Where are all the Architects?

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How NOT to draft a detail. No line weights, notes a mess and no hatching.

There are architects and then there are Architects. If you don’t know the difference than you are in the former category. I aspire to be included among the latter category. And I will tell you why.

For the last 5+ months I have been working for a large corporate firm in the downtown area. It’s an old firm, the second oldest in the state at nearly 100 years since the doors opened. One would think a firm with that level of prestige and a resume that includes some of the most significant buildings in the city would not only be on the forefront of technology but would also have standards in place for the production of quality, well coordinated and beautiful architectural drawings.

At least that is what I had hoped when I came here several months ago. It didn’t take long to realize that not only were there no standards in place but the production staff and the project architects seldom inhabit the same air space. Hence very little oversight and even less coordination. Add to that “mentorship” seems to be a dirty word, so the staff ends up doing “whatever Revit’s default” happens to be.

To say it’s frustrating is an understatement. Soul crushing is a more apt descriptor. I’m not a senior architect. Barely into my mid 30s, but I’ve worked for a number of “seasoned” Architects that taught me the value of my architectural documents as not just a tool for construction but also as a marketing tool and even as a piece of art unto itself. Drawings MATTER. The information matters; what it looks like matters; and how it is organized matters.

If you think it doesn’t, you’re an architect.

If you take great pride in your work and the finished product that is sent out of your office then you’re an Architect.

Where have all the Architects gone?

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A well detailed wall section – line weights, well-spaced notes and clear hatching.

manic monday: architect vs contractor

The resurrection of the Manic Monday blog post! I haven’t done one of these in too long, but hopefully this post is just what I need to get back on the band wagon. And to kickstart that endeavor I’m talking about a subject that all architects, engineers and clients can relate to – the tense and tenuous relationship between Architect and Contractor.

As an architect there are usually only two ways a project makes it into the office:

1) The client finds you either through word of mouth, advertising, the internet, etc. and calls you up to set a meeting to talk about their project.

2) You get a call from a contractor who already has the client signed on for construction and the contractor needs you to “put together a set of drawings for permit”.

I think you can immediately guess which situation most architects would prefer. That’s right, option number 1. Why? It’s simple. In option 1 the client recognizes the need for an architect’s services and expertise on the project from the very beginning and is aware of the time, talent and effort required to research, design, detail and oversee a project from start to finish. In option 2 the client may not even be aware that the contractor has hired you, the architect, to help design and permit the project. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I’ll tell you why.

Because having and maintaining good relationships in architecture and construction is the only way to stay in business. And that has to extend to your past, current and future clients as well as to contractors. But when it comes to contractors that relationship has to be built on a common respect and appreciation for what each party brings to the table and sadly, in my experience, many contractors view architects as an incredibly unnecessary evil. And this attitude has been reflected several times recently which has prompted this post.

When a contractor calls me and says “I just need a set of drawings for permit”….I just want to jump out the window. That same lack of understanding that clients have for what it is we do extends quite often to the contractors we work with as well. After all, they are the ones that know how to BUILD things. We (architects) just do the drawings. But contracts and architects are both important and necessary pieces to any project. Without one the other isn’t much good. So, it’s important that we (architects) work to build relationships with contractors and show the value of our services and how they are not just a compliment to building but necessary for the success of any project large or small.

If we can do this and do it successfully then those two scenarios I mentioned earlier will both be ideal to the growth and success of our business. Even if a client doesn’t think they need an architect, if we’ve done our job correctly, the contractor that owner seeks out will advocate for us by saying “hey you really need an architect to help you and I know a great one that I’ve worked well with in the past.” That is the single best advertising you can’t buy – when another professional recommends you as an addition to a project.

the only guarantee in life

You’re all thinking “death and taxes” right now, aren’t you? Not this time. The one true guarantee in life is change. Someone really smart said that once. I have no idea who.

Everything in life changes and it changes by the year, the month, the week, the day, the hour and especially minute by minute. We are no more immune to change around here as we are to death and taxes. I know what you’re asking. What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Absolutely nothing. But it does have a lot to do with this blog and some big changes coming in the next couple of weeks.

r | one studio architecture WILL BE NO MORE.

Yep. You read that correctly. This blog has been such a wonderful outlet for me to share my opinions, experiences, frustrations, challenges and triumphs as I have moved through my career as an architect. But times they are a changing, baby. And I’m so excited about the changes that are coming.

In the next few weeks I will be launching a new website and blog. I will also be launching a new company name, a new logo and a new direction for our practice. It hasn’t been easy. r | one studio started as a side project, just a “name” to give some legitimacy to the design work that I was doing prior to achieving my license. It grew quickly into an identity for me and a dream for the future – the idea being that eventually the “one” would turn into a “two” and perhaps a “three” as I continued to grow my practice and build relationships with other architects and designers with the same passion for design and construction as me. But now that I am licensed and have taken more serious and intentional steps towards setting sail on the good ship “Entreprenuer”, I realized that I needed to put more thought into the image, identity and even attitude of our practice. Do we want to be safe and comfortable with a nice corporate type name and identity or do we want to do things differently, go against the grain, buck the system and challenge the status quo? I think you all know the answer. “Yeah baby! Let’s buck this bronco!”

This is how ROGUE architecture was born – a new identity and a new attitude for the practice of architecture in the 21st Century. For years now I’ve talked about collaboration with other architects and having a mobile practiceThese aren’t just buzz words. These ideas are at the core of our practice. ROGUE architecture is a firm that will do things differently, to challenge how we’ve always practiced as architects and to seek out clients who have been led to believe they don’t need an architect. Making life better, one building at a time, is what we will do at ROGUE architecture.

Stay tuned for more.