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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.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
3 comments

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.

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The Gifts of a Son of an Architect March 13, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in books, career, change, creativity, fiction, identity, nonfiction, possibility, reading.
Tags: , ,
4 comments

Before having kids I decided I was neither going to push them in the direction of architecture nor, if they showed interest at any time, discourage them from pursuing it as a career. I’d wait for them to show an interest in something and when they did help make it available to them to explore and study as they saw fit. Less of a catalyst than an enabler, the interest had to come from them.

When it comes to which career a child pursues: How much is nature and how much nurture?

I realized that this was a largely irrelevant question after attending my 10 year high school reunion, where I discovered that the vast majority of my graduating class had rejected their first (or sometimes second or third) career choice in favor of another. I wasn’t going to sweat what my kids became obsessed with when they were 9, 10 or even 15.

That said, if my son had chosen architecture as a career path, it would have meant, in part, that my frequent absences, long nights working and preoccupations with all-things-architecture wouldn’t have left a bad aftertaste for him. It would have been an affirmation of my career choice as though to say, “what intrigues you intrigues me. I want to give it a try.”

My observations about architects and their sons is not new.

There was of course the film MY ARCHITECT: A Son’s Journey written by Nathaniel Kahn, son of Louis Kahn.

Saif Gaddafi, considered by some to be the most powerful son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, is an architect. 

Jesus was the son of a middle-class, highly educated architect, according to a new book.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s son and architect, John Lloyd Wright, invented Lincoln Logs in 1918, and practiced extensively in the San Diego.

My own son showed an early interest in art, but not architecture. A few years back, when I was working at Adrian Smith-Gordon Gill Architecture, I took Simeon to spend the day with me up in their studio. Surrounded by some of the most interesting and intriguing models of high-rises being designed and built anywhere in the world, he sat beside me the entire day not looking up once from his book – Catcher in the Rye. Either he  had no real interest in architecture or, more likely, the  book had him mesmerized.

When Simeon was 10 he painted a series of acrylic paintings that were impressive by any standards, not just his proud parent’s. But his interest turned out to be in the subject matter – African animals – and not the artistic media, and his involvement in painting waned as soon as he outgrew his interest in animalia.

Of late, he has taken-up photography and glass art – at both of which he excels.

He also blogs. He and a friend purport to review “EVERYTHING EVER MADE” at The Greatest Review.

I’ll watch a DVD with him and afterwards ask him what he thought, and like most teens he’ll say “it was fine.”

Later that night I’ll log onto his site and read a 1200 word incisive critique of the film that is sharp, entertaining and, in some cases, especially critical of his father’s taste in films.

He may not care for Shakespeare, but his reviews of Shakespeare plays and film adaptations have influenced other film reviewers, who tell him so in their comments.

Even his enlightening list of top Radiohead albums got me to rethink my favorites.

My relationship with my son reminds me most of architect Gunnar Birkerts’s relationship with his son, the literary critic, Sven Birkerts.

Gunnar, because of his long career in Michigan, not far from where I was born and raised; because of his metaphoric architecture; and because he was a visiting critic at University of Illinois in the early 1980’s when I was in school there.

His son, Sven, interestingly enough didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps but in every way is as accomplished in his chosen field, of literary criticism and as an essayist, best known for his book The Gutenberg Elegies as well as others.

It is as though Sven had to blaze his own trail so as not to be extinguished by the shadow cast by his domineering architect father.

Like sons, daughters of architects often have to find their niche as well.

A son’s birthday wish list

My son, Simeon, turned 16 today. A few weeks back he emailed a list of things he wanted for his birthday to his mother, and she forwarded the list to me. Of all his creations so far – the cleverly designed but painfully slow award winning Pinewood Derby cars, the paintings, glass art and blogs – I think his birthday wish list is his greatest creation to date and that of which I am most proud.

I think he would be mortified if he knew I was posting it (probably why he sent it to my wife and not to me) but as in so many cases, I would rather ask for forgiveness than permission. I intend no harm in sharing this with you.

No matter how he decides to spend his life, anyone who has created such a list before turning 16 is on track to live a rich, fulfilling inner life. Writing, art and social media gives him a chance to share that inner life with others.

I especially like item j) below. I hope you do so as well.

From: Simeon

To: Mom

Sent: Saturday, February 26, 2011 5:44 PM

Subject: Birthday Presents

It seems like M. really wants to get me Halo: Reach and I’m not really sure why because I continuously tell her that it wasn’t on my original list and that if I wanted a video game it would be that one but otherwise I don’t necessarily have a particular need for it.

Here’s a list of some things that I’d like for my birthday that don’t have to be ordered from the internet and would simply require someone to drive her to Borders or something: but if she’s gotten Halo already then maybe this could be more suggestions for you guys or other people or something like that. Not saying you need to get all this stuff………… just some suggestions for individual things.

Books:

Anything by Hermann Hesse (except Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, or Damien)

Everything by John Steinbeck (except the one’s I already have which are lined up consecutively on my bookshelf)

Big books that we don’t own; like Moby Dick or Don Quixote or War and Peace or a copy of Anna Karenina with a less feminine cover

The Possessed or The Idiot by Dostoevsky

Anything by Jean-Paul Sartre

Anything by George Orwell (except the obvious two that I’ve read already)

Anything by Thomas Mann

The Rebel by Albert Camus

Amerika or The Castle by Franz Kafka

Anything by Jack Kerouac (except On The Road)

Anything by Kurt Vonnegut (except Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle)

Franny and Zooey by J D Salinger

Anything I’m forgetting by an author I like

Movies:

The Trial- Orson Welles version

Othello- Orson Welles version

War and Peace- Russian version from the 1960s

Some posters would be nice; like the ones I listed in the previous e-mail. I’d like one for Apocalypse Now or Grand Illusion or The Third Man or There Will Be Blood or Chimes at Midnight (Falstaff) because I like those movies and the posters look cool.

Music:

I have enough music

Guitar stuff:

Any guitar pedal that’s not a “Distortion” or a “Wah-Wah” pedal, because those are the two I have. Preferably a pedal that changes the guitar’s octave (“Whammy” pedal or “octave changer”) or just a pedal that has multiple effects to choose from on it. Ask a guitar guy and he’ll probably know what I’m talking about. Or any other pedal really, just not a Distortion or Wah Wah pedal. It’s been something I’ve wanted for a long time but I’ve never gotten around to it and this, above most other things on the list, would probably be the one thing that’ll be the most fun/engaging/distracting/fun for me to use.

Another guitar (relatively cheap “Stratocaster”?)

Gift Cards:

Borders

Starbucks

Don’t get me anything to GameStop or any major stores like Target or Sports Authority because you know I’m not going to spend it for a year or so probably.

Quick recap:

a) Obscure/hard to find movies

b) Many Books

c) Guitar Pedals that aren’t “Distortion” or “Wah-Wah”

d) Movie Posters

e) Money

f) Clothing that may appeal to me (example: has a picture of someone I revere on it/band I like/comedic phrase or pun or something)

g) All of the above

h) other things you can think of because this is all I can come up with.

i) Not video games/electronics/accessories or decorations of any kind unless listed above/anything I might not care for but could be useful to someone else like say for example a light-up Ipod speaker

j) yeah.

 

Sincerely, 

Your Son, 

Simeon

 

P.S. Most of the stuff I’d like for my birthday. Some other stuff too. I’ll e-mail that later.

Amazon.com: DigiTech Whammy Pedal Re-issue with MIDI Control: Musical Instruments $199

Amazon.com: Halo Reach: Xbox 360: Video Games

Amazon.com: Sony MDR-XD200 Stereo Headphones: Electronics

Amazon.com: The Trial: Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Elsa Martinelli, Suzanne Flon, Akim Tamiroff, Madeleine Robinson, Arnoldo Foà, Fernand Ledoux, Michael Lonsdale, Max Buchsbaum, Max Haufler: Movies & TV

Amazon.com: Apocalypse Now Poster German 27×40 Marlon Brando Martin Sheen Robert Duvall: Home & Garden

Amazon.com: The Third Man Poster Movie F 11×17 Joseph Cotten Orson Welles Alida Valli Trevor Howard: Home & Garden

Amazon.com: There Will Be Blood Poster C 27×40 Daniel Day-Lewis Paul Dano Kevin J. O’Connor: Home & Garden

Amazon.com: John Steinbeck Art Poster Print by Jeanne Stevenson, 18×24: Home & Garden

Amazon.com: Hermann Hesse’s Magister Ludi (Previously published as the Glass Bead Game) (9780553055559): Hermann Hesse: Books

Amazon.com: Beneath the Wheel (9780312422301): Hermann Hesse, Michael Roloff: Books

Amazon.com: Narcissus and Goldmund: A Novel (9780312421670): Hermann Hesse, Ursule Molinaro: Books

Amazon.com: The Devils: The Possessed (Penguin Classics) (9780140440355): Fyodor Dostoyevsky, David Magarshack: Books

Amazon.com: The Idiot (9780375702242): Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky: Books

Amazon.com: Grand Illusion Poster Movie B 11×17 Jean Gabin Dita Parlo Pierre Fresnay Erich von Stroheim: Home & Garden

Amazon.com: Paper poster printed on 12″ x 18″ stock. Battleship Potemkin 1905: Home & Garden

Amazon.com: Chimes at Midnight Poster Movie French (11 x 17 Inches – 28cm x 44cm): Home & Garden

Boss OC-3 SUPER Octave Pedal and more Guitar Effects at GuitarCenter.com.

Amazon.com: Behringer SF300 Guitar Distortion Effect Pedal: Musical Instruments

James Joyce Dark T-Shirt – CafePress

Hemingway literature retro portrait t-shirt from Zazzle.com

Hemingway Men’s Tshirt – Customized from Zazzle.com

Fyodor Dostoyevsky Tee Shirt from Zazzle.com

And if we don’t end up finding this:

Albert says Absurd ! Tee Shirts from Zazzle.com

55 Ways to Help You Evolve as an Architect May 3, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in architecture industry, BIM, books, change, collaboration, fiction, IPD, management, nonfiction, reading, survival, technology, transformation, transition.
Tags: , , , , , ,
9 comments

The architecture profession and construction industry are in transition. A transition largely driven by technology, but also driven by owners. Owners fed up with adversarial relations between team members, with material waste, with schedules and budgets not being met; owners wanting greater accountability and improved efficiencies on the part of design professionals and constructors.

But this transition is also due to the increasing complexity: of buildings, building systems, team make-up, processes, technology, stringent energy, security and other project requirements and goals that seem to increase on a daily basis. A desire for improved efficiencies and a demand for fewer conflicts, less resistance, better information sharing and communication and an improvement in team relations.

Everyone wants fewer claims and better results.

One thing is clear: To meet these demands we need to change. But change is hard and creates the very resistance that we need to rid ourselves of.

With the economy slowly improving and recovery on the horizon you need to do EVERYTHING you can to assure yourself a place at the table when it does arrive.

As Kimon Onuma writes, you have but two choices: Evolve or Dissolve. Much in the vein of Thom Mayne’s Change or Perish, these words are intended to get us motivated, moving and evolving.

What to do: Skim the list. Start anywhere – find an item that interests you – and act on it. Today. Return to the list on a regular basis. It was created to help you evolve – one small incremental step at a time.

Keep this in mind: If you have suggestions for helping us evolve that you don’t see here, please add them by leaving a comment. Your help here is welcome, needed and appreciated. We’re all in this together.

55 Ways to Help You Evolve as an Architect

1. Represent Both Clients Architects represent both paying and “non-paying” clients (public-at-large, neighbors, building users.) List the ways in which you address and represent non-paying client on your last project and make a commitment to do more on the next.

2. Ask Yourself: Is Your Profession Unethical? Is the profession of architecture corrupt? That is the question Harvard educator Victoria Beach asked recently at the Design Intelligence blog.  Read what your contemporaries have to say in one of the liveliest, most animated online discussions in ages. Better yet, join the discussion. Still unsure of where you stand? Sometimes you don’t know until you write it down. Leave a comment.

3. See the Future Before it Happens Check out this presentation of a workshop on The Future of the AEC Industry.

4. Commit to Collaboration Many architects say that they are team players but few truly know what it means to collaborate. Make a commitment to find out what is involved: the benefits and challenges to truly collaborating with others on your team. [Go to the end to see a list of recommended collaboration articles, presentations and books.]

5. Assess Your Communication Style You might be an expressive trying to sell your ideas to financial types. One reason you might have difficulty convincing others to see your vision and agree with your suggestions is that you might be speaking different languages. There are many books and resources online to assess your style – start here.

6. Assess Your Emotional Intelligence Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a great book that will provide you with the tools and outlook you need to work collaboratively with others in the workplace and out in the field. Buy it new, and the book comes with a one-user-only code that will get you entry to a new, enhanced online edition of the world’s bestselling emotional intelligence test, the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal®, that will show you where your EQ stands today and what you can do to begin maximizing it immediately. Find it here.

7. Assess the Emotional Intelligence of Your Team Have you ever wondered what happens when you put in all that time and energy working to improve your own communication style and emotional intelligence only to discover that one of your team members (not naming any names) had to go ahead and ruin it for everybody? Learn more about how to work in, with and around this situation in The Emotionally Intelligent Team: Understanding and Developing the Behaviors of Success. An excellent resource that uses a seven-step approach for learning to maximize performance on any team.

8. Assess Your Personality Whether an ENFJ or ENFP (as most architects are) there are pros and cons for taking the Myers-Briggs personality type assessment test online – I have had the most luck here.  

9. Read Donald W. MacKinnon Written in the 1970’s, In Search of Human Effectiveness: Identifying and Developing Creativity will convince you that you share many of the same characteristics of the 20th century’s greatest architects and can be found for under $3 here.

10. Read More Make a commitment to read more. Ask yourself how many non-fiction books you read in a year; fiction books; how many articles; how many blogs and websites you visit. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether these are industry-related. Reading outside your area of expertise makes you more interesting to coworkers as well as clients. This list is filled with suggested places to start.

11. Learn the Power of Collective Wisdom Just read the customer reviews to convince yourself of the positive impact and originality of The Power of Collective Wisdom: And the Trap of Collective Folly to help you grow into a thoroughly collaborative team member. Yours here for under $8.

12. Watch Joshua Prince-Ramus in Action Speaking probably more effectively than anyone before or since on the future of the profession and the industry especially here and here and here.

13. Apply What You Read to your design. To your next proposal or cover letter. To the next presentation that you give or design competition that you enter.

14. Join the In-the-Know Group KA Connect on LinkedIn.  Short for Knowledge Architecture – where the AEC industry and knowledge management (and just about everything in between) meet. One of the hottest and fastest growing groups with ongoing discussions – the start-up group is headed by Knowledge Architecture founder Chris Parsons. A great way for architects to expose themselves to like-minded individuals from many walks of life while sharpening their edge. A must.

15. Keep a Quote File Some of the best architects not only keep a file of the projects that appeal to them the most, but also a file for the bon mot words or phrases that appeal to them. Once kept in a safe place for easy access – you can pull one out to emphasize a point or design idea.

16. Collect Quotes Describing Architects Then do the exact opposite. I came across this quote this morning: “Most architects think their audience is other architects.” We often hear that museums are designed more to exhibit the architecture than the art that they were originally intended to contain. When you come across comments describing what you yourself don’t like about other architects – save it – and then do the opposite. The composite of what-not-to-dos could result in as compelling an example of the evolved architect as following any to-do list.

17. Understand What Motivates You Access the valuable tools and resources that make up a good part of Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Watch Dan perform at a recent TED conference of the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

18. Become a Master Builder How well are you immersed and rehearsed in building construction? Do an honest assessment (ask the last contractor that you worked with what they think about your construction awareness and abilities) – then team with a contractor early on your next project, supplement your learning by attending conferences and through reading. Make it your goal to become more well-rounded as a design-construction professional.

19. Change Your Mind How so? Not in terms of indecisiveness. But instead in terms of what will be needed from architects in the near future. Read anything written by Howard Gardner – but if you have to start somewhere consider starting with his latest book, a very inspiring read 5 Minds for the Future. I heard him speak on this topic last year and his ideas are absolutely transformative.

20. Change Your Mind II Reread Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future with this in mind: How can you evolve as an architect by addressing both sides of the mind? In other words, as an architect, you are being hired because of your left as well as your right brain. The best thinking involves both sides – called whole brain thinking. Make it your concerted practice to be a whole brain thinker. And here.

21. Change Others’ Minds Already convinced yourself, but not yet sure those around you are on board? If you can’t get everyone to read and discuss Dan Pink’s book, why not brown bag it in the conference room one day and spend an hour watching and afterwards discussing Dan Pink’s inspiring dvd?

22. Subscribe to Revit3D.com Gregory Arkin’s blog on all things BIM, LEED and IPD. There you’ll be blessed with a minimum of three posts a day on average providing software tips and tricks (don’t be fooled by the  name, the scope is broad and generous including posts on Navisworks, AutoCAD, Ecotect and other Autodesk products, as well as reports, videos, charts and just about everything else you need to evolve.

23. Google Alerts Maybe you’re already using this or feel that your email inbox already overrun with items that you are having trouble keeping up with. To evolve you have to keep up and even stay ahead of the pack. Twitter is great for this but if you want to learn what is happening even before Twitter pick a subject of interest, of fascination or obsession, and have Google alert you daily – or even as the latest relevant item arises, anywhere on the internet by email.

24. No Time? Read the Comments If you just don’t have the time in your schedule to accommodate one more book, use this workaround: read the comments that readers leave at Amazon, at news sources or in the group discussions on LinkedIn. In a very short matter of time you can pick up the gist of just about any subject, witness multiple points of views, formulate your own opinion and maybe even be able to discuss the topic on a cursory level with others.

25. Imagine the World in 20 or 30 Years Or better yet, visit this site that does the imagining for you. Just sit back and become informed – and ideally motivated – by all that you find here. As climate change touches every aspect of our lives, how will it change us? How will we adapt? Living Climate Change is a devoted space for the most defining design challenge of our time. It’s also a place to support fresh thinking and share provocative ideas about the future.

26. As a Last Resort…Fake It Learn how to talk about books you haven’t read by reading last year’s international hit  How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (but you’ll have to read it to learn how.)

27. Spend More Time in School Or at least at school. Commit to visiting your nearest architecture school at least twice a year, to serve on a design jury, or provide much-needed feedback at desk crits on your area of expertise. Sign-up to give a lecture on a topic to fill a gap in the curricula. Give an impromptu talk on portfolio design or resume writing or interview best practices. Pay attention to the student’s work: the inspiration you will gain from being around their energy and fresh ideas will pay off in dividends over time.

28. Reread Refabricating Architecture You have it on your shelf. Refabricating Architecture: How Manufacturing Methodologies are Poised to Transform Building Construction by Kieran and Timberlake. This time, read it with an eye to better understand how working in BIM can lead to virtual models that go directly to fabrication. Ask yourself: What level of detail is required? What impact will this have on insurance, liability, responsibility and roles? Is this something you are even interested in, or does considering this future make you recoil from the work of construction? If it does – ask yourself this: What then – in this world – does it mean to be an architect? Your answer to this question may help you to decide.

29. Mentor The best way to learn is to teach, and the best way to teach is to mentor. What better way to give  back to the profession and community than to share some of your hard earned experience,  information – and passion – with those just starting out? Become a mentor.

30. Join the Conversation Read Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture That conversation…on the use of technology across the building-design and construction processes. The book is a collection of essays by industry leaders, theorists, and academics organized into two main sections, `Working and Making’ followed by `Collaboration,’ or very roughly into BIM and IPD. Over thirty contributors – including Phillip Bernstein Autodesk, Inc., Building Solutions Division VP and Yale School of Architecture lecturer, Peggy Deamer, Kenneth Frampton, Paolo Tombesi, Howard W. Ashcraft, Jr., Reinhold Martin, James Carpenter, Branko Kolarevic, Chris Noble and Kent Larson among many others – including designers, engineers, fabricators, contractors, construction managers, planners, and scholars examine how contemporary practices of production are reshaping the design/construction process. Exposing yourself to these topics – originally presented and discussed at a Yale U conference in 2006 – will put you back in the conversation concerning the most heated topics in architectural practice, creation and construction.

31. Continue the Conversation By getting your hands on a copy of, and reading, the essays and interviews in Provisional: Emerging Modes of Architectural Practice USA.

32. Try Kaizen One small step at a time. That’s the kaizen approach. Small steps, taken daily, even keel, bring about the results you are looking for before you even realize it. The no-pain all-to-gain approach. See also the surprisingly relevant Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

33. Head over to DesignIntelligence at to find some of the most rigorously well-thought-out and comprehensive articles on career-expanding subjects such as Best Practices, Client Relationships, Communications, Design and Construction Marketplace, Design/Build Project Delivery, Education, Financial Management and Profitability, Intelligent Choices, Leadership, Management, Operations Management, Staff Recruitment and Retention, Strategy, Sustainability, Technology and Trends

34. Reevaluate Your Sustainability Efforts Why? Because what is needed today may not be needed tomorrow. Just consider this and decide for yourself if this is the case.

35. Live In More Than One World Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life shares with you the management guru’s belief in recognizing the importance of diversifying the nature and extent of daily existence, to sharpen a sense of curiosity while remaining open to new ideas, and to learn as much as possible from as many different sources as possible. Something every architect needs in order to remain current and grow with the times.

36. Immerse Yourself in Lean Construction Lean – where Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) got its start. A good place for you to start – and a handy pocket-sized reference and toolkit packed with diagrams, lists and charts for under $10 – is The Simply Lean Pocket Guide for Construction which is small and light enough for you to read on your commute and take anywhere you go.

37. Re-familiarize Yourself BIM Revisit the subject with fresh eyes. Here’s a great place to start. One of AIA’s 2009 Integrated Practice Discussion Group’s (IPDiG) projects involved revisiting the Report on Integrated Practice released during the 2006 AIA National Convention in Los Angeles. This report contains ten essays by leaders in many disciplines on the world of, and the state of, Integrated Practice. IPDiG wanted to explore what portions of that report remain valid today and what portions may warrant updates to reflect the current “state of the art”. Through interviews with each of the report’s original authors, IPDIG sought to solicit their views. The original essays―along with newly developed commentaries and podcasts―will be released monthly in AIArchitect as part of the 2009 and Beyond series and are available here.

38. Immerse yourself in IPD Some of the best sources – all free – are available here. Integrated Practice/Integrated Project Delivery (IP/IPD) leverages early contributions of knowledge and expertise through the utilization of new technologies, allowing all team members to better realize their highest potentials while expanding the value they provide throughout the project life cycle.

39. Choose Your Poison This is a great place for architects to get excited, get motivated and get involved.

40. Join a Knowledge Community The Practice Management Knowledge Community (PMKC) identifies and develops information on the business of architecture for use by the profession to maintain and improve the quality of the professional and business environment.  The PMKC initiates programs, provides content and serves as a resource to other knowledge communities, and acts as experts on AIA Institute programs and policies that pertain to a wide variety of business practices and trends. Find one here.

41. To Understand Where We are Headed, it Helps To Know From Where We Come Today, in the face of the challenges confronting their profession, from the economic crisis to an urgent need for longer-lasting, more affordable, and greener construction, architects have been forced to reconsider the relationship between architecture and society, between buildings, their inhabitants, and the environment. No single individual did more to build this discourse than Robert Gutman. Sometimes referred to as the sociological father of architecture, Gutman in his writing and teaching initiated a conversation about the occupants of buildings and the forms, policies, plans, and theories that architects might shape. Read Architecture From the Outside In: Selected Essays by Robert Gutman (2010)

42. Discover How to Become a T-Shaped Architect The T-Shaped teammate: a simple, seemingly obvious concept that could transform you as well as an entire industry.

43. Join a BIM or Revit Users Group Such as those offered in Chicago or New_York. Meet on a regular basis, network, eavesdrop on conversations, learn something new: there’s always something happening at these meetings that isn’t happening anywhere else. Give the London RUG a try! Check out LinkedIn or this list for a group near you. BIM Pages (www.bimpages.com) lists the United States buildingSMART Interest Groups and other groups such as the Canadian BIM Council under the Category “Professional Affiliations.”

44. Put Down What You Are Doing and Read This Book it may seem that based on this list reading books is the answer for evolving as an architect. That is only partly true. But here is one book that is critical that ever design professional reads in order to evolve professionally. The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress by Virginia Postrel (yes that Virginia Postrel, author of The Substance of Style and AIA Convention keynote speaker.) Simply put, the book sanctions the world into two groups: stasists (who urge control and favor the status quo) and dynamists (who will shape the future.) To which group do you belong? Read and find out what the implications are for you and our profession.

45. Be Like John John Moebes, that is, director of construction, Crate & Barrel. Get your hands on one of his online presentations or better yet, hear him speak in person. A truly inspired and inspiring construction professional and owner leading the way for the industry.

46. Visit Collaborative Construction on a regular basis. The website and cutting-edge blog belonging to James L. Salmon, Esq., that is, that serves as a gateway to what he calls the collaborative revolution that is sweeping the construction industry.

47. Revit vs. Archicad vs. Microstation Become informed, try them out, make an opinion and move on. The future is in your hands. Don’t waste the opportunity debating the pros and cons or worse – waiting for the perfect app. It’ll never happen. Except only in your hands. So get modeling!

48. Spend a Day at Home and take- in some educational videos.

49. Become an Intrapreneur Intrapreneurship – entrepreneurship within a large organization: one valuable, productive and relevant way to survive these turbulent times.

50. Create a Master Directory of resources – and use it. Here’s one for Revit blogs but you can also find some great links here and here. Pick your weapon and master it – the world is your oyster!

51. Overcome Your Immunity to Change Read Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization a wonderfully original approach to a familiar problem: why many crucial change efforts fail and how you can assure yours won’t. Catch a free presentation here.

52. Reacquaint Yourself with Great Architecture With all of the demands on us it is easy to forget why we are doing what we do in the first place. To stay motivated to change, it helps to refresh our memory and restart our engines from time to time. Nothing compares with visiting buildings in person, but short of that there are several ways to experience great buildings vicariously.

53. Spend Some Time at the AECCafé There is always something of interest and of importance happening here.  

54. Attend an Industry Webinar There’s always something happening nearly every day. Earn learning units, expose yourself to future practice issues and ideas. Better yet, watch with colleagues while brown bagging it and leave time at the end to discuss what you learned and how you might apply it – and act on it – in your career and in your firm.

55. Get Comfortable with Transformative Tools So exactly what is this panacea for all that ails the design and construction industry? Here’s a good place to find out. Do you have others to recommend?

Recommended books, articles and presentations on Collaboration

Learn about how to select the right tools for internal and external collaboration – watch this presentation.

See Collaborating with Contractors for Innovative Architecture to better be able to evaluate the pros and cons of collaborating, including insurance and legal issues.

Become familiar with the myriad types of collaborative project delivery – including integrated project delivery – the most collaborative of all.

The Culture of Collaboration by Evan Rosen showing how collaboration creates value in business.

How to Make Collaboration Work by David Straus offers five principles of collaboration (Involve the Relevant Stakeholders, Build Consensus Phase by Phase, Design a Process Map, Designate a Process Facilitator, and Harness the Power of Group Memory) that have been tested and refined in organizations everywhere, addressing the specific challenges people face when trying to work collaboratively. Each can be applied to any problem-solving scenario.

Collaboration How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten T. Hansen With approx. 37,000 books on the topic of Collaboration sold on Amazon.com this one is considered by some to be “the” book on the topic. Hansen bases his analysis in an economic analysis of when collaboration creates value that includes not only a project’s benefits but also the costs of collaboration and the cost of foregoing alternatives. Hansen is realistic about collaboration’s limits and attests that over-collaborating id a potential hazard: “Bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration.”

Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration by Keith Sawyer is completely different from the previous books. A practical, inspiring book about how innovation always emerges from a series of sparks—not a single flash of insight. And finally,

The Collaborative Habit by choreographer Twyla Tharp. Life Lessons for Working Together.

What’s Black and White and Unread all Over? February 4, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in books, fiction, nonfiction, reading.
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It is a truth universally unacknowledged, that an architect in possession of an imagination, must be in want of something to read.

Those who read books outside their area of concentration will recognize this as a play on the opening line of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Or perhaps a play the Zombie version?

But then again you may have already known that, having seen the movie or listened to the book on your Kindle.

Architects Don’t Read

This is hardly news to architects who don’t read. Incredulous, astonishing and offensive to those who do.

This barrage of adjectives doesn’t make it any less true.

And yet it is a well-known homily, universally acknowledged, that architects skim. Architects peruse. Architects gloss over pictures, images, photos and cartoons. If they read at all, it is only to read the captions.

Those who say otherwise are as sincere as those who used to claim “I read Playboy for the articles.”

“I read Architectural Record for the articles.”

Face it, we need pictures.

Pictures are an architect’s lubricant or device intended to enhance their reading pleasure. A graphic is to an architect what a marital aid is to a marriage.

They keep things exciting, visually stimulating, less repetitive. Reducing friction, heat and wear.

Lecturers have known this for years. We’re a visual group and need to have visual stimulation or you’ll lose us.

[I have often wondered: When they lose us, where do we go?]

I once heard architect Richard Meier at the Cultural Center in Chicago speak for an hour with slides flashing by – on automatic changer – every couple seconds. This experiment seemed derelict at the time – there was no relationship between what he was saying and the image that flashed past – but on another level, it didn’t matter. He might have been onto something in that the standing room crown, made up mostly of architects, needed eye candy – no matter what imagery was used. Ironically, directly behind him was a giant window, the soon to be setting sun’s glaring light created a black effigy of the architect, rendering the slides all but unwatchable – and  therefore, his speech all but unintelligible. For what are words without images to distract us away?

Authors also know this – when you write a book for architects you need to have pictures to break up the text (or is it text to break up the pictures?) – as though the whole point of the book was the pictures and that the text was the sorbet between – as though to say, you don’t really think anyone is going to read the text, do you?

As graphic designer Armin Vit wrote in Designers Don’t Read…Enough, “Rudy VanderLans, founder of Emigre, said in an interview with Speak Up, ‘Perusing the visuals is a kind of ‘reading’ also. It requires a certain visual literacy to appreciate looking at reproductions of graphic design.’ ”

Don’t Read This

To some extent this is understandable. We’re inundated with messages all day long and take our email to bed with us. Why read when you can listen to audio books, eBooks and podcasts (these I do consider reading.)

Or watch an author on YouTube.

Video is the future. Books are out. Magazines on the wane. History. Caput.

And yet – and yet. What is it that gives our lives gravitas?

Architect – if you are listening – the next opportunity ask a contractor this question: What is it that gives your life gravitas? On second thought…

Creative director, writer and design advocate Austin Howe has written a cleverly inspired book, Designers Don’t Read, which has quickly developed a passionate and widespread following – despite the fact that it doesn’t have any pictures. Midwest Book Review calls it “a daily consult for designers and busy professionals and offers quick case history examples designed to enhance creative thinking and provide food for thought. More than a set of admonitions, these provide a page or two of detail and depth to advocate change and creative thinking, and is perfect for any design professional or arts library.” If you want to know more about the book, this review is a good place to start.

Excuses

Don’t have time to read (so many books, so little time)…My eyes hurt from staring at a monitor all day…I need a break from thinking…Too much media demanding my attention…Can’t afford books…They put me to sleep…

And then there’s the question of what exactly to read? Fiction? Non-fiction? The Architects Handbook of Professional Practice? One day with a cup of coffee read the tiny print between the graphics in Graphic Standards or what Rem had to say in S, M, L, XL.

It’s those darned hyperlinks (here’s a nifty, concise and comprehensive tutorial on how to create them. Oops I did it again!) Can’t get through a darned sentence without being transported to another site. And it’s only when closing all my windows that I remember where I was 20 minutes earlier.

Architects looking for a way to distinguish themselves – as antiquated as this is going to sound – can do a lot worse than to pick up a book – a Kindle, Sony Reader, nook or the bound paper version – and start reading.

We live in a time when the radical thing isn’t to burn books but to read them.

It is winter in much of the world – a great time to curl up with a blog – as many of you are doing right now in reading this.

But wait you say – surely I read. I’m reading this right now, right? And so you, dear architect, are the exception.

Where to start? Some suggestions?

WHY READ?
Why should architects read? Especially when you can watch… Here are 12 reasons to read more:

  1. Distinguishes you from the masses that merely skim
  2. Provides you with a richer, more well-rounded life
  3. You develop your mind’s eye and imagination
  4. You balance the verbal with the visual, right brain with left
  5. Give you something to talk about with clients when in the elevator or with peers and colleagues during dinner
  6. Provides you with ideas for your designs
  7. Helps you to be well-rounded individual
  8. Gives you a leg up on your competition by keeping you sharp, stimulates the brain
  9. Frees your mind up to work on your ideas by distracting yourself

10.  To learn a new topic, vicariously visit a new place or put yourself in a former time period

11.  To discover a kindred soul out there who thinks like you

12.  For the pure pleasure of reading

What are your reasons for reading? What do you consider essential reading for architects…of all stripes? This might be a good place to start!

The Dead Fish Museum December 10, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types, career, creativity, essence, fiction, identity, possibility, questions, transformation.
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What’s in your Cart?

That’s right, the Amazon.com shopping cart. The button with a shopping cart in the upper right hand corner of the home page on the Amazon website.

For most of us there’s an accumulation of items we’ve put on the Cart over the years under the wishful words Shopping Cart Items – To Buy Now.

My current subtotal is $1850.20

With this Important Message: Please note that the price of The Dead Fish Museum has increased from $11.25 to $11.70 since you placed it in your Shopping Cart.

I don’t recall what The_Dead_Fish_Museum  is – or why I placed it on my Cart. Or when. Which is the point of this post.

First a bit of back story. The other week I helped a friend out – made some suggestions on Skype about her in-progress house design in Revit – and she rewarded me by email with a generous gift card to be used at my favorite World’s Largest Online Bookseller.

It was the nicest gift I have ever gotten. In part because it was unexpected. In part because having helped was its own reward. In part because it was exactly what I wanted. And yet…

Critiquing someone’s design is hardly work. File under Joy, not Labor. And overlooking the questionable ethics of accepting rewards for performing work voluntarily and deciding whether to spend the loot on me, my family, or even on my friend, I immediately went to the Amazon.com website to shop.

That’s when I realized that I have 67 items in my Cart. I started adding to the Cart several years ago, around the time Amazon stopped removing items from the Cart and allowed them to accumulate, naturally, as they do in my basement and attic.

So, with the funny money (14 digit Gift Retrieval Code) in hand, I went shopping.

Rummaging through the items on my Cart, going back in time, is like slicing through a tree of your life to observe in the rings you’ve accumulated over the years; whether they reveal a harsh or mild winter followed by a barren or fruitful spring.

The Cart represents a timeline – of what it was you wanted, what once caught your eye or imagination, what you once desired. And unlike Amazon’s Wish List, the Cart is meant only for your eyes alone (and in rare instances, such as this, those belonging to readers of this post.)

Running down the list of items in my Cart inevitably patterns emerge. I have a tendency for example to look at – and place in my Cart – Buddhism books in the late fall. Every late fall. And poetry to help me get through the Siberian expanses of winter.

Every winter.

What follows are a few items in my Cart, annotated from memory of why they are there, what I was thinking at the time I placed them in my Cart.  Things I couldn’t afford at the time or saved for when I came into some cash. Things that speak to me.

Science Is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painleve DVD

Both my kids currently want to become marine biologists, if not entirely sure what that means. This Criterion Collection of short films set to the musical score of Yo La Tengo might be something we can share on cold winter days. The x-ray image of a seahorse on the cover is enticing. But will my kids watch it with me? If they wander off after one or two short films, do I really need to watch 21 short films about fornicating sea creatures? Verdict: Maybe the library will get it…

True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney by Lawrence Weschler

I cannot imagine a better use for a book, or time better spent. Verdict: Buy it.

Between Fire and Sleep: Essays on Modern Polish Poetry and Prose by Mr. Jaroslaw Anders

After 9/11 irony was dead, and humor was all but annulled. Poetry alone seemed to speak to those who needed consoling and Polish poetry spoke the most clearly and deeply, especially Stefan Garczyński, Zbigniew Herbert, Czesław Miłosz and of course Wisława Szymborska. Now that the urgency has passed, it would be nice to know how they manage to work their magic on us. Verdict: “Nice to know” is not reason enough to purchase.

Secrets in a Box (Adventures in Art) – Joseph Cornell

Verdict: Wait

Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki by David Chadwick

The story of how Buddhism came to America. Verdict: It’s late fall…Buy it.

Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis: Opportunistic Architecture

A good-for-you book. Nurturing. I would get this for myself when I felt the need to return to what it was that truly matters to me. When it’s no longer about keeping the lights on and paying the bills, showing up at the train platform every morning in my rain slicker. When I finally get around to purchasing this book it’ll be to honor the architect of old, to benchmark how far I’ve wandered off the path, or how long I’ve remained on it, to remind myself where the path is and how I stay the course. Verdict: Jury’s still out…

These, along with The Dead Fish Museum, are some of the things in my Cart. What’s in your Cart?

Do you see recurring patterns? Long lost interests or secret fascinations that were put on hold to take care of more urgent – but no less important – matters at hand? With the holidays ahead – and the promise of at least some downtime – what would you pluck from your list? Carpe diem translates literally not as seize the day but rather “pluck from the day.” What will you pluck from your cart to enliven, to enrich your day?

The Wisdom of Booklife December 4, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in career, change, creativity, fiction, management, optimism, survival, transformation.
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Money may not be able to buy you love but it can buy you – and those you live and work with – some happiness. How much happiness can $10.17 buy these days? It turns out – quite a lot.

You need not be a writer to enjoy a remarkable and inspiring new book, Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer, by writer, reviewer, editor, publisher, anthologist, filmmaker, agent, animator and blogger Jeff VanderMeer. The perfect book for the writer in your life, yes but in all actuality I can think of no better book for non-writers to read, especially as we’re nearing year-end, the time we ritually consider changes we would like to make in our own lives for the coming year.

Booklife, Foodlife, Worklife, Lovelife, Whatever. This book will – in less time, with less effort and for less money – give you the Xlife you’ve been looking for. Not in short shrift but for the long haul.

As with all books on writing you can read it two ways: to learn tips and tricks of the trade, or to be inspired. As the author wisely suggests: Keep one eye on the matter at hand, and the other on the horizon. Advice or insight, this book is no exception.

For seeking inspiration, and for extraverts in particular, the Public Booklife section will be of more interest – whereas for those more introverted (fellow architects?) the prospect of putting yourself out there – online or off – just the mention of it will raise heart rates. Introverts will enjoy the book’s Private Booklife advice on how to be more productive, effective, balanced and generally happy.

But as we’ll see in a moment, it is in the combining of our public and private selves that we are most likely to find paradise.

First an aside: When I need a pick-me-up, as I sometimes do in these particularly challenging times, I bypass the ginkgo biloba and go for some soul-soothing and inspiring Anne Lamott or Carolyn See, two desert island-worthy authors whose writing-cum-inspiration books will help anyone off their islands, desert or otherwise.

But back to Booklife. First, a qualifier – and this grain of salt is more like a boulder. Substituting the word “Booklife” for “life,” the book makes the relatively unremarkable claim that the ideal life harmoniously combines a public life (marketing ourselves and our work) and a private life (strategies for getting our work done.)

As we all try to balance our public and private selves and all more or less do this – some more overtly, others more seamlessly – this will hardly be an earth-shattering revelation. There are those who would argue that balance is detrimental to achieving goals – including the creation of lasting work. Balance is the enemy of creativity.

That “marketing” today is malleable and ever-changing, involving a heightened presence on social networking sites and new forms of self-promotion, doesn’t change the fact that it is still essentially selling.

And a thousand suggestions for inspiring greater productivity doesn’t change the fact that writing of all kinds involves two things: butts in seats + writing. Period.

But then again the billion dollar diet industry would vanish overnight should people follow the simple – but almost impossible to practice – dictum of exercise + limiting caloric intake.

Since writing is no easier than dieting, writing books will continue to be written as long as people need to lose weight. To this point there is even a popular writing diet.

As the burden of book production and publicity today falls primarily on authors, I took special interest in the Public Booklife portion of the book.

One online reviewer noted, “BOOKLIFE serves as a much-needed corrective to the sad ‘market your book like a carnival huckster’ approach too often found in books of advice for writers these days.” An example of shameless (more overt, less seamless) self-promotion (on a new media social networking site) would be if I were to right here, in this sentence, not-so-subtly mention that I am currently writing a book for publication. Oh, and when it comes out want you to buy it and tell all of your friends.

With the advice contained in Booklife, moving forward no one would ever again need to self-promote in such obvious fashion. A relief to this blogger who prefers more subtle nudging.

So what then makes Booklife so remarkable?

The author is unflinchingly honest, forthright, avoiding what he calls “rah-rah” sentences, saying it like it is. The author’s website describes this guide to sustainable careers and sustainable creativity as “the first to fully integrate discussion of the role of new media into topics that have always been of interest to writers.” But this isn’t what makes this book remarkable.

What makes the book remarkable is that it explores questions we all could be asking ourselves this time of year:

  • How can you use social media and the internet?
  • How does the new online paradigm affect you and those you interface with, or wish to sell, inspire or change minds?
  • How can you find the time to both create and promote you work?
  • What should never be done?

Additionally, Booklife will help you

  • get from point A to point B, whatever your destination or goal.
  • accomplish, wrap-up, complete and finish – especially for those who habitually start things but seldom if ever close the deal.
  • balance your personal life and career – whatever it is.
  • set goals for yourself in the New Year ahead.
  • and those around you to be happier – because you will be happier and better balanced.

Booklife is like a travel guide for destinations that you alone determine and focus your compass on.

Perhaps most of all,

Booklife serves as an uplifting, honest and resourceful survival guide in these Zombie-festooned, 2012-dystopic, troubling times.

On the New Pragmatism September 13, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, fiction, function, pragmatism, transformation, transition.
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It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.

William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963)

With summer unofficially over, school back in session, and the light of day dwindling we find that we have to be all the more observant of how we spend our time. We tell ourselves that we have to make everything we do, every activity, every task, matter – or it is out of our regiment, we don’t have time for it.

The marketing and advertising world has picked-up on this rather 21st century tick of ours – call it multi-tasking, call it our striving for meaning-over-money – by renaming otherwise familiar products in the name of function.

One example are the so-called functional­ foods  or “smart” foods and beverages that line grocery shelves containing “functional” ingredients touted to help protect your heart and vision, keep our gastrointestinal tract healthy, and even boost our immune system. Sales of these foods topped $25 billion last year despite not all health claims being substantiated.

Another example has crept up on the job hunters who are being forced to recreate their resumes. The functional resume format – one of several resume layouts including reverse chronological (listing all your experience from most to least recent) and functional, which lists experience in skills clusters. For those finding that they need to update their old resume – including those with very diverse experiences that don’t add up to a clear-cut career path – a functional format could be considered.

Form Follows Function

Ever since Louis Sullivan touted these words, architects have by turns been instructed to design buildings in the name of function [and of late finance.] We’ve been told that if you give your form – however subjective and intuitive, discretionary or ill-conceived – a purpose, a justification, a use – you can sell it and see it built. Whether real or fictional, function has been top of mind for architects – at least in their social interactions – for well over 100 years.

On this anniversary of 9/11 we recall a time soon after the attacks when irony was pronounced dead and fiction reading has dropped by double digits while nonfiction hung tough. People wanted their information and they wanted it straight. Sales of fiction suffered almost immediately after the attacks. Escapism and entertainment were thought to be secondary if not unnecessary distractions. We were living in a time of war and information was at a premium.

After 9/11 those who associated fiction with the frivolous fueled a unexpected resurgence for poems.   Readers still wanted their nonfiction piled on but kept Auden’s September 1, 1939 or Wislawa Szymberska’s Poems New and Collected by their night stand. Poetry was one exception for it soothed the soul and, perhaps ironically, kept us rooted in the moment.

If they read fiction at all – novels, short stories, drama – it had to be informative, informational, instructive in some way,. For our time was short at hand and the end perhaps all too near. Call it “functional fiction” –fiction that is useful – fiction you can use. Stories that if they entertained did so while providing nuggets of truths or at least truisms we could take with us to work in the morning. Tales, if they carried us away to distant lands, did so clearly spelling out the lay of the land, recommending places to stay and sights to see: novel as travelogue.

And poetry? Not just for your nightstand anymore, Poem in your Pocket – a book of 200 poems you can tear out one at a time and put in your pocket – is available for those who need the feeling of inner security not found in the outside world.  They’re available in bite size poems for your kids  as well.

NonfictionFiction

Which takes us to two novels – both current bestsellers – to help to illustrate this point.

In Nicholson Baker’s latest novel, The Anthologist, we meet Paul Chowder at a rather tough time in his life as he shares – in an often very funny stream of consciousness – his woes and his knowledge of poetry. While you are being amused and entertained – watch out – you will be left by book’s end with a veritable college education in poets, contemporary and classical, poetry writing and appreciation. The book will have you compulsively seeking out poets and poems as a music review has you do for songs on iTunes. While thoroughly enjoying yourself you will acquire an expert and splendid education in poetry writing and reading.

Such is also the case in fiction writer Lorrie Moore’s just-released novel, A Gate at the Stairs. One of the few short story and novel writers that continuously keeps readers in stitches, here she seems to have a keen sense of the need for fiction to function beyond the tasks of storytelling. As pointed out in a recent review in the New York Times, while the book has been called “heartbreaking” and her “masterpiece,” and while it is every bit as punny and funny as her other fictions, the intrusion of the real world – and by that I mean international affairs, wars and real-time events – leaves one with the feeling that in order too stay relevant – and read – the work had to allow nonfiction in. Strike it up to another example of NonfictionFiction.

How to Decide

It is hard not to feel that something has been lost in the translation – from a more or less pure fiction that purported to carry us away, to involve our imagination and fantasies and, yes, at times, allow us escape from the humdrum or overly demanding worlds we have come to know and be a part of. That everything must mean, and teach, and instruct, and deliver – puts not only an unnecessary demand on authors but on readers as well. It is as though too often fun has been left out of the stuff of fiction and been replaced by the news.

So how to decide – not only what to read – but what to include in your already overly crammed life and what to exclude? In lieu of function I suggest we turn to pragmatism. An enlightened Pragmatism. By asking yourself three inimitably essential questions of the choices you confront on a daily basis, you will find in time that your life is filled – not with trivia and facts – but with activities, occasions and opportunities that are physically, mentally and spiritually uplifting, supportive of who you are and want to become and life-enhancing.

These simple questions are potentially life-changing – so do add them to your arsenal now but only use them when you are ready to move forward with your life:

1. Is it nurturing?

2. Is it growth-promoting?

3. Does it work for me?

These three simple inquiries – when answered – have worked for me every time for well over twenty years. Do you have questions you ask yourself to help you make important decisions in your life?