The Architect (2012) January 8, 2012Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, BIM, change, employment, marginalization, technology, the economy, transformation, transition.
Tags: academy awards, BIM, CAD, George Valentin, Hollywood, oscar contender, Peppy Miller, silent films, The Artist, the oscars
Last night I had the opportunity to see Oscar contender, “The Architect,” a film whose story begins in the late-CAD era.
“The Architect,” whether you consider it a screwball comedy, a sentimental melodrama or a spoof, is a 2D black-and-white film that has received a great deal of praise from critics.
The story is a simple and familiar one
The story focuses on a declining male starchitect and a rising starletchitect, as CAD grows out of fashion and is replaced by BIM.
A valentine to early computer-aided design and drafting, “The Architect,” stars leading man Jean Dujardin as a CAD-using starchitect named George Valentin.
At the top of his profession, Valentin meets eager would-be starletchitect Peppy Miller.
She dreams of success in architecture, invests time in learning BIM, and as her demand rises in the industry, Valentin’s shine is eradicated.
Architect Valentin faces untold obstacles: the fickleness of the public’s changing taste, the adoption of disruptive new technologies, waning powers that come with age, competition from fellow industry professionals and unemployment, among others.
Faced with the economic insecurity of the Great Recession and technological change that threatens to make him obsolete, George is being crushed in a vise grip all too familiar to mid-career architects.
Refusing to adapt to the onset of BIM, he puts all his money into one last CAD production.
George has owners in the palm of his hand, at least until BIM arrives
It turns out George isn’t well-suited for BIM, not least because of his mindset and attitude, dependence on 2D CAD and archaic drafting style.
But BIM is perfectly suited to a vivacious ingénue named Peppy Miller, who crosses paths with George, first as a fangirl, then as an intern in the office of his firm.
In 2009, just after Wall Street crashes, George’s studio stops making CAD documents.
The studio head announces the end of production of 2D CAD documents, but Valentin insists that BIM is just a fad.
It’s fitting that the next time he meets Peppy, on Rapidograph Studio’s main stairway, she’s on her way up and he’s on his way down.
When the studio head lays-off all his 2D CAD starchitects, George decides to open his own office where he could work in CAD.
His project is submitted on the same day as Miller’s new BIM project, and Valentin is ruined.
His wife kicks him out and he moves into an apartment with his valet, while Miller goes on to become a major 3D starletchitect.
“If that’s the future, you can have it!”
However reassuring excursions into bygone golden ages may be – whether drafting in pencil or CAD – they carry with them the potential for revisionism, soft-focus complacency and the refusal to embrace uncomfortable but necessary change.
This is why some critics are grumbling about “The Architect,” which has won a cache of critics’ awards and looks to be a contender for the Best Picture Oscar.
Whereas naysaying design professionals can appreciate the fond look back at the medium they adore with equal devotion, they inevitably see “The Architect” as an all too-comfortable 2D nostalgia trip that represents stasis rather than genuine innovation, provocation or artistic risk that working in 3D enables.
Those skeptics may be missing a modest but meaningful truth buried under “The Architect’s” surface and story, which is that George’s plight could easily be transposed into any modern-day profession or industry.
In one of “The Architect’s” most poignant scenes, George plays a character sinking in a cement pour, an aptly desperate metaphor at a time when so many architects feel they are in over their heads.
It’s a film that taps into our anxieties as we encounter seismic economic and technological transformations.
Having just witnessed his first BIM model, George says at one point:
“If that’s the future, you can have it!”
He could be speaking for an entire generation of architects who feel as if they’re in mortal danger of being left behind, forced into early retirement they can’t afford — literally or psychologically – or leaving the profession altogether.
At the risk of revealing a spoiler, it turns out all is not lost for George.
Disappointingly, it involves a work-around – when everyone recognizes the only way out is the way through.
“The Architect” may be drenched in the romance and visual values of CAD’s bygone era, but it’s a motion picture uncannily of its time.
(Apologies to critics of “The Artist,” which – like this post – is a shameless pastiche.)
The Architect’s Missing Manual August 28, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, BIM, books, change, identity, IPD, marginalization, survival, technology, the economy, transition.
Tags: AIA, AIA documents, The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice
Do you remember yours?
My first was the twelfth.
That is, the twelfth edition of The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice.
That was the last edition to be offered in four separate three ring binders.
White, grey and red.
And crisp, with an off-center AIA logo super graphic emblazoned across the front.
I read the entire contents cover to cover to cover to cover.
Here, I thought, at last was the architect’s missing user’s manual.
After 4 years of undergraduate schooling and 2 years of graduate school, I still didn’t completely understand all that an architect was and could become.
And with the deep blue “backgrounders” ample history of what the architect once was.
For the first time you sensed that you belonged to a long tradition.
One that you were proud to be a part of.
Here, at last, contained in four binders was “the answer.”
There it was, in red ink on the first binder:
“Volume 1: The Tools. The Architect. The Firm.”
It would never again be so simple.
Nor so innocent.
Volume 2 was even simpler.
All it said was: “Volume 2: The Project.”
Could it be laid out any more straightforward?
The last two binders contained facsimiles of the AIA documents.
Here was the be-all-and-end-all D200.
“The checklist” that promised to give you a step-by-step explanation of every move you would make, from initial handshake to final handoff.
That was 1994.
In 2001, the thirteenth edition of the AHPP was issued.
And it was a new world. For the US, and for architects.
The contents were reduced to a single bound book.
With the AIA Documents sequestered to a CD-ROM.
And for the first time, the edition was printed on the binding – henceforth resulting in readers referring to the AHPP by edition.
[The twelfth was known by the three-ring binders.]
If the twelfth edition was for me “Paradise Found,” the thirteenth was “Innocence Lost.”
The table of contents said it all:
“Part 1: CLIENT.”
“Part 2: BUSINESS.”
The first 9 chapters were devoted to markets, marketing, financial operations and HR.
All good. All much-needed.
But the AHPP no longer told us who we were – or who we could become.
Not in our own right, anyway. But instead, we only existed so long as we had clients.
No client, no architect. And while practically we understood this to be true from a business perspective, the architect was clearly no longer front and center.
The off-center logo of the twelfth edition now had been shifted almost completely off the cover, so to speak.
The architect – in the first 250 pages – was almost nowhere to be found.
The center – had there ever truly been one – did not hold.
Each architect had to discover and define who she was for herself.
The fourteenth edition, printed in 2008, returned the architect to their rightful position in the AHPP.
“PART 1: THE PROFESSION.”
“PART 2: THE FIRM.”
And so on. But by the time this last edition was delivered, the world’s economy was in disarray with architect , profession and industry scrambling for survival.
The fourteenth edition, thick as a tombstone, was a memorial to what the architect had been.
What would become of the architect was anyone’s guess.
And while we suspect who the architect is – and will become – will have something to do with BIM, IPD, sustainability and digital fabrication, many architects would sooner be defined by their unique attributes, by their education or experience than by technological or global trends that reside outside themselves.
With the world in flux, the industry and profession in transition, and who or what the architect is or needs to be anyone’s guess,
I do not envy the task the esteemed architects and educators who are undertaking the next – the fifteenth edition – of the AHPP.
There has never been a more important undertaking for our profession than the definition of who the architect is and needs to be in the immediate future.
Here is how you can help bring about the new edition of the AHPP.
What can you do to help?
Help shape its intent and content by taking a short survey.
The deadline is coming up quick (Wednesday, August 31) so take a couple minutes right now to answer a couple questions here.
What is your first memory of the AHPP? Has it been of use to you at any time in your career? If so, how? Please let me know by leaving a comment.
Architect 2Tweets – The Week in Tweets May 28, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, books, career, collaboration, creativity, employment, identity, management, sustainability, technology, the economy, transformation, transition.
Tags: architect Barbie, architects, architecture, CONSTRUCT, construction, retweets, tweets, twitter
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Take a look. Click on the links to find articles, websites and other resources.
If you are not a Tweeter, by browsing the list of micro-posts you will get a good idea of how I use it. And if you like what you see, follow me on Twitter @randydeutsch
Online Attendee Registration Opens Early June for @CONSTRUCTshow Free Exhibit Hall Admission & Discounted Education Packages thru Aug 11
The Architect of Flowers http://amzn.to/jrXJCh ‘Dreamlike and ethereal’ stories
Insurer: Payment delays, fragile construction industry conditions mean more building subcontractors go out of business http://bit.ly/lPLWWQ
The first warning sign that a project is in trouble. Sometimes it even begins before the project does http://bit.ly/aRY7fp
Model of San Francisco, made with 100,000 Toothpicks, began in 1976 – 3000 hours later http://bit.ly/juD4iK
Renter Nation: Since housing meltdown, nearly 3 million households have become renters. 3 million more expected by 2015 http://bit.ly/kUt51j
“There’s nothing off-putting about sustainability. Find someone who is in favor of purposely ruining the future” http://bit.ly/lV2GcG
THE construction industry, regarded as a barometer for economic activity, is now a volatile, unpredictable barometer http://bit.ly/jCwYcp
Why crumbling of America’s transportation infrastructure is a good thing, according to developers http://bit.ly/f6l6Cp
In a modern day Dark Ages with the potential for another great Renaissance? The 21st Century Renaissance http://bit.ly/a2wPeb
Polymath, Renaissance person, Multidisciplinarian (!) – Why we all must become one http://zd.net/kRoKem
To compete in a knowledge-based economy business leaders need to reinvent themselves as innovators in services http://bit.ly/ixxU24
Connections, James Burke’s iconic BBC series on the history of innovation, free to watch online http://j.mp/fcppDy
Do Architects Have the (Mindset) to Face the Future? March 1, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, BIM, books, career, change, identity, technology, the economy, transformation.
Tags: BIM, Building Futures, Carol Dweck, fixed mindset, global economic crisis, growth mindset, Mindset, The Future for Architects
1 comment so far
Here is your future.
Do you know where your mindset is?
And do you have the right mindset to face your future?
The future was presented to us the other day in the form of a PDF.
That is, as the future will unfold according to Building Futures’ “The Future for Architects?” the result of a year’s inquiry and research into the future of architectural practice.
Here are some of the takeaways from this cautionary study:
- Architecture is “a profession that has an unenviable reputation for being notoriously insular and more focused on what it can offer than what its client wants.”
- Smaller practices expressed a resistance to integrated technology such as BIM.
- Technology is a more significant driver for larger practices – and an essential tool required to compete.
- The vast majority of the demand side of the profession (clients and consultants) could see design slipping further down the pecking order in the next fifteen years.
- Building technology is becoming increasingly more complex, so much so that design work is increasingly being carried out by subcontractors
- The concept of the architect as a technician who composes all the constituent parts of a building that are designed by the subcontractors was widely thought to be a realistic vision of the future
- The architectural profession unfortunately does not view itself as part of the wider construction industry, and that this was a fundamental value that needs to change
- Whoever carried the risk would drive the design, and so in shying away from taking on risk architects are diminishing their ability to influence design outcomes.
- Many saw the label ‘architect’ as restrictive and as creating barriers between themselves and other professions such as planning and urban design.
Interestingly, students and graduates of engineering were more positive about their education process, and said they felt well integrated into the other built environment professions – putting them in a good position to lead the design team.
Victimized or energized
How do we know that their findings are accurate?
But when you look at their two previous studies – Practice Futures 2005 is an update to The Professionals’ Choice, a 2003 Building Futures publication that examined the future of the built environment professions – they predicted everything correctly.
Only the global economic crisis wasn’t anticipated.
“The Future for Architects?” calls itself a speculative exploration of the imminent changes likely to affect the industry over the next fifteen years whose stated purpose is for “generating scenarios, cautionary tales and alternative futures to stimulate discussion and debate rather than perfect answers.”
Whether you feel powerless and victimized by these changes, or empowered and energized by them, will have something to do with your age, status and position within your organization.
But more importantly, it has something to do with how you see yourself – as someone who is seen as being intelligent and having the answers.
Or, instead, as someone who is open to learning.
The Big Idea
On this last point, I’ve been thinking lately about Carol Dweck who’ll be visiting one of my kid’s schools here in Winnetka, Illinois USA in the coming weeks.
Her book, Mindset, is a familiar fixture in our household having spent time on just about every coffee table, night stand and otherwise flat surface in the house at one time or another.
Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, like the hedgehog has one idea – but it is a BIG one.
I’ve written about Dweck and her big idea in my other blog.
Here’s her big idea:
She proposes that everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
And that determines how we succeed at work and in life.
Her idea has huge implications for how organizations professionally develop their employees, and the way design professionals go about professionally developing themselves.
A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure.
So an architect with a fixed mindset would have rigid thinking, be set in their ways, practice their profession as a tradition with conventions that are time-tested, unvarying and inflexible.
For architects with fixed mindsets, architecture has to be practiced a certain way otherwise they will not be able to protect the health, welfare and safety of people who inhabit their buildings. You can see how architects, through education, training and practice, could develop fixed mindset attitudes concerning practice and the damage this attitude inflicts on us and those we work with.
Architects with a fixed mindset tend to
1. focus on proving that they have fixed knowledge or expertise in one area instead of focusing on the process of learning and
2. avoid difficult challenges because failing on these could cause them appear less knowledgeable
Their disregard of learning and challenge hinders their performance which in turn hinders their professional development of knowledge, skills and abilities.
A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress.
Your fate is one of growth and opportunity.
An architect with a growth mindset recognizes that a change of mind is always possible and even welcome.
Note that this isn’t about positive and negative thinking – but about fixed and growth mindsets.
According to the dictionary, a mindset is an established set of attitudes held by someone.
When it comes to your career, which mindset do you possess?
How to develop a growth mindset
The good news, says Dweck, is that mindsets are not set.
At any time, you can learn to use a growth mindset to achieve your goals.
This is perhaps the best reason to read Mindset.
In the book Dweck tells how we can develop a growth mindset and improve our lives and the lives of those around us.
To change from a fixed to a growth mindset, follow these four steps:
Step 1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice.”
Step 2. Recognize that you have a choice.
Step 3. Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice.
Step 4. Take the growth mindset action.
For those familiar with cognitive theory, you may recognize some similarities. For more detail, look here.
For us visual types, here’s an illustration that effectively describes the differences between the fixed and growth mindsets.
We’ll all need a growth mindset if we’re to meet the challenges facing the future for architects.
Despite the steps listed above, I cannot think of a more important first step than reading this book.
Architects 2Zebras Celebrates 2Years January 2, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, change, creativity, employment, optimism, possibility, survival, the economy, transformation.
Tags: AIA National, anniversary, ARCHITECT magazine, blog, Wordpress
The 81 Reasons Why There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be an Architect post immediately went viral, reposted on dozens of sites around the world, including for a time on the AIA National website. To this day several people view this post from as far flung places as Hungary and Japan.
And best of all, you came back again and again despite my not having always delivered on my promise: to uplift while I inform.
Here are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010:
81 Reasons Why There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be an Architect February 2010
107 Reasons Why You, Architect, Matter June 2010
55 Ways to Help You Evolve as an Architect May 2010
A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius: One Architect’s Detour of Duty September 2010
My birthday is July 5, the day after Independence Day, so I get to celebrate an extra day every year. So it is only natural that I would celebrate the birth of this blog the day after another holiday: New Years Day.
WordPress, ‘Zebra’s host, sent out an email this morning identifying some of this blog’s highlights over the past year:
- · In 2010, you wrote 30 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 69 posts.
- · Your busiest day of the year was February 26th.
- · The most popular post that day was 81 Reasons Why There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be an Architect.
- · The top referring sites in 2010 were linkedin.com, facebook.com, twitter.com, architecture.myninjaplease.com, and architechnophilia.blogspot.com.
- · Some visitors came searching, mostly for “change,” “architect” and “to be optimistic about something.”
What WordPress failed to mention is that I did not always deliver on this last count.
It has been a hard year for many architects. I have been out of work for nearly a year and there are times when the state of the economy gets to me – someone who considers himself an eternal optimist.
My previous post was indicative of this state of mind. While several readers wrote to me – by email, or on LinkedIn – that what I said in that post was largely accurate, the vast majority found it to be depressing.
It is never my intention to add to anyone’s misery – I thought I was just stating it as I see it.
I was wrong.
I can see now, through WordPress’s stats, that no one visits my site after searching for “just the facts,” “reality” or “to be pessimistic about something.”
One of my resolutions for 2011 is to be, as always, honest with you and true to myself, but not at the expense of providing hope, pertinent information and sharing my normally optimistic outlook.
There is a world of good out there – and in each and every one of us.
I’ll do my best in the coming year to share with you resources, insights and knowledge that is growth promoting, nurturing and, whenever possible, inspiring.
That’s my pledge to you.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you here again soon.
Have a happy, healthy, prosperous and creatively fulfilling 2011!
Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED AP
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.
A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius: One Architect’s Detour of Duty September 25, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, books, career, change, employment, identity, management, optimism, questions, reading, software architects, the economy, transformation.
Tags: Architecture for Humanity, Cameron Sinclair, dave eggers, Down Detour Road, Eric J Cesal, Great Wake, Haiti, MacArthur fellowship, out of work architects, The Huffington Post, The MIT Press, unemployed architects
Today’s post will be brief: I have a presentation to edit and packing still to do. But I would be remiss in leaving town without first letting you in on a brand new book that I just read that I predict will take you and the architecture profession by storm. Before reading further, grab your wallet. You’ll need it by the time you get to the sixth line of this book review.
The book title: Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice
The author: Eric J. Cesal
Why you never heard of him: He’s a recent architecture graduate with 5 years experience as an intern and has built little.
Why that shouldn’t matter: You will be hearing a lot more of and from Eric J. Cesal.
The consensus: This may well be the best book by and for architects ever written. And (to my wife’s chagrin) I own and have read them all.
What the book will set you back: $14.93 ($21.95 + tax if you happen upon it in a bookstore, like I did. See “chagrin” above.)
Who should read this book: Out of work architects. Architects thinking of leaving the profession. Architects who have left the profession but want back in. Former architects who have left the profession for good but on deep, dark nights lie sleepless in bed wondering if they made a wise choice. Neighbors of out of work architects who wonder why they wear a tie when taking the dog out for a walk. Anyone who has ever had to wear a tie. Katherine Darnstadt would like this book. Parents who find their recent grads living once again under their roof. Or in their tent. Employers. Architect’s spouses, friends, relatives and roommates. Architects who think they might have a story to tell but question whether anyone will care to listen. Architects who are considering doing a tour of duty helping the world in some selfless way while they wait out the Great Wake. Architects who think they may be the next to be let go. Architects who sometimes wish they were the next to be let go. Architects who read architecture blog posts in hopes of finding someone who deeply, passionately understands their situation. Architects.
Why you should get it: This book speaks to you where you hurt. Cesal is wise beyond his 31 years (33 today) and whip smart. He knows what matters and he (and no doubts his talented editors) cut to the chase.
Why you should get it now: The sooner you read it, the sooner we’ll all be out of this mess; the sooner you’ll decide to stick it out in architecture; the sooner you’ll find a place for yourself in this new world.
Author’s espoused purpose in writing the book: “We want to find ways for the architecture profession to prosper as our world economy transitions.” p. 42
Why you should read it: Cesal wrote the book during a period of unemployment. Nearly every architect – employed, underemployed and unemployed – can relate.
Why else you should read it: Cesal names the Great Recession the Great Wake.
What will linger long after you’re done reading the book and give it to your colleague to read: The author’s voice.
What this book could also be used for: Like a commonplace book that soldiers used to carry around with them for reassurance and companionship on the front lines, you can keep this book nearby on your own detour of duty.
Why I love the book: Interjected throughout the book are short personal essays describing the author growing up, personal incidents and events that helped shape the architect/ author/ artist/ humanitarian he has become today. I love how the book captures timely subjects (the co-opting of our title by others) and timeless ones. I am most impressed by the way the author maintains a line of thought, without jumping around from subject to subject: a real feat and welcome revelation in contemporary writing. Like the late, great architect and author Peter Collins, Cesal asks hard questions and isn’t afraid to linger in them until he offers a solution.
Why this book may not be appropriate for all audiences: There’s an excruciatingly painful scene involving a tooth being pulled. Alcohol plays a part in a number of chapters.
The author’s eye for detail: How Cesal knew the recession had reached his city: “The coffee shop I usually passed by seemed to have too many people in it.”
Why I think Eric J. Cesal is architecture’s answer to Dave Eggers: Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius if it were written for architects.
Favorite passage from the book: The author’s attempt to find work at a temp agency. (p.117) Priceless.
The author’s education: Three master’s degrees in four years: business administration, construction management and architecture from Washington University in St Louis.
What book you might compare Down Detour Road with: During the deep recession of the 1970’s we had Harris Stone’s incomparably endearing and well-illustrated Workbook of an Unsuccessful Architect (available here for a penny.) But let there be no doubt: Down Detour Road is our age’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Walker Evans and James Agee. This book is our The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.
Someone famous the author hangs with but doesn’t once mention in the book (very classy): Cameron Sinclair, co-founder and ‘chief eternal optimist’ (CEO) for Architecture for Humanity.
Representative quote from the book: “For all the things I had intended my life to be, for all of the things I thought I would be doing at 31, I was sitting in the dirt, on the side of an empty, unlit road, jobless, homeless, cold and hungry, lusting after a street sign.”
The author’s solution: Cesal recommends that we have to come to some hard truths about the limits of what we do “and then leap beyond those boundaries.” He goes on to describe 10 types of architects.
What are the ten architect types he writes about? The financial architect; The value architect; The risk architect; The paid architect; The idea architect; The knowing architect; The named architect; The citizen architect; The green architect; The sober architect. He refreshingly doesn’t over-use capital letters and dedicates a chapter to each architect type.
What it says on the dust jacket: As the world redesigns and rebuilds in the face of economic and ecological crises, unprecedented numbers of architects are out of work. What does this say about the value of architecture? That is the question that confronted architect Eric Cesal as he finished graduate school at the onset of the worst financial meltdown in a generation. Down Detour Road is his journey: one that begins off-course, and ends in a hopeful new vision of architecture.
Like many architects of his generation, Cesal confronts a cold reality. Architects may assure each other of their own importance, but society has come to view architecture as a luxury it can do without. For Cesal, this recognition becomes an occasion to rethink architecture and its value from the very core. He argues that the times demand a new architecture, an empowered architecture that is useful and relevant. New architectural values emerge as our cultural values shift: from high risks to safe bets, from strong portfolios to strong communities, and from clean lines to clean energy.
This is not a book about how to run a firm or a profession; it doesn’t predict the future of architectural form or aesthetics. It is a personal story—and in many ways a generational one: a story that follows its author on a winding detour across the country, around the profession, and into a new architectural reality.
Where you can find the author today: Port-au-Prince, managing and coordinating Architecture for Humanity’s design and reconstruction initiatives in Haiti until 2012.
No, really, where can you find him: You can find him here. But seriously, he lives in Haiti with a family of two dogs, 11 chickens, 5 cats and a goat named Newfie. Read more about it in the Huffington Post here.
What’s next up for the author: As Cesal explains on his webpage, “Two projects are currently in slow, agonizing, one-sentence/week progress: NCARB & I, a chronicle of architectural licensing, and Lets Just Finish These Beers and Go, a semi-autobiographical romp about how to become an architect while making every self-defeating effort you can.”
What does the word “detour”mean in the book’s title: de·tour, n.
1. A roundabout way or course, especially a road used temporarily instead of a main route.
2. A deviation from a direct course of action.
Likelihood that the book will be made into a movie: Very good odds. I’m not a betting man but I’d bet on it.
Final thoughts: Someone get this guy a MacArthur Genius Grant. And a second one to The MIT Press for having the foresight and gumption for publishing this staggering piece of exceptional writing from an otherwise little known entity. Cesal may very well be doing wonderful, necessary work in Haiti but we very much need him here back home with us.
The quickest way to get the book in your possession: Steal it from an architect in the coffee shop. Or click here
What to do while you wait for your copy of the book to arrive: Tell everyone you know to read Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice.
A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius: One Architect’s Detour of Duty by Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED AP 2010
62 Reasons to be Optimistic (and 18 to still be Pessimistic) September 15, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, career, change, creativity, employment, management, optimism, possibility, pragmatism, survival, sustainability, technology, the economy, transition.
Tags: AEC industry, Bondy Studio, Donald Trump, Google, NBC, Olson Kundig Architects, positive psychology, positivity, The Apprentice
Not since my post from last year 32 Things to be Optimistic About Right Now have I tackled this subject head-on.
It’s about time.
That’s not to say I have avoided it altogether. I have addressed the positive side of practice on a number of occasions, not always to positive reception.
I started paying attention to not only what he said but the number of positive things he mentioned, despite the general gloom in the economy right now.
He was positively optimistic – and it was admittedly contagious.
There’s scientific research that backs a 3-to-1 “positivity ratio” as a key tipping point where, essentially, it takes 3 good experiences to block out one bad one.
A 3:1 ratio of positive statements or experiences to negative ones is considered the ideal for staying optimistic.
This ratio answers the question for many of how you can be generally positive and optimistic while maintaining some negative emotions and thoughts.
The following list roughly reflects this ideal ratio.
Agree or not – just by reading the lists here you have done your part today in remaining positive and optimistic.
Here are 62 absolutely fresh, upbeat and practical reasons to be positive (and 18 to still be pessimistic) about our chances of recovering, enduring or otherwise surviving this recession as individuals, organizations, profession and industry.
I would love to hear – optimistic or pessimistic – reasons of your own, by leaving a comment below.
Let’s get the pessimistic out of the way first (a commenter’s brilliant suggestion.)
There are times of course when it is advisable to be pessimistic, and we don’t have to look far to find them. Being pessimistic at times gives you an insight to your problems and situation by allowing you to realistically assess challenges, obstacles and roadblocks you may face which otherwise you might overlook – by being overly-optimistic. After all, you wouldn’t want an overly optimistic commander taking you into the war zone underestimating the enemy or one so paralyzed by indecision they end up doing nothing.
- We are seeing firms close that were once great, however amicably, due to economic pressures
- How can we get reciprocity in other states if we can’t get an NCARB certificate because the firms we once worked for – who can vouch for our tenure – no longer exist?
- Career stage: Being a mid-career professional – at no fault of one’s own
- Salary: Finding oneself too costly, too expensive, for most firms
- Finding one has not kept up with technology – and while that wasn’t a hazard in the past, it is an indictment against you today
- Statistics: Research shows once unemployed over 6 months – the odds are against you finding employment
- Compensation: If you made a good living before – one might rightfully doubt finding employment that would come anywhere close to what you made before
- Flexibility: If you had a great deal of freedom in your previous position – chances are under these circumstances that it is unlikely that sense of freedom would continue
- If well-rounded; firms seem to be looking, when they look at all, for experts, not generalists (thought see anexception below)
- M&A: Large conglomerates are buying-up well-established design firms, firms that helped give the profession variety, diversity and high profile design. In M&A news, according to Archinect, Stantec is on a tear. The mega-A/E company announced recently that it will acquire Burt Hill — just weeks after similar news about acquiring Anshen + Allen. Who will be next?
- Construction: Contractors are hiring graduates right out of school – potentially resulting in, or adding to the likelihood of, a lost generation
- Unemployed architects may never find work in the profession and be forced to leave, not to return
- Knowledge transfer: A great deal of knowledge and experience goes out the door with them
- Phil Read (Phil Read!) leaving HNTB (what is this world coming to?)
- Many architecture firms continue to shed staff and struggle to keep the lights on
- Ownership transition: Aging owners ready to monetize on their business, who in the past passed their practice on to the next generation internally, increasingly result in more acquisition activity because younger architects are not interested or in the position to buy.
- Intuition: This time around just “feels” different than any other downturn – very hard to compare it and therefore manage or act on it
- Being human: Even the best leader cannot maintain optimism in the midst of layoffs, salary reductions, increased workloads, missed payroll or bounced pay-checks.
Note: The following are optimistic without being rah-rah. And no qualifiers are necessary: these are not cautiously-, rationally-, pragmatically-, realistically- or conservatively-optimistic. They’re just:
- Experience: We ourselves are the reason to be optimistic – our training and experience have gotten us to where we are – and will also provided us with the tools and best practices to confront these changes
- Change: It’s all about change – and we’re not immune to it
- Resolve: We will design our way out of this
- We’re creative, resourceful, when it comes to seeking solutions, and this situation is no exception
- Training: We’re trained as problem solvers – we can solve this problem
- We needed a course correction; this situation provided us with the opportunity to change
- Change was imminent – something our industry has been wrestling with for ages
- Determination: This gives a chance to see what we are made of, how strong is our resolve
- An opportunity to look at our convictions – what it is we are really good at, what it is we believe in, what we ought to be putting our energies into, what really matters to us and to others – and to drop what isn’t as important
- Transparency: A chance for firms to share as much information as possible with each other, be transparent and open book – compare notes – not size each other up
- Our industry and profession has changed in the past – and will again
- Provides a chance for firm leaders to leverage the talents of those who work for them that otherwise may never have been tapped
- Design Excellence: The world will always need good design
- Owners will continue to need someone to sign and seal exceptional documents
- There are problems – such as retrofitting suburbs – that really only an architect can tackle
- Rest: This down time allows us to restore our energy and creativity
- Much-needed time to define and refine the current standards of care for our profession
- A chance to give to others – to help others out who may be in need
- The profession is no doubt smaller – but as the constant exchange of information makes the profession feel smaller, more accessible and manageable – we’re more likely to hear from and learn from each other
- Jobs: Everyday there are more and more jobs listed – and not just in NY and California
- Thawing: Word on the street, from developers, is that banks are freeing up loans for development
- Owners: Our clients are more and more cautiously optimistic
- You have to be optimistic to be in this profession
- Funding: Google Invests $86 Million In Low-Income Housing
- Governance: Great leadership opportunities and hope for greater voice and influence: More and more architects, such as Stefano Boeri, Italian architect in Milan and editor-in-chief of Abitare, announce plans to run for public office.
- Green design: Sustainability is no longer a specialty or added service and is on the verge of going mainstream and becoming standard procedure
- Olson Kundig Architects had an ad recently where they were seeking “Generalists Needed” in Seattle, WA
- Technology: There are iPhone apps for our profession and industry – including apps that allow us to read and CAD and Revit models and now “Buildings” – an iPhone app that help you find local architecture
- Marketing: The economic downturn has allowed us to refocus our energies on marketing, determine what it is that distinguishes us, and put it into words and images; to become better marketers of ourselves
- Selling: We’ve learned from the downturn how to make what we sell – which as a service is largely invisible – visible and tangible and therefore more likely to deliver
- Competition: The increase in competition and dearth of new projects has opened us to new markets and project types that otherwise may have remained outside our comfort zone
- The current situation itself, and all it entails, has widened our comfort zone considerably
- The truth is that nobody really knows what will happen next; why side with the negative?
- Correction: The optimistic scenario is that the recession is correcting the excesses of the euphoric bubble years, when the global economy was on an unsustainable path.
- Efficiency: We’re ushering in a new era of doing more with less
- Stabilizing effect: Instability leads inevitably to stability
- Green saplings: Optimists see the recession as a forest fire that clears out dead brush, making room for new growth.
- Progress: A lot of what we’re doing now would have been impossible even five years ago.
- Start-ups: There are a number of new firms and new ventures started because of this downturn, including completely new business models
- Global practice: Things look more optimistic if you adopt an international perspective
- Education and training: Those remaining or returning to school will be more highly educated forces when they return to practice
- Cost of materials: Prices on many materials are down after many years of climbing
- Recessions clean out the excess of past boom periods
- Registration and licensure: A recession results in an increase in individuals applying to take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) to better position themselves in the workforce.
- Educators: A recession results in an increase in individuals applying to architecture programs and schools
- Sustainability: More people taking the LEED exam to give them the leg up when things pick up again
- More stabilized workforce: Many architecture firms have seen a leveling-off of the need to shed staff resulting in some stability
- M&A: We’re seeing some interesting mergers brought about by strategy and the need to fill specific niche needs as much as by the economy, such as the combining of OWP/P with Cannon Design.
- Learning: Professionals have had more time to learn and to catch-up on continuing education
- The lull has allowed some professionals to share information with the rest of us in the form of videos, webcasts, white papers and tutorials that we otherwise may never have benefitted from
- Helping-hand: Downsizing provides colleagues with the opportunity to secure another position for these individuals at other firms – the chance to contribute, help out, give and give back. A year later those individuals would often as not tell me ‘it was the best thing that happened to them.’
- Leadership: More leaders avoid mincing words, painting a false picture and putting spin on what is not know, while rising to the opportunity to be truthful, tell the truth, good or bad, be authentic in words and actions, will go a long way to assuaging what otherwise can be a devastatingly difficult time for some
- Doing this provides the right person with an incredible opportunity to lead
- And to (re)build trust
- Access to information: Accurate information about our profession and industry is right at our fingertips 24/7 – this was not always the case.
- Communication: The situation we find ourselves in forces you to communicate more frequently with others, showing you how connected you really are and how much you rely on one another; a valuable lesson lost on those who operate exclusively within their comfort zone
- Higher performance: Most people can sense a change in themselves when around optimistic people, feeling motivated, inspired and energized. That’s almost reason enough to be optimistic and be around optimistic people.
- This time around provided us with the chance to learn from our mistakes and move on.
- Resilience: Treat this as an opportunity to show your resilience.
- Attitude: As difficult as it might be to stomach, realize that “this too shall pass.” Remind yourself that there will be other challenges, that this is one among many and that you never went into your chosen field because it was easy. On some level you understood how difficult it would be. And that you were equal or better than the difficulties it entailed and that would ensue.
- Mindset: Without blame or recrimination, see this as an opportunity to face the situation with acceptance and peace.
- A sign: Recognize that pain of any type is to give us a message. Once you got the message, stop dwelling in the pain. See this situation as a sign that things, as they existed, were not sustainable. Come to realize that situations that present challenges have been brought to you so that you may learn and become more aware of your strength, resilience, ingenuity and ability to overcome.
Bonus item: Donald Trump and Co. are returning for a 10th season of NBC’s “The Apprentice.” In a new twist on the reality competition, this season’s 16 candidates have all been hit hard by the current economic downturn – and there is not one architect in the bunch. A sign of the times? You decide.
BTW 62 – the number of reasons to be optimistic – is the same number Edward De Bono used in his book entitled, Creativity Workout: 62 Exercises to Unlock Your Most Creative Ideas, a book that encourages you to make connections, think beyond your peers, recognize possibilities and create opportunities.
Not a bad place to start in keeping your 3-to-1 ratio intact.