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.

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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.

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:

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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.

daily prompt – great expectations

Tell us about one thing (or more) that you promised yourself you’d accomplish by the end of the year. How would you feel once you do? What if you don’t?

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you know that the biggest goal of any year….and every year…is to finally open the doors of my own firm. This is no small task and is always complicated by the need to have steady income to pay the bills and take care of a family. And so I’ve been moonlighting on and off for the last 6 years. While I’ve had a fair number of projects over the last 6 years ranging from providing drafting work for a log home company to designing new homes and remodels all over the United States and more than a few countries, I haven’t been able to keep enough steady clients coming to justify leaping over the cliff into full time. So every year I make my resolutions and I put “run my own firm” right at the top. Last year that was replaced with “get licensed” but now that that particular nightmare is over with, and it’s time to refresh my list.

This year I am setting my goals more simply. Instead of the huge goal of “running my own firm”, I’ve decided to break that off into little chunks that are easier to chew. The first chunk was the license – DONE. The next chunk is rebuilding my media presence and filing the paperwork with my state – this week’s task. Once that is done it’s time to file paperwork for my Arkansas state license – next week’s task. Once that is done it’s time to start the marketing machine. I’ll shine my shoes, put on my best bow tie and hit the town pounding the pavement until I get those first projects that will pay the rent.

This is the one thing, the one goal, that I’ve always had; even at the beginning of my first internship more than 10 years ago. I never wanted to be just an intern, or just an associate, or just a project architect. I’ve positioned myself in firms over the last 10 years that would provide me the tools and knowledge I needed to run a firm successfully. I’ve learned many lessons on my own as well. The list of “don’ts” is far longer than the list of “do’s”, let me tell you. And now it’s time.

How will I feel once I finally step off the cliff and begin running my own practice? Elated, ecstatic, empowered, intoxicated….pick your description for immense joy and terror all rolled into one. But it’s worth it. It’s worth it because I’ve spent my entire life preparing, learning and now it’s time to take a step.

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.

3 down, 4 to go

I checked online today and BOOM, I passed Schematic Design. 3 down and 4 more tests to go. Lets do this!!

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Daily Prompt: Art Appreciation

Do you need to agree with an artist’s lifestyle or politics to appreciate their art? To spend money on it?

In college I had a professor who told us constantly that we were not allowed to “hate” architecture. We could discuss any design faults, including and not limited to color, views, form, construction details, lack of construction details, human scale, etc. We were even encouraged to find these things to discuss and even took a couple of walks around Savannah during class to view and discuss some of the larger buildings.

Drayton Tower, Savannah, GA

Drayton Tower, Savannah, GA

One in particular was Drayton Tower. It’s awful. I never liked that building. Still don’t. It’s a typical mid-century modern tower with some retail on the ground floor, a few offices, I think, and apartments the rest of the way up. It’s a rectangular tower that faces the cardinal directions with one long facade facing due south. It’s all glass. O_o

To describe this as a fundamental design flaw would just be a waste of time. Over the years they tried to combat the fact that they essentially built a huge glass oven by installing tinting on the windows. It’s green. And has faded to different colors over the years and been replaced, etc. So you get a patchwork effect. Then the tinting didn’t really work as well as hoped so they installed large blinds and then beefed up the hvac system…typical stuff. It’s still Savannah….in summer….in a big glass oven.

BUT all of that to say, it’s significance as a piece of architecture for the city is incredibly important. It was the first multi-story building of modern design in a very historic city. It was also the first high rise to be built in the city with central heat and air thank God. And, for better or worse, it has become a part of the urban fabric of the city. It’s iconic for all its failures and successes and should be appreciated for both.

Architecture, like Art, is so often in the eye of the beholder. Some architecture, like art, speaks to us in a profound and visceral way while others we pass by every day without a second thought. Architecture, like Art, is not necessarily good or bad. It’s personal. It’s up to you the beholder, the user, the client, to determine how architecture makes you feel and respond accordingly. Just don’t say you hate it. That’s a useless emotional response that has no hope of creating a conversation.