaning first – and our eyes well up.
We know we can do more and be more.
And we have you, EPs, to thank for reminding us.
Now, let’s turn this around.
Naturally, EPs aren’t doing all the giving.
They must be getting something in return.
So what, besides a paycheck, warm Aeron chair and beer Fridays can architects and firm leaders offer EPs?
Here are 5 Gifts Emerging Professionals Receive from Seasoned Architects.
1. Seeing the Big Picture
Architects see the big picture.
Emerging professionals sometimes need help seeing the forest from the trees.
EPs (rightfully) don’t trust forests – or long-term plans.
EPs become long-term employees, for example, not by making 20-year commitments but by showing up one day at a time.
EPs have a hard time seeing where it’s all leading.
Architects recognize time horizons and building cycles.
I’ll never forget when a senior architect told me, years ago, that hotels and hospitality have a seven-year boom/bust cycle.
Put that in your iCal.
Firm leaders can help EPs see the big picture – and have a responsibility to do so.
2. Comfort with Ambiguity
Times today are uncertain.
And architecture is filled with uncertainty.
Will the client accept and support the design direction?
Will neighbors and constituents vote in favor of the building’s height?
Will the developer be able to get a loan so the project can move forward?
If you’re thinking piece of cake, you’ve been at the game a while.
Not everyone has the perspective you have.
So share it.
Just don’t make it sound patronizing, condescending, or like old wise architect speaks!
Architects are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.
EPs? Not so much.
Firm leaders can help bridge this gap (so do it!)
3. Systems Thinking
Senior architects have the perspective and experience to see individual acts in a larger context.
Because they see the big picture, they have an easier time helping to keep things whole.
Firm leaders can show EPs how their seemingly isolated, individual decisions can impact the bigger picture.
And how everything in architecture can be thought of in terms of flows.
(Or perhaps this is something EPs already know and just aren’t articulating?)
4. Lateral, not Linear, Thinking
Seasoned architects don’t complete tasks sequentially.
You would think that the multitasking generation would do this as well.
Due to their experience and perspective, architects know they can look at assignments from many vantages simultaneously.
Think of architect Cesar Pelli who could think through every pro and con in his head, anticipating every consequence for any course of action, then make a decision.
Call it an ability or insight, this is a gift that senior architects can share with EPs.
5. Architecture as an Art + Science
Architects know that every decision – every architectural act – is a combination of art and science.
They may come across as conservative, gravity-bound and risk-averse.
But they mean well.
The reality is (there they go with reality again!)– we balance art with science every time we venture into making architecture.
As boring as it may appear, architects know your brilliant idea won’t mean a thing if it can’t stand up, hold water, shed water and be accessed, serviced and maintained.
One participant in the upcoming AIA 2014 EP Summit shared the following:
I’m always learning from the emerging professionals. They seem to teach me more than I teach them!
What do you say?
Does this match your experience? Do you see any missing? Which – if any – would you change or add to?
Let us know by leaving a comment. Thanks!
The Collaborative Designer May 23, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect types, books, change, collaboration, problem solving, questions.
Tags: co-creation, collaboration, Conceptual Age, Conceptual Economy, David Holston, Design Economy, empathic design, HOW books, HOW design, participatory design, Shawn M McKinney, The Strategic Designer
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Summary: You don’t need to be a designer to benefit from the best practices espoused in this magnificent new book. A must-have for designers, but also for those in project management and anyone who works with designers.
Based on over 100 interviews with designers, researchers and educators, The_Strategic_Designer by David Holston provides an overview of the design process and best practices.
The Strategic Designer: Tools and techniques for managing the design process, published by F+W Media and HOW Design, is billed as a Strategic Graphic Design Thinking book.
Despite this categorization, the subject matter transcends graphic design and can be universally applied to any of the design trades and professions including product and environmental design.
The book description will sound familiar to anyone working in architecture and related design professions:
As designers look for ways to stay competitive in the conceptual economy and address the increasing complexity of design problems, they are seeing that they must not only be experts in form, but must also have the ability to collaborate, to design in context and be accountable through measurement.
By adopting a process that considers collaboration, context and accountability, designers move from makers of things to strategists.
The book focuses on the designer’s workflow, ideation techniques, client relationships and methods for measuring the success of their projects.
An excellent foreward by Shawn M McKinney gets things off to a fast start – which, alone, is worth the investment in the book.
Each chapter covers a specific design phase emphasis, providing a practical step-by-step approach, complete with tools and techniques.
Overview of the Design Process – a process rife with opportunities for misinformation, dead ends, and divergent tracks, as well as amazing outcomes
The Value of Process – the benefits of having a well-defined design process
The Collaborative Designer – emphasizing co-creation, communication, mutual benefit, respect and trust in a strong client-designer relationship. This is a particularly rich chapter, addressing and answering such questions as: What makes a Good designer? What Makes a Good Client? and Clients to Avoid. There’s a wonderful sidebar on: Seven Principles for Managing Creative Tension.
Empathic Design – explaining how research provides a path and imperative for moving forward
Understanding the Business – includes a breakdown of basic strategy techniques and an explanation of the purpose of business analysis as understanding and defining goals of the client
Designing with the End User in Mind – with an emphasis on facilitating and moderating participatory and collaborative work sessions. The Designing for People chapter focuses on research as a valuable tool for gaining insight into the organizational needs of clients and their prospective audiences.
Managing Ideas – especially when ideating with others in a participatory or collaborative setting, relying heavily on the experiences and knowledge of people involved.
Making Strategy Visible – how the designer takes an empathic approach to design that connects business goals with user needs.
Design Accountability – asking: Why is design hard to measure? And answering by sharing significant research findings and metrics. Salient quote: “The price for a seat at the decision-making table is accountability.”
Planning in a Turbulent Environment – the days of using a linear design process are over. Strategic designers face increasingly wicked problems. A helpful framework offered by project management.
Refining Your Process – so it can provide a common understanding for “how things get done” mitigating wasted efforts while creating value for the client and user alike.
The author places the book and subject squarely in Dan Pink’s Conceptual Economy, a term describing the contribution of creativity, innovation, and design skills to economic competitiveness, especially in the global context.
Later in The Strategic Designer, Rotman School of Management dean Roger Martin says that the world is moving from the Information Economy to a Design Economy. A small distinction, but one that unnecessarily complicates matters. I would look to a book such as this to clarify the playing field, at the very least to acknowledge that the labeling of epochs and phraseology are still a work-in-progress.
The book’s strength is not in creating new knowledge – but in repackaging what is largely already known, experientially by every designer – in an easy to carry tome.
Readers, for example, who have perused Wikipedia articles on various topics related to design strategy will recognize the source of several of the author’s summaries.
In this sense, the book is not a product of the Conceptual Age, but instead is a well-designed, convenient and accessible agglomeration, aggregating both explicit and, perhaps the greater achievement here, tacit knowledge on the subject. The book is no less of an achievement for doing so.
The design world is a much better place for having this book at its disposal.
Conclusion: The Strategic Designer is a must-have book for designers, those who manage design projects and those who work with designers in a collaborative setting.
Addenda: How can this book not have a single review?
HOW books makes books on high quality paper, books that feel good in the hand, and themselves serve as exemplary reminders that ebooks should not be our only option. The Strategic Designer is no exception.
49 Ways to Increase Your Influence as an Architect February 26, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect, books, change, marginalization, principles, problem solving, reading, the economy.
Tags: Buy-In, Christopher Parsons, influence, Influencer, Jeffrey Pfeffer, John Kotter, KA Connect, Kindle, Knowledge Architecture, Nudge, Ori Brafman, seth godin, Steve Johhnson, Sway, tribes, Zweig White
This blog, and its sister blog, both made a name for themselves and garnered some attention out of the gate by issuing a steady stream of lists: things to do, subjects to master, resources to turn to.
There’s just so much great and useful information that comes across my desk that I just have to share.
Now, there are a number of ways architects can have influence: through political power, by building and maintaining a large platform (think tribe, constituency and audience, not soap box,) by title, wealth or celebrity status.
My focus in this post is how we as AEC industry professionals can have our voice heard – right now – and do so in a way that is well within most everybody’s reach.
Due to the blunt force, and slow recovery, of the recession many architects feel ignored, marginalized, disempowered and disenfranchised. Some architects equate having little work with having little leverage.
We all know that there are many things we can be doing to increase our pull – and push – but are already overwhelmed by all we have on our plate.
For that reason I have only included suggestions that can be undertaken, acted upon or addressed during your downtime – assuming you allow yourself some – or in the short intervals between two work-related activities, such as on your commute. Enjoy!
Oh, and remember to chime in on #49 below…
1. Sit in on a design jury at your local architecture school. A great way to see current thinking in action while critiquing student design work. But as importantly, you’ll be sitting shoulder to shoulder with your peers and hear what they have to say, how they see things, while you provide your input. Design studio instructors are always looking to bring in fresh faces and voices into the school. Mid-term reviews are coming up or do so by time of year end reviews. Cost: Your time, transportation and parking.
2. Join a tribe or community of likeminded professionals. Need a new tribe? Join KA Connect on LinkedIn, founded by Christopher Parsons of Knowledge Architecture. KA Connect is a community of AEC professionals who exchange best practices for organizing information and sharing knowledge. Once acclimated to the site, participate in one or more lively discussions. Cost: Free
3. Follow-up with a fellow jury member that you hit it off with or share similar views with. Architects too often see events like sitting on a design jury as one-offs when in fact they provide fertile opportunities for ongoing discussions and last professional relationships. While your fellow jurors are busy, most will welcome a call to meet for coffee to continue the discussion or have a meeting of minds. This is how great partnering opportunities happen. Cost: $2 for coffee. $4 if treating
4. Make your message compelling. Whether you’re writing a blog post or delivering information to a colleague or client, you can learn a thing or two about how to package your thoughts to get the widest audience and their full attention. For others to listen to what you have to say you have to capture their interest from the first line – in fact, before the first line. Learn a thing or two (or eleven) about headline writing here. Cost: Priceless
5. Volunteer to give design studio desk crits at your local architecture school. You’re essentially serving as a roving consultant to fledgling professionals. They’ll appreciate the insights you share and will remember you when they enter the field. In doing so you’ll be giving something back and your generosity of time and advice will go a long way to help others out. Cost: Your time.
6. If you attend one event this year make it KA Connect 2011, a knowledge and information management conference for the AEC industry. Thought leaders from all over the world will come together in San Francisco on April 27th and 28th to share best practices, stories, and ideas about how they organize information and manage knowledge in their firms. If anything like last year’s event, it will be a fun, dynamic event filled with blue sky and Pecha Kucha talks, panel discussions and breakouts that provide ample opportunities to connect with fellow AEC professionals and affiliates. Cost: Visit here or email to inquire.
7. Invite a select group of students back to your office for a walk-through, to get a feel for a professional office and to build a stronger bon with the design community. Introduce them to a couple key players and sit them down to thumb through a drawing set or two. Cost: Your time. $6.50 for a box of donuts.
8. If you attend one other event this year make it the Design Futures Council Leadership summit on Sustainability, this year in Boston. While this TED-like event is invite-only, here’s a little known trick for getting invited: ask to be invited. For how to do so, look here. Cost: TBD
9. Use Google Alerts to keep you up to date on any topic of interest to you. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query, topic or search term. You can set it to send you an email as it occurs, once a day or once a week if you prefer. Simple and free. Cost: Free
10. Get Power. Yes, power means the strength, ability or capacity to perform or act effectively. Here I mean the well-written book, Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t by Jeffrey Pfeffer. Cost: The best $17.55 you will spend this year. $14.99 on the Kindle in under 60 seconds here.
11. Use Twitter in the receptive mode to stay abreast of what is happening in real time in your professional community. Scan lists for filtered, more targeted content by using hashtags (e.g. #AEC or #architects.) Need a compelling place to start? You can do no better than to start by following Christopher Parsons. Cost: Free
12. Join in on the discussion on professional forums. Build your reputation and be heard by engaged and engaging peers by joining one or more of knowledge communities such as the AIA KnowledgeNet, a place to connect with fellow architects and allied professionals, discuss topics of interest to you and share your expertise. You can set it up so that each morning you’ll receive an email from discussion groups such as COTE, Practice Management or on Residential Architecture. Learn more here or better yet jump right into ongoing discussions on dozens of topics here. Cost: Free
13. Nudge and Sway. Say again? Design professionals no longer believe that they can influence society by the architecture they design (or do they?) Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein shows, among other lessons, how we influence decisions through design. In the influential book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Brafman brothers Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman, several stories are told where decisions were influenced by location and placement of various items – one thing that architects know something about and can have some say in influencing. Cost: $7.50 new. $7 on the Kindle. $4 used.
14. Keep your good ideas from getting ignored or rejected in meetings and presentations by reading Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down by author and Harvard Business School professor emeritus John P. Kotter. Learn some effective tactics such as letting the attackers into the discussion; keeping your responses clear, simple, crisp and full of common sense; showing respect all the time; not fighting, collapsing or becoming defensive; and perhaps the most important, prepare. “The bigger the presentation, the more preparation is needed.” Cost: $15 new. $10 on the Kindle.
15. Cold feet when it comes to social media such as Twitter? You’re not alone. Read this to learn what former CEO of Gensler and current Zweig White chairman has to say about social networking for the generationally challenged. Cost: Free
16. Form a Tribe. In his influential book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin defines a tribe as a group of people who are connected to one another, a leader and an idea. Godin – as I described in my previous post – encourages readers to find their community, step up and lead. Cost: At the start, your time. Goes up from there. Learn more here.
17. Don’t know what tribe you’re going to lead? Here are four suggestions for where to start. Read this thoughtful and inspiring piece on thought leadership. Watch Seth Godin discuss Tribes or this one recommended by Christopher Parsons, founder of Knowledge Architecture, or read a free sample chapter from David Logan’s book, Tribal Leadership. Cost: Free
18. Review your favorite professional books on Amazon.com. It’s a fast and free way to be read, heard and seen by fellow colleagues and professionals as a topic expert. And if the review you write is positive, your support will go a long way to help out the book’s author and publisher. Start here and get writing. Cost: Your time.
19. Stay connected. “Chance favors the connected mind,” says Steve Johnson in his exceptional new book, Where Good Ideas Come From, a sweeping look at innovation spanning nearly the whole of human history. So stay connected. Cost: $15
20. To become and remain someone with influence, get in the habit of practicing some very basic principles: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency. To learn more about these I urge you to read the most influential book ever written on the subject, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Cost: $10
21. You want to influence others and keep them in your trance? Draw. It’s really that simple. Speaking of Steve Johnson (see above) watch this to be reminded of the all-too-rare mesmerizing power architects have when drawing on a white board in real time before a live audience. Cost: Free (and the time it takes to practice)
22. Start a blog. Give yourself a platform to express your views or to share information with likeminded individuals and fellow AEC professionals. Cost: Initially free (though blog widgets can be as compelling to collect as apps.) Doesn’t cost anything to browse.
23. Project what you see, learn and experience to the world. Attended a year-end academic review or professional conference? Share your observations and insights from the event by writing an online review – in your own blog or on your office blog or intranet. There is no better way to influence the views of others by helping them to perceive the events around them through the lens of your sensibilities. Cost: Free (assuming you were attending the event anyway)
24. Prefer your socializing and networking and information sharing face to face? Start a local Meetup Group on a topic of choice. To learn more about what happens when you start a Meetup Group look here. To create a Meetup group, look here. To find an already existing group in your community look here. Cost: Nothing to start. Organizer dues are explained here.
25. Read what your peers have to say in their online reviews of your favorite books. Often they’ll point out something you’ve missed and by doing so you’ll be the beneficiary of their insights. Readers sometimes will comment on a review and these comments can be filled with great suggestions and ideas. You can then leverage that information next opportunity you have to discuss the book or topic. Here’s a great place to start. Cost: Free
26. Volunteer to serve on your local AIA board. Be the change you want to see. See my previous post for more on this. Cost: Your time.
27. Use Twitter as a knowledge platform to let your community know who you are, what you’re thinking, how you see things and what you deem valuable and worth communicating. Cost: Free
28. Be decisive. Don’t equivocate. We’ll often undermine our message and its impact on others by looking at both sides of the argument, playing devil’s advocate or hedging. When you’re sought out for answers – if you know the answer – that’s not the time to beat around the bush or come across as ambiguous. To influence others we need to have a take no prisoners approach to staying on message and being crystal clear. Cost: Free
29. Become a compelling communicator. Architects are conceptual ideators and problem solvers. The problem is, they aren’t always effective at communicating their ideas and solutions. To be a more effective influencer, work on your communication skills – more specifically, on your rhetoric skills. I minored in the study of rhetoric – or persuasive speechmaking – in grad school and while it may have seemed like an odd choice at the time there is no question that what I learned about rhetoric has come in handy throughout my career as a senior designer. An entertaining and exceptionally educational place to start is by reading Thank You for Arguing Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion by the brilliant (and very funny) Jay Heinrichs. Cost: $11 new. $8 on your Kindle. $6 used.
30. Want to have the influential speechmaking ability of an Obama? Then do what Obama and other masters of speechmaking do and read great speeches. There are several excellent older collections but you can do worse than starting here in this comprehensive collection of oratory through the ages, appropriately edited by former presidential speechwriter Safire. Cost: $15 used
31. Want to work on becoming a more articulate rhetorician? I didn’t think so. But for an amazingly comprehensive overview of Western rhetoric from Plato through today, read THE RHETORIC OF WESTERN THOUGHT: FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD TO THE GLOBAL SETTING. Cost: $145 new. $24 used.
32. Believe in yourself. It all starts with you. You cannot influence others if you don’t believe in the veracity of your own voice, the importance of your own views and the need to have them heard by a wider audience. With so many voices out there struggling to be heard, this is no time to be a shrinking violet, to be coy, unassuming, fade into the background or melt into the scenery. To be heard by others you have to believe that you have to say, the product of your thinking and feeling, is of ultimate value to others. You don’t even have to believe it. If you so much as act as though this were so, you will find others doing the same, substantiating, validating and reinforcing your beliefs in no time. Try it.
33. Really understand the psychology of persuasion. To understand the science behind influencing others and how to urge others to see your way, read the best book ever written on the subject, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Cost: $10
34. Read about change. Because influence is basically about changing the status quo, the way things are. A great place to start is the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson et al, authors of the excellent Crucial Conversations. Watch a trailer for Influencer here and find the book here. Cost: $16 new. $10 used.
35. Start a conversation. Literally, over coffee. To discover a simple, but powerful approach for thinking together, check out The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter by the World Cafe Community with an insightful afterward by Peter Senge and foreward by Margaret J. Wheatley.
36. Practice architecture as advocacy. When you get an email urging you to write to your congressman, representative or senator, don’t ignore it. Use your voice to help the government make sound choices that will help the profession. Get your voice heard. To not do so is a missed opportunity. Learn about it here.
37. Learn how architecture can advocate on behalf of a cause. See page 12 of this document.
38. Help someone out right when they ask you to do it. I get requests all the time to chime in on online discussions. “There’s a hot discussion going on my site. The subject is right up your alley. Check it out. I know everyone would benefit from hearing your input on the subject.” Unless the room you are in is on fire or you are experiencing symptoms associated with a heart attack – act immediately. Drop what you are doing and put in your two cents. Why? Because you are being recognized as someone with a voice that needs to be heard – and there is no better way to exercise your influencer muscles, build your reputation, and continue to be seen as the go-to-guy for information than to share your thoughts the moment you are asked.
39. Monitor your attitude and how it is being expressed and how you and your message is coming across to others. To be an influencer, watch your speech for language that betrays your better intentions by coming across as cynical or sarcastic. A healthy skepticism is just that – healthy. Venturing much further into negativity can undermine the positive impact you can have on your community and built and un-built environment.
40. Apologize by saying you’re sorry. Sometimes we’re powerless to influence others because there is a perception by others that we have somehow undermined, hurt or betrayed them and often we’re unaware of this. Need help on how to go about this in a professional and effective manner? See Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior by Kerry Patterson et al, authors of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. Cost: $10 new. $5 used
41. Walk the talk. There’s no greater way to defuse your message by saying one thing an doing another. Especially today, most won’t tolerate such duplicity in their leaders nor in their colleagues. One important lesson about influence is to practice what you preach. As Gandhi said, Be the change you want to see in the world.
42. Make the undesirable desirable. To influence others to make the changes you want to see, make change palatable. The book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything contains chapters with titles illustrating this simple principle such as “Make the Undesirable Desirable” and “Design Rewards and Demand Accountability.” Read it!
43. Start Small. Check out this life changing – and lifesaving – book about how everything great and influential starts with one small step. Here’s another that you can apply directly to our industry (and others.) Build up from there.
44. Start locally. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously coined the phrase, All politics is local. Today, through access to social media within the privacy of one’s home (consider the impact of Facebook on the current Middle East uprisings,) one can say All influence is local. But you can also truly start locally – in your own neighborhood or community.
45. Once you find your footing, seek out a national or international platform. But today, there’s really no reason to hem yourself in by geographic boundaries. With the internet location is almost beside the point.
46. Prepare an elevator speech. What is it that you do and how do you distinguish yourself from the thousands of others who profess to do the same thing? A brief summary is often much more influential than a longwinded retelling of one’s resume. Start here.
47. What is your brand? These are still the best 3886 words on the subject.
48. Be consistent. Make sure that the things you are doing, the choices you make, are consistent with your personal brand, the message you want to get across.
49. OK now it’s your turn! Don’t see something here you feel belongs on this list? Here’s your chance to influence me – and each other – by adding your own favorites to this list by leaving a comment below! Looking forward to hearing what you have to say.
What it Means to be an Architect Today December 26, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, career, employment, identity, possibility, questions, reading, the economy, transformation, transition.
Tags: manpower, out of work architects, underemployed architects, unemployed architects
dragging themselves through the vacant-lotted streets at dawn looking for an angry commission,
angleheaded architects burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…
What does it mean to be an architect in 2011?
For every architect putting the finishing touches on a set of construction documents, or starting a design study for a prospective client, there’s one thinking outside the bun.
And another reading this for free at the public library.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says between 6 and 13% of architects are out of work.
The 53% of architects who are actually out of work believe these numbers are accurate.
The vast majority of working architects are severely underemployed, focused on getting work, marketing their own or their firm’s services.
The vast majority of architects, in other words, are now working in marketing.
Taking-on work outside their comfort zone.
Whether beneath them or above them, work of an altogether different caliber.
Like an actor, architects are awaiting call-backs. Waiting to be called back by the firm that let them go.
In the mean time, architects are driving cabs, working at Lowes.
Masters in Architecture now means we’re becoming masters of another art: the art of losing.
Tracking unemployment is logistically difficult, requiring a great deal of manpower, according to AIA chief economist Kermit Baker.
47,500 unemployed architects hired full-time by AIA and NCARB to track unemployment in the industry.
Finding themselves in new, unfamiliar situations with people they hardly know and – digging deep into their bag-of-tricks – making the most of it.
Architects in retail hawking e-readers and housewares.
Architects moving across the country, or out of the country away from their families, to help pay their kids’ expenses.
Asking not what the AIA can do for them; asking what they can do for the AIA.
Getting used to being “between projects” and any of a dozen other euphemisms for having been – for a loss of another euphemism – shitcanned.
Not waiting to see who will take the lead in the green movement.
Asking not what the world can do for them; asking what they can do for the planet.
Would-be architects turning their eyes and education to the gaming industry.
To pay back their student loans.
Notwithstanding, with 12 high school applicants for every 1 undergraduate architecture slot, it would seem that architects are gamblers from the start.
Architects working for food conglomerates, driving forklifts, putting furniture together.
Architects working for food.
Applying for positions that will go to exact matches – down to the hair follicle color.
Or to no one.
Job applicants asked to undertake DNA testing – to see if they’re an exact match for the position.
Architects who will gladly work “pro-bono” just to stay in the game are still rejected because they’re “too expensive.”
Questioning the wisdom of being a generalist.
Architects of lakefront manses taking-on basement renovations.
Gladly taking-on basement renovations.
Questioning the wisdom of being a specialist.
Or the wisdom of having sought and ultimately attained that Theory of Architecture advanced degree.
Is it possible that they don’t know that the phrase “pro-bono” means “free?”
2008 tested your mettle. As did 2009. 2010 tested your mettle. So will 2011.
If architecture is a calling, how come the phone doesn’t ring?
Maybe there’s an opening for mettle-testers?
Architects selling life insurance to other architects.
Who void their policies by killing themselves.
Who kill themselves by losing their sense of humor.
Who lose their sense of humor from dealing with former colleagues who are now selling insurance.
While women are getting paid 75 cents to the dollar, architects are getting paid 25 cents to the dollar.
Women architects are finally getting paid the same amount as men.
Justice after all.
Trying to find a way to monetize 30 years of professional working experience.
Otherwise known in the industry as a job.
To lay there flailing and writhing.
And they still don’t hire you.
You still owe money to the money to the money you owe.
You remember being so busy a few years ago that you might have committed some lines to paper, or said some things to a colleague, that you now regret.
You remember thinking at the time that you would change when things finally slowed down.
Coming to the slow realization that what you had been practicing all these years was a luxury that few could afford.
To be an architect means to be at once both fragile and all-powerful.
To go from under-utilized to over-committed on a dime.
Or for a dime.
Wondering how on earth we – at this time in our lives – are supposed to reinvent ourselves.
Where to start?
Who, to be competitive now, must consider themselves certified-virtual construction-lean-accredited-design/build-BIM-IPD-VDC-LEED experts.
To be experts at everything means that we’re…generalists?
Find yourself humming Eric Clapton’s Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.
To be an architect today means to start over. Every day.
Able-bodied, talented, smart and eager young interns sitting this one out in the penalty box in perpetuity, for the sole reason that they are able-bodied, talented, smart, eager and young.
I get my hands on a dollar again, I’m gonna hang on to it till that eagle grins.
Starting over means to see with beginner’s eyes – because we’re reentering a new economy, a new profession, firms with new organizational structures.
To be an architect today means to consult, to borrow space, workstation and another’s air.
To be a product procured by means of a purchase order over being retained as a professional service.
Wondering if you’d be better off moving to Canada where there are purported to be more jobs (and where it is also purported to be warmer in winter.)
Or get up and move to NY or CA because it seems that these are the only places with job listings.
To understand that the current decline is the most severe and will probably take the longest to recover, but that the profession will recover nevertheless if the past is any predictor of the future.
And to wonder if the past is any predictor of the future.
Where design architects find themselves for the first time in the minority of all “architects” including computer, business and IT.
To adjust expectations so that pay, benefits and seniority are no longer primary drivers in your job pursuit.
To be wary of the easy temptation of cynicism.
To be underrepresented, ill-prepared and overlooked.
Always the bridesmaid. Never the bride.
It is as much about who you know now as what you know.
Network, reach-out, get involved. But to make any inroads you’re going to have to pave your own way.
Notice phrases such as “skeleton staff,” “trending downward” and “where’s dinner coming from?” have mysteriously entered your vocabulary.
And words like “salary” have disappeared.
All the tools in your toolbox. And nowhere to use them.
Beating against the current of a veritable ocean of regulatory design requirements.
While taking-on water.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Otherwise we sink.
To be an architect means to persevere.
To do all one can, each day, to hold on and not let go.
Learning to persevere from American Indians.
Learning from cancer survivors.
To not give up, no matter how bleak.
To maintain your sense of humor.
To keep things in perspective.
To remain resourceful.
Ready to take-on whatever assignment you are offered.
Whatever comes your way.
To not lose heart when you find that you have lost rank.
To work hard at creating communities: of practice, of hope.
But also just of belonging.
That’s what it means to be an architect today.
(Apologies to Allen Ginsberg)
It is the Enviable Architect who gets to Stay on Deck and Burn October 27, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect types, architecture industry, career, change, identity, survival, the economy, transformation.
Tags: change, Elizabeth Bishop, passion, poetry
One that I feel perfectly captures the predicament architects find themselves in today.
But first, a few words about change.
As in What will it take for architects to change?
Let’s start by removing the word “change.”
Changing the word change.
Architects don’t like the word any more than anyone else.
Change itself is stressful and just the word alone has been known to raise one’s blood pressure.
And fight or flight response.
So what will it take for architects to evolve?
In order to transform, the pain of remaining the way we are has to be stronger than the pain of doing things differently.
From what I have seen and heard, architects have reached their pain threshold.
We’re crying Uncle.
Ready for the next step in our ongoing evolution.
Bring on the Next Age.
The next stage in our development.
The term burning platform in business parlance means immediate and radical change due to dire circumstances.
Radical change in architects only comes when survival instincts trump comfort zone instincts.
When making major decisions or solving major problems a sense of urgency is required to achieve one’s goals.
Despite the hardships we face and have faced for the past several years, most of us have felt more of a numbness than any real urgency.
As though our eyes were transfixed on a nearby fire.
When it is we ourselves who are engulfed in flames.
Thinking about architects and our situation today reminded me of a poem I’ve long loved.
A poem by one of the 20th century’s most esteemed poets – a poet’s poet – Elizabeth Bishop.
The poem is entitled Casabianca.
Goes like this:
Love’s the boy stood on the burning deck
trying to recite `The boy stood on
the burning deck.’ Love’s the son
stood stammering elocution
while the poor ship in flames went down.
Love’s the obstinate boy, the ship,
even the swimming sailors, who
would like a schoolroom platform, too,
or an excuse to stay
on deck. And love’s the burning boy.
And substitute the boy’s burning love for the architect’s passion.
The poem could be about the architect’s inability to describe, explain and justify their relevance – while crisis ensues all around.
Crisis of identity, of economy, you name it.
Who we are. What we are.
Where we belong. Whether we belong.
The poem would then be structured from the individual, into the world, returning to the architect in the final line.
As with the architect’s creative process, the lens of this poem widens from the architect to everything else and then, finally, back to the architect.
Something we often forget, and don’t give ourselves enough credit for:
Architecture begins and ends with the architect.
I know. There’s no architecture without a willing client.
And someone has to build the darned thing.
But while the building may belong to the world at large, architecture largely remains in our domain.
The poem’s build from the poor boy – and then back to the burning boy – is what makes this poem a whole, complete and memorable work of art.
Something the architect (stammering elocution) knows a little about.
I really miss architecture.
I envy you who despite all give it your all every day.
For it is the enviable architect who gets to stay on deck and burn.
Are You a Koala or Raccoon? July 4, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, career, employment, environment, identity, pragmatism, survival, the economy.
Tags: careers, employment, generalists, hedgehog and fox, hiring, specialists, well-rounded, wide and deep skills
To see that this is true we only need to look at Vitruvius’s bucket list for the training of architects:
to be creative, apt in the acquisition of knowledge, a good writer, a skillful draftsman, versed in geometry and optics, expert at figures, acquainted with history, informed on the principles of natural and moral philosophy, somewhat of a musician, not ignorant of the law and of physics, nor of the motions, laws, and relations to each other, of the heavenly bodies
Despite never becoming somewhat of a musician, many practitioners understandably have remained generalists their entire careers.
Some to great success.
That is, until now.
For while statistics aren’t readily available it is conceivable that the majority of architects who find themselves out of work, or underemployed, today are the generalist sort.
That the better gamble would have – years earlier – been to become experts at something.
But that thinking – while comforting to tell oneself – would be off-the-mark.
By suddenly specializing, generalists do themselves a disservice, are untrue to their calling and sell themselves short.
More than anyone employers need to realize this.
For while there are certainly merits and detriments to each:
Is the current trend to fill holes predominantly with specialists short-sighted?
Using a biological analogy, a generalist species is able to thrive in a wide variety of environmental conditions and can make use of a variety of different resources while specialist species can only thrive in a narrow range of environmental conditions with a limited diet.
In more utilitarian terms, specialists know where to hit the nail to get rid of the creak in the floor board.
While generalists can recommend eleven types of flooring that don’t creak in the first place.
Generalists see the big picture.
Specialists have great depth of experience in one specific area.
Generalists conceive the big ideas and concepts that energize teams and carry construction projects through their arduous 3-5 year lifespan.
Specialists focus all of their effort and skill development on one specialty.
Generalists keep things interesting – they’re often whom colleagues and clients relate with best.
Specialists have an easier time selling their services once they find their market and can charge more.
Generalists are the glue that holds teams together.
In the body politic, specialists are the workhorse liver and spleen.
Generalists? The heart and sinew.
Specialists know the work inside and out.
Generalists – with broad peripheral knowledge and the ability to provide clients with alternatives if one solution doesn’t fit – are the heart and soul of the operation.
For that really is the crux of the matter:
When specialists die who attends their funeral?
When generalists die they’re standing 10 deep, nary a dry eye in the room.
Specialists may be safer in the short term but generalists are a whole lot more fun.
Is your specialty being a generalist? Are generalists the new specialists?
Architects have so much to learn that being a jack-of-all-trades isn’t really a conceivable route to take.
Even generalists are more specialized than they give themselves credit for.
One look at the jobs postings – what there are of them – and its dishearteningly clear: only specialists are in demand.
Employers now require recruits and candidates that are exact matches for the holes they need to fill.
Down to the detail – looking for people with single attributes.
In the wish list of job requirements “well-rounded” is not among them.
Forget round altogether. We’re living in square peg, square hole times.
Not fire starters but firemen – relievers – to put out fires.
Wanted: Closers, not openers. Fastballs, not knuckleballs.
And there’s no room for ambiguity, no growing into the position. You’re either it – or you’re not.
It may be well and good that the architect’s core competency is a hard-earned and all-too-rare comfort with ambiguity.
Make no mistake. We are living in clearly unambiguous times.
This talent – often referred to as agility and flexibility – to keep as many balls in the air for as long as possible isn’t needed right now, thank you.
For there are far fewer balls to maneuver and the few that there are seem to hang in the air longer.
Task masters are in. Multitaskers need not apply.
Going back to that biological analogy, most organisms of course do not fit neatly into either the specialist or generalist camp. Some species are highly specialized, others less so, while some can tolerate many different environments.
In other words, it’s probably healthiest for architects to think of the specialist–generalist issue as a continuum, from highly specialized experts on one end to broadly generalist practitioners on the other.
Instead, ask yourself: Are you a Koala or Raccoon?
In our current work environment it is perhaps best to think of oneself like the wily raccoon – which are able to adapt to all sorts of environments, even urban ones.
But then again, adaptability – like the generalist today – is underrated.
Perhaps it’s best to be a little of both?
But you’d have to be a generalist to see it that way.
Image credit: Lynne Lancaster
107 Reasons Why You, Architect, Matter June 25, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect types, collaboration, creativity, environment, identity, marginalization, optimism, sustainability, technology, the economy.
Tags: career, collaboration, economy, environment, needs, passion, profession, wants
But how about a world without architects?
That’s not so hard to imagine.
It’s easy if you’re mostpeople.
Because mostpeople never so much as meet an architect.
Let alone engage one in a building project.
It’s also relatively easy to imagine if you’re an architect.
Because this is what we do, what we’re good at – imagining things that aren’t there.
Then relentlessly realize them until they are.
If architects were to disappear tomorrow – who would care?
At the moment – facing a double dip in the economy – architects feel overlooked and underappreciated.
So to say that we matter. To whom exactly? And what for?
To matter means to be of consequence, of importance (but not self-importance;) significant, relevant, worthy of note and of crucial value.
To feel appreciated and valued, not left-for-dead, abandoned or ignored.
But why ask whether architects matter when so clearly other things matter more.
The unchecked ravages of genocide, extreme poverty, child labor, AIDS, environmental degradation, Alzheimer’s disease, global warming and compulsive consumerism – these certainly matter more.
But this isn’t a contest. Architects can still matter.
Why the world still needs architects
The 107 reasons that follow may seem like overkill. A tad bit much.
But we need reminding. Really need reminding.
Some will inevitably say – tell it to our clients or convince a contractor – that we’re not the ones who need convincing.
Before we can convince anyone else that we matter we must first convince ourselves.
From the architects I’ve talked to and heard from we need a talking to.
And if we’re not going to remind ourselves – who will?
This is not a desperate attempt to justify our existence nor rationalize our cosmic importance. These reasons came easily, rolling off the pen and hammered out in an evening.
And as with most things worth doing, if I had more time there would have been far fewer.
You need to know you matter
The world may not always affirm what we do (try this: google “architect appreciation” or any facsimile thereof and what comes up?*)
People are not born with an appreciation for architecture.
Nor, for that matter, for architects.
Your employer may not always tell you that you – and the work you do – are valued.
But that doesn’t mean that what we do and who we are doesn’t have a profound impact on our world.
It does. And we do.
In the big scheme of things – we make a difference. A big difference. The world would be a very different place – a lesser place – without us.
And our interventions. Our ideas and ideals.
Think of these as the gifts architects give to society.
Think of these as The Gifts of the Architect:
How a Tribe of Tectonic Nomads Changed the Way People Everywhere Live and Feel.
Think of these as – in the spirit of Yale’s Why X Matters series
107 Reasons Why Architects Matter
(or the 107 Things I Like About You)
Reason1: Architects are optimists. So what? Otherwise we couldn’t survive, anticipate and prepare for an unknown future and imagine what is not there. Imagine a world of pessimist designers, planning for the worst. That’s the world without architects.
Reason2: Architects balance multiple intelligences. So what? It’s a job requirement and for some a liability. Architects use all of their faculties when they design and document – including spatial intelligence.
Reason3: Architects are wired to care. So what? Architects naturally empathize. We have the empathy gene. In abundance. More than our fair share, allowing us to put ourselves in other’s shoes. Others may be in it for the money – we’re burning the midnight oil because we care.
Reason4: Architects are strategists. So what? We ask tough, penetrating questions, seldom taking assignments or answers at face value. We reframe questions that are lobbed at us. And go about our work less as object designers than chess players or basketball coaches parlaying the playbook.
Reason5: Architects think in terms of systems, not just things. So what? Because we understand that the world is not made up of individual, disconnected things. And that everything is causal, interrelated and connected. We design the spaces between things as well as the things themselves – and help others to see what they were formerly unable to see and was certain wasn’t there before we gifted them with a new pair of eyes. We’ve all done this for someone in our lives.
Reason6: Architects think laterally and simultaneously – not linearly. So what? The very thinking skills that we need to nurture in others as we move ahead into the 21st century.
Reason7: We do more with less. So what? So there will be more for others – including our children – when they need it. Eaarth will thank you for it.
Reason8: Architects design outdoor spaces. So what? Think Central Park. Designed by a landscape architect (architects of all stripes.) Architects gave the world outdoor rooms, helping people to feel comfortable in their surroundings, to feel as though they belong, and on a good day, to dwell poetically.
Reason9: Architects are well-educated. So what? Who is most qualified to lead integrated project teams? (Those who deem this elitist need not respond.) The person trained to think of other’s needs before their own, the person who is licensed to protect the health, safety and welfare of the project’s inhabitants. The person dedicated to continuous learning.
Reason10: Architects are T-shaped – both deep and wide. So what? More than mere experts at what the do and know, architects – due to their training and education – are able to see through other’s eyes, empathize and understand what is important to others at the table. We have deep skills and wide wingspan breadth.
Reason11: Architects are “keepers of the geometry.” So what? Form-givers, architects give shape to our world. Who else provides our buildings, cities and lives with a sense of continuity and coherence?
Reason12: Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul. So what? Life speeds by fast. We need to slow down. Architects design places that help us to slow down, look around and take in the view. And then, before we realize it, we’re no longer in the place but of it. Architects have the ability to design places that touch the soul.
Reason13: Architects transform chaos into order. So what? While nature, animals and biomimicry are definitely trending, one look at architecture without architects and you wish you had called an architect.
Reason14: Architects give the world meaning. So what? So what? Architects may be involved in only a small number of projects, but just think of places where you have been happiest, felt most at home, felt a sense of purpose and accomplishment, at ease with yourself and your surroundings – and more than likely an architect was involved.
Reason15: Architects uplift the downtrodden. So what? Architects raise not only roof beams but eyes up toward the sky, and awareness to a higher plane altogether. We provide worthwhile, heightened experiences, naturally. (Ever walk across the structural glass floor to the outdoor amphitheater overlooking the Mississippi on Jean Nouvel’s Guthrie Theater? Then you know what I mean.)
Reason16: Architects think differently. So what? Yes, Apple thinks differently – but what of what Peter Bolin FAIA and his cohorts did for Apple? For Apple! In NYC. It’s no easy task wowing Steve Jobs. Architects do so on a regular basis.
Reason17: Architects are masters of branding. So what? Not corporate branding, but identity, genus loci and placemaking. Branded environment architects give places identity – to orient, so that you know where you are in the world and, in the best of places, why you are there and why you’ll return.
Reason18: Architects traffic in beauty. So what? Beauty is perhaps a dirty word these days – but we cannot live without it. While nature does her fair share, architects – in their riffs off of nature – certainly supplement in wondrous ways.
Reason19: Architects provide the wow effect. So what? Because life is not just bread and water. That sense of awe when standing before something manmade, masterful and inexplicably beautiful or grand. That’s the gift architects give to the world.
Reason20: Architects create the places that inspire – and where we live out and realize – our dreams and destiny. So what? You are here, on this planet, for one reason and one reason alone. And more than likely an architect was involved in helping you to recognize this. Just think about it.
Reason21: Architects are technologists, artists and craftsmen. So what? Architects learn with their hands, create with their imagination and put the human touch into technology. This assures that what we help to create will be useful, bring about joy and remain for some time.
Reason22: Architects serve the underprivileged. So what? Architects have a reputation for pandering to the wealthy. Creating low income housing is a higher calling for many architects where good works are the ultimate goal. Fee-wise we may take it on the chin, but the work we produce means a great deal to the people who live there.
Reason23: Architects are custodians of the built environment. So what? If not architects, whom else?
Reason24: Architects keep moving the ball forward. So what? Neither sentimentalists nor futurists, architects as optimists recognize that humans are still evolving. And so too their work. So so what? With each commission architects attempt to push the envelope just that much farther, to do their part to advance things. That is how the world progresses – and architects share in this movement.
Reason25: Architects bring poetry out of doors into the world. So what? Art and poetry reside almost exclusively indoors. Museums and libraries may contain these – but architects work hard to bring their qualities to the design of the outdoors, through their sensitive integration of their buildings into the landscape.
Reason26: Architects are master shapers of light. So what? Kahn in particular was transfixed by light: The sun never knew how great it was until it struck the side of a building. Nor did anyone else for that matter.
Reason27: Architects are for the most part fascinating people. So what? My uncle, when I was 5, told me his best friends were architects: they’re the most interesting people I know, he’d say. Architects try to live their lives by this credo.
Reason28: Architects are intrinsically motivated. So what? It’s better in the long run for all involved. As “I Types,” architects are not in it for the token gift card. We do it because we love it, because it is the right thing to do, because – we trust – it makes a difference in people’s lives.
Reason29: Architects operate from both sides of the brain. So what? Neither exclusively right nor left – architects are the original whole brain thinkers. In doing so, we help to keep things whole.
Reason30: Architects are practical dreamers. So What? Floating ideas like prisons in the sky. This is how we’ll solve large-scaled, complex and intractable problems facing millions: through the persistent application of our imagination, looking at things sideways until they appear to others right side up.
Reason31: Architects get design. So what? An understanding of good architectural design is vital for creating livable buildings and public spaces and architects understand how to design buildings. We make a difference to the positive outcome of the design of our world.
Reason32: Architects give others something inspiring to aspire to. So what? We have all heard someone say that they would have liked to be an architect. Going about the world as an architect is one of the last callings commensurate with our ability to imagine and to create. So so what? Architects have one of the few careers that guarantee that, while practicing, you will remain a lifelong student.
Reason33: Architects involve all of the senses. So what? While we’re lampooned for wearing all black – we know the value of color, the meaning of light, the importance of involving all of the senses in our work.
Reason34: Architects consistently provide people with what is important to them. So what? Some people know what they want while others look to the architect to tell them. Architects adapt to the client – and make it their goal to meet their needs. Sounds simple enough – but this in itself is all-too-rare in the business world, let alone the arts.
Reason35: Architects take ideas and pay it forward – by giving it a twist. So what? In doing so, we create something new. What we produce fits – because it gives the impression that we’ve seen it before – but at the same time it is fresh, unprecedented – keeping life interesting. Architecture, not variety, is the spice of life.
Reason36: Architects turn what is used, old, broken and decrepit and reinvent it into something living and healthy environment for people to use, in cities as well as in the suburbs. So what? Don’t take my word. Take Ellen Dunham-Jones’ word. Click on any of these links or read a sample chapter – and argument for doing so – of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs here.
Reason37: Architects are sexy So what? The world has become increasingly bland, globally with little that distinguishes itself. The architect, in the midst of this sameness, has retained her appeal. Why else would we be chosen as the number one career for lead roles in movies? Far from superficial, architects manage to keep things both relevant and interesting.
Reason38:, Architects are problem identifiers. So what? Not only problem solvers, architects recognize that identifying the right problem to solve is often 80% of the solution. Often, the problem they have been assigned is not the one that truly requires addressing. Architects work efficiently and effectively to make sure that everyone is focused on the most pressing, pertinent problem.
Reason39: Architects’ small acts have huge impacts. So what? You only have to think of the Bilbao effect. Don’t let statistics that architects design or impact less than 5% of buildings built. The buildings that count, that create a sense of place and pride of place, the places we take visitors to see and inhabit when in town, that best represent us – public places large and small – these are the buildings we remember and return to. And these are designed by architects.
Reason40: Architects got your back. So what? Architects assure that someone is watching out for you. We make sure you are safe by watching what’s behind you when you’re busy looking ahead. Who else besides the architect watches out for the health welfare and safety of society?
Reason42: Architects draw by hand, mouse and by wand. So what? Creatively ambidextrous, flexible and agile, we are not stuck on any one means of communication or delivery. Architects make the best use of available technology to get their point across – but we are not above using a stick in sand, rock on pavement or a burnt piece of charcoal in order to connect and help you understand.
Reason43: Architects design like they give a damn. So what? We care. We make a difference. This matters.
Reason44: Architects give something back. So what? Architects don’t go into architecture to take or even to make money but to give something back. We’re continuously giving, whether going the extra mile, burning one more end of the candle, or by putting their talent and resources in the service of those who need it most. Such as the The 1%, a program of Public Architecture, connects nonprofits with architecture and design firms willing to give of their time pro bono.
Reason45: Architects are change agents. So what? Not merely open to change, we assist in moving change along. No matter how traditional or conventional the assignment, architects make great strides to incorporate the latest advanced technologies. For example allowing for earthquake resistance in tall buildings or in the case of Wright’s Tokyo Hotel. So so what? But at the same time expressing and infusing local or regional character so that the buildings appear to belong to the place where they reside. We may be comfortable with change but recognize that we first have to make it palatable and acceptable for others.
Reason46: Architects – by just being architects – give hope. So what? This is something we do for others. So many aspire to do something interesting with their lives, belong to a profession that offers endless opportunities to challenge yourself. Being an architect is one of the last callings that matters.
Reason48: Architects serve as role models. So what? Citizen architects, such as Sam Mockbee of Rural Studio http://citizenarchitectfilm.com/ , urban activists, getting involved at the grass roots level, some going as far as government.
Reason49: Architects make connections. So what? As systems thinkers, by connecting elements in a project with its surroundings, architects create a social fabric: the semblance of a cohesive, consistent and meaningful world. Architects create worlds that hold a mirror up to life.
Reason50: Architects rise to a good challenge. So what? We challenge ourselves – and each other, our organizations, the profession and industry – to keep moving the ball forward. Improve improve improve.
Reason51: Architects draw crowds. So what? Imagine the world without Frank Lloyd Wright, Antonio Gaudi, Frank Gehry, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto, Louis I. Kahn, Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano and Herzog and de Meuron. Doesn’t matter to “mostpeople?” Think again. Then why are these (in order) the 10 most visited architects in the world..by non-architects!
Reason52: Architects are driven from within. So what? No carrot? No stick? No problem. Architects are self-starting, self-motivating and self-activating. That’s why architects like to think of what we do as an inside game.
Reason53: Architects are linchpins. So what? And being so, are an indispensible part of the design and construction process. We are at the crux of real estate, development, concrete and plumbing. On projects where there may be well over 100 independent entities – from interior design to energy analysis – all pass through the architect. Architects are the common link between project constituents.
Reason54: Architects see the big picture. So what? So many it seems have a difficult time seeing the forest from the trees. Not architects. As I explained here, Malcolm Gladwell in Blink called this ability to see information in its wider context: coup d’oeil or court sense or “giss,” the power of the glance, the ability to immediately make sense of situations. So so what? Architects may not be born with this all-too-rare and exceedingly important ability, but by the end of their formal training they’ve got it. In droves.
Reason55: Architects are meaning-makers. So what? While many make it their job to provide meaningful work for their employees, or to help people find meaning in their own lives, no one but the architect is dedicated to making the world – the built environment – meaningful and coherent.
Reason56: Architects make the world a better place for all. So what? Making the built environment useful, safe, comfortable, efficient, and as beautiful as possible is the architect’s quest. No one else makes this their ultimate goal. The world is a better place for our having been there.
Reason57: Architects are rare. So what? At a time when it seems like there are too many architects for the work available – an imbalance of supply and demand – architects make up just a tiny percentage of professionals, let alone the workforce. Architects are a rare but powerful breed.
Reason58: Architects represent and serve all clients – paying and non-paying. So what? Architects matter because they are the only entity who serves not only the paying but non-paying client (society-at-large.) So so what? Who else is going to represent the needs and wants of the neighbors, community, stakeholders – while balancing the client’s wishes? Architects respect the needs and aspirations of both the individual and the community.
Reason59: Architects are a luxury. So what? Admit it. Human beings the world over have built homes with nothing more than their own two hands. Up until recently, the world existed for millennia without architects and can very well do so again. But why do so? Architects – for all we do – are a luxury that most cannot live without.
Reason60: Architects understand the patterns of everyday life. So what? Architects get urban design. Architects know that the design of cities and buildings affects the quality of our lives – whether this is acknowledged or appreciated is another matter. The bottom line is this: When it comes to creating urban form, places where people live, work and play, architects matter.
Reason61: Architects are influencers. So what? Not everybody has their own ideas for how to live, work, shop and play. Some architects, such as Christopher Alexander, not only influence their own tribe but worlds beyond their own (i.e. urban planning to software engineers. The adoption of Alexander’s pattern language by the software community is one such instance.)
Reason62: Architects keep things whole. So what? Since Deconstructivism died, architects – irrespective of style – one way or another have focused on whole building and holistic design. Our hemisphere needs architects to keep things whole, to distinguish east and west while acknowledging the best of both, much as the olympics have. So so what? To keep globalization from creating an indistinguishable world. To provide order but also character and pride of place.
Reason63: Architects look to the beyond. So what? Beyond the immediate problem. Beyond the immediate issue at hand. Beyond their immediate surroundings – to look at the impacts of what they’re creating on the world beyond. The universe needs architects…to explore how to inhabit other places beyond our planet.
Reason64: Architects touch sp many walks of life. So what? The world needs architects – the earth, our continent and country needs architects to address national issues. Our region needs architects – to represent what distinguishes one locale from another, to make sure that our work belongs to specific place and time, so that we might place ourselves in it. Our state needs architects, our cities needs architects, and especially our suburbs.
Reason65: Architects save lives. So what? And not just hospital design architects. “Architecture can save lives”— Newsweek. Just look at what we are accomplishing in Haiti. Producing housing structures for displaced and disadvantaged populations, rethinking humanitarian assistance and pursuing innovative solutions to contemporary housing crises. Focusing on disaster relief and inexpensive and affordable design solutions.
Reason67: Architects are as diverse a group as those they design for. So what? Some will try to tell you that architects have a diversity problem. Forget the stereotype – it doesn’t exist. Architects themselves are a diverse bunch making them particularly effective at designing for diversity. We champion the values of diversity in a beautiful way — values essential to creating livable cities and housing.
Reason68: Architects give good design. Daily. So what? Architects, some may feel, are a luxury. So be it. But architects, as purveyors and perpetuators of good design, are truly needed. Good design is not a luxury, but a necessity.
Reason69: Architects have respect for the past, perform in the present and aspire to have their work help create the future. So what? Architects work attempts to represent the time in which they build – which for us, today, represents turmoil. As Frank Stella said: Architecture can’t fully represent the chaos and turmoil that are part of the human personality, but you need to put some of that turmoil into the architecture, or it isn’t real. For many architects it is not enough that their work represents a specific time and place – they strive to have it belong to both their time and all time. So so what? It matters because our work will not look dated and have a sense of permanence and inevitability, not leave the user with a sense o f otherwiseness. As another Frank has said (Gehry): Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.
Reason70: Architects are gifted. So what? Not a wrapped keepsake voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation but a notable capacity, talent, or endowment. Whether born with talent or acquired along the way, architects are made, not born. So so what? We owe their many gifts to their professors, educators and trainers along the way. Everything they need to know they learned in school.
Reason71: Architect’s work is a gift. So what? No matter how much they are paid – or whether they are paid at all – what architects leave behind outlasts them. More time is always put into a project’s design and making than our fee could cover.
Reason72: Architects give it away. So what? Architects worldwide regularly provide pro-bono services to communities that have survived war, government oppression and natural disasters. It’s also an antidote to apathy.
Reason73: Architects create nations and destinations. So what? Architects gave the world the Roman Colosseum, Sagrada Familia, Fallingwater, Pantheon and Guggenheim Museum to name but five. Creating timeless destinations serve as evidence of some of man’s highest achievements and something for every artist and architect to strive for.
Reason74: Architects get sustainability. So what? We not only get it – we act on it. We knew long before the recent revelation that location of a green project mattered as much – if not more – as the project siting, orientation and inclusion of systems and products.
Reason75: Architects make connections II. So what? Another sort of connections – we’re literally connectors – but also associative thinkers. The world needs more of us – to feel less isolated. Our product – buildings – may be one-offs, but not the way we design or plan them. We’re always linking and making connections between things. We can’t help it – it’s the way our minds work.
Reason76: Architects make cities real. So what? Architects have given the world the best architecture cities in the world. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and they had vanished. Barcelona, Spain, Beijing, China, Istanbul, Turkey, Chicago, USA, Athens, Greece – Parthenon vanished. Millennium Park and FLW home and studio. No more. Sydney without the Sydney Opera House? The work disappears – but so does its host. So so what? Architects create works that are inseparable from their environments –and the way we think about them.
Reason77: Architects listen. And listen. So what? People are helped when architecture is democratic. Take the underprivileged. Three past and present California architects come to mind: Michael Pyatok, David Baker, Charles Moore – all as well-regarded for their exuberance as for their participatory design approaches.
Reason78: Architects need to know it all. So what? Architects work with what they know, creating a harmonious balance our of disparate parts. As Vitruvius wrote over 2000 years ago: An architect should be a good writer, a skillful draftsman, versed in geometry and optics, expert at figures, acquainted with history, informed on the principles of natural and moral philosophy, somewhat of a musician, not ignorant of the law and of physics, nor of the motions, laws, and relations to each other, of the heavenly bodies. So so what? A career in architecture, as one parent of an architect put is, is a never-ending learning experience with a myriad of “career spokes” springing from the hub of the core disciplines. The architect takes it upon herself to continually learn and grow, remaining throughout their career a student not just of architecture but of life.
Reason79: Architects are lifelong learners. So what? And not just because they’re required to gather tally, and document their continuing education credits. We’re curious types – in the best sense of the word. We want to know it all – everything – and are thirsty for knowledge. Which is a good thing – because we need to know it all.
Reason80: Architects are all alike. So what? There has been some grumbling that there are now too many architects – software, enterprise, business – and not enough design architects. Or that design architects aren’t getting their fair share of the airwaves. So be it. So so what? The bottom line is this: all architects is alike. We share similar values, obsessions, fixations and interests. We can learn a great deal from each other. So stop complaining – and join the tribe.
Reason81: Architects are action-oriented. So what? Remember Mies’s “Build – don’t talk.” That’s not just a Chicago credo. Architects design to build – with building in mind. So so what? We use words, images and action to get our ideas across and accepted. But in the end, most want to get their designs out in the world, for others to use, live in and among and yes, even critique and judge.
Reason82: Architects are master puzzle makers. So what? Architects are needed because they can put it all together. We fix what is broken and repair what’s been devastated. When given a 500 page program containing 1000’s of input and data – it doesn’t even occur to us that the end result will be anything less and a complete, cohesive and coherent work of whole building design. Bring it on!
Reason83: Architects are pleasers. So what? Architects are comfortable with ambiguity. We keep everyone’s needs, wants, aspirations and wishes – their ideas and ideals – in mind throughout the design process. With many balloons in the air you’d think it would be hard to make everybody happy.
Reason84: Architects are in it for the long haul. So what? Architects matter because they know what they produce will be around for a while – and therefore carry the additional weight of responsibility for their choices and actions. So so what? For, as Lord Byron said: A man of eighty has outlived probably three new schools of painting, two of architecture and poetry and a hundred in dress. Architecture changes a lot less frequently than trends. This means that architects cannot be at the whims of fashion – what we do, what our designs look like, have to make sense and last for many generations.
Reason85: Architects are never satisfied with good enough. So what? Why settle? Life is too short. If you can give everybody what they need and want – and at the same time, through trickery or talent, perseverance or insight – find a way to deliver more, why not try to do so? No architect strives to do good enough design – but rather, good design that is enough.
Reason86: Architects use what they got. So what? Architects try to make the most with what they have and are given – even if it is not expected or asked for. Had they not – the built world would be confined to making shelters. Like Helmut Jahn, we strive for an architecture from which nothing can be taken away.
Reason87: Architects, ever patient, persevere. So what? Architecture takes a long time to plan, finance and build. It requires not only the long view but the vision for the long haul. So so what? The architect has the perspective to provide this. Who else on the design or construction team can same the same?
Reason88: Architects work in flows. So what? Architects not only improve the build world and environment but also design in order to improve processes. Architects understand it’s not about the building – it’s about the business and the people and what they do when there. Upstream, downstream and throughout the project – architects follow the flow of movement and energy to and from their projects.
Reason89: Architects put is all into perspective. So what? Architects know the price of their art – the hard work that goes into it, the sacrifices they make, often impacting their family life and sleep. They’re willing to put in the extra effort, to go the extra distance, to pace ourselves over a long career. We truly are the change we want to see.
Reason 90: Architects pay the price. So what? Architects work hard, very hard, at achieving their goals. FLW said: I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.
Reason91: Architects are of two minds. So what? Architects are able to think in both business and design terms, to use their design sense to further the business ambitions of their clients. Call it design thinking. Architects are leaders when it comes to design thinking – the ability to apply design sense to help others with their business needs.
Reason92: Architects envision what is not there. So what? But it doesn’t stop with sight or foresight. Architects are trained to be creative thinkers. We see things others don’t or can’t and are able to describe and explain them in ways that help others to understand and act.
Reason93: Architects make others look better. So what? Architects matter because they are there to help their clients succeed. Architects and our professional services firms don’t succeed unless the client does. Architects love to help others achieve their goals and reach their dreams and find imaginative ways to help them get there.
Reason94: Architects learn by doing. So what? Architecture is too broad and deep of a subject to ever really know it all. Continuous learning – there’s always something more to learn – keeps us perpetually on our toes.
Reason95: Architects thrive on less. So what? Our’s really a case where less is truly more. Architects recognize that in tough times such as the current one we’re facing better architecture can be the result. That tough times may in fact lead to better architecture. So so what? This is important because the opposite could occur – where fewer resources result in lesser buildings, less pride of place, and all of us being the lesser for it.
Reason96: Architects are here to serve. So what? Despite the reputation of some, architects exist to serve others. Except for the occasional architect-designed museum, it is what happens inside their buildings and spaces that matters – not the building itself. Architecture is basically a container of something. I hope they will enjoy not so much the teacup, but the tea. Yoshio Taniguchi.
Reason97: Architects operate both in the world – and outside it. So what? Architects practice an art that is in the world and also of the world. But at the same time – stands apart – is its own animal. As Thom Mayne has said: Architecture is involved with the world, but at the same time it has a certain autonomy. This autonomy cannot be explained in terms of traditional logic because the most interesting parts of the work are non-verbal. They operate within the terms of the work, like any art.
Reason98: Architects are markitects. So what? Architects help people and organizations make their mark on the planet – and do so with the widest appeal and the smallest carbon footprint. For better or worse, the first subject Prince Charles really went for as Prince was architecture. It made an impact. He was very intent to use his years as Prince of Wales to make his mark and architects helped him to do so. So so what? Wouldn’t you rather have an architect help make built statements than any other entity? They will at least be responsible, keeping all of the factors in mind. So make your mark!
Reason99: Architects play well with others. So what? Architects may come across as Howard Roark types – lone wolves in sheep’s clothing. But we are all born collaborators. Architects are trained and educated to work productively in teams, and despite the current interest in autonomy know that they get the best results when involving all stakeholders and working well with others. So so what? This matters because we live in a time of crowdsourcing, of co-creation, of participatory design. Architects are there to work with others to come up with the best solutions for all involved.
Reason100: Architects connect the past with the present and future. So what? Architecture serves to connect us in time – with works from the past, with past civilizations. Helping to locate and place us in time, to provide us with a sense of continuity, help us get our bearings and makes us truly inhabitants of this planet, not just hangers-on.
Reason101: Architects work with a palette of possibility. Architects are concerned not with the necessary but with the contingent – not with how things are but with how they might be. So what?
Reason102: The work architects perform touches so many parts of life – and of learning. It has so many facets, it can keep a person interested for a lifetime. As Richard Rogers said: I believe very strongly, and have fought since many years ago – at least over 30 years ago – to get architecture not just within schools, but architecture talked about under history, geography, science, technology, art. So what? Attorneys leave law due to burn-out as well as a lack of meaning in their work. Architects may leave the field for financial reasons, but few if any have done so for lack of what was found there.
Reason103: Architects strive to heal the world. So what? Architects still believe that their works and deeds can help to heal the places where they are privileged to work. Despite what Thom Mayne has said: I’m often called an old-fashioned modernist. But the modernists had the absurd idea that architecture could heal the world. That’s impossible. And today nobody expects architects to have these grand visions any more. Nobody expects this – except us architects, ourselves.
Reason104: Architects hake the hard decisions. So what? When a sales rep calls and asks for a decision-maker they hand the phone to an architect. Why? Architects matter because we have to make the hard decisions – thousands of them in every project. As Arne Jacobsen said: If architecture had nothing to do with art, it would be astonishingly easy to build houses, but the architect’s task – his most difficult task – is always that of selecting. Architects are first and last decision-makers. We make the decisions that count.
Reason105: Architects design for the heart as well as the head. So what? Architects create projects and places that affect us emotionally as well as intellectually. We address the whole person.
Reason106: Architects are passionate about design. So what? Architects do what they do because they are passionate about architecture and design. Despite the rigors of school and the relative lack of money to be obtained in the field, architects that have been in the field already for some time do what they do because they love to do it: plain and simple. So so what? This assures that we will go the extra mile, which is often necessary, to achieve a successful outcome.
Reason107: Architects matter because they sign and seal documents. So what? Exactly!
Don’t see a reason? Make it an even 108. Please let me know. Chiming-in by leaving a comment. Thanks!
The Last Architect? May 21, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, BIM, career, change, creativity, essence, integrative thinking, optimism, pragmatism, questions, technology.
Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today.
Think laterally and simultaneously
Redefine the problem, reframe the questions and direct people’s energy
Meet virtually but also face-to-face
These. according to Renée Cheng, Professor and Head of School of Architecture at University of Minnesota, are some of the ways we as a profession will proceed boldly into the future.
Cheng, an expert in emerging technologies in construction, recently talked with Markku Allison, Resource Architect at The American Institute of Architects, in an AIA – Architecture Knowledge Review podcast revisiting the 2006 Report on Integrated Practice that can be found on iTunes entitled: 2009 and Beyond “Suggestions for an Integrative Education.”
While the entire interview is generally excellent, I’d like to focus on the final third of the podcast, because these last 8 minutes of the podcast are like gold.
It is not that Markku and Renee go off-script – it’s that Markku allows Renee to riff on the question of “What’s next?” in a way that we seldom hear or see in our industry media.
Gratefully pragmatic without a whiff of academic jargon, what ensues in the latter part of the interview is a true dialogue, marked by a calm cadence – with much wisdom – found only rarely, if at all, anywhere.
Perhaps the last time was in this video of an interview where soft-spoken philosopher J Krishnamurti asks physicist David Bohm: Would you go into your chosen profession today if you had to do it all over?
Markku asks: What’s next? What developments are currently underway that you feel will have the most significant impact over the next three years?
Cheng acknowledges that it is always difficult to project into the future.
Renee: Things I’ve been keeping an eye on are things like crowdsourcing. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Netflix competition?
Renee: Crowdsourcing, where you can put out a query and get multiple minds working on it. Not like a wiki where you can let anyone post but more like invited experts working in somewhat of a hierarchy, somewhat of a system.
Cheng went on to describe how her school has run some studios based on social networking platforms.
Renee: We’re going to start to get some pretty highly specialized people that need to be brought in at very specific times and not end up having everyone in the room all the time. So if there can be some way to streamline some of that – how to keep communication going without necessarily having everyone be face to face.
But isn’t face to face collaboration critical to the successful outcome of a project?
On Virtual Interface vs. Face-to-Face
Renee: The more I’m getting into this the more I am realizing that face to face is a really critical part of this. And yet there are huge opportunities for virtual interface. So how do we as humans overcome the fact that face-to-face is still the best means of communication? And how can some of these virtual environments or virtual tools begin to – not replace – but supplement it, potentially making things go faster and involve more voices? That is something I will be looking for in the next couple of years.
On The Role of the Designer
Markku: I’m curious to hear you expand just a little bit on what you perceive as the role of the designer in this new future that may involve much larger numbers of stakeholders input into design. How do you think that crowdsourcing and other trends you describe will affect the role of the designer?
On Utopian vs. Dystopian Futures
Renee: There’s a utopian and dystopian way of looking at this (laughter.) In the dystopian way architects become just one of many, many voices. The hierarchy is lost and it becomes very difficult to get good design. You just get a lot of compromise. That would be the dystopian future I would not like to see.
On the Architect as Advocate for Design and Design Thinking
Renee: The utopian future that we are trying to prepare our students to lead and for this role is architect as – in some kind of manner of – not necessarily master builder but potentially something more in the Kieran Timberlake model, the central figure, the connector – someone who can be the advocate for design. And for design thinking. Can think laterally and simultaneously. And can help others to make decisions that make sense. Ideally there is some role for the architect that is different than the role of any other experts, clients or users – or whomever is adding to this future design process – that are coming in. Because of the training.
On the Architect’s Training
Renee: The training is not that they know how to make a zero-energy building. Or that they know how to manipulate a BIM model. The training is that they know how to see things laterally and simultaneously.
See laterally and simultaneously.
Renee: Very few people know how to do that. And when you can see things laterally and simultaneously, envisioning multiple options at the same time, you have an enormous ability to redefine the problem, reframe the questions and direct people’s energy.
Redefine the problem, reframe the questions and direct people’s energy
Renee: So that’s what I would hope would set the architect apart from others in the crowd. As crowdsourcing or social networking or larger number of stakeholders begin to be part of the process.
Markku: The ability to position the conversation within a framework of multiple, possible realities.
Renee: Exactly. And to be able to frame and reframe the questions. Because it’s not about trying to find answers or solutions to things. It’s really about precisely defining the problem – and then the solution becomes self-evident. And any designer who has had that moment happen – or visited a building where it all comes together and makes sense – that solution didn’t come from someone saying “make this museum function in this and this way.” It came from a variety of things that were juggled at the same time. A lot of tangible and intangible things that get fit into that process until you reach a result that is so beautiful and well-designed it becomes inevitable. But it wasn’t from trying to solve a problem. It comes from framing the questions.
On Preparing for the Unknown
Markku: Do you think that that ability to frame the problem in such a concise way that the solution becomes self-evident is possible in the realm of the academy?
Renee: we’re trying to develop and nurture that skill in our students. It’s both a blessing and a curse to have this ability to constantly frame questions and prolong the period of not jumping to conclusion or solution…If we’re asked to prepare students to meet these grand challenges that are coming forward for their generation, then we’re going to need to think about how we’re going to instill all of these skills that we’ve always counted on architects having, yet prepare them for a future that is extremely different than we knew when we were in school – or that’s even existing today. It’s a tough thing for a curriculum to do. A challenge that I would say architectural education has not faced ever before.
On How We’re Going to Get There
Markku: An interesting time for you.
Renee: It’s always good to be living in interesting times. Sometimes I do wonder how we’re going to get there. The creative thing is when you go into the studios and see the students and how enthusiastic they are in accepting the goals of carbon neutrality and low energy design and just aggressively and idealistically tackling them. And very, very thirsty for the tools that will allow them to get there. I don’t think, in student’s idealistic minds, they’re thinking of the billions of dollars cut from waste in the building industry. They’re thinking of a future where all buildings are efficiently built, with a good use of resources, hopefully with well-compensated designers and clients that are knowledgeable and willing to take risks on things that are willing to move the technology forward and buildings forward. Communities that are livable and walkable and promote healthy living. Students are aiming for the moon – which leads me to think it is a tough problem – but that’s our role as educators and our role as professionals. To show them that yes it can be done. And that we’re just taking it step by step.
Markku: Well I think we’re in great hands.
We are, indeed.
Renée Cheng is a graduate of Harvard’s GSD and Harvard College. A registered architect, her professional experience includes work for Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners and Richard Meier and Partners before founding Cheng-Olson Design. She taught at the University of Michigan and the University of Arizona before joining the faculty of University of Minnesota in January of 2002 where she is currently Head.
Professor Cheng has written on the topic of architectural education in the context of emerging practices and technology. These writings have appeared in the 2006 AIA Report on Integrated Practice and the Education Summit at ACADIA in 2004. 2006 “Suggestions for an Integrated Practice” in AIA Report on Integrated Practice, ed. Norm Strong, Daniel Friedman, Mike Broshar, also excerpted in AECBytes, Viewpoint July 2006.
Look here for the AIA’s review of 2009 and Beyond | Revisiting the Report on Integrated Practice, “Suggestions for an Integrative Education,” by Robert Smith, AIA.
Each essay from the 2006 Report on Integrated Practice is being re-released as part of the 2009 and Beyond series. The re-release includes new commentary as well as podcasts from interviews with the reports’ original authors.
How Do We Know We’re Doing Things Right? Part I January 18, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, change, collaboration, pragmatism, problem solving, questions.
Tags: architects, architecture, Atul Gawande, construction industry, contractors, profession, The Checklist Manifesto
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In the face of the unknown – the always nagging uncertainty about whether, under complex circumstances, things will really be okay – the builders trusted in the power of communication. They didn’t believe in the wisdom of the single individual, of even an experienced engineer. They believed in the wisdom of the group, the wisdom of making sure multiple pairs of eyes were on a problem and then letting the watchers decide what to do. Man is fallible, but maybe men less so. Atul Gawande, from The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
Things have become increasingly complex in medicine, in technology and no doubt, for architects and others in the design professions and construction industry.
New technologies, new work processes, new codes, new materials and systems, new energy requirements, new priorities –there is seemingly no letting up of the complexity.
Architects pride themselves in being comfortable with ambiguity – but there comes a time when neither pride nor patience serves them or anyone else well professionally.
So what’s an architect to do?
A Focus on Checklists
MacArthur Fellow Atul Gawande, gifted surgeon, New Yorker staff writer and esteemed author of Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (“A masterpiece,” Malcolm Gladwell,) Complications, and now, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, in the chapter entitled The End of the Master Builder turned his scalpel on the architecture profession and construction industry. And what he discovered is quite astonishing.
The Checklist Manifesto grew out of a New Yorker article about the surprising impact of basic checklists in reducing complications from surgery.
Things have gotten pretty complex for architects and the construction industry and as Gawande writes “we need to make sure we apply the knowledge we have consistently and correctly.”
It has been years since I read a book so powerful and so thought-provoking…The danger, in a review as short as this, is that it makes Gawande’s book seem narrow in focus or prosaic in its conclusions. It is neither. Gawande is a gorgeous writer and storyteller, and the aims of this book are ambitious. Gawande thinks that the modern world requires us to revisit what we mean by expertise: that experts need help, and that progress depends on experts having the humility to concede that they need help. – Malcolm Gladwell
The book has a number of simple but powerful messages:
- The volume and complexity of knowledge today has exceeded any single individual’s ability to manage it consistently without error despite material advances in technology, training and specialization of functions and responsibilities.
Gawande explains the challenges associated with the exponential growth in both the complexity and volume of information and the inability of expertise alone to manage that information successfully. Gawande informatively distinguishes between simple, complicated and complex problems – where complex problems are like raising a child or designing and constructing a building. He tells us that a simple checklist can help us keep things in order. He writes, “Since every building is a new creature with its own particularities, every building checklist is new, too.”
- Despite demonstrating that checklists produce results, there is resistance to their use
From the book: “Despite showing (hospital) staff members the benefits of using the checklist, 20% resisted stating that it was not easy to use, it took too long and felt it had not improved the safety of care. Yet, when asked an additional question – would you want the checklist to be used if you were having an operation – a full 93% said yes.” In the book Gawande discusses two main types of checklists, characteristics of what constitutes a good checklist and some potential challenges of the approach.
- If you are acting on intuition rather than a systematic process, this book will cause you to pause in your tracks and seek a more disciplined approach
Gawande writes: “In a world in which success now requires large enterprises, teams of clinicians, high-risk technologies, and knowledge that outstrips any one person’s abilities, individual autonomy hardly seems the ideal we should aim for. …what is needed, however is discipline…discipline is hard – harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even than selflessness. We are by nature flawed and inconstant creatures. We can’t even keep from snacking between meals. We are built for novelty and excitement, not for careful attention to detail. Discipline is something we have to work at.”
Some revelations from The Checklist Manifesto
- You should develop and implement a process checklist for critical processes and decisions
Gawande explains how the construction industry operates in a world that has become overly complex to accommodate the traditional Master Builder at the helm, where a sole architect once controlled of all details of the building process. Hence, the Death of the Master Builder (the subject of Part 2 of this post and the title of a presentation Atul Gawande gave at the New Yorker Festival this past October.) Architects and contractors are able to accomplish this, he learns, through the use of multiple checklists.
- It takes more than just one person to do a job well
We’ve been hearing a lot of late of the days of the architect working alone have long passed. Collaboration has become a buzzword in business circles, not just in the architecture, and for good reason. As Gawande writes in The End of the Master Builder, “the variety and sophistication of advancements in every stage of the construction process had overwhelmed the abilities of any individual to master them.”
- A team is only as strong as its checklist
–by his definition, a way of organizing that empowers people at all levels to put their best knowledge to use, communicate at crucial points, and get things done, according to Bartholomew, Senior Books Editor at Amazon.com
- Busy people, caught in the complexities of life can change their ways and can produce better outcomes by using a simple checklist.
Architects of course have had checklists at their disposal. The AIA’s D200 form is a color-by-numbers step-by-step guide that hand-holds you the way through the design process . But it’s necessarily a false comfort – as Gawande makes clear.
I have resorted to using checklists – but clandestine, hiding them in my file or side drawer – embarrassed that I was unable to trust that I had kept every step, action, question, material, system, deliverable in my head and needed to rely on a list, as one does when food shopping.
The 1995 AIA D200 checklist lays out the architectural design process step by step in a color by number format where all you need to do is connect the dots and voila! You have a building. The architect has the comfort of knowing what to do, when to do it, and what to look out for down the road.
According to the AIA, the D200™–1995, Project Checklist is a convenient listing of tasks a practitioner may perform on a given project. This checklist will assist the architect in recognizing required tasks and in locating the data necessary to fulfill assigned responsibilities. By providing space for notes on actions taken, assignment of tasks, and time frames for completion, AIA Document D200–1995 may also serve as a permanent record of the owner’s, contractor’s and architect’s actions and decisions.
A checklist of this sort acts as a back-up system – where I look like a hero when we get to that part of a meeting and someone says “anything else?” and I list 3 or 4 items than no one else had thought of. Don’t thank me. Thank the AIA.
Who needs scenario planning when you have a time-proven list of what to expect in front of you?
“The truly great don’t have checklists”
But architects pride themselves on keeping everything they need to know in their head. Having to rely on a checklist is a sign of weakness to some surgeons – and no doubt to architects.
Besides, as Gawande mentions, checklists aren’t cool.
As Gawande writes: “It somehow feels beneath us to use a checklist, an embarrassment. It runs counter to deeply held beliefs about how the truly great among us – those we aspire to be – handle situations of high stakes and complexity. The truly great are daring. They improvise. They do not have protocols and checklists. Maybe our idea of heroism needs updating.”
We don’t picture architects Herzog and Demeuron with a checklist. But that is probably because their staff keeps them under wraps and out of sight. But no one doubts that they keep them.
Gawande points out in his book that each project by nature of being a one-off is unique and so no one checklist will serve.
This is true – anyone who has resorted to one of the checklist books – Fred Stitt’s Working Drawing Manual, Pat Guthrie’s Cross-Check: Integrating Building Systems and Working Drawings, or Guthrie’s forthcoming 688 pages 4th edition of his The Architect’s Portable Handbook: First-Step Rules of Thumb for Building Design Publisher: from McGraw-Hill –
can attest to that. They are at best cursory, sometimes random, skipping around from reminding you to put in flashing to reminding you to submit for permit.
These field guides, handbooks and lists, by addressing the technology and science of building, give the design professional the false feeling of safety and security – they’re no substitute for covering your tracks by looking things up and crossing your T’s, nor for direct communication with your fellow project teammates and collaborators.
As one reviewer put it, “As in all of his work, Dr. Gawande latest book brilliantly reminds us all of the huge value of getting the human interaction side right to accompany the advancements in science and technology that his (and other’s) field of work has witnessed. It highlights the inadequacy of technical expertise when not joined by an equal (maybe greater) emphasis on strengthening our relationships with those we work with and care about.”
Anyone working with complexity and readers already familiar with Gawande’s previous books, Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance and Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, will find The Checklist Manifesto no less an informative, entertaining and thought-provoking book.