In a recent article in the New York Times, writer Allison Arieff poses the echoed question that the architectural community keeps asking itself, "Where are all the female architects?" No longer an issue of uneven gender ratios in architectural schooling, the persistence of dwindling numbers of women principals at the top of firms simply does not resonate. She postulates, that perhaps more significant than the statistics, the real problem lies in the definition of success.
Economics and technology affect every profession. But since World War II perhaps no profession has experienced more technological change than architecture. These shifts occurred, paradoxically, within a well-established professional model of personal development: The guild structure of learning in the academy, then becoming professional via internship leading to licensure, has been the structure of practice for almost two centuries.
Once upon a time manual drafting with graphite or ink was applied by white males, and a single sheet master was reproduced with typed specifications added, and buildings were constructed.
Sergey Skuratov, founder of Sergey Skuratov Architects, an award-winning Russian practice (2008 Architect of the Year), is known for his sleek and well-composed portfolio. Projects such as Copper House, Art House, and House on Mosfilmovskaya Street demonstrate his sensitivity to materiality and ability to retain his vision from concept to reality. Over the last two decades Skuratov has succeeded in producing a whole strata of world-class architecture in Moscow, far more than any other local practitioner. His projects, predominantly residential and office complexes, have remained attractive and versatile without ever veering into conservatism.
The first few times I received negative feedback I was surprised about how I felt. I could feel my body getting tight, my temperature rising and a feeling of tension. For a brief moment, I felt as if the air had left my body and could feel myself getting defensive.
You did it! You finished those grueling years of architecture school, perfected your portfolio and your interview pitch, and you landed your first job with an architecture firm. Everyone told you that working in a firm would be lightyears different from what you were used to doing in school, but until you get out there yourself, there is really no way to know just what that might entail. Once you’ve tackled life’s bigger questions about surviving outside of architecture school, you still have to learn to function in a day-to-day job. The learning curve is steep and it can certainly be overwhelming, but you’ve made it this far and there are a few lessons and skills you are sure to gain quickly as you start your career.
Architects from all nations are trained to develop their expertise in these issues and have demonstrated a high professional level, making important contributions in research projects, winning competitions or taking leadership roles in the most relevant architecture firms.
: staying beautiful or fashionable as time passes : lasting forever : having no beginning or end, eternal. : not affectetd by time : referring or restricted to no particular time : untimely, ill-timed : without time
Join ASF-UK for a one day symposium to explore how built environment practitioners can respond to emerging global challenges in cities. With highly interactive sessions throughout the day, we will test and discuss different skills, approaches and knowledge that can ‘challenge practice’ in order to design in uncertain global times. The day will be a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of working in this sector, to network with others in this field and a chance to discover ways in which to engage with ASF-UK. The event will end with a reflection by practitioners involved in innovative forms of practice in the UK and around the world.
This year marks Smartgeometry’s tenth anniversary. For architects it’s been a decade of breathless innovation and listless stagnation. In this article we look back at the success of SmartGeometry and ask why the building industry isn’t keeping up.
The original instigators of Smartgeometry – Lars Hesselgren, J Parrish, and Hugh Whitehead – worked together at YRM (now part of RMJM) in the late 1980s. Together they helped shepherd parametric modeling and associative geometry into the field of architecture, and witnessed how early-stage three-dimensional structural analysis and late-stage clash detection might change practice. Yet in 2003 they found themselves disillusioned and asking, “Why is it that ten years have passed, and we still cannot even get close to the kind of capability that we had then?” . In other words, why is the building industry failing to keep up, or worse, falling behind. It was a question that would inspire the first Smartgeometry conference, and it is a question that still lingers a decade later.
By David Fano and Steve Sanderson, edited by Julie Quon
A well-known and often cited truism of architecture notes that forty (as in years) is considered young for an architect and most don’t start hitting their stride until they’re seventy. This may partially explain why well-known architects seem to live forever… they’re simply too busy to die.What is often omitted from this narrative is how the architects spent the first twenty (or so) years of their careers as freshly minted graduates prior to being recognized by their peers in the profession as “making it”.
If you approach any architect about their early-career experience in the profession you will get slightly different versions of the same story. They are all, in essence, about paying your dues.
Taking a low-paying position for an A or B-list architect, where the compensation for long hours is the privilege of anonymous design on important projects, and in return a few hours are spent outside of the studio (usually with a group of similarly indebted classmates) on open design competitions that pay trifle stipends.
Taking a low-paying adjunct teaching position, ideally in a design studio, where compensation for long hours is the privilege of working on your design interests with students in order to become a part of the elite tastemakers and to one day be shortlisted for an exclusive cultural competition.
Taking a slightly better paying position with a corporate firm and spending your hours outside of work designing kitchens and bathrooms for wealthy friends and family with hopes that their social reach is broad enough to lead to additional commissions that will one day be substantial enough to make a living.
Taking a slightly better paying position with a corporate firm and slogging through the incredibly tedious intern development and professional registration process in order to move up the corporate hierarchy. The goal is to eventually become a principal or partner with an established firm or even break off on your own with some of the established firm’s clients.
In each of these scenarios, the only path to a significant commission is to spend the few hours outside of these paying jobs in the pursuit of establishing credibility and reputation through exposure in architectural publications. In any case, it seems that around the age of forty is when all of this hard work finally begins to pay off with consistent commissions. For the vast majority that never succeed by following these models, there is usually a ‘pivot’ (in startup terms, a change in approach) that leads to a stable corporate position, a full-time teaching post, or an exit from the profession altogether (we did the latter, see Fed’s post). The difficulty of ‘being’ an architect is branded about in schools (oftentimes by people with little to no actual experience in the field) as a source of pride, a perverse hazing ritual intended to weed out all but the most dedicated adherents to the ideals of architecture as a pure form of expression, a rationale which further reinforces architecture as an intellectual pursuit for the privileged (that topic is for another post).
Last week I had the pleasure of presenting our work on the construction of the Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame by Trahan Architects at the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) BIM Forum in Chicago. The event is meant to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption of building information modeling (BIM) in the AEC industry lead by example and synchronize with counterparts in all sectors of the industry to jointly develop best practice for virtual design and construction (VDC).” I also got a copy of Chuck Eastman’s new edition of his BIM Handbook which served as entertainment during the trip and which I’ll refer to later in this post.
It was my first time at the forum. Here is what I learned about the adoption of BIM by the industry and how it is understood.
Have you ever had the experience of sitting through a graphics standards committee meeting? It’s where happy and ambitious thoughts go to die. What starts as a good cause for your firm quickly devolves into very long and highly subjective arguments about things such as title blocks, line weights, line styles, fonts, font sizes, tags, symbols, and of course… naming conventions!
I’m not in any way trying to devalue documentation standards or the importance of title blocks. What I am saying is: We spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, architects held about 141,200 jobs in 2008 (source). Hypothetically, if each architect in the U.S. spends 30 minutes a year on average working on standards, as a profession we spend 70,600 hours on standards every year. Just for reference there are 2,080 hours per year in a standard full-time work week (52 weeks x 40 hours). That’s like a firm of 34 full time architects working on nothing but standards every year.
This is the first in Practice 2.0, a regular series of posts guest authored by our friends at CASE (@case_inc), focusing on technology and innovation in the building industry. While we all share tremendous enthusiasm for the opportunities afforded by technology, my particular interests are on gaining better, more timely access to information and improving building performance through informed decision making. Given the proximity to Earth Day (better late than never), I’m going to start things off with a related post. You can expect future posts to focus on building simulation and evidence-based design, with an emphasis on energy, validation and standards. You can also expect to hear a lot about Passive House.
Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of seeing Ed Mazria of Architecture 2030 speak at Cooper Union. For those that don’t know, Mazria and his organization have been instrumental in raising awareness of the enormous impact of buildings on climate change. His initiative, The 2030 Challenge, has been adopted (in varying degrees) by the most influential organizations on the built environment in the United States, including: the Federal Government, US Army, State of California, AIA and ASHRAE, among others. What does that mean? It means these organizations will require (or encourage) all new construction and major renovations to be carbon neutral by the year 2030.
Sounds good right? Frankly, it sounds awesome, but when you dig deeper into how this is received by the industry, you come away with a different perspective. As a building technology consulting firm, we interact with a diverse group of stakeholders from across the industry, representing all of the organizations noted above. In conversations with these individuals about the goals set out by The 2030 Challenge, you can basically group nearly everyone into one of two groups: The Blissfully Ignorant or The Fearfully Aware.