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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

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Choices — Your turn

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

I never had any great desire to become a sole-practitioner architect; it came out of survival instincts. The economy was bad and my daughter likes to eat and have clothes. So a few fees here and a couple of forms there and I had my legal entity to officially practice architecture. I was off and running to secure my own work. ** cue wavy dreamy sequence*** Ah, that was 2009… seems like yesterday… but I digest. I know, I know sounds awesome… well for the most part, it is! So what are my top +10 for being a sole practitioner, here you go:

+1. I get to resolve all the ‘bad’ issues that arise- it’s the best learning experience.

+2. No random principal comes to me at the 11th hour saying “I’m not sure I agree; let’s give this scheme a try.”

+3. I can refuse projects that aren’t a good fit.

+4. I rise and fall… I get credit for both!

+5. I get full authority on creativity… as well as veto power!

+6. I can go mountain biking or mow the lawn whenever I have to clear my head.

+7. When I take pens and trace from the office, no one knows but me… shh.

+8. All my days-off for vacation requests are approved.

+9. I’m in control of where my practice goes… such as my design value menu concept.

And the final, and best reason I enjoy being ‘da man’…

+10. It allows me to be more actively present in my daughter’s life, attend martial arts classes, field trips, volunteer at school, etc.

With all the positives, much like everything in life, there are also negatives to being a sole practitioner. However, the majority of negatives can be resolved relatively easily. Here are my 10 for being a sole practitioner:

1. When I have a lunch and learn I have to buy lunch and be the teacher.

2. No big firm resources- books, software, supplies, etc.

3. No one to bounce ideas off of or offer constructive criticism (Facebook and Instagram comments don’t count).

4. I’m the architect, receptionist,  business development guy, PR department, admin department, good cop, contract writer, AR/P department, educator, bad cop, night cleaning crew, IT guy, intern, model maker, lackey, CAD/BIM manager, CA guy, marketing department, general whipping boy, spec writer, etc.

5. I have to buy trace, scales, and sharpies.

6. No intern to pass grunt work off to mentor.

7. No Friday morning **insert favorite breakfast here** paid for by others.

8. Nobody to foot the bill for the annual holiday party.

9. Firm retreats are extremely lonely.

And the final, and reason I don’t like being a sole practitioner…

10. No room for advancement within the firm unless I take a pay cut and demote myself first.

Much like a battery, in order for things to run well you need both a positive and a negative. As long as the +/- tend to weigh slightly more to the +, it’s most likely worth doing. It’s tough working on your own and it’s not for everyone. There are days I question it. However, if you do go this route it will be extremely rewarding!

 

Design On,

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It’s that time of year when family and friends gather, eat, and give thanks. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberries, flaky rolls, etc. – indulgence of deliciousness! Food will be enjoyed, conversations will be had, reflections will be made about what each are thankful for and why. I’m no different. I have a lot to be thankful for:

  1. My wife and daughter.
  2. *Clarification* A loving and supporting wife.
  3. The choice I made to become an architect.
  4. Great family and friends.
  5. Being healthy.
  6. Ability to have what I want.
  7. Wise enough to know what I need.
  8. Living in a nice home and community.
  9. My Clients.
  10. Viewing my work not as ‘work.’

As dishes are being cleared and pies consumed, we exclaim- “Wow this is a great day! What a good time we’re having!”

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However, we all know it won’t go smoothly for the entirety of the day. Alcohol will be consumed. At some point a crazy aunt/uncle will have had a few to many drinks and start ranting about how everyone has disappointed them… you don’t call enough, you stopped mowing my lawn, my bunions hurt and you won’t rub them, you did spend that $1.00 in one place, and it was for candy, etc. Well, today Architecture is that crazy aunt/uncle with its own disappointments. As such, Architecture submits a few of the things it’s Thankless for:

  1. Celebrity designers.
  2. HGTV’s -*insert any show here*- spewing of misinformation.
  3. A friend who has a friend that knows someone who took a drafting class at a community college.
  4. ‘Dark Gray’ turtlenecks when ‘Dark Coal’ is available.
  5. Brick and vinyl siding abutting in a ‘J channel.’
  6. McMansions.
  7. Every X-Acto blade sans #11.
  8. Faux anything.
  9. Value Engineering.
  10. ‘White’ paint when ‘Extra White’ is available.
  11. House flippers.
  12. Drafting machines.
  13. EIFS.
  14. Oil rubbed bronze/brass.
  15. Complaining about being an architect.
  16. Life as a House.
  17. Post Modernism.
  18. Man Caves/ Diva Dens.
  19. Fruit cake.
  20. Any industry/person employing the term ‘Architect’ that didn’t pass the ARE.
  21. The…

Wait…”What?… I can’t hear you, I’m typing… hold on.” I’ve got to go, my nephews calling me and I need another drink, Happy Turkey Day!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted November 21 2011, edited/revised per date above- Happy Turkey Day! RIP Zaha.

A repeated discussion every architect has with residential clients is why do they even need an architect? The client will cite that their brother in-law had a builder designed house built and it turned out fine- just like the other 7 that look like it on their street. Or their nephews’ friend once took a technical drafting class at a community college 15 years ago and she can draft something over the weekend with some software from Staples for someone to build. Or better yet, they themselves took an art class in college and love math! I compose myself and begin the discussion…

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For years I would try and explain an architect’s value with grandiose terms and concepts- an aesthetic that reflects the modernity of their beliefs, villa this, axis that, concept of nothing being everything, datum, beaux arts that, white is not always white, machine for this or that, gables, we don’t need no stinking gables, etc. Then one day while going off on one of these rants, the client offered me some cake… mmmm cake. An epiphany occurred; I could see the delicious tree from the Black Forest! From that point on I simplified the explanation of an architect’s value in terms easily understood, cake! Who doesn’t love cake?

I found it easier to compare architect designed houses to non-architect houses as tier cakes from a bakery vs. grocery store bought sheet cake. One can typically stomach a sheet cake. However, is that what you expect from your cake? The sheet cake is just there… lying… like a sheet. There may be some ‘thing’ jammed in the center of the cake that all the kids are raging about, or a gel food coloring message. If you do dare eat it, your teeth will crackle and cringe from the 1,896 grams of sugar per slab, not including the so-called frosting. You’ve seen a sheet cake before, whoo hoo, looks like every other one you’ve seen. You walk past and ignore it. Lying there in the display case of sheet cake suburbia for mass consumption. Sheet cake, no thought, just doing what was done before.

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However, a tier cake from a bakery is, well, it’s prepared for your specific tastes. You’ll meet with the baker to discuss cake flavor options, fillings, combinations, aesthetics, frostings, colors, fondants, how many stories, size, shape, etc. In short, it will be customized for you. It won’t be too small nor too big, it’ll be just right. People will take notice and sense a good cake. They may not know why, but they’ll know it’s better than a sheet cake. One bite and you’ll know it was worth it- first a blast of chocolate, than a quick cool of raspberry, a touch of coffee notes in the frosting, are those white chocolate chunks? You won’t be able to imagine the day without the cake. It’ll be just what you wanted and will even have some delightful surprises.

Hungry? Go grab yourself a slice of tier cake and enjoy. Your tier cake will be the envy of all at the party. If you eavesdrop, you may hear guests saying “Can you believe we put up with sheet cake for so long, what were we thinking?” Trust me, they’ll be taking about your cake for years to come, and it won’t be because of indigestion! So go hire yourself a baker and enjoy some tier cake- and by baker I mean architect and by tier cake I mean a house designed for YOU!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted November 15 2012, edited/revised per date above- If these are copyrighted cake images, send me a cake sample for proof and I’ll promptly remove the images!

In my previous post, Crickets, I addressed my frustration with potential clients being unresponsive. As an architect I’m always looking to solve the problem at hand and make my client’s responsibilities as easy and efficient as possible. As such, I’ve created the [un]Response Form that can be left with potential clients to review and choose their response. I’ll even go so far as to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of the [un]Response Form. Hopefully, this will elicit a few more responses. I present the latest in my library of forms:

 

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Download a PDF for your own use -> [un]Response Form

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted December 9, 2013, edited/revised per date above… the form is provided free of charge, and you assume all liability and comical consequences- however, at any point in the future I can decide to charge $79.99 for a one time use of the form… enjoy!

Architects tend to speak and ask questions in a circuitous manner. Sometimes, what you may hear from an architect isn’t what’s actually going through the architect’s mind- these are known as Architect Realities. In case you missed our previous post on these realities, the link is provided below. Keep in mind, clients can be just as bad. Below are a few examples of what you may hear from a client, as well as what’s actually going through the client’s mind.

 

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Architects, be sure to keep these in mind for your next meeting with your client; be sure you hear what your client is really saying!

Clients, be sure to review these Architect Realities, and keep them in mind for your next meeting with your architect; be sure you hear what your architect is really saying!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted February 26 2013, edited/revised per date above… My clients don’t do this; it’s just what I hear other clients do.

Architects tend to speak and ask questions in a circuitous manner. In our never-ending quest to demystify the process of an architect, we’re once again lifting the veil of secrecy. Below are a few examples of what you may hear from an architect, as well as what’s actually going through the architects mind.

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Keep these in mind for your next meeting with your architect; be sure you hear what the architect is really saying!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted January 21 2013, edited/revised per date above… I don’t do this, it’s just what I hear other architects do.

 

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Design On,

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* Please don’t attempt to apply to a history course, ARE, IDP, etc. you’ll fail! I’ve been careless on properly referencing the images to their source… meaning I haven’t and just copied from googles’ image search engine. Inform me if I’ve used any copywritten images and I’ll remove them and feel a bit remorse


A lot of other professions use the title ‘Architect,’ for many its sacrilegious. I have mixed opinions on the ‘title issue’ as there are more pressing matters facing the profession. However, I’m pretty good at turning situations about face. I’m going to start pilfering other professions titles and terminology and get in the game. As the kids say, “Don’t hate the playa, hate da game!” They still say that, right… right?

 

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Design On,

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Keith Palma, NCARB, LEED AP, MBA, MD, DDS, JD, IT Specialist, PHD, CPA, Sc. D., Architect (the kind that designs the buildings that the other ‘Architects’ work/live in)

* Originally posted July 31 2013 + February 04 2015, edited/revised per date above- we’ve added more humor! Photos from photostream on FLICKR and have been used under the creative commons license, in order erik ERXON , Herry Lawford, and remainder from Matthew Burpee