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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?

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