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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

New Year, New Era

by Rosa Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Happy New Year! There is something very exciting about the beginning of the new year. Daylight hours are getting longer, there is a chance to reset from the past, a renewal of potential, re-invention, and new hope. To usher in 2016, Bob Borson, AIA "Life of an Architect" has aptly chosen the phrase "New Year, New _____" to inspire the latest #Architalks No. 16. And what immediately came to mind for me was "New Year, New Era".

Ever since I read Phil Bernstein's piece "The Era of Connection is Coming and Design will Never Be the Same" from Autodesk's Line, Shape, Space, I have been thinking about the "New Era" and what it means for our profession and our ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world. "How will people design and make things in the future?" Phil postulates that in order to understand where we are going, we have to first digest and understand where we've come from. In the course of my career to date, I have personally witnessed the great transition from "The Era of Documentation" - hand drawn construction documents (with Maylines and yes, triangles and t-Squares, to many versions of Autocad, then Microstation, then back to Autocad, and then the "The Era of Optimization" with 3D walk through simulations, photo real renderings and the hope of less RFI's with "clash-detection". In the course of 21 years, while technology has rapidly advanced, so has the speed of communication (from telephones, to facsimile, to email, to cell phones, to virtual meetings and cloud based information sharing) and the expectation is that the work should get done faster. And with that expectation, may be a misguided idea that architectural design fees should cost less because of these advancements. Now in "The Era of Connection" we have the opportunity to communicate the power and value of design by evolving how we practice in a more connected and meaningful way.

In Daniel Pink's book, "A Whole New Mind, Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future" he leads us through our historical migration from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age economy of today, where mastering key skills and senses will determine who thrives in the New Era: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play & Meaning.  Similarly, he maps where we have come from to help us better understand where we are going. In the 2nd half of his book, he provides a tool kit for building these skills (many of which Architects may already possess or have mastered!)

As we evolve into the "New Era", we have the opportunity to leverage technology to not only produce better documents, but to communicate better and also increase likelihood of producing the right design. We will disrupt the way things have been done and establish new ways of doing things that will champion important values. In the "New Era" we will expand our influence in the built environment beyond traditional services (Architecture AND...) to create a new value for design by learning and developing empathy, entrepreneurship, and civic leadership. It is only then that we can truly engage and connect with all the stakeholders in our communities where our projects will have impact not only on day 1, but far into the future influencing generations yet to be born.

Equity in Architecture Survey 2014

Equity in Architecture Survey 2014

In the "New Era" we will also be focusing on talent retention and providing greater support to our Architectural staff. New models of mentorship and resource sharing will create stronger relationships and support networks. As we have seen in the disruption of other industries, the draw for design talent is expanding into other professions. Business Schools are teaching Design Thinking, Clients have higher expectations for Design/Build or Integrated Project Delivery, and competition for talent in design related professions with higher compensation is eroding the Architectural talent pool. Thus, Equity in Architecture is the right place to raise awareness of what isn't working for many (less than 50% of men and women surveyed in 2014 were satisfied with their current job situation) and lead the conversation of how to improve the state of practice so that Architecture is viable profession, better representing the populations which we serve and raising the value and importance of good design to our communities.

So I challenge you to become a champion for Equity in the "New Era". I can't say enough that Equity is everyone's issue even more so as we become more connected and dependent on one another to thrive.

Stay tuned for our "New Era" of 2016 Initiatives including the following:

To explore more about "New Year, New _____" , please visit all the great posts by the Architalks community. 

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
New Year, New Community on Business of Architecture

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
New Year, New CAD

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
New Year, New Adventures

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
new race new year new start

Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
New Year. New Budget.

Jes Stafford - Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
New Year. New Gear.

Cindy Black - Rick & Cindy Black Architects (*)
New Year, New Casita

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
New Year, New Underwear

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
"new year, new _____"

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
New Year, New Plan

Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
New Year, New Adventures

Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
New Year, New Life!

Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
New Year, New Home

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
New Year, New·ly Adult Architect

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A Little Premature

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
new year, new [engagement]

Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
New Year, New Business

Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@simplybrinn)
New Year, New Perspective

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
The New New

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
New Year New Reality

Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
New Year New Desk

Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
New Year, New Appreciation

Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
New Year, New Goals

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
New Year New Office

Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
New Year, More Change

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
New Year, New Office Space

Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
New Year, New Reflection

Rusty Long - Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
New Year, New Direction

The participants of this ArchiTalks blog post series are asking you to help a friend of ours who is dealing with a family tragedy. Rusty Long is an Architect based out of Portsmouth, Virginia, whose son Matthew is fighting for his life. Here is Matthew’s story, as told by his Dad, Rusty:

Matthew Long was born May 29th, 2013, happy, and seemingly healthy. Less than two days later his mother and I found ourselves in an neonatal intensive care unit waiting room, listening to a rushed intensive care doctor explain how our son needed immediate dialysis to save his life. The disease, he briefly explained, was one of a group of disorders called Urea Cycle Disorders, which impact the way the body breaks down protein. We later discovered that Matthew’s particular variant is called OTC Deficiency, a particularly severe form of it in fact, which results in a rapid rise of ammonia in the blood, called hyperammonemia, resulting in devastating neurological damage. This form of OTC is so severe, Matthew has virtually no peers who have survived it. Once the immediate crisis was arrested, we came to find out more about the disease and the impact of this initial event.

The disease is inherited, and the damage is permanent. Treatment consists of a combination of medications, low protein medical diet, and ultimately a liver transplant. Matthew was fortunate to experience no additional hyperammonemic events in the following fifteen months of life, and had a liver transplant on August 24th, 2014. The cure for the disease, a transplant, isn’t so much a cure as trading one condition for another. While we will never risk the chance of another ammonia spike, Matthew is on a half a dozen or more medications at any given time to avoid rejection. Despite these challenges, intensive daily therapy for cerebral palsy (a result of the initial damage), limited motor function, and various other challenges along the way, our son is remarkably happy and has changed all our lives for the better. He’s taught us to be stronger than we ever thought possible, to have faith beyond human understanding, and the immeasurable value of life.

The #ArchiTalks community is hoping to raise $5,500 to help Architect Rusty Long and his family reach their financial goal on If each reader of this post contributes a small amount, our impact will be massive and we can make a difference for Matthew’s family. Click here now and donate $2.00.


Which Craft?

By Rosa Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

This post is a contribution to a group series called #ArchiTalks in which Bob Borson "Life of an Architect" gives a theme or a set of questions and we participate with a blog response… this month’s theme: "Crafty". When Bob sent out the email for this topic, I'll have to admit the theme "Crafty" threw me for a serious loop.  My preconceived notions of "Crafty" had so many competing definitions and interests. So for the sake of my own bias and writer's block, I abbreviated "Crafty" to just plain "Craft". 

The act of deciding which "Craft" to write about was still difficult; but it did create a fun play on words for this blog title; Which Craft? In the previous Architalks #5 A few of my favorite things, an entire section was dedicated to the topic of "making things"; Real food, play food in the form of felt dim sum, custom knit creations, fashionable bags out of remnants and watercolor sketches.  So now what?

 I typed "Craft" into the Google search, which resulted on the following:

  1. An activity involving skill in making things by hand.
  2. Skill in carrying out one's work. "a player with plenty of craft"

An then a moment of clarity. 

"Craft" in the context of being an architect has new potential for innovation.  Over the centuries, an architect's skills and expertise have transformed from the direct "hands on" making or actual construction (Skill in making things by hand) into a less tactile relationship with the end result. The "Craft" of an architect as designer, coordinator, and manager has become removed from the actual process of making buildings and, given the advancement of technology, has evolved to design and communication of construction knowledge (Skill in carrying out one's work). Born from this challenge is the opportunity for innovation. How do we as architects reconnect to our roots as makers and communicators in the Information Age within the context of the Digital Revolution and the rapid rate of development? How do we reconnect with the culture of craft in a real and tangible way beyond the rhetoric?

Codex Atlanticus   by   Leonardo da Vinci

Codex Atlanticus by Leonardo da Vinci

In terms of the Craft discussion as it relates to Equity in Architecture, there are many ways evolving technology can help reconnect architects as makers while also providing new ways to share knowledge that will advance and integrate design and building construction to benefit the greater good. We have discussed the concept of expanding the reach of the profession "Architecture And" as a way to explore new areas of expertise and service offerings; thinking outside the proverbial box.  

A great example is the evolution of 3-D Printing. The technology has advanced to the point that full scale 3-D printers used to fabricate materials in the construction industry seem inevitable. These new ways to reconnect to the craft of building has the potential to make architecture and the design process more accessible to the public.  According to Architect's Newspaper, WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co. is behind the series of humble buildings, a fully fabricated unit is expected to cost less than $5,000. The homes were created through the use of a 490- by 33- by 20-foot 3-D printer that fabricates the basic components required for assembly. The accessibility of smaller 3-D printers for use in architecture firms, could allow architects to design and prototype new construction components in a cost effective way prior to fabricating the full scale versions out in the field. 

There are many other emerging technologies in development that deserve more discussion about their influence in shaping the future "craft" and role of architects into the 21st Century. Thus, I have compiled the following curated list of articles and resources to be covered in a blog post in the not so distant future. Which craft appeals to you to explore further to advance our profession?


EQxD Hackathon: Crafting the Future of Architecture

Interested in innovating architecture and professional practice? Come join us at AIA National Convention on Wednesday, May 13th for (WE310) EQxD Hackathon 1-5pm where we will use design, technology and creativity to disrupt modes of practice that currently prevent us from reaching our full potential. The event will include a Happy Hour with Jury results and awards!


Since I launched this post for Architalks, a fellow architect on Linked in shared an AIA National video on The Culture of Craft, a deep discussion with 5 architects about what craft means to each individual. Worth a look if you have the time! 

Interested in more discussion about the Architalks topic "Craft(y)"?

Follow the links below for different takes on Craft(y) from other architects: 

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect
Architects are Crafty

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
On the Craft of Drafting: A Lament

Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Why I Love My Craft: Residential Architecture

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
Master Your Craft – A Tale of Architecture and Beer

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
panel craft 

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
Oh, you crafty!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC
Crafty-in Architecture as a Craft

Ghost Lab

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
Underhanded Evil Schemes

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture

Eric Wittman – intern[life]

Tara Imani - Indigo Architect

Mike Riscica