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Here's a mistake I will not make again: My place of employment gave everyone a day off both NYEve and NYDay. There was a big fundraiser party on NYE, so m boss asked any of us who were willing to work NYEve to come in and then take today off in exchange.  So I worked all day Monday, and am home today.  Well of course everyone ELSE in the world is back to work today, so I'm getting tons of emails saying "Oh horrors we haven't worked on this for two weeks, so now I need these drawings and recommendations by first thing tomorrow!" Hey, *I* was at work all through the holidays, if you'd contacted me about these things before YOU left for holiday I could have had them done by now, but at the moment, I'm officially OFF. Of course I'm not off at all because I can't say no to anything I can possibly get done, so I'm at work even though I'm at home.  Sigh.

Jan 2, 13 12:08 pm

manta is that even legal? was it PTO from last  year that he didn't use so they aren't rolling over or did they just take this years time back/away?

either way sucks!

Jan 2, 13 12:12 pm

Nam, it's really weird.  He switched from a manager-level (non-union) job within his company back down to a union job, which he had previous held for years.  The rules of the union job are that for the first full year you work there, you don't get vacation (you accrue it in advance for the following year).  BUT, he had worked there previously - however in the system they are essentially treating him as a new hire.  So the fact that he had previously accrued vacation time towards this year, which he will now not be allowed to take, appears to be handily overlooked by everyone except myself.  I have no idea what happens to that time.  Shouldn't they at least have given him the monetary value of those days?  It's so weird.  Unfortunately though, I am the one who is good at taking on the vagaries of giant HR companies (I am a bulldog, and don't mind making the hundreds of phone calls necessary) and since it isn't my job, I'm not really able to help with this one.  But yes, it is weird, no?

Jan 2, 13 3:24 pm


Jan 2, 13 4:01 pm

that's pretty screwed up... my trip to rotterdam won't be glamorous at all... i'll be spending 8 hours a day in the archives of the netherlands architecture institute, except for the days they're closed... on one of my off days, i might try to go to the westvleteren monestary in belgium on a beer pilgrimage for one of the best/most hard to get beers in the world... (if you're a beer nerd, check out this link for the crazy reservation process to buy the beer:

Jan 2, 13 11:43 pm
Not really a beer nerd but I have heard about it. Good luck.
Jan 3, 13 12:56 am

@donna - thanks for your help a while back - the project turned out nice, btw - if I can actually get back into the place I'll take some pictures and send them to you.

Jan 3, 13 1:30 am
Sarah Hamilton
Some people asked my advice on how to do a lobby. I created a great space, on a tight budget. I went shopping with one of them, just to show them the furniture in person, and came away really confident and excited. The next day, while I'm painting their bathroom, they nixed everything, without even giving me a chance to defend my design, and opted for four cheap chairs, in a 16'x16' space. I was essentially fired because they obviously know better, and selecting furniture is easy, right? As long as its cheap, and can hold a human, it'll work.

So, to stick it to them, I paint a big F U on the bathroom wall. Literally.

Of course, the joke was on me since it took an extra coat of paint to cover it.
Jan 3, 13 12:05 pm

You should have used some of that high tech paint which you can't see until the dew point of a room is relatively high.  Then they would not have noticed it until you were gone.

Jan 3, 13 4:53 pm

lol snook.  great idea.

@ sarah, welcome to the world of design for others.  hope you got paid for painting the bath at least ;-)

manta, that is some kind of crazy bullshit. guess they aren't too worried about building any kind of loyalty from their employees.

going back to work today.  still a bit early for this part of the world, but needed.  7 days feels a bit short. 2 weeks would be brilliant.

Jan 3, 13 5:20 pm
Sarah Hamilton
No, no pay. It was all volunteer, helping those very close to me. Very.

I've decided I must just be the world's worst idea seller. Not a one of my ideas was used. I always present things with excitement and passion, trying to explain the logic and psychological reasons for things, but I never get it across. No one takes me seriously, and I often feel that if they'd just let me do it, and they saw the finished product, they'd be floored with how wonderful it is, and what can be accomplished. But I never get the chance.

I don't know how you guys do it. It's completely defeating. Any tips?

I'm glad I have this space to vent when FB isn't smart.
Jan 3, 13 5:39 pm

SH, selling design sometimes it helps to leave some blank spots.

Jan 3, 13 6:11 pm

Yes - I used to be super positive about design ideas and found out through careful observation of others that it was sometimes best to be more laid-back, more... I can't describe it, but it's similar to one of the observations made by the lady who posed as a man and wrote a book about it a few years ago:  women lean forward at a table, eagerly, smiling and using gestures etc - and men tend to lean back, to sit back, etc and their audience leans in to them.  So sometimes being eager and positive can be perceived as being "in my face" or "pushy" or like a bulldog, and your listener will instinctively recoil, in essence, from you - even if it's a subtle reaction.  Sometimes it's good to, in effect, lean back - and let them lean into you.


AND sometimes people are just idiots and convinced that their own idea is best, no matter what.  For my entire life my father has listened to anything his brother says, and next to nothing any of the rest of us say, no matter whose ideas actually have merit.  Sometimes people are just ornery and do what they want, and it has absolutely nothing to do with anything you did.

Jan 3, 13 6:42 pm

Also, yes, my spouse's job is horrible and they don't seem to give a shit about anyone, at any time.  I could recount so many, many other stories... Their HR is insane.  Since he switched jobs (again, WITHIN THE COMPANY) they have continued to take money out of his paycheck every month for his old health care costs.  We have, both of us, called them numerous times to straighten this out.  Each time they say "oh payroll handles that" and then we call payroll, who tell us HR handles it, and then HR says the health insurance company handles it, and then the health insurance company says HR handles it, then HR says it's a DIFFERENT HR, and there's some other number to call, but that person is on vacation, and we leave a message, and we never get called back.  One time they told me it was being done by this complete outside group that's like a non-profit for his industry (we can't even figure out what exact role they play, but somehow they handle some of his benefits and retirement, but not ALL of them.)  They routinely send us letters with no name on them (so we don't know who to call or which dept they're from) that make no sense, such as: here is a list of the benefits you've signed up for for 2013, which is written almost entirely in incomprehensible acronyms, and the part you CAN understand doesn't match whatever you thought you signed up for.  But have fun trying to call someone about it, because you'll get passed from person to person for hours and nobody will know who sent that letter. 

It's like the 14th level of hell or something.  I hate his company.

Jan 3, 13 6:47 pm

And in other news, somewhat relatedly (ha, ha), I have decided that after a couple years of working outside the industry, to apply for an architecture job once again.  The trouble is, I'm not really sure how to list my recent non-architectural work on my resume, or whether I should explain anything about it in the cover letter (or just, not mention it?)  I also suddenly realized I need to update my portfolio (lots of work!) so let's hope they DO call me in for an interview, but that it's at a reasonable date so I can frantically bring the portfolio up to speed. 

Jan 3, 13 6:50 pm

Orhan is spot on. I am beginning to think, or should I say, have adopted the idea, that less is more means more than what we traditionally think it does. Providing a client with "broad strokes" is better than providing them with the finished painting. Clients don't need to know every little detail, they need to know that you have, or will, accommodate their essential programmatic necessities, and that it will be on budget. As you gain their confidence, then, and only then, can they be trusted to handle adult information. Early on they're scared children, we need to help them become fully realized individuals, with taste.

Jan 3, 13 9:45 pm

Having said that, why is it that I can't find suitable collaborators in the frozen tundra?

Jan 3, 13 9:46 pm

Sarah, I just gave a bunch of advice to our swim club on how to repaint the dining room.  Four of us interested members gathered, compared paint colors, and came up with a scheme.  One of the other women is an interior designer, and I was specifically asked to join this group because I'm a designer and I've served previously on the Facilities committee, so I know what's going on.  We made our list of recommendations and then I met with the staff who was doing the painting on-site and told them exactly what to do.

Then they proceeded to paint what the karate club parents told them to do, because I guess the experienced knowledge of designers who care enough to devote their free time to the scheme didn't matter as much as the parents who happened to be standing in the hallway to pick up their kids and felt like offering an opinion.

People do not get it and even when you explain it in detail - as I did about this paint - they still just do whatever they feel like doing.  Your lobby experience is no reflection on your abilities as a designer.

Jan 3, 13 10:03 pm

So, to stick it to them, I paint a big F U on the bathroom wall.

Priceless activism. Love it. I hope it resurfaces someday like Virgin Mary's tears in Acapulco or something.

Jan 3, 13 11:01 pm

i would laugh, for one, if the text surfaced.

when client's wishes and our experience don't match we explain our point of view and it is often accepted. when it isn't we take it and move on.  In some cases there is too much gap and we just drop the project. lately we are better at knowing in advance that there will be a problem later on and have worked out a policy about when to turn away work.  it sounds a bit crazy but it has made our lives a lot easier.

@manta, here is hoping the economy picks up so he can switch to better place.

Jan 5, 13 12:05 am

i love the idea of being able to turn away work. i don't know that i'll ever see it happen - but it sounds good. 

Jan 5, 13 8:20 am

@ steven...i read you. it's pure business and no hard (or superior) feelings.  we just know we can't deliver what some clients are looking for and if we try it will cost us.  it is a lesson we learned the hard way.  basically we simply can't afford to be distracted by trying to do work that isn't working for us as well.  it has become dead easy as decisions go, and comes up more often than i would have expected.

Jan 6, 13 10:45 am

i turned away work the other day.  a residential kitchen/bath remodeler venturing into commercial/retail thought i should do permit drawings including MEP for less than $500.

Jan 6, 13 11:30 am

haven't had much like that yet thank goodness.

Jan 6, 13 5:31 pm

$500?? sure, that'll work, dick heads.

Jan 6, 13 10:20 pm

What kind of space, curtcram? I have a contractor asking me to do design and permit drawings for the clients of his basement remodel company. I wish I was set up to whip stuff like that out and make money on it.

Jan 7, 13 9:01 am

some sort of boutique clothing in a strip mall, around 2,000sf.  we like to have consultants do mep drawings, and their bill would have been over 3x what he was willing to pay us.  puts us in the hole 4 figures from the start.  sad thing is, i bet gets someone to do it.

Jan 7, 13 9:17 am

I've had some bad news professional-wise here and ThayerD just pushed me over the edge on this Monday morning.  Jeezus.

Jan 7, 13 9:56 am

He's an idiot.  He's a preservationist who only wants to preserve whatever he likes.  Although he wants to be the personal arbiter of architectural quality in this world, he also wants to argue that no (other) architect knows what they're talking about, and it's only the phantom "public" (whose supposed opinions are invented at his whim and invoked only when convenient) who supposedly should have a say. 

Ok, I just took him down.  He pissed me off too.

Jan 7, 13 10:52 am

And now in return, I have a TC question you can weigh in on, Donna! :-)

I am preparing a portfolio for the first time in years.  I have only a few days in which to do this.  At this stage of my career (in my 30s, licensed, a good chunk of experience under my belt) it seems a little silly to do the whole "bound, fancy book" thing.  Am I gauging sentiment correctly?  Or is that still what everyone expects?

I have had a series of separate pages - just 1 per project - for years that I have used a marketing sheets for prospective clients.  These are skimpy - 3 or 4 images per entire project - because they're designed to appeal to a client, not an architect.

I'm thinking of taking this same format - separate, loose sheets - and just adding more pages to each project so that each project becomes like a little booklet.  Then maybe just putting that in one of those stock folders from Office Depot with a clear plastic cover and the grippy thing on the side, kind of like this.

The only problem is, I would have about 6 or 7 of these booklets, plus a sample set of drawings (if I can find it).  So... that might look a little cheesy to come in with all that.  Any advice on how to solve this problem as a less-young architect?  I don't really have the time to craft an entire book and get it printed, plus... it would be a lot of money spent and I no longer find that a worthwhile investment.  I'm much more practical / matter-of-fact than I was when I was starting out.  Is this appropriate, or do employers still expect candidates later in their career to have the bound-book type portfolio?

Thanks for any advice you guys can give!

Jan 7, 13 11:05 am

i've been mulling over similar questions manta.  i was thinking spiral bound is pretty commonplace, and should be relatively inexpensive at kinkos.  spiral bound has the benefit of being able to fully open, whereas the portfolio you linked pinches at the binding so it can't lay flat.  i have no idea if that's a downside in the real world.  the portfolio binder would be faster since you can fill it in yourself, it's scalable to more or less sheets, and reusable.  i was also thinking maybe a few pages per project, instead of just a quick picture, that might show some sort of process.  images would be laid out in a tasteful manner, but no fancy graphics (and no drop shadow.  i was going to do drop shadows because they're awesome, but then i'm thinking that's because i'm an idiot ;) ) i was thinking about a couple pages of a CD set included in this format, scaled down to 8.5"x11".  it wouldn't be very readable, but then they don't need to be taking general notes from my current office, right?  otherwise, i could possibly fold in a few 11,17 pages?  i don't know what a hiring manager would be looking for by seeing a set of CDs.  i'm leaning towards one-sided printing too.  i would also like to add words that explain the project and my role, but i have some concern that architect hiring managers like pictures and don't like reading stuff.

i was told at one point that a hiring manager is going to typically want a pdf.  if you mail out resume's, you won't really fit into the filing system people are using now (which is a folder in your email).  from that perspective, an email with the cover letter as the body and an attached pdf with resume and portfolio is preferred.  i suppose having a printed portfolio is preferable for an interview so you can point at something and give them something to remember you by, but maybe you can go to the interview with a netbook or ipad or something?

i would also like to see any advice for manta's question :)

Jan 7, 13 11:33 am
Sarah Hamilton

I had an interview once where the owner/partner/head-guy actually complemented me for having my portfolio in loose sheets.  He said he preferred it, and even though it made the conference table look messy, it made it easier for him to look, and re-look at projects throughout the interview.

Jan 7, 13 12:50 pm
Sarah Hamilton

Ok, where is this ThayerD flame war happening?

Jan 7, 13 1:07 pm

In my opinion, which could easily be wrong, one needs a flashy portfolio - the physical object that holds images - when one is just starting out.  Once one gets to a level of experience and professionalism of, say, a registered architect (manta I know you are one!) the housing of the experience is less important that the work and experience itself.

For my last interview I used 8.5x11 sheets of heavy stock paper with 1-2 images apiece, and put them loose in a nice black cardboard folder.  And exactly as Sarah said, it made it easy to talk about specific projects.

I can't weigh in on the pdf question.

Sarah, the Prentice Women's Hospital thread. Or is it Prentiss?

Jan 7, 13 2:55 pm

currently I have this theory that an entire generation of americans are all subconsciously trying to find sesame street.  I'm not alone.


as an aside - thayerD is one of archinect's resident grouches.  don't always agree with him, but I think he serves a purpose.

Jan 7, 13 4:29 pm
vado retro

brutalism and these expressionist clover leaf type buildings have become the red headed step child for preservationists. although some real architecture happened here, much of it could be mistaken for prisons. i recently took a drive to the zoning department here in my southern hamlet. i was on the wrong street and ended up out by the hospital. it was a rainy gray day and this building, done in concrete looked like it could house hannibal freaking lecter (an aside, the michael mann movie manhunter, which is based on red dragon, actually used the high museum as the exterior of hannibal's prision.) any way this thing was soooo gray and drab and sad. i'm sure many feel the same way regarding many of the brutalist works that are under attack. in india no place the brutalist barton tower is becoming a donut ring, surrounded by a low rise eifs donut of retail and condos. good job indy. in other events, the zoning department is housed in a fantastic modern building with cantilevers, courtyard and terra cotta sun screens. of course the inside is f'd up with brown paneling and ceiling tiles.

Jan 7, 13 4:50 pm

hope all is well donna. 

not sure what thayer's problem is.   bit cartoonish, really.  but not funny, just flat.  kinda like the cereal where the cardboard box has more food value than the cereal inside the bag.

about portfolio, we have had people send hard copies and some are really amazing, but tend to prefer pdfs.  if you have experience the portfolio will be more a guide than the main focal point anyway.  at least in our case we would be looking at what experience you have and thinking which jobs you could do (or lead), and that would be more about the CV than the pretty pictures.  those are cool too, and in an interview would like to have something to look at and hold but i think we would be more interested in how you manage a construction site or a planning office and how you deal with staff you are in charge of than how you render or design.  possibly we might want to see how you deal with details and what technical knowledge you have.  would be good to get a sense of design skills via portfolio but after that its the cv and personality that least that's how i see it from the perspective of our small office.


brutalism is always great and horrible in some weird balance.  brown interiors are just horrible

Jan 7, 13 7:25 pm

Thanks everyone.  All your thoughts are in line with what I was thinking, so I appreciate the confidence boost.  I'll be bringing loose, single 8.5x11 sheets, printed on whatever card stock my printer carries, along with an 11x17 CD set from one of my projects that speaks most directly to the work this firm does (just in case).  I'll head over to Blick to see what kind of nice folders they might have.  Might just clip the project sheets together with an alligator clip, to be honest (so that each project's loose sheets are kept together).  Thanks for everyone's feedback - and curtkram, I hope this helped you too!  I think your thoughts are in the right line.

And for the record, I always send a few (5 or 6) sheets as a "sample portfolio" via pdf with my CV, so they can get a sense of my work before inviting me for an interview.  So they would already have that.  The printed work I bring in will really just be to flesh out the experience listed in my CV, and to provide a touchpoint for conversation.  I've found in the past (on both sides of interviews) that having something there that's tactile just helps everyone chill out and get their conversational juices flowing.  So hopefully the loose sheets will do the trick!

I'm a bit nervous - If I get the job would mean a bit of a re-arrangement of my life planning.  Would be good, of course, but also an adjustment of some other things I've got going on.  But no sense in worrying till I come to the bridge!  May not even see an offer of course.

Jan 7, 13 7:35 pm

ITOYA Art Portfolio Advantage is what I use.  Pull projects in and out rearrange things for different jobs/clients.  I print on Office Depot Matte Photo paper.  Heavy, and soaks up my printers ink nicely.  Just thought I'd chime in as I might be moving around too.  

Sarah, the idea of loose sheets is appealing.  I'd really like to get a tablet or my win8 laptop in the hands of an interview with an application that would sort of group images, but allow the interview to play and revisit like your experience.  Something like Prezi might work.

Jan 8, 13 9:36 am

sorry, meant to mention that you should be able to find those photo folios as Dick Blick or similar art shop.

Jan 8, 13 9:37 am
Sarah Hamilton

I was just thinking Prezi might work, as I was reading.  Does it work easily with a touch screen?

Jan 8, 13 9:53 am

so these things: link to office depot and another link to office depot are basically just clip on binders around an acrylic cover (or something similar to that).  you can keep everything loose, take it out, then just stick it back together and leave it behind as a book if you want.  does anyone know of a nicer kind of alternative to these, as a different option from alligator clips or binder clips?

i don't think i like the portfolios with slide-in sheets as much.  i kind of think the plastic that protects the image makes it a little less readable, and it seems to me a bit cumbersome to take a sheet out in a direct interview sort of situation.  it's also a bit expensive if you wanted to leave something behind.

Jan 8, 13 10:06 am

curtkram your second link looks like a good option but somehow I read the cover as something like "swinger-hip" and with that photo of the guy in nude-colored clothing I momentarily thought it was an ad for something else entirely.

Jan 8, 13 1:20 pm
Sarah Hamilton

Why is it suddenly taking us so long to get to page 1,000?  We used to go through 100 comment pages in a day, and now we can't even get through a 50 comment page in a week?  Bunch of slackers!

Jan 8, 13 1:33 pm

toaster, I definitely looked for Sesame Street after growing up as a fan of the show.  My mom remembers when I was 6 years old and wanted to always visit "the big city" aka the town square of the tiny North Carolina town in which my parents grew up - we lived in the suburbs, but I thanks to Sesame Street I craved an urban environment wherever I could find one!

Jan 8, 13 1:37 pm

Sarah, I think because some of us might have actually picked up constructive hobbies, full-time employment or a healthy sense of doom-laden apathy— I am in the first and last category.

Jan 8, 13 1:54 pm
Sarah Hamilton
James, I will accept no excuses!
Jan 8, 13 2:00 pm

I would post more but I have no credibility to post anything of quantitative value (e.g. anything to do with architecture) and little charisma to post qualitatively. 

Jan 8, 13 2:02 pm

Double post for posting sake.



here is a picture of a tiny bathroom. aww, how cute.

Jan 8, 13 2:06 pm

I think I'd be tempted to leave both doors open (were i alone)...

but it doesn't seem that you can lock either of those doors in place in any case!

Jan 8, 13 2:14 pm

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