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The biggest Weasels

Feb 27 '13 27 Last Comment
BulgarBlogger
Feb 27, 13 10:47 am

I don't know what its like in other professions, (I know that there are plenty of similar people out there), but I've noticed that architects are among the biggest weasels... 

For educated people to behave in totally unprofessional ways, to lie, to cheat, and constantly look for ways to cut corners- it just seems unbelievable to me for people who constantly boast about how educated and knowledgeable they are, and how rigorous their programs are, that we as a profession don't know the fundamentals of ethical behavior. Perhaps it also has to do with class... "the gentleman's profession" as they used to call it, is now saturated with construction worker mentality. What is going on??

 

Xenakis
Feb 27, 13 11:58 am

It's not just architecture - it's all over - banks, HMOs, airlines, it's the new economy - there is an acceptance of the increased unfairness.

med.
Feb 27, 13 12:15 pm

Xenakis, I believe you know the previous firm I worked for.  Ugly corporate politics from the countless mergers.  I was pretty screwed over by a manager who was playing fast and loose with those politics.  I was 100% billable but he had his two righthanded men who were highter paid but not anywhere close to even being 25% billable.  I kind of saw this coming when this cabal who I normally had very friendly and professional relations with just completely stopped talking with me and giving me snarky looks.  It became even more evident when I was getting scrutinzed in every way possible - especially with my hours.  So I would charge say 15 hours to a project where I'd be doing something like stair details and core details.  When I did my time sheet I would constantly get called into the principals office to which I would have to "explain and justify" my hours.  He would ask ridiculously hypothetical and arbitrary questions like "Well shouldn't stair details on a highrise commercial building only take aproximately 6.23 hours????"  I was only doing what he would tell me to so but then get lectured on it - not only by him but later by his other minions.  It was painful.

When the HR lady on speaker from the headquarters expected me to say 'YES' to the "generous offer of 3 months without pay" I told her and all the people in the room that I like to get kissed before getting fucked.

I started at a new firm three weeks later and got full severance per my demand.

 I ended up getting put on furlough in which they wanted me to work for three months without pay until some other project came in. 

geezertect
Feb 27, 13 12:25 pm

Xenakis is right, it's in every walk of life.  And it's not the new economy, but rather human nature.  Architects may be somewhat unique in that they are more inclined to screw their own rather than the general public (see:  bankers, brokers, lawyers, etc.).  A propensity toward incest, perhaps.  That might also explain our tragic level of stupidity.

Just one old fart's opinion.

Xenakis
Feb 27, 13 12:30 pm

med. that sounds way too familiar - I was doinf similar work at a large commercial firm - only thing is: I was working on a similar project and was 0% billable, PMs wanted us to work on the project but bill OVHD. we got laid off and I spent 12 months w/o a gig - I had to start over from scratch. - 

toasteroven
Feb 27, 13 12:40 pm

agreed.  back when I started working in River City, pretty much everyone was about as honest and trustworthy as could be, except when that outsider came into town to start that marching band - took all our money and never delivered on the instruments and uniforms.

 

and I too blame the proletariat for the general decline in professionalism.

jla-x
Feb 27, 13 2:05 pm

Perhaps it also has to do with class... "the gentleman's profession" as they used to call it, is now saturated with construction worker mentality. What is going on??

I do agree, but I think you got the class thing backwards. Typically working class people are much more honest and trustworthy.  Growing up in a working class neighborhood, if you're a dick you get punched in the face.  You honor your word, you don't rat, and you don't fuck people over.  If you do you get a good old beating.  You learn how to not be an asshole from a young age.  It's the little sneaky passive aggressive yuppy dicks that are the weasles.  IMO people need to punch each other more often.  It's all the pussification and politically correct nonsense that created this passive agressive culture.  weasle behavior is  acceptable because weasles get to keep their teeth. 

On the fence
Feb 27, 13 2:33 pm

Maybe you could provide some sort of example(s).

CrazyHouseCat
Feb 27, 13 2:34 pm

What I'd like to know is how the "weasels", the "A-holes", and the "useless" gets away with it.

In my office (large-ish corporate firm), the layoff hits the hardworking, know-what-they-are-doing, and seldom-complain type of ppl, where the above mentioned kinds were spared.

You'd think that in a super competitive climate, the weak should have been filtered out.  What do they know that we don't?

curtkram
Feb 27, 13 2:38 pm

and I too blame the bourgeoisie for the general decline in professionalism.

fixed that for you toaster.

observant
Feb 27, 13 3:09 pm

I don't know what its like in other professions, (I know that there are plenty of similar people out there), but I've noticed that architects are among the biggest weasels...

I agree, sir, assuming you are male.  It's in every profession, but it's worse in architecture.  And it's worse with the times. The top end of the medical profession, dental profession, legal profession, or big-firm accounting profession does NOT badmouth their peers ... and their newly minted get treated with collegiality upon entering the workforce.  Like my blue-collarish architect friend, who is a woman with a slight contractor veneer, says "Architecture is the least professional of the professions."  I'm pretty astute, but she coined that one.  It starts with the schooling, even at the better schools.  The pissy, elitist, silver spooned student who is decent at design, and the rest of the curriculum, becomes exponentially so after entering the wok world. 

jla-x:  you are correct - architects, compared to others, are more pussified, more politically correct, more snively, and more passive-aggressive. I have seen the nose-to-the-grindstone, green eyeshade, know the code inside and out types (yes, married guys, imagine that) get treated far worse that the pissy coffee table book wannabee because they are "back office."  In reality, they are the unseen backbone of the office.  (For laughs, check out Steven Holl's black suit and flaming orange scarf currently seen here.  Since when does dressing like that help one's innate design talent).  Passive-aggressive people are, deep down, really weak.  They don't just lay their cards out on the table, with others doing the same, and move on.

For those of us in the profession, or who are licensed, we know the score.  Engineers scoff at architects, calling them "women engineers" in some South American countries.  In turn, architects call landscape architects "shrubbers" and interior designers a bevy of insulting labels, of which "interior desecrator" is the most common.  Let's keep it professional.  Each does different things.  Without great engineering minds, we wouldn't have the Golden Gate Bridge or the Gateway Arch.  Without great architectural minds, we wouldn't have  the Sydney Opera House (slight over budget, but eh, so what), without great landscape architecture minds, we wouldn't have Central Park and Parc Mont-Royal, and without great interior design minds, we wouldn't have many interiors we find pleasing for reasons we, and non-design types, can't verbalize.

I'm with you.  If you grew up working/middle class, and then you came from a very laissez-faire curriculum like business and economics, where egos were toned down because the only measure of performance is a privately recorded GPA and nothing was on display, architecture can be an eye-opener.  Ass holes LOVE other assholes.  Just look at the media.  People like Schwarzenegger and Martha Stewart should be marginalized, yet they have nine lives.  People should "just say no" to Arnold and Martha. So, some ass holes out there, with financial clout, love the ass hole architects whose names they can drop.  The prominent heart surgeons aren't famous for schmoozing.  They are famous for their work in the operating room.  Their demographics and breeding can be overcome.  Conversely, look at architecture.  I remember seeing a picture of Scogin, Elam, and Bray (when organized as such) of Atlanta looking ever so smug in some feature about them, that it almost induced vomit.  How about ancient, now departed Philip Johnson?  Ever seen the picture of him clutching a model at the Chippendale-topped AT&T building in New York?  Even Philip turned out some misses.  That hotel behind Rowe's Wharf in Boston is one of the biggest pieces of shit ever, and all arch. profs. allude to it as a failure.  Look at the volume, bottom right, with the repetitive Serlian windows:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-5WoA1h-hJuE/Tqg0zTkSMJI/AAAAAAAABCQ/3dAjHF4mMDw/s400/2225634231_9e11fbf587_o.jpg

The pissy elitism starts in the schools.  The "vulgarity" in design crits starts in the schools. The psychological underpinnings of architectural education ought to change.  *Pipe dream* The mere fact that architecture is a calibration of building science and art makes it a sticky wicket to get a handle on. I like the word PISSY more so than I like weasel, because pissy picks up weasel and other negative traits as well.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Feb 27, 13 4:09 pm

"the gentleman's profession" as they used to call it, is now saturated with construction worker mentality

In my experience construction workers are more honest than architects. Hard to lie to a concrete form or stick of lumber. An ignorant client, on the other hand, can easily be made to believe that the contractor is incompetent, ripping him off, etc., which is often done to cover the incompetent ripoff architect's ass. And don't forget that clients are often even nastier than architects, with some planning to rip off everyone from the very start.

That being said, what we have here is clearly a collapse of any kind of human values.

“What Makes You Do What You Do?”

observant
Feb 27, 13 4:21 pm

In my experience construction workers are more honest than architects. Hard to lie to a concrete form or stick of lumber. An ignorant client, on the other hand, can easily be made to believe that the contractor is incompetent, ripping him off, etc., which is often done to cover the incompetent ripoff architect's ass. And don't forget that clients are often even nastier than architects, with some planning to rip off everyone from the very start.

You make good points, sir.  One minor point is where one occasionally sees the GC turn the owner on the architect because they magnify the seriousness of less than 100% correct CDs and the accompanying change orders. 

What I have seen, though, is the client who doesn't understand "the buck stops here."  Within an allocated phase of service, they want to continue to make changes.  When you do an estate plan, the "gee, I just thought of another charity I'd like to include in my will" requires a change, and one is billed accordingly ... and rightfully so. 

I haven't had this happen often.  However, we got some strip mall retail pads.  We gave some prospective tenants some low fees for their tenant improvements.  A fledgling bank's president wanted to keep making changes on a ridiculously low fee.  Banks are not easy TIs, because there is a vault that requires different slabs and other security concerns.  When I told him the series of changes would change the fee, he said "Expect some pushback."  I diplomatically recounted the estate planning scenario, when people change their minds.  He piped up.

BulgarBlogger
Feb 27, 13 4:48 pm

I think I want to be Steven Holl for Howleen. 

observant
Feb 27, 13 4:52 pm

I think I want to be Steven Holl for Howleen.

Well, that scarf looks like a pumpkin on steroids.

BulgarBlogger
Feb 27, 13 4:55 pm

By-the-way: how does one go about quoting something on this forum? I still haven't figured that out... 

med.
Feb 27, 13 5:08 pm

I just coppy, past, and then italicize.

curtkram
Feb 27, 13 5:45 pm

I just copy, past, and then italicize.

i like steven holl's scarf and most of his architectural designs.

ncecchi
Feb 27, 13 5:45 pm

It also seems like there are penalties for filling in gaps in technical knowledge or trying to educate yourself beyond the typical architecture milieu. I remember being in school and professors would scowl at me when they found out my minor was general engineering. It was almost as if they begrudged anyone additional knowledge beyond what they themselves had, especially any knowledge that would upset traditional office and fee structures. 

 

As a general aside, I come from a working-class family and was (and continue to be) shocked at how unprofessional, insecure, and catty architects are. In school I could really never master the art of socializing with architects - I was earnest when everyone else was flippant, sincere when I should have brushed things off, and could never quite get the hang of insulting people and projects with underhanded compliments, all of which greatly contributed to my decision to get out of traditional architecture offices.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Feb 27, 13 6:55 pm

observant, in my experience developers are the worst. Once you are on the hook they think they own you. And they are always dangling the "next project" as incentive as if you're having so much fun getting royally screwed that you'd want to repeat the experience.

The very worst is a developer doing his own vacation house. When they  chisel you on a commercial project its "just business", on their own house it's personal.

observant
Feb 27, 13 8:33 pm

Miles,

I've seen a similar, but different, situation.  I've been in the "give us a lot of commercial work, get a new custom home" deal. I met with this developer's wife, visited the development, she conveyed some requirements, and saw the context that was prevalent in the development.  I then sketched up some prelim elevations based on some schematic floor plans.  "Oh, yes, that's what I was thinking."  So, I got the green light from my boss to go ahead.  Pitched roofs don't offer the liberty of flat roofs, as far as floor plans go, and make or break the elevations.  They have to mass correctly in a large home.  She wanted to entertain, so she wanted a living room/family room where one could have kicked a field goal.  It sounded scaleless.  I had worked out a big enough living room connected to big enough family room, with view windows out the back because of the scenic hilly setting, working under a roof line that harmonized.  I made the connection between these rooms in a 45 degree bend with an open, connecting library type room between them.  Everybody in the office liked the "zoned" nature of the floor plan, throughout the 4,800 sf home. She couldn't deal with that.  It had to be a scaleless blob.  With her high level of education, she couldn't understand that when you push and pull the floor plan, it causes the pitched roof volumes to  change, look odd, or even terrible.  I was willing to keep going and try for a new floor plan to keep her happy.  She called it off.  Good riddance, lady.  Her husband still gave us work.  Only 76 billed hours wasted.  My boss just shrugged it off.  Educating clients who can't see common sense things, even if you diagram or sketch your ass off, and are otherwise very intelligent people, can be frustrating, not to mention a thankless job.

jla-x
Feb 27, 13 11:51 pm

and could never quite get the hang of insulting people and projects with underhanded compliments

So true!  I hate that too. 

observant
Feb 27, 13 11:59 pm

and could never quite get the hang of insulting people and projects with underhanded compliments

The worst I saw is a final project review where this pissy prof on a "timed" professorial stay at the university called someone's project "mental masturbation."  I decided to never invite any friends from elsewhere in the university to see one of my final jury reviews, not because I was worried about my project, but because I was embarrassed at the potential bad light with which the architectural program might be perceived, after listening to jokers like "Mr. Mental Masturbation."  I then got to see this professor's portfolio, possibly on line - symmetrical, linear, minimalistic, and not a single element which was askew or had a different geometry, and which would catch the eye.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Feb 28, 13 12:24 am

Last year I walked away from a billionaire's residential project.

The guy owns seven highrises in Manhattan and bought a crumbling $9m PoS on 2 acres. He wanted a complete reno and to max the FAR but couldn't see his way to spend more than $1m, which was about what the existing PoS needed in repairs and maintenance. I gave him a variety of options for the whole project (4 different design schemes, all worked out in some degree of detail, starting at $1.6m, none of which had all the stuff he wanted and all of which cost way too much. So I walked before I gave myself a heart attack trying to do the impossible (satisfy that asshole). Right After that he bough the adjacent property for $8m, ostensibly to save a million in construction costs on the first PoS.

It was actually worse than that but you get the gist. I can't tell you how good it felt to just walk away.

On the fence
Feb 28, 13 10:03 am

This profession sucks!

The people involved in it suck as well!

I love the idea of architecture but hate every other aspect of it!

It is unfair to me and anybody who is not a straight white male conservative principle owner.

If these are your attitudes, you should leave and do something more noble like being a Doctor or lawyer or blue collar construction worker where you will be more welcome and more appreciated.

 

Apurimac
Feb 28, 13 10:43 am

Lot of emoing here.  As far as I can tell, weasels are endemic to all forms of human endeavor.  Being a professional ofter requires sacrificing one's own sense of reality for the sake of the team.  Most architects have very high standards compared to say, bankers.

I vas only paying ze mortgage!

- Yuppie Nuremburg Defense

homme_du_jura
Feb 28, 13 11:08 am

Call me naive, but my experience doesn't even come close to the contempt many other people on this thread seem to share.  I genuinely enjoy working alongside the many architects in my firm, and collaborating with those from other firms through AIA committees.  Everyone is for the most part pretty darn smart, sensitive about quality, and acts for the most part quite "professional" toward the client and too each other. Maybe it's because I live in a major commercial city in fly-over country, where the social environment is not nearly as cut-throat as what one experiences in the coastal design capitals (NY, Boston, SF), which describes a lot of people who contribute to this thread.  It could also be that some of you work at boutique-firms, where personalities seem to naturally butt heads due to such a high concentration of creative-types in such a small space.

I might not make as much money as a doctor or overworked lawyer, but I find the quality of the office environment of an architectural office more than makes up for the lower wage.  Doctors rarely have time throughout the day interacting with their equals, since they spend most of their time ordering around semi-literate MAs and nurses, and lawyers often don't hang out with each other with stimulating conversation, since their busy dealing with they dreary clients.  Are there jerks within my office? Sure, but I don't believe it's due to the nature of our profession than it it is to human nature in general.

observant
Feb 28, 13 2:10 pm

Maybe it's because I live in a major commercial city in fly-over country, where the social environment is not nearly as cut-throat as what one experiences in the coastal design capitals (NY, Boston, SF),

I really do believe that might flavor your experience.  That region of the country is more culturally "benign," and since architects aren't falling all over each other to live there, it might be a more civil place to practice.  I've always gotten that vibe, but there are pluses and minuses to living in the heartland, and it's not for everybody.

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