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Long education, long internship, long hours, low pay, no jobs... Why do architects do it?
by Katy Purviance on 12/18/10 @ 06:56:59 pm
Categories: Architects | 30981 words | 9465 views

I’ve been following this interesting thread in the LinkedIn group ARCHITECT about WHY we do what we do when there are so many factors against us. It has been a fascinating look into the profession, and I invite you all to take a look and take part.

It all started when Albert Bendersky reposted the following blog post to the group….

This time for a change I am not going to be deeply analytical. I am not going to produce answers or to research dilemmas. I’ll be naïve and trivial. And I will ask you questions. 3 simple questions…

1. Why we are everything… and yet we are nothing?
Architects are truly Renaissance people. Perhaps the last profession on Earth requiring from you to know everything, to do everything, to be in charge of everything. Strangely no one is aware of that. Public has no idea of what architects are doing. Public thinks that architects are cute guys who are drawing some pictures, are doing quick drafting & then are going to the glitzy ceremonies to collect awards for being creative and cool. But for us, the industry insiders who know how architectural profession works this is such a nonsense.

Architects are responsible for the entire project from the first “napkin sketch” till the last detail on the construction site. As I sarcastically pointed out in my ”Top10 misconceptions…” – doing creative sketches and building models is not what our profession is all about.

We, architects, are the single authority managing the entire project.

We are responsible for making sure that all technical systems (mechanical, electrical, structural and at least a dozen of others) are intact and are perfectly coordinated with the general concept.

We are responsible for getting all of the administrative issues resolved: it includes municipal approvals, private agreements, urban design synchronization and at least a dozen of other clerical issues.

We are in charge of at least a dozen of ecological standards. (I’ll stop to mention “dozens” but be sure it applies to the following as well).

We are resolving the transportation and parking problems. We have to determine that safety standards, building codes, fire norms are properly applied. We are making sure that social issues are not forgotten and that handicapped access routes, children playgrounds, senior citizens areas are set up properly. And of course we are the creators of the project’s financial success (see my next question, please). And sure, as hell, we do produce those creative sketches, 3d models, but also… thousands of the working drawing sheets which are so conveniently not mentioned in the Hollywood flicks about sexy architects. This is just a small part of what we know and what we do. Every fucking day.

So why the public has never heard of that? Why people think that all these issues are somehow magically resolved by themselves? Every little project is a huge combination of the utterly complex matters. Those matters are perfectly managed & flawlessly resolved by the Architect. We are the only ones who are doing that. Not the engineers, not the owners, not the agents, not the builders. It’s us. We never get a credit for this.

Why we are everything… and yet we are nothing?

2. Why we make them wealthy… and yet we remain poor?
Behind every successful man is a smart woman. Everybody knows it. Today the situation, thanks God, has changed. Women are not “behind” us anymore. Well… at least “the situation” is much better than a hundred years ago. Women fought hard and they deserve every moment of their success. And trust me one day we are going to be behind them… You know what? We deserve it too.

Here comes my funny analogy. How come that no one knows that behind every rich developer is a smart architect? It might be funny but this is so true. We are the brain of the project. Forget about the numerous project issues I have listed above. The major topic for the client, for every client – is how to make the project financially profitable. Development is neither a charity nor a creative research. Development is a tough dirty business. Thus modern architect “must” always keep client’s financial interest as a top priority, before any technical aspect. The most interesting point: architect is not only coordinating main financial strategies with the other issues, in fact architect is the one who creates the very concept of “how-to-make-money” from the project. Developers have land and some starting capital (usually borrowed from the financial institutions) – architects invent the project. We are the force originating all those GFA, GSA, GLA (General Floor Area, General Saleable Area, General Leasable Area…) So later it can be marketed & successfully sold for the big bucks.

We must know not only how to create safe and pleasant project, but to make sure that everything we design sells well. Actually I am wrong it goes the opposite way. We must create projects that are highly saleable and also we need to remember about some safety and aesthetics…

All I am saying is that we are not “service providers”. We are not like a shirt cleaning shop or an ice-cream café. We are the ones who design the very concept of the product that makes our clients ultra rich. Do we get a single penny for this, besides our pathetically low professional fees? Tell me.

Why we make them wealthy… and yet we remain poor?

My third “why” is different. I planned to publish it here as well. But then I decided that it is not quite right. These first two questions are about our relationship with the outside world. And please understand, I am not bitching about how good we are and how they don’t appreciate us. Our industry must take a good look in the mirror and to think what are the reasons of my “why’s”. Nevertheless these are not strictly professional but rather general public issues. The third “why” is more “intimate”. Of course the public interest is always welcomed but we, architects by ourselves are the root of the problem in my third part of the “Why” trilogy. So I decided to separate it into the next essay…

And meanwhile maybe you can explain me what’s wrong with us being poor and nothing?

Albert received over 100 responses. I only wish we had had a panel discussion at the GSD as lively and thought-provoking.

John Cruet Jr., AIA • This is one of the most bitter, negative articles I’ve read in a while. And it was not an easy read due to grammatical clumsiness.

One advantage architects have over other professions is the ability to develop a portfolio that augment’s the architect’s worth. That, to a great extent, enables us to define our worth to the market out there.

Other than that, there are business obstacles like government, taxation, liability insurance premiums, and the fact that we do not operate in a true capitalist business environment that prevent us from enriching ourselves.

Albert Bendersky • Oh… this is what I call “bitching", John. Who prevents you from “operating in a true capitalist” manner?

Portfolio? Give me a break, do you know how many super-talented architects with amazing portfolio are out there? Do you think the portfolio “to a great extent” defines our worth to the market? You gotta be kidding me?
The only thing that defines our value to the market is our connections and (partially) the ability to sell yourself, just like whores. That’s it. Even the abbreviation you proudly display behind your name won’t help… Trust me.

That’s why we are poor and that’s why nobody knows how important we really are… (Forget about the grammar, this is not “bitter” or “negative” this is the reality John!)

John Cruet Jr., AIA • You talk worse smack than some of the most avid football fans out there, Albert.

So you really think that our portfolios, which display our buildings and our achievements, are worthless? And, because we sell ourselves, we are whores? What kind of world do you live in?

And read my posts more carefully, Albert. I did not say that I am prevented from operating in the current environment. And I’ll leave it up to you to properly interpret what i meant by “true capitalist environment.”

Get a job ;)

Pat Leitzen Fye • OK, boys, quite enough. Many of us have strong opinions about this business of architecture - it inspires strong opinions with its challenges and its (all too infrequent) rewards. But opinions are just that, and this forum should in fact lift architects (and those who support them) up, especially in these dark days of the profession. Yep, reality bites, but that doesn’t mean we humans should be baring our opinionated teeth on each other. Yeah, just call me Pollyanna.

Albert Bendersky • Very well said, Pat. Our worst enemy is not the “stupid public” which in accordance with my first “why” doesn’t appreciate our “omnipotence". And it’s not greedy developers not paying us enough as we make them rich (see why no. 2). Our worst enemy is us, by ourselves. Our pathetic professional world of individual envy, grudge (how poisonously Mr. Cruet was trying to insult me in both of his posts) and the perverse relationships within the industry itself… And this is going to be my “why” number three. Have a good day, colleague (Mr. Cruet might wish you to find a job as well in these “dark days of the profession". Don’t listen to him - I’d rather be a burger-flipper than such an “architect” as John…)

Ken Hess • Albert, I think Pat was talking about you - not John.

Pat Leitzen Fye • note the plural “boys” . . .

Albert Bendersky • Don’t overthink it, Ken.

It looks like I pissed off bunch of “oll’ white boyzzz…” thinking that they are the ruling class, thinking that they are the only ones who can ask questions, thinking that they are architects…. Good! That’s the purpose…

Here’s some news for you, boyzzz. it’s a 21st century… and hey, don’t think that current state of things will last forever, you’re not “too-big-to-fail", no one is ;)

(Take it easy, “oll’boyz". I remind you it’s an Internet, not your office where you play gods and your poor employees are afraid of your massive dark shadow, ok?)

P.S. Hey, for people like you I put that music-video at the end. So you can dance and relax a bit :)

John Cruet Jr., AIA • Albert, I like the suggestion you made about flipping burgers- should suit your pessimistic attitude just fine.

I don’t know what you expected coming on this board and trashing our profession. But not all of us are in the same predicament as you. We all manage to figure out a way to earn a living- in good times and not so good times. And since I’m older and obviously wiser than you, I suggest you get a life. ;)

Laura DeSantis Gagliano • I’ve found that many architects feel that they are above the discussions of money and profit. For me that concept was begun back in school where we were discouraged from asking about grades; the belief was that the project’s merit spoke for itself - if it was good, we’d be lauded for it. That concept continues into the profession. Unfortunately, architecture is also a business. We have fallen short on explaining to the public - the common person - what we really do, and what the value of it is. I don’t believe that anything the AIA is doing will help change this, the organization still seems to be enjoying the “ego” of architecture rather than promoting the business of it. Some states require an architect for any structure over 100 sf, others only require them for commercial structures. We as a profession need to take back our pride, stop backstabbing each other and join together to publicize and teach others what we really do.

Katy Purviance • Laura, I really appreciate your comment. Despite it’s length, schools do a poor job of preparing the rising generation of architects for the profession. I was disturbed by how little of the business side of this business is taught in school. I’m founding a school where students will learn not only how to actually build (another important thing not taught in school), but also how to set up and brand their business, including building business credit.

Charles Gierman • I agree with Albert.

Over time we have become a commodity. I see the complaint is about us being shoved behind the curtain. When a project has its opening, it’s about the developer, builder and interior designer. When awards are giving out for the design, it’s giving to the builder.

Portfolio’s do show the client’s our ability, but it is always about how cheep we will be. Builder’s and developer’s won’t recommended us for fear we will raised their prices, or our new founded work load will slow down their project’s.

After my 30 plus years it’s the same old story. Things have not changed. We are not making that much more on our fee’s, factoring in hardware, software, the size of construction documents, office space, etc.

I am not complaining about what we have done to ourselves. We have to see it as it is, and adapt.

Pat Leitzen Fye • I adore and am in awe of architects - you carry so much in your heads and hearts and put it all on paper and then make it real! I have long wondered why architects get so little respect and recognition,and even suffered through a period in which I thought it was just “us", the firm I work for. Over time I’ve come to realize that’s not the case, indeed all architects, save for starchitects, tend to be overlooked - ever have someone (quite often a builder) come into your office and say something like, “yeah, I just need the bloody stamp” . . . at my daughter’s Midwestern liberal arts university they recently completed a LEED certified campus center. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Named the street it’s on after the builder, did a many page full color spread on the building and the contractor in the university magazine and NOT ONE MENTION anywhere of who the architect was who made the whole LEED thing happen, who worked with all the players to make the building beautiful and functional and one in which the campus, and the city, can take pride. Geezlouize. . . when will architects get their collective professional act together?

Susan Pelczynski • Fortunately or unfortunately I think many architects have such passion for their work, they will give 150% for the art and love of it, and not what is paid for. This equates to more hours than clients wish to pay and perhaps a willingness to low bid themselves to get that “really special project” that will take huge amounts of time. Engineers, builders and others in related industries simply do not have this emotional love-they are in business to make a profit. And if you are not in business to make a profit-well…sometimes you are not in business for long. Passion is not wrong, but it explains why many do what they do for very little money. It has been this way for many years.

Jose R. Santinho, AIA, LEED AP • Albert Very interesting article, refreshing. Nice work

Albert Bendersky • Thank you all, good people for support and interesting thoughts… (I also got some support through the Facebook.)

@Charles Gierman

“I am not complaining about what we have done to ourselves. We have to see it as it is, and adapt. “

Charles, why to adapt? We are smart, energetic, our profession is not dying like some other fields, we are Renaissance people. Why to adapt? WHY NOT TO FIGHT? (…here I kinda revealed part of my third “WHY?")

P.S. There is a third way … to leave. To become a banker, a programmer, a salesperson (in these areas average income is way better than in architecture) But it would be like giving up, isn’t it?

John Cruet Jr., AIA • “Charles, why to adapt? We are smart, energetic, our profession is not dying like some other fields, we are Renaissance people. Why to adapt? WHY NOT TO FIGHT? (…here I kinda revealed part of my third “WHY?”

Why not make THIS the theme of your blog?
Also, why NOT adapt?

Albert Bendersky • I appreciate the suggestion, John. (I really do, no irony).
I will answer in one simple sentence. Why NOT to adapt?

BECAUSE WE DESERVE BETTER.

“We” means, us - architects: you (yes you), people on this board, people I describe in my blog… Regardless of our portfolios John, regardless of our English grammar knowledge (read this pls John & forgive me some errors http://bit.ly/9LOLGz ), regardless of the abbreviations behind our names, regardless of our nationality & political views…

P.S. I know that for you, a man with a perfect spelling I’m an immigrant who should flip burgers for sahibs, John. But let me assure you: A. It will never happen. B. I am on that list too, I deserve it no less than you, even if you think differently…

Justin Istenes, AIA, NCARB • Architects are “professional” service providers. Compare architects to other, more “financially” successful service providers like lawyers and doctors and what do you see as differences? All the three professions provide custom individual service. Every legal issue has it’s variations and doctors still see patients one at a time. Both professions are extremely organized with support staffs that keep the doctors and lawyers focused on work that is the most effective use of their time. Both professions have very strong lobbing organizations that work hard to protect the interests and the turf of their members.

Architects usually are terrible business people. We are not taught to be good business people and when we have the sense to hire a god business manager, we typically frustrate that person. We give away services and we undercut our competition to get work. We then get spread so thin that we can’t afford to have a support staff in place that allows us to use our time effectively. This leads to substandard service which then disappoints our clients. How often have you heard about how bad the previous architect was then when it comes time to talk about fee you hear how the previous architect was cheaper than you are and you need to adjust your number to be in line with the last guy.

This leads to building owners looking for other avenues to get their architectural services. Contractors, Construction Managers and even Engineers provide alternatives to Owners by providing the services that you note in your article and hiring an architect to handle the design of the building on a design-build basis and cutting our fees. Try going to a notary to handle your lawsuit or a pharmacist to get x-ray and cast your broken leg. While the AIA has done some good work on our behalf, they simply do not have the resources to fight for the legislation that would be really required for us to be compensated the way we should be for the vast knowledge and many services we provide. The resource that they need is money for lobbing and awareness campaigns. They do not have it because we do not have it to give based upon what we make.

I honestly believe that is we were able to transition to a fee system based upon billing for hours spent versus fixed or percentage based fees, we would be in better shape. Most Owners have no incentive to make us use our time effectively. This would allow us to be more efficient and responsive to the pressing needs of their projects and would enhance the quality of service provided. I believe that under this system, design fees would likely go down and architects profits would go up.

John Allsopp • Wow - the temperature is hot in here!

… but there is a whole lot of truth in what Albert has written (in the blog post). I am very interested to see what point no.3 becomes because it sounds like it might be in the ballpark of what I am most focused on - our responsibility to ourselves - and our education. Interestingly enough what Katy mentioned above hits the nail on the head - regarding our typical arch education. I went to a ‘renowned’ architecture school but there was no big push there to prepare you to be an ENTREPRENEUR nor how to put a building together. Ironically I learned both by working directly with the people who we have lost so much to - in-house with a developer and on a construction site. Those periods were measured in months but I learned WAY more than I did in my years of architectural ‘education’. Just as important I frequently saw architects ‘from the other side’ and believe me, many times it was not a pretty sight.

We have become our own worst enemies. Whatever the external problems, our internal issues as a profession are now our no.1 priority. We can and should command greater respect for what we do - but like much of the rest of society we have become over-obsessed with celebrity and so many of our architecture schools spit out a load of blob-makers and promote the kind of mentality of fake celebrity that you get with reality tv … so on day one they are useless, and in an economic environment like this they are scr3wed.

Bring on no.3 and let’s keep up the conversation.

Kevin Gould • Very interesting comments.

We all realize that’s it a “dog eat dog” environment out there but the same rules have, and always will apply. People do business with those who they like, know, and trust. The architectural business has changed and evolved much like the medical business. General MD’s have their limitations. That’s why there’s specialists in every part of the medical industry. It’s difficult to be all things to all people, so it’s very important to understand your strengths and weaknesses as a design professional. As a sales professional I work with architects on a frequent basis. The most successful firms have come to realize that they cannot be all things to all people. These firms rely heavily upon their vendor resources to bridge their gap, and have focused on certain niche areas where they can be profitable, efficient, and separate themselves from other design professionals in their market area. There’s very few profitable new construction projects in my market so we’ve had to identify those areas where we can maximize our talents and profitability. This takes a lot of patience, stamina, and commitment but it can be accomplished. It’s important to look at things for what they are, but most important to visualize things for what they can be. Good luck to all.

John Cruet Jr., AIA • I apprenticed for an architect in New York, who, somewhat disturbed by a project that kept coming back for revisions, declared “The nature of architecture is change.”

And I agree, Albert, we deserve better. That’s why adaptation is so important. So what happens if an architect does not adapt? Then the architect, as one example, assumes the position that he/she need not understand the environment he/she is designing for, and that he/she can take an approach that one design fits all sites or any environment. I personally view Brasilia as an example of architecture and planning that could care less about the environment.

Adaptation is a way of life. It is a necessary use of our minds to help our livelihoods.

John Cruet Jr., AIA • Justin:

I have read your comments and I am in fundamental disagreement with you.

For one thing, the competition among fees is a consequence of any profession, including ours. As businessmen, we will each just have to deal with it.

As far as support staff, too many companies become too reliant upon support staff to do the important work, while the business owner does whatever he does- usually some form of less than competent business. Go to a number of firms and the principal does not want to deal with computer-aided design, being content to thrust upon his support staff a bunch of sketches on onion skin and expecting that the person will understand how to translate that into a building design. It’s no wonder I keep hearing that computerization has not increased the productivity of some design firms.

Regarding billing on an hourly basis, this has been an option in our field for as long as I have been practicing. I don’t believe the transition you are suggesting is necessary.

Ar architects terrible business people? Some of us might be, but to label us all that is so shortsighted as to be downright wrong.

Albert Bendersky • Adaptation is a way of lies to survive. Evolution is the way of changes to live. Here’s why… (again why):

“Evolution is the CHANGE in the inherited traits… This change results from interactions between processes that introduce variation into a population… As a result, variants with particular traits become more, or less, common. The main source of variation is MUTATION, which introduces GENETIC changes” (Wikipedia)

“Adaptation is the evolutionary process whereby a population becomes better SUITED to its habitat. The term adaptation may also refer to a feature which is especially important for an organism’s SURVIVAL.” (Wikipedia)

You want to SURVIVE, John. I want to LIVE.
You want to become suited to your environment, I want genetic changes that will bring my profession to another evolutionary level. You want to sleep, I want to move. You are after money and comfort and titles, John, I am for the greater causes…

I know it sounds funny to people like you, but believe me, people like me exist. You might have spotted few of us on this forum. We talk about “funny” things: education, entrepreneurship, adoration…
When did you use expression “I adore” last time John?

P.S. Why guys like you, never say “sorry man, my bad - I’ll buy you a beer"? Why do they prefer to change the subject, to change their tone and immediately to follow the crowd? Do you think we don’t see your adaptations?

P.P.S. I served in the army, John. I’ve seen the real war. I knew there is a cruel enemy out there, behind the lines. Enemy who hates you, who wants to kill you… But then there were people from the enemy side who worked with us… You know they came at night, shared some information…Informally. Were “helping". But not “for free” so to speak. At times pretty important info in terms of the military strategy. But we never knew who are they really working for. We never trusted them, we were not afraid of them (we were afraid of our real enemy) but our despise towards the cheap informants, the moral disgust towards those worms, who were trying to adapt playing both sides was overwhelming. Do you understand me through my grammatical clumsiness? How would you like your burger? I bet you don’t like it with blood…

John Allsopp • John No.1, I have to say that I think that hourly billing is deader than a doornail. It was one of the first things that I realized when I was working for a developer. It was a sad sad sight to see this architect come in to pitch his services. We had just finished an intense rapid-fire conversation about how to make the project stack up financially, and the players involved … and it was all about who brought value, who did what. Then in walks the architect (who didn’t know I was an architect) and he doesn’t mention the world value once, but moves along as quickly as possible to his fees and what per hour and what not. It was like we were operating in different centuries. This guy, otherwise perfectly decent, just seemed pathetic in the context. i was shocked to my core.

Without a doubt we have to be more business minded, and yes many of us already are - but not nearly enough - particularly young architects. I’m really feeling Justin’s points.
For me ultimately lump sum is the way to go. We need to have internal models to allow us to pitch properly - so we can earn a living and also give the other side some cost certainty. Personally I use the RIBA plan of work in combination with PM software (inputting workload values based on my own experiences) - and it is way more accurate than I could have imagined.
Just a note - in all my years of working in arch offices NOT ONCE was I ever required to work with project management software.

It’s not just us but lawyers as well:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/8083785/The-financial-crisis-means-the-lawyers-billable-hour-has-had-its-day.html

This link is giving trouble for me at the moment but it was a great post by Su butcher last year:
http://www.justpractising.com/whatgoodarchitectsdo/architects-aren’t-paid-enough-because-1-they-don’t-make-enough-money/

Sean Catherall, AIA • What if our definition of “architect” broadened to include people with an architectural education and background who don’t design buildings but use that architectural mindset and sensibility to plan cities, to manage construction projects, to design furniture, to create films, to teach, to run non-profit organizations, to write, to lobby or to legislate? That is adaptation without giving up; it is having the better that we deserve.

As for architects not getting the praise for the work that we may deserve: Not all architects suffer from this, but some certainly do, depending on the quality of our PR. And some prefer to remain in the background if it also means we don’t get the blame for the problems associated with the work. Of course, some of us get all the blame and none of the praise.

As a group, I believe architects do receive more respect from the general public than other professions receive. However, that attitude seldom translates into deferential treatment for the architect’s invoices or his opinions on the jobsite.

John Allsopp • @Sean
There’s the likes of Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy) and Jaime Lerner (Curitiba) … and many more

…a little shameless plug

“New directions for young architects: ENTERTAINMENT”
http://blog.tropicalismo360.com/?p=607

“New directions for young architects: TECHNOLOGY”
http://blog.tropicalismo360.com/?p=548

Christopher Naumann; AIA, ALA, NCARB • If I can add to the discussion, I think it would be a lost opportunity to mention that one big reason traditional Architects haven’t gained ground is we are far too self-absorbed. We bleed Architecture at all costs, and have little time for family, friends, ties, or being true leaders in our communities or enage in an other industry beyond their own. Granted this is a large brush stroke, but a majority of traditional professionals are so wrapped up in their own worlds of survival, self-promotion, and “me-first” mentalities; or they are so engaged and obsessive about their work they rarely look at the big picture beyond their own professional circles.

To our credit, Architects volunteer often and many architects do provide services in kind for non-profits or charities. However, most Architects see service to their community as a requirement for professional status. Few see engagement in their communities as an opportunity to promote the value of the profession as a whole and engage in things not in their comfort zone. Most are using their charity time or volunteering to somehow build relationships for future client development for their own gain, and are losing tract of the importance to educate, promote and protect the profession in a broader way.

How many Architects really have taken their success to the next level for the betterment of the profession in broader sense? When “Starchitects” get their big break, how many use the opportunity to promote the profession? Many just publish a book or get a designer line of housewares or their own HGTV spot or secure tenure in academia for speaking engagements. How many of our upper level “professionals” are actually active in the broader economy or government. How many architects serve in congress?? How many Architects are actually out there doing things, rather than talking about the way things “should” be? Granted we have a few emerging voices of our profession, but the bulk of the profession is made up of self absorbed entities that “eat their own", conduct business as usual at all costs, and are too focused on “survival” rather than evolution of their industry.

Which really leads me to the crux of my comments. With a stalled economy, one where a constricted construction industry has many Architects on the sidelines, an opportunity exists for Architects to be engaged in other ways, to rebuild our presence and value in society. My own path has led me to lead a community development non-profit. I still maintain my professional status as an Architect, yet I can now use my skill set and my passion for the profession to be engaged in a far different way, a more effective way. I can also use my new role to promote the value of architects beyond that of a stamp on a stack of paperwork that can be value engineered and marginalized. At the same time, I am learning how I can be valued in the bigger picture, and not as a traditional practitioner with a narrow focus.

The profession is indeed poised for major change. We are sitting at the tipping point where the traditionalists don’t have much left of themselves to stay afloat. The Invisible Hand of the economy is now propelling idealists and inventive souls who are redefining our profession. It is my hope that this new enlightened generation will wish to engage the broader society and economy and how the profession of Architecture is indeed relevant when integrated into the broader society. It is my hope that these new professionals will give attention and respect to the profession which they are rooted in and use their successes to educate and promote our industry over their own self-absorption.

Albert Bendersky • Dear colleagues! What can I say? I am amazed…
I am amazed of the reaction that my rather emotional (and yes slightly provocative) essay has generated despite it’s “grammatical clumsiness” (oh, common Albert - stop being so poisonous and vindictive).

Your deep detailed comments are fantastic. So sincere, so intelligent, so multi-layered. People talk about education, entrepreneurship, public services, financial methods, moral aspects… This is overwhelming indeed. You guys basically (whether you want it or not) are providing strong answers to my loud, partially desperate “why?” Those answers are not direct and simple, yet those answers are so valuable coming from the industry insiders, not from some public figures or trendy speakers. It’s coming from you, fellows-architects, hard-working, creative and wise people. From your hearts and minds.

So I was thinking why it should stay buried here, inside our little forum on LinkedIn? Maybe we should let the world know about our opinions. Why not to expose it? Here is what I suggest…

I will publish your opinions on my blog as a separate essay (or even as series of small essays) without editing a single word from your wonderful posts. I will present it in a very positive light without any personal comments or irrelevant jokes. I will display author of every comment with full credits as it is shown on your LinkedIn profile (of course without your personal photos -privacy above all), including direct links to your business websites. People like you deserve some promotion, why not? I will not publish all comments. Some of our comments here are too short, some contain some personal issues (my bad, people), some are just off the topic. But those that powerfully speak about the problematic issues our profession faces deserve to be published. I think we all know what posts here deserve to be published. This is just my humble opinion…

Tell me what do you think? I am not trying to steal your thoughts or to interpret your vision in any way. I just think that you have provided such a deep and relevant content that it would be a waste not to share it with the world… Please let me know. I promise you it will be done in a most delicate and respectful way to introduce your opinion to the world wide web. If you don’t want me do that I completely understand it and respect it; just post or send me through LinkedIn system something like: “Thank you, but No.” If get 2-3 negative answers I won’t publish anything. Promise.

Thank you, again. This discussion is the greatest award for me.

Tara Imani, AIA • Hi Albert,

Gee, and I thought I was outspoken! ;-)

I’ve been talking about similar things over on the AIA Knowledge Net site. I thought to post a link here in case you might like to join the conversation. I thought I was being bold, after reading your posts, I think I’ve been too tame.

http://network.aia.org/AIA/AIA/Blogs/BlogViewer/Default.aspx?BlogKey=ba0f2dc0-51a6-4aab-8a5f-f3e66c35b6ad

Anyhow, I appreciate your honesty and willingness to talk about this issue: of how architects undervalue ourselves and therefore get under-valued, overlooked, and underpaid.

I look forward to seeing you on the AIA site!

Miceal McGinty MRIAI RIBA • Hi Albert,
You ask two very fundamental questions. ” Why we are everything… and yet we are nothing” and “Why we make them wealthy… and yet we remain poor?”

Architects are leaders in their profession, but this has been chipped away by “new” professions or people who give themselves titles that colours the image of architects in society to the point that we become mere designers who produce nice pictures, which is with great disrespect to what we do, and we have let this happen to a large degree ourselves. We are by nature and training fee thinkers but to a point! And i believe this point is when we accept the wider social, political and financial conditions that we do business in. We are all looking to make a living and will accept “that” commission without ever questioning many of the invisible contexts that our designs and skills operate within. This i feel has pushed us down the ladder of of leaders in society because we respond to issues and don’t drive the bigger picture. for example Frank Lloyd Wright who designed drive in movies, high way service stations and even drive in churches! Now great buildings, but he embraced a cultural shift to the car away from other forms for transport which has had a massive impact on the urban design of our cities. For right or wrong? who knows what he felt was his role in the big picture, but, i feel we accept change without really considering its long term impact, for the simple reason, we need the job!! this is why we believe we are everything but the public at large won’t turn to us for a vision of a future.

There are some very wealthy Architects but the majority of us just get by trying to impress our clients with our drawings and models etc. This is because we let ourselves as a profession or as some might see it, a vocation, design buildings because we “love” it, and this is where many would like to keep us! Yes we do love our work and i am proud to be an architect and go to work each day rather than work in a job which gives me no satisfaction. But we need to pay the bills.

(Now here is a bit of a contradiction in my piece) We have been cast in a role of the followers by the powers who we take our commissions from. We are brought out in some regard, to give moral and intellectual leadership in wider society giving a veneer of respectability to plans that may not be in the wider good! and in some ways this reduces or standing in the depths of the wider public mind set, but boy do we feel good standing up and presenting our vision ( which has been informed by things outside our commission) and the world looks on with a nod of the head. We are great guys!!

We need to regain lost ground. Which will have both financial and status gains for us as Architects. At this time of financial turmoil it is the “bean counters” that lead the way and they have done so for a long time. And it is because of this situation that we loss direction as societies and communities. The common perception is that without finance there can be no plan, and we know how this has effected practices with falling commissions. We should turn this thinking on its head completely and make finance sub servant to the plan! And if we as Architects turn our imagination to the bigger picture and drive culture, rather that adapting to it, drive innovation rather than simply integrating it into our buildings and inform policy rather than implementing legislation!, we will demonstrate the true value that Architects can bring.

Albert Bendersky • Dear colleagues, since I have not received even a single “No” (amazing isn’t it?), I have decided to go ahead and to publish some of your observations/comments on my blog. As I said it is going to be posted as a series of essays, where the best of your comments will be shown with your name and the direct link to your LinkedIn profile. You can see the first essay already published on www.ArchiAlternative.com (I plan to publish 3-4 “answers” essays with the delay of 3-4 days between them…).

John Cruet Jr., AIA • OK Albert, I get one more response:

I don’t agree at all with your view of adaptation. I do agree with your view on evolution.
You want to live, you also, by default, survive. I do agree that living is beyond survival. But your analogy of adaptation to survival doesn’t work on any level. Evolution is a form of adaptation. Both evolution and adaptation are aspects of life.

Each architect is responsible for his/her own well-being, to sow the seeds of one’s success.

Also, I found it peculiar, that, nowhere in your discussion, do you touch upon the constraints upon our practice. Come on, Alfred, you don’t really live in a libertarian utopia, now, do you?

And before you publish my comments on your blog, remember that my comments are copyrighted-

Just kidding!!!

Albert Bendersky • A. Evolution is not form of adaptation (I would suggest to read more philosophers: Nietzsche, Spinoza, Heidegger… not only AIA bulletins)

B. My name is Albert. (Although I get it… all servants have the same face for sahibs… it’s fine… be that…)

C. “…do you touch upon the constraints upon our practice.” Speaking of grammatical clumsiness. And English IS your native language. (How many languages do you know besides English, John?…)

D. I would happily post your comments (I see how desperate you are to see it up in the air). It’s not about my personal “soreness", it’s about lack of content, luck of direction, lack of inspiration in your comments, John. You didn’t bother to think “Why?” , you were too busy insulting me. Sorry. Plus you really scared me with your copyright. So why would I bother. People like you - usually enjoy spending time for elaborate lawsuites. I better stay away from you in my libertarian utopia.

John Cruet Jr., AIA • Come on Albert I took philosophy in college! :p

Let me explain my comment regarding restraints. And you’re excused- I visited your website and determined from it that English is indeed your second language- hey, nothing wrong with that! My comment regarding restraints has basically to do with government restraints on markets. As one who promotes an international practice, you should be familiar with this.

Justin Istenes, AIA, NCARB • Architects are “professional” service providers. Compare architects to other, more “financially” successful service providers like lawyers and doctors and what do you see as differences? All the three professions provide custom individual service. Every legal issue has it’s variations and doctors still see patients one at a time. Both professions are extremely organized with support staffs that keep the doctors and lawyers focused on work that is the most effective use of their time. Both professions have very strong lobbing organizations that work hard to protect the interests and the turf of their members.

Architects usually are terrible business people. We are not taught to be good business people and when we have the sense to hire a god business manager, we typically frustrate that person. We give away services and we undercut our competition to get work. We then get spread so thin that we can’t afford to have a support staff in place that allows us to use our time effectively. This leads to substandard service which then disappoints our clients. How often have you heard about how bad the previous architect was then when it comes time to talk about fee you hear how the previous architect was cheaper than you are and you need to adjust your number to be in line with the last guy.

This leads to building owners looking for other avenues to get their architectural services. Contractors, Construction Managers and even Engineers provide alternatives to Owners by providing the services that you note in your article and hiring an architect to handle the design of the building on a design-build basis and cutting our fees. Try going to a notary to handle your lawsuit or a pharmacist to get x-ray and cast your broken leg. While the AIA has done some good work on our behalf, they simply do not have the resources to fight for the legislation that would be really required for us to be compensated the way we should be for the vast knowledge and many services we provide. The resource that they need is money for lobbing and awareness campaigns. They do not have it because we do not have it to give based upon what we make.

I honestly believe that is we were able to transition to a fee system based upon billing for hours spent versus fixed or percentage based fees, we would be in better shape. Most Owners have no incentive to make us use our time effectively. This would allow us to be more efficient and responsive to the pressing needs of their projects and would enhance the quality of service provided. I believe that under this system, design fees would likely go down and architects profits would go up.

Bernard Humphrey-Gaskin • Wow… it’s like a boxing match, without any hope of a Victory !!!

Albert Bendersky • Oh, am I?… Dear Lord… John who took philosophy in college (what is it… like 80 yrs ago?) excused me for not speaking with Texan accent… I will let him win Bernard.

My mom taught me to respect old people. Even if they are rood, funny and… how do I put it in my broken English… not so smart, tactless, slightly racist?… You have won John. Go get your burger and coke. You have won now… Good for you. Bravo

But you probably have kids, maybe even grandkids - my age… Well, them I will eat for breakfast ;) Watch. Go celebrate your victory now…

Bernard Humphrey-Gaskin • Hi Albert… There are no winners… we ALL lose … ( reference: ” we lost again” The Seven Samurai…. last few words of the great film) … I like your question … WHY ?…. its very profound… I like your style… its makes people question themselves (although in some lenght)… best regards.

PS: I also tweeted your 10 misconceptions on architects… its great….

Dear John…. its good to have debate, from any angle… it gives spirit to the cause ( you choose which one)

Albert Bendersky • Tnx for support… It’s fine. Nobody lost. Those are just words (although word is the most powerful weapon, not money or shitty titles as some people here believe.)

John 1:1
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
בראשית היה הדבר והדבר היה את האלהים ואלהים היה הדבר
(Now this is for my friend John Cruet Jr., AIA, - this is in Hebrew, one of my 2 native languages. Maybe he wants to check out my Hebrew, maybe it’s not good enough for his taste… )

The Seven Samurai… what a classic… Kurasawa’s best piece…
I’m crazy about Japanese culture (I’m not talking about architecture only, I love their literature, their very interesting relationship with death…) - I have two tattoos with certain Japanese symbolic elements…

See you on Twitter (you got yourself a friendly follower right there…)

Jeremiah Russell • First off I have to say: “DAAAAAAAAMN!” Albert and John….Really? Are you two related? Did something go horribly wrong at the last family reunion? You two fight like an old married couple…but I guess Albert would be the younger wife? :-O Just kidding.

I’m seeing a lot of angst misdirected at the profession at large. It’s not the profession that has put us in our current position, it is Architects who allowed so much responsibility (i.e. liability) to slip from our hands. I’ve written about this often that Architects used to be the Master Builders. This is not true any longer. We are merely the instruments of developers and builders - little more than another consultant. We have put ourselves here. So, in this, I actually agree with Charles - we need to adapt as professionals, not as a profession. Our profession has adapted quite enough thank you. It’s time for us as professionals to step up and retake our place as the Master Builder, the Developer, the Constructor. Only then, when we once again command our industry, will we be able to rightly demand our weight in gold, as we once did.

No one questions the Mechanics bill, or the Dentists, or the Optometrists, or the Plumber. Yet, the architect they will fight with tooth and nail for every red cent and we will continue to back down our fees until our profit margin is all but gone - if it was ever there to begin with.

So, adaptation is our only option at this point. Forget the portfolio - we need to prove our worth to our clients not with pretty pictures but with education, knowledge and a willingness to share the same with our clients.

My own not so humble opinion.

Albert Bendersky • …a prettier and a smarter wife :)… so who cares about the language…

Charles Gierman • @ Jeremiah,

Thanks for putting this back on track.

This has been a very interesting discussion. I hope it starts a movement, thanks to Albert. This shows how we are so different but so alike. I like seeing that some are in it for the love of design (I think that I am).

As we get older and jaded, it becomes a business that has no fun. But this is not because of us (it might be), it’s because we have lost our bearing. Money, builders, developers and other factor’s takes it’s toll. It seems that when the client realizes that the person they employed is in it for the love, that when we get taken for both the fee and acknowledgment.

We all pick and choose our battles and wars. While we snipe, cut fees, stop evolving, being short sighted, other will be picking are bones.

John Cruet Jr., AIA • Albert:

My deepest respect to you with respect to Hebrew. At your website, it appears that you have significant roots in Israel. Although I’m not Jewish I still have a deep seated respect for the progress and evolution that has made Israel a model state in the Middle East.

Albert Bendersky • Thank you. Did I hear “evolution"? :-)
Tomorrow Part II of “…the Answers” . I hope you don’t sue me ;-) Just kidding… it’s going to be very nice and interesting…

This time a voice of men… and our witty debate which I would call “Adaptation or Evolution”

Pat Leitzen Fye • Must say, this has been the most provocative (and entertaining) discussion I’ve seen yet in this forum. Tend to agree with Jeremiah that architects must be responsible for themselves/their practice and its rewards, but truly also believe that the industry itself - the art and profession of architecture - has been reduced to a level of servitude and ingratitude that can change only if practitioners fight for themselves and the profession fights for the practitioners. Education, awareness, are key - knowledge of not just the “why” architects do what they do (and for the most part, love), but how good design, or lack thereof, impacts each and every one of us, day in and day out, where we live, work, shop, play, worship. That , in my humble opinion, is the purview of the professional organizations and collectives (AIA, ALA, etc.) - else, what good are they?!

Albert Bendersky • Evolution or Adaptation - Part II of our debate is up on my blog… www.ArchiAlternative.com

Featuring John Cruet Jr. - don’t sue me please…

(just joking as I promised all funny personal references are removed. We talk about architecture not about the personalities…)

Tnx to everyone… Part III (probably the final) is going to be published in few days… And then the sequel of Why’s (Why III)… Hollywood where are you?

Thomas Barbeau • Architecture is like soap–lots of architects will spend their time willingly to add special shape, fragrance, packaging, secret ingredients, etc, to set themselves apart from their peers, but the client knows he’s only going to be paying for what will wash his hands. It all comes down to solving the problem you have, not the problem you wish you had.

Sean Catherall, AIA • I disagree, Thomas. The strip malls and tract homes and relocatable-building schools I see popping up around me without thought and without trained minds and without experienced eyes tell me that architecture is not an any-old-brand-will-do commodity. Some goods have the quality that deserves its place in the landscape and some is just trash. What is needed is a client who knows the difference. Since those are becoming harder to find, some of us may have to become those clients.

Thomas Barbeau • But not any old brand WILL do. That’s not my point, after all. I’m not saying willy-nilly subtract quality or judgment from the cleansing process. But architects, when they slather on their own conceits, or timidly under-design to the circumstances, either way reduce their value in the marketplace. I think that’s obvious. BTW, it’s been at least a hundred years or more since architects’ roles have been anything resembling “master builders". That benchmark has been irrelevant for long enough for me to suggest, once again–solve the problem you have, not the problem you wish you had. We’re not going to go back to having that status. The industry has changed too much for that to happen. It’s not even remotely possible. Ask a new graduate if he or she has been prepared for that kind of role. Ask a graduate CM if he/she sees that happening. QED.

Thomas Barbeau • And then there is the horse and cart metaphor. I surmise that the market for construction is the horse doing the pulling, an a priori condition to anything else occurring. Tell me who conceives the cart and who is to ride in it and I will know how you vote in elections.

Thomas Barbeau • I will also know if you are one who prefers that the cart be placed before the horse.

G P Verma • A simple answer - Because you have PAID for that. and you should not ask for credit. it is up to the owner to decide that who is creditable.

But surely if you do not charge anything than you can ask “WHY”

Jeremiah Russell • Thomas, great soap analogy. I think you’re both right and wrong and I’ll tell you why in a moment. Sean, I think you’re also right and wrong and here’s why:

First, Thomas, the notion that “any brand will do” would be wonderful if there was a minimum standard of architect out there educated, knowledgeable and worthy enough to carry the title. Unfortunately, because there are so many crap architects out there you end up with what Sean describes - tract homes built with the cheapest materials by the lowest bidder and almost no architectural oversight during construction…don’t even get me started on strip malls and suburban sprawl. :-\ What is needed is for a higher caliber of architect, one who is willing to step up to the plate and take on more hats than is “strictly legally necessary” in order to ensure that the product they designed is of sufficient quality and that it is being constructed to the same standard of quality. This coupled with going out of our way to instruct, educate and guide our clients is what will elevate us as a professional and as a profession.

Also, Thomas, your claim that it’s been more than a century since we’ve held the title of Master Builder I find not only ludicrous but insulting to the profession. There are architects TODAY who take on this lofty title with pride and with success. They are the minority, to be sure, but they are there nonetheless. And just because the majority do not take enough care of pride in themselves as architects to push themselves to this position does not mean that it simply doesn’t exist. Going back as early as the first half of the 20th century you had architects who took commanding roles of oversight in the construction process and were immensely knowledgeable about the entire process of construction. The problem is, those same architects did not pass that knowledge down to the next generation and schools began to focus more on design than constructability and now the knowledge is gained only through painful experience in the field.

And what the hell does the cart/horse analogy have to do with how people vote? And what does it matter here?

Pat Leitzen Fye • Thomas, love this comment: It all comes down to solving the problem you have, not the problem you wish you had. The practice of architecture, in addition to providing beauty and function to a neighborhood or an individual structure, is all about problem-solving. And let’s face it, there is no one better trained to ferret out problems and find solutions than Architects. Would that we could all have the challenge of designing the next Trump Tower, Louvre addition, or Bilbao Museum. Many out here in the hinterlands are working hard to a)find clients, b)educate clients, c)design buildings that are sustainable, look great, and serve the inhabitants and the community, and d)stay afloat! It can be so difficult to convince clients of the value of great design, particularly when they are under-capitalized.

I have so enjoyed reading all of these comments and must reiterate: I adore Architects. You all give me hope. And like Albert who started this amazing conversation, I am going to attempt to gel all of this in my head and use it in my own blog!

Mark Paskell • Passion is great. Portfolios showing your artistic talents, vision and creativity are helpful to show your value.

But the bottom line is not how talented you are at delivering awesome architecture. The bottom line is can you sell it to the consumer who will pay you a fair price that results in you paying all your bills, your salary and leave a reasonable profit for your business.
If you compete on price you are a commodity. If you work extra hours to feed your passion and don’t get paid for it you are not running your business like a business.

I have some designer friends who are having the best year they have ever had in 2010. One friend who is an architect sells his design build packages and he is well over 200,000 for the year. I would not say he is super talented at design but at selling and running his business he is outstanding. He will not work to feed his passion without pay. He will not work for builders or homeowners who do not agree to his terms. However the ones he does work for pay him well to deliver. He is professionally sales trained. He designs and often sells the build for the contractor for commission on top of his design.

I have read many threads about how architects and the design community is hurting. The solution to most of the complaints can be solved by learning how to sell and running a business like a business. The complaining and bellyaching will only lead to more of the same. Come to grips with the changing market. Design Build that includes a professional sales approach is the way of the future. The days of the order taker are gone with the dinosaur. Contractors with with no design experience are adopting the design build model of single source accountability from the concept to the final clean up. They control the process and then partner with architects and designers. They have learned how to beat out the design community by selling the whole package withing an established budget range obtained form the consumer. They do this by selling. If you don’t like the task of selling then hire someone to do it for you or you will continue to be underpaid for your talents or worse starve.

Albert Bendersky • The third and the last part of the board’s answers is up on www.ArchiAlternative.com

Next week the sequel to my “Why?"… “Why III"… Gee, it sounds like a “Saw III". It’s not going to be that scary… I hope :-)

Lorri Clark Murray • I empathize with you, Albert. Having been laid off 2 1/2 years ago, just able to pick up ~ 6 months of freelance work in that time, I question the vocation of my heart! I have been in Architecture since 1988 and see no signs of real improvement for the (global) economy for the next couple of years.

I have adapted, working 2 part time jobs full time while picking up the piecemeal occasional freelance project. But all my current work only yields about 1/3 the pay of my 22 years salary. Thus, I am not sure that I will joyfully return to a profession that sells itself at the lowest price using workers who invest themselves in firms and projects only to be discarded like disposable tools at the end of the current upcycle.

Our creativity, problem solving skills, and knack for hearing the needs of the client/end user lend themselves to many other JOBS. But I have found no JOB as fulfilling as the Architecture that apparently runs through my veins.

I share your frustration and fears, Albert. My optimism and adoration of this work is the only motivation that keeps me still looking (like the other 30% unemployed architects) to return to this vocation, John. These are times that test the courage of our convictions!

Mahesh Shanbhag • You are right.

Most of the good architects work with passion & they have little understanding about the market value of their work i.e. commercial skills.

However,you should not forget that every good work you do - you build your own brand name & fame in the market.

This appreciation should be your biggest motivation to do more creative work in future.

Gail Sellers • …on a more humorous note:

Albert Bendersky • Yes, this video is quite popular, Gail.

Now here’s the thing I got from one of my “followers” on Twitter @architecturally. It was very brief and straightforward. It said: “Adapt or Evolve? What About “Run"?

Deep isn’t it? We kinda never mentioned this option. 70 or so comments. We hate each other, we praise each other, we propose solutions and inventing tactics. But NONE of us has mentioned “Run” option.

It says something about all of us, architects (regarding of the abbreviations behind our names).

Sean Catherall, AIA • Albert, my favorite thing about the advice to “run” is its double or even triple meaning: “run to get ahead", “run away” or even “run for office to fix the mess".

Albert Bendersky • Ha-ha!

Another witty suggestion I got on Twitter from Jeremiah Russell (he’s in our discussion - see above) was “RE-INVENT". We are quite creative bunch indeed.

Chris Currie • Actually I think the architectural profession is dying. The sad part is architects and their special committees have done it to themselves in my opinion. Potential new architects like myself can now easily come up with the deduction of becoming an engineer instead.

Considering I don’t see many perks to being an architect nor do I see the terrible pay per work ratio worth it. I have decided to not pursue an architectural degree or license. I would rather become a creative engineer.

* I can develop and design buildings with out an architect’s signature or seal.

* I can easily obtain customers over an architect because they will readily know what I am liable for.

* I have the choice of making my level of commitment of how involved I want to be with a project instead of taking it on or not which still provides me income on those projects I could care less about.

* I’ll invest less money and time going into an engineering field than being an architect and I will get a better chance of an education that will help me succeed also

* If I don’t like one discipline of engineering I can simply change disciplines with in 2 years of schooling

* I will get paid about 2x as much money

* I will spend 1/2 the time an architect does on a project unless I am designing the overall project also which gives me more time to have a family, friends and a personal life

On that rare occasion I do need an architect’s signature and seal I can simply purchase it like anything else in life. After all what are they really legally liable for again? I honestly can’t see very many liabilities that are not either over lapped or completely taken over by other professionals involved in the project. Comparing an architect with a structural engineer when a building fails to stand up properly is a perfect example of this. People don’t chase down the architect they go hunt down the engineers and contractors instead.

I honestly can’t see even one benefit that isn’t severely offset at all for being an architect. Most of the time the actual person doing the designing of the actual project isn’t even getting credit for the design either. So why even invest the time and money towards it? I feel they have successfully killed their own profession and the liability part of the equation is only one aspect of it. When you put all of the other pieces in place it only gets worse.

Albert Bendersky • Bravo, Chris. My third “Why” I will dedicate to you. Your last paragraph basically sums up our pathetic efforts to answer few simple questions…

P.S. Don’t be shy, you get only x2 much money? You’re cheap then… ;) Once I had a dinner with our consultant (we were on a business trip, we had few drinks and got loose) so we calculated his ratio of “efforts+time / fees” against architectural proportions. He was around 4 times more efficient in terms of money making. And he was not the most expensive guy I’ve seen around.

(Tnx, for re-posting Chris… I got wrong discussion.)

Jeremiah Russell •
Chris, thank you for pointing out why the process to become an architect is so difficult - it’s to weed out people like you with no passion or compassion for the job. You say you can do just as good as an engineer? Bullshit. Your buildings will be even more apathetic, sterile and antiseptic than the worst hack architect out there. Sure you’ll make a little more money, but your “designs” will speak for themselves and after a couple projects no one in their right mind would let you near their project to do anything more than what is expressly allowed by law for whatever current engineering “specialty” you happen to be practicing.

Should architects be compensated for the level of work they do? Yes. Do we need wide sweeping changes in the profession on the issue of compensation and liability? Yes. Should we follow the idiotic advice of someone like you? No. In college you were the guy sitting to the left AND right of me at orientation when they said “get a good look, cause they won’t be there at graduation". Being an architect is something to aspire to, not sneer at. You don’t see any benefit because you have no passion for the profession, so I’ll ask you to hippity hop to the barber shop with that shit and leave the real designing to us.

Horace Spoon • This has been very entertaining. Some of us actually make good business decisions and do make a good living in this profession without giving away family time. Why??Because some of us have learned that passion for a profession and being a good businessman don’t always go hand in hand.

Chris Currie • Jeremiah Russell as passionate as you want to be.
Passion won’t pay the rent
Passion won’t pay the electric bill
Passion won’t pay for food.
Passion won’t pay for your kid’s diapers
Passion won’t pay for your car repairs
Passion won’t even pay for the fare to get you on the bus either.

In the end you might be hungry, naked and homeless. I know I should look on the bright side, at least you’ll be passionate. I am sorry I can’t stop laughing because of your display of complete lack of common sense.

You need to understand it’s nothing personal, it’s not about how much you like red, blue or green. It’s not about how you feel or some emotion. It’s not about if you got laid last night and are in a good mood today. It’s business.

The lack of understanding how business works is yet another one of many reason why the architectural profession is on it’s death bed. This is one aspect that could be fixed if they actually taught some of this in college while people aspire to become architects. I guess they couldn’t fit it in their curriculum with all of that design with no practicality. We now see that ideology is now the downfall of the profession as well as other problems one can arguable say is just as related.

On a personal note. I know I can’t fix the problems in the architectural by myself. I know it probably won’t be fixed in my lifetime because of people like you who get all emotional about it, need everything politically correct, and worry about egos more than fixing the damned problems. I wish architects would band together to fix these problems before it’s too late because that’s what is killing your profession. The sad thing is if your IQ was as high as your ego is big perhaps you would see I am pointing out the problems that need to be fixed and not attacking the profession. Killing the messenger won’t change the news that was delivered nor will it change the facts regardless of how bad they are.

Jeremiah Russell • Chris, your post was nothing more than a diatribe on the “irrelevancy” of architects - in your opinion. This is what I took issue with, and yes, it is a personal issue for me, because I am passionate about my profession and want to see all architect succeed artistically and in business. You seem to want all architects to just go away so that you can be the “big engineer” who happens to know how to pick out paint colors and laminate samples.

Without passion your choice of career will have as much to do with the color of your shoes for the day as it does anything else and, while you may be able to pay the bills and buy diapers for yourself, your life will most likely hold little personal distinction. Passion is what it takes to be a good architect…actually it takes just as much passion to be a bad architect, but that’s another story. Passion for one’s profession will also lead you to be a good businessman. If you’re engaged in your career you will have the drive necessary to do better work and perform better in business. This may suggest that there are simply too many architects without enough passion to be better businessmen, and that’s probably true. I’ve also known a number of businessmen who are horrible architects. Balance is key.

You see, I agree with you that the profession needs some revamping, some updating, some spring cleaning. But the level of disdain that you display for the profession as a whole in your initial post was insulting to say the least, so yeah, I took it personally. Passion may not pay my bills or put food on the table, but it will drive me to be a better Architect, a better businessman and a better artist all around, which is exactly what our profession needs.

Pat Leitzen Fye • ah yes, but a life lived without passion is hardly worth living at all ~

Helen L Mannea • It is true that we develop a unique set of strengths and skills as we practice architecture. We develop a way of seeing thru things, a way of putting order to chaos, a way of defining critical issues, a way of coordinating disparate pieces into a coherent whole. But architecture is one of the things we do. It is not the entirety of who we are. Tough times require us to use our creative skills. I assure you if you are flippin’ burgers for a while you will be the best restaurant kitchen designer around IF you take advantage of the place you are now.

I really hate the economic downturn and market now; and the difficulty we have gotten into as a disrespected profession paying our consultants more than we make. But if we use the strategic creative and design skills I challenge us as a profession to start a grass roots transformation of our profession.

When has an architect been complacent and accepting of the status quo? I would say at the moment he decides to become obsolete. We have exercised and developed our skills as visionaries and creative detail aware people. We can recreate the profession. Let’s collectively get off our grumpy position and start with a vision of where we want to see our profession go.

Albert Bendersky • Thank you ladies & gentlemen. The discussion is on the air at www.ArchiAlternative.com

Face it, architects. Part IV

Enjoy. http://archialternative.com/2010/12/15/answers-4/

Chris Currie • Ah yes from one extremity to the next. I never said being void of passion was ideal nor did I imply it. If it wasn’t for people with Jeremiah Russell’s inability to see the obvious even after its been pointed out or perhaps have enough “passion” to stop being lazy and get off their asses to become part of the solution to fix the problems instead of the bait and switch topic agenda the profession wouldn’t be in such a mess. I do forgive him for being a little over zealous with his passion though because I am not perfect either.

My intent is to inform people of what I have seen and experienced as the problems in the profession over my 13 years of experience working in the industry. I have pointed out what these problems are and in some cases what needs to be done to fix it because I don’t have all of the answers nor have I claimed to. I can say I feel that many of these organizations in the industry like RIBA, NCARB and the AIA should be taking a more proactive role in getting many of the unemployed architects work and protecting the profession’s viability. I can’t say that I see many efforts going towards fixing this.

There is an incredible amount of unemployed architects or architects who have been pushed out of the industry due to the recent economy. I know the recent economy is amplifying the problem 10 fold.

There might be some hope left in the profession.

* If people as “passionate” as Jeremiah Russell would band together and passionately fire those politicians who are only self serving, regardless of what country you are in, this would be a great step in fixing the economy.

* If people as “passionate” as Jeremiah Russell would band together and passionately fire people who are on these committees like RIBA, NCARB and the AIA doing little next to nothing to fix the profession’s problems, this would be a great step in fixing the architectural profession.

The sad state of affairs is it’s all too often “the all about me attitude” instead of the bigger picture in the industry. I am doing my part to change this. Instead of being a wall flower simply bitching about the problems all I have decided to become part of the solution.

I’m welcoming the unemployed, recruiters & HR people in the AEC industries into my network. I’m only liking jobs in the architectural, engineering & construction industries. If you have a job opening in these industries regardless what it is, please post it in your status and when I “like” the architectural, engineering and construction jobs in you posted in your status these supposed 14,534,100 people with in 3 degrees can get work. Together we can make a positive difference by helping people who want work to feed their families. Even when I get hired I won’t stop doing this.

Who knows perhaps when taken in the right context I might be consider just as “passionate” as Jeremiah Russell. LOL

Albert Bendersky • OMG, I’ve opened a Pandora box…

Jeremiah Russell • Dang, look at that up there. I do love seeing my name spelled out completely so many times, like little “ego boosting” jewels from heaven. :-P Please note the obvious sarcasm. I am not that egotistical, really.

Chris, it seems we are in agreement…though I’m still scratching my head wondering how I’ve gone “from one extreme to the other". I agree with everything you’ve said, in my own way, except of course for your opinions of me personally of course. Cheers.

Albert, can’t wait to read the latest post! I may have to repost these conversations on my own blog and see if we can’t spur on some additional conversation.

Albert Bendersky • A. Anyone who wants to re-post anything is more than welcomed. I’m not paranoid about my “content” and I am not selfish. It’s not “my content” - it’s yours. My blog is not a commercial enterprise in any way or any trick from my end. I enjoy writing about “hot” topics and hope it will one day help our profession to come back big time. It’s painful to hear Chris’ words and to realize that he is … well… he is right in his truthful cynicism. So go ahead, people, spread the word. If you decide to put a link to my blog I will appreciate it (if not - be that… I don’t care that much)

B. If anyone wishes to publish any kind of thoughts, essays or organized piece of ideas I will be more than happy to put it on my blog with all your credits standing out loud and proud (direct link to your name, your firm’s site, anything you want).
Email it to: albert@dezarx.com Don’t worry about the style or some grammar. As long as it’s sincere, interesting and smart. As you have noticed English isn’t my native language… so what? It’s not about that…

C. By the way I run an identical blog in Russian (one of my native languages) at http://archialternative.ru/ It is published with 3-4 weeks delay, but is exactly identical and generates a lot interest in Russia. (150 mil people audience! with the outstanding architectural tradition). They don’t have so many real architectural blogs over there… So you might be international stars soon… Just kidding. I still haven’t decided if I am going to publish “Answers” there…

D. Jeremiah, be careful. Remember John Cruet Jr. was joking about suing? :) Well… you never know. In this case we will share legal expenses… Ha-ha… Just kidding. Have a good day.

David Jenkins, Assoc. AIA • The answer to your original question is a simple answer. Architects in general are egocentric. This is going to be their downfall. They don’t play well with others, including other Architects, the team or the project. I don’t know how to fix this since the same character traits that make them what they are will also be their downfall.

Jeremiah Russell • David, you must have worked for my boss. ;-)

David Jenkins, Assoc. AIA • And yet, I’m still pursuing Architecture. Go figure.

Jeremiah Russell • Seriously though, I think you’re right to a certain extent. The “old guard” architects (the ones in the drivers seat of most firms) are very egotistical and even downright secretive as if they possess some great knowledge that must be preserved at all costs. But, fortunately, there is a new generation of architects coming up that is much more willing to “play with others” and work together for the betterment of the profession as a whole. I think you see evidence of that desire to share knowledge on postings like this. Now if the baby boomers would just retire and step aside, we could step in and fill that void. :-)

Albert Bendersky • David is right 100%. And Chris Currie is right 100%…
And you, Jeremiah is 100% correct.
Baby boomers, go home. Go golfing. Write memoirs.

Next we should destroy their pathetic institutions and ridiculous professional associations. Those blood suckers are also a huge barrier on our way…

Sean Catherall, AIA • Jeremiah, you are right about the necessity of the passage of the adaptive old guard and the rise of a generation whose community-minded cohort personality is more conducive to cooperation and collective action in order for us to enter the new phase. For a good read on this subject, try “Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069″ by William Strauss and Neil Howe and its sequel “The Fourth Turning".

Strauss and Howe predicted in 1990 that, in a historically cyclical pattern, America in 2010 would be several years into what they called an “inner-driven era", characterized by pluralism reaching its practical limits, justice becoming oriented toward process rather than principle and institutions becoming highly professional and complex–all cultural endowments of the “Silent Generation” born between 1925 and 1942. They predicted that a new “Secular Crisis” will begin sometime in the next 14 years as that generation loses control of social institutions and as the “Millenial Generation” (born 1982-1996+/-) gains influence in rising adulthood, bringing its pampered, Scout-like group-think to bear on the culture–including architecture, architecture schools, the AIA and every other institution in America.

Thomas Barbeau • Collective action. You’re kidding yourselves. Who’s in the collective and why? What collective actions on the part of architects could be taken that would transcend the reality of the real estate markets? Community-minded cohorts, indeed. How about “cadres"? If there’s no market for the services (other than the government), what’s the point? But go ahead and collectivize. Maybe you can strike a better deal for a grief counselor. However, if the government owned all of the real estate and the means of production…we could be just like North Korea…LEED certified, though. We’d need to be working toward that, collectively, I mean.

Jeremiah Russell • Thomas and Chris must be drinking buddies. :-P

Sean Catherall, AIA • Well, Thomas: In the 1930’s and the 1940’s, the collective action was to provide the troops, the labor and the popular support that fueled FDR’s New Deal programs; his war-time ramp-up of domestic production; his assault on North Africa, Europe and the Pacific Islands and his nuclear weapons program that ended a war that could have drug on for decades and cost hundreds of thousands more lives. In the 1770’s, the collective action was to provide the troops and the popular support that hurled England’s troops and mercenaries back across the Atlantic under the leadership of Washington and others (with the aid of France) and paved the way for the world’s first Constitutional Republic and the end of colonialism worldwide. That’s what the last two American civic generations produced in their early adulthood, according to Strauss and Howe. Not too shabby. I’m sure we’ll come up with something fitting the situation.

Thomas Barbeau • Well that’s a non sequitur response; if I ever heard one. Who gets to be the new George III?

Sean Catherall, AIA • Which dots can I connect for you, Thomas?

Thomas Barbeau • Go ahead and free-associate some. Let the butterflies out.

Thomas Barbeau • Sean, I’m somewhat sorry I was so flippant. Only somewhat because I hear (once again) just another regret from another architect at finding out that he’s not at the center of the culture, not as the great fiction of Modernism would have him be, driven and obliged by his gifts to put his designs at the service of perfecting society. The tendency toward megalomania and a certain incongruous grandiosity seems endemic to architects, and I find it both sad and pathetic. I noted above that architecture is like soap in all of its varieties, but it should not be overlooked that one can wash one’s hands without soap. Most of the time, architectural services are a discretionary purchase and easily deferred.

Chris Currie • I find it hilarious using AIA and collective in the same discussion. The only things those self serving jack asses want is money. After the money is collected which is about as close as collective as I have seen that group of architects get since they wont even take up for architects in general let alone protect the livelihood of their profession. Some “voice of architecture” they are. I recently called out the president of the Florida chapter in front of the entire Florida group, then I threw his ass under the bus after he said he was making an effort which was half assed at best to get architects work while their jobs tab still remained unused. You would like to think a nation wide association and self proclaimed “voice of architecture” would put a better effort in getting architects back to work than a single man like myself. It’s pathetic they thought I would believe it. I might have been born at night it wasn’t last night.

Pat Leitzen Fye • For another interesting and quite recent read on this topic, I suggest “Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice", Eric J. Cesal. Just about 1/3 into it myself but find it quite apropos ~

Sean Catherall, AIA • Thomas: I appreciate your comment. I do believe that the younger generation is not yet at the center of the culture–not because they’re architects, but because they’re the younger generation. The greater contribution they have yet to make may not be in their role as architects either, which was part of the intent of my earlier comment.

Albert Bendersky • Colleagues, I would like to refer your attention to the amazing comment I got this morning from the user Sumeru Roy Chaudhury. Very interesting FACTUAL observation strengthening cynical (yet truthful) position of Chris. Sumeru is not cynical, he just describes very interesting official requirements towards architects from Indian administrative reality. Enjoy.
http://archialternative.com/2010/11/28/why/#comments

David Jenkins, Assoc. AIA • I’d like to add to my earlier comment. I believe that a character defect is nothing more than a healthy character trait being misused. Architects aren’t really hiding some great secrets… they are displaying their character defect. A deficiency in social graces due to a large influx of ego. How to put themselves aside and allow others the chance to add their ideas to the project. Instead we/they get frustrated with the ignorance of others and “just let me do my job.” If they could just be willing to accept the input of others, they may just see how the project team could work together more efficiently.

Communication is the key and it works best if the ego can be checked at the door. Easier said and it requires effort and patience. Neither of which you will find in many of the “seasoned” architect. Many think it would be easier to just bide their time until retirement. That’s what put’s it on us, the next generation, to right the wrongs of the past without creating new problems.

I’m hoping to get back to the idea of the Architect as the Master Builder. It will only happen when we get everyone to trust us again. And fire all of the attorneys.

Chris Currie • David

Trust won’t happen until the competency and liability issues are addressed. Competency can only be addressed through education which is currently FUBAR even when graded on a curve in relation to the other professions in the AEC industry. Liability won’t be fixed until more of the projects mandate the services from an architect. Right now I personally feel you have the least amount liability and exposure in comparison to many other professions working on the same project from start to completion including the construction. I rarely hear of architects getting sued or worrying about it. I hear this problem all of the time with general contractors and engineers though. Then there is the professions viability which is currently going right down the crapper, which is especially true considering the current economic crisis we are in and the problems I addressed in my previous post. Firing all of the attorneys won’t fix those problems either.

Roger D. Wade, RA • This is a great conversation! Kudos to Albert for offering a simple question to ignite this passionate discussion.

Katy P. - your post struck a chord with me. I have often commented to others about the poor architectural education I and most of our colleagues have received relative to fundamentals of business and sales as well as knowledge of construction. If I had an impressive financial profile I would back you in your efforts to found a new school, but alas, I am an architect!

Pat - I read through all of these postings from the beginning wondering if anyone was going to mention the book you suggested: “Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice", Eric J. Cesal. Certainly right on topic with this discussion and a good read for all architects or those aspiring to be.

Jeremy, Albert and Chris…I find myself agreeing with most of what all of you say, which is strange since your comments seem to be somewhat ad odds. Maybe that is part of the dynamic of this conversation - the players are more in agreement than they realize, it’s just the deliveries that are getting in the way…

David Jenkins, Assoc. AIA •
All Architects get sued at one time or another. Remember, all parties are deemed responsible. The attorneys/insurance companies determine to what extent each party is responsible.

Many, many, many Architects don’t trust contractors as far as they can throw them. This is due to the fact that one of the biggest responsibilities an Architect has is that the, “Architect acts as the agent for the owner.” The Architect has the owner’s best interest at heart. The contractor has his own best interest / bottom line at heart. I believe that much of this is easily resolved by the Architect meeting with the contractor early on to get input from the contractor as to how he would like to proceed and carry out certain phases of the project. If we know it up front, we can draw it that way and eliminate many conflicts thus reducing costs. The more of those we can eliminate… the better. The contractor being on the job site every day has a better repore with the owner. We’re just trying to prevent him blaming problems on the Architect.

Architects do get sued. It happens every day. My dad (an Architect) always told me that you can’t draw what you don’t understand. Get in the field and talk with the guys. Ask questions and learn what works best in the field rather than what seems to work well on paper. I’ve worked doing plumbing, concrete flatwork, electrical, hvac, hung drywall, lay-in ceilings, doors, casework, security, network environments, framer, roll-up and set roof trusses, roofing, windows, etc… I went to school and obtained my degree in Building Construction Technology. My next step was to be my PE but after working for my dad, I wen’t to get my degree in Architecture. I also obtained my realtors license. My hope was / to do Design Build and handle all aspects in-house.

Communication and Education. As those get better, we won’t need attorneys nearly as much.

Albert Bendersky •I would say Communication, Education, Separation & Organization.

Communication. Means use of new media, possibility to work on one project simultaneously from different locations, by different teams (different countries! - forget idiotic “territorial license” limitations), efficient coordination of the technical efforts (BIM is just the start - wait till the hardware catches up with the soft), etc.

Education. So many intelligent proposals were offered above, that I don’t think I can add anything substantial here.

Separation. Yes roles of the Architects involved in the project will be separated. This already happens today, yet in the future it will be the only way. Some firms (individuals) will be busy with the front-end design, i.e. conceptual development, general stats, design development (partially) incl. more detailed layout, elevations, finishes, and some major coordination with the consultants. The others are going to be in charge of the working drawings, details, schedules, shop drawings, final coordination with eng. consultants. (And be prepared that most of this job will be outsourced to cheap labor in India, China, East. Europe - see communication part above, it will make things really easy).

Organization. Current professional institutes / associations must be completely reformed. Probably disbanded and replaced by the new organizational forums. More liberal, more flexible, less corrupted, less bureaucratic. If it’s not done in the next 10-15 yrs our profession will be degraded and “architect” as a professional term we all know and respect might be eliminated. Trust me, real-estate & construction industries will gladly “assist” this suicidal path.

Sean Catherall, AIA • Albert, what do you mean by “‘territorial license’ limitations"?

Albert Bendersky • After all those years of studies, hard-working experience, bureaucratic procedures, tough examinations (ARE in US, ExAC in Canada), pretty serious amount of money spent during this process (not to mention the time) you are still licensed to practice within pretty limited territory (State / US or Province / Canada). Is this fair? (Sure once the architect is licensed in one state / province it is easier to move to the next state or province… nevertheless… Not to mention another countries…)

That’s where separation plays the role. The only team which must be licensed “locally” is the team which coordinates the building code (usually code consultants), local architects / managers which are finalizing working drawings package on-site and are conducting the site inspection.

Architecture in general (leave aside local code issues - we’re not dealing with them directly anyway, we just follow the instructions from the consultant) is based on pretty universal principles of the design and management (I worked and managed jobs in like 6-7 different countries - the same problems are everywhere). So there should be some kind of the international “license” which could be relatively easy to obtain (say 2-3 yrs of the working experience after the school) which will provide the architect with the legal rights to do so called front-end (Preliminary Design + Design Development) thus such architect can apply for the Site Plan Approval & Building Permit…

Only then as the working drawings are prepared inline with the local requirements the “local license” is reasonable requirement…

Such structure might compensate architects’ loss of work due to the outsourcing by providing the opportunity to work more globally.

Sean Catherall, AIA • My experience has been that, in places with difficult zoning, entitlements or design review processes (like California, Illinois and Pennsylvania), recruiting a state-licensed architect onto the team in the beginning was desirable because they understood the physical, cultural and construction methodology context of the project to begin with. In less demanding states, licensure was never an issue. In the most demanding states (like New Jersey) even a licensed architect couldn’t submit designs for review–any appearance before a review board required representation by an attorney recognized by the local bar association.

So I agree that developing a more uniform system (at least in the U.S.) is a desirable thing. However, I am aware of the reality that each State is a sovereign entity and decades of negotiation are required to achieve this end just as decades of negotiation were required to get to the current (imperfect) level of reciprocity that currently prevails.

Likewise, on an international level, we are dealing with sovereign nations, each of which comes to the negotiating table with separate interests and goals to take into consideration.

It’s a lofty goal. And I support it.

Albert Bendersky • I perfectly understand the realities. I am not an idealist who dreams of saving the world… But this is a natural path. We should not try to be the Masters of Universe and to remain slaves to many factors (developers/builders, authorities, arch. associations, marketing people), we should make sure that “separation” process on one hand breaks the profession into the perfectly specialized sectors (almost different professions) and on the other hand “unifies” it on the global (even somehow “creative’) level. Thus we will not only maintain the integrity of the field but might return to that glory from the “good old days” we all miss so much.

Oh, by the way - just published an apocalyptic scenario for 2011.

“Top-11: architectural miracles that will NOT happen in 2011″
http://archialternative.com/2010/12/20/top11-2011/

You’ll see I am super-realistic! :)

Chris Currie • Making a standard code world wide:
I like the intent but I’m not sure how it could be implemented. ie. I wouldn’t want to be in a house made for the mid west or possibly New York while dealing with things like hurricanes or earthquakes. These different areas in the USA have different climates and challenges that need to be addressed. New York does not regularly see hurricane forced winds and neither do structures in the mid west so the codes are drastically different. Other differences like water table levels, temperatures, humidity, land composition, rainfall, and tidal waves are just a few of many other factors that mess this idea up. The most extreme conditions would be tornadoes, earthquakes, and things like hurricanes. Trying to globally apply the one size fits all idea will get someone killed WHEN something is over looked AND it will happen if it’s applied. I have faith in some of the people I have seen to really screw this up. I am sure they won’t let anyone down.

Sean Catherall, AIA • Chris, one thing model building codes like the IBC and the former UBC do very well is to establish zones where wind loading, earthquake loading, snow loading, etc. vary geographically.

Chris Currie • Making the separations:

“Some firms (individuals) will be busy with the front-end design, i.e. conceptual development, general stats, design development (partially) incl. more detailed layout, elevations, finishes, and some major coordination with the consultants. The others are going to be in charge of the working drawings, details, schedules, shop drawings, final coordination with eng. consultants. (And be prepared that most of this job will be outsourced to the cheap labor markets in India, China, East. Europe - see communication part above, it will make things really easy).”

As for breaking up the architectural profession as you’ve mentioned. Who is going to just be satisfied with only developing everyone else’s design? I also think it would be a hard sale for someone to spend all of that money on the education to not design. Isn’t that the whole drawl to the profession in the first place? Everyone wants to be this grand designer and yet only a few of these people actually end up designing something. Even more depressing only a few of those few designing actually design something worthy of even being called an Architectural designer. I’ve seen some really bad messes trust me on this.

I don’t think this really changes the landscape of the profession from its current state. I already covered a large list of what the current architectural curriculum in the US is lacking before and it’s depressing. There many incompetent architects that don’t know the following:

How a building is developed
How buildings are put together in real life
What building codes are
How to incorporate building codes to in their designs
The construction management within the project
How to coordinate the work of other disciplines
The business side of architecture
How to design with in a budget
How finances work in business
How to manage time
How to use the software to produce anything for their design in an efficient manner
Understanding there isn’t miracle key on anyone’s keyboard or computer so when they change something it actually costs something. I know at times people like me make it look easy but we do have limitations also.

But they can draw you a pretty picture and went to design school only learning design and nothing else.

Personally when I run into these architects it makes me want to do one of the following:

- drop the project and go work for someone else or
- make sure I am not an employee and I am a contractor
- ask for 5x the amount of my normal going rate and I’ll want to get paid weekly or after 40 hours w/e comes first. If I have to do 5x the work to cover the incompetent I might as well get paid for it. I also won’t lose more than a 40 hours worth of pay on them due to their lack of financial skills. I’d also almost go to the extent of asking for my pay in cash too.

You also know damned well you won’t get reimbursed for spending all of that extra time trying to create their vision. Most of the best talent out there like myself are pretty much done with all of that nonsense.

Can you really blame me for feeling this way though?

- Why would you want a job like this constantly trying to cover an incompetent person’s ass only to end up being their scape goat and unappreciated in the end?
- Who would want their name attached to an architectural abortion?
- Ever had to work well outside of your job to cover someone else to the point of it being a 2nd 3rd or 4th job? I have. It gets old fast.
- Ever have an architect pay roll check bounce? I have.
- Ever have an architect forget to pay their office electric bill or their cable bill? I have.

I don’t see the break down working out properly because it still leaves incompetence, no incentive to stay in the profession for many as it removes the only incentive take up the profession in the first place. Unless you’ve mentioned something I don’t understand or I’m something here I don’t see the proposed separation fixing or changing anything.

I am not sure about all of that Sean but then again I typically build things to Dade county specifications for the most part and I never had to build anything near an earthquake zone. Dade county is so strict with the wind speeds and the approval list that it pretty much passes everywhere in the south eastern USA when it involves structural integrity addressing wind speeds and missiles. I would rather overbuild something and possibly save someone’s life than go with the bare minimum or less risking someone’s life. There is also an approval list there that will even restrict the materials you can use on the building. http://www.miamidade.gov/buildingcode/pc-search_app.asp If they don’t approve it you can’t use it. Some would say it’s overkill until you start looking at the aftermath of past hurricanes like Katrina. It would be interesting to learn more about the diaphragms and more about how they make the structures work in seismic zones. Perhaps my next job will give me work in those areas.

Mark Bradin • Going back to WHY?
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/151/mayhem-on-madison-avenue.html
This is why! Read this article…it provides some answers.

Chris Currie • Mark – We know it’s the same answer in some aspects but a different industry. It’s not just the technology that’s pushing architecture to extinction though. It’s the combination of all of the issues I have outlined earlier. Technology was also already mentioned in the reasons when I specified the average architect being useless on the computer.

David Jenkins, Assoc. AIA • “Why are we everything and yet we are nothing.” Because people don’t understand what it is that we do. Architects are one of the few true professionals. Doctors, laywers, dentists, etc… we provide a service. Let them try and do a project without our input and then they will start to understand our value.

I wouldn’t go to my brother to pull out a tooth… I’d go to a dentist. Yet people still think that they can go to their friend, brother, etc… to design a building.

Chris Currie • They already are. The design build industry is a billion dollar industry. If it wasn’t that successful they wouldn’t have made it this far.

Jonathan Peiffer • Architecture allows those of us with the background and experience in this wonderful profession to adapt successfully in ways that most cannot. The skills we use on an everyday business are in demand outside the profession in places I would not have considered possible just two years ago. Opportunities have presented themselves in related professions such as photography, project management, business consulting, teaching, and consulting for a model railroad manufacturer of all things. The art of traditional architecture is still out there, but is currently being pursued as the hobby rather than the profession. There are few professions where one can stay in the profession while taking some time away from it.

The “Renaissance” approach we take in the profession gives each of us the ability to find these opportunities. The lack of specific focus on one set of skills makes this profession very diverse indeed and profit can be found in many outside ventures as well as within the traditional boundaries of architecture.

Albert Bendersky • Wonderfully laid, Jonathan. Very realistically and smart.
Agree with every word. Too bad you haven’t commented earlier :)

Yet… at times we all dream about the “Renaissance” approach deep inside, don’t we?

Jeremiah Russell • Hey! Keep your hands out of my Renaissance!…I mean, wait, what was the question again? :-P

I also agree with everything Jonathan had to say. The “Renaissance approach” is necessary and absolute in the profession if you think about it. On a typical Residential project the architect is the artist/builder/arbiter/couples counselor/interior designer and sometimes subcontractor (fixing those little mistakes in the field that no one else will do for free). We really are the last Renaissance profession. :-)

Albert Bendersky • Nice toast for a New Years drink… way better than all those standard “be healthy, wealthy and happy".
“Keep your hands out of my Renaissance!… Cheers.” :-)

Jonathan Peiffer • To follow up to my earlier thought, I have found that at the end of the day I am judged by my clients, external and internal, by a single measure; the quality of my service. Quality service in this profession “simply” requires excellence in all that we do. Since none of us are perfect or even competent in every aspect of the profession, I define excellence in doing what you do the best you can at all times, understanding your limitations and clearly expressing them to your client, treating others as you would like to be treated, and a never ending quest for knowledge in all things. This approach has been rewarding both financially and in repeat clients.

As to not commenting earlier, I have spent the last quarter working constantly after 20 months of severe underemployment. It took nine months of some serious introspection with the guidance of some extremely gifted individuals both within and outside the architecture to come to some cognitive conclusions. This has lead me to some thoughts about architecture and how I am addressing them:

1. I am not in competition with anyone in my profession. We can thrive as a group or fail as a group. If I have specific knowledge to share, I will share it in the confidence that someone will assist me when I need specific knowledge.

2. We have failed the younger generations as quality mentors. We often get stuck on how much profitable work we can get out of an employee in lieu of how we can make them an architect. The profession has relied on mentoring for many thousands of years and we moved away from that model. For all its flaws, the IDP program does recognize that to be a successful architect, an intern must have a diverse education that begins with school and continues with real world experience. In recognition of this, I teach ARE exam courses on behalf of the AIA and my students have a higher passing percentage than the stats posted on the NCARB site.

3. In search of profit, we have moved away from the concept of “citizen architect". When overworked within the limitations of our projects we forget about giving back to our community. Architects are naturally viewed as community leaders. For me that means volunteering my time, when appropriate, and being active in the community. It pays dividends without fail.

4. If the team looks good then the individuals look really good at the end of a successful project. I have been in the situations where the team leader takes all the credit and that does nothing to promote the growth of the team. Those teams ultimately lose their best talent and lack the ability to thrive in the future.

5. A humble approach to our profession is often the most respected one. Our egos tend to get in the way of the delivery of quality as we all want to be “right". I constantly work on my abilities to speak with authority while not appearing to be overly proud of those abilities. This means admitting when I am wrong.

6. It is easy to get negative quickly. We have all been there: a great design doesn’t get proper recognition, a client is dissatisfied with a superior product, clients who claim to love our work do not pay their bills, the codes and ordinances we work under can sometimes feel overly restrictive, our profession appears to be under constant attack from others wanting to usurp what was once solely ours, etc. We can spend time worrying about this, or we can simply act and show through positive action that our services are without question superior and ultimately of a quality that the market demands.

Jeremiah Russell • how exactly do you follow great comments like this? great comments Jonathan. well put, well said. Now lets get to work!

UPDATED 12/28/2010

Chris Currie • You’ll notice it’s still not like what you have described which was done with Frank Lloyd Wright where the individual was working in the industry for 5 years and became an architect with out the 4 year college degree. I have been working in the industry now for almost 15 years and I still won’t get a fair shake until I go to school to get a degree and jump through these hoops. To make it even worse all of the work I have done already will not count towards anything for any of these people involved because it’s more about collecting money or getting free work than it is to actually teach something meaningful in many situations. Have you ever tried to transfer credits from one college to the next? You’ll know exactly what I mean. Now apply the same situation with people from NCARB on the merit of past work education and experience. We still have not considered other issues like the certification flavor of the moment. Perhaps in a Utopian fantasy land they might be helpful and encouraging but reality is a totally different thing.

http://www.ncarb.org/en/Getting-an-Initial-License/Registration-Board-Requirements.aspx

I feel in some regards this keeps people out of the profession. Applying the other comments from Jonathan Peiffer shows an even more real tragedy to the profession and few people if anyone is doing anything about it. Even when a person gets the degree it’s just another series of hoops people have to jump through. At the end we still are left with too many people that still don’t have the proper education tools or training but they can design or draw pretty pictures for a for a fantasy world that can’t be used for reality. Compounding the problem even further is the return on the time and money spent on getting the education and jumping through all of these hoops pushes even more people away.

Something needs to be done about these problems in order to save the profession from extinction in my opinion which is something I have pointed out in detail earlier. They were good points to what Jonathan Peiffer has said though it’s jsut a real shame with out jumping through all of those hoops it’s still done in vain only leaving the person to be exploited in the end. The real challenge will be addressing these problems with a viable solution before it’s too late to reverse the damage.

Jeremiah Russell • actually, Chris, if you go to Missouri, 12 years of experience gets you a seat for the ARE to be licensed in that state. Go check it out. (Note: I read the first two sentences of your post and had to comment quickly before I haul ass out of the office) - more later. Cheers.

Dean Hoffman, RA • Not gods, just someone hired to do a job. The Modernists saw themselves as minor gods. But that was Europe right after WWI. Here, it’s always been about business. The client, the people with the money, those who hire the talent have the final say in things. In film, the producer hires the director. In construction, the developer hires the architect. And it’s all very contrary to Gary Cooper’s thinking about the vocation. When an architect does stand out, he/she has become a brand – Gehry or Graves, for example. When I want a Gehry building I’m not going to hire Richard Meier, yes? To further the distinction, just how few architects ever get to that level? Most architects end up doing administrative functions on projects, not designing. There’s a strange parallel world many of the people here must be living in based on these comments. Just because you provided services to Microsoft you’re entitled to live like Bill Gates? What?

Dean Hoffman, RA • And it didn’t help we dropped the ball on green build. The USGBC has done nothing to help our credibility even though so many in the industry jumped right onto the LEED AP bandwagon. Now look at the monster we need to deal with.

Roger D. Wade, RA • What Johnathan has appeared to do in his most recent entry is to blend his own wealth of experience, expertise and introspection with the material put forth in the book “Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice", Eric J. Cesal, and compile it all nicely here relative to the discussion. Very well done Johnathan. I also love your definition of excellence. Your closing sentence was a great way to end on a positive note and look to a brighter future.

I have personally found some of the same “Renaissance” opportunities Jonathan has, as well as Home Inspections/Building Inspections and Carpentry. I am enjoying these new avenues as a supplement to my architectural work. God only knows where all of this will lead but I am becoming excited about the future in ways I could not have dreamed of two years ago.

So I guess this begs the question: Am I treating architecture as a hobby, or am I awakening my renaissance architectural spirit to thrive in a challenged economy? Am I somehow not being true to architecture by “dabbling” in these related areas, or am I exercising a larger, more encompassing definition of what architecture is?

I welcome all thoughts.

Thomas Barbeau • The “renaissance architectural spirit"; that’s a good one. But the angels of my better nature are telling me I should back off from ridiculing those rationalizations which are born of desperation. I will let it be. LEED: oh wow. More hoops for circus animals who crave hoops. Pretty darn enjoyable–for cubetrons. In a non-compensated 3rd party certification sort of way.

UPDATED 12/29/2010

Irena Skoda, Architect • Thank you Albert for putting this out there. If you think the architecture profession is not going where it needs to and everything is all nice and pretty…it isn’t. We need to be out there making our voices heard and not accepting the fact that we don’t get credit for our work unless we are “the star architect". Talking about adapting…How many architects today are using the technologies we have out there to make our businesses provide even more value to our clients? I am referring to BIM “building information modeling". How many of you really believe our profession will survive if we do not adapt to a better way of working? All I understand right now is that there is so much wasted time, that our clients do not want to pay us for the time it actually takes to do what they want. We are service providers but more so we need to be leaders. Start being leaders. Let’s move forward not backwards.

Albert Bendersky • In order to move forward we have to make sure that we (architectural design field) are really moving forward. Using modern high-tech tools (BIM that you have mentioned) is a very positive thing yet in my view this is technicality. We have to define some basic principles of what does it mean “to move forward".

For example some of the ideas stated by Jonathan Peiffer are really good. Powerful. Yet he’s not providing an appropriate solution for his own deep statements trying to resolve it within the limits of the current system. Jonathan mentions the idea of the professional mentoring - this is a classic example. He mentions his personal efforts. Great. I respect it. But it will never work. It will not move forward anything, because it is done within the context of the ARE which is a part of a rotten obsolete organizational system.

So even when positive intelligent individuals like Jonathan are working hard and teaching people of how to pass those exams it will not work in terms of a general professional development. It doesn’t mean we are moving forward. Sorry. It sounds like a charity to me…

First we must analyze why the system we have created doesn’t stimulate the development of the profession of Architecture. Maybe prior to teach young generation of how to pass the exams or to get some certificates we should check if we really need those exams/certificates and other papers? Maybe we have to develop a new system, to organize professionals differently, to think about general interactions between the professionals and the public rather than to waste our time in learning / or teaching tons of irrelevant materials.

THAT would be the first small step forward. Adapting and improving current system which is an obsolete ridiculous institution based on the principles of the XIX century would be the same as trying to make current banking system healthier by printing money. Might help for a while but the final result will be a disaster for generations to come.

Chris Currie • Irena Skoda:

There is currently 134 comments on this topic.

“We need to be out there making our voices heard and not accepting the fact that we don’t get credit for our work unless we are “the star architect".” I covered this already and it is a downfall.

“How many architects today are using the technologies we have out there to make our businesses provide even more value to our clients?” The typical architect graduating from college is not technology savvy. So no, they are typically not using technologies we have out there efficiently and effectively. That’s because they were not taught this in their education. They only learn design in their education. Enter the disposable employee or contractor to compensate for the downfall. Due to significant financial and management short comings found in architectural firms most of us are walking away from those jobs too when they exist in favor of working for engineers.

“I am referring to BIM “building information modeling” Almost the entire architectural curriculum is comprised of just design. Hardly any of it is based on reality. BIM requires someone to have the knowledge on how something is really constructed and not just how to draw a pretty picture. Now we have licensed people who can draw pretty pictures that can’t put anything together in the field. I have addressed this earlier too.

More disturbing aspects are

* the income / work ratio on the projects
* the return on the investment of getting licensed after jumping through all of those hoops
* the services in general appearing more and more as an option to the public
* the less liability in comparison to the other disciplines involved in the project

I also pointed all of this out earlier as pit falls for this profession as well as many others.

“All I understand right now is that there is so much wasted time, that our clients do not want to pay us for the time it actually takes to do what they want.” Actually this is not true. Most people look at the service as optional and try to get the bare minimum out of architects especially in today’s economy. If they could get by without an architects seal and signature on something they will simply use an engineer or have a design build company do it.

“We are service providers but more so we need to be leaders.” Define the service and liabilities for the common public as a necessity that someone else is not already being held liable for. Define these services with the liabilities for the average Joe to understand your services are necessary. You shouldn’t have to look like a philanthropist or some con man running a shell game on the side of the street trying get a client in the door. The structural engineer, civil engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer or general contractor doesn’t. Everyone already knows what they are liable for, the services they provide and why they are necessary. It’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

“Start being leaders. Lets move forward not backwards.”
I have pointed out the problems and asked for solutions. I have asked architects to band together and fix the problems. Since NCARB and/or AIA won’t I recently called out the president of the Florida AIA chapter in front of everyone in the group for not fixing the problems in the profession or the unemployed because of this and more. I have even gone to the extent to try and find people work in this industry as a “leader” instead of someone who simply covers themselves and moves on. If you read my status you’ll understand more.

I’m not even an architect. I’ve pointed out the problems earlier regardless of the people who are ignoring them. There are no quick fix solutions. Ignoring them will make them go away along with architectural profession. As an architect you have more say about your profession than I do. I would like to think if you all would band together to do something about this perhaps it could be fixed.

Albert Bendersky:

I agree especially with the comparison to the money comment. LOL

Jonathan Peiffer • I would simply state that if we can each deeply influence one individual to excel, we are moving forward. Mentoring is more than passing an exam, it is two way learning between the mentor and the mentored. More important than a class, a relationship is formed.

Learning is never wasted and the information required for passing the current ARE 4.0 are hardly irrelevant. Retained knowledge of the complex systems we must deal with everyday in this professional only serves to enhance our position now and in the future both within and outside of the profession.

To look at this question from another point of view; it is not the systems we have in place that hold us back. None of these perceived boundaries to being in the system are particularly difficult to overcome. You can only change an organization from the inside. I have seen locally a small outside group who is attempting to change the system via the “revolution” method. They are doomed to failure since they will never attract enough people who can agree on even the parts of the system that need change.

I am a firm believer that activity within the profession organizations that exist for us and activity in one’s community are the ONLY way to achieve change in this profession. Everything else is superfluous as few are listening.

Irena Skoda, Architect • Albert, you are absolutely right. It all starts with the schools and Chris, it takes the right kind of architect to make a bigger contribution that goes beyond themselves and transcends to others who will benefit from them.

Sanford Garner, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP ND • I’ve really enjoyed following this discussion. I was challenged several years ago by a couple of multi-millionaires. They told me you should either find a career you’re incredibly passionate about and then find a way to make money. Or, you should find a way to make money and use the money you make to fulfill your passion. I guess we each have to figure it out for ourselves.

Thomas Barbeau • In architecture the learning curve and the business cycle are often at odds or in contra-juxtaposition. Just when you think you’re cornering into the psychic resolution that leads to your own personal architectural nirvana, it’s layoffs all around.

UPDATED 12/30/2010

Albert Bendersky • Jonathan, the information you are passing might be not irrelevant but the ARE 4.0 (or whatever number you put for the next version) as a part of the system is irrelevant.

All your “peaceful” thoughts about changing the system from the inside is a hypocrisy. You are a part of the system, you feel very comfortable being a part of it so you want to put some cosmetics “from the inside” probably to fix few things that disturb you personally. I suspect it’s not about the profession but about some personal issues you would like to fix for your own good…

“Small outside group” stupidly trying to use some “revolutionary methods” is doomed. No sir, we are not some small outside group (we are your colleagues if you haven’t noticed). And we are not seeking for anarchy, but are trying TO PREVENT the chaos and revolution which will bury our profession if your beloved “too-big-to-fail” system stays in place. It will not work smoothly forever with your “changes from the inside". It will collapse just as all those banks which were temporarily bailed out on our account.

You conveniently avoided my analogy.

We are not doomed, padre Jonathan. We are not a little group of the outsiders. We are the next generation of the professional architects. You, arrogant baby boomers, with your elitist approach are doomed. The world has changed. You just haven’t noticed it, Mr . Mentor.

Thomas Barbeau • Albert, this generation you speak of, it’s the same as the last and the one before that before that. You are like everyone and all who have come before you. Nothing special. The trumpets in your voice give you away.

Thomas Barbeau • It’s a testament to the power of myth that architecture as a profession even exists at all.

Jonathan Peiffer • Albert - I’m not sure your tirade deserves a response at this point. The clear lack of professional judgment in your last post clearly indicates that you are not my colleague. For the record, I’m no baby boomer as they are hitting retirement and I still have about 25 years to go. Truly sorry it turned out this way.

Thomas Barbeau • Hey JP, Albert’s not lacking in professional judgment as far as I can tell. How from a blog would you know that? Have you checked his drawings? Perhaps you just have too many years ’til retirement.

Albert Bendersky •
@Jonathan
Sorry Jonathan but you look, you think and you talk like a baby boomer. Well… some people are just born old… While the others (my father for example) being baby boomers keep thinking way clearer than most of the Generation X. It’s not about the age (race or political views) it’s about the way of thinking.

“The clear lack of professional judgment in your last post clearly indicates that you are not my colleague.” What a powerful argument ! What would you say next, not-my-colleague? My father’s car is bigger than yours? :)

Go watch last “Wall Street: Money never sleep". That old greedy America that you belong to is doomed. Don’t you get it? Or for you “greed is still good"?
I bet you are getting paid for “mentoring", Good Samaritan… You just conveniently don’t mention this. And I am sure it’s a pretty decent pay per hour… So much for the Renaissance man :)

@Thomas
On a philosophical note: yes you’re right - all generations are the same in a way. But when the change happens (say 60s or these days) the differences are obvious. You have people like Jonathan (bureaucratic conservators fighting for the system, people that trying to adapt and to survive) & people like me (people trying to evolve and fighting against the limits system puts). And as you can see age has nothing to do with the generation. Jonathan claims he’s young. Hard to believe…

And we all know who wins at the end. Systems don’t last forever. People do.
So Jonathan, be ready you still “have about 25 yrs to go"… (Life sounds so hard for you…LOL)

Albert Bendersky • on a second thought…Last post from Jonathan Peiffer is very symbolical.

It shows that THEIR colossal system is AFRAID of us “small group” of independent thinkers. They can’t argue with us, they can’t discuss issues with us. All they can do is to dismiss us arrogantly. Indeed you are not my colleague, Jonathan Peiffer. I am an architect, a smart guy enjoying live in full (with it’s ups & downs) and WHO ARE YOU? Just a pathetic bureaucrat surviving within the limits of your organization. A morally poor person who has “25 yrs to go” and who is scared to death to lose his “privileges". What a joke :)

Jonathan Peiffer • If I seem dismissive and arrogant, it is only in regards to how people treat other people. You will note Albert that I have not personally attacked you, called you names, not made huge leaps of logic about your character, abilities or moral character. You are absolutely correct that it is difficult to have an intelligent discussion with someone who cannot speak civilly to others.

Your words stay here for the eternity of the site and if this is how you want to be remembered, that is certainly your choice. Calling out someone as a hypocrite, elitist, greedy, a pathetic bureaucrat, a joke and morally poor when you have no basis to make such an argument is truly as unfortunate as it is untrue.

There are no privileges in the world of architecture. We all get there the same way, hard work and long hours. To receive the credentials you hold in such low regard, I prepared for my lifetime career in architecture and visioned the quickest path to get there and took full advantages of opportunities when they presented themselves. When I failed, I got up and did it again until I got it right. This is not arrogant, this was simply preparation and a little good fortune along the way.

If morally poor is a lifetime dedicated to working directly from conception through post-construction with end-user clients in lieu of higher paychecks at the big firms, then I must be guilty as charged. Architects universally must learn to get over themselves and remember that we serve real people. If we have not served our client’s needs then we have failed as an architect. We need not sacrifice design creativity, flexibility or the end product to create an excellent result.

If morally poor is being able to use the skills required of an architect to be leader in your community simply to make the community better with no expectations of return, then I must be guilty as charged.

If morally poor is using the skills of an architect to become professionally involved in my favorite hobbies for personal enjoyment, then I must be be guilty as charged.

Blaming others is the easy way out and always has been. If we want to see the real challenges the architect faces we must look inward to ourselves. We all make mistakes and we can choose to learn from them or blame someone else. The AIA, NCARB, USGBC, or the ARE didn’t create this problem, we as architects did. One cannot get in the trap of protecting an institution for the sake of the institution, but rather how can these institutions be leveraged to do good in the world. We can only resolve the challenges of this profession by working together and getting past the us and them mentality.

To address the question of what my definition of a real architect is, I think I covered that in my first posting to this thread of which you agreed to every word of it. There is no uniform definition of architect. We all are by the nature of our training complete thinkers and can adapt and thrive in endless ways. In the 18 years I’ve been in this profession, it has constantly changed and those who thrive best change with it.

Albert Bendersky • A. I am not your colleague, as you claimed. So why you are saying “We all…". Following your logic at least ONE of us is NOT an architect. As for me… if people like you are “architects", then I’d rather stay away…

B. I don’t care about credentials. They do NOT define the profession. I have seen brilliant architects with the decades of the experience on the huge complex projects. And they didn’t have those ridiculous US (or Canadian) credentials because… their English was not perfect, or being immigrants with the families they didn’t have time and money to go through the bureaucratic hell you protect. They were from Egypt, Philippines, Romania, Argentina, Ukraine, Jordan, Russia, China, Vietnam, Israel, Columbia, Algeria … I am talking about people I know personally. I have also seen “samaritans” like you knowing nothing about the outside world walking proudly among those specialists “managing” their work. See, to you credentials is everything. Because it protects you and your rotten system. To me education, talent and personality - that’s what makes real architect
(In case you are interested I am licensed in 3 different countries, I have publications all over the world, tons of all necessary credentials, interesting projects - so this is not some cry from a guy who is angry of not having some credentials. I am fine. Really.)

C. Oh, yes our words are set in stone here. And if somebody wants to follow the chronology of our discussion it will be not so great for your “reputation” , my “not-my-colleague” Jonathan.

D. The major difference between us is: you talk about YOURSELF (check your posts - how good your are, how you are “mentoring", how fair you are with the clients and so on… But this is normal, we all should do this. And we shouldn’t brag about this. It’s a norm.) While I am talking about THE OTHERS, about the professional needs for the architects as a group (regardless of their “credentials"). This is the first time (topic B & E) I start talking about myself. You have forced me.

Е. Don’t even start to compare yourself to me. I have worked in 9 (!) different countries, have run amazing projects, I speak 6 languages, I fought the war (the real one where people get killed), I write books, blogs, essays in 3 languages, I read tons of books (not only architectural tutorials), I feed my family and enjoy life. (And I also do all those things you have mentioned: long working hours, fair relationship with the client, diligent work etc…). Speaking of bragging…
And you? When was the last time you have read a real book? Not a Hollywood blockbuster, but a real book? Yes, I can call you names. If you haven’t noticed - this is Internet, baby. Not some old-fashioned club where you and you bureaucrats buddies judge the world “behind the close doors". Wake up, its a new reality.

F. Again you conveniently haven’t mentioned if your “mentoring activities” are free of charge. I am sure you would cry out loud that you are doing it for free, for the love of the profession if you would really do it for free. Otherwise you get nicely paid by the system by doing this “job". Keep mentoring. Not here though. We are too smart to be your students. We can bite. So spare your banalities for another audience ;)

Jonathan Peiffer • Your personal assaults on my character were a result of my posting about a local small group of outsiders trying to change the system. You misinterpreted that comment so completely to get this discussion to where we are. The ironic part is that group is trying to change the system so that every single building designed in the state of AZ would require an architect’s seal. Completely in the opposite direction of what you interpreted and what your blog posting discusses.

You find it necessary to make your discussions personal and flat our lie about others you know nothing about. Colleagues do not do that. It is one thing to read a particularly insightful book and it is quite another to understand the meaning behind it.

Simply stating untruths does not make them so. Your increasingly angry responses are quite humorous so please feel free to continue to rant and rave without any basis in fact.

On that note, back to some more of the Renaissance activities I first posted about. They actually have meaning for the profession as a whole.

DownUnda Aquatic Environments • Wow!! I feel the time spent creating and writing these hemingway worthy, caustic barbs is indicative of the reason people don,t have work. Its time to get busy and get creative.
Read “Who Moved My Cheese”
Business is absolutely wonderful and I see a bright future for all.
Peace and Good luck to everyone :)

Albert Bendersky • “Who moved my cheese” was written like 10-15 yrs ago…
One hit wonder from the 90-s… Any fresh advice?
And it’s not exactly the book I meant. I meant literature ;)

DownUnda Aquatic Environments • I know some people that have a similar attitude, and I pity them. They are “not” successful because they choose to blame everyone and everything else around him for their lack of success, and success doesn’t always equate to having a lot of money.

I think that you actually enjoy being offensive, your getting attention this way.
Good for you Brother.

Albert Bendersky • I enjoy life. It’s more fun this way.
“…success doesn’t always equate to having a lot of money.” Is this a mantra to yourself, Brother? Or you are trying to calm down The Mentor?

We are like big family here: a mentor, a Brother. And you all are Renaissance people I guess? Preaching ARE 4.0 & reading intellectual tractate “Who Moved My Cheese".

I would suggest you to read Spinoza or Heidegger… (Yeah… go to Wikipedia - start searching)

DownUnda Aquatic Environments • Perhaps, Emanuel Kant, Carl Jung or Karen Horney. or Julian Jaynes…

We still by no means think decisively enough about the essence of action.
Martin Heidegger

Albert Bendersky • Trying to show that you read. Ok. Good for you.

Yet somehow I don’t trust you (it’s easy today to pile those names and quotes through the internet…) You know why I don’t believe you:

A. first thing you have recommended was “Who Moved My Cheese” not Kant. This is your real understanding of the book…
B. I went through your blog. You don’t read Kant. You read “…Cheese.”

Peace to you too, Brother. Good you didn’t call me Comandante :)
I don’t wish you luck, you don’t need it , you have read “Who moved my cheese".

Sanford Garner, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP ND • It seems the discussion may have digressed a bit. Nonetheless, there had been quick mention of reading. So, I thought I would share a few of my favorites for those that are interested. Take from each what you will, but I’ve found each one particularly helpful in some area or another in my personal and professional life. As an aside, I was never too impressed by “Who Moved My Cheese".

Business - “Green to Gold", Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston; “The Art of the Start", Guy Kawasaki; “Blue Ocean Strategy", W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne; and anything by Patrick Lencioni (he writes business parables – short and simple read, my most recent reading of his was “Getting Naked")

Philosophical – “The Four Agreements", Don Migul Ruiz; “The Purpose Driven Life", Rick Warren; “The Dream Giver", Bruce Wilkinson; “The Choice", Og Mandino; “The Prophet", Kahlil Gibran; and “The Art of War", Sun Tzu (which you may have to wrestle with a bit).

Albert Bendersky • Nice list. Lot’s of things to check. Thank you Sanford. One more piece is missing. Ayn Rand “The Fountainhead". A must. (Forget about that “…Cheese")

And on a peaceful note - let’s forget about the architecture for a moment.
Happy New Year to all of you, PEOPLE.
http://archialternative.com/2010/12/30/happy-2011/

Chris Currie • With all of this great reading material I would like to say none of them sound like building codes, tech manuals for computer hardware or software, user manuals computer for hardware or software, or even books on how a building is put together in any discipline. I hope people have not replaced the idea of reading these books for the typical self help book. If that is the case no wonder why the industry is going right down the toilet. LOL

If you want to be a psychologist or philosophist I can understand all of the heavy reading in these categories. So when was the last time you picked up a construction book, a building codes book, a UL book or even a book about the software needed to produce these designs on the computer for the AEC industry? I am just curious. I guess I eat sleep and shit computers and construction. Perhaps it’s a flaw of mine.

Sanford Garner, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP ND • Albert thanks for the addition of the Fountainhead. Chris, the only piece that is heavy(in my opinion at least) is “The Art of War". The balance are pretty simple, quite a few of them incredibly short, and enjoyable reads.

I believe part of our job is to be a psychologist for our clients. How many times have you helped a user or client visualize and understand what it was they truly want and need compared to what they thought they wanted and needed. My sister is a lawyer and she used to drive me crazy when we’d talk. One day I was talking with my attorney (who happens to be a good friend), and I shared my frustration. He helped me understand something. He stated “Your sister’s job as a deputy prosecutor is to get a person to say what she wants them to say. Your job as an architect is to get your client to say what it is they want.” We get along wonderfully now by the way.

As to when was the last time I picked up a construction book, trade mag, UL/code book, etc; construction at least once a week for some reason (budgeting, construction techniques, etc), trade mag (at least twice a week), UL/code as required frankly. Software not as often as I rely on my associates to teach me (I don’t get to draft too much anymore). In other words, reading one does not preclude me from reading the other. I simply love reading and it makes me a better person, husband, father, and practitioner.

Chris Currie •
It might help you manage time and your design better if you know the capabilities of the software and the time it takes for changes. So reading about the use of the production software other than the box it came in might help too, it’s just a thought. This also can help you get more money and budget because you can justify it all better whether it’s changes or the initial design.

Initially my comment was geared towards the individuals who are not reading any of the things on my recommended reading list but are just reading the self help books instead. I personally don’t consider an architect to be a shrink nor would I think they have the credentials for it, just like I wouldn’t hire a shrink to design a building. In my opinion if a client needs a shrink they should go see one because you’re supposed to be an architect. I don’t ask the plumber to wire the building, and I don’t ask the ship builder to repair my car. I don’t ask the roofer to construct foundations to buildings. Everyone today has a specialty to some extent, they are supposed to excel at and have studied their specialty. That is more or less my point. I know what you are going to say though. “But I slept at a Holiday Inn last night!”



Sanford Garner, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP ND • Chris, your comments aren’t quite valid for me as I own my own mid-sized firm. More so, I don’t draft much anymore, as I’m much more valuable doing high level design, high level management, mentoring, and business development for my company. I do, however, have leaders I rely upon that do exactly what you state though with software or hardware for the company. We’ve been blessed that we’ve been doing quite well financially and we’re doing well maximizing our billable time.

Regarding my comment about psychology, I would suggest you read Peter Lencioni’s “Getting Naked.” It’s a simple 220 page book (with large text I might add). It’s probably a two day read if you’re taking your time. I’d be curious about your thoughts after reading it. I personally feel the ideologies in it tie back to Albert’s earlier comments regarding our profession. More importantly, our clients seems to truly appreciate the service and approach we take as a company. So, I’m happy and thankful for that.

UPDATED 12/31/2010

Justin Merkovich, LEED AP • Do one of the following:
A. Find a job that you LOVE and if it doesn’t pay that well, at least you are happy.
B. Find a job that pays well that you can *tolerate* and put all of your REAL energy into something you love.

I’m two years removed from my M. Arch but I’m 38 years old. I pursued architecture as a “second career.” I left a full-time (dead end) job about 6 years ago. I’m now making about 10% more than I made at my previous dead end job.

That 10% is consumed by my student loan payments (interning and bartending part time during school don’t pay an existing mortgage, etc.).

I’m not making boatloads of money but it is all relative-we have a comfortable home, transportation, eat organic/locally grown foods, the bills get paid. “Good” money is relative. Will I make what an investment banker or a doctor will make? No. I would rather dig ditches and scrape by than become an investment banker but that is my personal opinion. I don’t have the skillset to be a doctor and respect their commitment and knowledge so I won’t begrudge them their money. It is well publicized that architects don’t make a whole lot of money (again, this is relative). Anyone that gets all the way through school without understanding that fact deserves their “fate.” I’m good with it but I live simply.

As for education, I directly asked a head of graduate studies why we didn’t get more instruction in real building technology or experience actually building anything and his response was, “Building technology will get learned at a firm. You have very limited time to learn how to design in school and you won’t get much, if any, design opportunity at the lowest rung of an architecture firm when you graduate.” So, the firms are expected to teach building technology and design school is just that-design. This is between firms and schools in my view. What can a student do in this case? I pursued every “design build” opportunity that I could whether it was paid/for credit or volunteer and I learned a ton and helped my portfolio. It was clear to me that I needed to differentiate myself and that meant attaining a deeper level of understanding of building technology (still only scratching the surface). One semester I had a professor who was notorious for being very difficult and I took it upon myself to learn Revit that semester - it cost me a grade. However, when I walk into an interview, I have that software knowledge firmly under my belt and the work in my portfolio. It IS sad that we don’t get taught more building technology or actually make things with our hands but I don’t see how firms can force schools to do it. Which brings me to my next point…the AIA.

What does the AIA do other than create a portal through which I throw money, walk over hot coals and broken glass, and then get a piece of paper that allows me to stamp drawings so I can get sued? From the first undergraduate class, the WHOLE process of architecture is weeding out.

Dispassionate? You’ll get a bad grade in a theory class and be gone. Can’t draw? You’ll get a bad grade in a drawing class (even though about 2% of architects actually draw anything) and you’ll be gone. Made it to grad school huh? Wanna have a spouse and not do three consecutive “all-nighters"? You’ll be gone. Yay! You got an M. Arch and a job, so I suppose you think you are an architect? Here are your title choices for your business card: “Intern” (not “intern architect” by the way) or “Designer.” Yeah, sorry, you can’t have anything that says “architect” because you aren’t licensed. It’s a legal thing. Now, here are your study materials for the ARE and here is where you send in your money and this website is where you log your three years worth of experience…

I haven’t seen any suggestions for revolution in this thread…I have a suggestion for possibly regaining some power/respect/monetary strength but I’ll save it for the next post. Thanks for reading.

David Jenkins, Assoc. AIA • Jonathan, I wanted to comment on your earlier reflections. I agree with many of your points. I’m still 2 exams away from licensure yet I mentor High School students every year. Many of the guys at my last firm would spend our weekends working on homes for habitat for humanity. We sponsor a booth at the local anual fair and at many fundraisers such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, etc.

I help schools to find and fund licenses of AutoCAD. I even go so far as to find a copy for a particularly interested student. I kid the guys because they used to say, “If this job was easy then High School girls would be doing it.” One afternoon mentoring a junior in High School (and yes, a girl), I was able to teach her how to lay out a floor plan in AutoCAD, bring it into Revit and turn it into a model of her house. She did a rendering in Revit and then I had her export it to Impression to do another rendering. She did this in roughly 6 hours with no prior training and had never seen the software before.

I believe in the “Master Builder” approach. This is easy if your doing a single-family home because you can be there to babysit the project and “council” the client along the way. I haven’t worked on anything smaller than 1 Million s.f. in 10 years. That kind of attention just isn’t possible. Usually because I’ve got 9-12 other projects going on as well.

I’m glad so many of us are out of work if for no other reason than we’re finally communicating with each other on a regular basis. I hope that doesn’t end when we’re neck deep again.

David Jenkins, Assoc. AIA • Sorry, one more thing about treating architecture as a hobby. If we do so, we allow others to make unnecessary mistakes. Often not only costly but harmful to the environment.

“Evil happens when good men do nothing.”

Albert Bendersky • David, with all due respect, what this “lengthy list of your good deeds” has to do with the discussion of the issue WHY architectural profession is in such a poor state?

Why are you telling Jonathan on a public board about your mentoring activities and software knowledge. I mean - there is nothing wrong with this, but it is irrelevant to the public discussion.

We can all start to tell different syrupy stories about ourselves… You sponsor a booth at the local fair and I once helped an old lady to cross the street. Common!

Don’t take it personally. But seeing so many “Renaissance people", “Master-Builders” and “Mothers Theresas” on one forum makes me - a regular guy who just asked a simple question to feel uncomfortable.

Happy New Year

P.S. When I see words “Big Brother” it reminds me of Orwell’s “1984″ ;) (I know it has nothing to do with the architecture, but it has to do with the architecture of life)

UPDATED 1/1/2011

David Jenkins, Assoc. AIA • Albert, I think you may have misunderstood my point. I felt that Jonathan was stating that architects needed to get back to the grass roots and that he felt that other’s weren’t doing the same. I was merely stating that there are others out there who feel the same way and what better way to educate the public than by being out there. And, while you’re out there, you may just find some deeper meaning to the title Architect.

You can be the greatest renaissance man or master builder but if no one knows you or trusts in your abilities, I don’t see your phone ringing very often. Nor do I see a future generation of architects if we don’t work with them.

Albert Bendersky • Jonathan was stating his personal achievements. He has quickly mentioned with 2-3 words that architects should do this or that and then in a lengthy phrases has described his personal “good deeds"… Very smelly strategy to promote yourself. (Plus remember - he has never answered if his “mentoring” comes for free… from his replies it was obvious he benefits materialistically from the system so his deeds were even not so “good” after all).

As for promoting “your abilities” I would say doing it on public forum discussing professional issues is not the most appropriate way. For this we have paid advertisements, business conferences, company’s website if you wish.

Do you really think that listing HERE a list of your “good deeds” and “brilliant intentions” will make your phone ring more often? Do you REALLY think that the only purpose for the architect (or for any human being for this purpose) is to make clients/potential clients to call you as often as possible? If so I pity you.

I personally hate phone calls. Any calls. (Guess that doesn’t make me “A Renaissance Man"…). Btw, do you know that Vincent Van Gogh hasn’t sold a single painting in his whole life. He didn’t know how to make “his phone” to ring too often. Or maybe he didn’t care?

P.S. I’m not assuming I’m anything near my favorite painter. All I’m saying is just that the “phone call” is not the highest priority in my life. I prefer to watch Van Gogh paintings in quiet. I would suggest to anyone (besides Jonathan) to go to Paris Musee D’orsay and to do the same. By the way architecturally it’s a great building as well… so if you think Van Gogh is not good enough because of the lack of self-advertisement you can enjoy the architecture. D’Orsey is one of the greatest “retrofits” of the 20th century in my view.

Jonathan Peiffer • I only used the small things I am doing to help this profession as examples. They are certainly not personal accomplishments. Accomplishments is a different subject that is certainly not on topic in this thread. The basic points remain valid. We have a duty to train those with less experience. This profession has thrived in the past in this way and due to increased demand on tighter schedules and lower budgets, this has gone by the wayside. We have the training to be provide service in a number of ways outside the realm of the traditional practice. The basic training to be an architect enables those abilities in all of us.

I do mentor without charge by the way. Didn’t think it needed to be said, but there you have it. Such much for the obvious. As pointed out earlier, the real benefit is the in kind learning about what is working in someone’s career path and what is not and offering insight when appropriate. Sometimes it really is just that simple.

“Fountainhead” was a fun read, but the basic premise of self over all other concerns does little to promote the common good or even the profession. The biggest complaint about architects from the outside is that they are ego-centric and don’t listen. While Rand claimed that it was not based on the Wright / Sullivan relationship, the overtones are overtly clear and the mythical version of “McKim, Mead & White” is taken straight from the pages of history as well. I still enjoy her books and “Anthem” was a short but interesting read in high school. “Devil in the White City” is a fascinating fiction novel based around the architecture of the Chicago Exhibition. For philosophy, “Sophie’s World” was an in depth read. “Ghost Rider” by an author in your part of the world is a good insight into loss and recovery. For pure fun, “Devil May Care” was a 2 day read and the first “official” novel authorized by the Fleming estate since 1964. Finally, research has consumed a good portion of the last quarter, but alas it is for work that comes with some compensation - bartered time for models.

Van Gogh was a brilliant painter that never did sell a painting during his lifetime, but I think that gets off the point of the original blog post. He never got the credit he deserved during his lifetime either. It seemed that the point of discussing of a lack of compensation and recognition would lead to ways that people have escaped that trap. Perhaps I was mistaken about that. If so my apologies.

UPDATED 1/2/2011

Charles Traylor, NCARB • This discussion and its chaotic assortment of links is the most amazing and disjointed bunch of malarky I have read since lunch. To its leader I offer an observation, which we Texans often utter to one another in similar circumstances….all hat and no horse. Holden Caulfield might have used another label…phony. HEY! No need to shout. I’m leaving.

Chris Currie • “Van Gogh was a brilliant painter that never did sell a painting during his lifetime, but I think that gets off the point of the original blog post. He never got the credit he deserved during his lifetime either. It seemed that the point of discussing of a lack of compensation and recognition would lead to ways that people have escaped that trap. Perhaps I was mistaken about that. If so my apologies.”

I think this is the normal mode of operation in the architectural industry. There are people that have nada (nothing in Spanish) as in nada damned thing to do with a project while claiming credit for it. This is done instead of giving credit to the people who actually have done the work, they also get paid poorly, and are under appreciated. So can you explain how those people have “escaped that trap” because I honestly don’t see it? This is why I refuse to design for people that are so quick to do this. No cred + no money for design = I am not designing any of it. I have been down this road before too and it’s not worth the headache.

UPDATED 1/10/2011

Daniel Long • Architects typically are relegated to the “necessary evil” category on projects: the pariah (sp?) on the construction project because we are assumed to have no practical experience, need to know everything and so are constantly at risk of making that “mistake” or lapse.

I can’t tell you how many projects I have worked on, spent that extra time to ensure the client avoids that costly mistake in overall approach, resisted their wishes when they won’t listen and taken the rath – only to be proven right in the end (and thanked once by a client, which made it worth all the suffering). Ususally we get left off the kudos list, but that can also be because we just don’t make enough of an impression or let’s face it: your client just cares more about the end result than making any of us architects feel better.

We see Architect, others see architect, a drafter of plans and not much more. Why do you think you get such a quizzical look when you tell someone you are a professional just as a doctor or lawyer is considered one?

I am upset, you bet. What do I do about it? I take each client and when they complete their project they not only receive a nice project but an education on what an Architect truly is and should be. You all know what that is so go out and do it every day, sometimes twice a day….

Chris Currie • Daniel

I don’t understand.

“Architects typically are relegated to the “necessary evil” category on projects: the pariah (sp?) on the construction project because we are assumed to have no practical experience, need to know everything and so are constantly at risk of making that “mistake” or lapse.”

I can’t say architects are needed for many projects which is hurting their ability to get work during these hard times. Many projects don’t even require an architect to even check a plan. Their services seem to be optional for many potential clients.

“We see Architect, others see architect, a drafter of plans and not much more.”

I can’t even say they have “drafter” down. =-( It’s sad but true. Unfortunately that would require knowing the software and most architects are terrible with computers. I know first hand of their leet skills. I can’t even say it’s ignorance because I put the instructions/directions on how to use the files in the emails. So I would have to say it’s stupidity. So here’s my story, at 9:00 am I was pulled out of my bed after working for about TWO days straight on the engineering portion of a project. I was so tired and frustrated I decided I wasn’t going to get dressed for this. I walked into their office with more than a 5 o’clock shadow and blood shot eyes that were as red as a fire truck. I was dressed in my boxers, flip flops and a wife beater shirt. Rough just doesn’t even begin to describe me at this point.

When I came in the door their client (who was an exec. very large firm) and everyone in the office was looking at me like WTF. After becoming the focus of the office like a naked porn-star at an adult nightclub, I then made my announcement to the office. “Today we are not going to learn about internet security, or how to hack email accounts or passwords on your operating system. We also won’t be learning how to sniff ports, spoof IP addresses or how to break into websites. Today we are going to learn how to use that incredibly difficult and complex software WinZIP. Then we are going to learn how to replace an xref file in AutoCAD.” About a dozen people from his office including their client followed me to this architect’s computer. I asked the architect to see the email I sent him. I then read the email aloud step by step as I followed the instructions.

Guess what? It worked just like I said it would in the email. Yeah, I know it’s sad isn’t it? I then announced “I have been up for almost 48 hours straight and I am going to bed. If you can’t find competent help this is not my problem. I am now going to bed.” I know I am not perfect and this was a very abrupt way of handling people. Please understand even I have limitations for BS after being dragged out of bed due to the gross incompetence displayed which was insurmountable.

I have other stories similar to this that are just as stupid. I have also had an architect complain about not seeing anything on his monitor while his computer was on. Yep you guessed it, he forgot to plug it in. Events like this really made me start to question, just what do these people learn in college? It’s not the software, it’s not building codes, it’s not the money management, it’s not time management, it’s not construction management and it’s not the actual construction of anything. God forbid they learn something relevant to their field or how the real world works in college.

I can’t really say I have seen, heard or experienced much in regards to the other things Daniel has previously mentioned either. I’ve heard a lot of bitching from the people in the field and the other disciplines about architects though. This is another reason why I think this needs to be fixed. The problems in the profession shouldn’t be ignored anymore. We really need to fix them.

Jeremiah Russell • Chris, can you please tell me what city you work in so I can be sure never to job hunt there? I’ve got the same stories only from the other side of it - getting shit drawings from engineers who have the same stupidity you describe. Like, why in the hell can engineers, civil especially, not seem to draft at 1:1? Why is everything scaled down by a factor of 12? DRIVES ME F-ING NUTS. 1″ = 1″…it’s autocad! there is no limit on the space you can use!

The one I love the most is when you etransmit drawings to a consultant, they get it (the zip file) have no idea how to unpack it properly, then open the drawings and call you saying “I can’t see anything on the screen but a long string of letters (that just so happens to resemble a file path)….yeah, they don’t know that the xref needs to be repathed…I’m sure we could both go on and on about this.

UPDATED 1/11/2011

David Jenkins, Assoc. AIA • After reading through all of the input to this thread, I’m gaining a better understanding of what the real problem is with this profession… can you?

I am at the root of all of my problems. Either keep adding to the problem or get out of the way.

Andrea Haake • I have not read all of the thread , just the last parts. On one side of the problem is american/canadian make. The development of the architectural business and for sure business in general is quite different here than in Europe.

1. The diversification of the “architectural work” into designer, technologist, project coordinator, project manager, CAD specialist etc in big offices. Who is responsible for the design, everybody and thus the company or the principal!! The end of the happiness: a warm handshake. I would say it is the due the typical hierachistic management practises here.

2. Where are all the professional magazines and public discussions, I hardly can´t find some. (I know Calgary is just a provincial nest, and Toronto is doing better probably). Many things here are just industry driven.

3. Where is the appreciation of small things? In my opinion it was a professionsional foolishness to give away the authoritiy for doing the design work for residential homes to the homebuilders. I like the idea of calling them the “perfect socialistic shell", I sometimes think I get already Alzheimer, because I get lost in those communities - eventually my trip ends at those amazing acoustic perimeter wall around the developments :
And last not least:

4. The big bang is all what counts and this could be proved throughout the history and the apprehension of the public is naturally bigger if things look complicated.

5. And yes, to establish yourself in the market successfully you either need a lot of money or very good connections (and mostly this comes in pairs. well?)

6. Architecture as an Art has more roots in Europe and people are more inclined to identify themselves with buildings.

UPDATED 1/13/2011

Keith Cannizzaro • I am not really sure what this conversation was about originally but as an engineer I believe that Architects are the most under payed people in this industry. They handle so much on each project sometimes I think to my self why would they want to take on all that but in the end it’s you that shines when the project turns great.

Now on another note another question I have and I may post this somewhere else but I have been in the business for 15 years as a Pluming Engineer and it seems like when it comes to Architects selecting engineering firms they seem to go with the same ones over and over no matter what the quality of work is. Why don’t Architects try someone different just to see if there is another firm out there that can better service your needs. Is it because your afraid to be let down? Is it because the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t? I am a soon to be partner of the firm I work for but for me to elevate to this position I need to establish new clients. How exactly does one accomplish this?

Jeremiah Russell • Keith, excellent questions. i try to get my boss to go with new consultants all the time and get no consideration. I would suggest you get involved with the local AIA, go to some lectures, try to sponsor some happy hour meet/greets or coffee gatherings, whatever. Just get out there and introduce yourself to the local cadre of architects and pass out your card. Let them know your work can speak for itself and you’d like a chance at their next project.

Keith Cannizzaro • Jeremiah thank you for your response. It’s funny because if it was me I would want to find someone better if I wasn’t happy with certain clients. I know this that everyone new client we have had has been blown away with the service and quality of drawings we provide. But like I said it’s hard to get new clients that just don’t want to change. Thanks again.

Debbie Priest • We are always worth more in our own minds than in reality…just ask any baseball player, actor, artist and their arguments during negotiation time will be basically the same as the above arguments here. Past history tells of exactly that - it’s what you can offer each individual client at that moment that matters. Knowledge is power, but useless if you cannot explain to others how the knowledge benefits them.

UPDATED 1/14/2011

Martin Koenigsberg • People-

I think Architects sort of fell for the old Architect/Patron model. But now we are moving to a services/clients model. It just takes time- and Architects are taking time to adjust to it- as their thought naturally turn to the work more than the work model.

Let’s face it- all the places where art and business intersect are going through existential crises right now as we change models and paradigms. At least we’re not the Music business!

Ad people are trying new monetising. “Fine” Art is going through changes. I think we’re actually doing pretty well. I think the next boom will see architects getting a bigger share- perhaps as BIM gives them added power…

Jason Wagner • I personally thought the article was well written aside from the grammatical stuff. Isn’t it really sometimes more about what is being said not HOW its said? Aretha Franklin sang our theme song but Nanny McPhee said it best- when you ask for it, it will not be there, but when you don’t need it, that’s when it will be around. We are like the beaten wife of the construction industry. always asking for more and thinking we are worthless. We are lucky to be able to do what we love so we think “wow, someone wants to pay us for this?” so we beat ourselves up over fees. We got sued because we talked about fees in the past and tried to regulate how much to charge.

I don’t know the details but this is all about ranting anyway right?

Why else does anyone read these some of these more popular group posts for no other reason than entertainment purposes. I would prefer this over the blatant self-promotion that occurs on these same groups. What do we need to do to correct the issue at hand? Respect ourselves! That’s where it starts. Easy to say because I am currently employed right? All the architects out there in their garages that are doing projects so they can put food on the table. I can guarantee that most do not have E/O insurance. Think about that next time you sign some drawings and you are not covering yourself from being sued. Respect yourself. Just because you work out of your garage doesn’t mean people need to pay you less. Aside from leasing a huge office you should still have some of the same expenses as a big firm. Of course, many instead go without… not joining the AIA, not carrying health insurance, or using their spouses insurance, wishing they could use BIM but instead doing work using a bootleg of Autocad 2007.. Respect yourself. People I know are still impressed when you say you are an architect, why shouldn’t you be impressed with yourself. Albert is right when speaking about what architects do. What Don’t we do?? Traditionally we are not good with money- instead wishing we could design away all day coming up with the next cool thing. We are not good with marketing, otherwise you would be seeing WAY more AIA and architect ads out there on TV. We don’t ask for respect from media outlets who usually tell us who built a project, but never who designed it unless its a Starchitect (for lack of a better term).

What do we do? Respect yourselves first (see a theme here?) Ask for what you are worth, not for what you think the other guy cannot beat on price. If everyone just asked for what they were worth we would immediately see an improvement. I cannot tell you how many times I see people putting proposals together in the “hopes” that more work will come so we will “take a loss on this project” just to get our ‘foot in the door". Let me tell you- THAT NEVER WORKS. You have just set the expectation that they can get what they want for free, and you are cheap.

What else? Get out there and market yourselves, talk about what you do to whomever will listen. Blog, tweet, facebook, write articles about architecture in your town for the local paper, become an activist for buildings, LEED, historic restoration, urban planning, whatever.

Looking forward to subsequent comments from others- sorry for the diatribe but I am tired of us being beat up too. Thanks for the post Albert.

UPDATED 1/15/2010

Albert Bendersky • Thank you very much, dear colleagues. Pretty cool year results…
More than a 1,000 people have voted on my financial poll regarding architect’s income. http://archialternative.com/2010/10/31/poll-2010-11-01/
More then 300 comments in total on my site… OMG!
185 comments here! Wow!
Another 76 comments on my thread related to the financial poll…. I’m shocked.

Not some brief comments like “yes we like it", “no I hate it"… But deep detailed, PHILOSOPHICAL comments full of creative ideas and strong language. In my view a lot of them deserve to be published as a separate essay… What can I say? I would never expect to create such a wave with my funny emotional thoughts… I must be touching some nerve here, some very painful points…

On a separate note. Although it is also part of my results.
In ~5 months about 70,000 people have read my English blog. Among them very famous movie-critics, legendary rock-poets, writers & of course architects. From all over the world. Only 3 (three!) of them have mentioned my “poor grammar". All three of them were ARCHITECTS from the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. (Not writers, critics or poets, but architects.)

Thank you, American colleagues, for your tact & delicacy.
Too bad you don’t read my upfront apologies for not speaking English perfectly.
It’s been always placed here: http://archialternative.com/about/

P.S. I’m just interested how many OTHER languages besides their native English speak & read those American architects who were not impressed with my grammar :)

UPDATED 1/16/2010

Nava Slavin • Sadly Albert, you are so right. the public in general does not have an appreciation for talent & knowledge if they have to pay for it. It seems that cost is mostly the bottom line, not great architecture. In order to earn more money I was forced to do mainly interiors & never stopped regretting it. I always admired those who stayed & did great work in spite of the small return. Other professions like doctors, teachers face the same issues. yet actors & sports figures are paid ridiculous amounts of money.
I am sure you are talented but frustrated & all I can say is that I hope you enjoy what you do. It may be worth more than anything money can buy.
Good luck to all.

UPDATED 1/17/2010

Jeffrey Pastva • I appreciate the article, but the Woe is Me approach doesn’t get the architect very far. Why do lawyers, who can barely spell your name right, get to charge you $400 per hour? I even had to approve an invoice in where a lawyer billed in 6 minute increments, so we were actually billed for the time it took him to write his invoice to us. It is absolutely infuriating, but the developer argument is similar. Just as you need a lawyer to settle disputes or to represent you in front of planning boards, you need a developer to fund a project. In the end the developer takes on the risk and is the one paying you. Until the day arrives that architects are able to take on the role of developing their own projects, we will always be at the mercy of the owner, no matter how much we do behind the scenes to make a project happen.

Jeremiah Russell • Jeff, why is it “until the day arrives that architects are ABLE to take on the role of developing"? Do you think there is something (other than the cajones to do it) stopping architects from being our own clients? True the risk is HUGE, which is why most architects are fine being nothing more than a “service provider", but in my not so humble opinion ;-), architects are SUPPOSED to be the developers - i.e. those shaping the built environment around us. It’s our primary role as “master builders". And all it would take (other than an insanely rich wife/mistress who likes to write blank checks) is for a couple of architects to partner together on a joint venture, purchase some land and BUILD. We shouldn’t be going after new clients, we should be competing with our clients. We should be designing and building the next generation of sustainable architecture instead of waiting for our money hungry clients to get the friggin clue that this is good for the world as well as our pocket books.
Ok, I’ll step off my soap box now. :-)

Jason Wagner • Funny you shoukd mention architect as developer.. Just saw this local article about one doing just that. http://www.slu.edu/x36607.xml

Albert Bendersky • @ Jeremiah
Very well said. I was always thinking about the same thing. As for the lack of starting capital - what you suggest is a very smart concept: just cooperate, make partnerships and work together architects. I personally think that this might be the only practical solution for “architecture” to become a reputable field again, as well as for “architects” to make decent income given their expertise and talents…
Bravo.

P.S. “Design-build” model in it’s present shape is not exactly the thing we would need (in case somebody wants to remind us about that)

Jeremiah Russell • @Albert, check out this blog for info on IPD (integrated project delivery). seems it’s the new “sliced bread” of architecture. I haven’t gotten into it a great deal yet, but i’m headed that way as it seems the way a project should go (i.e. the architect consulting with all trades, including contractor, from the get-go).
@Jason, sweet article. I’ve seen other stories like that in the past. Not nearly enough though. We need, as Albert put it, more partnerships among architects to get things done the way they should be done.

Justin Merkovich, LEED AP • @Jeremiah:
You nailed it. I posted far above that more concrete ideas need to be put forward and that I was going to throw one out but you beat me to it - architects as developers. It seems like the simplest idea in the world: many of the complaints on this thread (and others) is that “…we don’t make any money” and “…the developers are the only ones making the money.” If the perception is that developers make all of the money and architects are angry about that, the solution is simple - develop yourself!

Preemptive strike # 1: Before anyone posts about “risk", I challenge you to either accept the status quo, continue doing all of the visionary work while accepting the monetary “scraps” and stop complaining or DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT even if that means you assume some risk!

Preemptive strike # 2: I keep reading posts about what “terrible business people” architects are. If this is so true then collectively we need to look in the mirror and figure that out. Is the mind of an architect so different that we can’t make intelligent business decisions? Is it really that hard to put a team of financial backers together to finance a project with a good pro forma? Either the “numbers” (rent, etc) are there or they aren’t right? What is so mysterious and difficult about putting together a business deal?

I’m two years removed from grad school but I’m 38 years old. If the difficulties that we face, and more importantly - the solutions, seem so obvious to someone new to this profession then I’d love to hear some explanation from the “veterans” as to what I’m missing.

Cheers,
Justin

Jeremiah Russell • you’re not missing anything Justin. where do you live? lets partner and get some s**t done. :-)

UPDATED 1/24/2010

candy jalbuena • It’s funny but here in the Philippines, a building is more prominently identified with its architect – not its builder or engineer or contractor. This is not to say that the architect makes more money than everybody else but definitely, the “prestige” of a landmark building is more closely identified with the architect.

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