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Taliesin, where a woman can be a fellow here.

As Architect Barbie, the doll from "BARBIE® I CAN BE...™” series hits stores on August 15th, I can’t help but think about a girl, whose story of wanting the doll upon seeing an image of it from the internet earlier this year. When Catherine Lorraine Johnson requested her grandfather for an Architect Barbie, it struck a chord and gave me an a-ha-moment. I sensed an imaginary bond that connected that four-year-old girl with the grandpa, who happens to be the respected architectural designer, Michael P. Johnson.

photo by Elizabeth Melas
3 people recommend this.
Activities : Special Projects, Walking Tours  Publications : Articles, Case Studies, Research  Knowledge Communities (cross tag) : Committee on Architecture for Education, Committee on Design, Committee on the Environment

The Changing Role of Architects: Can Traditional Practice Continue to Survive and Thrive?

I first voiced this concern at a Saturday morning seminar on Life/Work Balance at the 2008 National AIA Convention in Boston, MA while participating in a small group talk.  In that 4-hour seminar, we were set in groups of 10 at round tables to discuss issues we face as architects and how we approach them.  When our group leader listed our top concerns about the profession, he did add mine at the tail end, namely, that "architects, as sole practioners, seemed to be facing obsolescence." 

To my surprise, no one said anything.  No one screamed.  No one argued.  No response- good or averse.

3 people recommend this.

During a recent screening of the documentary Kings of Pastry at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago's theater district, I had the pleasure of asking one of its leading characters, Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer from where his design sources come. He tells me he's a big fan of the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly, stating that he studied the processes and techniques of glass blowing, and incorporates them in some of his culinary sugar sculptures. Kings of Pastry fell on my radar when I saw this image:
The expression on the chef's face reminded me a lot about architecture school when I had to build scaled models, trying to make sense of how to construct undulating forms out of bass wood. In this case, the chef uses chocolate as his medium. It made me think, constructing something out of foam core, bass wood, and paper was crazy enough, what is driving this chef to achieve something similar with a medium that has a potential to melt and carries an expiration date? So I watched the film:
1 person recommends this.

Review of

Architectural Graphic Standards for Residential Construction, Second Edition, 2010

About a month ago I posted a question on the Residential Knowledge Community board asking if anyone had seen the second edition of Architectural Graphic Standards for Residential Construction, and if so, what they thought. Though I did not get any review comments back, I was fortunate enough to receive a note from the AIA asking if I would like to review the book myself and post my review as a blog on the AIA KnowledgeNet. I accepted, and they sent a copy of the book to me. See below for my review.  I have been an architect for many years, but most of my work has been on large scale commercial projects, so I approached this book as someone that knows about construction, but also as one wanting a refresher on residential construction.

The introductory notes to Architectural Graphic Standards for Residential Construction

2 people recommend this.

Why is it that so many mainline religions in the U.S. continue to replicate architectural forms from other cultures, other countries, rather than commission architects to create something fresh and contemporary?
Is it a strong desire to connect with ancestry, to protect the status quo? Or is it the lack of courage on the part of the architectural profession to help clients
imagine the possibilities?

I am wondering what others think?
1 person recommends this.

As a continuation to my previous commentary on the IGCC; this article involves two aspects:  a) the effort by a municipality to perform permit-reviews; and, b) the effort by the A/E to prepare documents for permit-submission.

a)       Getting a building permit in the City of Houston (my hometown jurisdiction – C of H) is a pain.  That’s because the C of H utilizes a “thorough-plan-review” system, which gives broad powers to the plans examiners, and less power to the field-inspectors.  Unfortunately, the pain increased when the city underfunded its pension obligations, and many experienced plan-examiners / inspectors “retired” to take advantage of generous benefits.  Now that the C of H has a true “budget crisis” (endemic to most municipalities), I expect the pain to increase further.  The C of H recently announced that “pink slips” will be distributed through all departments –

1 person recommends this.

Envisioning the X-Prize: How Lessons from the Space Industry May Help Architects Transform the Built Environment
Jane Poynter, Author and Environmentalist of Biosphere fame and President of Paragon Space Development Corporation, has laid down the gauntlet.  During her presentation at a recent Summit, she asked a group of thought leaders in architecture: “Why don’t we have an X-Prize for the built environment?”

A poignant question.

What is an X-Prize?  I didn't know for sure, so I googled it and found this exhilarating video:

Jane Poynter was the first Keynote Speaker to kick off the event which was comprised of approximately 75 delegates; some attendees traveled from as far away as India and Britain to attend the recent 
1 person recommends this.

From client requests to notes on vendors, your online bookmarks are getting out of control and your Evernote notebooks are a fierce hot messHundreds of design ideas and inspirational stylings zip through your mind and your inbox on a daily basis.

A new social bookmarking / photo sharing / shopping gallery website is changing the way brands engage potential customers and it can help you get organized, attract clients, and connect with like-minded designers. 

Pinterest is an "online virtual pinboard" that "lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web." (from their website

5 people recommend this.

To continue my previous blogs:

  • The IGCC is totally unnecessary…there, I said it!
  • 1 – The IGCC is totally unnecessary – It’s a stretch to the meaning of “construction / building codes”, and
  • 2 - The IGCC is totally unnecessary - It costs architects in fees…

…As everyone knows, we live in a very litigious society; and, without question, the threat and reality of litigation impacts what we draw, say, and even imply as professionals.  Much of the basis for litigation comes from what we “should do” or what we “should have done” – while compared to “what another prudent architect would do, in similar situations, in the exercise of his (or her) professional services”.  As an attorney who’s familiar with A/E litigation told me recently,

The [Standard of Care] isn't static.  It's whatever you agree to in a contract (customary, highest, best [practices]...), or in the case of a 3rd-party claim for personal injury, what other similar A/E's customarily [perform]... The evidence to a jury of what the standard means and whether it was met has to be presented by experts.  You should anticipate that anyone suing an A/E will find an expert to say not following codes is a breach of the standard of care.”

1 person recommends this.

Architecture Exchange East conference is in full swing in Richmond, Virginia. Read some of the Take-aways from this session:

306 What’s Your Plan B?

Does the present economy make you feel like there is more truth to Murphy’s Law than fiction? Do you wonder about alternative career paths for architects? An expert panel of professionals who have not followed typical career paths considers the options.

Presented by
Rob Rosenfeld
Heather Simmons, AIA, HDR, Inc.
Kathryn T Prigmore, FAIA, NCARB, CDT, LEED AP, Vice President, HDR, Inc.
Leslie McDonald, Architectural Designer at Abrahamse & Company Builders
Amy Eichenberger, AIA, Senior Project Manager, University of Virginia

The public perceives architecture as a career for the creative, free spirits who also seem to earn good money while designing cool new buildings.

AIA Stats:
Only 30% architecture students go on to become licensed architects
77% of current interns are pursuing traditional paths in architecture

Rob Rosenfeld:
Plan B in high school is to be a mortician
Never be afraid to take chances even when times are tough.
1 person recommends this.
Activities : Conferences, Seminars  Knowledge Communities (cross tag) : Practice Management Knowledge Community

Where do you start, and what are the best practices to search out the correct codes?

Start with your state - your state will adopt a national code.  Most have adopted the international building code (IBC printed from the ICC) international code council.    << History lesson: The international code has grown from the Building Code Council and Southern Building Code into the National presence it is today. >>

Next, Drill down to the local level by calling the CITY HALL of the area where you are working.   Check with their building department and/or Development department.  

Next check is the internet:   search for the code they gave you as the adopted code on your favorite search drive   Google, Yahoo, etc.

My favorite Code website listing all states codes is from  Reed Construction Data     this web location tells you the state code and local adoptions plus the telephone and some web links to free codes (and they have been very accurate)!

1 person recommends this.

I just wanted to get something going here for those of us trying to work or get work and who might not be as technically, in the way of computer drawing as we would like to be. I know that all the firms want the REVIT and CAD and forget that the experience is what is most important. We can also be good suprvisors and teachers in the office. Not to mention spec writers, Constrction Administrators etc.
I would love to get comments from anyone who has an interest in this subject.
2 people recommend this.

The state of Alabama is currently in the process of have a new psychiatric hospital designed. The patients will be fed in the new hospital, however, the food will be prepared in another facility and transported to the new building. I have been told that the new building will be required by The Joint Commission to have a dishwasher in the building even though the food is prepared elsewhere. Is this true and where can I find the regulation?
1 person recommends this.

AIA is in the process of migrating all past blogs to this new venue - There is one comment on a recent Small Firms Idea Exchange blog that just can't wait (see below for question and original blog post if you [sigh] haven't seen it.

Thank you to Oscar to asking such a large question for initial real 'blog' in this venue.
FIRST:  AIA has that anti-trust thingie that makes it so we can't discuss specific actual fees; we can however discuss the philosophy on how one determines what their fees should be, or debate 'fixed fee' versus 'hourly' contracts.
SECOND: 'how to get clients' is way more fun - let's start there.  There has been a number of AIA SPP journals which specifically addressed this topic.  I'll figure out how to put the best journal(s) in the 'resources' tab above.  A few of my favs that have percolated to the surface (in no particular order) are:
* Everything you do, you're an architect - you think like one, you move like one, you solve problems and look for a multitude of solutions like one - use that to your advantage.  Do what you do, well!.
* Offer to help out a wide variety of causes/groups, etc.  As you meet more people, make sure you can recite your '15 second informercial' (about one breaths worth); I make mine a little funny and have open-ended pieces so folks want to know more about 'what architects do'.
1 person recommends this.

A new book was recently brought to the attention of the NAC - 'Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice' by Eric J Cesal.

This book, authored by Cesal who recently completed a Masters of Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis, documents his journey as he faces the profession of architecture during a time of financial instability.

The description as posted on is as follows:

"I paused at the stoop and thought this could be the basis of a good book. The story of a young man who went deep into the bowels of the academy in order to understand architecture and found it had been on his doorstep all along. This had an air of hokeyness about it, but it had been a tough couple of days and I was feeling sentimental about the warm confines of the studio which had unceremoniously discharged me upon the world."--from Down Detour Road

What does it say about the value of architecture that as the world faces economic and ecological crises, unprecedented numbers of architects are out of work? This is the question that confronted architect Eric Cesal as he finished graduate school at the onset of the worst financial meltdown in a generation. Down Detour Road is his journey: one that begins off-course, and ends in a hopeful new vision of architecture. Like many architects of his generation, Cesal confronts a cold reality. Architects may assure each other of their own importance, but society has come to view architecture as a luxury it can do without. For Cesal, this recognition becomes an occasion to rethink architecture and its value from the very core.

1 person recommends this.

In four weeks, my colleague, Jeremy Altman and I will pack our bags as inaugural American Institute of Architects (AIA) Knowledge Scholar representatives.  As each day passes I am increasingly excited as we near departure for the Crafting the Future conference.  Landing in Tokyo we’ll hear about rebuilding efforts after the March 2011 devastating earthquake and tsunami in Northern Japan.  This is a unique moment to hear from an architectural perspective the discussions of how a country rich with history, tradition, and landscape thinks about dwelling.
Learning about the political, cultural, and physical context of Japan, coupled with carefully chosen tours will guarantee an avalanche of experiences.  How should information be captured and curated so that these experiences can be accessible to ourselves and others in the future?  My proposal for capturing knowledge at this conference is to ask the simple question -
1 person recommends this.

It was a bit of a relief to be in DC last Wednesday as my world came apart at the seams. I tend to eat, drink, and sleep architecture, and whatever position I am in, so it has really been devastating. I made the comment to my staff nearly a year ago, that my main goal was to not be the last state architect. And yet here it is happening before my eyes.

On April 25, 2012, the Ohio House passed House Bill 487, the Governor's Mid-Biennium Budget Review Bill. On May 16, it was approved by the Senate. The House moved it to a Conference Committee on May 17, 2012. House Bill 487 will merge the State Architect's Office with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to form the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. Ninety-one days after the Governor's signature, the State Architect's Office will no longer exist.

I'd like to think that somebody cares about this issue as much as I do. I ran into my mentor at the Fellowship Investiture, and she said that it was a disgrace. Having served in the position before me. I know she cares too. Her words, though not meant for me personally, were difficult to swallow. AIA fought long and hard to keep the Architect of the Capitol an architect. Seems obvious, but not to those outside the profession.
1 person recommends this.

Apparently some architects in NYC are singing in the rain...finally!  Check this out as shared on net search; here are some fantastic face to face interviews with recognizable names in architecture:

Several key principals and CEO's of prominent firms were interviewed and have echoed similar sentiments to what we've been discussing/lamenting here: i.e. architects cutting fees and doing more pro bono work upfront, projects placed on hold, and experienced employees out of work compared to younger ones finally being hired (which is a great thing). 

The silver lining in the clouds was learning how one firm's main project "on their boards" is the complete re-working of LaGuardia Airport among other key infrastructure projects.

The overall sentiment is that things are starting to turn around. 

I'm glad to hear this.  Meanwhile, I still think our profession needs a makeover...
1 person recommends this.

The Space Architecture Technical Committee (SATC) of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the first formal organization of architects and industrial designers working in the aerospace field. The AIAA-SATC arranges aerospace architecture paper sessions at international space conferences, promotes research on aerospace architecture topics, assists students with space architecture projects and provides liaison between aerospace engineering, architecture and industrial design disciplines.

Over fifty years have passed since the birth of human spaceflight. In that time, hundreds of humans have visited Earth orbit as astronauts, politicians or fare-paying tourists. Twelve astronauts have been to the Moon and worked on its surface. A determined step towards the settlement of space has been taken with the International Space Station, the first important piece of architecture beyond Earth. Three nations have human spaceflight programs and several private companies are developing tourist spacecraft and orbiting hotels. AIAA-SATC members are involved in fields such as robotic rover and probe engineering, future space station design, Moon and Mars base design, launch facilities planning and construction, underwater and simulated weightlessness testing, and habitat design for extreme Earth environments. 
1 person recommends this.

As a follow-up to my previous blog “The IGCC is totally unnecessary…there, I said it!” - I’ve continued with elaboration on my first point (stated in the blog title)…if you’ve never read the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), I hope the following information will be an eye-opener, and you’ll spend time reviewing the nuts and bolts of the IGCC…

As states:

“Building codes have been used by governmental units for centuries to ensure that buildings remain safe and sanitary. Early settlements in the United States drafted codes for such purposes as restrictions on the use of wooden chimneys to prevent fire. The early codes were usually only a few sentences in length, specifying narrow restrictions in construction.

“The current “building code” is a series of codes…simplicity is not a component of the code; however, the intent is still to provide adequate ventilation, proper egress, and safety“

1 person recommends this.