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My Dad was a carpenter by trade, but was fearless in tackling any project that involved design or construction. His thought was if someone else could design/construct/repair something, he could figure it out and do so himself. As a kid, I vividly recall my dad purchasing a new van, must’ve been the late 70’s. I remember him drawing for hours on graph paper designing a ‘graphic’ for his newly purchased van. Once his design was finalized, I believe he had one of my uncles paint the van- if I’m mistaken on that account, I can assure you whoever painted it, my dad was over their shoulder observing and learning.

I thought that was so cool, designing something and making it a reality. As impressed as I was, there was more to come. We piled in the van one Saturday and drove to either Caldor’s or Bradlees; the Target of the day. We headed straight to the automotive section where my dad selected diamond shaped smoked polycarbonate windows for the sides of the van. With windows purchased we headed home. Rather than park on the drive, my dad drove down the left side of our house and parked in the rear yard. As we ate lunch he looked at the instructions for the window install. Afterwards we walked to the wood shop in the rear yard, my dad procured his sawzall and proceeded to cut into the sides of his newly purchased van! My dad had a vision and went about designing and constructing it himself, no fear; I was amazed! He also finished the interior of the van with seats/beds. We spent many summer vacations travelling in my dad’s creation.

However, the van was merely a side project; my dad was a carpenter. If he thought a room in the house should be bigger, he made it so… if a deck was wanted or the kitchen needed new cabinets, strap the tools on and start building. No construction project intimidated my dad. If he didn’t know how to do something -remember no Google back then- he found someone that did and shadowed them until he felt confident he could do it as well.

Even if he wasn’t doing the actual work, he was always observing to be sure it was done correctly. When he had a new roof and skylights put on his house, he wasn’t able to do the work himself. However, he set up a lawn chair in the yard where he could watch the roofers. Whenever the roofers were working, my dad was sitting there watching/supervising. I’m sure the roofers didn’t whole heartedly appreciate it, but I also know they learned a few things from my dad. His manner was to teach one how rather then tell one how. I don’t know if it was known to the roofers or not, but my dad wasn’t sitting in the lawn chair by choice; he was valiantly fighting cancer. Sadly, he passed in 1998.

Behind a folded lawn chair, standing beside my dad and watching a construction project… having discussions about how it’s being built, the design, materials etc. That’s my dream project, my reoccurring dream.

 

Dream On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Dream Project.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
dream until your dreams come true

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Project Could be a Dream – Sh Boom

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“dream project…”

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
The Dream Project

 

Architects are constantly faced with challenges, it’s part of what makes the profession exciting. If you wish to succeed as an architect, you’ll need to be determined to face challenges head on and have resolve in doing so. However, in doing so you will fail and make mistakes. Hopefully you’ll fail a lot.

Very little, if anything, is ever learnt from successes. You take the compliments, think what a great job you did and move on rarely giving it another thought. However, how was your success possible? I’d bet there were many mistakes and a lot of failed attempts prior to your successes. One shouldn’t seek success by constantly asking others for the ‘answer.’ Sure, it may work and be plausible, but you’ll learn nothing. Instead, ask others for advice/guidance and be open to fail/mistakes.

 

Mistakes shouldn’t be viewed negatively, they are valuable learning opportunities. You can’t be afraid to fail nor should you blame others; if you do you’re cheating yourself of valuable knowledge. In failure one should seek to explore the failure… Why didn’t it work? Did I ‘do’ something wrong? Was there a translation issue? What could I’ve done differently? Did I fully understand the problem? How can I avoid the failure in the future?

In seeking the why of a failure one is educating themselves and gaining knowledge. As an architect, you will fail. In fact, if you want to be a good architect, you will embrace failure. I like to fail. To fail is good; it means you are trying something out of your comfort zone. One should fail a lot until they become successes; you can then fail in other areas. So get at it and fail… fail…

First Attempt In Learning

 

 

Fail On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Learning from mistakes.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
some kind of mistake

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Learning from mistakes in architecture

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Archi-scar – That Will Leave a Mark!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“Learning from Mistakes…”

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Forgotten Mistakes

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Are Architects Experts?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Learning from Mistakes

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Learning from mistakes

Steve Mouzon – The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
How Living Traditions Learn From Mistakes

It’s always a thrill when meeting a new client for the first time. Excitement. Nerves. Possibilities. We start walking through the house. The clients go on and on- in a good way- talking about their project. I spend most of the time listening and nodding my head… after all it’s their project that they wish to share with me. I see the glitter in their eye as they discuss wishes and goals for the project. Finally they’ve exhausted themselves. They turn to me and ask, “So can you ‘give’ us our design?” I typically respond with, “Well… is that really ‘your’ design? To which I’m greeted with a blank stare for two minutes… than a nervous laugh… the client eventually says “Well… what do you mean our design?” To which I usually ask many questions, such as:

“Why do you want a lawyer foyer (2 story high entry foyer)?”

“So, you don’t cook but want 3 Viking ranges?

“What will you do in the she-shack/diva-den/man-cave?”

“So, it’s the two of you and you need a 14,875 square foot house?”

The client’s response is typically “Well, we saw it in a magazine… we were at a friend’s house and they have it… we were watching HGTV…” You see where I’m going with this; the clients are attempting to impose someone else’s design upon their lifestyle. While some may be applicable, typically the vast majority of their ‘needs’ are not. When it comes to designing for others, just say no.

Designing per others is not going to result in a home tailored to how you live. You want a home designed specifically for you, not bits and pieces of a home designed for others. Your home will be vastly different than one designed for someone else. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle… a home designed for you, not designed for others.

 

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Designing for others.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
designing for others – how hard could it be?

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How To Design for Others

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Designing for Others

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Designing for others

Steve Mouzon – The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
Planting Seeds of Better Design

You can have a great design, awesome clients, an unlimited budget, details worthy of graphic standards, wonderful renderings, and specifications that read like a Tolstoy novel… and yet the completed project can be horrific. No matter how great of an architect you may think you are, you are nothing without an experienced general contractor (GC). An experienced GC is your best advocate and crucial to the success of a project. On the flip-side, an inexperienced GC can ruin the best of all projects. Do you have an experienced or inexperienced GC? Hopefully, you’ve determined this prior to construction, if not, here are a few examples as to what type GC you have:

Scenario A: There is a problem with a detail as drawn; it just doesn’t work quite as intended.

Responses:
experienced GC: “Look at detail 23/A3.5, it doesn’t really work as drawn. I’m going to fax over three possible solutions, when you’ve had a chance to review them give me a call. In the meantime we’ll work on the gilded bust of you in the foyer”

inexperienced GC: “What sheet is that detail on? Oh okay, I see it now, detail 23/A3.5, it don’t work. You need to come out here and look at it and then get me a correct detail. I’m sending the crew to another job for a few days, call me when you know what you want me to do…oh yeah, it’s probably going to change the schedule and cost more.”

Scenario B: The laundry room doesn’t graphically indicate the appliances.

Responses:
experienced GC: “The laundry room doesn’t show a washer and dryer, you do intend for us to provide them, correct? Yeah, I thought so… okay will do. Oh, by the way, that bust of you in the foyer, are you sure the head is big enough? Just kidding, I thought you’d find that amusing.”

inexperienced GC: “What do you mean you want a washer and dryer in the laundry room? We bid the drawings as-is, there is no indication of a washer and dryer. Print something off your CAD machines and get it to me. Once I know what you want I will submit a change order. I’m sending the crew to another job for a few days, call me when you know what you want me to do.”

Scenario C: Ductwork soffits.

Responses:
experienced GC: (Phones prior to commencing work) “We’re getting close to running ductwork. Can you meet next week with us to review the duct layout? I read the notes on the specification sheet and want to avoid any re-framing. The bust of yours is almost finished. I’m not sure gold is shiny enough though for your personality, what do you think?”

inexperienced GC: (Phones after the mechanical contractor has completed the work) “What do you mean look at the specification sheet… those are just boiler plate notes, we don’t read that! So just because it says in the specification sheet that I should submit all duct layouts to the architect for approval prior to the commencement of framing and that no extras will be given for any modification required to the framing due to ductwork, you expect me to pay to have this re-framed? I just don’t see the problem of having a soffit run across the ceiling of the new family room… it’s not like we centered the soffit or anything.”

Of course these are some extreme examples, typically GC’s fall somewhere between. You need to determine which GC’s are good for you and your work and keep them on the team, without an experienced GC you’ll only get something built, chances are it won’t be a successful project.

 

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Experience.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
experience comes from experiences

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Gaining Experience As A Young Architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
knowledge is not experience

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
That’s Experience — A Wise Investment

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“experience”

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You need it to get it

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Channeling Experience: Storytelling in the Spaces We Design

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Experience

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Experience

Leah Alissa Bayer – Stoytelling LAB (@leahalissa)
Four Years In: All Experiences Are Not Created Equal (Nor Should They Be)

As a public service to the AEC profession, we offer Project Management tips (PMt’s) based on our experiences. The basics of project management can be distilled into two ‘tasks’- scheduling and open communication. Master these and you’ll be well on your way to successfully managing projects and becoming a competent architect.

There’s an old phrase I’m sure most of you have heard. The basic format is “Do you want the good news first or the bad news first?” It gives one an option on how to receive conflicting information. Do you want the bad news first and then good news to cheer you up? Do you want the good news first to ‘cut the edge’ of the bad news? At parties it morphs into horrid jokes such as:

Doctor: “I have some good news and I have some bad news.”

Patient: “What’s the good news?”

Doctor: “The good news is the test show you have 24 hours to live.”

Patient: “That’s the good news? What’s the bad news?”

Doctor: “The bad news is that I forgot to tell you yesterday!”

When it comes to the AEC profession, this format doesn’t apply so well. Clients expect the architect to give them good news. Good news is, well it’s good. Usually no big hooray from the client when it’s delivered, that’s what they want, and expect, to hear from the architect. Bad news is… well… it’s bad and most are uncomfortable addressing. However, to be a successful architect, you need to be comfortable with bad news. Construction is a complicated process and stuff will happen that’s bad. To provide your clients with the best service possible, you better channel your inner MJ and tell them Who’s Bad!

To be an effective architect and run successful projects, you need to be the bearer of bad news. This falls under open communication and ranks up there as a difficult technique to become comfortable with. However, mastering this will have a lasting impact on your client relations. Clients don’t recall much of the good news of a project. However, they do recall every bit of bad news and how it was handled. Don’t wait for someone else to inform the client of bad news. Phone the client, or better yet meet face to face- no email, no singing telegrams, no text messages, no twitter update, no snap chat, and no sky writing– and inform them of the issue.

Explain the how/why it happened, what it may impact- budget, schedule, etc. Most importantly, explain how it will be addressed and resolved. Clients understand (for the most part) that sh** happens. It’s how the architect deals with the sh** that matters. If you bring the issue to the client’s attention and explain how it will be resolved, your client’s going to know that you are actively managing the project and truly have their best interests in mind- which you must! However, what will the client think of you if they hear bad news from someone else or worse, there’s an attempt to ‘hide’ it from them? If you don’t know the answer to that, none of my PMt’s can help you.

Continue to deliver the good news to the client, after all it’s good. Everyone loves hearing good news, but keep in mind that’s why they hired you, good news is expected. To endear yourself to your client, become adept with bad news and its’ delivery. Stay tuned, future posts will offer even more tried and tested PMt’s that you can implement on your projects… or ignore, your call. A revised good news/ bad news joke more apt of the AEC profession:

‘Seasoned’ Architect: “I have some good news and I have some bad news.”

Intern: “What’s the bad news?”

‘Seasoned’ Architect: “The slab pour is wrong and it’s going to set the schedule back 38 weeks!”

Intern: “Oh crap, that sucketh. What could possibly be the good news?”

‘Seasoned’ Architect: “You need to ‘learn’ how to deal with bad news… text the client and let ‘em know… see you tomorrow!”

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Communication.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Communication and the Question of Relevance

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
what does it communicate?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Types of communication in architecture

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Talk, Write, Draw — A Com Hat Trick

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“communication….”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #36: Project Amplify

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Communication – What, How, Why?

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Tips for Communicating with Your Architect, Interior Designer, or Landscape Architect

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Why Communication Skills are a Must for Aspiring Architects

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Communication in a Yada Yada World

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Communication

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Explain Yourself…

Design… the elusive design… the ‘magic’ of an architect. I find it difficult to describe the design process, specifically my design process, as all architects design differently. Sure, there are ‘rules’ and precedent architects can follow, local zoning and code implications, means + methods to ‘work’ out a design, etc. However, it’s still a bit elusive for me to describe how it all happens. So let’s start at the beginning.

I do a lot of single family residential work… and a good portion of it is renovation/ additions. However, the same applies for new homes. Typically my initial meeting with a client is in their home. We walk through the house. The clients talk about their project. I spend most of the time listening and nodding my head… after all it’s their project that they wish to share with me. I see the glitter in their eye as they discuss wishes and goals for the project. Really good clients have binders full of images they like. The best clients can describe why they like them. We flip through their image binders. They make more statements. Finally they’ve exhausted themselves.

Then it happens. They look at me and ask, “So what’s the answer? What will you design and what will it look like when it’s done?” They seem to be waiting for me to snap my fingers, toss my cape back (I should start wearing a cape) and exclaim “I’ve got it! What it’s going to look like is…” However, I don’t work like that; I don’t know the ‘answer’ immediately. Typically my response is “Yes. No. Something. I don’t know.” To which I’m greeted with a blank stare for two minutes… than a nervous laugh… then the client says “No, really, what’s it going to look like?” I explain that I need time to think, to absorb what they’ve said- I need time to process.

Initially, there is a vast amount of listening and observing conditions as they pertain to a project. The design starts with thinking about all I’ve gathered. Processing those thoughts into useful information that can be applied to the design. I think about a project a lot- both consciously and subconsciously- I mean a lot. It’s typically weeks of ruminating in my head before I ever put pen to paper or knife to chipboard. Good design is intently listening, as well as hearing, and investigating the root of the design issue(s) at hand. Only after doing such can an architect respond appropriately and start ‘Designing.’ I suspect a majority of architects would agree with my process of design, at least at the very beginning.

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Starting a Design.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Slow Down. Hold Still.

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
where do we start?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
How to Start a Design

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Starting a Design: #Architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
On Your Mark, Get Set — Start a Design!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
.”starting a design…”..

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #35: Starting a Design

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Where do we begin?

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Where do you start when designing a new home?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
First Thing’s First

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
5 Tips for Starting an Architecture Project

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
How it all begins…

Steve Mouzon – The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
Starting Wrong – The Amazon Mistake

Life… choices… vanilla or chocolate… choices… education… choices… white or yellow trace… choices… coffee or tea… choices… architecture… choices… cake or pie… choices… everything is about choices. Choices you make, choices you didn’t make, choices made for you, etc. The route of an architect and design is littered with rusty signs along the way. Each of these signs requires a choice… choose wisely:

 

 


 

 

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Choices.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
choices

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Limit Their Stress By Limiting Their Choices

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Choices

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Choices — It’s Everything!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“Choices…”

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A million choices

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How Do You Deal with Choices During the Design Process?

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Life is a Gamble that depends upon your choices

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Choose Your Battles

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
ArchiTalks Choices

In contemplating how to determine the purity of gold, Archimedes, the Greek inventor and mathematician, made the sudden realization that the buoyancy of an object placed in water is equal in magnitude to the weight of the water the object displaces. While no source for the validity of this account exists, the popular version is that Archimedes made his discovery while bathing at a public bathhouse. Upon his discovery, he jumped out of the tub and ran home through the streets naked yelling “Heureka!!” (“I’ve found it!). I can only hope that my fellow architect don’t react in the same manner.

Architects are constantly in search of eureka – also known as the a-ha moment – the experience when one is granted with clarity and sudden comprehension of a previously indecipherable concept or problem. It’s nearly impossible to know when and where the ‘eureka effect’ will occur. Two things must occur to achieve a eureka moment. First, there must be a ‘problem’ that appears to be unsolvable after one believes to have attempted all possible solutions. Second, after a break in solving the problem, or a reevaluation of the problem, a solution is found. The answer comes quickly and unexpectedly. The unknown becomes known and clear. These ‘answers’ are typically what is referred to as ‘thinking outside of the box.’ For example, the images below are from Architectvral Graphic Standards, Third Edition, published 1946. However, looking at them in a differing manner allows them to take on an entirely new meaning:

 

“Trust me; the trunk needs to be this high to stuff the remainder of the torso in.”

 

Proper clearances required to wave your arms up in the air like you just don’t care.

 

Vertical dimension required for a bar crawl. Also applies to groveling to the AIA.

 

One permit please… seriously Mr. Plan Reviewer? You have no idea what the intent of the code is, do you?” This diagram is a good example of how if you piss off the plan reviewer he/she will stand up…and then walk away.

 

Sadly, the Macarena has been around much longer than anyone cares to admit.

 

Diagram indicating the rigidity of an engineer.

 

Diagram indicating the initial client-architect meeting. White outline portrays clients retraction after architect discusses that he/she wants to actually be compensated. (client on L architect on R).

 

Diagram of the Architect-AIA relationship.

 

Eureka moments are believed to happen with a lapse in mental fixation on the problem. The solutions then become obvious. Constantly searching for atypical solutions ‘trains’ ones’ brain to be open to many unobvious solutions. While I’ve no scientific research to back this up, I believe creative individuals can foster the eureka effect by training themselves to look at all things in a differing light. Constantly striving to think outside the box trains your subconscious to solve with unobvious results… fostering such allows for more frequent and relevant eureka moments.

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Eureka.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Eureka!? Finding myself amid the “busy.”

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Gee, golly, gosh EUREKA: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Eureka! — Things That Suck

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@BuildingsRCool)
Searching for that Eureka Moment

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Finding That “Eureka!” Moment in the Design Process

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Eureka moments and what do if clients don’t appreciate them

Larry Lucas – Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
Eureka for George in Seinfeld Episode 181

The Architectural Registration Exam (ARE)… the ARE is the professional licensure examination adopted by the 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories. The ARE attempts to assess a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities required for providing competent services in the practice of architecture. A lofty goal.

During my early employment in architecture firms, the seasoned architects often spoke of their ARE ‘war’ stories. Prior to 1997, those taking the ARE were required to take nine divisions over a four-day period and the exam was only offered once a year in major cities across the United States. The exam was via ‘paper and pencil’ in a studio like setting. To me that sounded much like architecture school and a lot of fun! It also seemed to be an accurate representation of what an architect does, or will be doing. Working under pressure, having to produce, produce accurately, and within deadlines.

However, I didn’t take the exam until the early 2000’s, and by then the exam was in the midst of various revisions and became computer based. While the ARE was becoming more streamlined, it was also becoming more of a task to be completed rather than a test of ones’ competency. I mistakenly assumed I required a lot of ‘real world’ experience such that I could be tested on my abilities of being an architect. As such, I learned as many aspects as I could about the profession. I studied real world examples of the AREs’ ‘testing’ divisions. I spent far too long thinking I needed more time to ‘learn’ to be an architect before I could take the ARE. I was wrong, very wrong. The ARE was merely a task to complete along the way to becoming an architect. It seemed to have lost the aspect of a ‘test’ of ones’ abilities to practice architecture. It was a task that one had to master to pass. It wasn’t a true test of any sort of skill or competency; it was a task of memorization.

When I was studying for the ARE, materials were readily available that had much of the ‘test’ and questions verbatim for one to memorize. I’m guessing this remains true. It was a ‘test’ about being able to know how to ‘test.’ No matter test or task, there is information within the ARE that needs to be known. One needs to demonstrate the ability to know such. However, while the ARE is an important step to becoming an architect, it’s not nearly as important as you think it is prior to passing.

Being years removed from the ARE, I’m not sure the current state of the ARE. I’m going to assume it’s become even more of a task. If I’m wrong and the ARE has reverted back to being more of a test, then I’m happy to be mistaken. Either way, my advice is the same… complete the task as soon as you can such that your relevant and real testing in the profession can begin. Do not let the ARE intimidate you. Study for the task, complete it and move on. Don’t overthink it. Once you’re an architect, you’ll be tested continually with real consequences. You’ll be far more proud of yourself and these tests then the task of the ARE.

 

Design Task On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘The Architectural Registration Exam.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
What is the Big Deal about the ARE?

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
what A.R.E. you willing to do

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Take the architect registration exam, already

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
ARE – The Turnstile

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
the architect registration exam

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I forget

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
The Architecture Registration Exam

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
What is the Benefit of Becoming a Licensed Architect?

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Every Architect’s Agony

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
To do or not to do ?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Passing the Test

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Part 3!

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
How to Become a Licensed Architect in Italy

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Seven Years of Highlighters and Post-it Notes

There are very few words that I actively try not to use. However, ugly is one of them. It’s far too easy to say “I don’t like that house, it’s ugly!” It’s difficult to say “I don’t like that house because…” Much like beauty, ugly is in the eye of the beholder and is extremely subjective. However, there are a few objective things to address when designing your house to curb potential ugliness. Well, actually… they’re border line subjective as well.

ug-ly • [uhg-lee] • ADJECTIVE

1. very unattractive or unpleasant to look at; offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance.

2. disagreeable; unpleasant; objectionable.

3. offensive to the sight.

No two clients have the same needs or wants for their house and each house has its own unique set of circumstances that need to be resolved or addressed. However, a few ‘rules’ are omnipresent- materials, massing, scale, and proportion. These are means/methods available to an architect to assist in the development of their designs. Addressing them will go a long way to creating an aesthetically pleasing house. Keep in mind, these ‘rules’ are typically broken and remain successful. However, one must first know the rules in order to bend/break them successfully.

Materials should be limited to three (3) on the exterior of a house. Materials should be appropriate for their use- don’t wrap columns in vinyl siding. Not counting the foundation, no more than two (2) wall materials should be visible on the exterior of a house. This stems from simplicity and ease of construction. Use of more materials creates an aesthetic of fragmentation and no sense of overall design cohesion. This in turn leads to visual distraction. The use of fewer materials allows focus on the composition of the design and is typically an indicator of a confident architect. Employ fewer materials executed to a higher degree of proficiency.

Massing should be simple. No matter the aesthetic of a house, the massing should be composed of simple forms. This will typically translate to building shapes that are efficient and sensible. There should be a hierarchy of massing. Most houses are composed of more than one single mass. The most important, or most public part of a house, should be the most prominent mass of the house. The massing of a house should rapidly and clearly show two things- the main ‘body’ of the house and the location for people (not cars) to enter the house.

Scale refers to how one perceives the size of the house elements or spaces in relation to other elements and spaces. Both building scale and human scale need to be addressed. Building scale is how the size of building elements relate to each other. Human scale is how the building elements and spaces relate to the human body. Two differing scales can be used simultaneously, and an architect can alter ones perception by use of scale. There are no hard-fast rules for scale, but a designer must be aware of both building and human scale in order for a successful design.

Proportion refers to the relationship of one element to another in terms of quantity, size, or number. It’s the comparative relationship of differing parts to the whole. There are various proportion ‘devices’ developed over the years to aid architects and guide them in their designs… the Golden Section, Modular Man, the ‘Ken’…etc. Various proportions can be found throughout nature. It makes sense to design a house in harmony with proportions that naturally occur in the world. Proportion applies to all aspects of the design of a house. Proportion should not be used arbitrarily; simple harmonious proportions should be used throughout the design of a house.

It’s beneficial to know why you don’t like something so you don’t repeat the same thing. The next time you find yourself thinking/saying a house is ugly, rather than say it’s ugly, try and describe what it is you find displeasing about the house. It’s highly likely you can trace it to a lack of understanding of materials, massing, scale, and proportion.

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Ugly.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
ugly is ugly

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Ugly Architecture Details

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
unsuccessful, not ugly: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Ugly is in The Details

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Ugly

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Ugly, sloppy, and wrong – oh my!

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[ugly] buildings [ugly] people

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Is My House Ugly? If You Love It, Maybe Not!

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
the ugly truth

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
A Little Ugly Never Hurt Anyone

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Ugly or not ugly Belgian houses?

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
ArchiTalks #30: Ugly

Larry Lucas – Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
Die Hard: 7 Ugly Sins Killing Your Community