This has always been a hot topic in the architecture community. I’ve been on both sides of the fence myself. I once won 4th place in a design competition for “Most Liveable Design” in which the winning design was to be built as a spec home and then sold. It always rubbed me funny that if my design was the “most liveable” why would such a design not be the winning entry for a competition intending to build a home that someone would eventually live in?
But I digress. Award competitions, the likes of which discussed here, take into consideration only those that are the highest profile, the highest budgets and, yes, the most shiny photo spreads. Personally, I would like to see these competitions broken into cost categories. Most notably a category for most innovative design for single family homes under $250,000.00. Now THAT would be a sweet competition in my book.
Awesome post, as always, by my buddy Lee.

think | architect

                                                                                               

Okay, I promised myself I would leave this alone. But I can’t help myself, so pardon my sarcasm and generalization ahead. Glossy magazine awards and AIA award programs showcase amazing unique houses each year. We love them, yet hate them. These edgy projects are part of a self-perpetuating cycle where the juries choose their favorites each year rather than consider the broader public’s opinion. It’s an architectural equivalent to Amish friendship bread that never ends.

Let’s think a bit deeper here about the criticism from architects about these awards. What is the real issue here? Why are we agitated by this? One issue is custom “traditional” houses are commonly overlooked. I’m not trying to tackle that issue today except to say that unique contemporary houses getting all of the attention is getting architects in a dither. It’s also accepting that the honored selections are not intended to be prototypical for…

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minimalism, architecture and value

If you don’t follow Josh and Ryan at The Minimalists, you should. Because I do. And they’re awesome.

After finding this blog and learning about these two groovy cats about a year ago, I’ve followed them ever since and have endeavored to live a minimalist lifestyle as much as is possible with a wife and two kids (hint: I like to spoil my family). And a recent post about money has me thinking not for the first time about minimalism and it’s broad implications for architecture, specifically in the area of cost versus value as it applies to materials, construction and services.

As architects we’ve all been in this situation: a client comes to you with a project, you submit your proposal for services confident that you’re as lean, mean and competitive as possible, and the client – without batting so much as an eyelash – haggles and argues for you to reduce your fee. No fun.

Similarly, if you’ve been in the construction industry for more than a day you’ve been involved in this situation: the client sends out the job to contractors for bid, the bids come in and again without batting so much as an eyelash immediately takes the lowest bid offer (and secretly wonders why it’s so high).

In both of these scenarios the client has focused solely on money with no regard to project quality, or experience/expertise of the architect and contractor, or any other factor besides cost. And we all know what typically happens in these situations: when the architect has to reduce their fee to a level that does not allow them to devote adequate time to the project (time = money), then mistakes get made, details don’t get coordinated and issues have to be resolved in the field resulting in additional service charges to the client. Then, the contractor, who’s low-ball fee did not properly account for all of the scope requirements in the drawings and specifications, goes to build the project and submits change order after change order for items that were not in his bid (which the client agreed to) and suddenly the project is over budget, over schedule, and now alternates are recommended and the VE process begins, which invariably leads to a substandard project at completion and a client looking at you, the architect, for answers as to why this all happened.

DUH.

The challenge is to help clients understand first the value in architectural services. The principles of minimalism being applied can perhaps put this into perspective. A good deal of clients want the pretty pictures in the magazines, all crammed together into one house. If we simply did as we were told this would make for one very strange house indeed. But that’s not our job. Our job is to interpret – to take the clients wants, dreams, and desires and create an individual structure that has function, beauty and value. Helping a client make the connection between each dollar spent and the ultimate value of that dollar is an important step towards a very successful project.

So how do we do that? What secret formula do we use in educating our clients to see not only the value in our own services but also the value in a experienced and knowledgeable contractor? There really isn’t one answer. Each client is different. Each client brings their own preconceptions, perceptions and prejudices to the table. The only real trick is to listen, to offer guidance and advice, and deliver it in a way that your client will understand and make the connection of cost versus value. The way you do that is by understanding this principle yourself.

hire an architect not an “expert”

This original post has been removed as images were used from another blog that does not wish to have their images reposted and work criticized. However, I still stand behind my statement below. And, even though I am not a licensed Architect, which I’ve never claimed to be, I am a trained and degreed architectural professional on the path to licensure. When looking to hire a designer of any building or construction type, it’s in your best interest to seek out someone with documented design and construction experience. If they can’t show you examples of work they’ve actually built why would you hire them? It is true everyone has to have a first project, but if you’re claiming to have built hundreds of buildings, you should be able to show some photos, no? But, hey, maybe I’m wrong.

Hire an Architect, not an “expert”. Your family and your wallet will thank you.

deadlines and sleep

As you may have noticed I’ve fallen woefully behind on my posting duties here. This is not for lack of trying however. I have at least a dozen “drafts” in my blog feed that are in various stages of total crap completion. Though finding the time to complete a thought, not to mention a whole blog post, is running scarce lately. I suppose this would seem a good problem to have, but as I continue the flip-flopping from day-job to moonlighting the problem I am most often running head-long into is one I haven’t experienced really since my freshman year of college:

meet my deadlines or sleep.

I feel like this most days.

If you’re an Architect or designer or artist or professional of any flavor, you know as well as I do which one of those wins out almost 100% of the time. Deadlines. After all, if we didn’t meet our deadlines our clients won’t pay us, nor will they be likely to bring more business down the road.

Some of you know my story. The short version is I work full time for a small commercial firm in Jacksonville, Florida; I teach at a local community college; and I moonlight as a Architectural Designer. I’m also a husband to a very VERY understanding and sympathetic wife, and father to 3 seriously awesome kids. The question I’m asked most is “How do you balance everything and stay sane? What’s your secret?”

Well, first, who said I was sane? Anyone who willingly takes on the kind of schedule I do is clearly not playing with a full deck of cards.

As far as “my secret”…I really don’t think their is one. To illustrate what I mean, my wife has me hooked on this new reality show called Breaking Pointe about a ballet company and the “behind the scenes” workings of the ballet biz. And by hooked, I mean obviously she wants to watch it so if I wish to sit near her I must watch also. In the show one of the dancers is describing the difficulties of dating outside the ballet world. The frustration centers around regular people not getting it or thinking that dancing is more important, blah blah blah. Stay with me – the thing to note here is that when you are passionate about your profession, your art, your craft, whatever, then you simply make it work. There is no secret formula, no magical vortex that I step into to freeze time and multiple my productivity (that would be so sweet though). I just get it done.

The simplest truths are always the most profound. Architecture, like any other profession and art, takes a dedication that very few people understand, nor can they sympathize with our desire to spend countless hours in front of a computer or hunched over a drafting table scribbling out one design idea after another for clients with even less sympathy than the average person for what we put ourselves through in order to meet a deadline. But it’s what we do. It’s what we’re called to do. I can be exhausted and annoyed after 15 minutes of just about any activity, but 18 hours straight of nothing but architecture and design? Hell, I’m just getting started.

Anyone else feel this way or am I all alone? :-\

running, pilates, and the new me

If you’ve payed attention to any of my social media outlets you know that I friggin LOVE to run. I started running almost 7 years ago with my first 5k race – the Corporate 5k Run. I trained for 3 full months for that race due to several injuries I accumulated in my teenage years (i.e. skateboarding, rollerblading, bmx-ing, general dumb-ass-ery). Needless to say I had some challenges to overcome physically, even though I always considered myself to be in fairly good shape.

courtesy of I ❤ to run via facebook

I began slow with 1 mile as my goal. It took me almost a month to be able to run a full mile at the grand pace of about 12 minutes….yeah, I sucked THAT BAD. :-\ But as I kept at it and steadily got stronger my 1 mile turned into 2 and then 3, and then I was ready for my first race.

I don’t remember my finishing time for that first race (I’m sure I could look it up, but I’m lazy), but what I do remember is the feeling I had upon finishing. It had nothing to do with what place I finished or how fast I ran, but it had everything to do with a feeling of simple peace and time spent with myself and my own thoughts and prayers. That, and a lot of adrenaline. It was, in short, an amazing experience and I was hooked. Big Time.

I couldn’t possible count the number of miles I’ve run since that first race. I’m sure it’s up near the thousands, and if you add in cycling…well, you get the idea. I’ve run the last 6 River Run’s in a row, each one faster than the other and I have a drawer full of race t-shirts that my wife threatens to chuck daily.

This tale isn’t all fluffy bunnies, roses, and tulips however. At some point your body simply says “hey! wait a minute, something ain’t right here!!” and you find yourself sliding backwards and suddenly runs that were easy and times that were quick are now very difficult and slow. That happened to me.

A little less than a year ago I started getting shin splints again and very strange cramps. I’d take it easy for a few days and I’d be fine for a little while, but then it would come back. Finally I talked to my wife about it (she was a ballet dancer for nearly 20 years so she knows a thing or two about sports injuries) and she suggested taking a Pilates class. At first I was like….”uh….but that’s for chics”. But then I was like “wait, hot chics stretching and bending….SIGN ME UP!” 😛

So I got to this Pilates class at the Yates YMCA in Riverside (we’re members and we’re cool like that) and at first I thought, yeah I can do this. But then it was more like “wait, my body isn’t supposed to do that!” Thankfully that doesn’t last long.

Fast forward to today and I’ve been taking Pilates from Jeanette, who also has her own sweet blog going on, and it has improved not only my running but my overall health as well. As an experiment to see what kind of results I was really getting, I started doing longer runs at faster times. This led me to add onto that giving up meat for a month (everyone saw my No Meat March post, right?) and then ran the River Run in the middle of all this craziness. Yeah, in less than 2 months I went from a struggling 9 minute mile to a 8:00 mile average. In this years’ River Run (15k for those who don’t know) I finished in under 1:17:00 with an average pace of 7:50 per mile.

Since the River Run I’ve continued Pilates (it’s now my Saturday morning thing if you want to join me), I’ve continued the healthy eating and my average running time is nearing 7:30 and my average 5k is under 24 minutes. At 32 I’m in better shape than I was at 22 or at any other time in my life, really.

Lesson learned for all you guys out there:

Get your ass into a Pilates class. And then go run. 🙂