manic monday – patience and grace

shamaninthecity.com.au

shamaninthecity.com.au

It’s been a while since I’ve done a manic monday post. Today was especially frustrating, maddening, annoying, many other “ing”s and just plain MANIC. So I thought it was fitting to sit down and quickly write about my experiences today and how they might apply to the daily practice of architecture.

Today’s theme is patience.

If you know me, you know this has not always been a strength of mine. Quite the opposite in point of fact. I will say that it takes a bit to get me going. I’m generally a pretty chill guy and most things I can just let roll of my shoulder and I keep moving forward. But, on rare occasions I find myself getting incredibly intolerant and impatient with certain things about people. Mostly this boils down to a complete lack of patience for ignorance and no sense of responsibility. Today was “one of those days” where I seemed to be surrounded by one excuse after another, one delay after another and one pointless meeting after another. In short I got nothing done, but I looked really busy. And that makes me lose my patience quickly.

Now, the business of architecture is most often described as the management of people and their expectations of a project. This includes clients, consultants, colleagues and that guy that keeps forgetting to give you a pickle with your damn lunch order!….And managing those people requires both patience and grace. There are times however when both are in short supply and you simply run out to the end of your rope and want to strangle something or someone. What do you do then?

This was the situation I found myself in today. What did I do? Honestly, nothing. That may sound strange, especially coming from me, but sometimes nothing is the best thing you can do because the alternative will likely involve some explaining to the authorities….I mean…uh. Nevermind. What was I saying?

Oh yeah. Patience and grace. You can not truly manage people unless you can manage yourself and your reactions to other people and the situations you find yourself in. If you find that you have run to the end of your rope and you know you’re about to do something stupid the very best thing you can do is nothing. Because doing nothing gives you time to properly assess your own feelings in the situation and decide what the best reaction is to the situation or towards the person across the table. If you can manage that one moment you can find your way to manage the people and the situation properly and move forward.

Sometimes doing nothing is the best way to win over on a challenging and frustrating day. Sometimes that little bit of patience and grace, even if only for yourself, will mean the difference between success and failure. So, next time you find yourself in “one of those days”, just take a breath and remember that you can only truly manage yourself. Do that and you win.

ten plus one is better than eleven plus none – #ArchiTalks

Untitled

I’m adding to a discussion that is bouncing around the internet today, Architects answering 11 questions about their practice. Seeing as I technically have two full time “jobs” as an architect (I work for a big corporate firm as well as my own meager but awesome-tastic firm) I will answer these questions only once as they relate to my own firm. Because this is after all MY blog, and I can do that sort of thing. O_O

What kind of projects were you doing when you first started as an architect?

Early in my career I worked for the oldest surviving firm in Jacksonville, Florida. The work was primarily large commercial and institutional projects – mega churches, schools, universities, office buildings, etc. As I moved to a few other firms, getting smaller and smaller along the way, the work didn’t necessarily change, just the scale. I was still working on commercial and institutional work and frankly I hated it. I took on side projects very early in my career, designing residential additions for almost no fee just to be creative and work with the actual end users of a project. Fast forward to now and I am happy to stick to single family residential work and light commercial office and retail spaces as long as I can work with the actual end user and not a landlord or corporate board of directors.

How many projects can you expect to be working on at once?

This is a tough question to answer. I guess the blanket statement would be “as much as I can handle”. And, given my past track record is a lot. As a sole practitioner things get pretty busy around the 4-5 project mark for a given month. I like to have at least that many projects in various stages of development at any given time. More than that and I start to get a little stressed, but it’s a good stress. Any more than 7 would be too much work to cover the load by myself. Refer to next question.

How often did/do you work in a team?

I am structuring my firm so that I will hopefully always be working in a team. I am just one architect and my skills, though varied, are limited and the success of any project requires input from various sources. The goal is to have a network of other architects, locally and across the US, that I can pull from not just for inspiration and fellowship, but also to share work loads and project responsibilities to make us all more profitable.

How important is an innovative mind to the company?

Innovation is essential. Having the right tools and seeking out new tools to make you more agile and more efficient in what you do is essential no matter what type of business you run. But the caveat there is that a tool is only as good as the person using it. You have to have the right frame of mind in order to keep up with the curve, much less stay ahead of it.

What key things do you look for in potential new hires?

I don’t plan on outright hiring anyone, rather I look for other architects to partner with. Those architects that I’m interested in working with have to share my passion and sometimes outright obsession with architecture. I am not a 9-5 architect. Just ask my wife. I also look for architects who are as concerned with good design as they are about good drawings. A well designed building has to be represented by well designed drawings and details. Being relatively young in the profession I am a bit old school in that I came from a hand drafting background and I want my drawings to reflect that level of craft. I look for others who share that as well.

How important is diversity to your company?

I’m often a little apprehensive of this question because it’s never been an issue for me. Diversity in gender, ethnicity, religion and social views has always been a default for me. Like I said in response to the last question, I’m looking for architects with the same passion as me. I don’t care what your gender or skin color is, where you came from or what your religion is. Is it important? Of course. Do I seek out “diversity”? No. It just happens.

How big of a role does HR play in your company?

If we’re talking about Human Resources as a corporate structure, than it doesn’t apply at all. If we’re talking about Human Resources as in other humans that I find resourceful, then it’s extremely important. And this goes back to diversity – surrounding yourself and making alliances with other architects and designers that share your passion but in different ways.

Would you say Architecture is a field for everyone?

Seriously? This is a question? We all know that architecture is not for everyone. Just like mechanic, dentist, doctor, brick layer, foreman, CEO and President are not for everyone. Certain people have certain talents that drive them to certain paths in life. Architecture is no different. We are a rare bird.

What is the best asset in your company?

My family. My wife and my children drive me to be better each day. And my clients. Without them I would not have a company.

Describe your best employee in one word?

Conundrum. That’s actually how I was described by my classmates in college. I think it still applies today. I’m not easily defined and I try not to define myself.

What style architecture do you love most?

This is such an awesome question. And it’s one I’ve talked about with other architects from time to time. There are so many firms out there that have a “style”. So much so that you can drive around town and pick out buildings that were done by different firms without ever having seen them before. I am not that kind of architect. If you look at the work I have designed it runs the gambit from traditional to contemporary to modern and a lot more in between. At the end of the day the buildings I design are not mine. The belong to my client. So whatever style my client desires, it’s my job to provide that design.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down the rabbit hole that is my new practice. Check out the architects below. They are even more awesome-er than I am (hard to believe I know).

Lee Calisti - Think Architect (twitter @leecalisti)
“architecture :: eleven questions is less than twenty” 

Bob Borson – Life of an Architect (twitter @bobborson)
“Being an Architect”

 Marica McKeel – Studio MM (twitter @ArchitectMM)
“Q+A with a Small Firm Architect”

 Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (twitter @enochsears)
“Life As An Architect”

 Jes Stafford  - Modus Operandi Design (twitter @modarchitect)
Ask the Architect

 Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (twitter @EntreArchitect)
“11 Big Questions” EntreArchitect.com/Episode37

 Jeff Echols – Architect of the Internet (twitter @Jeff_Echols)
“11 Frequently Asked Questions About Being An Architect”

 Nicholas Renard – Cote Renard Architecture (Twitter @coterenard)
“Answers from this Architect”

 Evan Troxel - The Archispeak Podcast (twitter @etroxel)
Eleven Questions About a Career in Architecture

Andrew Hawkins, AIA -  (twitter @HawkinsArch)
Being an Architect: Questions Answered”

Architect practice and community

As I continue on my journey to build a practice and move out on my own I have been looking around and thinking about what I want the future of my practice to look like. Do I want a big office with lots of interns and architects working under me or do I want a small modest office with one or two trusted partners working with me to produce quality work? Or even still does my practice more reflect a partnership with other architects that I can collaborate with on multiple project types that may or may not be in my wheelhouse but that I can lend and draw support from? In short is a big office better or worse than a community of professionals working together for the greater good of the community and city at large?

For ten years I have worked under some of the best and brightest and most talented architects in Jacksonville, Florida and Little Rock, Arkansas. I’ve watched and I’ve learned and I’ve asked questions. I haven’t wasted my time nor have I wasted the expertise and wealth of knowledge that has surrounded me for a decade. And what I see is a profession in desperate need of an overhaul. Not just a “repositioning” but a fundamental change to thinking about professional practice in architecture. The “good ole days” are gone. I don’t believe we will see a return of a time like the early 2000s where money flowed out of banks like milk and honey and everyone got fat and happy with too much work and firms grew to sizes in the hundreds of employees. There has been a shift in my generation. We have seen what huge overhead costs and fat office spaces can do to the profession. Hell, most of us have worked in those offices and seen them crumble.

I don’t want that. I don’t want to build a practice that can’t take on small projects because they aren’t profitable enough. I don’t want to build a practice that can’t adapt to an ever changing economic and social climate. I don’t want to be the only guy steering the ship either.

So what’s the answer? What does an architectural practice in the 21st century look like? Small. Agile. Collaborative. Focused on the clients. Focused on building communities.

r | one studio architecture will be a firm dedicated to reaching out to other architects, not in competition, but in collaboration to build a community of architects of like mind that can come together on specific projects to offer a broader and more experienced team of professionals to better serve our clients across markets and regions to provide superior service and design to shape the future of our cities.

And in this I’m looking for architects interested and of like mind to start building those partnerships. Not just in Arkansas but all over the United States. Contact me and let’s see how we can work to build a better world.

BIM and backups

Nearly every lesson learned in life, whether that lesson be personal or professional, is not learned by listening to a parent or mentor, or by reading a book, or even by observation. No, unfortunately nearly every lesson learned in life is learned the hard way – through experience. Things would be so much easier if we could learn these important lessons through observation or the retelling of someone else’s woes….but no. It simply isn’t true.

Take for example the average BIM workflow. Unlike years passed where you had multiple drawing files for a single job – site plans, floor plans, ceiling plans, elevations, sections, details, etc, all separate files – we now have one single central file. You may have other files reference to it, but for the most part, especially for residential architects, your entire project is in one file. And when, not if, something goes wrong with that file you better hope you have a fairly recent backup to fall back on and hope to hell you only lost a couple of hours worth of work.

THIS is a lesson I’ve just learned the hard way – through bitter, soul crushing, mind numbing, stomach churning experience. An entire project gone. The file was somehow corrupted and all data is unretrievable. As if that wasn’t bad enough and to add insult to injury the backup file was also corrupted and all data is unretrievable. Still not impressed? Let’s go one further – the project was halfway through Design Development and Construction Documents are due tentatively on the 17th of July. O_O

No other backups, no Time Machine, no Dropbox, no Carbonite……nothing. Solution? Start over from scratch. Luckily I keep multiple copies of all my PDF submissions for projects so I was able to recreate floor plans in half a day. Exterior elevations will be brought back in 2D and I will have to start over with all of my building sections. All told not a total loss and not nearly as bad as it could have been, BUT a valuable lesson learned nonetheless.

Never put your faith in technology. It will fail you.

Independence Day

01-Arlington National Cemetery

There are few holidays that I truly love. Two of them are fairly close together. Memorial Day and Independence Day. There is nothing better than to celebrate the privilege and honor of being a citizen of the greatest country in the world – a place where I and my family are truly free to pursue life, liberty and happiness in whatever form that may be for us.

I hope you all took time off to celebrate that freedom yesterday. I hope even more that you’ll take time every day to celebrate that freedom in small ways. Those that came before us, that sacrificed and fought to establish, preserve and defend that freedom are honored every time we exercise our freedoms.

Today, don’t take yesterday for granted. Our independence isn’t just a one day affair. It’s a daily celebration. God Bless America.

Drawing Detriment

Jeremiah:

I could not have said this any better. Drawings “backed by a wealth of knowledge and and a solid thought process.” Very well said.

Originally posted on Architect's Trace:

2013-11-13_blog_image_cricket a

I don’t get to draw all day. I’m not a cartoon maker. Honestly, I’m getting tired of hearing clients and architects say “Isn’t that great, you/ I get to draw all day and get paid!”I know it’s typically stated flippantly, but we, or at least myself, need to really think about that. That’s not what we do and it’s part of the perception problem that the public has with what we architects do. “Don’t you architects just do some drawings?” No, no we don’t. Now before you get up on your soap box and start calling me out, I admit… I’ve been guilty of stating the same thing. However, I’m making a conscious effort to not say that anymore, it marginalizes what we do. Part of our role as architects is educating the public what it is we really do… we fall short on doing so, I know I…

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to be, or not to be an architect. that is the question.

“life is a tale told by an idiot. full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” – Hamlet

Recently I was out at a local social event of young professionals. We were sitting around drinking wine and just chatting away. I was trying to ignore the fact that I was the oldest person in the room by more than a few years, when I discovered another intern architect at the table. We chatted for a few minutes and I began asking about her tests and how far along she was in IDP. The answer I got was not necessarily typical, but it was common. She is in the middle of IDP, took one test and failed and questions whether or not to continue testing to get licensed.

This comes on the heals of NCARB announcing not only their latest version of the ARE which will launch in 2015, but also an announcement regarding proposed changes to the IDP process. You can read my thoughts on that here.

The question I found asking myself at the time was – What do I tell this person? What do I say to try and convince them that their education wasn’t a waste and that it is worth it to stay the course and keep pushing forward to their license? At the time I was struggling to find an answer. I had not quite finished my own exams, and though determined and focused it was still difficult for me to come up with much in the way of positive reinforcement for this young intern.

The simple truth is Architecture is not an easy profession and there are many challenges, especially at the beginning of your career. And I think that is for good reason. In order to stick it out in this business you have to have your own internal desire, determination and passion to stick with it. You have to be your own cheerleader, because there really isn’t anything that anyone else can say to you that is going to be convincing enough to keep you motivated.

So what do I say to young interns now who wonder “is this for me?” I simply say “that is something you need to figure out on your own.” Architecture isn’t easy and in my experience is one of the few professions where there really seems to be no turning back once you set your mind to move forward. I spent 10 years chasing after my license. 10 years practicing under other architects with 20+ years experience on me, learning everything I could about design, detailing, contracts, client relations, everything I could soak up, preparing for when I could finally call myself an Architect. Once you set your mind on that goal there is no turning back. Be your own cheerleader and get it done.