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The Architect (2012) January 8, 2012

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, BIM, change, employment, marginalization, technology, the economy, transformation, transition.
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Last night I had the opportunity to see Oscar contender, “The Architect,” a film whose story begins in the late-CAD era.

“The Architect,” whether you consider it a screwball comedy, a sentimental melodrama or a spoof, is a 2D black-and-white film that has received a great deal of praise from critics.

The story is a simple and familiar one

The story focuses on a declining male starchitect and a rising starletchitect, as CAD grows out of fashion and is replaced by BIM.

A valentine to early computer-aided design and drafting, “The Architect,” stars leading man Jean Dujardin as a CAD-using starchitect named George Valentin.

At the top of his profession, Valentin meets eager would-be starletchitect Peppy Miller.

She dreams of success in architecture, invests time in learning BIM, and as her demand rises in the industry, Valentin’s shine is eradicated.

Architect Valentin faces untold obstacles: the fickleness of the public’s changing taste, the adoption of disruptive new technologies, waning powers that come with age, competition from fellow industry professionals and unemployment, among others.

Faced with the economic insecurity of the Great Recession and technological change that threatens to make him obsolete, George is being crushed in a vise grip all too familiar to mid-career architects.

Refusing to adapt to the onset of BIM, he puts all his money into one last CAD production.

George has owners in the palm of his hand, at least until BIM arrives

It turns out George isn’t well-suited for BIM, not least because of his mindset and attitude, dependence on 2D CAD and archaic drafting style.

But BIM is perfectly suited to a vivacious ingénue named Peppy Miller, who crosses paths with George, first as a fangirl, then as an intern in the office of his firm.

In 2009, just after Wall Street crashes, George’s studio stops making CAD documents.

The studio head announces the end of production of 2D CAD documents, but Valentin insists that BIM is just a fad.

It’s fitting that the next time he meets Peppy, on Rapidograph Studio’s main stairway, she’s on her way up and he’s on his way down.

When the studio head lays-off all his 2D CAD starchitects, George decides to open his own office where he could work in CAD.

His project is submitted on the same day as Miller’s new BIM project, and Valentin is ruined.

His wife kicks him out and he moves into an apartment with his valet, while Miller goes on to become a major 3D starletchitect.

“If that’s the future, you can have it!”

However reassuring excursions into bygone golden ages may be – whether drafting in pencil or CAD – they carry with them the potential for revisionism, soft-focus complacency and the refusal to embrace uncomfortable but necessary change.

This is why some critics are grumbling about “The Architect,” which has won a cache of critics’ awards and looks to be a contender for the Best Picture Oscar.

Whereas naysaying design professionals can appreciate the fond look back at the medium they adore with equal devotion, they inevitably see “The Architect” as an all too-comfortable 2D nostalgia trip that represents stasis rather than genuine innovation, provocation or artistic risk that working in 3D enables.

Those skeptics may be missing a modest but meaningful truth buried under “The Architect’s” surface and story, which is that George’s plight could easily be transposed into any modern-day profession or industry.

In one of “The Architect’s” most poignant scenes, George plays a character sinking in a cement pour, an aptly desperate metaphor at a time when so many architects feel they are in over their heads.

It’s a film that taps into our anxieties as we encounter seismic economic and technological transformations.

Having just witnessed his first BIM model, George says at one point:

“If that’s the future, you can have it!”

He could be speaking for an entire generation of architects who feel as if they’re in mortal danger of being left behind, forced into early retirement they can’t afford — literally or psychologically – or leaving the profession altogether.
At the risk of revealing a spoiler, it turns out all is not lost for George.

Disappointingly, it involves a work-around – when everyone recognizes the only way out is the way through.

“The Architect” may be drenched in the romance and visual values of CAD’s bygone era, but it’s a motion picture uncannily of its time.

(Apologies to critics of “The Artist,” which – like this post – is a shameless pastiche.)

The Architect’s Missing Manual August 28, 2011

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

You never forget your first.

Do you remember yours?

My first was the twelfth.

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

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

White, grey and red.

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

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

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

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

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

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

One that you were proud to be a part of.

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

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

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

It would never again be so simple.

Nor so innocent.

Volume 2 was even simpler.

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

Could it be laid out any more straightforward?

The last two binders contained facsimiles of the AIA documents.

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

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

That was 1994.

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

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

The contents were reduced to a single bound book.

With the AIA Documents sequestered to a CD-ROM.

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

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

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

The table of contents said it all:

“Part 1: CLIENT.”

“Part 2: BUSINESS.”

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

All good. All much-needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“PART 1: THE PROFESSION.”

“PART 2: THE FIRM.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you do to help?

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

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

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

The Architect’s Journey August 13, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, change, marginalization, questions, survival, technology, the economy.
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A few years back, right before the economic downturn, the AIA came out with a promotional piece entitled The Architect’s Journey.

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

Then came the upheaval.

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

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

But rather hero-as-in-heroic.

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

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

Mythic structures that all architecture careers follow.

Something along these lines

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

Mythic, that is, but not formulaic.

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

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

And so on.

And yet, with

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

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

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

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

Becoming an architect is one thing.

Remaining one is something else.

There are many impediments one faces everyday

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

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

And possess a fire in the mind.

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

Some other questions to consider:

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

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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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.

49 Ways to Increase Your Influence as an Architect February 26, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect, books, change, marginalization, principles, problem solving, reading, the economy.
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5 comments

This blog, and its sister blog, both made a name for themselves and garnered some attention out of the gate by issuing a steady stream of lists: things to do, subjects to master, resources to turn to.

There’s just so much great and useful information that comes across my desk that I just have to share.

This post is one of my – what Architect Magazine generously described as – service pieces such as last year’s 55 Ways to Help You Evolve as an Architect.

Now, there are a number of ways architects can have influence: through political power, by building and maintaining a large platform (think tribe, constituency and audience, not soap box,) by title, wealth or celebrity status.

My focus in this post is how we as AEC industry professionals can have our voice heard – right now – and do so in a way that is well within most everybody’s reach.

Due to the blunt force, and slow recovery, of the recession many architects feel ignored, marginalized, disempowered and disenfranchised. Some architects equate having little work with having little leverage.

We all know that there are many things we can be doing to increase our pull – and push – but are already overwhelmed by all we have on our plate.

For that reason I have only included suggestions that can be undertaken, acted upon or addressed during your downtime – assuming you allow yourself some – or in the short intervals between two work-related activities, such as on your commute. Enjoy!

Oh, and remember to chime in on #49 below…

1. Sit in on a design jury at your local architecture school. A great way to see current thinking in action while critiquing student design work. But as importantly, you’ll be sitting shoulder to shoulder with your peers and hear what they have to say, how they see things, while you provide your input. Design studio instructors are always looking to bring in fresh faces and voices into the school. Mid-term reviews are coming up or do so by time of year end reviews. Cost: Your time, transportation and parking.

2. Join a tribe or community of likeminded professionals. Need a new tribe? Join KA Connect on LinkedIn, founded by Christopher Parsons of Knowledge Architecture. KA Connect is a community of AEC professionals who exchange best practices for organizing information and sharing knowledge. Once acclimated to the site, participate in one or more lively discussions. Cost: Free

3. Follow-up with a fellow jury member that you hit it off with or share similar views with. Architects too often see events like sitting on a design jury as one-offs when in fact they provide fertile opportunities for ongoing discussions and last professional relationships. While your fellow jurors are busy, most will welcome a call to meet for coffee to continue the discussion or have a meeting of minds. This is how great partnering opportunities happen. Cost: $2 for coffee. $4 if treating

4. Make your message compelling. Whether you’re writing a blog post or delivering information to a colleague or client, you can learn a thing or two about how to package your thoughts to get the widest audience and their full attention. For others to listen to what you have to say you have to capture their interest from the first line – in fact, before the first line. Learn a thing or two (or eleven) about headline writing here. Cost: Priceless

5. Volunteer to give design studio desk crits at your local architecture school. You’re essentially serving as a roving consultant to fledgling professionals. They’ll appreciate the insights you share and will remember you when they enter the field. In doing so you’ll be giving something back and your generosity of time and advice will go a long way to help others out. Cost: Your time.

6. If you attend one event this year make it KA Connect 2011, a knowledge and information management conference for the AEC industry. Thought leaders from all over the world will come together in San Francisco on April 27th and 28th to share best practices, stories, and ideas about how they organize information and manage knowledge in their firms. If anything like last year’s event, it will be a fun, dynamic event filled with blue sky and Pecha Kucha talks, panel discussions and breakouts that provide ample opportunities to connect with fellow AEC professionals and affiliates. Cost: Visit here or email to inquire.

7. Invite a select group of students back to your office for a walk-through, to get a feel for a professional office and to build a stronger bon with the design community. Introduce them to a couple key players and sit them down to thumb through a drawing set or two. Cost: Your time. $6.50 for a box of donuts.

8. If you attend one other event this year make it the Design Futures Council Leadership summit on Sustainability, this year in Boston. While this TED-like event is invite-only, here’s a little known trick for getting invited: ask to be invited. For how to do so, look here. Cost: TBD

9. Use Google Alerts to keep you up to date on any topic of interest to you. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query, topic or search term.  You can set it to send you an email as it occurs, once a day or once a week if you prefer. Simple and free. Cost: Free

10. Get Power. Yes, power means the strength, ability or capacity to perform or act effectively. Here I mean the well-written book, Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t by Jeffrey Pfeffer. Cost: The best $17.55 you will spend this year. $14.99 on the Kindle in under 60 seconds here.

11. Use Twitter in the receptive mode to stay abreast of what is happening in real time in your professional community. Scan lists for filtered, more targeted content by using hashtags (e.g. #AEC or #architects.) Need a compelling place to start? You can do no better than to start by following Christopher Parsons. Cost: Free

12. Join in on the discussion on professional forums. Build your reputation and be heard by engaged and engaging peers by joining one or more of knowledge communities such as the AIA KnowledgeNet, a place to connect with fellow architects and allied professionals, discuss topics of interest to you and share your expertise. You can set it up so that each morning you’ll receive an email from discussion groups such as COTE, Practice Management or on Residential Architecture. Learn more here or better yet jump right into ongoing discussions on dozens of topics here. Cost: Free

13. Nudge and Sway. Say again? Design professionals no longer believe that they can influence society by the architecture they design (or do they?) Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein shows, among other lessons, how we influence decisions through design. In the influential book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Brafman brothers Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman, several stories are told where decisions were influenced by location and placement of various items – one thing that architects know something about and can have some say in influencing. Cost: $7.50 new. $7 on the Kindle. $4 used.

14. Keep  your good ideas from getting ignored or rejected in meetings and presentations by reading Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down by author and Harvard Business School professor emeritus John P. Kotter. Learn some effective tactics such as letting the attackers into the discussion; keeping your responses clear, simple, crisp and full of common sense; showing respect all the time; not fighting, collapsing or becoming defensive; and perhaps the most important, prepare. “The bigger the presentation, the more preparation is needed.” Cost: $15 new. $10 on the Kindle.

15. Cold feet when it comes to social media such as Twitter? You’re not alone. Read this to learn what former CEO of Gensler and current Zweig White chairman has to say about social networking for the generationally challenged. Cost: Free

16. Form a Tribe. In his influential book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin defines a tribe as a group of people who are connected to one another, a leader and an idea. Godin – as I described in my previous post  – encourages readers to find their community, step up and lead. Cost: At the start, your time. Goes up from there. Learn more here.

17. Don’t know what tribe you’re going to lead? Here are four suggestions for where to start. Read this thoughtful and inspiring piece on thought leadership. Watch Seth Godin discuss Tribes or this one recommended by Christopher Parsons, founder of Knowledge Architecture, or read a free sample chapter from David Logan’s book, Tribal Leadership. Cost: Free

18. Review your favorite professional books on Amazon.com. It’s a fast and free way to be read, heard and seen by fellow colleagues and professionals as a topic expert. And if the review you write is positive, your support will go a long way to help out the book’s author and publisher. Start here and get writing. Cost: Your time.

19. Stay connected. “Chance favors the connected mind,” says Steve Johnson in his exceptional new book, Where Good Ideas Come From, a sweeping look at innovation spanning nearly the whole of human history. So stay connected. Cost: $15

20. To become and remain someone with influence, get in the habit of practicing some very basic principles: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency. To learn more about these I urge you to read the most influential book ever written on the subject, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Cost: $10

21. You want to influence others and keep them in your trance? Draw. It’s really that simple. Speaking of Steve Johnson (see above) watch this to be reminded of the all-too-rare mesmerizing power architects have when drawing on a white board in real time before a live audience. Cost: Free (and the time it takes to practice)

22. Start a blog. Give yourself a platform to express your views or to share information with likeminded individuals and fellow AEC professionals. Cost: Initially free (though blog widgets can be as compelling to collect as apps.) Doesn’t cost anything to browse.

23. Project what you see, learn and experience to the world. Attended a year-end academic review or professional conference? Share your observations and insights from the event by writing an online review – in your own blog or on your office blog or intranet. There is no better way to influence the views of others by helping them to perceive the events around them through the lens of your sensibilities. Cost: Free (assuming you were attending the event anyway)

24. Prefer your socializing and networking and information sharing face to face? Start a local Meetup Group on a topic of choice. To learn more about what happens when you start a Meetup Group look here. To create a Meetup group, look here. To find an already existing group in your community look here. Cost: Nothing to start. Organizer dues are explained here.

25. Read what your peers have to say in their online reviews of your favorite books. Often they’ll point out something you’ve missed and by doing so you’ll be the beneficiary of their insights. Readers sometimes will comment on a review and these comments can be filled with great suggestions and ideas. You can then leverage that information next opportunity you have to discuss the book or topic. Here’s a great place to start. Cost: Free

26. Volunteer to serve on your local AIA board. Be the change you want to see. See my previous post for more on this. Cost: Your time.

27. Use Twitter as a knowledge platform to let your community know who you are, what you’re thinking, how you see things and what you deem valuable and worth communicating. Cost: Free

28. Be decisive. Don’t equivocate. We’ll often undermine our message and its impact on others by looking at both sides of the argument, playing devil’s advocate or hedging. When you’re sought out for answers – if you know the answer – that’s not the time to beat around the bush or come across as ambiguous.  To influence others we need to have a take no prisoners approach to staying on message and being crystal clear. Cost: Free

29. Become a compelling communicator. Architects are conceptual ideators and problem solvers. The problem is, they aren’t always effective at communicating their ideas and solutions. To be a more effective influencer, work on your communication skills – more specifically, on your rhetoric skills. I minored in the study of rhetoric – or persuasive speechmaking – in grad school and while it may have seemed like an odd choice at the time there is no question that what I learned about rhetoric has come in handy throughout my career as a senior designer. An entertaining and exceptionally educational place to start is by reading Thank You for Arguing Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion by the brilliant (and very funny) Jay Heinrichs. Cost: $11 new. $8 on your Kindle. $6 used.

30. Want to have the influential speechmaking ability of an Obama? Then do what Obama and other masters of speechmaking do and read great speeches. There are several excellent older collections but you can do worse than starting here in this comprehensive collection of oratory through the ages, appropriately edited by former presidential speechwriter Safire. Cost: $15 used

31. Want to work on becoming a more articulate rhetorician? I didn’t think so. But for an amazingly comprehensive overview of Western rhetoric from Plato through today, read THE RHETORIC OF WESTERN THOUGHT: FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD TO THE GLOBAL SETTING. Cost: $145 new. $24 used.

32. Believe in yourself. It all starts with you. You cannot influence others if you don’t believe in the veracity of your own voice, the importance of your own views and the need to have them heard by a wider audience. With so many voices out there struggling to be heard, this is no time to be a shrinking violet, to be coy, unassuming, fade into the background or melt into the scenery. To be heard by others you have to believe that you have to say, the product of your thinking and feeling, is of ultimate value to others. You don’t even have to believe it. If you so much as act as though this were so, you will find others doing the same, substantiating, validating and reinforcing your beliefs in no time. Try it.

33. Really understand the psychology of persuasion. To understand the science behind influencing others and how to urge others to see your way, read the best book ever written on the subject, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Cost: $10

34. Read about change. Because influence is basically about changing the status quo, the way things are. A great place to start is the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson et al, authors of the excellent Crucial Conversations. Watch a trailer for Influencer here and find the book here. Cost: $16 new. $10 used.

35. Start a conversation. Literally, over coffee. To discover a simple, but powerful approach for thinking together, check out The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter by the World Cafe Community with an insightful afterward by Peter Senge and foreward by Margaret J. Wheatley.

36. Practice architecture as advocacy. When you get an email urging you to write to your congressman, representative or senator, don’t ignore it. Use your voice to help the government make sound choices that will help the profession. Get your voice heard. To not do so is a missed opportunity. Learn about it here.

37. Learn how architecture can advocate on behalf of a cause. See page 12 of this document.

38. Help someone out right when they ask you to do it. I get requests all the time to chime in on online discussions. “There’s a hot discussion going on my site. The subject is right up your alley. Check it out. I know everyone would benefit from hearing your input on the subject.” Unless the room you are in is on fire or you are experiencing symptoms associated with a heart attack – act immediately. Drop what you are doing and put in your two cents. Why? Because you are being recognized as someone with a voice that needs to be heard – and there is no better way to exercise your influencer muscles, build your reputation, and continue to be seen as the go-to-guy for information than to share your thoughts the moment you are asked.

39. Monitor your attitude and how it is being expressed and how you and your message is coming across to others. To be an influencer, watch your speech for language that betrays your better intentions by coming across as cynical or sarcastic. A healthy skepticism is just that – healthy. Venturing much further into negativity can undermine the positive impact you can have on your community and built and un-built environment.

40. Apologize by saying you’re sorry. Sometimes we’re powerless to influence others because there is a perception by others that we have somehow undermined, hurt or betrayed them and often we’re unaware of this. Need help on how to go about this in a professional and effective manner? See Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior by Kerry Patterson et al, authors of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. Cost: $10 new. $5 used

41. Walk the talk. There’s no greater way to defuse your message by saying one thing an doing another. Especially today, most won’t tolerate such duplicity in their leaders nor in their colleagues. One important lesson about influence is to practice what you preach. As Gandhi said, Be the change you want to see in the world.

42. Make the undesirable desirable. To influence others to make the changes you want to see, make change palatable. The book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything contains chapters with titles illustrating this simple principle such as “Make the Undesirable Desirable” and “Design Rewards and Demand Accountability.” Read it!

43. Start Small. Check out this life changing – and lifesaving – book about how everything great and influential starts with one small step. Here’s another  that you can apply directly to our industry (and others.) Build up from there.

44. Start locally. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously coined the phrase, All politics is local. Today, through access to social media within the privacy of one’s home (consider the impact of Facebook on the current Middle East uprisings,) one can say All influence is local. But you can also truly start locally – in your own neighborhood or community.

45. Once you find your footing, seek out a national or international platform. But today, there’s really no reason to hem yourself in by geographic boundaries. With the internet location is almost beside the point.

46. Prepare an elevator speech. What is it that you do and how do you distinguish yourself from the thousands of others who profess to do the same thing? A brief summary is often much more influential than a longwinded retelling of one’s resume. Start here.

47. What is your brand? These are still the best 3886 words on the subject.

48. Be consistent. Make sure that the things you are doing, the choices you make, are consistent with your personal brand, the message you want to get across.

49. OK now it’s your turn! Don’t see something here you feel belongs on this list? Here’s your chance to influence me – and each other – by adding your own favorites to this list by leaving a comment below! Looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

A Better Way for Architects? August 28, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in architecture industry, change, collaboration, marginalization.
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3 comments

We have to live in the world we create. – Peter Janko

Note from blogger: I just received this email from Peter Janko, Lumenelle President and Product Design Engineer for Lighting Restoration, Design and Manufacturing. While the email was addressed to me, it ought to be read by all architects. I have always benefited from Pete’s advice, thoughts and suggestions. His insights into the world of architecture and construction – and his creative mind and clever way with words – make Pete a model collaborator and teammate. These may be tough words but he always has architects’ best interests in mind. Thank you Pete!

Randy,

I have followed all of your posts and blogs for quite some time and think that you have some great messages for your fellow architects. But there is one aspect of architecture that I feel is very important but I see slipping away. That is architects should make it a priority to get closer and more personally involved in their projects.

Yesterday we finished our lighting restoration project at the Rialto. Unlike most projects, where after you finish, you just sort of “ride into the sunset” off to the next project, the completion of this project was bittersweet. It took us an hour to say our goodbyes as Rialto staffers stopped by one by one while were packing up our equipment to leave. Even though it is a 1 1/2 hour drive (in good traffic) they made us promise to visit often and stay in touch. Two days before we finished, the Rialto held an open house to see the work on “The Duchess” close up. By the time they opened the doors, it was estimated that over 100 people were standing outside waiting and turnout was 2-3 times what they expected. I made a 30 minute presentation on the restoration. The question and answer session afterward went for over an hour. People came up to us after my talk and shared their personal connections to the Rialto with us. We all felt like family. This is what makes being in preservation/restoration so worthwhile.

Although all of us like to see stories about us in the media, I am disappointed at how this story was told. There are a few bullet points on the history but I think the articles totally miss the real significance of the whole purpose of the work at the Rialto. The whole human interest/history aspect is absent. I think this is one of the major reasons why saving out historical treasures is such an uphill battle. To the media, I would like to say, “It’s the people behind the building, then and now, – otherwise, it only a pile of bricks and metal.”

The backstory is pretty profound. The Rialto Square Theater – “The Jewel of Joliet” http://www.rialtosquare.com/ was saved from being torn down in order to build a parking garage…

A feisty, spirited group of citizens took the challenge and began the wildly successful “Save the Rialto Campaign.” Dorothy Mavrich, president of The Rialto Square Arts Association, got the campaign rolling, and all stops were pulled out to offer an alternative plan to the awful thought of selling the land to developers,.. ” See http://www.hauntedhouses.com/states/il/rialto_theatre.cfm

By isolating themselves from the day-to-day life of their projects, architects deny themselves so much in the way of personal fulfillment and trap themselves in the mundane.

I hear complaints that they can’t make it out to the project because they are trapped at the office having to get caught up on paperwork. I have heard architects complain that when they chose to enter the field of architecture, they did so to be creative – not to deal with mountains of paperwork. I can tell you from personal experience that a two hour visit to the project site to solve an issue in real time can eliminate two days worth of delay and hours of paperwork on the project. Forms and documents are prominent on the AIA website.  So what is AIA really about? Iron clad forms? In contrast, our contract with the Will County Exposition Authority (for the Rialto) was simply their signature on the bottom of our 8 page proposal (one page for each chandelier type defining the work to be done on each one). We worked out a calendar schedule (1 page) with Rialto management so that our work did not impact there event schedule. That became our only addendum. Nine sheets of paper plus our insurance certificates and we were off on our two month project – get this – with a government agency.

We have to live in the world we create. So tell those architects out there that there really is a better way.

Regards,
Pete

Peter Janko, Lumenelle President and Product Design Engineer for Lighting Restoration, Design and Manufacturing, restores and recreates historic lighting fixtures, designs and manufactures custom lighting products in styles ranging from vintage to contemporary. Lumenelle has created custom light fixtures for clients from casinos to hotels to museums (Glessner House Museum – Chicago.) In addition to their work at the Rialto Square Theater, Lumenelle was involved in the largest hotel renovation in North American history with their restoration of 23 crystal chandeliers for the Grand and State Ballrooms of Chicago’s landmark Palmer House Hilton. http://www.lumenelle.com/ 

107 Reasons Why You, Architect, Matter June 25, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect types, collaboration, creativity, environment, identity, marginalization, optimism, sustainability, technology, the economy.
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17 comments

We’re often asked to imagine life without people, life without buildings, even life without oil

But how about a world without architects?

That’s not so hard to imagine.

It’s easy if you’re mostpeople.

Because mostpeople never so much as meet an architect.

Let alone engage one in a building project.

It’s also relatively easy to imagine if you’re an architect.

Because this is what we do, what we’re good at – imagining things that aren’t there.

Then relentlessly realize them until they are.

If architects were to disappear tomorrow – who would care?

At the moment – facing a double dip in the economy – architects feel overlooked and underappreciated.

Elitism is out and elegance a low priority when living in deeply discounted times.

Beauty not a necessity, barely a nicety – too high on Maslow’s hierarchy – when focused on the lower rung of the pyramid labeled paying the mortgage.

So to say that we matter. To whom exactly? And what for?

To matter means to be of consequence, of importance (but not self-importance;) significant, relevant, worthy of note and of crucial value.

To feel appreciated and valued, not left-for-dead, abandoned or ignored.

But why ask whether architects matter when so clearly other things matter more.

The unchecked ravages of genocide, extreme poverty, child labor, AIDS, environmental degradation, Alzheimer’s disease, global warming and compulsive consumerism – these certainly matter more.

But this isn’t a contest. Architects can still matter.

Why the world still needs architects

The 107 reasons that follow may seem like overkill. A tad bit much.

But we need reminding. Really need reminding.

Some will inevitably say – tell it to our clients or convince a contractor – that we’re not the ones who need convincing.

Before we can convince anyone else that we matter we must first convince ourselves.

From the architects I’ve talked to and heard from we need a talking to.

And if we’re not going to remind ourselves – who will?

This is not a desperate attempt to justify our existence nor rationalize our cosmic importance. These reasons came easily, rolling off the pen and hammered out in an evening.

And as with most things worth doing, if I had more time there would have been far fewer.

You need to know you matter

The world may not always affirm what we do (try this: google “architect appreciation” or any facsimile thereof and what comes up?*)

* Nothing.

People are not born with an appreciation for architecture.

Nor, for that matter, for architects.

Your employer may not always tell you that you – and the work you do – are valued.

But that doesn’t mean that what we do and who we are doesn’t have a profound impact on our world.

It does. And we do.

In the big scheme of things – we make a difference. A big difference. The world would be a very different place – a lesser place – without us.

And our interventions. Our ideas and ideals.

Think of these as the gifts architects give to society.

Think of these as The Gifts of the Architect:

How a Tribe of Tectonic Nomads Changed the Way People Everywhere Live and Feel.

Think of these as – in the spirit of Yale’s Why X Matters series

107 Reasons Why Architects Matter

(or the 107 Things I Like About You)

Reason1: Architects are optimists. So what? Otherwise we couldn’t survive, anticipate and prepare for an unknown future and imagine what is not there. Imagine a world of pessimist designers, planning for the worst. That’s the world without architects.

Reason2: Architects balance multiple intelligences. So what? It’s a job requirement and for some a liability. Architects use all of their faculties when they design and document – including spatial intelligence.

Reason3: Architects are wired to care. So what? Architects naturally empathize. We have the empathy gene. In abundance. More than our fair share, allowing us to put ourselves in other’s shoes. Others may be in it for the money – we’re burning the midnight oil because we care.

Reason4: Architects are strategists. So what? We ask tough, penetrating questions, seldom taking assignments or answers at face value. We reframe questions that are lobbed at us. And go about our work less as object designers than chess players or basketball coaches parlaying the playbook.

Reason5: Architects think in terms of systems, not just things. So what? Because we understand that the world is not made up of individual, disconnected things. And that everything is causal, interrelated and connected. We design the spaces between things as well as the things themselves – and help others to see what they were formerly unable to see and was certain wasn’t there before we gifted them with a new pair of eyes. We’ve all done this for someone in our lives.

Reason6: Architects think laterally and simultaneously – not linearly. So what? The very thinking skills that we need to nurture in others as we move ahead into the 21st century.

Reason7: We do more with less. So what? So there will be more for others – including our children – when they need it. Eaarth will thank you for it.

Reason8: Architects design outdoor spaces. So what? Think Central Park. Designed by a landscape architect (architects of all stripes.) Architects gave the world outdoor rooms, helping people to feel comfortable in their surroundings, to feel as though they belong, and on a good day, to dwell poetically.

Reason9: Architects are well-educated. So what? Who is most qualified to lead integrated project teams? (Those who deem this elitist need not respond.) The person trained to think of other’s needs before their own, the person who is licensed to protect the health, safety and welfare of the project’s inhabitants. The person dedicated to continuous learning.

Reason10: Architects are T-shaped – both deep and wide. So what? More than mere experts at what the do and know, architects – due to their training and education – are able to see through other’s eyes, empathize and understand what is important to others at the table. We have deep skills and wide wingspan breadth.

Reason11: Architects are “keepers of the geometry.”  So what? Form-givers, architects give shape to our world. Who else provides our buildings, cities and lives with a sense of continuity and coherence?

Reason12: Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul. So what? Life speeds by fast. We need to slow down. Architects design places that help us to slow down, look around and take in the view. And then, before we realize it, we’re no longer in the place but of it. Architects have the ability to design places that touch the soul.

Reason13: Architects transform chaos into order. So what? While nature, animals and biomimicry are definitely trending, one look at architecture without architects and you wish you had called an architect.

Reason14: Architects give the world meaning. So what? So what? Architects may be involved in only a small number of projects, but just think of places where you have been happiest, felt most at home, felt a sense of purpose and accomplishment, at ease with yourself and your surroundings – and more than likely an architect was involved.

Reason15: Architects uplift the downtrodden. So what? Architects raise not only roof beams but eyes up toward the sky, and awareness to a higher plane altogether. We provide worthwhile, heightened experiences, naturally. (Ever walk across the structural glass floor to the outdoor amphitheater overlooking the Mississippi on Jean Nouvel’s Guthrie Theater? Then you know what I mean.)

Reason16: Architects think differently. So what? Yes, Apple thinks differently – but what of what Peter Bolin FAIA and his cohorts did for Apple? For Apple! In NYC. It’s no easy task wowing Steve Jobs. Architects do so on a regular basis.

Reason17: Architects are masters of branding. So what? Not corporate branding, but identity, genus loci and placemaking. Branded environment architects give places identity – to orient, so that you know where you are in the world and, in the best of places, why you are there and why you’ll return.

Reason18: Architects traffic in beauty. So what? Beauty is perhaps a dirty word these days – but we cannot live without it. While nature does her fair share, architects – in their riffs off of nature – certainly supplement in wondrous ways.

Reason19: Architects provide the wow effect. So what? Because life is not just bread and water. That sense of awe when standing before something manmade, masterful and inexplicably beautiful or grand. That’s the gift architects give to the world.

Reason20: Architects create the places that inspire – and where we live out and realize – our dreams and destiny. So what? You are here, on this planet, for one reason and one reason alone. And more than likely an architect was involved in helping you to recognize this. Just think about it.

Reason21: Architects are technologists, artists and craftsmen. So what? Architects learn with their hands, create with their imagination and put the human touch into technology. This assures that what we help to create will be useful, bring about joy and remain for some time.

Reason22: Architects serve the underprivileged. So what? Architects have a reputation for pandering to the wealthy. Creating low income housing is a higher calling for many architects where good works are the ultimate goal. Fee-wise we may take it on the chin, but the work we produce means a great deal to the people who live there.

Reason23: Architects are custodians of the built environment. So what? If not architects, whom else?

Reason24: Architects keep moving the ball forward. So what? Neither sentimentalists nor futurists, architects as optimists recognize that humans are still evolving. And so too their work. So so what? With each commission architects attempt to push the envelope just that much farther, to do their part to advance things. That is how the world progresses – and architects share in this movement.

Reason25: Architects bring poetry out of doors into the world. So what? Art and poetry reside almost exclusively indoors. Museums and libraries may contain these – but architects work hard to bring their qualities to the design of the outdoors, through their sensitive integration of their buildings into the landscape.

Reason26: Architects are master shapers of light. So what? Kahn in particular was transfixed by light: The sun never knew how great it was until it struck the side of a building. Nor did anyone else for that matter.

Reason27: Architects are for the most part fascinating people. So what? My uncle, when I was 5, told me his best friends were architects: they’re the most interesting people I know, he’d say. Architects try to live their lives by this credo.

Reason28: Architects are intrinsically motivated. So what? It’s better in the long run for all involved. As “I Types,” architects are not in it for the token gift card. We do it because we love it, because it is the right thing to do, because – we trust – it makes a difference in people’s lives.

Reason29: Architects operate from both sides of the brain. So what? Neither exclusively right nor left – architects are the original whole brain thinkers. In doing so, we help to keep things whole.

Reason30: Architects are practical dreamers. So What? Floating ideas like prisons in the sky.  This is how we’ll solve large-scaled, complex and intractable problems facing millions: through the persistent application of our imagination, looking at things sideways until they appear to others right side up.

Reason31: Architects get design. So what? An understanding of good architectural design is vital for creating livable buildings and public spaces and architects understand how to design buildings. We make a difference to the positive outcome of the design of our world.

Reason32: Architects give others something inspiring to aspire to. So what? We have all heard someone say that they would have liked to be an architect. Going about the world as an architect is one of the last callings commensurate with our ability to imagine and to create. So so what? Architects have one of the few careers that guarantee that, while practicing, you will remain a lifelong student.

Reason33: Architects involve all of the senses. So what? While we’re lampooned for wearing all black – we know the value of color, the meaning of light, the importance of involving all of the senses in our work.

Reason34: Architects consistently provide people with what is important to them. So what? Some people know what they want while others look to the architect to tell them. Architects adapt to the client – and make it their goal to meet their needs. Sounds simple enough – but this in itself is all-too-rare  in the business world, let alone the arts.

Reason35: Architects take ideas and pay it forward – by giving it a twist. So what? In doing so, we create something new. What we produce fits – because it gives the impression that we’ve seen it before – but at the same time it is fresh, unprecedented – keeping life interesting. Architecture, not variety, is the spice of life.

Reason36: Architects turn what is used, old, broken and decrepit and reinvent it into something living and healthy environment for people to use, in cities as well as in the suburbs. So what? Don’t take my word. Take Ellen Dunham-Jones’ word.  Click on any of these links or read a sample chapter – and argument for doing so – of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs here.

Reason37: Architects are sexy So what? The world has become increasingly bland, globally with little that distinguishes itself. The architect, in the midst of this sameness, has retained her appeal. Why else would we be chosen as the number one career for lead roles in movies? Far from superficial, architects manage to keep things both relevant and interesting.

Reason38:, Architects are problem identifiers. So what? Not only problem solvers, architects recognize that identifying the right problem to solve is often 80% of the solution. Often, the problem they have been assigned is not the one that truly requires addressing. Architects work efficiently and effectively to make sure that everyone is focused on the most pressing, pertinent problem.

Reason39: Architects’ small acts have huge impacts. So what? You only have to think of the Bilbao effect. Don’t let statistics that architects design or impact less than 5% of buildings built. The buildings that count, that create a sense of place and pride of place, the places we take visitors to see and inhabit when in town, that best represent us – public places large and small – these are the buildings we remember and return to. And these are designed by architects.

Reason40: Architects got your back. So what? Architects assure that someone is watching out for you. We make sure you are safe by watching what’s behind you when you’re busy looking ahead. Who else besides the architect watches out for the health welfare and safety of society?

Reason41: Architects wow. So what? While we may only design 5% of all structures –how amazing, absorbing, uplifting they are. You have architects – and their cast of thousands – to thank for that.

Reason42: Architects draw by hand, mouse and by wand. So what? Creatively ambidextrous, flexible and agile, we are not stuck on any one means of communication or delivery. Architects make the best use of available technology to get their point across – but we are not above using a stick in sand, rock on pavement or a burnt piece of charcoal in order to connect and help you understand.

Reason43: Architects design like they give a damn. So what? We care. We make a difference. This matters.

Reason44: Architects give something back. So what? Architects don’t go into architecture to take or even to make money but to give something back. We’re continuously giving, whether going the extra mile, burning one more end of the candle, or by putting their talent and resources in the service of those who need it most. Such as the The 1%, a program of Public Architecture, connects nonprofits with architecture and design firms willing to give of their time pro bono.

Reason45: Architects are change agents. So what? Not merely open to change, we assist in moving change along. No matter how traditional or conventional the assignment, architects make great strides to incorporate the latest advanced technologies. For example allowing for earthquake resistance in tall buildings or in the case of Wright’s Tokyo Hotel. So so what? But at the same time expressing and infusing local or regional character so that the buildings appear to belong to the place where they reside. We may be comfortable with change but recognize that we first have to make it palatable and acceptable for others.

Reason46: Architects – by just being architects – give hope. So what? This is something we do for others. So many aspire to do something interesting with their lives, belong to a profession that offers endless opportunities to challenge yourself. Being an architect is one of the last callings that matters.

Reason47: Architects work in all media and dimensions. So what? We model in clay and digital clay.

Reason48: Architects serve as role models. So what? Citizen architects, such as Sam Mockbee of Rural Studio http://citizenarchitectfilm.com/ , urban activists, getting involved at the grass roots level, some going as far as government.

Reason49: Architects make connections. So what? As systems thinkers, by connecting elements in a project with its surroundings, architects create a social fabric: the semblance of a cohesive, consistent and meaningful world. Architects create worlds that hold a mirror up to life.

Reason50: Architects rise to a good challenge. So what? We challenge ourselves – and each other, our organizations, the profession and industry – to keep moving the ball forward. Improve improve improve.

Reason51: Architects draw crowds. So what? Imagine the world without Frank Lloyd Wright, Antonio Gaudi, Frank Gehry, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto, Louis I. Kahn, Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano and Herzog and de Meuron. Doesn’t matter to “mostpeople?” Think again. Then why are these (in order) the 10 most visited architects in the world..by non-architects!

Reason52: Architects are driven from within. So what? No carrot? No stick? No problem. Architects are self-starting, self-motivating and self-activating. That’s why architects like to think of what we do as an inside game.

Reason53: Architects are linchpins. So what? And being so, are an indispensible part of the design and construction process. We are at the crux of real estate, development, concrete and plumbing. On projects where there may be well over 100 independent entities – from interior design to energy analysis – all pass through the architect. Architects are the common link between project constituents.

Reason54: Architects see the big picture. So what? So many it seems have a difficult time seeing the forest from the trees. Not architects. As I explained here, Malcolm Gladwell in Blink called this ability to see information in its wider context: coup d’oeil or court sense or “giss,” the power of the glance, the ability to immediately make sense of situations. So so what? Architects may not be born with this all-too-rare and exceedingly important ability, but by the end of their formal training they’ve got it. In droves.

Reason55: Architects are meaning-makers. So what? While many make it their job to provide meaningful work for their employees, or to help people find meaning in their own lives, no one but the architect is dedicated to making the world – the built environment – meaningful and coherent.

Reason56: Architects make the world a better place for all. So what? Making the built environment useful, safe, comfortable, efficient, and as beautiful as possible is the architect’s quest. No one else makes this their ultimate goal. The world is a better place for our having been there.

Reason57: Architects are rare. So what? At a time when it seems like there are too many architects for the work available – an imbalance of supply and demand – architects make up just a tiny percentage of professionals, let alone the workforce. Architects are a rare but powerful breed.

Reason58: Architects represent and serve all clients – paying and non-paying. So what? Architects matter because they are the only entity who serves not only the paying but non-paying client (society-at-large.) So so what? Who else is going to represent the needs and wants of the neighbors, community, stakeholders – while balancing the client’s wishes? Architects respect the needs and aspirations of both the individual and the community.

Reason59: Architects are a luxury. So what? Admit it. Human beings the world over have built homes with nothing more than their own two hands. Up until recently, the world existed for millennia without architects and can very well do so again. But why do so? Architects – for all we do – are a luxury that most cannot live without.

Reason60: Architects understand the patterns of everyday life. So what? Architects get urban design. Architects know that the design of cities and buildings affects the quality of our lives – whether this is acknowledged or appreciated is another matter. The bottom line is this: When it comes to creating urban form, places where people live, work and play, architects matter.

Reason61: Architects are influencers. So what? Not everybody has their own ideas for how to live, work, shop and play. Some architects, such as Christopher Alexander, not only influence their own tribe but worlds beyond their own (i.e. urban planning to software engineers. The adoption of Alexander’s pattern language by the software community is one such instance.)

Reason62: Architects keep things whole. So what? Since Deconstructivism died, architects – irrespective of style – one way or another have focused on whole building and holistic design. Our hemisphere needs architects to keep things whole, to distinguish east and west while acknowledging the best of both, much as the olympics have. So so what? To keep globalization from creating an indistinguishable world. To provide order but also character and pride of place.

Reason63: Architects look to the beyond. So what? Beyond the immediate problem. Beyond the immediate issue at hand. Beyond their immediate surroundings – to look at the impacts of what they’re creating on the world beyond. The universe needs architects…to explore how to inhabit other places beyond our planet.

Reason64: Architects touch sp many walks of life. So what? The world needs architects – the earth, our continent and country needs architects to address national issues. Our region needs architects – to represent what distinguishes one locale from another, to make sure that our work belongs to specific place and time, so that we might place ourselves in it. Our state needs architects, our cities needs architects, and especially our suburbs.

Reason65: Architects save lives. So what? And not just hospital design architects. “Architecture can save lives”— Newsweek. Just look at what we are accomplishing in Haiti. Producing housing structures for displaced and disadvantaged populations, rethinking humanitarian assistance and pursuing innovative solutions to contemporary housing crises. Focusing on disaster relief and inexpensive and affordable design solutions.

Reason66: Architects work at making stronger communities. So what? Our community needs architects. Our neighborhoods and even our families need architects.

Reason67: Architects are as diverse a group as those they design for. So what?  Some will try to tell you that architects have a diversity problem. Forget the stereotype – it doesn’t exist. Architects themselves are a diverse bunch making them particularly effective at designing for diversity. We champion the values of diversity in a beautiful way — values essential to creating livable cities and housing.

Reason68: Architects give good design. Daily. So what? Architects, some may feel, are a luxury. So be it. But architects, as purveyors and perpetuators of good design, are truly needed. Good design is not a luxury, but a necessity.

Reason69: Architects have respect for the past, perform in the present and aspire to have their work help create the future. So what? Architects work attempts to represent the time in which they build – which for us, today, represents turmoil. As Frank Stella said: Architecture can’t fully represent the chaos and turmoil that are part of the human personality, but you need to put some of that turmoil into the architecture, or it isn’t real. For many architects it is not enough that their work represents a specific time and place – they strive to have it belong to both their time and all time. So so what? It matters because our work will not look dated and have a sense of permanence and inevitability, not leave the user with a sense o f otherwiseness. As another Frank has said (Gehry): Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.

Reason70: Architects are gifted. So what? Not a wrapped keepsake voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation but a notable capacity, talent, or endowment. Whether born with talent or acquired along the way, architects are made, not born. So so what? We owe their many gifts to their professors, educators and trainers along the way. Everything they need to know they learned in school.

Reason71: Architect’s work is a gift. So what? No matter how much they are paid – or whether they are paid at all – what architects leave behind outlasts them. More time is always put into a project’s design and making than our fee could cover.

Reason72: Architects give it away. So what? Architects worldwide regularly provide pro-bono services to communities that have survived war, government oppression and natural disasters. It’s also an antidote to apathy.

Reason73: Architects create nations and destinations. So what? Architects gave the world the Roman Colosseum, Sagrada Familia, Fallingwater, Pantheon and Guggenheim Museum to name but five. Creating timeless destinations serve as evidence of some of man’s highest achievements and something for every artist and architect to strive for.

Reason74: Architects get sustainability. So what? We not only get it – we act on it. We knew long before the recent revelation that location of a green project mattered as much – if not more – as the project siting, orientation and inclusion of systems and products.

Reason75: Architects make connections II. So what? Another sort of connections – we’re literally connectors – but also associative thinkers. The world needs more of us – to feel less isolated. Our product – buildings – may be one-offs, but not the way we design or plan them. We’re always linking and making connections between things. We can’t help it – it’s the way our minds work.

Reason76: Architects make cities real. So what? Architects have given the world the best architecture cities in the world. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and they had vanished. Barcelona, Spain, Beijing, China, Istanbul, Turkey, Chicago, USA, Athens, Greece – Parthenon vanished. Millennium Park and FLW home and studio. No more. Sydney without the Sydney Opera House? The work disappears – but so does its host. So so what? Architects create works that are inseparable from their environments –and the way we think about them.

Reason77: Architects listen. And listen. So what? People are helped when architecture is democratic. Take the underprivileged. Three past and present California architects come to mind: Michael Pyatok, David Baker, Charles Moore  – all as well-regarded for their exuberance as for their participatory design approaches.

Reason78: Architects need to know it all. So what? Architects work with what they know, creating a harmonious balance our of disparate parts. As Vitruvius wrote over 2000 years ago: An architect should be a good writer, a skillful draftsman, versed in geometry and optics, expert at figures, acquainted with history, informed on the principles of natural and moral philosophy, somewhat of a musician, not ignorant of the law and of physics, nor of the motions, laws, and relations to each other, of the heavenly bodies. So so what? A career in architecture, as one parent of an architect put is, is a never-ending learning experience with a myriad of “career spokes” springing from the hub of the core disciplines. The architect takes it upon herself to continually learn and grow, remaining throughout their career a student not just of architecture but of life.

Reason79: Architects are lifelong learners. So what? And not just because they’re required to gather tally, and document their continuing education credits. We’re curious types – in the best sense of the word. We want to know it all – everything – and are thirsty for knowledge. Which is a good thing – because we need to know it all.

Reason80: Architects are all alike. So what? There has been some grumbling that there are now too many architects – software, enterprise, business – and not enough design architects. Or that design architects aren’t getting their fair share of the airwaves. So be it. So so what? The bottom line is this: all architects is alike. We share similar values, obsessions, fixations and interests. We can learn a great deal from each other. So stop complaining – and join the tribe.

Reason81: Architects are action-oriented. So what? Remember Mies’s “Build – don’t talk.” That’s not just a Chicago credo. Architects design to build – with building in mind. So so what? We use words, images and action to get our ideas across and accepted. But in the end, most want to get their designs out in the world, for others to use, live in and among and yes, even critique and judge.

Reason82: Architects are master puzzle makers. So what? Architects are needed because they can put it all together. We fix what is broken and repair what’s been devastated. When given a 500 page program containing 1000’s of input and data – it doesn’t even occur to us that the end result will be anything less and a complete, cohesive and coherent work of whole building design. Bring it on!

Reason83: Architects are pleasers. So what? Architects are comfortable with ambiguity. We keep everyone’s needs, wants, aspirations and wishes – their ideas and ideals – in mind throughout the design process. With many balloons in the air you’d think it would be hard to make everybody happy.

Reason84: Architects are in it for the long haul. So what? Architects matter because they know what they produce will be around for a while – and therefore carry the additional weight of responsibility for their choices and actions. So so what? For, as Lord Byron said: A man of eighty has outlived probably three new schools of painting, two of architecture and poetry and a hundred in dress. Architecture changes a lot less frequently than trends. This means that architects cannot be at the whims of fashion – what we do, what our designs look like, have to make sense and last for many generations.

Reason85: Architects are never satisfied with good enough. So what? Why settle? Life is too short. If you can give everybody what they need and want – and at the same time, through trickery or talent, perseverance or insight – find a way to deliver more, why not try to do so? No architect strives to do good enough design – but rather, good design that is enough.

Reason86: Architects use what they got. So what? Architects try to make the most with what they have and are given – even if it is not expected or asked for. Had they not – the built world would be confined to making shelters. Like Helmut Jahn, we strive for an architecture from which nothing can be taken away.

Reason87: Architects, ever patient, persevere. So what? Architecture takes a long time to plan, finance and build. It requires not only the long view but the vision for the long haul. So so what? The architect has the perspective to provide this. Who else on the design or construction team can same the same?

Reason88: Architects work in flows. So what? Architects not only improve the build world and environment but also design in order to improve processes. Architects understand it’s not about the building – it’s about the business and the people and what they do when there. Upstream, downstream and throughout the project – architects follow the flow of movement and energy to and from their projects.

Reason89: Architects put is all into perspective. So what? Architects know the price of their art – the hard work that goes into it, the sacrifices they make, often impacting their family life and sleep. They’re willing to put in the extra effort, to go the extra distance, to pace ourselves over a long career. We truly are the change we want to see.

Reason 90: Architects pay the price. So what? Architects work hard, very hard, at achieving their goals. FLW said: I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.

Reason91: Architects are of two minds. So what? Architects are able to think in both business and design terms, to use their design sense to further the business ambitions of their clients. Call it design thinking. Architects are leaders when it comes to design thinking – the ability to apply design sense to help others with their business needs.

Reason92: Architects envision what is not there. So what? But it doesn’t stop with sight or foresight. Architects are trained to be creative thinkers. We see things others don’t or can’t and are able to describe and explain them in ways that help others to understand and act.

Reason93: Architects make others look better. So what? Architects matter because they are there to help their clients succeed. Architects and our professional services firms don’t succeed unless the client does. Architects love to help others achieve their goals and reach their dreams and find imaginative ways to help them get there.

Reason94: Architects learn by doing. So what? Architecture is too broad and deep of a subject to ever really know it all. Continuous learning – there’s always something more to learn – keeps us perpetually on our toes.

Reason95: Architects thrive on less. So what? Our’s really a case where less is truly more. Architects recognize that in tough times such as the current one we’re facing better architecture can be the result. That tough times may in fact lead to better architecture. So so what? This is important because the opposite could occur – where fewer resources result in lesser buildings, less pride of place, and all of us being the lesser for it.

Reason96: Architects are here to serve. So what? Despite the reputation of some, architects exist to serve others. Except for the occasional architect-designed museum, it is what happens inside their buildings and spaces that matters – not the building itself. Architecture is basically a container of something. I hope they will enjoy not so much the teacup, but the tea. Yoshio Taniguchi.

Reason97: Architects operate both in the world – and outside it. So what? Architects practice an art that is in the world and also of the world. But at the same time – stands apart – is its own animal. As Thom Mayne has said: Architecture is involved with the world, but at the same time it has a certain autonomy. This autonomy cannot be explained in terms of traditional logic because the most interesting parts of the work are non-verbal. They operate within the terms of the work, like any art.

Reason98: Architects are markitects. So what? Architects help people and organizations make their mark on the planet – and do so with the widest appeal and the smallest carbon footprint. For better or worse, the first subject Prince Charles really went for as Prince was architecture. It made an impact. He was very intent to use his years as Prince of Wales to make his mark and architects helped him to do so. So so what? Wouldn’t you rather have an architect help make built statements than any other entity? They will at least be responsible, keeping all of the factors in mind. So make your mark!

Reason99: Architects play well with others. So what? Architects may come across as Howard Roark types – lone wolves in sheep’s clothing. But we are all born collaborators. Architects are trained and educated to work productively in teams, and despite the current interest in autonomy know that they get the best results when involving all stakeholders and working well with others. So so what? This matters because we live in a time of crowdsourcing, of co-creation, of participatory design. Architects are there to work with others to come up with the best solutions for all involved.

Reason100: Architects connect the past with the present and future. So what? Architecture serves to connect us in time – with works from the past, with past civilizations. Helping to locate and place us in time, to provide us with a sense of continuity, help us get our bearings and makes us truly inhabitants of this planet, not just hangers-on.

Reason101: Architects work with a palette of possibility. Architects are concerned not with the necessary but with the contingent – not with how things are but with how they might be. So what?

Reason102: The work architects perform touches so many parts of life – and of learning. It has so many facets, it can keep a person interested for a lifetime. As Richard Rogers said: I believe very strongly, and have fought since many years ago – at least over 30 years ago – to get architecture not just within schools, but architecture talked about under history, geography, science, technology, art. So what? Attorneys leave law due to burn-out as well as a lack of meaning in their work. Architects may leave the field for financial reasons, but few if any have done so for lack of what was found there.

Reason103: Architects strive to heal the world. So what? Architects still believe that their works and deeds can help to heal the places where they are privileged to work. Despite what Thom Mayne has said: I’m often called an old-fashioned modernist. But the modernists had the absurd idea that architecture could heal the world. That’s impossible. And today nobody expects architects to have these grand visions any more. Nobody expects this – except us architects, ourselves.

Reason104: Architects hake the hard decisions. So what? When a sales rep calls and asks for a decision-maker they hand the phone to an architect. Why? Architects matter because we have to make the hard decisions – thousands of them in every project. As Arne Jacobsen said: If architecture had nothing to do with art, it would be astonishingly easy to build houses, but the architect’s task – his most difficult task – is always that of selecting. Architects are first and last decision-makers. We make the decisions that count.

Reason105: Architects design for the heart as well as the head. So what? Architects create projects and places that affect us emotionally as well as intellectually. We address the whole person.

Reason106: Architects are passionate about design. So what? Architects do what they do because they are passionate about architecture and design. Despite the rigors of school and the relative lack of money to be obtained in the field, architects that have been in the field already for some time do what they do because they love to do it: plain and simple. So so what? This assures that we will go the extra mile, which is often necessary, to achieve a successful outcome.

Reason107: Architects matter because they sign and seal documents. So what? Exactly!

Don’t see a reason? Make it an even 108. Please let me know. Chiming-in by leaving a comment. Thanks!

The Architect Whisperer June 13, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in architecture industry, management, marginalization, problem solving.
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2 comments

Listen to me now

I need to let you know

You don’t have to go it alone

U2, Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own

The other week I was in Hollywood pitching a reality show treatment to a network development executive and a producer friend at a TV studio scouting projects for next season.

After an hour wait, I pitched the concept of the TV program, sat back and awaited their response.

It turns out that the pitch was a lot like presenting a building design to a client. You need to go in with a couple fall-back ideas in case the first one bombs or they already have a similar idea in development.

Just like design alternatives that you keep in your back pocket just-in-case.

And just like design, the trick is to make it seem like it is their idea without actually letting it become their idea – unless, of course, their idea is a better one. It’s admittedly a delicate balance…

So, I started my pitch.

“It’s called The Architect Whisperer. And…”

I was immediately interrupted.

Wait. Wait. What’s an architect whisperer?

I tell them it’s a person with the capacity to understand and interpret architect communication.

So it has to be another architect –

Because no one else understands what they’re saying!

They laugh.

Go on. Don’t mind us. Continue.

“Similar to a dog or horse whisperer, an Architect Whisperer is a person who understands and relates extremely well with architects. An Architect Whisperer has an unusual amount of success with architects.”

I pause and continue.

“In the show, people – especially spouses of architects, but as often colleagues and even homeowners who have retained architects – bring architects to the Whisperer’s home or studio. The architect eventually adopts the Whisperer.”

I continue by giving them a brief sketch of the first several episodes.

“In the first episode, an architect is brought in to the Whisperer’s home and studio by a firm principal. My architect is misunderstood, he tells the Whisperer. His design is underappreciated. His design is seen as a commodity – not given the reverence it deserves…”

The development exec asks me:

Randy, you know why there could never be an architect whisperer?

I shake my head no.

Because architects don’t listen!

Architects may need whispering to, but the ones I know would never listen.

How about the architect screamer?! suggests my former producer friend.

I’m liking it…

Screamer. Screamer…Crier? Yeller? No crier.

You think maybe then they’d listen?

A show about architects who don’t listen? That’ll be a hoot!

Who wouldn’t relate?

At the end of each episode, they lose their license!

Out on the street with you.

Or sue ‘em!

Randy, you’ve got to boil down all of the elements of your TV show and communicate what the viewers will be watching and the purpose of the show.

I nod in agreement. 

“You’re So Sued!” I love it. Now that I’d watch.

I sat there with a forced smile on my face – taking it all in stride.

We’re just joshing you, Randy.  How’s this instead: “Revenge of the Owner!”

“Architect: The Client’s Revenge!”

They were like clients who suddenly feel the surge of power, wonder why they weren’t architects themselves and hijack the building design.

It needs a hook – says the development exec.

To separate your show from others within the same genre – they explain to me.

Kind of like a combination between…Extreme Makeover…

Architect Edition!

In next week’s episode the architect does a makeover in order to remain viable in the marketplace.

In next week’s episode the architect’s makeover –

Randy, what’s something you can do to improve yourself as an architect in these times –

I think for a moment and suggest

“Not watch TV?”

They stare uncomprehendingly.

A couple weeks have passed since the pitch. I’m back in my studio tweaking my Emmy acceptance speech, waiting a call back telling me that my project has been greenlighted.

See your local listings for The Architect Shouter, Tuesdays on HBN, the Home Building Network

Or passed on.

In TV – as in construction right now – it’s all a waiting game.

Architect Whisperers

As noted in the Boston Globe, More than a decade after “The Horse Whisperer” appeared on movie screens, and four years after the debuts of “The Dog Whisperer” and “The Ghost Whisperer” on TV, “whispering” is still gaining steam among a huge range of consultants and instructors who promise subtle yet authoritative transformation in pretty much every aspect of life.

Here are a couple of real-life Architect Whisperers that you ought to become familiar with. If you get the chance contact one or more for a practice- and perhaps life-changing experience. Think of them as resources when in need of relevant, trustworthy professional advice, feedback or mentoring.

Michael S Bernard Virtual Practice http://www.v-practiceconsulting.com/

Virtual Practice focuses on management mentoring, firm organization and staff development, specifically tailored to the small design practice. They work with small firms (usually 5 to 10 employees) on two tracks. In their view, the principal of a small but growing firm must focus on two important areas: finding more work and establishing continuity with respect to the firm’s design vision. Given the limited time available to a busy principal, they serve as the bridge or liaison between principal and staff. They function as the firm’s operations director in “time share” fashion.

Learn more about Michael Bernard here and here

Michael Strogoff Strogoff Consulting  http://www.strogoffconsulting.com/

Strogoff Consulting provides practice management, ownership transition, mergers & acquisitions, and negotiation services to architects, engineers, interior designers and other design professionals. The core of their services is bringing people and interests together in creative and collaborative ways. Michael Strogoff has several highly-skilled specialty consultants to help firms operate and compete in an increasingly complex and competitive environment.  Each specialty consultant brings practice management expertise working with numerous architectural, engineering and interior design firms.

Rena M. Klein, FAIA RM Klein Consulting http://rmklein.com

RM Klein Consulting offers business planning services, meeting facilitation and management education to leaders of small design firms. Building on her graduate degree in management and her twenty years of experience as the owner of a small architectural firm, Rena regularly presents seminars on small firm practice. Her innovative work in this area has appeared in print and Web publications, including AIA’s online Architect’s Knowledge Resource.

 …

Also, Rena M. Klein, FAIA has a new book, The Architect’s Guide to Small Firm Management: Making Chaos Work for Your Small Firm (Wiley, 2010) which you can find discounted here or here with free sample chapters.

Are there Architect Whisperers not mentioned here that we should be aware of? If so, please let us know by leaving a comment below or via email (see About section.)

[Note: A big thank you Jonathan L. Fischel FAIA for your links and suggestions.]

What We Talk About When We Talk About Design March 23, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, BIM, collaboration, creativity, essence, IPD, management, marginalization, problem solving, questions, software architects, technology, the economy.
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1 comment so far

Design. Noun or verb?

Building design? Noun.

Architects design? Verb.

So why do architects keep treating design like it’s a noun?

What architects talk about when they talk about design – is mostly buildings.

Design strategies, initiatives, options?  Design criteria, benchmarks and objectives? Leave these for MBAs.

 “Hiring an AIA architect,” says the AIA website, “could be the best decision you’ll make for your design project.” Yet no client considers their project a design assignment. That’s framing it as an architect sees it.

Design – the noun – is a tool architects use to plan and solve a client’s or owner’s problems: they need more space, they need to move and they need to attract more students or customers or retain the ones they have. They don’t have design projects – we do.

And note: the emphasis is on action  –  not thing.

To a client, an architect may help you to realize, recommend, guide, clarify, define, orchestrate, and help you get the most for your construction dollar. All verbs.

If that’s what we mean by design – then why don’t we say it? Why don’t we remind others that that is what we do?

And with the 2010 AIA Convention on the horizon why don’t we remind ourselves of this meaning of the word?

That said, if design is our core competency – what distinguishes us from pretenders –the act of design takes up a relatively small part of our day.

Over the past 25 years I have worked on several projects where I might design the building in a day – and then spend the next 3-5 years fleshing it out – and everything else that’s required to see to its realization. Some would say fleshing it out is someone else’s design development and another person’s iteration and still another’s level of detail. Sure – there is a great deal more design to do once the client says go. But again – the emphasis is on action – design as a verb – and not on the building.

One of the advantages of the new technologies such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) – the collaborative work process enabled by it (the subject of my other blog www.bimandintegrateddesign.com)– is that design occurs early, involving many stakeholders, and can come from just about anywhere. Yes, the architect may orchestrate the effort – and may be the one person qualified to do so – but she’s still applying for that position, it has not been awarded yet. Design in the near future will happen sooner in the process, by many – including considerable contributions made by non-designers and designers alike.

In fact – architects have been threatened by the role of the “designer” that has been appearing more and more in industry diagrams illustrating construction project teams. Where in these diagrams is the architect? The architect’s very survival instinct kicks in when this happens and what ensues can be unnerving. I have seen chairs fly and voices rise. Someone else is moving in on our territory and the instinct is to attack.

When we talk about design – who is our intended audience? By calling attention to design are we thinking that this will remind others on the construction team who really has the corner on design? Is this the meta-message for making this the year of design? “Don’t forget – architects design, too.” By calling attention to design, are we primarily reminding others that we design? Or – and at the same time – are we reminding ourselves?

Because many architects haven’t designed a building since the immersive studio experience in school and are in need of reminding. All but buried in building codes, zoning regulations, contractor’s RFI’s and change orders, lean construction, green building rating systems –  not to mention BIM, IPD, VDC and a hundred other acronyms that come our way – it’s almost as though instead of announcing to the world who we are, we are announcing it to ourselves. It’s almost as though we’re experiencing a form of professional amnesia or Alzheimer’s – and can’t remember who we are and what we do.

Design: Who we are. What we do.

Part of the problem is that the word design has become ubiquitous. Architects, of course, don’t have a corner on the design market.  Yes, architects design, but so do web designers, product designers, urban designers, environmental designers, business designers, set design, packaging design, game design, exhibition designers, landscape designers, graphic designers, interior designers, industrial designers, fashion designers and all the other T-shaped designers to name but a few.

If design is the planning that serves as the basis for the making of every object and system in the universe, then what are we talking about when we talk about design?

How can our purpose, our heart, our core – as design professionals – be such a small part of what we do?

And – if the new technologies and work processes have their way – we’re about to do even less of it.

Or do more of it in our heads.

Or conceptualize in the monitor, using the program’s built-in metrics to ferret out the most cost effective options.

The problem with the word design isn’t that it too narrowly defines what we as architects do. The problem is that the word design is overused, vague, appropriated by too many industries and domains – from MBA’s to makers of medical devices. I can understand the need for a convention to have as its subject a sweeping or enveloping concept to allow for the myriad specific entries and presentation-. As the convention material puts it, the weft through which a number of threads—sustainability, diversity, professional practice, technologies, leadership, communities, typologies, and others—will be woven. Last year’s was diversity. Next year’s – you can imagine – will be selected from amongst the remaining threads.

That design is not enough of a differentiator, whether building, city or global design.

To go from diversity to design isn’t to return to our roots.

Better we should ask ourselves these questions:

  • What distinguishes the architect?
  • What is unique to the architect?

Is it design or is it design thinking?

Is it design or is it problem identifying and problem solving?

The word design has too many connotations and is appropriated by too many industries. Earlier, I did my best to answer these questions here in Ten Ways to Face the Decade like an Architect.

10 Questions Architects Need to Ask Themselves

So, before heading off for the AIA Convention in Miami, ask yourself: What do we talk about when we talk about design?

  • Are we talking about design as a competitive advantage over our competition, namely design-builders and construction managers and other design professionals?
  • Is design enough of a differentiator? Others on the construction team see themselves as designers – including some owners and fellow design professionals.
  • By separating design from the rest of the process are we reinforcing others’ firmly held notions – however erroneous – that architects are elitist, arrogant, isolationists, rarified in some way.
  • Will architects who gather to celebrate design – and celebrate themselves – be accused of navel gazing, reinforcing the scourge of being labeled out-of-touch aesthetes?
  • Will architects be seen by others – disenfranchised and disillusioned architects among them – as reinforcing their already perceived irrelevance in the construction process, by meeting to talk about design they’re proverbially rearranging deckchairs while the rest of the profession goes down?
  • Will meeting to talk about design further sharpen the architect’s already considerable edge by playing-up their cool factor and wow factor?
  • If design can’t be taught and is something you intuit – that you either have it or you don’t – why meet to talk about it?
  • By talking about design do architects risk alienating teammates by remind them of their increasing irrelevance?
  • While the rest of the world is knee deep in design thinking will architects be perceived as focusing on design without the thinking?
  • By talking about the design of buildings as objects as opposed to systems, flows or solutions, will architects – with the Wal-Marting of the world and Targeting of design – reinforce the commoditizing of their skill-sets?

Thomas Friedman perhaps brought this point home when he wrote

If I just have the spark of an idea now, I can get a designer in Taiwan to design it. I can get a factory in China to produce a prototype. I can get a factory in Vietnam to mass manufacture it. I can use Amazon.com to handle fulfillment. I can use freelancer.com to find someone to do my logo and manage my backroom. And I can do all this at incredibly low prices. The one thing that is not a commodity and never will be is that spark of an idea.

Are architects talking about design like fish talking about water?

A San Francisco architect, Ted Pratt, Principal and Founder of MTP Architects, wrote to me today

The idea of Design Thinking is really taking hold here with business.  Last week I attended a panel discussion focused on the topic of Design and Business.  The event was held at Swissnex here in San Francisco.  All of the panel members were business people.  I commented to my business partner that we needed to be on the panel alongside the persons from Clorox and Nestle.  There was an administrator from the California College of Arts’ MBA program.  They have an MBA focused on Design Thinking.

Architects are already seen by many as the makers of pretty pictures. By getting together to talk about design will we be perpetuating this perception?

As Ted wrote, we needed to be on the panel.

Architects – working at many scales, from GIS to doorknobs – are first and foremost design thinkers. Design thinking is a term that some feel is the latest buzzword and by the time you read this will already be past-tense. But the truth is – whatever you call it – design thinking is something we as architects have done for centuries. You can learn more about it here.

What should our message be?

In the AIA’s 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, under Vision, it is written:

The American Institute of Architects: Driving positive change through the power of design.

Sooner that contrarian author and Design Futures Council board member, Richard Farson, author of The Power of Design, should speak at the convention.

And under Goals:

Serve as the Credible Voice: Promote the members and their AIA as the credible voice for quality design and the built environment.

Quality design. There you have it. With the focus front and center of the product and not the process.

The planet will always need quality design. But what the world needs right now is not more buildings but the creativity and ingenuity that goes into their design applied to the problems and forces at hand.

We love buildings – we love architecture – that is why we became architects: to be part of their design and realization.

But, as IDEO’s Diego Rodriguez says, Stop Treating Design as A Noun.

Is design even the message we need to be sending? At this time in history, shouldn’t our message be on collaboration, cooperation, teamwork, making our teammates look better, improving the process for all involved, playing well with others and our trustworthiness?

Design for the new decade

The 2010 AIA Convention has as its theme Design for the new decade. Design, a return to design. Getting back to our roots. Reprioritizing. Do what we do best. Which is namely,

Cool buildings, innovative form and materials, sustainable design.

With the selection of Dan Pink as keynote, the message appears to be that we have been spending too much time in the left hemisphere – with all of our focus on the left-brain thinking required of practice – and seek some Florida solace in the sun and respite in the right.

Once architects leave Miami, their brains newly balanced and their hemispheres aligned, perhaps we ought to consider the fact that what distinguishes the architect is the mercurial interaction of our left and right hemispheres. Design is not the domain exclusively of the left or right brains – but the back-and-forth interaction of the two. Our real value as architects occurs in neither individual lobe but in the space between.

Architects already do what the world needs most right now – they don’t need to emphasize one hemisphere over another – they just need to get the word out there a little louder in a world that’s already screaming for attention; that this is what we already do, this is who we already are.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Dan Pink. He spoke back to back at the Design Futures Council’s summit AND my kid’s middle school last Fall. He’s moved on – driven – past design onto more intrinsically motivated pastures. And we ought to take a clue from him and follow his lead.

So it should be clear by now. Design isn’t what we do or who we are. But instead Design thinking. Design deliberation. Design countenance. It’s not design – that’s shared by far too many to have any meaning – but what we do with it. Design isn’t a skill but a modifier for who we are and what we do. We ought to start acting more like it and let others in on the secret.

So go ahead – re-commit yourself to design as the architect’s primary mode of thought and action. Just don’t be fooled by the siren song of designed objects be they places, projects or things. What you are re-committing to is making design thought and design action a priority.

Design thinking and design doing: who we are and what we do.

This is the crux: for the present time – to reinforce the notion that we are team players, that we are relevant, that we are necessary – we ought to emphasize our positive impact on the process, not the end result.

We are designers in that we are design managers and design leaders.

We are designers – we are design thinkers – gathering to re-commit to helping to define and solve our clients’, city’s, community’s and neighborhoods’ problems.

That is design for the new decade.

Reports of Architect’s Death have been Greatly Exaggerated March 17, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in career, change, collaboration, marginalization, questions.
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The knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor.   Aldous Huxley

 

A number of prominent architects have sadly died this month: Bruce Graham, an architect who designed several of the most prominent buildings in Chicago, Frank Williams and Der Scutt, architects who designed several of the most prominent buildings in Manhattan, and Herb McKim who pretty much did the same for the entire state of North Carolina, are among them.

But this post isn’t about any one architect’s death – however important a role they might have played in our lives, cities and industry. This post addresses the increasingly prevalent pronouncements calling for the end of architecture and death of the profession. This post is about whether our profession will still be around to tell our grandkids about.

Only the latest along this line of thinking is the current debate taking place online, entitled Will the Architecture Profession Still Exist in 40 Years?, between RIBA President, Ruth Reed and self-proclaimed provocateur and naysayer Austin Williams, Founder of mantownhuman and writer at Building Design online, The Architect’s Website, found here with comments and also here.

Without stealing their distant thunder, suffice it to say that this debate doesn’t really solve anything. But the comments, as usual, bring up several decent points. Some of my own observations:

  • Architects will continue to be valued for their expertise – unless that expertise can be tapped into and proffered outside the profession in design-build outfits, wherever architects find employment in the years ahead
  • The gist of RIBA’s argument follows this line of logic: Architects, as custodians of the built environment, are beholden to both paying clients and non-paying (society at large) and for that reason will always be valued for the beauty, judgment, ingenuity and delight that they bring to a project. That said, most architects have found that it’s pretty difficult to state this outside the relative privacy of a blog, while maintaining a straight face. While this remains largely true – architects must represent both because it is what they do, it is why they went into the profession in the first place, because it is  the right thing to do and because the world needs them – whether or not the world recognizes this, recognizes them, remunerates or rewards them for their efforts. Just do it.
  • The gist of William’s argument states architects are toast because…architects are allowing their environmental agenda to dominate architectural practice. Say what?
  • By incorporating new technologies and collaborative work processes. By being the change they want to see – and not wait for someone else (Owners) to tell them to do it. More on this here. 

For Austin William’s co-edited book, The Future of Community: Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated, look here.

Commenters mention the usual bromides: others have trodden on much of the architect’s territory and until they are squelched architects will just have to be their own best advocates. As some would have it, architects excel at two things:  fighting over what scraps of work there is or congratulating each other on how well we have all done. As one commenter so aptly put it: The recession had made this failure in the profession to assert itself more clear.

Several other commenters’ insights worth repeating here:

  • As long as people want buildings, they will want them to be poetic.
  • Sustainability goes beyond a carbon footprint. It needs to bring in factors such as happiness, tradition, continuity and society.
  • If the “profession” was to disappear…talented designers and creative thinkers will remain
  • The best architects at any level are those that listen to others and take onboard their ideas, then giving them a twist to turn them into something special.
  • The arrogance of some architects who dismiss the fact that anyone else working in the built environment can be creative and have good ideas brings the profession down.

What is made clear by these comments is that an acceptance is needed on the architect’s part that almost anyone can have the big ideas: architects give these ideas, whether their own or from others, give them a twist and help turn them into reality. Read more comments here.

The State of the Profession

In reference to the title of this post, Mark Twain’s famous quip – the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated – I would like to report that the architect is alive and well and living in denial.

Our death is perhaps exaggerated – but we’re in deep convalescence – so there’s still an outside chance.

The architecture profession has had some serious symptoms and it is perhaps time we saw a doctor.

In a biological model for the profession, I think it’s worth looking at some of the hard-to-miss signs: an increasing forgetfulness on our part, and what appears to be a cancerous growth within the profession.

As expected, the forgetfulness – to always play well with others, to share our information with teammates and empower those we work with – is age related. Architects have a case of amnesia where we’ve forgotten where we come from. It’s as though architects have Alzheimer’s and have forgotten who we are and what we are here to do.

A Focus on longevity

In terms of longevity for the profession, is appears that our resveratrol will be the adoption and complete embrace of new technologies, our daily glass of red wine will be to acquire the necessary mindsets and attitudes, and our calorie restriction diet will be a newfound determination on our part to collaborate with others.

Keeping the profession-as-human analogy going, in medicine, there’s this state – between good health and decline – called senescence. You might have heard author and nutritionist Andrew Weil MD talk about it in Healthy Aging. Senescence is marked by these common characteristics:

  • The period of decline, called senescence, is different than what came before
  • Senescent cells still perform many functions of life – but they cannot reproduce
  • When researchers take cells from healthy organisms and put them in new environments, senescence overtakes the cells and the cultures die
  • Senescence equates with the period of functional decline that precedes death
  • Most cells senesce after a fixed number of divisions
  • The number of times senescent cells can reproduce is coded in their DNA
  • Health depends on a balance between stress and defenses; the presence of senescence represents the body’s inability to cope with the stress

Thinking what I’m thinking? Allowing for some poetic license, the architecture profession is in a period of decline – this we have known for some time. In fact, per Robert Putnam and others all of the professions are to an extent. So, following  this logic:

  • The period architects find themselves in is different than the period that came before
  • Architects continue to perform many of their familiar functions– but due to circumstances they cannot employ, hire, educate or remunerate emerging talent
  • When architects are removed from their familiar workplaces and are placed in working environments outside their host domain, architectural culture dies
  • Architects are operating in a period of functional decline that precedes the death of the profession
  • Most architects decline after a fixed number of career moves
  • The number of times architects can renew themselves is coded in their make-up
  • For architects, survival depends on a balance between stress and defenses; the current presence of decline represents the profession’s inability to cope with the multiple stresses placed on the architect today

As with all analogies taken too far, this one is no less farfetched.  And yet there seems to be something there when you consider that – due to the unprecedented circumstances architects find themselves in today, due to their own choices as well as others out of their control – the architecture profession is not yet dead but does seem to be in a state of decline. Of, if you will, senescence – architects are in a state of senescence.

Those still interested in longevity, I write more about the architect’s so-called fountain of youth at my other blog.

Architect’s routine physical results

Should the architecture profession go for an annual physical examination? While this annual ritual has been largely discarded as unnecessary for healthy patients – one wonders over the past couple years how healthy is the state of the architect?

When you sit down with your doctor, what things should the architect discuss? What things determine the architect’s risk?

  • Heredity – What have architects inherited from our predecessors? What habits – good and bad – have architects inherited from our favorite professors and practitioners? From role models and mentors?
  • Lifestyle – If your client gives you a call 5PM on a Friday demanding that you deliver results by Monday morning – how do you respond? How balanced is your work and home life?
  • Your Medical History – Working in silos, holding back information, an unwillingness to share, or prolonged use of certain attitudes – will these play a big part in determining what has to be monitored or watched out for?
  • Age and sex – Are emerging professionals who are architects in their 20’s are more likely to be impacted by burnout and disillusionment than their midcareer colleagues? Do men have career-shortening events earlier in their careers and more frequently than women? Are women at greater risk for leaving the profession? Are midcareer architects today the target of layoffs?

If the architecture profession was a sick patient – and went to see the doctor – what do you think she’d diagnose?

What recommendations for cure would the doctor make?

What will it take for the architecture profession to be declared the picture of health and fit for duty?