So in recent news, my boss, David Hacin, has been selected as the guest editor for the March issue of ArchitectureBoston magazine--and he's enlisted me as his right hand in putting the magazine together.
It has been so much fun so far. I love writing and editing and refining ideas, so this is right up my alley. David, like me, is an optimist, and he wants to use this issue to look critically but optimistically at the future of Boston and of the profession.
We are focusing on a theme of Change, but in a very specific sense: looking forward without looking back. It's a phrase that's been in my head a lot lately [and the title of my first post on this blog]
CHANGE: LOOKING FORWARD WITHOUT LOOKING BACK
Here's what I originally pitched as the concept:
Discussions of change and newness in Boston are often characterized by self-conscious references to the past: terms like ‘Boston Brahmin’ bring to mind a stodgy, brick-loving city of conservative naysayers. We get wrapped up in our own stereotypes, in what we lack that other cities have, in defending and criticizing ourselves before we even start to say anything.
We propose shedding all of these references for an issue which focuses on looking forward without looking back. We love our city’s history, but this issue needs to celebrate the fast-moving, multi-generational, diverse, dynamic, inspiring, innovative community that is here right now, and is continuing to grow.
We have a unique problem: we have the talent, the high concentration of forward-thinking designers, the wide-ranging portfolio and the academic energy. All we have to do is overcome our own grumpy modesty and be excited about our own vibrant community. Boston is a thriving and influential city. Let’s embrace that.
The world, the profession, and the city are changing. We have the chance to redefine ourselves on our own terms—in terms of what we are now [not in terms of dated Boston stereotypes]. What are those terms going to be? What agendas are we setting for ourselves: as a city, as a publication, as a profession? Forget where we’ve been. Where are we going?
So that's the brief. Looking forward without looking back. We've got a bunch of great articles lined up, but for today I'm going to focus on one of them, because I'm looking for some feedback.
I included this quote by a well-known marketing and brand expert at the beginning of the post: "It's not possible for the world to hold a meeting to decide your value. That decision is all yours." Challenging perception is the way to real change. What do we want to be as architects, as city-dwellers, as thinkers, as citizens? How do we define our own value?
THE FUTURE OF THE PROFESSION: YOUNG ARCHITECTS PANEL DISCUSSION
For one of the features in the magazine, I am going to be running a panel discussion that's very close to my heart: the future of the profession as seen by young architects.
Right now, I'm refining the topics of conversation. I'm going to include them below, and I'm hoping that you'll take the time to comment. Am I missing questions? Any reactions? Could something be pointed in a different direction? I want to know what you think.
Why did you want to become an architect?
Sure, this question is a bit cliche. But I know that the answer is different for my generation than it was for generations past. I want to know the new answers.
Importance of licensing + architecture that doesn’t need to be registered
I want to know what young architects are thinking about licensing. There are so many implications for licenses: exclusivity, achievement, legitimacy, cost/benefit [especially in terms of time required to get the license]. And there are lots of project types that don't require licensing, or you can get someone to stamp things for you. But maybe that stamp is still an important signifier.
Do you have to build buildings to be an architect? If not, what is the line?
I like this question, because when I look at the websites of young architects, I often don't see any "architecture". I see graphic design, photography, installations, competitions, essays, sculpture, paintings and diagrams. So are we architects if these are our portfolios? What does it mean for architecture if the definition stretches in this way?
What are the new architect stereotypes?
This goes back to the Google Images search I posted. We can agree that many architecture stereotypes are antiquate: blueprints, T-squares, maybe round glasses and bowties. So if we could remap that Google image search--what would be in it? What are the new stereotypes? What do we want them to be?
Is our profession ‘glamorous’? Should it be / do we want it to be?
This question is potentially controversial, but I think it's an important one to ask. Despite the long nights of CAD and modelmaking and the long days of submittals and punchlists, our profession can be pretty sexy at times. Architects find their way into pop culture whenever a screenwriter or author needs someone to be smart and sexy and interesting--enough seriousness, enough artsiness. And related professions, like interior design, can be extremely glamorous. It's FUN to make beautiful places happen, to go to parties and be in magazines, to be recognized for your hard work. How do we feel about that? Do we want more or less?
Collaboration with non-traditional business partners
This is one of my favorites. I love to think about what a firm would look like as a partnership between and architect and a lawyer, or an architect and a manufacturer. Are there partnerships that you think are ripe and interesting? Is this an idea that would never work?
Two parallel professional lives: Working for someone vs. working on your own projects
This is a reality for many young architecture professionals. Where do you get your greatest satisfaction? Do you work at a place that does amazing work, but you need to do renovations for your parents' friends to pay the bills? Or the opposite--are you in a job that supports you financially, but work on competitions and side projects to keep your creative juices flowing?
Career tracking and professional development
This is a topic I became interested in through my work in the nonprofit sector with Foster Skills. I am an Ambassador for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, which is a group that focuses on providing professional development opportunities for nonprofit employees. With many nonprofits and startups, the structure is horizontal, people wear many hats, there is no support staff, and the HR department is nonexistent. In this kind of unstructured environment, it is difficult to get a clear sense of where you're going--and whether its worth it. This is also the case at many small architecture firms. How do we feel about that? Are we responsible for finding our own mentors and opportunities? or should our offices perhaps be supporting us more in this capacity?
What kinds of firms make you want to work there?
When you look at a firm's work or website, what makes you say, 'What I wouldn't give to work at that place..."? Sexy projects? Tasteful graphics? A thoughtful mission? A clear focus? Educational opportunities? A person that works there? Or something different altogether? These are the kinds of answers that I know employers are interested in hearing.
Integration of design process [designer-developer, design-build, soup-to-nuts design]
Redundancy and bureaucracy are frustrating for everyone. And as I wrote about in this post, the closer you are to the decision maker, the better the project is for all parties. So why not be the decision maker? Why not be both developer and architect--buy the property, design it and sell it yourself at a profit, making your own value engineering judgments along the way? or why not design something and build it yourself, so that your client's fee is not being split in so many directions between design team and contracting team? I know there are logistical issues with these scenarios, but there are firms doing both with great sucess--is that something young architects want more of?
Sustainable practices in the real world, and making a difference
In my experience, a lot of young architects are a little tired of hearing about green this and LEED that. But sustainability is still a concern for many people--how are we thinking about that? What are our definitions of sustainability? Is it solar panels, or reductionism, or flexible use and durability? or does it go further, into economics and perception and education and attitude change? What paths do we want to take toward changing the world for the better?
So those are some ideas...but I'm hoping you have comments, concerns, questions and more ideas! I want this panel to bring new ideas about the profession to light, to a place where we can look objectively at their possibilities and flaws. I'm looking forward to hearing what you all think.
We live in uncertain times. Let's use the uncertainty to redefine the way we are valued and the way we measure ourselves, to create the context for the change we want to make.