we are the one percent

No, I’m not talking about the filthy rich 1%, though lets be honest, I’d love to be one of them. I’m talking about something much more important and infinitely more rewarding:

1% Logo

As of now r | one studio architecture is part of The One Percent Project – an organization that allows not-for-profit groups to post architectural projects that they need services for and helps to find architects and designers willing to donate 1% of their billable hours as services to these groups. “Launched by Public Architecture in 2005 with the support of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, The 1% is a first-of-its-kind effort to encourage pro bono service within the architecture and design professions. If every architecture professional in the U.S. committed 1% of their time to pro bono service, it would add up to 5,000,000 hours annually – the equivalent of a 2,500-person firm, working full-time for the public good.” – theonepercent.org

There are about 2000 billable hours in a given year for most professionals, or about 160 hours per month (for some of us it’s a lot more than that….but lets just keep it simple). Donating 1% of your time per month is 1.6 hours in 30 days. If you’re like me, I waste at least that much time every day checking Facebook. Don’t even ask me to calculate the time suck if I added Twitter, LinkedIn, Houzz, Pinterest, Instagram….you get the picture. This is not a lot of time and these are some very worthwhile causes that need the help and expertise of architects and designers.

It’s my hope that everyone who reads this blog, most importantly my colleagues and architect friends, will add their own names to The One Percent Project. Architects do more than design buildings. We build and shape communities – it’s a responsibility and a pleasure to give back.

architectural rant

Ok. So I get into the office this morning and there is a brand new stack of magazines in my inbox to read….or rather to add to the other stack of magazines that I still haven’t read. Included are the latest copies of Arch Record and Architect. On the cover are the latest and greatest shiny projects for all us monkeys to drool over.

I HATE THESE MAGAZINES.

Seriously. I can not stand the over dramatization of architectural design and the friggin “Starchitect”. For the record, I do not like the work of Billie Tsien or Santiago Calatrava or Daniel Liebeskind or Frank Gehry or any of the other shiny new up and comers out there. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can design a great building when they have no real budget. When you’re spending over $1,000 per square foot on a project everything looks good. Why? Because it’s the best of whatever is out there. No expense is spared.

What architecture do I enjoy, you ask? REAL architecture. Architecture that has a budget, a real budget, of $250 per square foot or less. These are real projects. Real architects have designed them. Real architects have poured their heart and soul into creating a good work of architecture that will perform according to the client’s needs, stand the test of time and still maintain the project budget and schedule. THAT is successful architecture. THAT is architecture that should be celebrated in magazines and at award ceremonies.

Ugh. Ok. I’m done. Rant over.

Great Expectations….in Architecture

600full-great-expectations-screenshot

The movie Great Expectations always intrigued me because of it’s depiction of social hierarchy and the lengths to which those of us closer to the bottom will go to claw our way to the top once we’ve had a taste of that life. At some point we reach a line that we must decide if we’ll cross and continue that climb, knowing that we will fundamentally be a different person from the moment of that crossing. Architectural practice is similar.

Each new client comes with their own Great Expectations for their project. That is, they come to the relationship with a predetermined set of goals and perceptions about how things will work and what their end product will be. Those expectations will typically center around getting more than what they are actually paying for and expecting you, the architect, to deliver it for them.

This is where 9 out of every 10 potential clients that contact me lose interest and move on to someone else. I have learned, through hard experience (another blog post coming on that subject soon), that the first and best thing you can do for a potential client is to give them an open and honest reality check about their project, their budget and their Great Expectations. You will not do yourself or your client any favors by telling them what they want to hear in order to get their signature on a contract. And this is the line you can not cross. Once you do, your practice will fundamentally change and you’ll never truly succeed.

Most clients, especially residential ones, learn about architects from the movies and the shiny pages of high end design magazines. They see us as magicians who make amazing things happen with no money and everything happens smoothly and without difficulty. Dashing that particular fantasy right off the bat will save you many sleepless nights. Believe me.

Your client needs to know right up front, before you even think about drawing up a contract, that you are not a magician, you are not a miracle worker and you are not the Messiah of building and construction (though, admit it, you tell yourself that all the time). You are an Architect. You are the first piece of the puzzle that is their new home. You are their advocate and most importantly you are their bullshit detector.

Your client needs to know that you will call them out when they come to you with an unreasonable request that will destroy their budget, their timeline, their overall design goals, whatever it is. You can not be their friend, you have to be their voice of reason, which no one wants to be. You won’t be entirely popular during the process, but when the job is done and you hand them their house keys, you’ll be the star of the show because they’ll finally see that all of those unpopular decisions you had them make helped steer their Great Expectations into reality.

champagne wishes and caviar dreams

“Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” – loved this show!

Robert Swinburne, someone who I like to think is one of “those architects” doing the kind of work I am clawing my way towards with ever ounce of strength in my being – simple, honest and quality work – in a recent blog post about the length of time spent on design, concluded with this statement that struck a huge cord with me:

“…the majority of my clients came to me because they had limited budgets and lofty goals and needed someone to help them through the decision making process to get the best possible end result given the limited amount of money available.”

This statement is so amazingly powerful in it’s simplicity and offers a paramount reason to hire a architect to help create your project – whether that project is a marvel of modern design ready to grace the cover of every design magazine on the planet or a modest kitchen/bath remodel that will never be seen by anyone outside the client’s own family, the client will always have much loftier goals than their wallet can handle. By putting some of your budget towards hiring a qualified designer, someone who will search tirelessly to create a finished product as close to those goals as possible while keeping your wallet intact, is money more than well spent. It’s much like shopping around for a new car. You don’t just head out to the nearest car lot, wave your hand around and say “eeny, meeny, miny, moe”, nor do you choose one based on color, tire size or the availability of heated seats (though, lets be honest, a toasty rump is quite nice). You choose a new car, which is a substantial investment of money, based on performance, value, longevity, and most importantly based on the opinions and reviews of experts who specialize in the ins and outs of the automobile industry.

Remodeling your bathroom, or renovating your master suite, or adding a new kitchen or guest house is no different. You want quality, efficiency, longevity and a reasonable return on investment for your money. Joe Blow contractor from the Yellow Pages….probably not the guy you want to talk to first. Don’t get me wrong, I have known a number of incredibly talented contractors and carpenters. But design is still not going to be the strongest item in their wheelhouse. Architects and designers on the other hand are the industry professionals who specialize in the ins and outs of the design and building industry that you want to consult with before investing in your existing and/or new home. It will save you time, heartache, money and time. Did I mention time and money will be saved? Not to mention the headaches you won’t suffer by having a architect on the job site making sure everything is going according to your plan.

From top to bottom the level of service and attention your project will get by an architect from design through to construction is going to be worth far more than the monetary investment that is our fee. Don’t believe me? Ask around. Ask an architect. As their clients. Ask me. 🙂

 

 

 

U of Florida Midterm Crit: 4th Year Architecture

I spent March 2nd on the fourth floor of the historic Dyal Upchurch building in Downtown Jacksonville listening to the presentations of 4th year architecture students on their design solutions for one of three urban infill sites along Main Street in the historic Springfield neighborhood. I love participating in these events as an architect and designer not just because of a desire to engage with the upcoming generation of architects, but mostly because it’s a perfect excuse to sit in a room with other design obsessed students and professionals talking about design and architecture for 5 hours. Winning!

We all know that, as professionals, it’s easy to get caught up in the humdrum of daily architect-er-ing and lose some of that fervor we had in studio. I encourage all of you, if you’re not already, to get involved with your local universities and offer to either sit in on or even teach design courses. Not only do you get to pour into a whole new generation of architects, but it just might be what you need to rekindle your own inner designer.

Here are some images of the presentations taken with my iPhone. Keep in mind this was the midterm crit, so there is a fair level of resolution to most of the projects, but also a good way to go. Hopefully we helped to steer most of them in the right direction. I’m looking forward to the final crit in Gainesville in April like a starving man waiting for a steak at Longhorn. :-\ Enjoy.

This project is interesting. The student is using a folded skin that wraps the building and is bent or folded in places to create openings to let in natural light. You can also see in the courtyard rendering above that he’s even taken the skin all the way to the ground and incorporated table seating as part of the building facade. Nice touch, no?

This project has one of the most successfully designed outdoor spaces. Taking full advantage of the corner site, this student created an outdoor public space that is fully integrated with the building itself rather than being separate or an “afterthought”. One of my favorites.

Anyone who knows me knows that I get all giddy when I see physical models. In my mind any student that brings in study models, no matter how crude or rudimentary, gets a big ole gold star in my book. Surprisingly I was not only the first, but the only, one on the jury to pick up the models, look at them, turn them around and get “into” the buildings. One of the things we’ve lost as a profession, in my opinion, is the tactile connection to our buildings. The computer has anesthetized us against our buildings with flashy and colorful renderings. Design is so much more fluid and real when you use your hands to create form and use those forms to study light in the real world, even at a small scale.

Overall this crit was a huge success. As fourth year students, this group is getting ready to graduate and move on to graduate studies. This will be a more critical time in which they continue to develop and refine their own personal design philosophies. I’m excited to see what this group has to offer in the future.

And again, if you’re not already involved with a local university architecture program, get up and get involved. You’ll thank me. I promise. These kids are the future of our profession. Pour into them anything you can. We’ll all be better off in the long run.

Le’go my Legos

competition logo

I’m a complete sucker for anything involving architecture, design, building and kids. Let’s just get that out there straight away. Sucker = me. 😉 So when the director of my local AIA Chapter sent me an email asking if I would sit in as a judge for this year’s Lego Competition at the Museum of Science and History (MOSH), I said “pssh, well YEAH!” And this passed Saturday I did just that. I went down to MOSH and along with two of my close Architect friends we judged the Lego Competition with ages ranging from Kindergarten to 5th grade (I believe).

And let me tell you, I am so glad that I did! These kids are just amazing. They were allowed as many Legos as they could cart in (more than a few took complete advantage of this). They could build whatever they wanted as long as it fit on the 15×20 board supplied to them (+/- 1/2″). They were not allowed to use instructions or prepared plans and could not receive help from parents or anyone else not listed as a member of their team.

Below are some shots of the entries that was able to take with my iPhone and a little help from Instagram. As architects it is vital that we are not just providers of architectural services, but also active and engaged participants in our communities as advocates for the Arts and Sciences. After all, one of these kids could be your employee in 15 years. Better to inspect the field of candidates early. 😉

Tsunami wave destroying city

Re-enactment of the fall of Troy - Trojan Horse

German Christmas - kind of a modern Bauhaus design, no?

Rock Concert

Jax Airport

There you have it. A small sampling of the genius that Jacksonville children have to offer. I’m impressed. You should be too! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Competitions – a worrisome trend

I’ve talked about Freelancer websites before and how I find a fair few side jobs this way. But lately I’ve noticed a trend picking up steam that is very disturbing. I recently saw this job post on a popular freelancer website (I won’t name them). As someone who may or may not enter a design competition, how does this make you feel? And what, if anything, should be done about it?

“I am entering a Skyscraper contest on the Evolo website and am looking for someone who can take the plans that I have designed on paper and make them into digital format as described in the Evolo Competition requirements. You can log in to the website and view the rules on submitting the design and view other skyscrapers to see there are 2 boards to zoom in on the work. Please read Competition requirements and to see if you are able to do this type of work. Please let me know other work you have done to look at. Thankyou”

Keep in mind, the person posting this project is offering to pay a fee for the modeling and rendering services, essentially hiring an employee. This is not the first post I’ve seen like this in recent weeks either. What are your thoughts? Is this cheating or just prudent planning and delegation?