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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?

Architecture And...The Era of Connection #Architalks 18


Architecture And...The Era of Connection #Architalks 18March 6 — Rosa Sheng

This month's #Architalks 18 topic is "Architecture And..." and was suggested by yours truly to Bob Borson, AIA, the originator of "Life of an Architect" blog and #Architalks blog series. The term "Architecture And" came about in our Equity by Design committee meetings about two years ago when we were discussing how the profession would benefit more from an inclusive and collaborative mindset. Architecture And is also looking back to the roots of what architects use to do beyond "basic services" of design and documentation of buildings; master planning, programming, renderings, engineering, fundraising, and master builder. In the last 2 decades, the advancement of technology has expanded more quickly than professional practice has been able to keep up.

During the Equity by Design Symposium in 2014, one of the main break-out sessions was titled Architecture And to expand the conversation and definition of what is means to channel what people are passionate about and adapt it into new business models to support equitable practice. The positive feedback from that session led us to create a dedicated EQxD "U" Workshop - Architecture And in October 2015 with featured panelists who started as architects and have expanded their practice in different ways with great insights on their experiences.

Emily Grandstaff-Rice also wrote an article for YAF Connection that we republished in our blog . She reinforced and expanded our conversation about the importance of looking outward as a profession. "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."

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. Our ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world, relies with us keeping up with constant disruption brought on with the hyper-advancement of technology. "How will people design and make things in the future?" The idea of inspiring innovation was also discussed at AIA Grassroots in Detroit by Keynote Speaker Josh Linkner. He suggested that we 1. Get Curious 2. Ask What's Next 3. Defy Tradition 4. Get Scrappy 5. Fail Fast, Adapt Fast to have the right mindset for innovation in our industry.

This May, at the AIA National Convention, we are featuring the 2nd EQxD Hackathon to further the discussion with "Architecture And the Era of Connections" on May 18th, 1-5pm.  In the new edition of the EQxD Hackathon: Architecture And, the Era of Connection, we will start with an exploration at the intersection of design, architecture, tech and entrepreneurship featuring a diversely experienced panel. This will be an "out of the box" experience looking at the future of architectural practice beyond what we know today. We will be inspired by examples of innovation and the evolution of the business of architecture in the new digital economy.

During the second half of the workshop, participants will form small groups and develop a plan of action or business plan for a new product/service to positively impact the future of the architectural practice. At the end, Teams will present their concepts to judges in an "elevator pitch", and the winning team will present its "hack" to conference participants at the EQxD Happy Hour and social/networking event at at location near the Convention Center from 5:30pm-7:30pm.

Equity by Design is excited to announce that we will be providing scholarships to attend AIA National Convention 2016 pre-convention workshop WE315 EQxD Hackathon: Architecture And, the Era of Connection on Wednesday May 18th from 1-5pm located at the Philadelphia Convention Center. The scholarship is focused on providing access for Architecture School students, as well as recent graduates, emerging professionals, and newly licensed architects to this "not to be missed" un-conventional workshop. Scholarship applications will be accepted from Feb. 22 thru March 11th w/ scholarship winners announced by March 18th. We are thankful for our EQxD Hackathon sponsors for making these scholarships available.

If you would like to hear the other interpretations of #Architalks 18 Architecture And, you can read them here.

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Life of an Architect

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Architecture and Photography

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Architecture and a Future Without Architects

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
architecture and __

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Architecture and Travel

Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Architecture and Gaming

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
architecture and m&ms

Rosa Sheng – EquitybyDesign [EQxD] (@EquityxDesign)
Architecture And the Era of Connection

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#ArchiTalks 18: architecture and… the bigger picture

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks 18: Architecture and Mathematics

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Architalks 18: Architecture and … Parenting

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Architecture and Yoga

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Architecture and Ego

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Architecture and Ego / The Architect’s Unique Struggle with ‘Good’ Design

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Architecture and Kids

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Architecture and More

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Architecture and the Myth of the Master Builder

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Architecture and Interior Design

Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Architecture and Wrestling

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Architecture + Memories

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
[#ArchiTalks 18] Architecture and Strange Travel Etiquette

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Architecture and…my Generation.

10 Power Tools to Kickstart Equitable Practice

by Rosa T. Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

This month's #Architalks "secret ingredient" topic is "TOOL" as suggested by Bob Borson, AIA, the originator of "Life of an Architect" blog and #Architalks blog series. According to, the word "TOOL" actually has 17 meanings! For this particular post, I chose "Power Tool" as a metaphor playing on the following two definitions. (And the reference "power" suggests increased effectiveness and efficiency at accomplishing the task).

/to͞ol/  noun

  1. An implement, especially one held in the hand, as a hammer, saw, or file, for performing or facilitating mechanical operations.
  2. anything used as a means of accomplishing a task or purpose:

There has been a lot of discussion (and frankly some confusion) about Equity, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in the last few years within our profession, but also in society at large. In 2013, I founded The Missing 32% Project to shed light on the challenges we face as a profession by not supporting our talent. Our work has evolved into Equity by Design to promote equitable practice in Architecture. The means to achieve this task have become our essential kit of power tools. 

Power Tool # 1 - Data

The 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey Final Report  - Inspired by Alexandre Lange's "Architecture's Lean In Moment", Metropolis Magazien, July/August 2013, this report summarizes the data analysis collected in the inaugural survey we conducted in early 2014. The report has been used by architects and allied professions nationally and globally as a starting point of discussion for the challenges and pinch points occurring in the workplace that cause talent to leave a firm or the profession. And things are happening. The research has been the impetus for action: from the AIA National Resolution 15-1 Equity in Architecture, to the establishment of the Commission for Equity, to firms of all sizes re-evaluating workplace policies for equitable practice.  But we are not done yet. We are getting ready for our 2016 Equity in Architecture Survey which will launch at the end of the month. Stay tuned!

Power Tool #2 - Knowing Your Worth

In the survey, the top 2 answers for why people leave the profession - Long Hours, Low Pay. While, compensation is predicated on the economy, the size of the firm, and the skill sets of the professional, there are valuable tools to better understand if you are being compensated fairly. AIA National has launched the tool - AIA Compensation Survey Salary Calculator to provide top line compensation information for 17 architectural positions by region and firm size. 

Power Tool #3 - Negotiation, The Art and Science of making the Deal. 

Less than 40% of EQiA survey respondents had negotiated for a higher salary if they had an unsatisfactory offer. This turned into a popular series of workshops to learn better negotiation skills. I shared an article in AIA YAF Connection in April 2015 that highlights the key components to becoming a better negotiator.  You can also sign up for our next edition of the workshop at AIA National Convention in Philadelphia this year. TH209 EQxD Negotiation is your Power Tool- on May 19, 2016 from 2-3pm

Power Tool #4 - Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice

Many have reacted positively to the Survey findings, but ask, where do we start? and HOW? While one might associate the process with "Eating a Whale", there is help and guidance to get started. Our friends in Australia have been very productive in publishing this resource for firms to address all aspects of equitable practice, including: pay equity, flexibility, leadership, mentoring, licensure, career breaks, and work culture. While there is a state side version in development, Parlour's Guides are a great start for anyone who is asking.

Power Tool #5 - Getting Connected

Architects may have mixed feelings about engaging in Social Media. I know that I did. Prior to starting Equity by Design, I was suspicious about it and worried about trolls. 3 years later, I am happy to report that I haven't been stalked or stoned to death by trolls yet (although I did have one troll, but I blocked him). In all seriousness, there is an amazing world of connections to be made to forward the movement for equitable practice. You can also strengthen your professional development, building relationships and connections to people who will likely become your future champions. Suggested: Twitter, Linked In, Facebook. 

Power Tool #6 - Using your Voice for Thought Leadership

While Architects are generally known for communicating in graphic ways, we are hard pressed sometimes in communicating who we are, what an Architect does, and our contributions to the value of a better society via the built environment. A great place to do that is having a blog on your website, or post on Linked In. If you don't have a website, you can easily start one up for free on Wordpress or a small subscription cost on Squarespace . These sites have design savvy templates and are easier to set up and maintain than a customized website. Another benefit of a website and blog is a place to showcase your work and a new way for potential clients to get to know you before even meeting. But, who has the time to keep up a blog post? Another option is to become an occasional contributor / guest blogger on our EQxD blog or . It's a good way to get your feet wet, without making a larger commitment to maintain your own site until you are ready.

Power Tool #7 - Find your Champions, Be a Champion

So, what are Champions? Are they mentors? What is the difference? The main differentiator is that champions are those that are actively and openly advocating for you in terms of professional feedback and advancement. They are going to bat for you and they have a vested interest in your success.  They can be your clients, your 'manager', your firm Principals, your teammates, your peer colleagues or consultants. They can also be people you meet through social media who are endorsing you, your achievements, your cause. In turn, be a champion to others. Make it a point to pay it forward.

Power Tool #8 - Build Recognition for Good Work

Despina Stratigakos launched a movement in June 2013 in Places Journal with an article titled "Unforgetting Women Architects" . Despina's modern day strategy to undo the effect of women architects being left out of the history books suggested that Wikipedia was the new medium of measuring existence and recognition. Since then, Architexx, Parlour, and N-ails have answered her charge to document notable and inspirational women architects. Write a Wikipedia entry to contribute to the restoration and ongoing legacy. Write about women contemporaries in architecture that you admire. Use the WiKiD guide developed by Justine Clark's Team at Parlour. Collaborate with other groups like SheHeroes.Org to expand the storytelling beyond our profession. 

Power Tool #9 - Work Life Fit

For many of these things that I have suggested, you may ask "Who has any time?" There are many tools out there for higher efficiency of time management including the Pomodoro technique . But beyond time management, the deeper question is "Is your day to day work meaningful to your career goals?" If yes, than your passion is the driver and you can find the means to optimize your time and priorities. If no, then you should consider re-assessing what it is that you are passionate about in all aspects of your life. By trying to integrate and align your passions you will have a better chance at leading the life that you want as we learned from Stew Friedman.

Power Tool #10 - Be In It, to Win It.

At the AIA Women's Leadership Summit in Seattle, Julia Donoho, AIA, Esq. in her presentation about leading a campaign to nominate Julia Morgan for the AIA Gold Medal summed it up pretty well. "You can't win the lottery, if you don't by a ticket". That doesn't necessarily mean that buying a ticket ensures a win, but it definitely increases your odds.  In essence, participate, be present, get involved before you submit for awards. Volunteer for selection juries so that you can understand the process. Be a champion to get others nominated and recognized. There are also many opportunities to promote the equitable selection of speakers and panelists at conferences, design awards juries, and elected Board Members for AIA Components. Get involved.


Here are more posts, in no particular order, from my friends that wrote for #Architalks 17 "TOOL" .  Read, tweet, share, comment, etc.

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
3 Tools to Get Our Clients Engaged and Involved

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The Best Tool In Your Toolbox

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
The Tools That Help Make #AREsketches

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
tools #architalks

Jes Stafford - MODwelling (@modarchitect)
One Essential Tool

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Architools - Mind Over Matter

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#ArchiTalks 17 "Tool"

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Tools of an Architect #Architalks 17

Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
ArchiTalks #17: Three Tools for Change

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Can we talk?

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Why An Architect's Voice Is Their Most Important Tool

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
it's ok, i have a [pen]

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Tools for Learning

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Something Old and Something New

Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Helpful tools found within an Architecture blog

Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Sharpen Your Tools

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Super Tool

Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Construction: An Architect's Learning Tool

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
(CTRL A) (Command-A)- Edit

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.


Why Every Project is My "First"

by Rosa T. Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
— Steve Jobs, Excerpts from The 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech

#Architalks is back again. For those that are unfamiliar with Architalks, it is the brainchild of Bob Borson, AIA (also the recent recipient of the Texas Society of Architects Honor Award for his social media contributions to spread the awareness of Architects and Architecture to the general public.) Architalks can be thought of as Architects blogs meets The Iron Chef:  November's secret ingredient topic is "My First Project". 

The "first" thing that popped into my head was trying to decide what would define a "first" project. There are no fast an ready rules and we are all left to our own devices to figure how we approach the topic. So I let my stream of consciousness lead the way and the results teased out many firsts:

  • My first project on the first day of architecture school (yes, but too abstract, not architectural)
  • My first project in studio with architectural solution (yes, but design outcome wasn't that great)
  • My first project at my first job after graduation? (My multiple 1st projects were not memorable)
  • My first project completed as a Project Architect? (If I told you, I would have to...)
  • My first project that I got really excited and passionate about? (okay, I may be on to something...)

If you were to capture all the "firsts" and boil it down to its bare essence, there is a common thread. It's the feeling of excitement of unknown potential; the Tabula Rasa (or blank slate) effect. There is an exhilaration of limitless possibilities; to produce a successful, positive impact that is aesthetically stimulating in form and seamlessly integrated in function. And with that "first" project or experience, we have a more heightened sense and awareness. The process of design somewhat demands that we come to the table with this "first" project frame of reference. Without it, we would be crippled in our ability to deliver the creative problem solving skills which make our profession so valuable to those we serve. 

Pixar Animation Studios

Pixar Animation Studios

Part of the challenge throughout my 21 year architectural career has been to keep that fresh, optimistic perspective and excitement of that "first" project. New clients, new site, new programmatic opportunity and challenges, new consultant and design team. And in many ways, I have been very fortunate that most of the projects I have worked on have been "firsts". Each one is unique from the others, but they all had the desire to innovate; breaking new ground, leading others to new ways of seeing and doing things that had never been done before.  And sometimes the fact that "it" hadn't been done before, is like a dare of sorts to be the "first" to accomplish it.

This has applied not only to architectural project work, but the amazing movement of Equity in Architecture that started with founding Equity by Design a little more than two years ago. Each major initiative has been a "first" project. The Missing 32% Project Equity in Architecture Survey which garnered 2289 national responses. The Equity by Design Symposium which was a "first" in delivering an interactive and engaging conference format which sold out with 250 attendees from all over the country. The EQxD Hackathon which was the first workshop at AIA National Convention to leverage a new format for continuing education. And AIA Resolution 15-1, Equity in Architecture which garnered the support of 4,117 delegates at the AIA National Convention in Atlanta. 

Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! - October 2014

Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! - October 2014

So I encourage you to suspend disbelief and embrace each new project you encounter as if it were your "first" project.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. 


Please explore other takes on the November #Architalks topic "My First Project" with the veritable offerings from the architect blog community started by Bob Borson

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
My First Project: The Best Project Ever Designed That Wasn't

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
My "First Project"

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
My First Project - Again

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
first project first process

Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Our First Architecture Project [#ArchiTalks]

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: My first project

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
The First One -- A Tale of Two Projects

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
"My First Project"

Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
The Early Years of My Architecture Career - My Role

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
I Hate Decks

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
[first] project [worst] crit

Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
My First Project - The First Solar Decathlon #Architalks

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Project Me

Daniel Beck - The Architect's Checklist (@archchecklist)
Fake it 'til you make it

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Define First

Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
my first project

Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
My First Project

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Top ten tips when faced with a challenging Architectural project

Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Community 101

Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
6 Major Differences between my 1st School Project & my 1st Real Project

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
My First Project – The Contemporary Cottage

Nisha Kandiah - TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
The Question of Beginning

Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)

We are the Champions! Citizen Architects

By Rosa Sheng, AIA

Happy Columbus (& Indegenous People's) Day! #Architalks is back and no. 13 happens to be the topic of the "Citizen Architect" thanks to yours truly for suggesting it and Bob Borson with our lovely democratic voting process for allowing it to be chosen. 

What is a Citizen Architect anyway? I am not quite sure how the term first evolved. If you Google it, here is what the internet came up with:

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio is a documentary film  on the late Architect Samuel Mockbee and the radical educational design/build program known as the Rural Studio that had its debut on January 1, 2010.

AIA Citizen Architect is a 2008 Resolution celebrating service of civically engaged architects and advocating for more architects within the Institute to engage in civic participation at all levels. This is an excerpt from the AIA website.

The Citizen Architect uses his/her insights, talents, training, and experience to contribute meaningfully, beyond self, to the improvement of the community and human condition. The Citizen Architect stays informed on local, state, and federal issues, and makes time for service to the community. The Citizen Architect advocates for higher living standards, the creation of a sustainable environment, quality of life, and the greater good. The Citizen Architect seeks to advocate for the broader purposes of architecture through civic activism, writing and publishing, by gaining appointment to boards and commissions, and through elective office at all levels of government.

Aside from Google, I also think of work in the realm of humanitarian relief related design like Architecture for Humanity founded by Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr as well as the many Citizen Architects involved in Public Interest Design and Impact Design movements. 

So beyond these examples of what a Citizen Architect did/does and what a Citizen Architect could do, I would like to give you my own interpretation: mic and cue the music please...

We Are The Champions” (lyrics by Queen)

I’ve paid my dues
Time after time
I’ve done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I’ve made a few
I’ve had my share of sand
Kicked in my face
But I’ve come through

And we mean to go on and on and on and on

We are the champions - my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting
Till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
’Cause we are the champions of the World
— Freddie Mercury

The lyrics to this epically amazing song by Queen's Freddie Mercury have so many layers of meaning. I will share just a few here. (I have included this version from Jimmy Fallon's diverse talent to put you in the right mindset.) 

In the Equity by Design conversations, we have talked about solutions to the bleak survey results regarding advancement.  Based on our research findings and understanding of the pinch points, there are currently many phases in your architectural career to become disenfranchised and lose your way. This happened to me, despite early successes and without any idea that there were others who had or currently have similar challenges. 

In the course of reading for solutions to the road blocks of advancement (structural or implicit bias), I came across examples inspiring the concept. of the Champion. "Women, Work and the Art of Gender Judo" an article in the Washington Post written by Joan C. Williams, a professor of law at UC Hastings sites that studies indicate women are more successful at negotiation when they are authentically advocating for others (individuals, or the greater good of a larger group). Additionally, studies have shown that women who self promote are not viewed favorably by other women and to some degree men as well. In order to get around this bias, Williams suggests finding advocates who will help support your case or promote your achievements to support your advancement. She calls this forming a "posse". I like to think of these people as "Champions" (compliments of Mr. Mercury's inspiring ballad and mic drop.) This concept can be applied to a larger audience to advocate for our profession, including those historically marginalized.

So Are Champions mentors? And are Mentors champions? The main differentiator for Champions is that they are actively and openly advocating for you and others. They are going to bat for you and they have vested interest in your success. They can be your clients, your "report to", your firm Principals, your peer colleagues, your consultants, and even general contractors that you engage on projects. They can even be people you meet thru social media who are endorsing you, your company, your cause.

The Hall of Justice was modeled after the Cincinnati Museum Center

The Hall of Justice was modeled after the Cincinnati Museum Center

And a further spin on Citizen Architect and Champions is the modern day superhero. Does the Hall of Justice and the Superfriends come to mind? Not necessarily your marvel comic incarnation, but a worthy do-gooder who cares about changing the world, improving the lives of others and making a difference. Because isn't that one of the reasons we all wanted to become Architects in the first place? 

And while there is much about the profession that needs to be fixed, who do you propose will go about fixing it? So, as a Citizen Architect, I suggest we expand the definition and that each of us has a responsibility to ourselves and the profession to take action to improve Architecture and Practice.  In the Shel Silverstein poem that I often reference about a little girl who claims she will eat an enormous whale by herself, she completes her task in 89 years by herself. If she had only known to ask others to be her Champion, to take a bite or two of the whale with her, she could have finished her daunting challenge much earlier.

At the AIA Women's Leadership Summit last month at our panel session "Defining the Problem, Crafting Solutions" we asked the participants to answer these two questions: 

  1. What are 2 things that you would like to change about yourself? your firm? the profession at large?
  2. What would you prescribe as a plan of action to make that happen?

Here are 5 things to kickstart equitable practice in action today:

  1. Embrace Technology - Leverage technology and social media to share our stories of Practice, promote resources, strengthen communication and support each other's initiatives for change. Join Twitter. Follow your champions. Update your Linked In Profile. Start a Blog.
  2. Document, Document, Document - Take notes, Take photos, keep good records of projects, conferences, meetings, etc that will help tell your story. Submit your records to BWAF DNA. Write blog entries about events immediately after they happen and link to reference tools and resources. (Don't have the time to start your own blog? Write a guest blog for the Equity by Design blog!)
  3. Recognize - Help extract notable and inspirational women in architecture and write a Wikipedia entry so that we can create a legacy. Write about women contemporaries in architecture that you admire. Use the WiKiD guide developed by Justine Clark's Team at Parlour. Collaborate with other groups like SheHeroes.Org to expand our storytelling beyond our profession. 
  4. Participate - If you don't see a panel with diverse participants including women and or people of color, speak up AND submit for future panels. Get on the selection committees that determine panels and awards. If you don't see women being recognized for awards or listed on project teams receiving awards, speak up AND submit for future recognition. You have to be in it, to win it. Buy your lottery ticket as proclaimed by Julia Donoho, AIA
  5. Advocate - Take action, start a group, start an initiative, start something that will move the needle. Use the Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice as a reference tool. Find others to build your tribe who will support you. Mentor future leaders and bring them with you. Become a Champion: be an advocate not only for underdogs, but for our whole profession. Celebrate and convey the value and power of design in everyone's lives. Equity is for Everyone, and Architecture is for Everyone.

So I challenge you to be a Champion for yourself, for others around you, your communities, and our worthy profession. We can be agents of change, but we can't do it alone. Get connected, find your Champions, be a Champion, because WE are the Champions...of the World.

Here are my Champions, writing their take on Citizen Architect for #Architalks No. 13. Enjoy and please let them know who sent you! 

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Citizen Architect ... Seems Redundant

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Citizinen Architect

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Good Citizen Architect

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Does it Mean to be a Citizen Architect?

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
small town citizen architect

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: The everyday citizen architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Citizen Architect: #architalks

Jes Stafford - Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Architect as Citizen

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
My Hero - Citizen Architect

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Meet Jane Doe, Citizen Architect

Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Architalks #13: How Can I Be But Just What I Am?

Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Help with South Carolina's Recovery Efforts

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Senior Citizen, Architect

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Citizen Architect

Tara Imani - Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
Citizen Starchitect' is not an Oxymoron

Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Citizen Architect - Form out of Time

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
[cake decorating] to [citizen architect]

Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Citizen Architect #ArchiTalks

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Citizen of Architecture

Daniel Beck - The Architect's Checklist (@archchecklist)
Protecting the Client - 3 Ways to be a Citizen Architect

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Citizen Developer??

Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Citizen Architect

Courtney Casburn Brett - Casburn Brett (@CasburnBrett)
“Citizen Architect” + Four Other Practice Models Changing Architecture

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How Architects Can Be Model Citizens

Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Citizen Architect: The Last Responder

Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Inspiring a Citizen Architect

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Does it Mean to be a Citizen Architect?

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Work Life Fit: A New Focus for Blurred Lines

By Rosa Sheng, AIA


Happy Labor Day! #Architalks is back and no. 12 happens to be themed on “Work/Life” in honor of the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. No irony should be lost that I have written this post on Labor Day as it was due on Tuesday... with much thanks to Bob Borson of Life of an Architect!

The topic of Work/Life is no stranger to our Equity by Design forum, so we welcome this month’s conversation. Just beware that the secret confession of this Archimom holds firm that Work/Life “balance” does NOT exist – at least not in the meaning that implies maintaining equilibrium. Now, if you are talking about tightrope walking, then you may be closer to my world. (You may also envision juggling flaming knives, drinking from a firehose, or my favorite - the episode of I Love Lucy when they are working at the Chocolate Factory and can't keep up with the assembly line, so they start eating and hiding the chocolates. ) 

And since the proverbial Work/Life balance bubble has burst, there have been several new models hoping to be crowned the new "it" term for career and personal success; Work/Life Integration, Work/Life Flexibility, and now Work/Life Fit. I like the idea of Work/Life Fit. It implies a tailored approach to one's own journey for finding success in career and life. Regardless of the terms and rapidly evolving models of work AND life, we need to address the deeply rooted assumptions that prevent many from realizing the "dream". So, this post will provide awareness of the Implicit gender bias related to work/life flexibility and its impact on advancement to provide some quantifiable new focus for the often blurred lines related to this pinch point.

Survey finding of Work/Life Flex Challenges

As part of the Missing 32% Project: Equity in Architecture survey, our goal was to identify factors or “pinch points” from graduation to retirement that cause Architects to leave the profession. The five major pinch points are: Hiring, Paying your Dues, Licensure, Caregiving, and the Glass Ceiling. A few of the key survey findings addressed the challenges of work/life as it relates to caregiving as a major pinch point for talent retention. Work/Life challenges reported higher by women than men include turning down a promotion, a project opportunity, or project related travel. The 2nd highest response indicated that they left a position in a firm due to the lack of work/life flexibility. When asked what employers could provide that would be most supportive, respondents reported that flexible start and end times, comp time for overtime hours and technology to enable telecommuting from home when needed. 

A recent study by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit Inc. had some interesting findings about Work/Life Flexibility perceptions and a few surprises as well. The access to Work life flexibility was very common among the survey respondents with almost all saying they had some form of flexibility in 2013 (97%), with no significant difference between the levels reported by men and women. The ability to be flexible in how, when and where you work and to allocate time and energy between your work and personal life has increased. The number of full-time U.S. workers who said their level of flexibility increased was higher in 2013 (23%) than in 2011 (17%).

However, among those who said they have work life flexibility, the majority of flexibility in 2013 was informal and occasional (55%) such as occasional changes in schedule or your work location other than your employer’s office, while the remainder (42%) had a formally agreed upon arrangement with their employer. The study also found that 31% of full time workers opt to telecommute at least part of the time. And most surprising was that of the 31%, nearly 3 out of 4 were men working from home of no particular generational category, while some have children and some don't; there was no clear pattern that would suggest men wanted to work from home because of family concerns. These findings are quite different to the perception that women are benefitting the most from flexibility arrangements.

In addition to the informal vs. formal nature of Work/Life Flex, there are the impacts associated with which path you choose. A NY Times article "How Some Men Fake an 80-Hour Workweek, and Why It Matters" by Neil Irwin discussed the disparity in a study completed by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University's Questrom School of Business. One of Ms. Reid's key findings was that people (the majority of which were men) who were "passing" as workaholics, received performance reviews that were as strong as their truly ambitious colleagues. For the people who succeeded at "faking it" there were no consequences of their lighter workloads. Conversely, a second key finding indicated that women, particularly those with young children, were much more likely to request greater flexibility through more formal means, such as returning from maternity leave with an explicitly reduced schedule. Men who requested a paternity leave seemed to be punished come review time, and so may have felt more need to take time to spend with their families through those unofficial methods. The result of this is telling: Those specifically requesting a lighter workload, who were disproportionately women, suffered in their performance reviews; those who took a lighter workload more discreetly didn’t suffer. 

A greater challenge to work/life flexibility as it relates to caregiving is the deeply rooted cultural bias that society still views mothers as the primary caregivers. Cultural assumptions aside, here is the reality: 71 percent of mothers with children at home do work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and women are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40 percent of households with children, according to data from the Pew Research Center. In the NY times Article The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus by Claire Cain Miller, employers credit fathers as being more committed and stable to their work while the opposite of women in parenthood is perceived; that they are less dependable and more easily distracted in a flexible work schedule.

With all these challenges, it's no wonder that we are faced with the uphill climb to increase the dismal numbers of women who are licensed architects and leaders in firms (which hopefully will include more archimoms in the future.) Can we get to a workplace that not only recognizes work/life, but also respects and encourages workers to exercise their "fit" without judgement of performance solely based on their schedules? And can we get away from the ultra competitive "Culture of Busy" that rewards the perception of long work hours vs. actual efficiency in hours saved in a results focused model? 

The fundamental challenge we have as a profession and society is the need to rethink current workplace models and find new solutions that will positively support those that need work/life flexibility the most. The strongest motivation for this new value proposition is talent retention within our profession. Otherwise we are no better than Lucy and Ethel with a mouth full of chocolates, (and as Lucy pointed out, constantly on the verge of losing the battle).

For different takes on the #Architalks 12 theme "Work/Life", read from the following architecture "blogerati" contributors to this worthy topic.

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Work Life

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Work | Life - Different Letters, Same Word

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Work / Life : Life / Work

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Work/Life...What an Architect Does

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The One Secret to Work - Life Balance

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
work | life :: dance

Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Living an Integrated Life as a Small Firm Architect

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: Work/life...attempts

Collier Ward - Thousand Story Studio (@collier1960)

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
what makes you giggle? #architalks

Jes Stafford - Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Turning It Off

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Work/Life -- A Merger

Rosa Sheng - Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project (@miss32percent)
Work Life Fit: A New Focus for Blurred Lines

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Work Life

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks: Imbalanced and uninterrupted

Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
ArchiTalks #12: Balance is a Verb.

Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
I Just Can’t Do This Anymore

Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
An Architect's House

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Brady Ernst - Family Man Since 08/01/2015

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Father, Husband, Architect - typically in that order

Tara Imani - Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
On Work: Life Balance – Cattywampus is as Good as it Gets

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
midnight in the garden of [life] and [work]

Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Work = 1/3 Life

Daniel Beck - The Architect's Checklist (@archchecklist)
Work Life Balance: Architecture and Babies - 5 Hints for Expecting Parents

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Work is Life

Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
studio / life

Lindsey Rhoden - SPARC Design (@sparcdesignpc)
Work Life Balance: A Photo Essay

Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Work / Life

Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Architecture: Work to Live

#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"

EQxD Get Real: Found - The Missing 32%

by Melissa Daniel

I have a theory that the missing 32% is not really missing. I believe the 32% is actually recorded higher because licensed architects who identify themselves as women choose not to volunteer in architectural surveys, join AIA or be part of any architecture group unless such activities are driven by their employer. The following are the top 5 reasons licensed women architects do not participate in any women architecture related activity:

1. I have no Time/Money.

This seems like a legitimate reason. AIA membership is expensive, and we all understand that family does come first. To participate in the architecture conversation, however, it is not necessary to either join an architecture organization nor spend time traveling to a meeting. Social media is a great way to engage the architecture community. Please note that the key word here is ‘engage’.  Simply creating a twitter account with no profile picture does not count. Get involve in the conversation. Your opinion matters.


2. Underrepresented.

This is not only frustrating but very discouraging. According to the web, Zahid Hadid is the only woman of color who practices architecture. For the licensed women who are on panels discussing women’s issues, neither have my mocha skin tone nor are in my generation. Due to this lack of representation, there’s a broad spectrum of women’s issues that are never discussed including single motherhood and sexual orientation discrimination. Topics like these cannot be discussed if we are not in the room. Let the architecture community know we exist by joining groups like LinkedIn and participate in the conversation. (Make sure you add a profile photo to your LinkedIn account. It is part of personal branding and it establishes trust.)

3. WIA (Women in Architecture)/ WID (Women in Development) is like a Sorority.

Being the newbie in any group is difficult. However, with close knit groups of women, there’s a stereotype of drama. Conversations of male‐bashing or cattiness really do not exist in WIA/WID groups. If they do in any local group, it’s time to get involved and change things. What we as women fail to realize is that the men have their own exclusive groups. It’s the usually the project architect/managers/associates that go to the bar after work while the women go home and tend to their families. It’s usually those men who bond at lunch while you eat at the workstation. They form fraternities and establish strong networks.  Ladies, we do not need to sit in our own islands. Something as simple as inviting the other female co‐worker(s) to lunch can mean all the difference. Remember, this is business.

4. Superwoman.  

The ‘superwoman’ architect has done it all. They conquered the work‐life balance and wonder why we haven’t done the same. The reality is however, they have struggled. Like their male counterparts, the ‘superwoman’ architect tends to have enormous egos and almost never show signs of weakness in public. Events like the EQxD#Hackathon taking place at the AIA National Convention in Atlanta will reveal the ‘superwoman’ architect’s struggles and tools to succeed.

5. "Sucky" Advice.

‘Be the best you can be’, ‘Be confident’, and ‘Work hard’ sounds more like a pep talk than advice. When there’s a serious question about ‘how do you handle a co‐worker when...’ is asked, finding women architects to give ‘real advice’ is difficult because there’s a perception that only superwoman architects exist out there. The best way to find the answers to the questions is to seek out women with similar situations and ask them. The problem is that these women don’t participate. A vicious cycle of the non‐participants seeking advice from other non‐participants. The only other way to find like‐minded women, join WIA/WID groups in your local area, find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. If you’re not having luck there, start your own group (physical or visual). ‘Eat the Whale’ a wise woman once told me.


About Melissa Daniel  @MelissaRDaniel 

Photo credit: D. Phinney

Photo credit: D. Phinney

Former AIA Diversity and Inclusion Council member, Melissa Daniel is passionate about changing the culture of the architecture profession. She spent the past three years as chair of the Women in Architecture Series serving AIA|DC, DCNOMA and AIA|NOVA WIA Committee. She was selected in 2012 for the Emerging Architect Award by AIA|DC, 2013 Young Architect of the year by DCCEAS and 2014 Leading Women under 40 by Maryland’s The Daily Record.


EQxD Get Real - To read more about challenges and resilience from diverse viewpoints, go here.

In a similar spirit of spontaneity of the Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth blog series, we are excited to bring you EQxD Get Real: True stories of Challenges and Resilience from diverse perspectives of architects and designers. Each day we will feature the stories of each person's challenges in the profession and what they learned from those experiences to inspire action for equitable practice in architecture. 


EQxD Get Real: True Stories of Challenge & Resilience

by Rosa Sheng, AIA

Last month, Architect Magazine featured an article referencing the 2014 Equity in Architecture survey as a catalyst for the conversation; “Closing the Gender Gap: Female architects identify ways that women can push through the traditional career choke points and advance through the ranks in a male-dominated field.”  by Elizabeth Dickinson. Three architects were interviewed for their perspectives on the topic; Julia Murphy, AIA an Associate of SOM in New York City, Kelley Howell, AIA a newly named Partner of Pivot Architecture in Eugene, Oregon  and Janet Tam, AIA founding Principal of Noll and Tam in San Francisco.

While the first comment to the article sparked a slurry of conversation, it highlighted that implicit bias is still deeply rooted in Architecture. The writer's comment highlights what still remains in professional practice; a pervasive "take it or leave it" attitude towards the "tradition" to endure long hours and low pay while disregarding the fact that those tropes are driving talent away from Architectural practice.

Discussion comments to Architect Magazine article by Elizabeth Dickinson

Concurrently, there was a twitter chat suggesting that we continue the conversation started by the Architect Magazine article with a broader spectrum of viewpoints within the profession. Let's get to the heart of the challenges in Architecture from the members of the profession that are rarely heard. In a similar spirit of spontaneity to the idea of the Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth blog series, we are excited to bring you EQxD Get Real: True stories of Challenges and Resilience from diverse perspectives of architects and designers. Each day we will feature the stories of each person's challenges in the profession and what they learned from those experiences to inspire action for equitable practice in architecture.  Follow #EQxDGetReal on Twitter this week to share all the stories.


Found: The Missing 32%

by Melissa Daniel 

Former AIA Diversity and Inclusion Council member, Melissa Daniel is passionate about changing the culture of the architecture profession. She spent the past three years as chair of the Women in Architecture Series serving AIA|DC, DCNOMA and AIA|NOVA WIA Committee. She was selected in 2012 for the Emerging Architect Award by AIA|DC, 2013 Young Architect of the year by DCCEAS and 2014 Leading Women under 40 by Maryland’s The Daily Record. 

Search until you find your Yes!

by LaShae A. Ferguson, Assoc. AIA

LaShae is the owner of L.A. Design Collective, LLC, An Architectural Design & Drawing Co., and graduate of the University of the District of Columbia. LaShae has co-managed design-construction projects worth over $8 million total. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and traveling.

Control less, Celebrate more, shall we? 

by Katie E. Ray

Katie is an emerging professional who currently lives in Arlington, VA and is an APM for a firm just outside of Washington DC. Her projects currently range from restaurants, bars, spas, and country clubs. She is a mother and yogi; on the weekend she loves spending time building lighting and furniture from salvaged materials.

Is the world ready for real talk?

by Karen E. Williams AIA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB 

Karen E. Williams is consistently working to educate people about the inner benefits of the architecture community. She is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Oregon where she teaches Revit and Professional Practice. As a means to be professional example, Karen is on the AIA-SWO board and supports STAnDD a local student group. She joined PIVOT Architecture in 2014 as a Project Architect after practicing on the east coast for 9 years.

The Long and Winding Road

by Tara Imani, AIA 

Tara Imani Designs, LLC is a premier full-service architecture and interiors solo practice, founded and led by Tara Imani, AIA. Ms. Imani is a licensed Architect in the State of Texas and a graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture. Ms. Imani is also an active voice on social media and advocate for Equity in Architecture.







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