The Gifts of a Son of an Architect March 13, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in books, career, change, creativity, fiction, identity, nonfiction, possibility, reading.
Tags: career, Catcher in the Rye, Frank Lloyd Wright
Before having kids I decided I was neither going to push them in the direction of architecture nor, if they showed interest at any time, discourage them from pursuing it as a career. I’d wait for them to show an interest in something and when they did help make it available to them to explore and study as they saw fit. Less of a catalyst than an enabler, the interest had to come from them.
When it comes to which career a child pursues: How much is nature and how much nurture?
I realized that this was a largely irrelevant question after attending my 10 year high school reunion, where I discovered that the vast majority of my graduating class had rejected their first (or sometimes second or third) career choice in favor of another. I wasn’t going to sweat what my kids became obsessed with when they were 9, 10 or even 15.
That said, if my son had chosen architecture as a career path, it would have meant, in part, that my frequent absences, long nights working and preoccupations with all-things-architecture wouldn’t have left a bad aftertaste for him. It would have been an affirmation of my career choice as though to say, “what intrigues you intrigues me. I want to give it a try.”
My observations about architects and their sons is not new.
There was of course the film MY ARCHITECT: A Son’s Journey written by Nathaniel Kahn, son of Louis Kahn.
Saif Gaddafi, considered by some to be the most powerful son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, is an architect.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s son and architect, John Lloyd Wright, invented Lincoln Logs in 1918, and practiced extensively in the San Diego.
My own son showed an early interest in art, but not architecture. A few years back, when I was working at Adrian Smith-Gordon Gill Architecture, I took Simeon to spend the day with me up in their studio. Surrounded by some of the most interesting and intriguing models of high-rises being designed and built anywhere in the world, he sat beside me the entire day not looking up once from his book – Catcher in the Rye. Either he had no real interest in architecture or, more likely, the book had him mesmerized.
When Simeon was 10 he painted a series of acrylic paintings that were impressive by any standards, not just his proud parent’s. But his interest turned out to be in the subject matter – African animals – and not the artistic media, and his involvement in painting waned as soon as he outgrew his interest in animalia.
Of late, he has taken-up photography and glass art – at both of which he excels.
He also blogs. He and a friend purport to review “EVERYTHING EVER MADE” at The Greatest Review.
I’ll watch a DVD with him and afterwards ask him what he thought, and like most teens he’ll say “it was fine.”
Later that night I’ll log onto his site and read a 1200 word incisive critique of the film that is sharp, entertaining and, in some cases, especially critical of his father’s taste in films.
He may not care for Shakespeare, but his reviews of Shakespeare plays and film adaptations have influenced other film reviewers, who tell him so in their comments.
Even his enlightening list of top Radiohead albums got me to rethink my favorites.
My relationship with my son reminds me most of architect Gunnar Birkerts’s relationship with his son, the literary critic, Sven Birkerts.
Gunnar, because of his long career in Michigan, not far from where I was born and raised; because of his metaphoric architecture; and because he was a visiting critic at University of Illinois in the early 1980’s when I was in school there.
His son, Sven, interestingly enough didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps but in every way is as accomplished in his chosen field, of literary criticism and as an essayist, best known for his book The Gutenberg Elegies as well as others.
It is as though Sven had to blaze his own trail so as not to be extinguished by the shadow cast by his domineering architect father.
Like sons, daughters of architects often have to find their niche as well.
A son’s birthday wish list
My son, Simeon, turned 16 today. A few weeks back he emailed a list of things he wanted for his birthday to his mother, and she forwarded the list to me. Of all his creations so far – the cleverly designed but painfully slow award winning Pinewood Derby cars, the paintings, glass art and blogs – I think his birthday wish list is his greatest creation to date and that of which I am most proud.
I think he would be mortified if he knew I was posting it (probably why he sent it to my wife and not to me) but as in so many cases, I would rather ask for forgiveness than permission. I intend no harm in sharing this with you.
No matter how he decides to spend his life, anyone who has created such a list before turning 16 is on track to live a rich, fulfilling inner life. Writing, art and social media gives him a chance to share that inner life with others.
I especially like item j) below. I hope you do so as well.
Sent: Saturday, February 26, 2011 5:44 PM
Subject: Birthday Presents
It seems like M. really wants to get me Halo: Reach and I’m not really sure why because I continuously tell her that it wasn’t on my original list and that if I wanted a video game it would be that one but otherwise I don’t necessarily have a particular need for it.
Here’s a list of some things that I’d like for my birthday that don’t have to be ordered from the internet and would simply require someone to drive her to Borders or something: but if she’s gotten Halo already then maybe this could be more suggestions for you guys or other people or something like that. Not saying you need to get all this stuff………… just some suggestions for individual things.
Anything by Hermann Hesse (except Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, or Damien)
Everything by John Steinbeck (except the one’s I already have which are lined up consecutively on my bookshelf)
Big books that we don’t own; like Moby Dick or Don Quixote or War and Peace or a copy of Anna Karenina with a less feminine cover
The Possessed or The Idiot by Dostoevsky
Anything by Jean-Paul Sartre
Anything by George Orwell (except the obvious two that I’ve read already)
Anything by Thomas Mann
The Rebel by Albert Camus
Amerika or The Castle by Franz Kafka
Anything by Jack Kerouac (except On The Road)
Anything by Kurt Vonnegut (except Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle)
Franny and Zooey by J D Salinger
Anything I’m forgetting by an author I like
The Trial- Orson Welles version
Othello- Orson Welles version
War and Peace- Russian version from the 1960s
Some posters would be nice; like the ones I listed in the previous e-mail. I’d like one for Apocalypse Now or Grand Illusion or The Third Man or There Will Be Blood or Chimes at Midnight (Falstaff) because I like those movies and the posters look cool.
I have enough music
Any guitar pedal that’s not a “Distortion” or a “Wah-Wah” pedal, because those are the two I have. Preferably a pedal that changes the guitar’s octave (“Whammy” pedal or “octave changer”) or just a pedal that has multiple effects to choose from on it. Ask a guitar guy and he’ll probably know what I’m talking about. Or any other pedal really, just not a Distortion or Wah Wah pedal. It’s been something I’ve wanted for a long time but I’ve never gotten around to it and this, above most other things on the list, would probably be the one thing that’ll be the most fun/engaging/distracting/fun for me to use.
Another guitar (relatively cheap “Stratocaster”?)
Don’t get me anything to GameStop or any major stores like Target or Sports Authority because you know I’m not going to spend it for a year or so probably.
a) Obscure/hard to find movies
b) Many Books
c) Guitar Pedals that aren’t “Distortion” or “Wah-Wah”
d) Movie Posters
f) Clothing that may appeal to me (example: has a picture of someone I revere on it/band I like/comedic phrase or pun or something)
g) All of the above
h) other things you can think of because this is all I can come up with.
i) Not video games/electronics/accessories or decorations of any kind unless listed above/anything I might not care for but could be useful to someone else like say for example a light-up Ipod speaker
P.S. Most of the stuff I’d like for my birthday. Some other stuff too. I’ll e-mail that later.
Amazon.com: The Trial: Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Elsa Martinelli, Suzanne Flon, Akim Tamiroff, Madeleine Robinson, Arnoldo Foà, Fernand Ledoux, Michael Lonsdale, Max Buchsbaum, Max Haufler: Movies & TV
And if we don’t end up finding this:
49 Ways to Increase Your Influence as an Architect February 26, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect, books, change, marginalization, principles, problem solving, reading, the economy.
Tags: Buy-In, Christopher Parsons, influence, Influencer, Jeffrey Pfeffer, John Kotter, KA Connect, Kindle, Knowledge Architecture, Nudge, Ori Brafman, seth godin, Steve Johhnson, Sway, tribes, Zweig White
This blog, and its sister blog, both made a name for themselves and garnered some attention out of the gate by issuing a steady stream of lists: things to do, subjects to master, resources to turn to.
There’s just so much great and useful information that comes across my desk that I just have to share.
Now, there are a number of ways architects can have influence: through political power, by building and maintaining a large platform (think tribe, constituency and audience, not soap box,) by title, wealth or celebrity status.
My focus in this post is how we as AEC industry professionals can have our voice heard – right now – and do so in a way that is well within most everybody’s reach.
Due to the blunt force, and slow recovery, of the recession many architects feel ignored, marginalized, disempowered and disenfranchised. Some architects equate having little work with having little leverage.
We all know that there are many things we can be doing to increase our pull – and push – but are already overwhelmed by all we have on our plate.
For that reason I have only included suggestions that can be undertaken, acted upon or addressed during your downtime – assuming you allow yourself some – or in the short intervals between two work-related activities, such as on your commute. Enjoy!
Oh, and remember to chime in on #49 below…
1. Sit in on a design jury at your local architecture school. A great way to see current thinking in action while critiquing student design work. But as importantly, you’ll be sitting shoulder to shoulder with your peers and hear what they have to say, how they see things, while you provide your input. Design studio instructors are always looking to bring in fresh faces and voices into the school. Mid-term reviews are coming up or do so by time of year end reviews. Cost: Your time, transportation and parking.
2. Join a tribe or community of likeminded professionals. Need a new tribe? Join KA Connect on LinkedIn, founded by Christopher Parsons of Knowledge Architecture. KA Connect is a community of AEC professionals who exchange best practices for organizing information and sharing knowledge. Once acclimated to the site, participate in one or more lively discussions. Cost: Free
3. Follow-up with a fellow jury member that you hit it off with or share similar views with. Architects too often see events like sitting on a design jury as one-offs when in fact they provide fertile opportunities for ongoing discussions and last professional relationships. While your fellow jurors are busy, most will welcome a call to meet for coffee to continue the discussion or have a meeting of minds. This is how great partnering opportunities happen. Cost: $2 for coffee. $4 if treating
4. Make your message compelling. Whether you’re writing a blog post or delivering information to a colleague or client, you can learn a thing or two about how to package your thoughts to get the widest audience and their full attention. For others to listen to what you have to say you have to capture their interest from the first line – in fact, before the first line. Learn a thing or two (or eleven) about headline writing here. Cost: Priceless
5. Volunteer to give design studio desk crits at your local architecture school. You’re essentially serving as a roving consultant to fledgling professionals. They’ll appreciate the insights you share and will remember you when they enter the field. In doing so you’ll be giving something back and your generosity of time and advice will go a long way to help others out. Cost: Your time.
6. If you attend one event this year make it KA Connect 2011, a knowledge and information management conference for the AEC industry. Thought leaders from all over the world will come together in San Francisco on April 27th and 28th to share best practices, stories, and ideas about how they organize information and manage knowledge in their firms. If anything like last year’s event, it will be a fun, dynamic event filled with blue sky and Pecha Kucha talks, panel discussions and breakouts that provide ample opportunities to connect with fellow AEC professionals and affiliates. Cost: Visit here or email to inquire.
7. Invite a select group of students back to your office for a walk-through, to get a feel for a professional office and to build a stronger bon with the design community. Introduce them to a couple key players and sit them down to thumb through a drawing set or two. Cost: Your time. $6.50 for a box of donuts.
8. If you attend one other event this year make it the Design Futures Council Leadership summit on Sustainability, this year in Boston. While this TED-like event is invite-only, here’s a little known trick for getting invited: ask to be invited. For how to do so, look here. Cost: TBD
9. Use Google Alerts to keep you up to date on any topic of interest to you. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query, topic or search term. You can set it to send you an email as it occurs, once a day or once a week if you prefer. Simple and free. Cost: Free
10. Get Power. Yes, power means the strength, ability or capacity to perform or act effectively. Here I mean the well-written book, Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t by Jeffrey Pfeffer. Cost: The best $17.55 you will spend this year. $14.99 on the Kindle in under 60 seconds here.
11. Use Twitter in the receptive mode to stay abreast of what is happening in real time in your professional community. Scan lists for filtered, more targeted content by using hashtags (e.g. #AEC or #architects.) Need a compelling place to start? You can do no better than to start by following Christopher Parsons. Cost: Free
12. Join in on the discussion on professional forums. Build your reputation and be heard by engaged and engaging peers by joining one or more of knowledge communities such as the AIA KnowledgeNet, a place to connect with fellow architects and allied professionals, discuss topics of interest to you and share your expertise. You can set it up so that each morning you’ll receive an email from discussion groups such as COTE, Practice Management or on Residential Architecture. Learn more here or better yet jump right into ongoing discussions on dozens of topics here. Cost: Free
13. Nudge and Sway. Say again? Design professionals no longer believe that they can influence society by the architecture they design (or do they?) Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein shows, among other lessons, how we influence decisions through design. In the influential book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Brafman brothers Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman, several stories are told where decisions were influenced by location and placement of various items – one thing that architects know something about and can have some say in influencing. Cost: $7.50 new. $7 on the Kindle. $4 used.
14. Keep your good ideas from getting ignored or rejected in meetings and presentations by reading Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down by author and Harvard Business School professor emeritus John P. Kotter. Learn some effective tactics such as letting the attackers into the discussion; keeping your responses clear, simple, crisp and full of common sense; showing respect all the time; not fighting, collapsing or becoming defensive; and perhaps the most important, prepare. “The bigger the presentation, the more preparation is needed.” Cost: $15 new. $10 on the Kindle.
15. Cold feet when it comes to social media such as Twitter? You’re not alone. Read this to learn what former CEO of Gensler and current Zweig White chairman has to say about social networking for the generationally challenged. Cost: Free
16. Form a Tribe. In his influential book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin defines a tribe as a group of people who are connected to one another, a leader and an idea. Godin – as I described in my previous post – encourages readers to find their community, step up and lead. Cost: At the start, your time. Goes up from there. Learn more here.
17. Don’t know what tribe you’re going to lead? Here are four suggestions for where to start. Read this thoughtful and inspiring piece on thought leadership. Watch Seth Godin discuss Tribes or this one recommended by Christopher Parsons, founder of Knowledge Architecture, or read a free sample chapter from David Logan’s book, Tribal Leadership. Cost: Free
18. Review your favorite professional books on Amazon.com. It’s a fast and free way to be read, heard and seen by fellow colleagues and professionals as a topic expert. And if the review you write is positive, your support will go a long way to help out the book’s author and publisher. Start here and get writing. Cost: Your time.
19. Stay connected. “Chance favors the connected mind,” says Steve Johnson in his exceptional new book, Where Good Ideas Come From, a sweeping look at innovation spanning nearly the whole of human history. So stay connected. Cost: $15
20. To become and remain someone with influence, get in the habit of practicing some very basic principles: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency. To learn more about these I urge you to read the most influential book ever written on the subject, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Cost: $10
21. You want to influence others and keep them in your trance? Draw. It’s really that simple. Speaking of Steve Johnson (see above) watch this to be reminded of the all-too-rare mesmerizing power architects have when drawing on a white board in real time before a live audience. Cost: Free (and the time it takes to practice)
22. Start a blog. Give yourself a platform to express your views or to share information with likeminded individuals and fellow AEC professionals. Cost: Initially free (though blog widgets can be as compelling to collect as apps.) Doesn’t cost anything to browse.
23. Project what you see, learn and experience to the world. Attended a year-end academic review or professional conference? Share your observations and insights from the event by writing an online review – in your own blog or on your office blog or intranet. There is no better way to influence the views of others by helping them to perceive the events around them through the lens of your sensibilities. Cost: Free (assuming you were attending the event anyway)
24. Prefer your socializing and networking and information sharing face to face? Start a local Meetup Group on a topic of choice. To learn more about what happens when you start a Meetup Group look here. To create a Meetup group, look here. To find an already existing group in your community look here. Cost: Nothing to start. Organizer dues are explained here.
25. Read what your peers have to say in their online reviews of your favorite books. Often they’ll point out something you’ve missed and by doing so you’ll be the beneficiary of their insights. Readers sometimes will comment on a review and these comments can be filled with great suggestions and ideas. You can then leverage that information next opportunity you have to discuss the book or topic. Here’s a great place to start. Cost: Free
26. Volunteer to serve on your local AIA board. Be the change you want to see. See my previous post for more on this. Cost: Your time.
27. Use Twitter as a knowledge platform to let your community know who you are, what you’re thinking, how you see things and what you deem valuable and worth communicating. Cost: Free
28. Be decisive. Don’t equivocate. We’ll often undermine our message and its impact on others by looking at both sides of the argument, playing devil’s advocate or hedging. When you’re sought out for answers – if you know the answer – that’s not the time to beat around the bush or come across as ambiguous. To influence others we need to have a take no prisoners approach to staying on message and being crystal clear. Cost: Free
29. Become a compelling communicator. Architects are conceptual ideators and problem solvers. The problem is, they aren’t always effective at communicating their ideas and solutions. To be a more effective influencer, work on your communication skills – more specifically, on your rhetoric skills. I minored in the study of rhetoric – or persuasive speechmaking – in grad school and while it may have seemed like an odd choice at the time there is no question that what I learned about rhetoric has come in handy throughout my career as a senior designer. An entertaining and exceptionally educational place to start is by reading Thank You for Arguing Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion by the brilliant (and very funny) Jay Heinrichs. Cost: $11 new. $8 on your Kindle. $6 used.
30. Want to have the influential speechmaking ability of an Obama? Then do what Obama and other masters of speechmaking do and read great speeches. There are several excellent older collections but you can do worse than starting here in this comprehensive collection of oratory through the ages, appropriately edited by former presidential speechwriter Safire. Cost: $15 used
31. Want to work on becoming a more articulate rhetorician? I didn’t think so. But for an amazingly comprehensive overview of Western rhetoric from Plato through today, read THE RHETORIC OF WESTERN THOUGHT: FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD TO THE GLOBAL SETTING. Cost: $145 new. $24 used.
32. Believe in yourself. It all starts with you. You cannot influence others if you don’t believe in the veracity of your own voice, the importance of your own views and the need to have them heard by a wider audience. With so many voices out there struggling to be heard, this is no time to be a shrinking violet, to be coy, unassuming, fade into the background or melt into the scenery. To be heard by others you have to believe that you have to say, the product of your thinking and feeling, is of ultimate value to others. You don’t even have to believe it. If you so much as act as though this were so, you will find others doing the same, substantiating, validating and reinforcing your beliefs in no time. Try it.
33. Really understand the psychology of persuasion. To understand the science behind influencing others and how to urge others to see your way, read the best book ever written on the subject, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Cost: $10
34. Read about change. Because influence is basically about changing the status quo, the way things are. A great place to start is the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson et al, authors of the excellent Crucial Conversations. Watch a trailer for Influencer here and find the book here. Cost: $16 new. $10 used.
35. Start a conversation. Literally, over coffee. To discover a simple, but powerful approach for thinking together, check out The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter by the World Cafe Community with an insightful afterward by Peter Senge and foreward by Margaret J. Wheatley.
36. Practice architecture as advocacy. When you get an email urging you to write to your congressman, representative or senator, don’t ignore it. Use your voice to help the government make sound choices that will help the profession. Get your voice heard. To not do so is a missed opportunity. Learn about it here.
37. Learn how architecture can advocate on behalf of a cause. See page 12 of this document.
38. Help someone out right when they ask you to do it. I get requests all the time to chime in on online discussions. “There’s a hot discussion going on my site. The subject is right up your alley. Check it out. I know everyone would benefit from hearing your input on the subject.” Unless the room you are in is on fire or you are experiencing symptoms associated with a heart attack – act immediately. Drop what you are doing and put in your two cents. Why? Because you are being recognized as someone with a voice that needs to be heard – and there is no better way to exercise your influencer muscles, build your reputation, and continue to be seen as the go-to-guy for information than to share your thoughts the moment you are asked.
39. Monitor your attitude and how it is being expressed and how you and your message is coming across to others. To be an influencer, watch your speech for language that betrays your better intentions by coming across as cynical or sarcastic. A healthy skepticism is just that – healthy. Venturing much further into negativity can undermine the positive impact you can have on your community and built and un-built environment.
40. Apologize by saying you’re sorry. Sometimes we’re powerless to influence others because there is a perception by others that we have somehow undermined, hurt or betrayed them and often we’re unaware of this. Need help on how to go about this in a professional and effective manner? See Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior by Kerry Patterson et al, authors of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. Cost: $10 new. $5 used
41. Walk the talk. There’s no greater way to defuse your message by saying one thing an doing another. Especially today, most won’t tolerate such duplicity in their leaders nor in their colleagues. One important lesson about influence is to practice what you preach. As Gandhi said, Be the change you want to see in the world.
42. Make the undesirable desirable. To influence others to make the changes you want to see, make change palatable. The book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything contains chapters with titles illustrating this simple principle such as “Make the Undesirable Desirable” and “Design Rewards and Demand Accountability.” Read it!
43. Start Small. Check out this life changing – and lifesaving – book about how everything great and influential starts with one small step. Here’s another that you can apply directly to our industry (and others.) Build up from there.
44. Start locally. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously coined the phrase, All politics is local. Today, through access to social media within the privacy of one’s home (consider the impact of Facebook on the current Middle East uprisings,) one can say All influence is local. But you can also truly start locally – in your own neighborhood or community.
45. Once you find your footing, seek out a national or international platform. But today, there’s really no reason to hem yourself in by geographic boundaries. With the internet location is almost beside the point.
46. Prepare an elevator speech. What is it that you do and how do you distinguish yourself from the thousands of others who profess to do the same thing? A brief summary is often much more influential than a longwinded retelling of one’s resume. Start here.
47. What is your brand? These are still the best 3886 words on the subject.
48. Be consistent. Make sure that the things you are doing, the choices you make, are consistent with your personal brand, the message you want to get across.
49. OK now it’s your turn! Don’t see something here you feel belongs on this list? Here’s your chance to influence me – and each other – by adding your own favorites to this list by leaving a comment below! Looking forward to hearing what you have to say.
What it Means to be an Architect Today December 26, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, career, employment, identity, possibility, questions, reading, the economy, transformation, transition.
Tags: manpower, out of work architects, underemployed architects, unemployed architects
dragging themselves through the vacant-lotted streets at dawn looking for an angry commission,
angleheaded architects burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…
What does it mean to be an architect in 2011?
For every architect putting the finishing touches on a set of construction documents, or starting a design study for a prospective client, there’s one thinking outside the bun.
And another reading this for free at the public library.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says between 6 and 13% of architects are out of work.
The 53% of architects who are actually out of work believe these numbers are accurate.
The vast majority of working architects are severely underemployed, focused on getting work, marketing their own or their firm’s services.
The vast majority of architects, in other words, are now working in marketing.
Taking-on work outside their comfort zone.
Whether beneath them or above them, work of an altogether different caliber.
Like an actor, architects are awaiting call-backs. Waiting to be called back by the firm that let them go.
In the mean time, architects are driving cabs, working at Lowes.
Masters in Architecture now means we’re becoming masters of another art: the art of losing.
Tracking unemployment is logistically difficult, requiring a great deal of manpower, according to AIA chief economist Kermit Baker.
47,500 unemployed architects hired full-time by AIA and NCARB to track unemployment in the industry.
Finding themselves in new, unfamiliar situations with people they hardly know and – digging deep into their bag-of-tricks – making the most of it.
Architects in retail hawking e-readers and housewares.
Architects moving across the country, or out of the country away from their families, to help pay their kids’ expenses.
Asking not what the AIA can do for them; asking what they can do for the AIA.
Getting used to being “between projects” and any of a dozen other euphemisms for having been – for a loss of another euphemism – shitcanned.
Not waiting to see who will take the lead in the green movement.
Asking not what the world can do for them; asking what they can do for the planet.
Would-be architects turning their eyes and education to the gaming industry.
To pay back their student loans.
Notwithstanding, with 12 high school applicants for every 1 undergraduate architecture slot, it would seem that architects are gamblers from the start.
Architects working for food conglomerates, driving forklifts, putting furniture together.
Architects working for food.
Applying for positions that will go to exact matches – down to the hair follicle color.
Or to no one.
Job applicants asked to undertake DNA testing – to see if they’re an exact match for the position.
Architects who will gladly work “pro-bono” just to stay in the game are still rejected because they’re “too expensive.”
Questioning the wisdom of being a generalist.
Architects of lakefront manses taking-on basement renovations.
Gladly taking-on basement renovations.
Questioning the wisdom of being a specialist.
Or the wisdom of having sought and ultimately attained that Theory of Architecture advanced degree.
Is it possible that they don’t know that the phrase “pro-bono” means “free?”
2008 tested your mettle. As did 2009. 2010 tested your mettle. So will 2011.
If architecture is a calling, how come the phone doesn’t ring?
Maybe there’s an opening for mettle-testers?
Architects selling life insurance to other architects.
Who void their policies by killing themselves.
Who kill themselves by losing their sense of humor.
Who lose their sense of humor from dealing with former colleagues who are now selling insurance.
While women are getting paid 75 cents to the dollar, architects are getting paid 25 cents to the dollar.
Women architects are finally getting paid the same amount as men.
Justice after all.
Trying to find a way to monetize 30 years of professional working experience.
Otherwise known in the industry as a job.
To lay there flailing and writhing.
And they still don’t hire you.
You still owe money to the money to the money you owe.
You remember being so busy a few years ago that you might have committed some lines to paper, or said some things to a colleague, that you now regret.
You remember thinking at the time that you would change when things finally slowed down.
Coming to the slow realization that what you had been practicing all these years was a luxury that few could afford.
To be an architect means to be at once both fragile and all-powerful.
To go from under-utilized to over-committed on a dime.
Or for a dime.
Wondering how on earth we – at this time in our lives – are supposed to reinvent ourselves.
Where to start?
Who, to be competitive now, must consider themselves certified-virtual construction-lean-accredited-design/build-BIM-IPD-VDC-LEED experts.
To be experts at everything means that we’re…generalists?
Find yourself humming Eric Clapton’s Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.
To be an architect today means to start over. Every day.
Able-bodied, talented, smart and eager young interns sitting this one out in the penalty box in perpetuity, for the sole reason that they are able-bodied, talented, smart, eager and young.
I get my hands on a dollar again, I’m gonna hang on to it till that eagle grins.
Starting over means to see with beginner’s eyes – because we’re reentering a new economy, a new profession, firms with new organizational structures.
To be an architect today means to consult, to borrow space, workstation and another’s air.
To be a product procured by means of a purchase order over being retained as a professional service.
Wondering if you’d be better off moving to Canada where there are purported to be more jobs (and where it is also purported to be warmer in winter.)
Or get up and move to NY or CA because it seems that these are the only places with job listings.
To understand that the current decline is the most severe and will probably take the longest to recover, but that the profession will recover nevertheless if the past is any predictor of the future.
And to wonder if the past is any predictor of the future.
Where design architects find themselves for the first time in the minority of all “architects” including computer, business and IT.
To adjust expectations so that pay, benefits and seniority are no longer primary drivers in your job pursuit.
To be wary of the easy temptation of cynicism.
To be underrepresented, ill-prepared and overlooked.
Always the bridesmaid. Never the bride.
It is as much about who you know now as what you know.
Network, reach-out, get involved. But to make any inroads you’re going to have to pave your own way.
Notice phrases such as “skeleton staff,” “trending downward” and “where’s dinner coming from?” have mysteriously entered your vocabulary.
And words like “salary” have disappeared.
All the tools in your toolbox. And nowhere to use them.
Beating against the current of a veritable ocean of regulatory design requirements.
While taking-on water.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Otherwise we sink.
To be an architect means to persevere.
To do all one can, each day, to hold on and not let go.
Learning to persevere from American Indians.
Learning from cancer survivors.
To not give up, no matter how bleak.
To maintain your sense of humor.
To keep things in perspective.
To remain resourceful.
Ready to take-on whatever assignment you are offered.
Whatever comes your way.
To not lose heart when you find that you have lost rank.
To work hard at creating communities: of practice, of hope.
But also just of belonging.
That’s what it means to be an architect today.
(Apologies to Allen Ginsberg)
A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius: One Architect’s Detour of Duty September 25, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, books, career, change, employment, identity, management, optimism, questions, reading, software architects, the economy, transformation.
Tags: Architecture for Humanity, Cameron Sinclair, dave eggers, Down Detour Road, Eric J Cesal, Great Wake, Haiti, MacArthur fellowship, out of work architects, The Huffington Post, The MIT Press, unemployed architects
Today’s post will be brief: I have a presentation to edit and packing still to do. But I would be remiss in leaving town without first letting you in on a brand new book that I just read that I predict will take you and the architecture profession by storm. Before reading further, grab your wallet. You’ll need it by the time you get to the sixth line of this book review.
The book title: Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice
The author: Eric J. Cesal
Why you never heard of him: He’s a recent architecture graduate with 5 years experience as an intern and has built little.
Why that shouldn’t matter: You will be hearing a lot more of and from Eric J. Cesal.
The consensus: This may well be the best book by and for architects ever written. And (to my wife’s chagrin) I own and have read them all.
What the book will set you back: $14.93 ($21.95 + tax if you happen upon it in a bookstore, like I did. See “chagrin” above.)
Who should read this book: Out of work architects. Architects thinking of leaving the profession. Architects who have left the profession but want back in. Former architects who have left the profession for good but on deep, dark nights lie sleepless in bed wondering if they made a wise choice. Neighbors of out of work architects who wonder why they wear a tie when taking the dog out for a walk. Anyone who has ever had to wear a tie. Katherine Darnstadt would like this book. Parents who find their recent grads living once again under their roof. Or in their tent. Employers. Architect’s spouses, friends, relatives and roommates. Architects who think they might have a story to tell but question whether anyone will care to listen. Architects who are considering doing a tour of duty helping the world in some selfless way while they wait out the Great Wake. Architects who think they may be the next to be let go. Architects who sometimes wish they were the next to be let go. Architects who read architecture blog posts in hopes of finding someone who deeply, passionately understands their situation. Architects.
Why you should get it: This book speaks to you where you hurt. Cesal is wise beyond his 31 years (33 today) and whip smart. He knows what matters and he (and no doubts his talented editors) cut to the chase.
Why you should get it now: The sooner you read it, the sooner we’ll all be out of this mess; the sooner you’ll decide to stick it out in architecture; the sooner you’ll find a place for yourself in this new world.
Author’s espoused purpose in writing the book: “We want to find ways for the architecture profession to prosper as our world economy transitions.” p. 42
Why you should read it: Cesal wrote the book during a period of unemployment. Nearly every architect – employed, underemployed and unemployed – can relate.
Why else you should read it: Cesal names the Great Recession the Great Wake.
What will linger long after you’re done reading the book and give it to your colleague to read: The author’s voice.
What this book could also be used for: Like a commonplace book that soldiers used to carry around with them for reassurance and companionship on the front lines, you can keep this book nearby on your own detour of duty.
Why I love the book: Interjected throughout the book are short personal essays describing the author growing up, personal incidents and events that helped shape the architect/ author/ artist/ humanitarian he has become today. I love how the book captures timely subjects (the co-opting of our title by others) and timeless ones. I am most impressed by the way the author maintains a line of thought, without jumping around from subject to subject: a real feat and welcome revelation in contemporary writing. Like the late, great architect and author Peter Collins, Cesal asks hard questions and isn’t afraid to linger in them until he offers a solution.
Why this book may not be appropriate for all audiences: There’s an excruciatingly painful scene involving a tooth being pulled. Alcohol plays a part in a number of chapters.
The author’s eye for detail: How Cesal knew the recession had reached his city: “The coffee shop I usually passed by seemed to have too many people in it.”
Why I think Eric J. Cesal is architecture’s answer to Dave Eggers: Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius if it were written for architects.
Favorite passage from the book: The author’s attempt to find work at a temp agency. (p.117) Priceless.
The author’s education: Three master’s degrees in four years: business administration, construction management and architecture from Washington University in St Louis.
What book you might compare Down Detour Road with: During the deep recession of the 1970’s we had Harris Stone’s incomparably endearing and well-illustrated Workbook of an Unsuccessful Architect (available here for a penny.) But let there be no doubt: Down Detour Road is our age’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Walker Evans and James Agee. This book is our The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.
Someone famous the author hangs with but doesn’t once mention in the book (very classy): Cameron Sinclair, co-founder and ‘chief eternal optimist’ (CEO) for Architecture for Humanity.
Representative quote from the book: “For all the things I had intended my life to be, for all of the things I thought I would be doing at 31, I was sitting in the dirt, on the side of an empty, unlit road, jobless, homeless, cold and hungry, lusting after a street sign.”
The author’s solution: Cesal recommends that we have to come to some hard truths about the limits of what we do “and then leap beyond those boundaries.” He goes on to describe 10 types of architects.
What are the ten architect types he writes about? The financial architect; The value architect; The risk architect; The paid architect; The idea architect; The knowing architect; The named architect; The citizen architect; The green architect; The sober architect. He refreshingly doesn’t over-use capital letters and dedicates a chapter to each architect type.
What it says on the dust jacket: As the world redesigns and rebuilds in the face of economic and ecological crises, unprecedented numbers of architects are out of work. What does this say about the value of architecture? That is the question that confronted architect Eric Cesal as he finished graduate school at the onset of the worst financial meltdown in a generation. Down Detour Road is his journey: one that begins off-course, and ends in a hopeful new vision of architecture.
Like many architects of his generation, Cesal confronts a cold reality. Architects may assure each other of their own importance, but society has come to view architecture as a luxury it can do without. For Cesal, this recognition becomes an occasion to rethink architecture and its value from the very core. He argues that the times demand a new architecture, an empowered architecture that is useful and relevant. New architectural values emerge as our cultural values shift: from high risks to safe bets, from strong portfolios to strong communities, and from clean lines to clean energy.
This is not a book about how to run a firm or a profession; it doesn’t predict the future of architectural form or aesthetics. It is a personal story—and in many ways a generational one: a story that follows its author on a winding detour across the country, around the profession, and into a new architectural reality.
Where you can find the author today: Port-au-Prince, managing and coordinating Architecture for Humanity’s design and reconstruction initiatives in Haiti until 2012.
No, really, where can you find him: You can find him here. But seriously, he lives in Haiti with a family of two dogs, 11 chickens, 5 cats and a goat named Newfie. Read more about it in the Huffington Post here.
What’s next up for the author: As Cesal explains on his webpage, “Two projects are currently in slow, agonizing, one-sentence/week progress: NCARB & I, a chronicle of architectural licensing, and Lets Just Finish These Beers and Go, a semi-autobiographical romp about how to become an architect while making every self-defeating effort you can.”
What does the word “detour”mean in the book’s title: de·tour, n.
1. A roundabout way or course, especially a road used temporarily instead of a main route.
2. A deviation from a direct course of action.
Likelihood that the book will be made into a movie: Very good odds. I’m not a betting man but I’d bet on it.
Final thoughts: Someone get this guy a MacArthur Genius Grant. And a second one to The MIT Press for having the foresight and gumption for publishing this staggering piece of exceptional writing from an otherwise little known entity. Cesal may very well be doing wonderful, necessary work in Haiti but we very much need him here back home with us.
The quickest way to get the book in your possession: Steal it from an architect in the coffee shop. Or click here
What to do while you wait for your copy of the book to arrive: Tell everyone you know to read Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice.
A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius: One Architect’s Detour of Duty by Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED AP 2010
Become a Life Change Architect August 19, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, career, change, collaboration, creativity, employment, reading, survival, the economy.
Tags: careers, jobsearch, life change artist, reinvention, the economy, unemployment
1 comment so far
You can feel it in the air.
Studio Assignment #1: Apply the skills you acquired in becoming an architect to design a way out of this mess.
Finding a job – or keeping your current one – is job #1 for many architects today.
But should it be job #2?
I know 2 talented, well-connected out-of-work architects who found jobs this year.
Only to have their firm file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Maybe our job #1 should be something else?
As in, ourselves.
Assuming we can all take care of our physiological needs –
– though admittedly these days, nothing can be taken for granted.
It may seem that anything other than 100% fixation on the bottom line is foolhardy.
But that’s just not the case.
Until you find that light at the end of the tunnel – however you define it – I am going to suggest you focus on something other than the economy, construction recovery, credit thaw or employment.
And I am going to suggest that you consider becoming something that you already do rather well.
In fact, quite exceptionally – better than most.
Architects right now need empathy and understanding as much as they need work and relief.
Architects need courage and tools to face their situation and this is where a helpful new book comes in.
It offers both.
Heartily endorsed by Daniel Pink, Marshall Goldsmith and Gregg Levoy among others, the book can be read by all ages.
Though one senses the main audience might be what is innocuously referred to as “the third age.”
I posted a while back on the subject of increasingly prevalent thirds – and the third age is one of them.
What I am suggesting is that the answer to our circumstances may just be in retirement – specifically in the literature of self-reinvention.
Third age literature refers to retirement – how to spend our post-work years.
While retirement is not an option for most architects, and very few architects ever plan on retiring at all, perhaps it makes sense to think of our current situation as a third age of sorts.
2. Working pre-great recession
3. Work/Life post-great recession
The book I’m about to introduce you to helps you to plan for your third age – right now.
And by that I mean your post-great recession worklife.
It helps you to see your life as an architect stepping onto an empty lot for the first time – the architect’s equivalent of the blank canvas, blank page or hunk of clay.
The book is based on research into the work processes of artists and over 100 success stories of those who have managed to reinvent themselves under similar circumstances to our own.
Using the very same skills and creativity we use as architects.
While waiting for your next opportunity and for your life to change you can become a life change artist.
Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life, by Fred Mandell, Ph.D., an acclaimed personal transformation catalyst, and Kathleen Jordan, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in personal creativity and business innovation.
As the book makes clear, the authors are equally adept at helping individuals make considerable changes in their organizational settings as well as their individual lives.
Making a Major Life Change
The authors deduced 7 key strengths that the most creative minds of history shared, and that anyone rethinking their future can cultivate to effectively change their life:
- Preparing the brain to undertake creative work
- Seeing the world and one’s life from new perspectives
- Using context to understand the facets of one’s life
- Embracing uncertainty
- Taking risks
- Applying discipline
To architects this list may at first appear overly familiar and simplistic.
But don’t let these strengths fool you.
Once you dig into each you’ll realize that the abilities we take for granted – and use in our everyday lives – are much more powerful than we give them credit for.
Especially when you apply them to the problem of our worklives.
Just take the first strength: Preparation.
The book defines this not as undertaking mental or physical warm-ups but as “deliberately engaging in activities that help break us from our usual patterns of thought and feeling and prepare us for creative insight.”
The book talks a great deal about creativity and art – but it is primarily focused on process, not product, as well as on skills and learning.
With the belief that the very skills we use in creating art – or in our case designing buildings – are those that we need to create a more fulfilling life.
The book argues that making a major life change requires the skills of an artist.
And certainly for the unemployed and underemployed, finding work of any sort but especially satisfying and fulfilling work, calls on our inherent creative ability.
As an architect, you already have a leg-up on the targeted audience of this book in that you have been trained in these seven key skills.
They’re in your blood and soul and you, at times like these, forget.
And don’t even realize it.
You can almost imagine a job interview in the near future where your future employer asks you what you did during the lull – and you explain that you treated your predicament as though it were a design assignment.
What was your secret?
How did you escape from the box you were in?
You treated the process of finding your way into a new life by utilizing the very skills engendered in becoming an architect.
You designed you way out the only way I knew.
If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got. Right?
So why not try something different?
To be sure, the book is not Chicken Soup for the Architect’s Soul.
But right now, despite the summer season, a little soup might just be what is needed to help us assuage and survive the predicament we find ourselves in.
When all life gives you are tomatoes, make gazpacho.
The book is inspiring and with its exercises, tools and creativity assessment in the appendix, it will help you to keep your creativity – and soul and much else – alive and well in these trying times.
Building on What You Already Know
You need help.
You want to help others in need.
And you help yourself by helping others.
Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life will help you to help others – the young, the elderly, neighbors, friends, emerging and senior talent, those out of work, those looking to make a change in their own lives – discover these qualities for themselves.
Because you already have these skills, strengths and insights: in droves.
You just needed someone – or something – to remind you.
With this book you can consider yourself reminded.
55 Ways to Help You Evolve as an Architect May 3, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architecture industry, BIM, books, change, collaboration, fiction, IPD, management, nonfiction, reading, survival, technology, transformation, transition.
Tags: AEC industry, BIM, change or perish, collaboration, collaborative wisdom, evolve, IPD
The architecture profession and construction industry are in transition. A transition largely driven by technology, but also driven by owners. Owners fed up with adversarial relations between team members, with material waste, with schedules and budgets not being met; owners wanting greater accountability and improved efficiencies on the part of design professionals and constructors.
But this transition is also due to the increasing complexity: of buildings, building systems, team make-up, processes, technology, stringent energy, security and other project requirements and goals that seem to increase on a daily basis. A desire for improved efficiencies and a demand for fewer conflicts, less resistance, better information sharing and communication and an improvement in team relations.
Everyone wants fewer claims and better results.
One thing is clear: To meet these demands we need to change. But change is hard and creates the very resistance that we need to rid ourselves of.
With the economy slowly improving and recovery on the horizon you need to do EVERYTHING you can to assure yourself a place at the table when it does arrive.
What to do: Skim the list. Start anywhere – find an item that interests you – and act on it. Today. Return to the list on a regular basis. It was created to help you evolve – one small incremental step at a time.
Keep this in mind: If you have suggestions for helping us evolve that you don’t see here, please add them by leaving a comment. Your help here is welcome, needed and appreciated. We’re all in this together.
55 Ways to Help You Evolve as an Architect
1. Represent Both Clients Architects represent both paying and “non-paying” clients (public-at-large, neighbors, building users.) List the ways in which you address and represent non-paying client on your last project and make a commitment to do more on the next.
2. Ask Yourself: Is Your Profession Unethical? Is the profession of architecture corrupt? That is the question Harvard educator Victoria Beach asked recently at the Design Intelligence blog. Read what your contemporaries have to say in one of the liveliest, most animated online discussions in ages. Better yet, join the discussion. Still unsure of where you stand? Sometimes you don’t know until you write it down. Leave a comment.
3. See the Future Before it Happens Check out this presentation of a workshop on The Future of the AEC Industry.
4. Commit to Collaboration Many architects say that they are team players but few truly know what it means to collaborate. Make a commitment to find out what is involved: the benefits and challenges to truly collaborating with others on your team. [Go to the end to see a list of recommended collaboration articles, presentations and books.]
5. Assess Your Communication Style You might be an expressive trying to sell your ideas to financial types. One reason you might have difficulty convincing others to see your vision and agree with your suggestions is that you might be speaking different languages. There are many books and resources online to assess your style – start here.
6. Assess Your Emotional Intelligence Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a great book that will provide you with the tools and outlook you need to work collaboratively with others in the workplace and out in the field. Buy it new, and the book comes with a one-user-only code that will get you entry to a new, enhanced online edition of the world’s bestselling emotional intelligence test, the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal®, that will show you where your EQ stands today and what you can do to begin maximizing it immediately. Find it here.
7. Assess the Emotional Intelligence of Your Team Have you ever wondered what happens when you put in all that time and energy working to improve your own communication style and emotional intelligence only to discover that one of your team members (not naming any names) had to go ahead and ruin it for everybody? Learn more about how to work in, with and around this situation in The Emotionally Intelligent Team: Understanding and Developing the Behaviors of Success. An excellent resource that uses a seven-step approach for learning to maximize performance on any team.
8. Assess Your Personality Whether an ENFJ or ENFP (as most architects are) there are pros and cons for taking the Myers-Briggs personality type assessment test online – I have had the most luck here.
9. Read Donald W. MacKinnon Written in the 1970’s, In Search of Human Effectiveness: Identifying and Developing Creativity will convince you that you share many of the same characteristics of the 20th century’s greatest architects and can be found for under $3 here.
10. Read More Make a commitment to read more. Ask yourself how many non-fiction books you read in a year; fiction books; how many articles; how many blogs and websites you visit. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether these are industry-related. Reading outside your area of expertise makes you more interesting to coworkers as well as clients. This list is filled with suggested places to start.
11. Learn the Power of Collective Wisdom Just read the customer reviews to convince yourself of the positive impact and originality of The Power of Collective Wisdom: And the Trap of Collective Folly to help you grow into a thoroughly collaborative team member. Yours here for under $8.
13. Apply What You Read to your design. To your next proposal or cover letter. To the next presentation that you give or design competition that you enter.
14. Join the In-the-Know Group KA Connect on LinkedIn. Short for Knowledge Architecture – where the AEC industry and knowledge management (and just about everything in between) meet. One of the hottest and fastest growing groups with ongoing discussions – the start-up group is headed by Knowledge Architecture founder Chris Parsons. A great way for architects to expose themselves to like-minded individuals from many walks of life while sharpening their edge. A must.
15. Keep a Quote File Some of the best architects not only keep a file of the projects that appeal to them the most, but also a file for the bon mot words or phrases that appeal to them. Once kept in a safe place for easy access – you can pull one out to emphasize a point or design idea.
16. Collect Quotes Describing Architects Then do the exact opposite. I came across this quote this morning: “Most architects think their audience is other architects.” We often hear that museums are designed more to exhibit the architecture than the art that they were originally intended to contain. When you come across comments describing what you yourself don’t like about other architects – save it – and then do the opposite. The composite of what-not-to-dos could result in as compelling an example of the evolved architect as following any to-do list.
17. Understand What Motivates You Access the valuable tools and resources that make up a good part of Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Watch Dan perform at a recent TED conference of the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
18. Become a Master Builder How well are you immersed and rehearsed in building construction? Do an honest assessment (ask the last contractor that you worked with what they think about your construction awareness and abilities) – then team with a contractor early on your next project, supplement your learning by attending conferences and through reading. Make it your goal to become more well-rounded as a design-construction professional.
19. Change Your Mind How so? Not in terms of indecisiveness. But instead in terms of what will be needed from architects in the near future. Read anything written by Howard Gardner – but if you have to start somewhere consider starting with his latest book, a very inspiring read 5 Minds for the Future. I heard him speak on this topic last year and his ideas are absolutely transformative.
20. Change Your Mind II Reread Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future with this in mind: How can you evolve as an architect by addressing both sides of the mind? In other words, as an architect, you are being hired because of your left as well as your right brain. The best thinking involves both sides – called whole brain thinking. Make it your concerted practice to be a whole brain thinker. And here.
21. Change Others’ Minds Already convinced yourself, but not yet sure those around you are on board? If you can’t get everyone to read and discuss Dan Pink’s book, why not brown bag it in the conference room one day and spend an hour watching and afterwards discussing Dan Pink’s inspiring dvd?
22. Subscribe to Revit3D.com Gregory Arkin’s blog on all things BIM, LEED and IPD. There you’ll be blessed with a minimum of three posts a day on average providing software tips and tricks (don’t be fooled by the name, the scope is broad and generous including posts on Navisworks, AutoCAD, Ecotect and other Autodesk products, as well as reports, videos, charts and just about everything else you need to evolve.
23. Google Alerts Maybe you’re already using this or feel that your email inbox already overrun with items that you are having trouble keeping up with. To evolve you have to keep up and even stay ahead of the pack. Twitter is great for this but if you want to learn what is happening even before Twitter pick a subject of interest, of fascination or obsession, and have Google alert you daily – or even as the latest relevant item arises, anywhere on the internet by email.
24. No Time? Read the Comments If you just don’t have the time in your schedule to accommodate one more book, use this workaround: read the comments that readers leave at Amazon, at news sources or in the group discussions on LinkedIn. In a very short matter of time you can pick up the gist of just about any subject, witness multiple points of views, formulate your own opinion and maybe even be able to discuss the topic on a cursory level with others.
25. Imagine the World in 20 or 30 Years Or better yet, visit this site that does the imagining for you. Just sit back and become informed – and ideally motivated – by all that you find here. As climate change touches every aspect of our lives, how will it change us? How will we adapt? Living Climate Change is a devoted space for the most defining design challenge of our time. It’s also a place to support fresh thinking and share provocative ideas about the future.
26. As a Last Resort…Fake It Learn how to talk about books you haven’t read by reading last year’s international hit How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (but you’ll have to read it to learn how.)
27. Spend More Time in School Or at least at school. Commit to visiting your nearest architecture school at least twice a year, to serve on a design jury, or provide much-needed feedback at desk crits on your area of expertise. Sign-up to give a lecture on a topic to fill a gap in the curricula. Give an impromptu talk on portfolio design or resume writing or interview best practices. Pay attention to the student’s work: the inspiration you will gain from being around their energy and fresh ideas will pay off in dividends over time.
28. Reread Refabricating Architecture You have it on your shelf. Refabricating Architecture: How Manufacturing Methodologies are Poised to Transform Building Construction by Kieran and Timberlake. This time, read it with an eye to better understand how working in BIM can lead to virtual models that go directly to fabrication. Ask yourself: What level of detail is required? What impact will this have on insurance, liability, responsibility and roles? Is this something you are even interested in, or does considering this future make you recoil from the work of construction? If it does – ask yourself this: What then – in this world – does it mean to be an architect? Your answer to this question may help you to decide.
29. Mentor The best way to learn is to teach, and the best way to teach is to mentor. What better way to give back to the profession and community than to share some of your hard earned experience, information – and passion – with those just starting out? Become a mentor.
30. Join the Conversation Read Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture That conversation…on the use of technology across the building-design and construction processes. The book is a collection of essays by industry leaders, theorists, and academics organized into two main sections, `Working and Making’ followed by `Collaboration,’ or very roughly into BIM and IPD. Over thirty contributors – including Phillip Bernstein Autodesk, Inc., Building Solutions Division VP and Yale School of Architecture lecturer, Peggy Deamer, Kenneth Frampton, Paolo Tombesi, Howard W. Ashcraft, Jr., Reinhold Martin, James Carpenter, Branko Kolarevic, Chris Noble and Kent Larson among many others – including designers, engineers, fabricators, contractors, construction managers, planners, and scholars examine how contemporary practices of production are reshaping the design/construction process. Exposing yourself to these topics – originally presented and discussed at a Yale U conference in 2006 – will put you back in the conversation concerning the most heated topics in architectural practice, creation and construction.
31. Continue the Conversation By getting your hands on a copy of, and reading, the essays and interviews in Provisional: Emerging Modes of Architectural Practice USA.
32. Try Kaizen One small step at a time. That’s the kaizen approach. Small steps, taken daily, even keel, bring about the results you are looking for before you even realize it. The no-pain all-to-gain approach. See also the surprisingly relevant Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.
33. Head over to DesignIntelligence at to find some of the most rigorously well-thought-out and comprehensive articles on career-expanding subjects such as Best Practices, Client Relationships, Communications, Design and Construction Marketplace, Design/Build Project Delivery, Education, Financial Management and Profitability, Intelligent Choices, Leadership, Management, Operations Management, Staff Recruitment and Retention, Strategy, Sustainability, Technology and Trends
34. Reevaluate Your Sustainability Efforts Why? Because what is needed today may not be needed tomorrow. Just consider this and decide for yourself if this is the case.
35. Live In More Than One World Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life shares with you the management guru’s belief in recognizing the importance of diversifying the nature and extent of daily existence, to sharpen a sense of curiosity while remaining open to new ideas, and to learn as much as possible from as many different sources as possible. Something every architect needs in order to remain current and grow with the times.
36. Immerse Yourself in Lean Construction Lean – where Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) got its start. A good place for you to start – and a handy pocket-sized reference and toolkit packed with diagrams, lists and charts for under $10 – is The Simply Lean Pocket Guide for Construction which is small and light enough for you to read on your commute and take anywhere you go.
37. Re-familiarize Yourself BIM Revisit the subject with fresh eyes. Here’s a great place to start. One of AIA’s 2009 Integrated Practice Discussion Group’s (IPDiG) projects involved revisiting the “Report on Integrated Practice“ released during the 2006 AIA National Convention in Los Angeles. This report contains ten essays by leaders in many disciplines on the world of, and the state of, Integrated Practice. IPDiG wanted to explore what portions of that report remain valid today and what portions may warrant updates to reflect the current “state of the art”. Through interviews with each of the report’s original authors, IPDIG sought to solicit their views. The original essays―along with newly developed commentaries and podcasts―will be released monthly in AIArchitect as part of the 2009 and Beyond series and are available here.
38. Immerse yourself in IPD Some of the best sources – all free – are available here. Integrated Practice/Integrated Project Delivery (IP/IPD) leverages early contributions of knowledge and expertise through the utilization of new technologies, allowing all team members to better realize their highest potentials while expanding the value they provide throughout the project life cycle.
39. Choose Your Poison This is a great place for architects to get excited, get motivated and get involved.
40. Join a Knowledge Community The Practice Management Knowledge Community (PMKC) identifies and develops information on the business of architecture for use by the profession to maintain and improve the quality of the professional and business environment. The PMKC initiates programs, provides content and serves as a resource to other knowledge communities, and acts as experts on AIA Institute programs and policies that pertain to a wide variety of business practices and trends. Find one here.
41. To Understand Where We are Headed, it Helps To Know From Where We Come Today, in the face of the challenges confronting their profession, from the economic crisis to an urgent need for longer-lasting, more affordable, and greener construction, architects have been forced to reconsider the relationship between architecture and society, between buildings, their inhabitants, and the environment. No single individual did more to build this discourse than Robert Gutman. Sometimes referred to as the sociological father of architecture, Gutman in his writing and teaching initiated a conversation about the occupants of buildings and the forms, policies, plans, and theories that architects might shape. Read Architecture From the Outside In: Selected Essays by Robert Gutman (2010)
42. Discover How to Become a T-Shaped Architect The T-Shaped teammate: a simple, seemingly obvious concept that could transform you as well as an entire industry.
43. Join a BIM or Revit Users Group Such as those offered in Chicago or New_York. Meet on a regular basis, network, eavesdrop on conversations, learn something new: there’s always something happening at these meetings that isn’t happening anywhere else. Give the London RUG a try! Check out LinkedIn or this list for a group near you. BIM Pages (www.bimpages.com) lists the United States buildingSMART Interest Groups and other groups such as the Canadian BIM Council under the Category “Professional Affiliations.”
44. Put Down What You Are Doing and Read This Book it may seem that based on this list reading books is the answer for evolving as an architect. That is only partly true. But here is one book that is critical that ever design professional reads in order to evolve professionally. The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress by Virginia Postrel (yes that Virginia Postrel, author of The Substance of Style and AIA Convention keynote speaker.) Simply put, the book sanctions the world into two groups: stasists (who urge control and favor the status quo) and dynamists (who will shape the future.) To which group do you belong? Read and find out what the implications are for you and our profession.
45. Be Like John John Moebes, that is, director of construction, Crate & Barrel. Get your hands on one of his online presentations or better yet, hear him speak in person. A truly inspired and inspiring construction professional and owner leading the way for the industry.
46. Visit Collaborative Construction on a regular basis. The website and cutting-edge blog belonging to James L. Salmon, Esq., that is, that serves as a gateway to what he calls the collaborative revolution that is sweeping the construction industry.
47. Revit vs. Archicad vs. Microstation Become informed, try them out, make an opinion and move on. The future is in your hands. Don’t waste the opportunity debating the pros and cons or worse – waiting for the perfect app. It’ll never happen. Except only in your hands. So get modeling!
48. Spend a Day at Home and take- in some educational videos.
49. Become an Intrapreneur Intrapreneurship – entrepreneurship within a large organization: one valuable, productive and relevant way to survive these turbulent times.
51. Overcome Your Immunity to Change Read Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization a wonderfully original approach to a familiar problem: why many crucial change efforts fail and how you can assure yours won’t. Catch a free presentation here.
52. Reacquaint Yourself with Great Architecture With all of the demands on us it is easy to forget why we are doing what we do in the first place. To stay motivated to change, it helps to refresh our memory and restart our engines from time to time. Nothing compares with visiting buildings in person, but short of that there are several ways to experience great buildings vicariously.
53. Spend Some Time at the AECCafé There is always something of interest and of importance happening here.
54. Attend an Industry Webinar There’s always something happening nearly every day. Earn learning units, expose yourself to future practice issues and ideas. Better yet, watch with colleagues while brown bagging it and leave time at the end to discuss what you learned and how you might apply it – and act on it – in your career and in your firm.
55. Get Comfortable with Transformative Tools So exactly what is this panacea for all that ails the design and construction industry? Here’s a good place to find out. Do you have others to recommend?
Recommended books, articles and presentations on Collaboration
Learn about how to select the right tools for internal and external collaboration – watch this presentation.
See Collaborating with Contractors for Innovative Architecture to better be able to evaluate the pros and cons of collaborating, including insurance and legal issues.
Become familiar with the myriad types of collaborative project delivery – including integrated project delivery – the most collaborative of all.
How to Make Collaboration Work by David Straus offers five principles of collaboration (Involve the Relevant Stakeholders, Build Consensus Phase by Phase, Design a Process Map, Designate a Process Facilitator, and Harness the Power of Group Memory) that have been tested and refined in organizations everywhere, addressing the specific challenges people face when trying to work collaboratively. Each can be applied to any problem-solving scenario.
Collaboration How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten T. Hansen With approx. 37,000 books on the topic of Collaboration sold on Amazon.com this one is considered by some to be “the” book on the topic. Hansen bases his analysis in an economic analysis of when collaboration creates value that includes not only a project’s benefits but also the costs of collaboration and the cost of foregoing alternatives. Hansen is realistic about collaboration’s limits and attests that over-collaborating id a potential hazard: “Bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration.”
Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration by Keith Sawyer is completely different from the previous books. A practical, inspiring book about how innovation always emerges from a series of sparks—not a single flash of insight. And finally,
The Collaborative Habit by choreographer Twyla Tharp. Life Lessons for Working Together.
Architects as Translators April 16, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, books, creativity, essence, pragmatism, problem solving, questions, reading, transformation.
Tags: architect's abilities, transformation, translating architects, translation, Why Translation Matters, Why X Matters
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So much of what we do is listen to the stories of our clients and reinterpret them into physical form. If we can demonstrate to our clients that we understand their story by, in turn, telling them a story about their building and how it achieves their vision and mission, then we can create truly powerful places.
Architects do many things that others – and they themselves – take for granted.
To name but a few:
Architects synthesize, orchestrate and transform.
They facilitate, collaborate and innovate.
They form-give, order-make (some would wryly add, order-take) and problem-solve.
Architects are seers, polymaths and integrators (the future belongs to the integrators.)
Architects are by necessity optimists, predisposed to act, and at one and the same time both product- and process-oriented in their thinking.
They see – and are able to zoom in and out of – the big picture and minutest detail at once.
Architects are systems thinkers, visionary pragmatists and create the elusive wow effect.
They design buildings, the spaces between buildings and the interfaces between people.
Architects do more with less; make the complex simple and look easy and the invisible apparent.
They see things that to others just aren’t there – but that they alone can see.
Architects make connections; celebrate and make apparent the meeting of materials and systems.
Architects make meaning out of bricks and sticks where only an empty lot existed before.
But perhaps the most miraculous thing architects do – is translate.
Q/A with an Architect-as-Translator
Q: What do architects translate?
A: Words into images into buildings. Some would say: Words into 3D digital models built of database spreadsheets filled with…words. Words to images and back to words again.
Q: What else do they translate?
A: Other people’s dreams, ideas and needs into a cohesive, comprehensive, meaningful whole. And sometimes for themselves. User requirements into a vision. Chaos into order. Architects listen and translate information into a meaningful medium the client understands.
Q: How do architects translate?
A: They observe. They listen. They’re receptive to other’s input.
Q: But how do they do it?
A: No one really knows how it happens – the magical synthesis, the transformation. It’s alchemy.
Q: Is translation strictly a right brain activity? Left brain? Or does it use both sides of the brain?
A: Yes. Yes. And yes. Architects think of translation as a bridge – moving from one modality to another. They bridge one medium to another; one stage of development to another.
Q: Are architects alone in this ability? Is the ability to translate unique to architects?
A: To architects…and translators. No one besides the architect that I am aware of has been able to bridge words and thoughts into images – let alone into 3-dimensional objects – that (purportedly) keep the rain out.
Q: How do architects acquire this ability?
A: Architects first learn to translate words, user needs and directions into spaces, images and form while in school. The irony is – while translation can be learned – it cannot be taught. It is impossible to pinpoint the moment when the architect learns the art of translation. Most do not even realize that they have acquired this transformative skill – going a long way to explain why they take their ability to do so for granted.
Q: Architects interpret – is this the same as translate?
A: Depends on your interpretation. Architects reinterpret.
Q: What do you call translating that involves associative thinking? As when a refrigerator is compared with a cat because: they both contain fish, they both purr and they both have tails.
A: Deluded? Some call it creative thinking. If you were paid for that thought? Design thinking.
Q: What is the future of this architect ability?
A: With gadgets and no-cost services available for translating languages, it would seem that the architect’s mercurial ability to translate written or spoken directions into both analog and digital neck-craning spaces and worlds is just an appa way. But in truth it cannot be replicated except in others who are given – or give themselves – the opportunity to learn it. With the current emphasis on digital technology, architects seldom freehand draw and have lost the ability to translate in front of others.
Q: Where do you recommend I start?
A: Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman – translator of Cervantes’s “Don Quixote” and many of the major works of García Márquez – a just-released book in the same Yale U Press “Why X Matters” series as Why Architecture Matters, won’t teach you to be a better translator of words into images and form. But in that it argues for the importance of translation and for a more encompassing and nuanced appreciation of the translator’s role – the architect may pick-up a thing or two about this little appreciated, misunderstood and taken-for-granted ability of theirs. Grossman’s belief in the crucial significance of the translator’s work is noteworthy and compelling and ought to rub-off on the architect. But then again, that’s my interpretation.
What’s Black and White and Unread all Over? February 4, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in books, fiction, nonfiction, reading.
Tags: architects don't read, audiobook, designers don't read, Kindle, nook, reading, Sony Reader, YouTube
But then again you may have already known that, having seen the movie or listened to the book on your Kindle.
Architects Don’t Read
This is hardly news to architects who don’t read. Incredulous, astonishing and offensive to those who do.
This barrage of adjectives doesn’t make it any less true.
And yet it is a well-known homily, universally acknowledged, that architects skim. Architects peruse. Architects gloss over pictures, images, photos and cartoons. If they read at all, it is only to read the captions.
Those who say otherwise are as sincere as those who used to claim “I read Playboy for the articles.”
“I read Architectural Record for the articles.”
Face it, we need pictures.
Pictures are an architect’s lubricant or device intended to enhance their reading pleasure. A graphic is to an architect what a marital aid is to a marriage.
They keep things exciting, visually stimulating, less repetitive. Reducing friction, heat and wear.
Lecturers have known this for years. We’re a visual group and need to have visual stimulation or you’ll lose us.
[I have often wondered: When they lose us, where do we go?]
I once heard architect Richard Meier at the Cultural Center in Chicago speak for an hour with slides flashing by – on automatic changer – every couple seconds. This experiment seemed derelict at the time – there was no relationship between what he was saying and the image that flashed past – but on another level, it didn’t matter. He might have been onto something in that the standing room crown, made up mostly of architects, needed eye candy – no matter what imagery was used. Ironically, directly behind him was a giant window, the soon to be setting sun’s glaring light created a black effigy of the architect, rendering the slides all but unwatchable – and therefore, his speech all but unintelligible. For what are words without images to distract us away?
Authors also know this – when you write a book for architects you need to have pictures to break up the text (or is it text to break up the pictures?) – as though the whole point of the book was the pictures and that the text was the sorbet between – as though to say, you don’t really think anyone is going to read the text, do you?
As graphic designer Armin Vit wrote in Designers Don’t Read…Enough, “Rudy VanderLans, founder of Emigre, said in an interview with Speak Up, ‘Perusing the visuals is a kind of ‘reading’ also. It requires a certain visual literacy to appreciate looking at reproductions of graphic design.’ ”
Don’t Read This
To some extent this is understandable. We’re inundated with messages all day long and take our email to bed with us. Why read when you can listen to audio books, eBooks and podcasts (these I do consider reading.)
Or watch an author on YouTube.
Video is the future. Books are out. Magazines on the wane. History. Caput.
And yet – and yet. What is it that gives our lives gravitas?
Architect – if you are listening – the next opportunity ask a contractor this question: What is it that gives your life gravitas? On second thought…
Creative director, writer and design advocate Austin Howe has written a cleverly inspired book, Designers Don’t Read, which has quickly developed a passionate and widespread following – despite the fact that it doesn’t have any pictures. Midwest Book Review calls it “a daily consult for designers and busy professionals and offers quick case history examples designed to enhance creative thinking and provide food for thought. More than a set of admonitions, these provide a page or two of detail and depth to advocate change and creative thinking, and is perfect for any design professional or arts library.” If you want to know more about the book, this review is a good place to start.
Don’t have time to read (so many books, so little time)…My eyes hurt from staring at a monitor all day…I need a break from thinking…Too much media demanding my attention…Can’t afford books…They put me to sleep…
And then there’s the question of what exactly to read? Fiction? Non-fiction? The Architects Handbook of Professional Practice? One day with a cup of coffee read the tiny print between the graphics in Graphic Standards or what Rem had to say in S, M, L, XL.
It’s those darned hyperlinks (here’s a nifty, concise and comprehensive tutorial on how to create them. Oops I did it again!) Can’t get through a darned sentence without being transported to another site. And it’s only when closing all my windows that I remember where I was 20 minutes earlier.
Architects looking for a way to distinguish themselves – as antiquated as this is going to sound – can do a lot worse than to pick up a book – a Kindle, Sony Reader, nook or the bound paper version – and start reading.
We live in a time when the radical thing isn’t to burn books but to read them.
It is winter in much of the world – a great time to curl up with a blog – as many of you are doing right now in reading this.
But wait you say – surely I read. I’m reading this right now, right? And so you, dear architect, are the exception.
Where to start? Some suggestions?
Why should architects read? Especially when you can watch… Here are 12 reasons to read more:
- Distinguishes you from the masses that merely skim
- Provides you with a richer, more well-rounded life
- You develop your mind’s eye and imagination
- You balance the verbal with the visual, right brain with left
- Give you something to talk about with clients when in the elevator or with peers and colleagues during dinner
- Provides you with ideas for your designs
- Helps you to be well-rounded individual
- Gives you a leg up on your competition by keeping you sharp, stimulates the brain
- Frees your mind up to work on your ideas by distracting yourself
10. To learn a new topic, vicariously visit a new place or put yourself in a former time period
11. To discover a kindred soul out there who thinks like you
12. For the pure pleasure of reading
What are your reasons for reading? What do you consider essential reading for architects…of all stripes? This might be a good place to start!