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Lance Hosey

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Why Equal Representation for Women in Architecture is Better for Everyone

12:30 - 8 March, 2019
Why Equal Representation for Women in Architecture is Better for Everyone

This article is an updated version of its original post on March 15th, 2016.
"In the ongoing debate about women in the architecture profession, you rarely hear an argument for why equal representation is important; it's generally assumed to be an unquestionable moral imperative. However, in this article originally published on the Huffington Post as "Why Women's Leadership Is Essential for Architects," Lance Hosey argues that, regardless of your position on equality as a moral imperative, better representation of women in architecture could benefit everyone in the profession—in very tangible ways.

Today, on International Women's Day (March 8) we want to share again the American Institute of Architects (AIA) publication "Diversity in the Profession of Architecture," its first diversity report in a decade. The release follows the creation in December 2015 of the AIA's "Equity in Architecture Commission," a panel of twenty architects, educators, and diversity experts to investigate diversity and inclusion in the profession. The new report documents a survey of over 7,300 professional architects and students, including men and women, 79% of them whites and 21% people of color.

Good Design Does Have Economic Value—No Matter What Critics of Contemporary Architecture Say

09:30 - 12 December, 2017
Good Design Does Have Economic Value—No Matter What Critics of Contemporary Architecture Say, Yale University Sculpture Building / Kieran Timberlake. Image © Peter Aaron/Esto
Yale University Sculpture Building / Kieran Timberlake. Image © Peter Aaron/Esto

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "What Critics of Contemporary Architecture Are Missing: The Value of Design."

“The reason that highly designed contemporary architecture almost exclusively manifests in iconic structures is that it’s the only way that investing in design and aesthetic quality can turn a profit.” This is the central assertion of “The Politics of Architecture Are Not a Matter of Taste,” published in Common Edge a couple of weeks ago (and republished as “Hate Contemporary Architecture? Blame Economics, Not Architects” on ArchDaily). Marianela D’Aprile’s impassioned essay takes issue with a Current Affairs piece from October, “Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture,” in which the authors, staff writers Brianna Rennix and Nathan J. Robinson, hate on the current state of the design industry.

Both articles confuse me. “Good buildings recede seamlessly into their surroundings,” Rennix and Robinson claim, but the buildings they praise—figural structures such as London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Moorish palace of The Alhambra—stand out prominently. D’Aprile criticizes the authors’ imprecise use of terminology, but, as the opening passage above shows, her own language can be vague, relying on words such as iconic, ubiquitous shorthand among architects. (If it’s intended to convey “distinctive,” the irony is that most buildings described with that term have a similar sculptural character, so in our mind’s eye they all sort of blend together—the opposite of distinction.) She defines architecture as “buildings that have been designed for construction in the physical world.” Aren’t all buildings constructed “in the physical world”? And are all unrealized designs necessarily relegated to something other than architecture?

How the NMAAHC Became the Greenest Museum in Washington DC

09:30 - 20 January, 2017
How the NMAAHC Became the Greenest Museum in Washington DC, National Museum of African American History and Culture, west facade. Image © Darren Bradley
National Museum of African American History and Culture, west facade. Image © Darren Bradley

This article, originally titled "DC’s Museum Of African American History Is The City’s Greenest," was originally published on Lance Hosey's Huffington Post blog. It is part of a four-part series about the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Fifteen years ago, when I worked on the design of a high-performance museum, the concept was considered so unusual that the media questioned the very idea. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) had only very recently introduced its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, so much of the public wasn’t familiar with the concept. Over the following decade, it became more and more popular in every building type, including museums. A watershed year was 2008. The Water + Life Museums in Hemet, CA, became the first LEED Platinum museum, quickly followed by the California Academy of Science, which has been called “the world’s greenest museum.” The same year, the Grand Rapids Art Museum became the first LEED-certified art museum. By 2016, International Museum Day could highlight ten LEED-certified museums in the US alone.

Now the Smithsonian has completed its first LEED Gold project, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). (The Silver-rated National Museum of the American Indian [NMAI] was the first Smithsonian project to become a certified green building, although it wasn’t designed to this standard and didn’t achieve it until seven years after opening in 2004.) By many measures, the NMAAHC is easily the greenest museum in Washington.

How the NMAAHC Carves Out a "Space of Resistance" on the National Mall

09:30 - 4 January, 2017
How the NMAAHC Carves Out a "Space of Resistance" on the National Mall, © Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC
© Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC

This article, originally titled "The Space of Resistance," was originally published on Lance Hosey's Huffington Post blog. It is part of a four-part series about the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The city can be a powerful form of political myth, and Washington, DC, is the premier example.

Political myths dramatize historical events for ideological purposes, in order to strengthen the authority of the status quo. For example, America’s Founding Fathers often are portrayed as motivated only by a virtuous desire for universal freedom and equality, a simplistic depiction that ignores the complex socioeconomic forces behind the Revolution. The National Mall, its buildings, and its monuments, are America’s foundation myth writ large in stone and space. Manfredo Tafuri called the image of the District of Columbia “a timeless, indisputable, completely ‘positive’ Olympus” whose creation “presupposed great optimism and was thoroughly opposed to any polemical doubt.”

In this sense, the city as political myth is ripe for protest, and the National Mall has been the site of many of the most important protests in American history. Most often, these events consist only of people gathering for demonstration. Sometimes, however, they involve building.

Why Leaders in Altruistic Architecture Need to Drop the Ego

09:30 - 20 July, 2016
Why Leaders in Altruistic Architecture Need to Drop the Ego, Collège Mixte Le Bon Berger in Haiti, designed by Architecture for Humanity. Image Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity
Collège Mixte Le Bon Berger in Haiti, designed by Architecture for Humanity. Image Courtesy of Architecture for Humanity

Update: Since this article was originally published, the trustee in the bankruptcy proceedings of Architecture for Humanity has dismissed Kate Stohr (in January 2017) and three members of the board of directors (Niama Jacobs, Taylor Milsal, and Cliff Curry in August 2016) from the suit mentioned below.

This article was originally published on Lance Hosey's Huffington Post blog as "A Darker Shade of Green."

Last week, Architectural Record reported that Architecture for Humanity (AFH), the nonprofit founded in 1999 to address humanitarian crises through building, is being sued for mismanagement of funds. On June 10th, a court-appointed trustee filed a complaint alleging that the co-founders, Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr, and the ten-person board of directors acted with gross negligence by shirking their fiduciary duties from 2012 through 2014. The specific charges relate to misusing charitable donations earmarked for specific purposes. This is the latest in a string controversies, beginning with the co-founders departing in 2013 and the organization declaring bankruptcy last year.

Why Architecture Isn't Art (And Shouldn't Be)

10:30 - 8 March, 2016
Why Architecture Isn't Art (And Shouldn't Be), Biomuseo in Panama by Frank Gehry. Image © Fernando Alda 
Biomuseo in Panama by Frank Gehry. Image © Fernando Alda 

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about what architecture's ultimate purpose might be - with answers ranging from the creation of form to the correction of societal ills. But according to Lance Hosey, perhaps the least useful definition currently in circulation is that architecture is "art." In this article, originally posted to his blog on the Huffington Post, Hosey argues that the concept of architecture as a form of art is not only misleading to the public, but also potentially damaging to society.

In July, I wrote that when architects use the bodies of specific women such as Marilyn Monroe or Beyoncé as "inspiration" for buildings, they objectify both women and architecture. Many readers didn't like this: "Anyone complaining about where an artist gets thier [sic] inspiration dosn't [sic] understand what an artist or art is," protested one. "What's wrong with using the female form for artistic inspiration?" asked another; "I can think of nothing more beautiful." And another: "Music, Structures, Paintings, anything artistic is not degrading. It's beauty."

The message: Architecture is art, and where artists get their inspiration isn't up for debate, since it's personal to the artist.

When It Comes to Sustainable Design, Architects Still Don't Get It

09:30 - 29 February, 2016
When It Comes to Sustainable Design, Architects Still Don't Get It, Perkins + Will's Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, which won the RAIC's Green Building Award last year. Image © Martin Tessler
Perkins + Will's Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, which won the RAIC's Green Building Award last year. Image © Martin Tessler

In the face of global doomsday predictions, sustainability has become one of the most crucial aspects of the 21st century, now playing a huge role in everything from politics to the way you dispose of your trash. Fortunately, most architects understand sustainability implicitly, and have adopted it into their lives and work. Or have they? In this article, originally published on Common Edge as "Why Architects Don't Get It," green building expert Lance Hosey highlights the failures of the architecture community in reaching their stated sustainability goals, and argues for a new conception of architecture in which good design and sustainable design are integrated.

A few years ago, the American Institute of Architects, the self-declared “voice of the architecture profession,” announced that "AIA members will no longer need to complete the sustainable design requirement to fulfill their AIA continuing education." Why? Because “sustainable design practices have become a mainstream design intention.” Hooray! If sustainability is “mainstream” now, and knowledge about it is no longer necessary “to maintain competency” and “to advance and improve the profession”—the purpose of continuing education, according to the AIA—then the profession must have met its environmental goals, and there’s nothing left to improve. Mission accomplished.

If only.

The Green Building Wars

01:00 - 17 September, 2014
The Green Building Wars, The Clinton Presidential Center by Polshek Partnership and Hargreaves Associates received a rating of Two Green Globes from the GBI. But would LEED have rated it the same?. Image © Timothy Hursley
The Clinton Presidential Center by Polshek Partnership and Hargreaves Associates received a rating of Two Green Globes from the GBI. But would LEED have rated it the same?. Image © Timothy Hursley

Originally published by Metropolis Magazine, this comprehensive analysis by sustainability expert Lance Hosey examines the current disputes within the green building industry, where market leader LEED currently finds competition from the Living Building Challenge, aiming for the "leading edge" of the market, and the Green Globes at the other end of the scale. Arguing for a more holistic understanding of what makes materials sustainable, Hosey examines the role that materials, and material industries such as the timber and chemical industries, can have in directing the aims and principles of these three sustainability rating systems - for better or for worse.

The Fountainhead: Everything That's Wrong with Architecture

01:00 - 14 November, 2013
The Fountainhead: Everything That's Wrong with Architecture, Gary Cooper as Howard Roark in a film adaptation of The Fountainhead. Via Courtesy King Vidor, The Fountainhead (Warner Brothers, 1949).. Image Courtesy of Metropolis Magazine
Gary Cooper as Howard Roark in a film adaptation of The Fountainhead. Via Courtesy King Vidor, The Fountainhead (Warner Brothers, 1949).. Image Courtesy of Metropolis Magazine

Howard Roark, the fictional architect envisioned by Ayn Rand in The Fountainhead, has possibly done more for the profession in the past century than any real architect at all - inspiring hundreds to enter architecture and greatly shaping the public's perception. And, according to Lance Hosey, Chief Sustainability Officer at RTKL, that couldn't be more damaging. In his recent article "The Fountainhead All Over Again," for Metropolis Magazine, he details why it's such a problem, going so far as to accuse Ayn Rand's dictatorial protagonist of committing architectural terrorism.

It came out in 1943, exactly 70 years ago this summer. In the movie version a few years later, Gary Cooper played Howard Roark, the character famously modeled after Frank Lloyd Wright. Since then, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, her “hymn in praise of the individual” (New York Times), has made legions of young people want to become architects. The late Lebbeus Woods wrote that the story “has had an immense impact on the public perception of architects and architecture, and also on architects themselves, for better and for worse.” I’d say worse. In fact, the Fountainhead remains the perfect representation of everything that’s wrong with the profession.

Why Architects Must Lead on Sustainable Design

00:00 - 1 April, 2013
Why Architects Must Lead on Sustainable Design, Knox Innovation Opportunity and Sustainability Centre / Woods Bagot. Image © Peter Bennetts
Knox Innovation Opportunity and Sustainability Centre / Woods Bagot. Image © Peter Bennetts

This article, which originally appeared on GreenBiz, is by Lance Hosey, the chief sustainability officer of the global design leader RTKL.

Sustainability leader Hunter Lovins once called the building industry "dynamically conservative — it works hard to stay in the same place."

But old habits cannot fully address new challenges. According to 350.org, fossil fuel corporations currently have in their reserves five times the amount of carbon that, if burned too quickly, may raise atmospheric temperatures to a catastrophic level where Hurricane Sandy-scale storms could become the norm. Quicker, deeper progress is imperative.

Architecture is an essential arena for sustainable innovation. Buildings represent about half the annual energy and emissions in the U.S. and three-quarters of its electricity. With the built environment growing — the U.S. building stock increases by about 3 billion square feet every year — architects have a historic opportunity to transform its impact for the better.

Keep reading to find out the 6 Steps architects can take to transform the profession, after the break...