(borrowed image. unknown source.)
Yesterday, day 2 of the Architecture & Design Film Festival in Chicago, we finally met the one that we feel represents the new generation of Architecture :
Bjarke, founder of BIG, flies through Chicago often, but this time was a panelist in the session “Documenting Architecture”.
BobbyZ has always admired his work, and then I learned of the practice from Bobby, to also gain admiration. The maritime youth house, in collaboration with Julien – JDS, and VM house are the 1st projects I remember, in 2004-2005.
Today, BIG manipulates digital tools in a way no one had before him. Presenting his conceptual development and models, expressing the design ideas in a new engaging way. Immediately following the panel, they showed “my playground”… following people exploiting the spaces of various of his buildings, at different stages of construction :
The entire session was very good… and one thing stood out from Bjarke’s time for me… (i’m paraphrasing here) is that he is “creating work that is expanding urban space”. That particular thought I found profound, and definitely pertinent to not just architecture, but to good architecture.
We caught up with him, after the session, to speak to him about what is like (& how it happened) that he is where he is today… especially given his age.
We got a signature in our copy of “Yess is More”, a book now almost impossible to find… and my friend Lira & myself took a snapshot with the man.
Also in the panel was Rick Valicenti from ‘thirst’ a design collaborative who, little did we know, has done work with FAU (Florida Atlantic University), our own undergrad institution. When I heard that during introductions… I had to do a double take. I was pleasantly surprised (it is after all a smaller newer school).
Rick (far left below) had worked with Archeworks in developing a new “mobile food collective”.
Last, but certainly not least, was Iker Gil from MAS Studio (in the middle above)… presenting his project, the new documented Marina City Project, coming to the Art Institute’s Modern Wing in September.
I very much appreciate and admire this particular project because MAS Studio is actually trying to portray the life that is fitted, or developed, within the architecture. That is the entire purpose of what we do (architecture)… to generate space and, hopefully, improve quality of life.
>Iker, we love the pink kitchen by the way… just thought we’d let you know.< :)
(+ I told him all about the fun for my Epic 30th at Marina City where “Goldberg meets Mies meets Wright… meets…” found it relevant, given the venue)
Thanks to Zoe Ryan (far right above) for bringing such an inspiring and fulfilling session to @ADFilmFestival… and it continues.
Last night was the 1st evening, the kick-off, of the Architecture and Design Film Festival.
For the 1st time the Festival has been brought to Chicago… it is usually held in New York.
The Festival opened with
“How much does your building weigh, Mr. Foster?”
A documentary of the life, architecture journey and current practice of Sir Norman Foster.
The title was, interestingly enough, based on a question posed to Norman one day by Mr. Buckmeister Fuller (he called Bucky), about one of my favorite buildings, one I studied early while in Architecture school… falling in love with his work… the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.
If you know Foster’s work you know that this is one of his most modest projects. Smaller in scale. And “just a box” like Bobby said… but I fell in love with the superior performance. With the mechanical systems. The double skin. The lattice system.
I fell in love with the mundane things, more “useful” things, Norman considered to make this project Mr. Sainsbury’s “most valuable piece yet” in the collection.
All that said, Bucky visited and asked : How much does your building weigh?… opening up a whole new dimension for Norman (in his own words) in the consideration of material performance per a given a density… and one could assume cost, and other matters related.
I did like the movie, a bit slow, but learned many things. Norman is less harsh than appears. His story of the discovery of Architecture was interesting… and maybe even a bit familiar.
It is 4:29 am, and I could not stop thinking (since yesterday) about writing this post.
There are very obvious differences between the two minds that must come together, as seamlessly as possible, to make a building happen efficiently.
The Architect (the ‘creative mind’) could learn a thing or two from the Contractor (the ‘practical mind’), and vice-versa (though that post is for another day), ultimately to run a more effective practice (or project) :
1. Think Money, not Time.
Architects seem to have a single daily resource focus : time. Contractors, in the other hand, focus every day on at least two separate though equally important resources : time & money.
There is nothing wrong with thinking of time, except we all tend to forget that “time is money”
Architects tend to function trying to beat a clock, their deadlines, continuously inflating their work within that time… therefore minimizing significantly their yet-to-be-received or reserve money resource. Contractors, unlike Architects, are keenly and constantly aware of their yet-to-be-received or reserve money resource, and continuously make stride to minimize their use of the time resource, which in turn inflates their money resource (and not their work).
So, think more like a Contractor, and run your practice (or project) with both resources in mind, or even better… think Money, not Time. You might find yourself probably being more efficient, and potentially pocketing some of that cash or buying that new printer you always wanted.
2. Think Building, not Design.
The design phase… to some a very abstract idea. And, what is design?
Architects all know it is the process of conceptualizing and developing better spaces, to be included in the project. At times this is a difficult pill to swallow for people. They cannot grasp why this may be a valid (or valuable) process.
Architects should think of their work more as Contractors think “Pre-Construction”… what I mean by that is stop thinking about the “conceptualizing of a better environment” and start thinking of the tools for a better building.
Thinking of the end product will help you regain control of the value of your own work, and the profession. Of course, design should always be inclusive… but that is a given for any good architect.
Still, remember to Think Building, not Design.
3. Think Owner, not Building.
The last and crucial piece.
Architects focus so much on the design (not even the building – see #2), that they may loose grip of the client and reasons why there is a project in the first place. It may not seem so as you read this but think back… Most Architects, as you may have once or twice, see Owner meetings as tedious work and designing as the fun work.
What if Architects could shift their train of thought : Owner meetings are fun, and designing is just the project’s requirement?
By doing this, Architects could better hold on to the “Business” that is Architecture, like Contractors have held on to the business of building. Regain the ability to deliver a tangible valuable asset to the Owner, while being profitable, effective and efficient through this delivery process… Think Owner, not Building.
In the recent weeks I came across the very controversial issue of the Prentice, a Goldberg-designed concrete structure, originally a women’s hospital in downtown Chicago.
I am a mid-century and concrete lover… all things cast-in-place, or raw exposed concrete, are my thing and I am with those in effort to save it.
Northwestern University, currently (and seemingly stubborn about it) are looking to demolish the place to build a new tower. A research facility. If you asked me that seems… counter-productive.
Demolition Costs + Expenditure in New Construction ≠ Gain
Plus, there is significant architectural value that is inherit of Prentice, and it adds to the significant architectural value of the city of Chicago.
As a (soon to be) builder - and aside from my design self (architecture licensing in progress) - what really hurts in this case is the disregard for the methods used in the creation of this project.
Why, you ask?… well, it is cost-prohibitive.
Meaning that the costs that are incurred in an all concrete structure or cast-in-place project, the labor costs, and its curvilinear form (which comes with formwork costs), all come together to insurmountable amounts in today’s market… not to mention the lack of craftsmanship that comes with today’s workforce.
Oh, and let me guess?
Northwestern wants a LEED certified building?… Am I right?…(yes! Probably.)
Have you not heard? :
The most sustainable building, is the building already built!!
I was reading and looking through the reuse plans that have been published, and all seem very adequate, achievable, and effective for their purpose. I especially liked the residential study (and can imagine that firm that actually came up with it – trying to add interior curvilinear value to Goldberg’s current curvilinear exterior shell).
But - and just throwing in my opinion here - a potentially more successful, and maybe a more easy model to sell, would be that of a hybrid project. An even more flexible one that those that have been presented.
I would have proposed a mixed housing + research facility, where Graduate and PhD students would want to move in to exploit this space as a live/work-share/work environment… that, as supposed to watching tv in the center of the structure.
Of course, I was extremely happy to do so… and even more so, to find myself in the front page.
Now, after that was published, a few friends congratulated me… others did not understand how I got there, and asked… and I came to a realization:
What one gets, or does, with one’s own profession is entirely up to… well, one’s self.
No education, peer, employer, luck or otherwise ungodly external force, will make anything happen for one’s present or future. Some may serve as inspiration, and others as guide, but none will actually get you there.
It’s interesting because though I was there, front page and interviewed, nothing really came out of it except the acknowledgment from a few.
There were no employers lining up to offer me a position, given the very obvious self-propelled enthusiasm and initiative that originally may have landed me there. There were no Social Media or #aiachat novices lining up to ask me questions…
So what then?
I can honestly say I got some time for self-evaluation, and maybe even a (slight) rude awakening.
Ultimately… I gained an understanding of the fact that if I want to be a successful building design and construction professional, then…
it is up to me to lay out the path to get there.
Well… JOIN US!
We have launched 26LAB, NFP a not-for-profit organization in Chicago. This is a life enrichment program & learning lab, concentrating in ages 14-18 (high school) but also hosting a myriad of other activities.
The organization’s main goals are
using architecture, engineering & construction education
to help youth ages 14-18, and others, develop their
critical-thinking, communication & interpersonal skills +
we help our students express themselves, develop & express their ideas, all while helping others.
Of course we’re exploiting social media to spread the word & raise capital funding for 26LAB… here are our links :
If you’re a High School student now, and are not sure but have the suspicion that maybe you would like to be an architect, there are many wonderful programs nationwide to help you explore design before you have to concretely make a decision.
I, myself, am involved in one, offered by Duke University via the Duke TIP program.
This particular program is a 2-week boarding session where we concentrate not only in Architecture, but other building industries and also matters of Sustainability.
This year, 2011, will be my 2nd time participating. 2010 was actually the founding class (picture below) and some of our students have left the class with great passion and inspiration to continue in the path to becoming architects. We also had future engineers and builders.
Another great program is the one led by my undergraduate school Director Aron Temkin, now professor and Dean of the School of Architecture and Art at Norwich University. Located at the Fallingwater residence designed by famed american architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this program is a 1-week boarding program that
is an interdisciplinary architecture program for students interested in exploring environmental and design related issues in the context of one of America’s most significant works of architecture
There are other local non-boarding programs around, like the CAF (Chicago Architecture Foundation) Teens program. Offered during the summer in the City of Chicago.
CAF, in addition, offers a program at Taliesin, studio founded by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Or the summer Architecture program offered by IIT (Illinois Institute of Technolgy), also in Chicago, located in the famous campus with buildings designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe & Rem Koolhaas.
There are specialized High Schools around the country that are also tracked in Architecture, for those of you that were undoubtedly born for the art.
Like DASH (Design Architecture Senior High) in Miami.
I probably would’ve attempted to get in if I would have known it existed…
Many programs, many places, chartered schools, etc… do your homework.
Google “High School Architecture”. :)
Architects should look closely at a certain retail giant, and take note.
If you’re now finding yourself thinking
“what the hell is she talking about?… i’m an architect for god’s sake…”
… hence my point… & I’m going to walk you through this:
> The other day, browsing the tv (which is mostly crap by the way… don’t know what they’re thinking…), we ran into a documentary about Target. Everything about its inception, founders, business strategy, today and where they’re going.
We were quite surprised at how old Target is. Not originally named such, Target’s inception came to be from Dayton Dry Goods, a company founded in 1902 in Minneapolis. A family of entrepreneurs that constantly held their post dominating retail, though slowly and inconspicuously through “affordable” stuff (the downstairs store)
For years they continued to try, and try hard, to succeed with all of the best, newest, one of a kind stuff, when deep down their “downstairs” was what was soaring (they did not realize then…)
It took about 50 years, and a couple of generations involved, to realize that it was about quality, but about affordable quality, for the masses.
So… today Target is a place that, regardless of who you are, lower to middle class, professionals, the snobby and rich… even the elite above and beyond, you love the place because it is “affordable” (not cheap) quality and aesthetic stuff. Target, like other corporations we know, is almost cult-like in terms of its customers.
We, the profession of architecture (architects), have gone in the complete opposite direction of what makes sense. The opposite direction that those designers have taken, like Isaac Mizrahi, or the beautiful products by such as Liberty of London… and now William Rast (by Justin Timberlake) or my personal favorite Mossimo (because they have the best fitting jeans and tees I’ve ever encountered… and I’ve even bought $100 jeans before).
[ Remember... Michael Graves?... tea pot now a Collector's item ]
Why can’t we take note, and realize that we are not above and beyond others… we serve others. Like retailers do. Like the hospitality industry does. The public.
Sure, we train and become highly specialized… but we’re still ones that must sell “our business” to the public. Really! Don’t you see it?
I know you would like to say “we don’t sell a product… we sell a service…” but blah blah blah! to that. We sell a product. You cannot deny that, even though not in existence, your design is a product… the product that is your client’s eventual built environment.
Have you ever stopped to think about why Contractors do better? Get respected more? Or make more money?… Even after not receiving or enduring as much education or training (not even close) as we do? You know, they could also make the same BS statement that “they provide the service of building construction”… but they don’t. They sell their clients a product. The building.
In the same way you should be selling your client a product. The building.
If you disagree, then look around you. Why are we in such depths of disarray in this market? No one has to be. No one should be.
Did you know Target recently opened their first store in the island of Manhattan?… Do you have a project in Manhattan?… Looks to me like Target’s got you beat (bahaha… bad joke)
But honestly… re-think your practice, re-think your strategy, and I would strongly recommend you put into perspective exactly what it is (& how it is) that you’re doing it all. Put into practice “the Target effect”.
AND… if this at all sounds interesting to you… got get yourself some additional free business skills from Barnes & Noble, for the small price (or big depending how you look at it) of a stbx cup of coffee.