A CHANGING PROFESSION

Derek Maschek

MASCHEK design and fabrication
www.maschekdf.com

ah, the good ol' days

I’ve been a bit verbose recently, opining at length in blog format. So, this time I’m opting to post a question, or maybe a short series of questions.

It’s the consensus of the industry (design and construction and everybody around it), that Architecture as a profession is undergoing a change, a shift, an evolution into something else. I’ve heard it said several times that architects won’t be around in 10-15 years! How could that be?! COULD that be?!

So, here are the questions…

1) Is there a change afoot? If “yes”, continue, otherwise you are done.
2) If so What’s changing? Maybe it’s a number of things.
3) What’s causing the change? Software? Reduced services? Inadequate Compensation?
4) Is this change for the better or worse?
5) If it’s for the better, how can we capitalize on it?
6) If it’s for the worse, what can we do to stop it, if anything?

I have my theories, but they’re just theories…

THE HAND, THE MIND, and THE MONEY

Newer is better!

Derek Maschek
MASCHEK design and fabrication
www.maschekdf.com

THE HAND, THE MIND, and THE MONEY

Derek Maschek
MASCHEK design and fabrication
www.maschekdf.com

Before you read on, know that “I intend to misbehave”. I’m going to attempt to stir it up a little in the hopes of getting a productive but long overdue conversation going, and frankly this is just the first part!

Here it goes; I’d like to offer up an apology on behalf of architects (I, we, us) for the dismal state of the built environment. We failed you, John and Mary Public. We got on our artistic high-horses and lost sight of the bigger picture, our role in it, and our team members too. We created a monster that plagues us all to this day, architects maybe more than anybody, to the point that there is question as to whether architects will even exist in another ten years (note; future blog)!

Nowadays, we architects are a whiney lot. “We don’t get paid enough.” “We aren’t appreciated.” “Why don’t our clients understand the importance of design?” “Why do so many buildings just suck!?” “It takes time to do quality work!” “If they just would have listened to me…” These are all valid complaints I suppose, and I have certainly done my share (maybe this diatribe even counts), but I started giving these mostly rhetorical questions some serious thought as to their origins and answers. My conclusion is that, in part, we are to blame for our situation. This isn’t to say that we aren’t victims of circumstance and changing times either, but generally speaking we were complicit in the crime. What was the crime, you ask?

Arrogance (intentional) & Ignorance (unintentional?).

necessary "improvements"

Somewhere about a hundred years ago, Architecture and Design started a transformation, born of The Industrial Revolution but realizing full potential over decades in a new age of Industry, Information, Growth and Opportunity. These are all great things in and of themselves, except for one common underlying characteristic; Arrogance. Specifically, a belief that new is inherently good and correspondingly old is inherently bad, and that real progress is measured by the speed and extent of the distance one can create between the two. With the new mindset also came its unfortunate ugly brother Ignorance. In this case, it’s a simple lack of understanding of why things were the way they were, and maybe even a healthy dose of “and who cares anyway”. It was nothing new to the American mindset (Manifest Destiny), but it got legs…or actually wheels, and gears, and fuel, and…

The Hand
Let’s start with construction. At its essence it is functional, almost literally the nuts and bolts of a project. As time progressed through the ages, builders became craftsmen, and those craftsmen started to put more thought and effort into their work resulting in aesthetics beyond just performance. Builders became designers and designers were born of builders. We understood each other. We were brothers!

The Mind
Before you build something, it’s a good idea to understand what you’ll build and how you’ll go about it. Lots of planning used to go into any project due to the long-term nature of the investment and the amount of effort and resources required. Designers think a problem through, at a minimum documenting construction in enough detail to assist the builder and ensure the design, but ideally giving meaning beyond function, value beyond cost, and ideally helping the project to contribute to a larger context in both place and time. This became a highly valued profession, with all sorts of cache, value, respect, etc. The Hand and John and Mary Public trusted and honored what The Mind had to offer. It was an earned position, with proof standing testament everywhere, on scales large and small. I had a teacher once say “we were gods!” with a disturbing amount of longing, acknowledging what we are now is considerably less.

The Money
But The Hand and The Mind are two parts in a process that starts first with seeing a need (or want), considering the resources available, and understanding how to pay for the undertaking, be it effort, money, or just natural resources. Development in this most basic sense has always existed. Those with money commissioned The Mind and The Hand to execute their plans, although the originator of the project relied heavily on the specialized skills of their respected partners. And up until the last hundred years or so, these big ideas required great collaboration between the Conceivers, Planners, and Builders.

The Hand, The Mind, and The Money
So we’re on the same page, I’m equating Development, Design, and Construction to a collaboration between The Hand, The Mind, and The Money, with the later starting the process and leading the charge by employing the other two to execute the project. They all have traditionally needed and respected each other as necessary players in a difficult process, and the balance of these relationships had remained essentially the same for centuries and across cultures. The Money respected its necessary employs; the Mind for vision and broad construction knowledge, and the Hand for specific construction knowledge, craftsmanship, and skill. The Mind and The Hand respected each other as essential partners in a mutual endeavor, learning from each other along the way, doing their best to fully understand each others‘ practices and anticipate needs so that they may better do their own part.

where would you rather be?

Where did it all go wrong?
As I said earlier, about a hundred years ago something very exciting and pivotal took root in the design industry, as with nearly every other aspects of life in the rapidly evolving new Modern Age; the traditions of a classic process of materials and methods were dissected and questioned. This new mindset (Modernism) challenged everything. The Mind (architects) explored the fundamentals of architecture as object, or collections of objects, paring away what was judged to be “unnecessary” in hopes of finding the essence of building, as a project, as an object, as an artistic pursuit of the highest order. Historical “styles” and construction practices were almost rejected in total, as either irrelevant anchors to the past or just aesthetically outdated representations of craftsmen’s skills, with no home in the modern era or the future beyond that. The future was industry, it was the machine, and it should be embraced in every aspect of life. Being thought leaders, The Mind jumped up to lead the redefinition. While The Money and The Hand initially resisted changes to conventions and traditions, once the financial benefits started to become evident that quiet resistance changed drastically. As they say, be careful what you wish for.

Another ongoing phenomena taking hold of the world; information and its accessibility. More people understood better than ever the mathematics (costs and benefits) associated with property development, on any scale. Real Estate became an investment strategy on par with banking or stock market trading. Plus, it steadily became an endeavor anybody could undertake. The relationship between the initial investment and the long-term returns on that investment became formally understood figures on a spreadsheet. The new concept of challenging everything (and everyone) was proving full of opportunity, finding few real opponents but many proponents. There were no rules, and therefore no experts, including anybody to judge the social value of projects being undertaken on unprecedented scales. The Hand and The Mind were unwittingly and gradually being downgraded from partner to employee, tools in an ever-expanding financial game.

From Paul Hohlmann's VanishingSTL blog. Note the building's neighbors as well.

The pace of life began accelerating unlike ever witnessed in the history of the human race. Lifestyles changed from agricultural/rural to industrial/urban, as society demanded production and the promises of the new fossil-fueled society were great and limitless. We collectively shed the shackles of centuries, and embraced our new modern lifestyles as self-proclaimed evidence of progress and providence, both inevitable and righteous. But all this industry and rapid growth had spoiled and congested the urban areas making them unpleasant at best and nearly unlivable at worst. A new modern paradigm for living was born, fueled by the availability of apparently endless acres and accelerated by fears of invasion; Suburbs. The explosion of roads and the availability of land made virtually everywhere available for development, and offered unfettered exploration of new approaches to living, working, and playing. The Mind originally championed this idea, ecstatic to explore Modernism with its new forms and relationships between the objects called affectionately “machines for living”. The Hand adapted, was happy with all the growth, and again became experts in the new materials and methods of construction. The Money enjoyed greatly the improved balance sheet, growing ever more profitable. The Public benefited from reduced costs, trusting The Mind and The Hand to maintain traditional quality, and valued The Money as the new leaders in the prosperous Modern age.

 

Which applied flavor is better? Is it enough to be new(er)? Was it ever good anyway?

As a mindset, Modernism was ripe for the picking as the “style” of choice by The Money, always seeking to minimize the investment and maximize the return. The Mind was happy to support the effort as they rode the wave of the avante garde, artists remaking a new and better society in their own minds. The Hand went adapted to the new ways that made for improved quality, increased speed, and reduced cost, again becoming experts. And frankly, The Public didn’t really understand what was being given up for this new shiny approach, but it was obviously better because it was new and it certainly wasn’t old, and the trustworthy Mind was at the helm after all. If an architect was involved, it had to be good or better than the alternative, right? It always had been before.

So, here it is, the degree-revoking statement; Modernism has helped destroy, or at least seriously injure, the built environment and the profession of architecture.

It’s not because Modern is an ugly “style” or is an invalid approach to addressing the architectural problems of the modern age. Rather it is because of how easily the idea itself was co-opted and how thoroughly we allowed it to water down every other traditional style as well. The Mind got lazy and arrogant, rejecting old for new. The Money took advantage, seeking higher profits. And The Hand adapted to it all. What started as an exploration to the question of the architecturally necessary and relevant, became the unintended answer to how little could be invested to achieve a goal that happens to involve a building. The Public got duped, betrayed in the deal, although I think the realization of what’s been lost is just dawning on us all.

In a progressively isolated intellectual exercise, The Mind failed to understand and explain the merits of both Modernism as well as the historic styles it rejected and professed to improve upon. The Modernist style was so driven by functions of materials and construction systems that the subtle relationship between the functional and the poetic was lost on most. The Mind betrayed a trust earned over centuries, eventually satisfying ourselves with superficially applied “Modernism” on an investment shell.

pale shadows of memories lost

The Hand, out of necessity, became an expert in the new efficiency-driven paradigm, forever the necessary means to physical completion.

The Money grew to see The Mind and The Hand as merely a necessary part of an investment process designed to see short-term gains with no responsibility for the larger societal implications.
Consequently, The Hand and The Money capitalized on this ambiguity and partnered directly with one another (Design-Build), utilizing The Mind more as a necessary means to an end rather than a valued partner.

We (architects, aka The Mind), in part did this to ourselves.
• Too quickly did we abandon soul-imbued craftsmanship for sterile simplicity and efficiency, hailing the modern virtues of minimalism and the machine while also denouncing the ornament of craft and tradition.
• Too complicitly did we allow and validate an important and timely exploration to be bastardized.
• Too ignorantly did we fail to understand the full implications of our questions and actions.
• Too neglectfully did we fail to educate ourselves and John and Mary Public on what was being gained AND what was being lost.

Know that this has been a grossly simplified statement of opinion, intended to spark a valuable conversation about past, present and future. I understand that there are many forces at play here and that bad buildings and purely functional buildings have always been around, typically far outnumbering their higher quality relatives. I also understand that the wealthy and powerful have and continue to produce some great Modern Architecture over the last century. I simply argue that Modernist ideologies converged with other forces of our time to result in a proliferation of soulless buildings and spaces, going as far as even destroying great buildings in order to glorify ourselves. And I argue that we were complicit in proliferating the mediocrity, helping to impose upon our built environment a social burden that we are now saddled with correcting, while at the same time lacking the respect necessary to do so.
The good news is that in the last ten to twenty years, I have seen us begin to remake ourselves. Our role and our tools are changing, maybe back to a familiar version or maybe into something totally new. The conversation has begun, but this time let’s consider with respect and appreciation what come before and build upon it. Let us again earn the trust of our partners The Hand, The Money, and in particular The Public.

FEES; WHAT YOU GET FOR YOUR MONEY (YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR)

Derek Maschek
MASCHEK design and fabrication
www.maschekdf.com

This has come up a lot recently, and frankly, comes up all the time. However, it’s the topic we (architects) least like to talk about but most NEED to get comfortable with. Architecture is a professional service, and it’s a business. What Architects (and Interior Designers, Landscape Architects, Planners, etc.) charge for is their time, with values for that time being directly related to resources, experience, skill, and talent. In school, many are never taught the money side of architecture and even when it is, there is no experiential reference so “in one ear and out the other”. It’s when our first potential client comes along and asks, “Hey, how much to design my house?” that we sit back and start to panic in a fog of ignorance. The answer we give; “well, it depends”. Coincidentally, this is exactly right, but without more information it doesn’t seem to help the conversation much.

Before I proceed, let me say that there are bad architects out there just like there are bad doctors, bad lawyers, and bad everything. And just like there are bad service providers, there are bad clients too. Unknowingly or knowingly, it is possible for either party involved to be less than ideal partners in a services arrangement. So, keep in mind that everything I say below assumes qualified, forthright, and honest partners are involved.

Another caveat; this is just about Architectural Services. There are no engineering fees or other design fees included with any numbers I give. Those can just as easy to be collectively equal to or considerably less than the architectural fees, it just depends.

Lastly, architects (I won’t speak for other design professionals) have several basic approaches to calculating fees, several approaches to charging for services, and lots of customizations they offer depending on project specifics or client needs. To be comprehensive about all this would be a college course in itself.
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Historically, architects look at the project from three basic perspectives to determine a fee; hours of work, percentage of construction, and cost per square foot. These are estimated and referenced against each other, compared to other similar past projects, and tweaked until the three seem to jive with one another.

When we look at the project from an hour’s perspective, we literally consider every part of a project including administration, communication, and documentation. Tally it all up and multiply it by what we call a “blended” rate (an average of the billing rates of all those working on the project), and you have a fee estimate. Specific hourly rates can be used if known, such as with repeat or cut-and-dry projects. The more technically involved the project (hospital, laboratory, etc.), the higher the blended rate and thus higher the total fee. The opposite is true as well.

Looking at the fee from a percentage of cost of construction perspective is really useful for repeat projects or with very familiar project types. In commercial construction, architectural fees can range from less than 3% on large or simple projects, to over 15% for very custom residential, highly technical commercial, or projects with heavy hourly involvement. For a commercial project, I’d assume at least 6% of construction cost would go for architectural fees. For custom residential, 10% is more appropriate.

Using a cost per square foot methodology again should be used only for repeat projects or with very familiar project types. Given the variability of project requirements, it’s hard to even provide suggested guidelines, but consider $2.50/sf a starting point for common Tenant Interiors (office and retail that involves essentially interior walls and no exterior/shell work). While it can go down from there on really simple projects, this base number will go up quickly with architectural/exterior work, so only use this as a rough guideline. It behooves any architect to keep track of projects, their fees, and some of the usual parameters (such as square footage) for reference later as a check against future estimates using this methodology.
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We’ve discussed how we estimate our fees, but it may or may not be how we charge for our services. Contracts are typically drawn up as Hourly, Fixed Fee, or Percentage of Construction. However, final contracts for all available design services are typically a blending of these approaches. How an architect handles fees for Design could easily be different from those for Specification and Documentation.

Hourly is just what is sounds like; billing for every hour spent on the project just like a lawyer would do, charged at whatever rate suits the employee involved. Rates vary from about $50/hr for administrative or inexperienced staff, up to about $250/hour for principals, specialists, or big names. From an architect’s point of view, this method is most appropriate for a time-consuming client (committee clients, indecisiveness or impulsiveness, unavailability, etc.), or where a project is undefined (site unselected, unique construction systems, nebulous program, etc.). It’s advantageous for the client to use this when the project is really clear and simple, client decisions will be quick and conclusive, and client experience suggests the architect’s total time estimates are high. Often, what is best for both client and architect, is to use Hourly for early phases (Site
Selection, Programming, Planning, Schematic Design) as well as later phases (Bidding and Negotiations, Construction Administration) such that an appropriate amount of a professional’s time gets placed where needed but time can be limited where a client wants to assume risk or provide assistance. Even if not asked for, an architect should always provide an estimate of the total hours involved in order to prepare a client for the anticipated end cost, or else expect an angry client later.

Fixed Fee services are derived using the methods I mentioned above, and are a “fixed” number to be paid for the services provided. As always, it is critical that a professional be absolutely clear about what services are being provided for said “fixed” fee. It is likewise critical that a client understand what services are and are not being provided. Talk this all through in person. It is time well spend for all parties involved. Nobody likes getting additional bills above what was agreed upon so both parties need to be clear in the contract and over the course of the project if and when Additional Services are probably going to be, will be, are being, and then have been incurred. As with a construction bid, the low-bidder may is likely saving money by limiting services rather than “doing it for less”, resulting in a client not getting what they expected or needed, but while getting what was contractually agreed to.

Percentage of Construction is a good and fair approach as there is some association between the value of the result relative to the fee incurred. Now, I have heard complaint by a client that asked “why should the design fee go up so much just because gold shingles were chosen over asphalt shingles?”. In this example specifically, the gold roofing would require a higher level of detailing because of its value, longevity, and uniqueness. But generally speaking, there is a greater liability risk should something go wrong, so costs associated with insurance adds in here too. Also of note here, as the initial fee estimate is based on projected rather than actual construction cost, there is the distinct possibility that the final fee will end up higher after all the receipts are added up. Actual construction cost could be less too, reducing the fee, although this situation is rare at best. Finally, it is imperative that the architectural contract define what the construction cost includes, and the contract between the contractor/builder and the client needs to coordinate with this definition. In this situation, the architect should have rights to reviewing the contractor/builder’s “books” in order to avoid relevant expenditures being kept “off the books”. If this method is pursued, only the most professional and thorough contracts (re; American Institute of Architects) should be utilized in order to properly protect all parties involved.
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This is just a quick overview of the subject of fees associated with architectural design services. There are numerous phases in every project, there are a number ways to handle each phase contractually, and there are innumerable project specifics that will impact the final number. I understand that the numbers I’ve outlined here often come as a shock to people that are new to the Architect-Client relationship. Note that this is all just a beginning, a conversation-starter designed to get you (Mr. Client) prepared just enough to have an informed and productive conversation. Just remember that our fees are about our time. Necessary aspects of technology, infrastructure, overhead, and profit are all calculated into our hourly rates and are generally not negotiable. If you want to save money, it’s about saving time. However, know that saving money by reducing an architect’s scope will definitely result in at least one of three things; increased client’s (and even architect’s) risk, reduced quality, or just shifting the expense by paying somebody else to do the necessary work.

For most people, an architect will be employed only once and the investment involved is usually substantial. As a client, do your homework and look at your potential architect’s previous work and ask for some references. Know that often there is still more to the story, so talk with your prospective architect about it all; the good, bad, and ugly. Good planning (which is what architectural services are all about) is critical to a good project and considering the cost of construction relative to design services, worth every additional percentage point. There will always be those that offer up the “same” services for less, but ask yourself and your potential architect(s), “why are you less, more, or different?”. To just pick the low bidder is a recipe for disaster, one that likely will cost you considerably more in construction than you saved in design.

I liken architecture to planning for and executing a battle plan. It’s never a good idea to just charge down hill into enemy territory, nor is it a good idea to spend too much time anticipating every possible contingency. Get a good team, find the balance of wants versus needs, plan well, communicate well, and then execute. While nothing ever goes exactly as planned, in-field adjustments and additional expenses will be minimized, and the overall experience and final project will be something you are happy with and proud of, eager to go out and do it all again.

spotted: reclaimed wonders by rebecca shell

I did a little bit of hunting this Wednesday and I discovered my new favorite store – found by moonbeams.

I never knew I would want to spend so much time in such a quaint little store. Everywhere I turned, there was some little treasure to behold. This light fixture below is just one of many. Every day, found’s shoppers are adding new and exciting items to their collections.

light fixture discovered at found by moonbeams

 

Some of the items they make themselves. Below is 120-year-old bead board ornaments that have been painted and stamped with fun little phrases.

To the right, an old window frame salvaged from a moving neighbor.

If you are looking for anything with a bit of character, you’ve come to the right place.  From old trunks, to beautifully worn tables, this place has it all.

reclaimed window with handmade branch artwork by a local artist

 

beautifully weathered trunk

 

And you will definitely make a new friend or two.
My new friend, Maggie, one of found‘s awesome DIYers and employees, was most helpful
in explaining to me their vision for each item displayed in their store.
She’s actually the one who made up the fantastic bead board ornaments (I’m in love with those!).

Thanks to Maggie’s friendliness and found’s awesome finds, I can certainly say
that I will be back again for another visit!
Never know what I’ll find next time. I can’t wait!

Join in on the fun!
found by moonbeams
131 West Jefferson
Kirkwood, MO 63122
314.821.0335
visit found’s facebook page
and make sure to “like” them!

 

questions from a young architect by nicholas kreitler

There is something I mentioned in a previous post and I wanted to come back to the topic of urban sprawl…. We have all heard it and are increasingly aware of the problem we face. Gas continues to go up in price and I believe that we should see the density start to rise again in our major cities. But many of us will continue to say that the time we spend in the car and the amount we spend on gas is just part of the daily grind. I think that train of thought will begin to change, or I can at least hope that it will change.

Speaking for myself, I don’t like to waste my time and I don’t know many young people who do. Currently, I live forty-five minutes from the office where I work.  That means I spend between an hour and half and two hours in my car a day with traffic. Take that over a week, and that’s between six and half to ten hours. Over a month that means I will spend approximately twenty six to forty hours in my car, that’s nearly a week of work every month I am missing out on while sitting in my car.

Let’s say for the sake of this article we keep the math simple, and say I make ten dollars an hour. So in a month I waste nearly four hundred dollars in my time, and another two in the gas I burn on my way to and from the office. Now I realize we don’t get paid for the time we aren’t working but for this argument let’s say we put a value on our time like our employers do. So in the span of one month I will spend nearly six hundred dollars in time and resources going back forth to work.

Now what happens when I move closer to the city, and if I only lived a mile and a half from the office? What if I bought a bike and I could actually ride to work. I could save 95% of my time to and from the office; I would get exercise daily, and save a large amount of money. Now what if that six hundred a month I was spending could actually get invested in something more valuable? Now I realize I am only a drop in a much larger bucket, but what happens when the majority of those living more than 15 minutes from work did the same. What impact would that have on our cities? How much would the density rise, how much better could our cities be? Would we start to see a rebirth in our cities? What would we do with the money are spending on gas?

I would like to believe if we made our cities into walk able environments and reduced our dependence on our cars and trucks we could start to see pride take hold again and a concern for the built environment. What if we could walk to wherever we needed to go, would we stop being lazy? Could we start to see an increase in our activity? What about an increase in our sense of community? What if we started to invest in public space and the built environment, instead of our own private spaces with fences that make our boundaries very clear to the public? What happens when start to enjoy housing with a shared courtyard, a place where we can get to know our neighbors beyond saying hi at the mail box, a place for a community garden that could yield as much as you put into it? What if the amount we spend on gas goes down and we could spend it with our families, or giving back to amazing nonprofits that do incredible work, or taking a class or that trip we have been dreaming of?

nightmare on suburban street

What happens when we stop increasing the size of our homes? When we have a modest dwelling we begin to set priorities to what we actually need versus what we think we need. A close friend of mine reminds me that designing small means simply designing smart. I look around and have to ask, do we really live in a time of surplus? I have always thought that modesty is a good thing.  How is it that we are impressed by the square footage of our homes and not by how charitable we are, or what we are doing for the community?

I know that I have posed a lot of questions and not offered many solutions, but I hope that these thoughts and these ideas might wake something up inside of you and that you begin thinking about how this relates to your life. I feel like a hypocrite while writing about all of this, knowing that I am living in suburbia with my parents and doing nothing to change that. I know that I am just starting out and don’t have the ability to go out on my own, so I am fortunate to have the support of my family and will never take that for granted. For now I know that the drive might be long but I wouldn’t be able to make it without them in my life, a big thank you to my friends and family who are always there to support me in all that I do.

leaderspeak: is your check engine light on? by nicholas kreitler

 Have you ever been driving down the road and all of a sudden a little sport car goes flying past you? I started thinking about that car the other day after I was wrapping up a day in the office. I was picturing that car cruising along, oblivious to the fact that it was blowing a whole lot of smoke and causing a mess for everyone else to navigate through. I smiled when I passed that car pulled over on the side of the road, realizing if only they had taken better care of their car it wouldn’t have happened. For the purpose of this piece, let’s just say they ran out of gas.

 I normally don’t like using analogies to make my point but this time I am going to make an exception. For the past year I have been in and out of so many offices searching for a place to start my career, just like every other recent graduate out there. Through that time, I have had the opportunity to see various offices and the character and culture of each. This has allowed me to gain a better understanding of what an office environment is really like compared to anything my professors tried to explain. The analogy came to me when I was reflecting back over my experiences from the past several months and the thought of that little car came to mind.

I’m sure you’re wondering where I am going with this, right? Well, what I mean by that is that an engine runs on gas and oil. If you consider the oil as the collaborative and creative side of an office, while the gas in the tank as the productive side that keeps the office running, you’ll get this analogy. The point is that you need both of those to keep the car operating, so keep that in mind when you start the engine on your firm.

Think about this; if you run with too much oil and not enough gas, you just end up in a big cloud of smoke while you’re stranded on the side of the road. This means when you spend all your time thinking and playing without proper production, you just end up breaking down and on the side of the road with your thumb out asking for a ride. The opposite is equally devastating, too much gas and not enough oil, you end up going really far but burn out after that recommended oil change. What I mean is if you are only productive and don’t take time to play, then you lose your passion for what you do and quickly stop caring about the task at hand.

The right balance for everyone is different. Each firm has their own ratio that works for the culture they have created. A particular amount of oil to every gallon of gas is critical, some work better with a drop and some take it by the quart. Every firm is unique and there is no exact science to the right ratio but there does need to be balance. Finding that balance and individuals who believe in the culture of the office will keep it running smoothly and it is those firms that will stand the test of time. Now there will always be other factors to consider, but when the firm has a shared vision and believes in what they are doing they will always find a way to make it work.

 

through the eyes of a young architect by nicholas kreitler

With every profession applying the term architect to a title, what does it really mean to be an architect? It seems funny to me that for the past few months, several publications have revealed architecture has the highest unemployment rate as a degree. So I started asking questions, why would somebody want to be an architect during these times? Is the title of architect becoming just another buzz word or are we more than the latest profession in the spotlight? It took a minute to ponder, so I rubbed my eyes in an attempt to wake up and thought if I would rather be anywhere else. I knew the answer to that question before I even finished that thought; there is no other profession out there for me. Maybe I am strange but I love the long hours, sleepless nights, and more cups of coffee than any one person should drink in a lifetime.

Architect used to mean “master builder”, but what does it stand for today? Are we still considered a master builder or just simply a luxury item, when aesthetics are concerned? Now I will admit that we don’t know everything about something, but we do know something about everything. The goal of an architect should be to create sexy solutions for everyday issues, through the collaboration and knowledge of various disciplines. The critical part of our job it to be able to cast a vision on the end result of the project and develop a plan for getting there.

The key in the success of any project is communication. Our ability to bridge the gap between professions and find a solution that works for everyone is critical. An architect understands the rules of thumb and generalities of each discipline, but doesn’t have a full technical knowledge of everything. This is why collaboration is critical, and why bringing everyone to the conversation is so beneficial. We must be a leader, but in order to be a great leader we must surround ourselves with individuals that possess the strengths we do not.

A view down a side street in Boston, that features walk up housing.

Not only is the architect the leader of the design team, but they also help to lead change. With gas continuing to rise in price, I believe we will start to see the decline of suburbia. My hope would be to watch density rise and a rebirth of our cities. The days of spending hours in our cars is coming to an end. As an architect we have the ability to re-imagine our urban spaces and create places that enrich our daily lives. We must remember that design doesn’t have to be force fed to the public, but can be done in a subtle way that compliments the existing situation, whatever the conditions may be. The greenest buildings are the ones already standing, but we must find ways which facilitate the functions those buildings never anticipated.

I could not be more excited for the challenges we will face ahead. They  will not be easy, but they will begin to challenge the way we think. From the places we choose to dwell, the way we look at our cities, to the way we design our landscapes; these will be changing. It is up to us to decide if they will change for the better.

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