Daily Prompt: Elevator

You’re stuck in an elevator with an intriguing stranger. Write this scene.

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What immediately came to my mind when I read today’s Daily Prompt was “The Elevator Pitch”. You hear this phrase a lot in those professional development courses and all the leadership and sales seminars that dot the calendar year after year. The gist is you’re in an elevator with a stranger. That stranger is a potential client. What do you say in 30 seconds or less that will grab their interest and make them want to hire you, purchase your product, whatever? It can be incredibly stressful to think about, especially for architects. I mean, really, what the hell does an architect DO? Most architects couldn’t tell you in 30 minutes, never mind 30 seconds. But I’m going to give it a shot. So, here is my “archi-vator pitch” (that phrase is now copywrite by me).

Note: do not ride up and down the same elevator all day trying to either a) practice your archi-vator pitch or b) try using your pitch to get clients. people might get the wrong idea if some creapy guy/gal is spending all day in an elevator.

Alright, in 30 seconds or less, the pitch should go something like this:

The elevator doors open and a unfamiliar person steps on riding up a few floors down from where you’re headed.

Architect: “Hey there. Good morning/afternoon/evening. How are we doing today?”
Always smile and make the first move by engaging them in a simple greeting. Make eye contact.

Victim New Friend: “Hey there yourself. Not too bad. And you?”
It’s almost universal that the average person will at least return a salutation with the same right back. This now opens you up for real conversation.

Architect: Hey, can’t complain. Headed on up to meet a client to talk about their house/office renovation/general archi-project. It’s a good start to the day.

New Friend: “Oh, so you’re an architect? So what exactly do you do for your clients?”
This is an ideal situation. Most times you’ll need to find your own way to work this into a simple and quick conversation.

Architect: Well, more than just providing drawings to a client in order to build a project, it’s my job to be an advocate for my client. In short, it’s my job to make sure that my client’s wants, needs, desires and budget are all met on a project. Plus I get to make sure that not only does their project function the way they want, but also that it is a solid investment for them in the future, whether that means resale or adapting a building to a new use.
This is my own “short version” of a pitch. Yours should be tailored to what you think you do best and bring to the table for your clients.

New Friend: “Man, that’s fascinating. I imagine you really love what you do. I’ve never really thought about hiring an architect before. My wife/husband and I usually just try to find a good contractor for small additions and renovations.”

Architect: “Well, here’s my card. The next time you think about doing some work on your home/business give me a call and lets talk about it.”

New Friend: “You know I just might do that. This is my floor. Great talking to you.”

Architect: Same to you. Take care.”

Architects are service providers. By default we have to be people people. We have to be able to engage anyone in conversation and show almost immediately why we’re valuable. This is key to the success of any business, but more so for architects. And you’re pitch is your first impression. It should be genuine, unrehearsed and above all confident.

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Daily Prompt: Green-Eyed Monster

Tell us about the last time you were really, truly jealous of someone. Did you act on it? Did it hurt your relationship?

Image Credit - Monster's Inc.

Image Credit – Monster’s Inc.

Jealousy is a common emotion in architecture. Architects, by definition, and sometimes more so than doctors or actors, are egomaniacal whores seeking more and more attention and recognition. And, yes, I speak from personal experience. I used to think Architects were the first, last and only line of defense against evil contractors and ignorant owners who were only out to destroy the work of those select and elite few of us in the architectural profession……yeah, I was that guy.

And so, fueled by my bravado and entitled superiority, I ventured out into “the real world” of architectural practice. I was quickly stuffed into a cubicle that looked NOTHING like my college studio. I had no drafting table, no chip board, not even a friggin sharpie! I had a computer and a telephone with buttons I had never seen nor heard about and knew even less about what they did. But I held on to my ideals and my utopian view of the profession. I was “an elite”. This of course led to a deep jealousy for not just other architects in town (and all over the world for that matter) but even for other architects and interns in my own firm. Why were they working on the fun projects? Why were they talking to contractors and engineers and going out to the job site? Why am I stuck in this cubicle instead of in an office next to the partners?

This view didn’t last long. Luckily it didn’t last longer than my employment at that firm. One of the quickest lessons I learned was how dangerous jealousy and envy are when not properly directed in a constructive way. In the beginning I was jealous for my own recognition and reward. I thought that these were my projects and that my personal success was directly related to how many people clapped me on the back with an “at-a-boy” for the amazing work I had done. This attitude isn’t helpful. To anyone, anywhere, anytime. So just don’t do it.

Instead cultivate a healthy jealousy for your work as it serves your clients. Be passionate about their desires and wishes for their project. It may be your name on the drawings, but it’s their name on the property. When you put yourself in a proper frame of mind and channel your passion and your jealousy in a constructive manner, you’ll be amazed by how people around you will respond, especially clients.

Daily Prompt: Goals

When you started your blog, did you set any goals? Have you achieved them? Have they changed at all?

When I started blogging almost 3 years ago I had no goals. At the time I think I was looking for an outlet for my professional frustrations, a way to get all my ideas out there in the hopes that someone, anyone, shared the same frustrations with the architectural profession that I have.

I was never terribly concerned with readership or subscribers. I think even now, 3 years later, I only have 130+ followers of my blog and about 10,000 hits per month. And those numbers are ok with me because I know those that do follow this blog are engaging in the content I provide, which is much more important to me.

Since my greatest passion in life is architecture, I will continue to write about design, the profession, my own practice and practical experiences in the hopes of continuing a dialogue and even hopefully help some who may go through the same types of situations as me.

“everyone’s a critic”

According to Google (i.e. the answer for everything), the phrase “everyone’s a critic” was quoined on the award winning show Frasier (one of my favorites) and it’s an awesome phrase because we are all critics. We all offer our own two cents (or buck fifty, if you’re me) on any number of subjects that we probably shouldn’t. This is no different in architecture and studio critiques.

Recently I was at the U of A (University of Arkansas – Go Razorbacks!) taking photos and verifying some field measurements at what is currently the Architecture building. When I was done, and this being my first time to the campus, I decided to be a Nosey Parker and peek inside to see what was what.

And, as luck would have it, there happened to be a midterm critique getting ready to start for a number of the studios (SCORE!). I quietly mozied around the peg boards for a bit, raising a queer eyebrow at some and giving the patented archi-nod to others as I waited for the first reviews to start. The projects, I could tell, were in the early stages of development. There seems to be a growing theme in archi-academia to focus on and create a building shell before fully investigating the building program. I find this incredibly annoying, but hey, it’s not my class, so whatever. :-\

I happened upon one set of projects just as the jurors were sitting down and decided to start here. The students were in Studio 6, which I assume is somewhere around 3rd or 4th year. As they began their presentations, first giving the broad strokes and trying to build up to something, I remember thinking back to my own studio years and commenting personally on how far I’ve come since those first awkward presentations to today. That confidence in our work that is key to any successful presentation really can only come from experience.

This sentiment was evident when I snuck over to the 5th year students who were giving their presentations at the middle of their final year. Presentation styles were much different. Much more relaxed, confident and composed.

All in all, I was impressed with the work (if a little annoyed at the over-use of the laser cutter for model making – CHEATERS!!). I really wanted to just pull up a chair and see if I could make someone cry, but I resisted. Maybe next time. 😉

I shot a few photos of some of the works. Enjoy.

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Daily Prompt: Dulled

You encounter a mysterious man offering you a magic potion that, once sipped, will make one of your senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) super sharp — but dull the others. Will you sip it, and if so, what sense do you choose?

it starts here.

it starts here.

I’ve talked before about the effect architecture has on the senses and how important it is, as an architect, to think about not just how people will use a building but also how they experience it with all their senses. If I had to single out one sense to sharpen in my experience of architecture, above all others, it would be my sense of touch.

Architecture is a tactile profession, much more than visual. The shiny pictures you see in magazines, the high-res websites and big screen shots with over-done lighting and special effects….this doesn’t even begin to do a building justice. As an architect, once I’ve created a basic form for a building, I start thinking about materials, colors, light and shadow. The first of these is the most important – materials. Building materials have a texture, a feel, and they evoke an emotional response. If you take a piece of dimensional lumber from your local hardware store in one hand and a piece of rough sawn lumber from a saw mill in the other you’ll know what I mean. The same material, perhaps even the same tree, but a completely different feel and a completely different response to each. Dimensional lumber is cold and hard; almost sterile. The rough sawn piece is warm, and rough, earthy. The first makes you think of a construction site – lots of sweaty guys hammering and sawing, etc. The second makes you think of old woods, cabins, relaxation and a deeper connection to the past. All of this is gained through your sense of touch first. Sight, smell and taste come later. And, yes, I’ve been known to smell and taste wood…I’m weird. What? O_o

And there are so many other building materials to apply the same comparisons to – brick, stone, concrete, tile, gravel, shakes, shingles, nails, screws, drywall, plaster, stucco, siding…the list goes on. All of these materials can be experienced almost completely through touch. So, the next time you enter a new building, take a minute and touch the walls, the floor, the door trim. Try not to pay attention to the sights and sounds. Get to a more visceral experience of architecture. You may get some strange looks – I know I do – but it’ll be worth it.

Daily Prompt: Fantasy

The Tooth Fairy (or Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus . . .): a fun and harmless fiction, or a pointless justification for lying to children?

Growing up I believed in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny (I was actually born on Easter Sunday, so that was huge for me). I believed in Fairies, Spirits, Angels and all manner of what we call fantastical beings. And not because my parents necessarily went out of their way to “lie” to me, but because as children we see more than what is just at face value in the world. We believe in what some would call fantasy, because for children it’s not fantasy.

More than that, these “lies” that parents tell their children about the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, etc are not lies. These fantastical figures have roots in historical fact and cultural tradition. These are important to carry down through the generations to preserve our heritage. Without these traditions, without honoring the past in this way, we effectively delete our roots as a culture, as a people. And, honestly, how many kids do you know that were irreparably damaged because they found out Santa was just Mom and Dad staying up really late? Yeah, no one comes to mind for me either.

the brighter side of Sandy

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As the eastern seaboard was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, I remember thinking back to all of the hurricanes I had sat through, and a few I had surfed through (a small salute to a seriously misspent youth) and all of the destruction over the years, some big but mostly small. But mostly what I thought of may be considered a bit morbid to some, but being a “glass half-full” kind of guy, I thought “man, this is going to be huge for architecture and construction”.

I know, I know. You’re thinking “but dude, this was horrible. It was a travesty. Lives were lost and some lost everything in flooding or fire.” And that is all true. And my heart goes out to those people and their families and I sincerely hope that the rebuilding effort is swift and as uncomplicated as possible. But, there’s my point. “The rebuilding” is important.

Natural disasters, while terrible and devastating can bring incalculable opportunity in the rebuilding process. Take Joplin for example. Almost an entire city destroyed in a single day by one massive tornado. Rebuilding will go on for years, but the citizens and the leadership are using this as an opportunity to make their town something better. The same opportunity is there all over the northeast in areas hit by Sandy.

Imagine, instead of just rebuilding what you had or taking your insurance money and buying some other house that isn’t quite right, take that money and invest in a home or an addition that truly suits your family. Or even better use the opportunity to redesign, rethink and rebuild an entire community. Here is an article from the Huffington Post that talks about some of these opportunities.

The point here is, even in the face of tragedy and destruction, there are opportunities for good. Sometimes things must be torn down in order to take a more critical look at how we can make our lives better through architecture for generations to come.