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Minority Report: What Drives Success in Architects? January 31, 2014

Posted by randydeutsch in books, career, education, employment, survival, the economy.
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TripleIt’s hard to become an architect.

There’s education, training, taking the exam.

Retaking the exam and licensure.

Then, once you’ve become an architect, it’s hard to remain one.

And there are so many forces that seem to work against you.

The economy. Fickle clients. Work/life imbalance. The hours. Competition…

I don’t need to spell them all out (because you know them all too well, and Roger K. Lewis has done so here.)

So what does it take to succeed at architecture?

To become and be an architect?

In the airport returning from the AIA 2014 Emerging Professional Summit in Albuquerque, I came across an article in The New York Times, What Drives Success?

The article was written by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, husband/wife professors at Yale Law School and authors of the forthcoming book “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.”

(You may recognize Amy Chua as the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, published in 2011. The Tiger Mom is now Tiger Couple?)

There has been a lot of backlash (a lot) in the days since the article appeared.

I want to focus on one point: What the author’s call the Triple Package.

About a third of the way through the article they write:

It turns out that for all their diversity, the strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success.

The authors then go on to describe each of the three traits:

The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.

The article – and the book it is based on – talks about cultural groups – not professions – but hear me out.

Let’s break out these three traits:

  • superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality
  • insecurity — a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough
  • impulse control — the ability to resist temptation

Wouldn’t you know, these traits not only – as the authors state – describe successful ethnic, religious and national-origin groups, but they also accurately describe architects.

Architects?

Let’s look at the traits one at a time.

Architects have a superiority complex. They’ve survived the tribunal of education, studio culture, and finding, negotiating and doing projects. They have design thinking and other transferable skills that everyone’s clamoring for on their side. They represent both paying clients and a non-paying one: society-at-large. They’ve put in the time and paid their dues. You would think architects have a right to think highly of themselves.

Architects are insecure. As a profession, architects justifiably feel insecure when compared with other professional groups such as doctors and lawyers, who appreciatively are paid a great deal more for the time they put in and the work they do. Architects are beholden to owners who – on a dime – can stop projects that are progressing in their tracks for reasons having to do with actuaries and their pro forma – things architects know little about. Architects are engaged at the whim of an economy that they can’t influence and have little chance of predicting.

But how can architects be simultaneously superior and insecure?

Let’s look at the first two traits:

superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality

insecurity — a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough

As the article acknowledges:

It’s odd to think of people feeling simultaneously superior and insecure. Yet it’s precisely this unstable combination that generates drive: a chip on the shoulder, a goading need to prove oneself.

Many people who work and/or live with architects will recognize them in that description.

Architects are famously motivated not by money or attaboy gift cards but by intrinsic rewards, as Daniel Pink spelled out in his book Drive, animated here.

So how does impulse control fit into the mix? Again, the article:

Add impulse control — the ability to resist temptation — and the result is people who systematically sacrifice present gratification in pursuit of future attainment.

The only architects I know who suffer from impulsiveness are those who are impulsively driven to work harder and longer to achieve more.

Looking at impulsivity in another way: Knowing that it can take years before they see their designs built, architects have no trouble passing the Marshmallow Test.

The article’s authors go on to admit a truism that could not apply to architects more:

We know that group superiority claims are specious and dangerous, yet every one of America’s most successful groups tells itself that it’s exceptional in a deep sense.

Architects, deep down, know they are exceptional.

In fact, I recently posted this in another blog acknowledging as much:

Recognizing that nothing incites a non-architect’s derision, ridicule and ire swifter than to start a sentence “The architect is uniquely qualified to…” here are six qualities that make architects ideally suited to lead collaborative, integrated teams.

That’s Architectural Exceptionalism: which states that architects are unusual (check) and extraordinary (check) in some way and thus do not need to conform to normal rules or general principles.

Others are taken-aback when you point out that any group is exceptional in any way, as I learned myself, when several readers contacted me about the post above suggesting I substitute the word facilitator for the word leader.

One advised me: “No one wants to hear that the architect is the leader.

Are architects a minority group?

We’re in agreement that architects are in the minority.

Architects, of course, make up a tiny fraction of the AEC industry.

There are 1.5 million employed engineers in the US.

The number of architects licensed in the United States?

105,847 according to NCARB and AIA (103,657 according to DesignIntelligence.)

Three quarters of these (74%) practice in architecture firms.

In fact, there are as many construction companies in Texas and California as there are architects in the US.

And there are 7,316,240 construction company employees in the US.

That’s out of 311,591,917 people (and counting) in the US.

So, architects are in the minority.

But are architects being in the minority the same thing as being a minority?

Can architects explain their success in terms of their minority status?

These success traits very well may have implications for a more diverse profession.

But the question remains:

Is it possible that part of what makes architects successful is that they see themselves as a minority?

Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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5 Gifts Seasoned Architects Receive from Emerging Professionals (& vice versa) January 20, 2014

Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, career, change, employment, management, problem solving.
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giftsThere are so many things I have learned over the years from working alongside emerging professionals (EPs), it’s hard to know where to begin.

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.

But expertise?

Absolutely. Though not the old school form of expertise – acquired slowly over time.

EPs are social learners so if they don’t know something, they know where to find it.

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!

Bridging Gaps That Don’t Reside in Building Skins December 6, 2013

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, education, management, transformation.
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spanningNegotiating a book contract, writing and giving conference presentations, proceedings, and journal articles, along with teaching my college courses, I overbooked my calendar this fall.

What resulted for the first time in my public speaking career, I gave a talk at an AIA conference that I didn’t prepare for.

And by that I mean, at all.

I spent three months preparing for my keynote at the 2013 AIA Illinois Conference in November.

But my breakout session later that morning – Through Architecture We Bridge Gaps by Embracing Change?

Not so much.

And wouldn’t you know, it was hands-down the best talk I ever gave.

Or I should say, that the attendees gave.

Because the success of the session was due in no small part to the attendees and the lively discussion that ensued.

The subject of the talk – caulk – really seemed to strike a chord, and the architects in the audience shared lots of examples from their own careers.

The Culture of Caulk

In over a hundred talks I have given around the country, I never had a talk bestowed with the strongly sought-after HSW designation.

Until that November day.

The session offered attendees 1 AIA/CES HSW lu because the AIA powers that be thought the talk was on applying caulk.

The session description starts off thus:

Architects know that the most vulnerable parts of a building enclosure are the joints, connections or gaps between two building systems, and spend an inordinate amount of their time trying to successfully fill them.

The institute officials probably read that first sentence and thought “caulk – that’s good for an HSW LU.”

But had they read on, they would have realized it was a metaphor. And you don’t get HSW LU’s for metaphors:

While their designs and details are fortunately airtight, there are many other gaps that remain wide open and unresolved.

Still about caulk, right? It continues:

These gaps cannot be addressed by architectural technology because they do not reside in building skins, but in the education, training and practice of architects: gaps between academia and professional practice; between internship and licensure; between mentoring emerging professionals for leadership positions; and ever-widening gaps facing those concerned about career advancement and firm succession, including practitioners in all phases of their careers.

Uh oh…

Using the metaphor of the detailing of building joints, this presentation will show attendees that they already have the skills, tools and mindsets to successfully bridge the seemingly unbridgeable gaps at their various career stages, reconnecting training with practice, management and leadership in our architecture firms and those we serve.

So it appears that you get the coveted HSW when you speak on caulk, but not when you try to solve entrenched issues in architectural careers.

Hopefully posting this here won’t result in attendees’ HSWs being revoked.

All Detailing is Joints (apologies to Patrick Moynahan)

I told the session attendees that we’re here to talk about another type of gap.

And the need to bridge these gaps – through architecture.

I told them this session is participatory (code in speakers’ circles for my being totally unprepared) – I don’t have all the answers: none of us does.

But, I offered, as a believer in the collaborative process, all of us might.

I am your presenter, I continued – but so are you: I am here to facilitate a discussion (because I didn’t prepare one.)

I showed some slides of nifty bridges from around the world, hitting home on the point that it is possible to cross over necessary career transitions with panache.

What Gaps Require Spanning?

Does it help to think of our career transitions as gaps that require spanning and/or bridging?

And whether we’ll attempt to fill them metaphorically with caulk – or silicone sealant?

One such gap is between academia and practice.

Do we agree that it needs bridging?

I mentioned to the attendees that the past weekend the SAIC Design Educator’s Symposium in Chicago was such a gesture in bridging with firm visits, Archiculture film viewing and panel discussions.

Architectural Record featured an article recently on how the phenomenon of transformational change—in technologies, systems, materials, sustainability, management, and demographics—is unfolding faster in professional firms than it is in higher education. This gap is a concern.

The article offered remedies:

  • more practitioners should teach
  • more faculty should be professionally licensed
  • business and management skills need to be introduced in the studio
  • no longer does tenure benefit students
  • real estate finance should be a basic part of architectural education
  • heavier doses of reality, not theory
  • practitioners and architectural educators should work together

Another gap that requires spanning is from emerging professional to firm management.

One of the firms I worked for had a Sink or Swim (vs. training and mentoring) approach to bringing up project managers. When an employee graduated from emerging professional to management, the firm would throw them in the deep end and, well, stay afloat or sayonara.

Gaps We Need to Bridge

Other gaps need addressing, especially those between:

  • internship and licensure
  • mentoring emerging professionals and leadership positions
  • technology and reality, or
  • digital technology and building technology
  • men’s and women’s salaries
  • those concerned about career advancement and succession

On this last gap, SAIC’s Chuck Charlie (@charliechuck) tweeted:

How do we resolve the gap between the old guard now leading the industry, and the digital-native emerging profession?

Perhaps the biggest gap that needs spanning is this: Where our industry is today and where our industry needs to be.

Namely, adding value, reducing waste, growing and become more resilient and profitable.

That’s a bridge worth crossing. And as designers, we ought to be able to span it with panache.

Goodbye Architects. Hello Equal Partners in Design (EPD) November 28, 2013

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, IPD, management, survival.
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codesignWhatever they end up doing in their careers, architects originally go into architecture to design buildings.

Somewhere along the way – perhaps recognizing that other students or architects are more talented, or willing or able to sacrifice more – many would-be designers give up their dream to design buildings and instead opt to manage teams, schedules or budgets, document and detail other people’s buildings, or undertake any of a hundred other tasks required to get permit sets approved and buildings built.

Whatever first drew them to the profession, it is safe to say that they didn’t become an architect to be a designer among designers.

They became architects to design. Period.

Whether architecture students, architectural interns and emerging professionals realize it, this is what the profession and industry offers them today.

Founder and president of Nissan Design International, Jerry Hirshberg, in The Creative Priority: Driving Innovative Business in the Real World, describes a scene where, in a workplace safe for people to provide input and express their ideas, the receptionist – participating in a design review – provides the idea for the direction for their new line of automobiles.

That, in a nutshell, is the future of architecture.

To bridge the divide between design and construction, improve communication, better coordinate documents, and increase collaboration, firms have started to prepare for Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).

IPD requires the participation of all project stakeholders early in the design and decision-making process.

Whether working in pure IPD or an IPD-ish process, with IPD the lines of responsibility are blurred when compared to traditional “design bid build” project delivery.

IPD removes barriers that, in traditional project delivery, kept design and construction professionals from collaborating.

With IPD, contractors contribute to the design and architects address construction issues, with risk distributed across the team.

With IPD, contractors made aware of and contribute to design direction and design decisions by the entire project team.

In IPD, key participants are encouraged to contribute to the design intent, just as designers are free to comment on and contribute to means and methods of construction.

While intended to remove obstacles and encourage collaboration, architects are sometimes threatened by the blurring of roles brought about by working in the IPD.

Collaborating is hard. Architects often have individualistic ways of working. IPD may be antithetical to the way many architects design projects.

To persevere in this new world of collaboration, architects should consider getting off the project pyramid and rebrand themselves as Equal Partners in Design (EPD).

Becoming an Equal Partner in Design would have implications for school and practice. Imagine architects being educated, trained and tested not to be independent building designers but designers among designers.

Are you prepared for the day when the plumber makes the winning design suggestion and everyone in the room lets out a resounding Yes!

How will it make you feel to sit beside a teammate who is sketching?

How about when your co-designer is a computer?

Building designers participate in man-machine collaboration every time they work in computational design.

But we don’t have to imagine a cyborgian future to recognize that whomever – or whatever – we will be collaborating with, from here on out we will be collaborating.

Take Aditazz, a collaborative team of not only building architects and planners, but also microchip architects, software designers, mechanical and electrical engineers and materials scientists.

The hospital design that vaulted his unknown company into the round of a hospital competition shortlist of nine had been designed largely by an algorithm.

Barry Schwartz has warned that as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear.

Too many options remains a problem for architects, engineers and owners. But not for Aditazz, whose algorithms are able to compute thousands of options in a fraction of the time to find the best solution.

Gone, along with the architects’ Prismacolor pencils, will be the concept of design intent.

Participatory architects such as Charles Moore and Michael Pyatok have been doing this for years. But will you be comfortable and satisfied letting others provide design input?

Or will you be threatened by other’s participation in design?

Could you be personally and professionally fulfilled playing the role – not always of designer, but – of design refiner?

Can you see yourself being an Equal Partner in Design?

Architects 2Zebras Top 10 Posts for 2011 December 31, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, BIM, books, career, change, education.
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Architects 2Zebras ended 2010 on a down note and readers let me know it, many of whom came to Zebras expecting positive, uplifting posts.

Not walks down reality lane.

You made it clear:  there are plenty of reminders of how hard it is out there for architects and no one needed reminding.

You needed encouragement, resources and guidance.

I heard you and responded with a year’s worth of what I hoped would be more helpful posts.

Here are the ones you responded most positively to.

Thank you for sticking around, engaging and helping to make this another great year at Architects 2Zebras!

In Search of another Type of Architect

https://architects2zebras.com/2011/01/29/in-search-of-another-type-of-architect/

A response to an article entitled “A Difficult Character” about how, when a leadership consultant reviewed the Myers-Briggs tests of 100 architects, he discovered there really is an “architect type” — and maybe a difficult one.

Architecture’s Star Making Machinery

https://architects2zebras.com/2011/04/17/architecture’s-star-making-machinery/

In Princeton in the ‘80s, I twice lived in – or next to – Michael Graves home and office. Here’s what it was like.

49 Ways to Increase Your Influence as an Architect

https://architects2zebras.com/2011/02/26/49-ways-to-increase-your-influence-as-an-architect/

The End of the Architecture Firm?

https://architects2zebras.com/2011/08/27/the-end-of-the-architecture-firm/

This post received a very strong response, in part because – despite the title – its message was ultimately positive and empowering for architects.

Doctor, Lawyer, Architect, Fail

https://architects2zebras.com/2011/02/

Ask not what our profession (and AIA) can do for us. Ask: What can we do for our profession?

The Architect’s New Titles: to Use or Abuse

https://architects2zebras.com/2011/05/14/the-architect’s-new-titles-to-use-or-abuse/

Re-titling it turns out is no longer just for cars. Architects, in an effort to distinguish themselves in a competitive market and work environment, have started to call themselves different things.

Architecture’s Two Cultures (AND a Crucial Third)

https://architects2zebras.com/2011/05/01/architecture’s-two-cultures-and-a-crucial-third/

The Gifts of a Son of an Architect

https://architects2zebras.com/2011/03/13/the-gifts-of-a-son-of-an-architect/

Why Didn’t You Teach Me How to Practice?

https://architects2zebras.com/2011/11/21/why-didnt-you-teach-me-how-to-practice/

A Lifeline for a Profession Adrift

https://architects2zebras.com/2011/05/07/a-lifeline-for-a-profession-adrift/

In-depth review of Building Knowledge in Architecture is a new book and lifesaver by architect, educator, researcher, scholar and poet, Richard Foqué.

Why Didn’t You Teach Me How to Practice? November 21, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, education, employment, IDP, pragmatism.
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What architects don’t get from architectural education has to be made up in practice.

But can it?

That’s certainly the intention of Intern Development Program (IDP), the comprehensive training program created to ensure that interns in the architecture profession gain the knowledge and skills required for the independent practice of architecture.

Setting aside the validity in today’s economy of an independent – as opposed to integrated – practice of architecture,

Is the office the best place to train to become an architect?

In firms, these days, almost everybody draws.

And everyone is as close to 100% billable as humanly possible.

No more can architects consider themselves “knowledge workers,” unless that knowledge includes working knowledge of such software programs as AutoCAD or Revit.

With many architecture firms pared down to skeleton staffs, training is a luxury few can afford.

And teaching recent grads on a client’s dime is something most clients will no longer tolerate.

Building clients have never warmed to the idea that they are footing the bill for an intern’s education on the job.

As one senior designer said to me over coffee, rather loudly with an emphatic pounding on the table:

“Work is not school! Not school! Not school!!!”

Tell that to any firm that has set-up and administered a corporate university.

Building bridges

Neither academia nor practice, we’re beginning to see emerging entities that are starting to fill-in the gap, gaping hole or (for those attending Cornell) gorge between architectural education and practice.

Hybrid education. Just-in-time education.

Enroll in the equivalent of a four-year lunch-and-learn.

Don’t pass go don’t collect 200 dollars go straight to jail.

At the same time, we’re seeing bridge students who take-up architecture and engineering; or engineering and construction management; or architecture and an MBA, to help segue between academic and real-world pursuits while presumably making themselves more attractive to an employer.

Perhaps it is best that training – whether in continuing education or in practice – stay outside academe’s ivy walls.

Training is still seen by some as parochial, vocational.

In some academic circles “practice” is a dirty word.

Why sully your pristine education with practical consideration?

Some architecture schools won’t have practitioners on their faculty so as not to infect their student body, as though practical considerations were a disease.

This, despite the fact that practical knowledge is a job requirement on the road to becoming a full-fledge professional, every bit as much as residency is for a doctor.

Before building-up $150,000 in student loans, would-be architects – in most states – know that they will have to pass through an apprenticeship prior to sitting for the licensing exam.

Remind me: What exactly did you get for your $150,000 education?

Learning in school vs. learning in the gap vs. learning on the job

Architects like to think that they are alone in many things, not the least of which is their inadequate education and training in the face of a constantly moving picture of practice.

They are of course wrong: they have plenty of company.

This is evident in the many parallels with other areas of study.

Just consider these quotes:

“What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training.”

“Schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful”  

“Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship”

 “They are (practitioners) in the sense that they have…degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.”

First-year associates at one…firm “spend four months getting a primer on corporate (practice.) During this time, they work at a reduced salary and they are neither expected nor allowed to bill a client. It’s good marketing for the firm and a novel experience for the trainees.”

“This has helped to hasten a historic decline in hiring.”

“The essential how-tos of daily practice are a subject that many in the faculty know nothing about — by design.”

“One 2010 study of hiring at top-tier…schools since 2000 found that the median amount of practical experience was one year, and that nearly half of faculty members had never practiced…for a single day.”

“The academy wants people who are not sullied by…practice.”

“Where do these students go?…There are virtually no openings. They can’t hang a shingle and start on their own. Many of them are now asking their schools, ‘Why didn’t you teach me how to practice…?’ ”

These are just a few quotes from the New York Times article, “What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering.”

They  sound remarkably – and uncomfortably – close to what architecture students go through.

What is one thing you wish recent graduates, interns or emerging professionals were taught in architecture school?

  • A better understanding of ___________
  • Greater familiarity with ____________
  • Deeper knowledge of  _____________
  • Basic skills, like how to perform ______
  • A stronger grasp of _______________

Let us know by leaving a comment.

Architect 2Tweets – The Week in Tweets May 28, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, books, career, collaboration, creativity, employment, identity, management, sustainability, technology, the economy, transformation, transition.
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Here are some of my architect and architecture-related Tweets that my followers on Twitter have shared with their followers (retweeted or RT in Twitter parlance.)

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

Enjoy!

Move Over, Architect Barbie: Industrial #Design-Related Barbies We’d Like to See http://bit.ly/msjMxR #AEC #architects #AIA2011

Online Attendee Registration Opens Early June for @CONSTRUCTshow Free Exhibit Hall Admission & Discounted Education Packages thru Aug 11

@casinclair Welcome home! Hope to see you in Chicago in September at the CONSTRUCT convention http://www.constructshow.com/

Breathtakingly beautiful spread of architectural books and their designers @archidose http://bit.ly/leLfDs #design #architects

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

Tech Trends: On-Site iPads Change the #AEC Game http://bit.ly/knm5Ym

Just Professionals: excellent blog on social media & online networking w @SuButcher – great tips on #LinkedIn #Twitter http://bit.ly/8IRt7Y

Read the article? Now read the comments: #Architecture #Employment on the Rise http://bit.ly/lZ4caM #architects #AEC

The first warning sign that a project is in trouble. Sometimes it even begins before the project does http://bit.ly/aRY7fp

McGraw-Hill #Construction‘s latest SmartMarket Report on #Prefab-rication & #Modular-ization http://bit.ly/ldXai4 #AEC #architects

Complete series of Op-Ed articles on Public Advocacy to help #architects advocate in the local media http://bit.ly/lEGIQs #leadership

Kandinsky and vacuum cleaners: @Pentagram’s Daniel Weil on the Drawing: the Process http://bit.ly/iuLvIF #architects #architecture

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

Integrating #sustainability into #design #education. The Toolkit http://bit.ly/buV7ev #green

“There’s nothing off-putting about sustainability. Find someone who is in favor of purposely ruining the future” http://bit.ly/lV2GcG

An exclusive excerpt from Nathan Shedroff’s new book on #sustainable #design practice, Design is the Problem http://bit.ly/PmMyJ

We’re calling Design is the Problem “the definitive guidebook to the future of design practice” http://amzn.to/jD2QyD #sustainability

Blog written by and for emerging professionals – cool! http://bit.ly/aD6d68 #AEC #architects

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

A clear, well-illustrated step-by-step guide. HOW TO: Start #Marketing on #Facebook http://on.mash.to/jGsW4r

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

Interview w Vinnie Mirchandani author of The New Polymath: Profiles in Compound-Technology #Innovations http://zd.net/91pytu

FYI my rss feeds http://bimandintegrateddesign.com//rss.xml https://architects2zebras.com/rss.xml http://thedesignstrategist.com/rss.xml

From first sketch to final design Japanese #architect Kengo Kuma takes audiences on an architectural journey http://bit.ly/lGYp1d

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

Architect 2Tweets May 22, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in BIM, books, career, creativity, employment, optimism, questions, survival, sustainability, the economy.
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Here are some of my Tweets that had the most impact from May 19-22 2011, all 140 characters or less.

Architect- and Architecture-related Tweets that my followers on Twitter have shared with their followers (retweeted or RT in Twitter parlance.)

Take a look. 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

Architects can Learn from David Meerman Scott @DMScotthttp://ff.im/DVKHJ RT @SuButcher

As even #modular homes struggle for mortgages: “Do we move into more land and house type solutions?” http://bit.ly/jEUUJu#prefab

Excellent read. The Builder Within: “No building is as important as what occurs inside.” Bob Clark, Clayco http://nyti.ms/mRKRLJ#AEC

Ever wonder, when designing a jail, if you’ll do time in it? County Suing Architect for $1.35M http://bit.ly/kpjBpJ#architects#AEC

Relating to people: #Construction sector gains soft skills w mentoring. Program helps workers w communication http://bit.ly/kODaWT#AEC

Don’t move: In making #innovation happen, does place matter? Yes, your location does matter http://bit.ly/mL4s0H

Teaching children construction gains momentum in US as way to develop imagination & confidence in youth http://nyti.ms/hEcFKH#AEC

#BIM lawsuit: You read the headline? Now, read the +70 comments http://bit.ly/jRqH85 (Then, if necessary, read the article.)

Finally, some good news for the hard-hit design profession: Firms are hiring again! Architecture Employment on the Rise http://bit.ly/lZ4caM

Weekend reading! (OK maybe 2 weekends) AMAZING cache of articles at The Coxe Group site http://bit.ly/my6hW8 & http://bit.ly/k1AGNY

The #AEC Sales Meeting: a “fly on the wall” view http://bit.ly/mwgpgf#architects

Fabulous interviews w Jim Cramer, Marjanne Pearson, Scott Simpson, Ava Abramowitz, Peter Piven et al http://bit.ly/15ihSa#architects

The Strategic Agenda: Securing the Future. 2 day exec ed seminar 8/01-8/02 Harvard U Graduate School of Design http://bit.ly/e8zljY

Granite countertops cost the same around the world. Just like oil. As wages go up, US will make more of its own stuff. http://nyti.ms/mrka7v

Thinkers who are challenging designers? Bruce Sterling, John Thackara, Sir Ken Robinson, Roger Martin, John Maeda http://bit.ly/jZAEDb

Video of Mansueto Library’s 5-story robotic book retrieval system in operation. Now to get robots to read them! http://bit.ly/ikFcD0

Call it the Book Bubble. The Dome for Tomes. Spaceship That Made #Reading Oh-So-Cool. Audacious: Kamin on Jahn http://bit.ly/jishKL

Sustainable Performance Institute promises to deliver on the promise of sustainability http://www.sustainable-performance.org/#green

Looking Beyond the Structure: Critical Thinking for #Designers & #Architectshttp://amzn.to/iAkbEE

Design Thinking for Interiors: Inquiry, Experience, Impact http://bit.ly/iUn5cr & http://amzn.to/kQ3uOT

Take your eyes on a scroll. Eye-popping drawings of Lebbius Woods’ UNDERGROUND BERLIN: the film treatment http://bit.ly/qQMNi

Excellent review of AIA 2011 Convention: Thomas Friedman’s Keynote & Energy-Related Technologies @AECbyteshttp://bit.ly/m0Wp5m#AIA2011

Are #architects too enamored with technology? Q&A: Architects’ Sketchbooks by Susan S. Szenasy @MetropolisMaghttp://bit.ly/iSRVh2

Learn how to protect your organization contractually from risks & legal challenges that come with #BIMhttp://bit.ly/l6Dcgm#revit#AEC

Here’s one way out: UCF freshman Greg Eason traded life in #construction for blossoming golf career http://bit.ly/mP476p#AEC

So everything’s OK after all? “Office of National Statistics accused of exaggerating construction slump.” http://bit.ly/khMVWX

New Strategies for Mobility – Rethinking Urban Transportation from the The #REDCAR Colloquium http://bit.ly/cfUGFT#innovation

Free excerpt from the book The Owner’s Dilemma: Leading with Exuberance @dinethttp://bit.ly/9a8qnP & more http://bit.ly/9WbyxG

Meet four #architects who have managed to bob, duck, weave and advance in a worsening #design market http://bit.ly/xDMRT#AEC

Dear Architecture Graduates: Be Ready, Relentless, and Lucky http://bit.ly/d2z71P

Despite economy, logic, gravity & common sense, young architectural firm lands major projects, expands staff http://bit.ly/mzzGk8

Marketing Architectural Services: Lessons from America’s Best-Managed #Architecture Firms http://bit.ly/fciKJr#AEC#architects

Is Investing in #AEC Firm Business Improvement Really Worth It? (Plus four most common objections to doing so) http://bit.ly/l6uEoM

Lawsuit over construction of major university building is 1st known claim related to use of #BIM by an architect http://bit.ly/ijYpiW

MORE (and IMHO even better) visual notes from IIT Institute of Design Strategy Conference 2011 http://bit.ly/jieG7m

How visual types take notes http://bit.ly/mpSheY

Interview with author http://bit.ly/16kivD of Design Is the Problem: The Future of Design Must be Sustainable http://amzn.to/lUjgX8

The Architect’s New Titles: to Use or Abuse May 14, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types, BIM, books, career, change, employment, management, software architects, the economy.
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Architects, in an effort to distinguish themselves in a competitive market and work environment, have started to call themselves different things.

Not that they’re going to give up the title architect anytime soon.

They’re in search of a title that more accurately qualifies – and clarifies – what they do as an architect.

With the advent of social media, what we call ourselves in our profiles goes a long way toward how others treat and work with us.

Re-titling it turns out is no longer just for cars

Sometimes we find ourselves using titles that we ourselves aren’t certain what they mean.

And good thing. Because we often use them as much to obfuscate as to communicate.

Many of the newest titles are conjunctions, conflations or co-joining of two or more existing titles – such as business and design – that are meaningful when used independently but when combined leave us ashamed and others feeling abused.

In fact, if you hear someone say “I’m at the intersection of design and business” don’t meet them there – they’re probably lost.

We’ll skip trendy titles such as “Director of Chaos” because architects are more likely to be a “Director of Form.”

And “Director of First Impressions”? A euphemism for Receptionist. (We’ll spare you the Dilbertisms)

Here’s a field guide to some of the ways we are referring to ourselves – and to each other – in this make-it-up-as-you-go world we find ourselves living and working in.

One definition is offered to confuse or Abuse.

The other you’d be better off to Use.

Designer

Abuse: A designer

  • is someone who sees everything as an opportunity for improvement.
  • is someone who has to sell themselves and their talents every time they walk into a room.
  • primarily concerns themselves with how to create a successful communication, product, or experience.
  • is an agent who specifies the structural properties of a design object.
  • is anyone who creates tangible or intangible objects

In other words, there are as many definitions as there are designers.

Use: Architect. Use Designer if you’d to be retained by an owner. See An Architect With Low Self-esteem

Design Consultant

A Design Consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, designs a new one for you, sends you a bill for it and puts a lien on it when you don’t pay in 120 days.

Abuse: Specialists in human factors, psychology, business, design, engineering and manufacturing who provide full service consulting for building and product innovation and design.

Use: Freelancer. An architect who can’t find full-time employment.

Design Management

Abuse: Uses project management, design, strategy and supply chain techniques to control a creative process, supports a culture of creativity and build a structure and organization for design.

Use: A manager of design projects.

See: This is a comprehensive reference book for anyone seeking an introduction to the basic concepts and principles that inform the management of design projects, teams and processes within the creative industries; and her earlier work, here.

Design Anthropologist

Abuse: Belonging to an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand the role of design artifacts and processes in defining what it means to be human. See also: Design Sociologist

Use: Someone with an undergraduate anthropology diploma and a 3 year degree in architecture.

See this.

Design Ninja

Abuse: An unorthodox or unconventional designer. Used more often in web and graphic design.

Use: Design Mercenary (忍者)

See this.

Thought Leader

Pure unadulterated business jargon. An entity that is recognized for having innovative ideas or business ideas that merited attention. ‘Go to’ subject-matter experts in your industry. Period. Here’s how to package your ideas to share with others.

Abuse: Calling yourself one.

Use: Only when others call you this. And even then, don’t ever use it to describe yourself.

Blogger

Abuse: Someone who writes his/her thoughts and feelings online.

Use: Anyone who contributes to a blog or online journal. And I mean anyone.

See: Arbiter of Knowledge and Wisdom

Change Agent

Abuse: Someone who knows what it means to manage the people side of the change equation.

Use: Someone adept at soothing the staff when management changes their mind. See Change Management

Design Thinker

Abuse: Business people trained in design methods.

Use: Design people trained in business methods.

Design thinkers are designers who achieve innovative outputs that drive business success. See this and this and especially this.

BIMworker

Abuse: Design Principals and Senior Designers used to hand off their building designs – and Project Managers and Architects their redlines – to CAD operators. With BIM, it no longer works this way. Like Artworkers in graphic design, BIMworkers initiate, commence, pursue, resolve self-edit and complete the work. If they had money, they would also own it.

Use: BIM Modelers. BIM Managers, BIM Coordinators and BIM Operators will thank you for it.

Information Architect

Abuse: Someone who uses the word “wayfinding” in casual conversation.

Use: An architect knows that if you have to use signage, you’ve failed. Architecture is its own wayfinding.

Design Strategist

Abuse: Someone who provides innovative insights on using design as a strategic resource. Someone who hangs with CEOs of major brand management firms, business school deans, IDEO alum, engineers and professors of design

Use: Someone who uses design to achieve key business objectives. See Design Thinker and Design Guru.

See: To be a design strategist, you either have to be an IDEO veteran, Stanford University lecturer on design, the founder of a customer experience design company – or know someone who is one. Here are the eleven skills sets for what it takes and here and here.

Service Designer

Abuse: Someone who organizes people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality, the interaction between service provider and customers and the customer’s experience. A cross-disciplinary practitioner who combines skills in design, management and process engineering.

Use: Someone who provides numerous benefits to the end user experience when applied to project types such as retail, banking, transportation, & healthcare. See Social Entrepreneur

See Service Design + Design Thinking = This

Design Innovator

Abuse: See Form giver. Someone who gives shape to products, objects and buildings.

Use: Someone who really gets design, puts it to good use and will lead others into the twenty-first century with creative strategies.

See this, probably the best new book on the topic.

Chief X Officer

Where X can be Culture, Interpretation, Learning, Systems, Collaboration, Co-Creation, Creativity, Innovation, Mischief, Imagination, Technology, Information, Fun. As in Chief Storytelling Officer. Someone who has traded real work for knowledge work. A begrudging strategist.

Abuse: A corporate title indicating hierarchy, authority and power. A high ranking officer who gets an office with a window.

Use: Leader. A high ranking officer who gets a windowless office.

Intrepreneur

Abuse: Entrepreneurs who operate by creating business opportunities and practices inside their organization. Employees who – in addition to their workload – develop client relationships and bring in work.

Use: An employee today runs their own company within their company. Any employee who sells wrapping paper or cookies to captured employees on behalf of their kids. See Social Intrepreneur

Serial Entrepreneur

Abuse: An entrepreneur who continuously comes up with new ideas and starts new businesses.

Use: Someone with a short attention span who can’t make their mind up. Someone who comes up with an idea then abandons it, usually for another equally compelling idea. See Serial Intrepreneur

Design Director (especially when conflated with Founder, Owner, CEO, President and Managing Partner)

Abuse: Principal responsible for client, project, financial, design management and coffee making.

Use: Freelancer. Sole proprietor.

Founding Principal and Owner

Use: You. Your name.

X Advocate

Abuse: Whether Sustainability Advocate or IPD Advocate, they’re a person who publicly supports and recommends a particular cause or policy.

Use: Someone who facilitates the process for others but won’t be seen doing it themselves. See X Evangelist

Director of Product Strategy and Innovation

Use: Sales.

Business Architect

Use: Cell phone sales. See Verizon Salesperson

Lecturer

Abuse: Passionate arbiter of knowledge who enjoys learning while teaching.

Use: Job seeking.

See: Speaker, Author, Educator, Mentor

Lean Ambassador

Abuse: Someone who wastes other people’s time and resources by laboriously advocating the use of such systems as Six Sigma, TQM, Lean and other business management methodologies.

Use: Someone who creates value for others by eliminating waste. See IPD Advocate

Knowledge Worker

Abuse: Someone who works at any of the tasks of planning, acquiring, searching, analyzing, organizing, storing, programming, distributing, marketing, or otherwise contributing to the transformation and commerce of information and those (often the same people) who work at using the knowledge so produced.

Use: Employee. Anyone who works for a living – using something other than their hands – at the tasks of developing or using knowledge. Anyone who develops, works with or uses information in the workplace. See Anyone who works for a living

Business Development

Abuse: Someone who uses industry techniques such as gathering intelligence on competitors, generating leads and prospects, managing presentations and designing and generating successful business models, aimed at attracting new clients and penetrating existing markets.

Use: Client-building, client relations and marketing. See Rainmaker

Trusted Advisor

Abuse: Someone who engages clients by focusing attention on the issues and individuals at hand, listening both to what they say and what they leave unsaid, framing the immediate problem from their perspective, envisioning with them how a solution might appear and committing jointly to the actions and resources that will bring it about, all to gain the confidence and earn the trust of their clients.

Use: Architect. While David Maister’s guide is a classic, this and this are also helpful.

Speaker, Author, Educator, Mentor

Abuse: Expert.

Use: Retired. See Scattershot Approach to Capturing Attention on LinkedIn

Now it’s your turn. Are there any titles you are aware of that you don’t see here?

A Lifeline for a Profession Adrift May 7, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in BIM, books, career, change, collaboration, creativity, environment, fiction, IPD, marginalization, pragmatism, productive thinking, questions, Revit, technology.
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Using books as floatation devices is nothing new.

Cradle to Cradle, subtitled Remaking the Way We Make Things, is printed on waterproof paper for this reason.

Poetry anthologies served this purpose after 9/11 as did commonplace books carried by soldiers.

In fact, the book I’m about to introduce you to explains the original use of the word “communication” to mean bringing something to the “common place, to the community, to make it part of the larger social group.”

That is what I hope to accomplish with this review.

Building Knowledge in Architecture is a new book and lifesaver by architect, educator, researcher, scholar and poet, Richard Foqué.

On the academic side, Foqué is a professor and dean emeritus at the Henry van de Velde Higher Institute of Architecture at the University College Antwerp.

On the practice side, Foqué is the founder and honorary principal of FDA Architects (now OSAR), one of the largest architectural firms in Flanders.

Richard Foqué’s work is characterized by the integration of architecture, art, design and science and reflected in the book “Bringing the World into Culture”, dedicated to Foqué and in which 21 eminent scholars, architects and designers bring a tribute to his work. An interdisciplinary thinker, Foqué lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium.

But don’t read Building Knowledge in Architecture because of his credentials.

Read this book because Richard Foqué is the first poet to write beautifully and meaningfully about the architect, design, creativity,

And as importantly, digital design tools such as BIM and collaborative work processes such as integrated design, design-build, lean construction and design thinking, subjects at the focus of these discussions.

You had me at Introduction

A book, like any of us, competes in a marketplace for attention.

Building Knowledge in Architecture, until today, appears to have been satisfied waiting patiently to be discovered on library shelves.

Book, wait no more.

To stand out and distinguish yourself, says consultant and author Sally Hogshead, you get only 9 seconds.

Because that’s how long our attention spans today have been shortened to.

Reader, here I’ll introduce you to what will surely become a fine traveling companion and fellow conversationalist in the weeks ahead.

But I’ll need 9 minutes to do so – not 9 seconds. So please bear with me.

Man Measuring the Clouds

A passing glance at a sculpture, Man Measuring the Clouds, inspired Foqué to reflect on architecture and what it means to be an architect today.

“The architect works in the field of tension between imagination and reality. The architect’s task is to convert the dreams and often unreachable wishes of the client into a buildable concept, which should be functional, technically resolved, and in compliance with all building and safety codes, but at the same time must inspire a sense of well-being and have the necessary aesthetic qualities to contribute to and enrich its context.”

Foqué then asks:

“Is the architect the person who is measuring the clouds all the time? Is architectural design, per se, an impossible task to perform? In other words, what is the essence of being an architect? What are the skills, competencies, and knowledge an architect needs to perform as a true professional?”

Aware of the access to practical knowledge readily available to other fields such as medicine, business and law, things can be otherwise for the architectural profession, the author sets out in search of a robust knowledge base architects can access:

“In my own practice, I have endeavored to use my professional experience and accumulated know-how in an innovative way for every new commission. But I have always been left with a feeling of discontent: Could I have done better? Did I use all the creative potential and knowledge at my disposal, and did I not overlook essential elements?”

Foqué concludes that the architectural profession no longer has a shared knowledge base. Building Knowledge in Architecture asks all of the important questions:

“Why did we abandon or sacrifice (this) knowledge base? Why is the architectural profession drifting? Why are we sometimes reinventing the obvious? Why do we struggle to cope with contemporary technological evolution, and why is it so difficult to integrate in a satisfactory way new findings and insights into our design solutions? Why are we losing ground, and why are essential responsibilities of our professional practice being assumed by others?”

One page into the book, you realize you have underlined every line. It is one of those books.

The Creation of New Knowledge through Practice

The book is organized in two parts.

In Part 1, Building Knowledge in Architecture serves as a practical overview of contemporary architectural design methods, and proposes design – apart from science and art – as a third way to investigate the real world.

“Perceiving themselves as practitioners of a ‘creative’ profession, architects hover between science and art.” p. 25

This is one of the very few books that discuss new digital design tools such as building information modeling (BIM) from academic, theoretical and practical standpoints (discussed for the first time on p. 93.)

But also integrated project delivery (IPD) or at least a facsimile of the same.

In the section called The Exteriorization of the Design Process, Foqué indicates that recent evolution of communication information technology processes forces designers

“…to interact increasingly with his environment. He has no escape, so to speak, but must engage in a permanent dialogue with his surrounding world.” p. 82

Foqué points out that the concept of transdisciplinarity – and the way specialized knowledge can be integrated – harkens back to the work of developmental child psychologist, Jean Piaget, in the 1970’s.

Where, according to the author, specialized knowledge needs to be incorporated into a comprehensive body of integrated knowledge, “within a global system of values and well-considered choices.”

Per Piaget, those who have taken part on integrated design teams will recognize the suggestion that multidisciplinary collaboration is, at root, child’s play.

Key quotes:

“Learning should be revalorized in the sense that the creators of knowledge should also be held accountable for the application of that knowledge.” P. 24

“It is recognized that at the modern university, there exists a hierarchy of knowledge, which starts with the basic and fundamental science at the top, applied science in the middle, and technical skills at the bottom.” P. 26

Explaining why digital design tools, while used extensively, are infrequently taught at the university.

“…grounded in the field of tension between ‘technical’ performance and ‘artistic’ creation. It is exactly in that field of tension that every professional discipline grounds its own knowledge base.” P. 26

Foqué defines a critical component of the architect’s arsenal, intuition, as “a not-yet-conceptualized and not-yet-systematized form of knowledge.” P. 27

Beautiful.

Before I go on to quote every line in the book, I want to point out an additional pleasure in reading a book written with a poet’s sensibility.

In describing the synergistic integration of art, science and technology, Foqué uses the seemingly simple example of learning to ride a bike.

“If you describe every part of a bike in extreme detail and add these descriptions together, you will by no means have produced an appropriate description of a bike.”

He concludes this explanation:

“In other words, it is not by knowing the why that you master the how. You need to add the artistic dimension, the art of bike-riding.”

As only a poet – who is also an architect, educator, scholar – could have written.

Foqué explains the now familiar story of how architects abandoned responsibility, and in doing so, relinquished authority, over the past 40 years.

He asks: How can we reverse this decline?

Part 2 of the book presents his case, so to speak.

Reinventing the Obvious

In Part 2, Building Knowledge in Architecture makes the case for case studies in architecture.

The case goes something like this:

Because case studies are used as teaching tools at law, medicine, and in MBA programs, architectural training should also include more reading and creating of case studies.

Here’s the problem with this argument:

It doesn’t need to be made.

In the introduction, the author asks: Why are we sometimes reinventing the obvious?

And then proceeds to fall into this same trap.

Architecture curriculums already make use of case studies. I know, for example, when I taught an integrated design/technology studio, we made great use of them.

They are not only, as the author argues, a practical tool for documenting complicated building projects, finding solutions to technical problems and expanding a firm’s expertise.

They are also excellent opportunities for having architecture students work in teams and learn how to collaborate on a project team while still in school.

The complexity of building projects almost guarantees that the teams will be multidisciplinary.

An example is Aaron Greven’s course in the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in the Integrated Building Delivery program, a class that focuses on integrated practices and the technology that facilitates collaboration across a broad range of building project participants, for the Masters in Integrated Building Delivery program, a post-professional program that is in its pilot phase.

While the example does not prove the rule, I have previously reviewed these case study presentations here.

And more recently, they have been reviewed here.

The book does an excellent job explaining case study research as a means to establish a knowledge base and, as importantly, develops a practical method to do so.

“Architecture is no longer considered a true discipline, based on a comprehensive knowledge base, as it was for more than 2000 years. It is clear that this situation is no longer tenable, if architecture wants to survive in the Information Age, and in a quickly changing globalized world. A key question regarding the discipline of architecture today is how we can build a store of knowledge again.” P.174

But for me, proving the case for use of case studies in architectural education is not the reason to read this book.

This point has been made before here and more importantly, here.

Perhaps it is not case studies that are needed but a knowledge management and information system that can readily access the design professional’s accumulated knowledge.

There are people out there who do just this.

But this book does provide the rationale as well as a unique approach to constructing case studies, grounded in the arguments and methodology presented in the first part of the book.

And more importantly, this book explains how we can build knowledge in our profession and industry through the use of case studies.

Eminently Tweetable

The strengths of the book overwhelm its few weaknesses.

Weaknesses first. For all of the wonderful discussion about design and creativity throughout the first part of the book, there is nary a general mention of or reference to either in the index. It is almost as though the index was created for academics who might scrutinize sources for perfunctorily academic reasons but alas, not for the general reader’s ease of use.

Likewise, many of the otherwise wonderfully rich sources cited, are from the 1970’s or earlier. The book would have benefitted the reader (but no doubt not fellow academics) by referencing more contemporary examples of the same ideas or even the cited author’s more recent work.

On the strength side, the book’s diagrams are truly spectacular and help to illustrate many of the book’s finer concepts.

Another remarkable and no doubt unintended strength of the book is it is eminently tweetable.

A book of well-composed sentences, Building Knowledge in Architecture is remarkably aphoristic, and there are literally hundreds of quotable 140 character lines that are just crying out to be tweeted on Twitter:

“Intuitive thinking and rational thinking are not opponents; they are the twin poles between which the artist structures reality.” http://amzn.to/lyhDEl

Foqué explains that in earlier craft societies, severe penalties were imposed on those members who reveal knowledge in public. P. 93

Today, we are rewarded for the same by being retweeted.

See below for how critical Twitter is to this discussion.

Read or drown

It doesn’t matter if you don’t learn anything new by reading this book (you will.)

Because, after reading it, you will be able to say that you know what you know for the first time.

And that is some accomplishment. For any book.

It is absolutely critical that you read this book. Why?

Here are 3 reasons:

For all of the reasons I have stated up above.

For the reason that it tells us where we have been, where we are today and where we are headed.

And for this reason:

When drowning and you are thrown a life preserver you don’t say, “no thanks, I’ve seen one of these before,” and toss your line to safety aside.

A strength of this author, as mentioned, is that he has one foot in academia and the other in practice, a perspective evident in nearly every sentence:

“Professional disciplines…reduce the gap between real world problems and academic research, research increasingly captured by its own agenda.” P. 25

A book such as this can go a long way starting to fill the gap between education and practice.

That the author is a published poet can be seen in the book’s nearly perfect prose – so clear that you will not need to go back and read any sentence twice.

But you will do so anyway.

Because the sentences are so well-written they’ll strike a chord in you.

And you will find yourself rereading them for the sheer wonder and pleasure.

So don’t read Building Knowledge in Architecture because it develops a general design theory, a theoretical framework and practical instrumentation to establish a knowledge base for the discipline of architecture.

Read it if you want to improve your understanding of the impact and motives on decision making so that your designs are more responsive to real needs.

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture because you are an architect, an educator or student.

Read it because books like this are why we still have books.

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture because we as a profession are adrift and this book has been thrown to us as a lifeline.

Read it because at a time when the publishing and construction industry are experiencing upheavals, it is heartening to discover a book that is as well-written and well-illustrated as it is well-constructed and physically beautiful.

The book feels good in the hand, like a book by Peter Zumthor.

When you hold it for the first time you will feel

as though you have done so before,

as though the book is being returned to you

after a long absence.

To you alone.

That is because this book has been written for you.

The book, Building Knowledge in Architecture, was recommended to me by Ryan Schultz, founder of http://www.openingdesign.com/ via Twitter

@randydeutsch Hi Randy, speaking of books… ran across this one today in the library… looks right up our alley: http://amzn.to/hX0YG2

@theoryshaw P. 78 of Building Knowledge in Architecture (Design as a rational Process: The Triangle Broken) could be your mission statement. Thanks!

Ryan, with fellow IPD maven Oscia Timschell, is launching a beta version of the new site in time for the AIA National Convention. Check it out and follow Ryan on Twitter @theoryshaw

FYI This blog was posted for readers at my other blog by a different name.