I’ve been into spy thrillers lately. Like good airport books, but I actually get them from Barnes and Noble or online. Daniel Silva, David Baldacci and Brad Taylor are three of my favorites. In interviews with prospective architects, I always ask the question, “Do you read and if so, what genre?” If the answer is “no,” I move on. If the answer is “books about architecture,“ I also typically move on. I prefer answers like, “biographies” or “science fiction” or anything other than the first two I mentioned. Reading says a lot about people. It makes them interesting and intelligent and actually does expand your vocabulary. I find that people who don’t read write poorly written emails. Put down the phone, turn off the TV and read a book.
As an architect, there is a certain type of satisfaction when working with non-profits. It requires an understanding of how to find a balance between providing a high quality product, but in a cost effective way. The clientele and/or staff must feel comfortable, but donors should be encouraged to give. Listening to the board with multiple opinions provides design input, but everyone cannot be pleased. It is important to determine what is most important for the most successful results without becoming overwhelmed with information. Regarding time, there should be a real commitment to provide the necessary time in order to get the project right, even if the fees may not be quite commensurate. It is our duty as architects and interior designers to make a non-profit project successful, maybe even more than other for-profit projects.
After working in this industry for over 25 years, though I hate to admit, I often think about Simon Cowell on American Idol (fyi, he’s not my favorite celebrity) saying to contestants, “You must be relevant.” What does that mean for an architect? It could mean different things. It could mean to adjust one’s design aesthetic, depending on the project’s location or costs or trends in the industry. It could mean focusing on different types of projects, whether residential, commercial, cultural or tenant finish outs, depending on the market. It could mean changing your source of revenues from architectural design to interiors to furniture procurement or even product design. It could mean updating your social media presence through your website, SEO or PR. We’ve done all of these periodically and consistently throughout the years. Never get too comfortable.
I recently came across Vincent Callebaut’s proposal for rebuilding Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. I had never visited the original, though we studied it intensely in architecture school. The church’s architectural history and impact on what I do for a living is priceless. After seeing the renderings produced by Callebaut’s firm, it became extremely apparent to me what this world needs right now. It needs more Vincent Callebauts. His brave and extremely risky design responds to both the need to rebuild a piece of long standing, passionate history and an acknowledgment that the world is changing. Religion is changing. The environment is changing. People are changing. His design addresses all those issues in one sweeping stroke of a pencil, or computer generated vector line, whatever worked in his office. His design reflects Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris’ nod to its religious architecture, while challenging historical norms and an inherent acceptance of what “has always been right.” He turns design on its head to reinvent what Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris’ architecture has kept tried and true throughout the years. By incorporating into the design a garden for homeless people to care for and an all glass ceiling to connect to the environment, he still respects the church’s shape and form in a brilliant manner. We right now do not need to start over in this world, as some may believe. We cannot go backward as some may wish. We need to take a look inside ourselves, be honest about our history, be brave about our future and be true to our soul. I can only hope that the powers that be select Callebaut’s design. It is truly spectacular.
We recently completed a restaurant project for an owner that wanted a space to function as both interior dining/bar and an exterior covered deck. How can a restaurant achieve both, one might ask? Through the use of materials suitable for exterior use like porcelain tile floors and cypress wood walls and a commercial line of outdoor furniture from a residentially known company, we achieved this duality of spaces. Glazing opens up the spaces and welcomes the outdoor environment inside. Sliding glass doors that disappear into a pocket give total flexibility to the space connecting it to an adjacent covered deck. When closed, they allow for a conditioned space, but visually allowing the patron to see outside. Large double glass doors stay open during temperate climates, but when closed, again remind diners where they are, close to the water. It is possible to achieve both types of spaces in one design.
The opportunity to work outside of one’s home state is often eye opening. No matter what field, expanding your knowledge to other parts of the country or world provides the ability to:
- Meet new people
- Witness physical or natural differences like mountains, lakes, oceans or plains
- Experience climatic changes like snow, dry heat or balmy tropical weather
… and for us as architects and interior designers, we get exposed to new aesthetic and architectural styles. We find the ability to broaden our comfort zone and design with new materials, new colors and new environments. Don’t be afraid to venture out into the world. Whether a plane ride or a road trip, the benefits outweigh any possible concerns.
In the world of construction, architecture and design, the word “change” has always been equated with another word, “order.” Change orders have always scared people and been directly related to additional costs. Whether a result of the architect or designer unilaterally making the change or the impression that the contractor was using it as an opportunity to charge the owner more money, it was never a positive word or term.
However, over time, I’ve come to realize that there are actually two other forms of, or use of, the word … “change.” There’s good change and there’s bad change.
Good change, which happens often, occurs when something does not go as expected, like an existing condition or an owner’s late night idea. Ultimately, a change is made in order to make the situation better or the detail work. This type of change, 99% of the time, has positive success and is better than the original idea or design.
The second change is negative. This type of change occurs due to lack of care or a deliberate choice to continue to make design modifications, layout revisions or construction decisions. The owner simply makes changes because they can, without regard for other consultants or team members and has little or no respect for the process of design or construction. Ultimately, these types of changes cost time, effort, and money with less than successful results and negatively impacting the final product.
Embrace change, at least the good kind. Other than that, move on and stop making changes.
The good news about the recession was that it weeded out the unnecessary draftsman, the incapable designer, and the architect that ultimately left the business. It, if nothing else, slowed down projects enough that, at least on the surface, kept good architecture alive and well.
However, now, we are starting to see bad design rear its ugly head again. Builders and designers (or non-designers), contractors and architects (or non-architects) are designing projects with little respect for context, the environment or in some cases, just simply color.
Let’s not forget what the last seven years taught us: that being conscientious and reserved in our approach to building and development and even design is not only appropriate for the project proforma, but also for the project’s aesthetic success.
We are falling into the same abyss this industry fell into in 2009 and 2010. Laborers are taking on jobs out of fear. Architects aren’t saying “no” and instead are agreeing to any project that comes across their desk. Developers are building too many of what they think is necessary and not what is necessary.
Step back, please … Remember that saying no and focusing on doing a good job rather than increasing productivity and earnings ultimately … increases productivity and earnings. Quality is king and, in the end, doing a good job for the right price on schedule is remembered years from now. Taking the money now and running without quality gets forgotten and ends up looking for another career.
In the Jewish religion, it is the New Year. Based on the Gregorian calendar, the year starts over around this time, providing Jews (and anyone else for that matter) to reflect over the last year or even one’s entire life, and to think about that past, but also look to the future.
It has been almost two years since I wrote my last blog post, so here we are, starting new. Architecture, by nature, is repetitive, cyclical, even sometimes dictated. Rarely does an architect have the opportunity to design something totally fresh and new. Rather, architects are reflective. We reinvent forms and styles and proportion, already given to us by history or nature into new ideas, reflecting our concepts, our design or our aesthetic desires.
Look around, and notice the reflective nature of buildings, not literally, but notice how the built environment reflects on forms or shapes or materials, often created within the architectural designs surrounding us.
~Barron Schimberg, AIA, LEED AP