Blog %

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?

INSPIRE% [7]: Let Go of Fear

By Michael D. Thomas

1. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?  

My name is Michael Thomas.  I am a labor and employment attorney with the law firm Ogletree Deakins in San Francisco.  My practice focuses on class actions and employment litigation.  I am also part of our Pay Equity group and I conduct workplace trainings on implicit bias and diversity. 

2. Why did you choose to study law?  

I grew up a poor, African-American male raised by a single mother.  At a young age, I knew that I was different because of my race and class.  I also know now that people often viewed me and I often viewed myself based on stereotypes and biases inherited through socialization and from prior generations.  

Law is a powerful tool to guide society in changing perceptions and beliefs that are formed by stereotypes and biases.  Examples of this in practice include the legal battles to racially integrate the military and schools and legalize interracial marriage and same sex-marriage.  A more recent example is a set of laws designed to correct pay disparities based on race, gender and ethnicity.  

3. What inspires you on a daily basis?  

I am inspired each day by my ability to be curious about my potential.  I strongly believe that to take a step forward, we often have to step back and unlearn what prevented us from moving forward.

Michael, bottom, with his brother.

Michael, bottom, with his brother.

I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  My grandfather was one of the first African-Americans to integrate the steel mills.  He had to fight racism to do that.  He was also one of the first African-Americans to purchase a home in a certain part of Pittsburgh.  He had to fight racism to do that too.  He spent so much of his life fighting against racism that he became a hard and unemotional man.  My grandfather expected my father to be the same way in order to function in a predominantly white world.  Influenced by my father’s family, I grew up in the same environment where the expectation was that the world was hostile because of my race and I could not show vulnerability.

I was also socialized to assume that “whiteness” was the norm and the standard to follow and strive towards.  I learned at an early age that if I wanted to function and to succeed in society, I had to learn how not to be seen as “black,” how not to reveal or recognize my authentic self, and how to not show vulnerability.  

This strategy was effective at different points in my life.  However, as an adult, to get feedback on how to grow and mature in career, life, and love, I have to understand my authentic self and my needs.  I have had to step back and let go of false beliefs about myself to step up and step forward.  It all begins with being curious about my potential. Remaining curious inspires me.  

4. What are three of your most influential projects and why?

My three most influential projects: 1) developing a Mindful Mentoring Program that connects adults with youth at risk via a mindfulness practice; 2) working with Inclusion Ventures to develop a comprehensive pay equity audit and implicit bias training; and 3) speaking at Inclusion 2.0 on “Diversity, Inclusion and Intergenerational Trauma.”   Why?  All three are creations of my authentic self.

5. What is the greatest challenge/difficulty that you have had to overcome in your professional career?

Learning to let go of fear and beliefs that are limiting. 

6. What do you believe has been one of your greatest accomplishments to date? Why?  

Michael's depiction of himself, practicing yoga.

Michael's depiction of himself, practicing yoga.

I completed a yoga certification training with the Niroga Institute in Oakland, California. Niroga teaches Raja yoga, the yoga of mindfulness. In Raja practice, yoga poses and breathing techniques come together to prepare your body and mind for focus and moment to moment awareness.

Why do I consider this one of my greatest accomplishments?  During my practice of yoga, I stopped to observe my black skin and the physical and mental harm it receives from stereotypes and bias.  It was the first time I can remember that as I made those observations and my mind went into fight or flight mode and I wanted to escape the discomfort, I could not.  Instead, I had to stay in my posture and focus on my breath without reacting. In that experience I learned acceptance and forgiveness, and how to not respond to false thoughts or beliefs.  At that point I was able to direct my attention inward, without judgment or blame.  

Focusing the mind on breathing and bodily sensations through gentle movement activates the prefrontal cortex, or the noticing part of the brain. The noticing part of the brain, when activated by my yoga practice, allows me to observe that I am not my fears or the biases projected by others and myself. It allows for more self-regulation and conscious decision-making in the moment.

Now, after my training in Raja yoga, I can show vulnerability and empathy towards others without fear.  Empathy and vulnerability allow for greater decision-making out of curiosity instead of fear.  Curiosity leads to discomfort.  Discomfort leads to growth and change.

At some point we have to stop blindly moving forward and stop and make courageous decisions to treat ourselves and each other differently even if it means embracing fear and the unknown.  

7. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 24 year-old self?

Don’t be afraid.  You belong.

8. What is the best advice that you ever received and how does that apply today?

BK Bose is the Executive Director of the Niroga Institute.  He frequently asks the question, “What separates you from freedom?”  I think of that question if I feel I am making decisions out of fear and not love or kindness. It allows for better decision-making.

Speaking at Tech Inclusion 2.0 on "Diversity, Inclusion and Intergenerational Trauma."

Speaking at Tech Inclusion 2.0 on "Diversity, Inclusion and Intergenerational Trauma."

9. How do you see the law profession changing in the next 10 years? What would your role be in the future?  

The most important characteristic for lawyers to cultivate will be empathy.  The practice of law focuses on logic and reason.  Both are important.  Both are also devoid of feelings and emotion.  As a result, lawyers often cause harm and lack creativity because we are not using the creative side of our brain.  Empathy is the pathway to creativity.  Creativity is the pathway to innovation.  Innovation will assist lawyers in being of greater service to our clients and to society.  It all begins with empathy.  

10. We have heard that while the general public respects lawyers, they have little knowledge about what they do. Do you have any thoughts about how we can bridge the gap?  

Law school should be more affordable and accessible.  When there are significant barriers to entry, the legal profession becomes exclusive and accessible only to a small portion of the population.  The law should be more accessible for people to either become a lawyer or for people to know a lawyer.  

About our INSPIRE% Contributor:

Michael D. Thomas was a panelist for our EQxDisruptBias Workshop in February 2017. His work as a Lawyer in equitable practice areas such as pay equity, mitigating bias in hiring and promotion processes and his thoughts on mindfulness and healing led us to ask him to contribute to this series. Even though he is practicing in another field, we value advocates for equitable practice and the lessons that we can learn from their journey as well.

Michael is an Associate with the global law firm Ogletree Deakins in their San Francisco office.  He represents employers in all aspects of employment law.  He also works with employers on diversity and pay equity issues.  Michael has studied mindfulness, meditation and yoga with a focus on healing and self-regulation.  Recent publications include “Preventing Workplace Violence by Examining Trauma and the NFL” which incorporates mindfulness, meditation and body awareness in preventing workplace violence, and “How Employers Can Root Out the Influence of Unconscious Bias in Compensation Decisions.”  Recent speaking engagements include: Inclusion 2.0, “Intergenerational Trauma, Diversity and Inclusion;” Tech Inclusion Conference, “Awakening to Inclusion;” Association of Corporate Counsel event at Google, “Best Practices for Promoting Fair Pay;” Kaiser, Continuing Legal Education, “Implicit Bias” panel and lecturer, Berkley School of Law, “Mindfulness to Disrupt Suffering and Bias.”  He has a B.A. from Bucknell University and a J.D. from Boston College.

 

 

INSPIRE% [05]: Katy H. Faix, architect & consultant

Katy H. Faix, AIA
Associate Principal, Holmes Culley | Holmes Fire

Katy H. Faix, AIA   photo by Blake Marvin

Katy H. Faix, AIA
photo by Blake Marvin

1. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
I engage clients who are interested in tailoring their engineering design specifically to meet their project requirements and enhance their construction. As part of Holmes Culley and Holmes Fire, we provide structural engineering and fire engineering services through performance based design with the goal of adding value to the client. My role is to identify new projects for our team and help connect architects and owners to each other and with our engineers.I also participate in the management of the firm as whole, taking on responsibility for the direction, growth and operations of our San Francisco and Los Angeles offices.

 

2. Why did you choose to study Architecture?
My study of architecture took a long meandering path; I initially decided to pursue an undergraduate liberal arts education for its well-rounded merits. Dartmouth had a few architectural history and introductory design programs that fueled further interest. I kept my studies focused on art, engineering and mathematics anticipating that if I were to go into graduate school these courses would serve me well.  It was while teaching that I decided to enroll in the summer Discovery program at GSD to verify my interest in pursuing a career in the built environment. I was soon enrolled in the M. Arch program at Columbia GSAPP.

3. What inspires you on a daily basis?
In the workforce, understanding people and problem solving. Much of the marketing and business development in AEC industry revolves around relationships and project knowledge. Because of my experience as an architect, I often contribute early on in the process. For instance, a client may have an existing building that they are interested in rehabilitating for new use. I am a good conduit between our engineers and the architect, asking early questions and posing possibilities for consideration.

4. What are two of your most influential projects and Why?
Early as an intern, I had the chance to work with LTL Architects on a design-construct a hotdog restaurant in New York’s Lower East Side. Our team of us not only designed and drew the plans for the restaurant, but we also served as the construction crew. We demolished the existing space and discovered a cast iron column at the storefront and were able to create accurate existing drawings. We ordered all of the materials (bamboo plywood, cold rolled steel, concrete boards) and constructed all of the components of the restaurant in the studio’s basement shop.
Currently, I am involved in a Holmes Group international firm-wide initiative. We are a number of years into the project, but it has been rewarding to work while keeping in mind the interests of our colleagues in New Zealand, Australia, and those of us here in the US. As a Group, we have many systems in place for collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources, yet there are other areas which we can expand upon.

5. What is the greatest challenge/difficulty that you have had to overcome in your professional career?
Facing the mountain of student debt in the depths of the recession was difficult.  Only in time, was I able to acknowledge my investment without being overwhelmed.

6. What do you believe has been one of your greatest accomplishments to date? Why?
Building relationships with architects and contractors through existing projects and potential future projects. I am proud to work with exceptional Holmes colleagues who partner with great firms to deliver world class engineering services to clients.  It has been rewarding to pivot from being an architect to learning the business and management side of the business.  

7. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 24 year-old self?
You may not know where your career will take you, but seek out people that you can learn from and engage with. The path will unfold along the way.

8. What is the best advice that you ever received and how does that apply today?

I was once told by a mentor not to fret over the past decisions and experiences one has made. In the end, they all will contribute to the person you become.

9. How do you see Architecture changing in the next 10 years? What would your role be in the future?
It seems to me that the AEC profession is finding ways to engage people more in their work while not consuming their lives. The delicate balance has historically often been lost, sometimes to the expense of losing our colleagues to other fields.

My role in Architecture is to continue to be engaged in the built environment. One aspect of what I hope to bring is more visibility to the longevity of buildings. Unfortunately, so many buildings are being constructed in an inexpensive and disposable fashion; for current use and with little regard to permanency. Resiliency of buildings, whether to withstand seismic events or be easily adaptable for changing needs over time, is important to consider as we design and construct our cities and towns.

10. We have heard that while the general public respects Architects, they have little knowledge about what we do. Do you have any thoughts about how we can bridge the gap?
For the past 2 years, I have sat on our town’s planning commission. Although, our decisions involve land use, building massing and site context, as a commissioner, we see a large spectrum of project designs from both architects and builders.
The benefit and care that specific contextual and thoughtful design is the resolution of a myriad of issues that an architect will work with the client to address. Architects have an on-going challenge of sharing their insights and understanding with the public to educate them on the benefits. Often this is an informal process of sharing expertise in conversation.
Working on the consulting side is no different. Much of our work is on-going education and sharing of engineering stories so that building owners, architects and developers understand the benefits of engineering and how it can improve the outcome of the project.

 

2016 EQxD Hackathon Recap: Team 2 Hack "Where in the World...?"

Team 2 Reflections by A.L. Hu, Braham Berg, & Brie Smith

Conceptual Sketch for "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Building?"

Conceptual Sketch for "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Building?"

The 2016 AIA National Convention promised an exciting program of events (featuring keynotes lectures by Neri Oxman and Rem Koolhaas; and access to intriguing Philadelphia venues); yet, the hands-on nature of the engaging Equity by Design Hackathon was the session that resonated with me most from the Convention experience.

The Convention promised a progressive agenda – geared towards “restructuring” the field and organization towards the future; yet, the Hackathon, in its second year, arguably better addresses this restructuring in practice, and can be wider utilized within the architectural profession in spearheading innovative ideas and change.
— Braham Berg

Entering the AIA Convention, the Hackathon was shrouded in mystery and we all went into the session not knowing how things would turnout, but hoping for the best. At its core, the Hackathon is a condensed iteration of the entire design-architectural process. Except, whereas designers have weeks, months, even years to develop their ideas, Hackathon participants have only a few hours. It culminates in a short pitch. Any storytelling tool is fair game.

Rem Koolhaas mentioned in his keynote that architecture moves too slowly to be able to adapt to rapidly changing day-to-day of our World. As a timely and relevant alternative, the Hackathon integrates design and entrepreneurship savvy. In this framework, we, as designers, were encouraged to challenge ourselves in expediting a “design” process we’ve become accustomed to extending (ex. late nights and working on weekends). Through this experience, in the short interval we had to ideate and develop our concept, each group proposed feasible, innovative, alternative solutions, ranging from a work place management – social network (FIM), to an interactive public engagement metric gauge (AGORA), to an educational virtual platform exposing children to the architectural practice, process, and monuments (WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CARMEN SANDIEGO BUILDING?)

 

THE "EGG" ICE BREAKER 

I appreciated and enjoyed the ‘ice breaker’ exercise — a sheet with one drawn circle. Inside we were tasked to find at least three similarities we had in common, and outside the circle, identify three characteristics and experiences which were unique to each of us. It was a thankful evolution from answering a checklist of labels. With our first attempt at finding a shared experience, we learned that assumptions weren’t absolute, and challenged ourselves to dig deeper. Did we have similar educations? Or education levels? Did we play musical instruments? Have siblings? Have children? What do we like about architecture? How do we feel about Drumph? We identified a dozen unexpected commonalities before we moved onto our uniqueness. By that point, each unique quality was celebrated and shared with stories and explanations. When given the option to move around the room and join a new team, none of us did. Somehow fifteen minutes of populating our circle built enough of a bond we were excited to continue the conversation. For me, equality in design means moving beyond those preconceived notions and working together to celebrate the unexpected and collaborate on a shared goal.
— Brie Smith, AIA

THE PROMPT – OUR TEAM

Our general task was to design an open-ended product that addressed a defined problem, expressed in a statement, “within the architecture field, related to the architecture field, and outside of the architecture field.”

Team 2: (clockwise) Brie Smith, AIA, A.L. Hu, Braham Berg, Sylvia Kwan, FAIA, and Despina Stratigakos

Team 2: (clockwise) Brie Smith, AIA, A.L. Hu, Braham Berg, Sylvia Kwan, FAIA, and Despina Stratigakos

We had a diverse team spanning nationwide, consisting of AL Hu, a graduate student at Columbia University GSAPP (New York, NY); Brie Smith, a professor at Arizona State University and practitioner with a focus on participatory design (Phoenix, AZ); Sylvia Kwan, Principal of Henmi Kwan and former “Survivor” TV show contestant (San Francisco, CA); and Despina Stratigakos, an architectural historian and professor at SUNY Buffalo (Buffalo, NY). I’m a student at the Tulane University School of Architecture (New Orleans, LA) interested in the intersection of architecture, real estate development, and social entrepreneurship.

 

DEFINING THE PROBLEM + PROCESS

Our team’s general consensus was to address an issue outside of the profession. Our central themes we hoped to address centered on 1.) perception and 2.) education. In our discussion, we agreed that the public lacks a clear understanding of the architectural profession. The few media portrayals, such as Howard Rourke, do not accurately portray the tasks and responsibilities architects have. On the flip side, some professionals and students channel their inner Rourke-complexities, which does little to de-mystify our profession to the public.

We believe that introducing architecture earlier on in pre-educational, primary and secondary school curriculum was vastly important, and thus could result in a greater awareness and authenticity of architectural practice to a larger populace, particularly targeting young girls.

The Hackathon had a challenging timeline for deliverable tasks. Our group struggled with creating a definitive problem statement because we set out trying to solve two large issues. We worked backwards – sharing extended personal stories to the issues we deemed important to address.

In typical architecture school fashion, our product, vision, and pitch came together in the end. We delivered a coherent pitch, based on personal experience and stories we shared throughout the process. We paired our pitch with a series of quick graphics illustrating the platform adaptation.


OUR SOLUTION

We pitched a game called “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Building?”, a dynamic and fun way to foster appreciation and awareness for the history and process of architecture in children and teenagers. Through role playing, solving puzzles, and taking on construction projects, game players develop their knowledge of the valuable role architects play in constructing the built environment, especially in the context of climate change. “Where in the World” seeks to change the next generation’s perception of architects and to empower children to pursue architecture as a career.  

 


 

OUR PITCH

During our pitch, we stressed the importance of expanding the scope and reach of architectural education to include non-architects. After all, everyone is a student of architecture and space in one way or another as all we navigate in three dimensions and seek shelter in buildings.

TEAM 2 PITCH - A.L. Hu, Sylvia Kwan, Brie Smith, Despina Stratigakos, & Braham Berg

TEAM 2 PITCH - A.L. Hu, Sylvia Kwan, Brie Smith, Despina Stratigakos, & Braham Berg

And perhaps the education of architects needs to be broadened as well. As a current student who is deeply entrenched in academia and a young practitioner who is keenly aware of many of the profession’s shortcomings, I believe “hacking” and pitching are important skills that expand the scope and reach of architects. Connecting with others on a personal level through storytelling boosts our designs and ideas from mere aesthetics and logistics to a compelling idea that’s part of a larger narrative. The way that we frame our ideas is as important as the idea itself, and that framework is something that should be part of the design process. As architects, we are constantly pitching ourselves and our work for interpretation and valuation by clients and society at large. To change the way we are perceived, we need to think outside of the box and re-design the narrative of our profession--the change begins with us.  

 

TAKEAWAYS

I arrived in Philadelphia for the AIA Convention not knowing what to expect. The AIA Convention is at once similar to and the polar opposite of graduate school: keynotes, panels, workshops, and networking happy hours centered around architecture are educational and inspiring, but they’re rooted in the practicalities of practice rather than concept and theory. I am grateful that Equity by Design Hackathon was my first experience at the convention because I was reminded that an architectural education is more than just endless production and sleepless nights. Architects need skills beyond drawing and construction knowledge to make connections, make change, and solve problems in the built environment and beyond.

Because of our diverse backgrounds, my teammates and I had radically different ideas as we brainstormed for a problem to solve. While Silvia and Brie brought significant amounts of experience in practice and teaching to the table, Despina offered a depth of historical context and Braham shared his experiences as a student in New Orleans. I lamented the low pay offered to interns and the lack of transparency in regards to salary, experiences that I had chalked up to an unfortunate industry standard that frequently appears in other design professions.

My teammates and I quickly realized that the larger issue at hand is that the way architects are perceived and portrayed in society needs to change
— A.L. Hu


Special Thanks to our EQxD Hackathon 2016 Sponsors!


I make (a change)

by Jame Anderson, AIA

When invited to write a post about my “return to architecture”, my first thought was “What was this ‘Architecture’ that I had left?”  I pondered all of the ways I could describe this decision, anything I could share with others, and I started performing an epic Tina Fey eye roll.  Who would want to hear this?  It sounds like a cheesy self-help book or one of those posters in the breakroom of The Office.

Jame Anderson worked as an Architect at the National Gallery of Art for over a decade before returning to a private architecture practice. 

Jame Anderson worked as an Architect at the National Gallery of Art for over a decade before returning to a private architecture practice. 

So, let's embrace the cheese…

Everyone wants to believe in themselves, that they have an internal source of power.  It’s the stuff of super-hero movies, and Star Wars (admit it, you tried to move stuff by concentrating on it too).  I’ll be the first to admit, I’m drawn to down-and-out characters saving themselves and others, fighting free.  As an audience, we are totally sucked in by this stuff.  It is a lot more dramatic than seemingly happy people making a change.  Where’s the drama in that?  

In December, I left my position as an Architect at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) to return to private architecture practice at SmithGroupJJR, a company for which I’d worked prior to my 13 years at the NGA.  I was in an absolutely beautiful place, I loved my work and my colleagues at the Gallery.  I was surrounded by the most amazing objects in the world, and felt a sense of fulfillment and a touch of pride in making the Nation’s Collection shine.  I had great federal benefits, a wonderful schedule, and solid, stable pay.  My work was fulfilling, detailed, and my colleagues were driven.  

Sure, there was this lazy person over here, or that crappy office relationship over there, but I typically try not to let those things make my big life decisions for me.  Complaining about the day-to-day, or “sweating the small stuff” was not a part of the decision.  Besides, every workplace has that.  My decision was not about any of those factors.  My decision was about deciding to alter my path. 

This is not a tell-all, nor is it a list of observations of my new job.  This is about the moment of decision.

Changing jobs is not that big of a deal for some people.  For me, this was a pretty big thing.  

You may remember my last post, from January 2015.  I spoke about labels, titles, and life-work. 

Perhaps this was the first step in my “transformation”.  I felt that I was ready to put to greater use the skills I had honed in the field since I walked into my first museum internship at the age of 19. I was beginning to get a bit antsy.  Maybe that Scarlet Letter that some of us try to avoid – Ambition – had something to do with it.  Or, perhaps this disquiet came from not having that next step solidified in front of me: there were clouds at what looked like the top of the ladder.  In order to get to the bottom of this feeling of uncertainty, I started asking questions.

I talked to a lot of people: to mentors, to people who had jobs I could envision myself having, to those who had jobs I’d never want.  Things began to solidify.  I attended the AIA WLS Conference in Seattle and met amazing people, and I sat at a lunch table called “Taking Risks,” although I’m not quite sure why I chose that table… maybe the title was direct and short enough for me. Maybe I felt that I wasn’t taking enough of those.  I listened… really listened.  And I discovered that we are all searching for a place where we feel important, utilized, and a place where we are comfortable and can contribute… and lead.

All of this talking led me to discover that it was time for a change.  But, who wants to move, change jobs, find a new relationship?  It’s easier to do what we know, especially if we’re good at it.  But sometimes, we need to realize that the desire to move on, to do something different, to ‘go boldly where no man has gone before’ is just as human as the desire to stay put, and feel safe.

What was I doing?  I had one of the coolest jobs, EVER!  At parties, people’s eyes widened when I told them what I did for a living.  Visions of Night at the Museum and of the those Mixed-Up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler danced in their heads.  They can be magical places, right?  My daughter, I’m convinced, thought I was working in some fairy tale.  I had been to architecture school with the Gallery as THE goal….but what do you do when you get what you want in the middle of your career?  Sit still?  Camp out?  The more I became an expert, the easier things got.  Perhaps that was it.  I have a great fear of complacency, which is very different than boredom.  My work has never been boring, or easy. But in closing my mascaraed eyes, I took a deep breath and imagined… what would the Shonda Rhimes show of my life look like if I could “design it?”

It wasn’t that the museum was “wrong”.  I was ready for a different path…my own yellow brick road.   Journeys teach us something.  This time, I’m on my own terms:  I’ve picked my specialty,  I have a ton of knowledge many don’t, I’m confident in what I can do, and I’m confident I’ll pick up on the stuff I have no idea how to do.

I want to do more, I think I can, I will.

I was concerned, frankly, about some people’s reactions to my decision.  It takes a lot to get over what you may think other people’s expectations of you are.  I worried a little.  The reaction that had the most impact was my daughter’s. Change and suspense are not thrills for her and we had a fascinating series of conversations about it (which might be yet another post).  I was able to tell her that there was no boogie-man in the office and that she could visit the museum any time.  I think she understood.

You see, support matters.  There is absolutely no way I could do the things I’ve been able to do throughout my life without it.  I’m talking support in the form of a spouse that knows that my work and how I spend my time away from my family is one of my personifiers that makes me ME, in mentors who simply listen and then at times offer suggestions, in friends who give hugs and order champagne when they hear my good news, in parents who made sure I had the most fantastic art teacher they could find, in professors who were direct and supportive, in bosses that hired me for my potential, in a child that gives me hugs and looks up to me as if i am the most impressive thing in the world.  

You have to find support somewhere. You can't isolate yourself, and you can't do it all by yourself.

I’ve been surprised by the responses I’ve received about my “transformation.”  I've heard a lot from folks.  There have been some "Wows", the normal "Congratulations" from others, and the "What about your benefits?" from those who think I'm nuts.  Then, from most architects, an immediate commentary on how difficult my new life will be due to the pace of things, as if there's a secret I don't know.

But I try not to take it as patronizing.  There have been countless articles about women in the workplace that Leaned Back… that selected what's called a slower track or slower paced professions, took time away during their child-bearing and raising years.  I think it’s unfortunate to see choices through these do/don’t filters.  Nevertheless, I didn’t Lean Back, I did exactly what I set out to do when I enrolled in architecture school in the first place: work in a museum designing things.  I tried to be as smart as I could about my career, work in a firm to follow through on my education, and get licensed. It wasn’t for another 5 years that I had my kid. I feel lucky to have been able to do it that way… get ME done first before dealing with mini-ME.

Timing sometimes works, things sometimes fall into place.  But sometimes, you have to do some leaning.

Back to Architecture… this fictional place I left. Now, I can say I’m an Architect with no one asking me what I mean without the addition of the words Exhibit Designer.  Does that matter? People seem to need very cut and dry terms.  People also have a lot of crazy ideas about what an architect is or does… I’m not walking around with a blueprints, although I do still wear a lot of black.  But I don’t allow others to define me.  I am an architect, and I have been one, for quite a while. Now, I hope I am in a place where I can make spaces and containers for beautiful works of art, and also build buildings again, while I look at the greater whole. My experiences are not two separate pieces, they are part of me.

I want both, you see.  Will I get it? Who knows, but there is only one way to find out.

OK, the first month has been weird… honestly… and yet, exhilarating.  I have this headset at my desk and no actual phone (which makes me feel like Brittany Spears or Tom Cruise a la Magnolia).  Not that we used rotary phones at the museum, but you get what I mean.  Then there’s the culture, and the notions of money (profit vs. non-profit) which are quite new.  Most days my new colleagues say things to me and I stare back at them blankly.  Every trade and office carries its own language around, its lingo, its series of acronyms that one has to decipher.  Architects especially are known for their, wait, our, made up words.

I went on my first project interview this week.  It was peculiar not being on the client side of the table.  I felt very “nervicited” (a word from my daughter)  But, feeling uneasy is something I asked for.  Honestly, I question myself too, just like anyone.  Will I succeed? Can I contribute enough?  Will I be good at this again?  It all creeps in.  But I’ve learned to let it go.  No one has all the answers, no one can do it all, and no one is better than you, they are just different.  I just keep reminding myself that I have a ton of knowledge many don’t.  I’m confident in what I can do.  I’m confident I’ll pick up on the stuff I have no idea how to do.

I want to do more, I think I can, I will.  (But I've been here for like 3 months… talk to me in about 6 more.)

In writing this I began to wonder who reads the Inspire blogs? Who are you, reader? If you are mid way through your career, are you keeping up the good fight?  If you are in the beginnings of your life as an architect, or are contemplating a career as one, I’ll leave the cheese and get down to those brass tacks…

 

Here it is… the unsolicited advice…ready? 

Get licensed.  

Look at it like brushing your teeth… it’s something you have to do. If you never use it that’s another matter entirely. Just get it, and you will have it.

I would not have been at the level I was outside of the profession without this credential. I would not have had any choices in a return to an architecture firm without it.

So many of the other things that affect diversity in practice are non-tangible and seemingly out of our reach. This one is very cut and dry.  It is hard, it is annoying, but it is doable and quantifiable. So, make a plan and follow through. Life gets in the way and always will. I get it.

You can fix it.

Get your license.

Don’t go missing.

Then, go through whatever process you need to in order to figure out what you WANT to do.  Write it all down, talk to folks, imagine your future, go see a fortune teller… whatever.  Design it.  But keep it short, succinct.  Don't get stuck in that planning stage forever… in the time it has taken you to read this long rambling post, you could've gone online and signed up for the exam.  I realize this simplifies everything, but seriously… there is no try there is only do.

Just Do it.


Early Bird Registration for #AIACon15 ENDS Wednesday, March 23rd

Curious about joining the most innovative workshop at AIA National Convention in Philadelphia?

Why you should attend AIA SF NEXT Conference Nov 12 + 13

by Rosa Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

In 3 weeks, AIA SF is hosting the "NEXT" Conference on November 12 & 13th in San Francisco. What is NEXT? And THAT is precisely the question the event will be addressing. 

The word “revolution” is especially apt today. Now, more than ever, the world is changing. How people design and make things is not just evolving, but being completely disrupted again. We’re on the cusp of a new (and very real) revolution: It’s the “Era of Connection.”

How will people design and make things in the future? It’s helpful to take a look at the past in order to understand the major changes that are on the horizon.
— Phil Bernstein, FAIA for "Line, Shape, Space" by Autodesk

Coming off of the last EQxD "U" Workshop: Architecture And... we had in-depth conversations about debunking the myths of traditional practice while exploring meaning and influence through the lens of 4 distinct multidisciplinary practitioners. 

The AIA SF NEXT Conference is a unique opportunity to extend and expand the conversation about how the professional practice of Architecture will need to adapt to the needs of our rapidly changing society that is affected by advancements in technology, transitions in commerce and availability of land and natural resources.

Day 1 will feature a Placemaking Deep Dive on November 12th at the Exploratorium, which is a continuation of the highly successful Placemaking Summit that occurred earlier this year.  The day includes interactive panel sessions and networking opportunities with leaders in the Placemaking movement; Urban planners, Professors, Government Agencies, and Activists.

  • Rethinking Space, Place, and Our Built Environment
  • PLACEMAKING / Stabilizing Neighborhoods
  • Urban Placemaking: Views from the Academy and Practice

Day 2 will begin with "The New Frontiers of Design", a keynote presentation from Paola Antonelli, curator of MOMA New York. The remainder of the day will feature 12 insightful seminar options within 3 tracks: Design, Business and Technology with 50+ diverse speakers including Architects, Engineers, Scientists, Urban Planners, City of SF Supervisor, Sustainability Experts, and Software Developers, and Entrepreneurs. For the full schedule of seminars, you can visit the website. Some noteworthy titles include: 

Based on Equity by Design's successful workshop Negotiation is your Power Tool,  I will be co-presenting a 60 minute workshop Innovative Negotiation: The Art and Science of Making the Deal at 2:30pm with Elizabeth Tippin, Esq., general counsel for design professional firms and Joan Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Hastings and author of several publications and journal articles on women's advancement in the workplace.

There will also be the AIA SF Annual Member's Business Meeting and Party on Friday Evening from 6-9pm (which is free for AIA SF Members). It will be a great opportunity to continue the conversation of how we can better engage, advocate, and promote the profession beyond Architects in the "Era of Connections". 

So in summary, here are the reasons why you should attend the AIASF Next Conference

 

 

 

EQxD Architecture And... Entrepreneur Robert Yuen

an interview by Susan Kolber

On 10/22 EQxD will be hosting our final workshop of the year EQxD U Workshop 4: Architecture And... at AIA SF. As architecture has become increasingly dynamic with shifting economies, technology, and environments,  entrepreneurs within the field are discovering innovative ways to create and inspire our built environment. Leading up to our workshop EQxD will be highlighting insights from our exciting “Architecture And…” panelists. Robert Yuen (RY) founder and president of Section Cut, a website providing curated design resources, shares his experience and passion for curated design information in the age of information overload, Section Cut’s vision and team dynamics,  leveraging the many skill sets of architects, and exciting trends in robotics and construction.

Robert Yuen, founder of Section Cut, will be speaking 10/22 on EQxD Architecture And... panel. 

Robert Yuen, founder of Section Cut, will be speaking 10/22 on EQxD Architecture And... panel. 

Has the culture of innovation in San Francisco and the Bay Area influenced your pursuit in non traditional architecture practices?
(RY) It’s part of my personal nature, I like things that are on the fringe. Being around San Francisco, being around the culture of startups, being around a lot of new innovation did push me harder to execute on Section Cut.

Have you pursued tech funding to grow Section Cut?
(RY) Absolutely, we are currently about to start our first seed round. It was important to me to prove that Section Cut was a worthwhile endeavor which is why we did not seek funding at the very beginning. It was in our best interest to prove the concept first, grow our user base, and now seek funding as we are ready to fuel the growth.
 


Can you explain the Section Cut's team dynamics and processes, how do you decide content? How often is the team virtually meeting/ corresponding? What is your favorite Section Cut Podcast?
(RY) At Section Cut we are a team of four, and we all have very specific responsibilities. All content comes from my partner and co-founder Dan Weissman, and his official title is Director of Content. He not only facilitates all of the scheduling of content, but also production. [Check out the Section Cut team here

The project itself started in 2012 right after my post graduate degree at the University of Michigan. From the beginning we knew that Section Cut would be a remote project where all the partners would not be in the same location. We have had mandatory meetings twice a week on  Wednesday evenings and Sunday evenings. We’ve been doing that since 2012. We have tried a lot of different management software, because one of the biggest hurdles of running a virtual office is staying organized. It’s really important because we don’t sit next to each other. We don’t have those small chats to remind, to prod ourselves on what we need to do.  Staying organized and transparent has always been a top priority to run Section Cut smoothly.


One of my favorite of the Section Cut Podcasts is an interview of Malcolm McCullough. He was a professor of mine at University of Michigan and is an extraordinarily intelligent man. The interview is great, not only because he is a great instructor, but the interview itself has a lot to do with why Section Cut exists and speaks to our purpose. He talks about information glut, and the need for curatorial information as a designer and architect, so we can make better cities by being better curators and better builders.

Consulting is an attractive pursuit for architect entrepreneurs. Can you go into more detail on what you consult on and how you developed those skills? 
(RY)  I fell upon consulting based on necessity--I wanted more time on Section Cut. It was hard to work on Section Cut as a project while being fully employed at a firm. I naturally moved into consulting as a way to buy me time. Once you start thinking about the other skill sets that can be of use, there is a lot an architect can offer from branding exercises, marketing exercises, critiquing informational packages...there is a lot you can do! I’ve worked in many arenas, but I’ve fell back into mostly client representation. A lot of clients don’t understand architecture or the construction administration phase. The clients are in the middle of their house being renovated, the architects are proposing things, and the clients want another opinion to validate their architect. The clients may not have the experience to really understand if they are making the right decision. I can usually come in and fill in the gaps, vouching that the opinion of the architect is good or not good. A lot of clients want to learn more about architecture, but they're usually on a tight schedule, architects are on a tight schedule, so I can fill in as an information provider and direct the client if they have questions.

You have extensive knowledge and experience with robotics and 3D printing, what new technologies excite you? Can you provide a few examples of how you think robotics, scanning, 3D printing, will change architecture and construction/
 (RY) I think what's most exciting to me is what’s in the realm of robotics, and to be more precise:  robotics in the field of construction, less so in architecture. Robotics in the more traditional sense, like robotic arms in the automotive industry, have around for a long time. Right now, the cost of labor is still very low, so it's still hard to justify the use of expensive robotics in construction. However, it’s only a matter of time when the cost of technology will continue to drop and the cost of labor will go up. I think a lot of the interesting work architects are doing now with automation, with robotics, with digital fabrication, with digital technologies is not that new, the technology has actually been around. In most cases architects are repurposing. I think in general the history of architecture has been that way, usually innovation happens in the health industry, or engineering and the sciences, architecture finds ways to repurpose technology.

Two cool robotic projects include:

1. There is an interesting project in the Netherlands where Autodesk and robot company
MX3D are completely 3-D printing a bridge It will a great proof of concept when it’s complete and not just an academic research project.
http://www.fastcodesign.com/3047350/this-robot-can-3-d-print-a-steel-bridge-in-mid-air#10

2. ICD/ITKE 2015 Pavilion at the University of Stuttgart
http://www.archdaily.com/770516/icd-itke-research-pavilion-2014-15-icd-itke-university-of-stuttgart

Robert Yuen

Founder and CEO, Section Cut, RYRD

Robert Yuen is the co-founder and CEO of Section Cut and founder of RYRD (Robert Yuen Research + Design). Trained as an architect, Robert’s design practice has developed over 6 years into a dual focus on architectural services and web-based entrepreneurship. Robert earned his March from the University of Michigan, as well as an MS in Architecture specialized in the use of digital technologies with industrial multi-axis robotics. Robert is currently focused on Section Cut, a web-based community committed to empowering designers and demystifying design culture to the larger public. SC is a crowd-sourced, curated collection of design resources and objects with an educational agenda.


Don't Miss EQxD "U" Workshop 4 ! Architecture AND...Exploring Meaning & Influence by way of Multidisciplinary Practice.

Thursday, October 22, 2015 from 6pm - 8:30pm @AIASF 130 Sutter St, San Francisco

We will explore alternate models of practice that expand the avenues of influence for architects. More than 50% of all respondents to the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey stated that they were dissatisfied with their current job situation. A large number responded that they were interested in alternative career paths. Rather than leave architecture behind completely - and have the profession lose ever more talent to other fields - how we can cultivate expansive multidisciplinary practices that are innovative, exploratory, and meaningful? 

The workshop will feature four professionals who have taken their work beyond the traditional boundaries of the field. After a review of key survey findings on the topic we will hear from the panelists about their paths, entrepreneurial thinking, and lessons learned in a question and answer session. This will be followed by design thinking exercises to guide us in thinking freely and widely about our career futures and the new kinds of practices we can create. Gain the courage and knowledge to turn your interests and ideas into a new work reality at our workshop!

10/22/15 Architecture AND… Workshop Agenda
Networking & Refreshments 6pm - 6:15pm
Introductions/Welcome 6:15 - 6:25pm
Panel Discussion 6:25 - 7:15pm
Break/Transition 7:15 - 7:20pm
Design Thinking Exercises 7:20 - 8:10pm
Conclusions 8:10 - 8:30pm

EQxD Architecture And... the MeetWall

Interview by Susan Kolber

Leading up to the EQxD U Workshop 4: Architecture And 10/22 AIA SF , EQxD will explore architects, designers and firms pursuing multidisciplinary paths. In April of this year San Francisco hosted an experimental three day prototyping festival to re-imagine the city's, "civic spine," Market Street.  The Market Street Prototyping Festival was an incredible collaboration between the San Francisco Planning Department, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the Knight Foundation. They sponsored the event and an international idea competition encouraged everyone from citizens, makers, artists, architects, engineers, performers to submit ideas to help create spaces and activities that would invigorate Market Street and connect the communities surrounding it.
Ideas were selected for their, "creativity, sense of community, potential to make Market Street a more vibrant public space and ability to identify Market Street as uniquely San Francisco." The event was a huge success and inspired endless participation as pedestrians walked, learned, played, spun, looked, and met strangers at each prototype. The festival's ideas and results are helping shape the actual Better Market Street urban renovation project the city is pursuing. While several San Francisco architecture firms' ideas were selected and fabricated, the festival truly embraced and supported ideas from people and collaborations of all backgrounds.  Check out the selected projects here
 

Market Street Prototyping Frestival: The MeetWall

Market Street Prototyping Frestival: The MeetWall

One prototype that peaked the curiosity of many pedestrians was the MeetWall.  Inspired by the opportunity to participate in the Market Street Prototyping Festival, three colleagues, Louise Deguine, Matt Bowles, and Chad Kellogg who at the time were all working at a San Francisco based architecture firm wanted to encourage more interaction between strangers on Market Street. They submitted an idea called The MeetWall, "an interactive intervention," which would use Kinect sensors to detect people as they approached the wall and signal the wall of tiles to open and allow people to see each other.
After their project was selected the team spent 5 months after work, in between classes, and on weekends figuring out how they were going to fabricate the wall and have the tiles move as people moved around the wall.  The experimental nature of the festival allowed participants to submit ideas without knowing the fine-print of how it was going to come together. This trust in and support of participants allowed for highly imaginative projects like the MeetWall to manifest. As designers and architects Deguine, Bowles and Kellogg  used their architectural experience and learned many new skills including how to program and work with electronics in order to make the wall come alive. The team collaborated with consultants Michael Chamoures and Paul Tiplady on the electronic system, and they also helped build the wall which was composed of hundreds of pieces.  Deguine an intern at the time they submitted the idea returned to Paris to continue her architectural studies, so the team worked remotely on different aspects of the wall. Bowles and Kellogg spent months designing and fabricating the moving tiles after work most days.  Deguine focussed on the electronics and programing of the wall. The project came together and was a popular attraction as participants stopped, jumped, waved, and danced in front of the sensor and watched the wall of tiles mimic their movements. Watch the MeetWall interaction. Louise Deguine (LD) shared her insights on the project in an interview below. She is currently completing her Masters in Digital Knowledge at École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Paris-Malaquais in France. 

Exploring this small prototyping scale allowed us to detach ourselves from most of the constraints that one can meet as an architect, and to focus mostly on the kinetic aspect of the project. Having the opportunity to test the MeetWall with the public was great and will inspire our future architectural projects.
— Louise Deguine
MeetWall participants move in front of the Kinect Sensor and the wall of tiles open and close as it reacts to their movements. 

MeetWall participants move in front of the Kinect Sensor and the wall of tiles open and close as it reacts to their movements. 

The MeetWall was composed of 150 fabricated tiles that could rotate at various angles.  photo by Eugene Lee

The MeetWall was composed of 150 fabricated tiles that could rotate at various angles.  photo by Eugene Lee

How did your team figure out how to make the wall move? 
(LD) The main questions that arose after we got selected in October was first to figure out how to make the wall move, and secondly to have it react to its environment. The wall is composed of about 150 tiles that can rotate independently. Each tile contains a small servo-motor, and receives a signal from a microcontroller connected to a raspberry pi, which is collecting and processing data from a computer. The computer is running a program in processing, using the Kinect data as a dynamic input.
How it reacts- the software part:
We considered our wall as a screen made of pixels. Each pixel corresponds to a tile, so we have a 8x19 resolution screen. Each pixel depends on the opening of the tile, and it goes from 0° to 90°. If you compare it to a grayscale value, 0° corresponds to white and 90° to black.
The Kinect sensor scans the street with infrared. Using the Kinect and the Simple-OpenNI library, we collected data like the body center mass point and the skeleton joints position of each person in the street. We used those coordinates to design a dynamic pattern determining the rotation value of each tile, or if you prefer, the value of each pixel of our screen.
How it moves- the hardware part:
Each tile is composed of a mechanism that allows it to move with its servo motor's mechanical rotation. The design of these tiles is the result of several constraints, in which we tried to answer in the most optimized way. 
The first constraint was the budget. We used plexiglas for the tile structure, a cheap material but robust enough to handle the tile's function. We chose to laser cut it because it allows accuracy and serial production in a very simple way. Our second constraint was that our three-dimensional object was built from two-dimensional components. The third constraint was creating a design that could be easily assembled because we had so many tiles and would need help putting them together. 

How did this project allow you to experiment/ explore architecture in a new way? 
(LD)  Once we were selected we asked ourselves: what is the project about? architecture? art? urban furniture? Matt Bowles, Chad Kellogg and I are all engaged in architecture, and it maybe surprising that we proposed such a small scale project; but for me, architecture is first about giving a special experience to people with their built environment. 
Exploring this small prototyping scale allowed us to detach ourselves from most of the constraints that one can meet as an architect, and to focus mostly on the kinetic aspect of the project. Having the opportunity to test the wall with the public was great and will inspire our future architectural projects. It allowed us to observe the kind of intuitive interaction that one can have with an object, without instruction. It also showed that the more simple this interaction is, the better it catches attention.
The second question we explored was how new technologies can be introduced into a design project. We noticed that technology, when it is used in an interactive way can bring people together, and not only through social networks! 

What kind of reactions did people on Market Street have with the MeetWall? Did their reactions surprise you?
(LD) The first type of reaction we saw was a person would stop, stare at the screen and look at other people interacting with it and wonder until they would understand by themselves that the wall is moving with them. Then they would start playing with it. 
The second type would look for us and ask us what it was. As soon as they knew that they could play with it, they would stay and have fun. 
In those two situations, what was enjoyable but also very surprising is that people would start moving and dancing without any shyness, and quite unconsciously. We could see them lose their inhibition and start to feel more comfortable. In this sense, we were happy to reach the main goal of our project, which was to encourage people to slow down, take the time to enjoy public space around them, and finally allow some good conditions for kinder social interactions. 

How will this inspire your architectural studies?
(LD) This experience inspired me for several reasons that will definitely influence the rest of my studies. I had the opportunity to learn a lot during this project: computer programming, electronics, networks, project management, and also how physical constraints can be so basic and so concrete at the same time. The inspiration I get from all this learning is that I want to make more in order to learn more!


Don't Miss EQxD "U" Workshop 4 !

Architecture AND...Exploring Meaning & Influence by way of Multidisciplinary Practice

Thursday, October 22, 2015 from 6pm - 8:30pm @AIASF 130 Sutter St, San Francisco

We will explore alternate models of practice that expand the avenues of influence for architects. More than 50% of all respondents to the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey stated that they were dissatisfied with their current job situation. A large number responded that they were interested in alternative career paths. Rather than leave architecture behind completely - and have the profession lose ever more talent to other fields - how we can cultivate expansive multidisciplinary practices that are innovative, exploratory, and meaningful? 

The workshop will feature four professionals who have taken their work beyond the traditional boundaries of the field. After a review of key survey findings on the topic we will hear from the panelists about their paths, entrepreneurial thinking, and lessons learned in a question and answer session. This will be followed by design thinking exercises to guide us in thinking freely and widely about our career futures and the new kinds of practices we can create. Gain the courage and knowledge to turn your interests and ideas into a new work reality at our workshop!

10/22/15 Architecture AND… Workshop Agenda
Networking & Refreshments 6pm - 6:15pm
Introductions/Welcome 6:15 - 6:25pm
Panel Discussion 6:25 - 7:15pm
Break/Transition 7:15 - 7:20pm
Design Thinking Exercises 7:20 - 8:10pm
Conclusions 8:10 - 8:30pm



Architecture And...

by Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA**

A couple years ago at an AIA event, I met Sir Ken Robinson, an author and speaker widely known for his TED Talk “Do schools kill creativity?” where he makes the argument that we, as professional individuals, are always more than just one defining vocation. He believes that although society asks us to define what we do as a singular vocation, our multifaceted lives include distractions, hobbies, and interests that serve as powerful influences to our professional work. After I introduced myself, Sir Robinson casually asked, “Emily, what do you do?”. I told him I was an architect, and his response was “that’s all?”

As professional practice and models evolve, I’m not sure architects have ever fully recognized all of the things we do in addition to getting a building designed and built. Architecture and the practice of architecture is often studied by looking at historic precedents— how things were built, their context, and their cultural significance. While understanding past influences is important to the success of architectural projects, I would argue that the ability to look forward—to understand future trends and influences and cultivate flexibility to anticipate the new thing we can’t yet imagine—is equally essential. A building is more than just a built form—it is a home, an office, a place to learn or play; and equally architects serve as sociologists, industrial engineers, environmental psychologists, facilitators, mediators, advocates, and advisers. Our profession has always been more than just the means of creating a building. Architecture, at its best, is a profession that is multifaceted and incorporates complementary influences that delight and elevate a place into an experience. 

To stay relevant in the 21st century economy, architects will need to leverage our innate curiosity as a value proposition. Architects are uniquely trained to think and work in a non-linear process due to our authentic, project-based academic experience. Young architects also learned from an early age to “Think Different”, just like the old Apple advertisement. We know conventional hierarchical processes can be upended by technology and societal expectations; So why aren’t we anticipating the next disruptive change in the practice of architecture? With our abilities in technology-based communication skills, access to resources, and the deep professional knowledge base of American architects, we can literally change the world and there are many people globally who can benefit from our design abilities. I expect to see the influence of architects in education policy, public health, economic growth, and a cultural shift in the way we view social equity. There is no limit to ways in which architects can use their skills for positive change. 

Why do we as a profession focus so much on the minimum competency instead of on larger issues relating to practice and the built environment?
— Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA

When it comes down to it, there is a value proposition at the crux of how architects can begin to innovate in practice. Think about it-architects as problem solvers; architects as strategists; architects as connectors--all possibilities. In 2011 according to AIA Facts and Figures and the Architecture Billings Index, architects generated $2 billion dollars of fees in support of over $320 billion of construction proving two things: our daily work has a huge impact on the construction economy, and architects generate big results with a relatively small budget. But I ask myself, where is the financial data on our impact on productivity and quality of life? As architects, we need to be proactive about quantifying and measuring this data in order to visualize and generate new business models to think differently about how we structure our practices. To demonstrate our ability and impact, we need to be explicit in how, where, and when our value makes a difference. This will allow us to begin to solve larger problems of the built environment and validate why architects will be part of the solution. Cutting-edge firms at three different scales such as SHoP Architects, Alloy in Brooklyn, and Latent Design in Chicago,, have already leveraged non-design based disciplines as core services to complement and distinguish their design work. I believe the ability to adapt and anticipate future trends will be the mark of a successful architecture profession in the 21st century and that growing our concept of architectural services will be part of this. We will need to collaborate, learn, research, and advocate in support of our own architectural practice because it will no longer be enough to just design.

So back to when Sir Ken Robinson said, “that’s all?” to me. Well, I corrected myself and said, “No. I’m an architect and...”

**(This article was originally written and published in collaboration with YAF Connection April Issue: EquityxDesign and can be referenced by clicking the link)

Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA is an associate at Cambridge Seven Associates in Cambridge, MA. Emily served as 2014 President of the Boston Society of Architects/AIA and received the AIA Young Architects Award in 2008. In 2014, Emily was one of the Keynote Speakers for the symposium: Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action!

 


Don't Miss EQxD "U" Workshop 4 !

Architecture AND...Exploring Meaning & Influence by way of Multidisciplinary Practice

Thursday, October 22, 2015 from 6pm - 8:30pm @AIASF 130 Sutter St, San Francisco 

We will explore alternate models of practice that expand the avenues of influence for architects. More than 50% of all respondents to the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey stated that they were dissatisfied with their current job situation. A large number responded that they were interested in alternative career paths. Rather than leave architecture behind completely - and have the profession lose ever more talent to other fields - how we can cultivate expansive multidisciplinary practices that are innovative, exploratory, and meaningful? 

The workshop will feature four professionals who have taken their work beyond the traditional boundaries of the field. After a review of key survey findings on the topic we will hear from the panelists about their paths, entrepreneurial thinking, and lessons learned in a question and answer session. This will be followed by design thinking exercises to guide us in thinking freely and widely about our career futures and the new kinds of practices we can create. Gain the courage and knowledge to turn your interests and ideas into a new work reality at our workshop!

10/22/15 Architecture AND… Workshop Agenda
Networking & Refreshments 6pm - 6:15pm
Introductions/Welcome 6:15 - 6:25pm
Panel Discussion 6:25 - 7:15pm
Break/Transition 7:15 - 7:20pm
Design Thinking Exercises 7:20 - 8:10pm
Conclusions 8:10 - 8:30pm


#Architalks 10: Give me a Break!

By Rosa Sheng, AIA

#Architalks is back! And No. 10 happens to be themed on the topic of Summer Break (no irony should be lost that I have written this post during my summer break and it was due just a day after the 4th of July holiday weekend) thanks to Bob Borson of Life of an Architect. 

Since childhood, summer breaks have been special and distinct. As the weather heats up for 3 months, time seems to slow down. And yet, the memories from these "breaks" are more vivid now than the blurred rush from rest of the 9 months of years past.  Fireworks, fireflies, family day trips to the Jersey shore with sun, sand, and salty Atlantic Ocean mixed with smells of fried funnel cake, cotton candy and lemonade. As I got older, summer break trips expanded to a few special visits to China to visit my grandparents and see amazing architectural wonders like the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and the Hu-Tong (densely packed neighborhood fabric of the city). And during Architecture school, my last summer break as a student was spent immersed in the city of Taipei, Taiwan for my thesis project: mixing summer fun with historical research for a theoretical building site. 

Now, as an Architect living on the west coast for more than 15 years with seasons that are muddled, I look forward to my “summer breaks” more than ever. I enjoy reliving the nostalgic memories and creating new ones with my family in our annual July vacation to the east coast. It has become an important time to recharge the batteries, reconnect with personal passions, as well as catching up with our relatives and friends. While we still make a point to unplug with a visit to the beach, my vacations would not be complete without some exploration of urban and architectural treasures. The list includes an annual visit to The Metropolitan Museum (aka., The MET), a baseball game at the new stadiums, a leisure stroll on the High Line, a ferry ride to Governor's Island, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and The Glass House in Connecticut. 

The importance of getting a break from work or any major project that we are trying to accomplish seems like an obvious no brainer to maintain optimal focus and productivity. A 2008 Families & Work Institute study found that not only do workers with paid vacation time have higher job satisfaction and are less likely to leave their job than those without paid vacation time, but also that the amount of time away matters. Both workers’ satisfaction and likelihood to stay in their job rose significantly when their vacation lasted 13 days or more.

While most established Architecture firms may offer a minimum number of paid vacation days and sick days (usually 10 of each) to salaried full-time employees, the reality is that the majority of staff never take the full time allotted to them given the demands of project schedules and pressures of the “long hours” work culture originating from Architectural School design studio. Since we conducted the Equity in Architecture Survey in 2014, the discussion of work/life flexibility and more specifically the topic of employer support for taking an extended break is something that the Architecture profession needs to discuss and improve upon as a strong link to talent retention. 

Outside of the profession, there are bigger questions of how we compare with other countries and their support of paid breaks. The U.S. is the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee workers paid time off according to a report titled "No-Vacation Nation - Revisited" by the Center of Economic and Policy Research, a liberal policy group.

And beyond taking leaves for medical reasons (including childbirth or caregiving of others) the least addressed or discussed type of extended break or leave is one for exploration to learn a new skill or a mental respite traditionally know as a sabbatical in academic circles. Is there a way to hack the illusive "break"? 

What if companies offered scholarships for those seeking to expand their professional and leadership development that also benefitted the sponsoring employer? What if professional sabbaticals were structured in a way as a benefit for reaching milestones of project goals, licensure, or tenure to reward productivity, project success and also improve talent retention? From restorative summer breaks as a youth/student, we could seek inspiration for transforming that experience into a healthy lifestyle practice throughout our careers. So don't be afraid to ask and find creative ways to negotiate for it - "Give me a break?"


For different takes on the theme #Architalks 10 "Summer Break", read from the following contributors to this worthy topic.

"Bob Borson - Life of An Architect @bobborson Architectural Bucket List"
"Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture @FiELD9arch SummerBreak?"
"Marica McKeel - Studio MM @ArchitectMM Summer Break = Extreme Architecture"
"Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet @Jeff_Echols Summer Break and Aunt Loretta"
"Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect @LeeCalisti summer break"
"Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC @L2DesignLLC Vacationing with an Architect"
"Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect @EntreArchitect 2 Simple Systems That Will Transform Your Studio"
"Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen @archy_type MILES AND MILES OF ROAD "
"Jes Stafford - Modus Operandi Design @modarchitect Summer Getaway"
"Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect @mghottel #Architalks 10 - "summer break""
"Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC @MeghanaIRA Architalks: There, but not there"
"Amy Kalar - ArchiMom @AmyKalar Summer Break"
"Tara Imani - Tara Imani Designs, LLC @Parthenon1 A Brilliant Summer Break"
"Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect @bpaletz Summer Vacation"
"Eric Wittman - intern[life] @rico_w summer break [or] summer school"
"Sharon George - Architecture By George @sharonraigeorge Summer Break #ArchiTalks"
"Brinn Miracle - Architangent @simplybrinn Summer Break"
"Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL @sramos_BAC Architect: Gift or Curse?"
"brady ernst - Soapbox Architect @bradyernstAIA The Education of an Architect"
"Michael Riscica - Young Architect @YoungArchitxPDX The Architecture Students Summer Break"