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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Architectural Education Dialogue: Part 3

The following comments sparked some thoughts that I hope will add to the dialogue. The comments are in quotes and the thoughts are in italics.

“…In fact, the mere mention of the other more successful education/practice models of Engineering & Medicine is quite a relief.”

The distinguishing feature of these models, in my opinion, is not the quality of practice taught, but the research path that can be chosen to support the continuing improvement of practice. The result is acknowledged public benefit and willingness to support further effort. Architecture has no comparable career choice that can not only improve its relevance, credibility and contribution; but prove its public benefit beyond code compliance. This is one reason why I have created tools that can be used to build convincing physical, social, psychological and economic arguments in support of architecture and city design. It all depends on an improved understanding of urban intensity and its architectural implications, in my opinion. Symbiotic functions and sustainable activity will be a future benefit from engineering and scientific correlation. In the meantime, practice relevance, credibility and contribution will benefit from association with the goal. This is the lesson from engineering, law and medicine.

“…It can be argued that schematic design alone influences everything else …”

This statement has a flaw that is corrected by the later comment, “…Good schematic design relies on a wealth of pre-design knowledge….” Don’t forget programming, research, and development capacity evaluation that provides “intelligence”. Schematic design provides leadership based on intelligence. There will always be a tremendous urge to rush to schematic design, but this is like storming the beach without a plan. I’ll paraphrase a famous Eisenhower quote: You can’t attack without a plan, but it changes as soon as you hit the beach. This is because the plan is a prototype, just like architecture; and is why addenda and change orders are inevitable on the road to success. This is a reality we must defend with explanation. It is only an embarrassment when it becomes excessive.

“…Good schematic design relies on a wealth of pre-design knowledge…”

This is the heart of the issue. What do we need to know to be relevant and credible to both client and community? I would not overemphasize schematic design, however. This demeans the entire effort, which is intended to produce a contract for construction. Schematic design is a leadership tool, but it will fail without a sound management strategy.

“…the better coordinated the CD's are; the more cost effective it is to build, the higher the architect's compensation and public trust in the profession.”

I believe higher compensation and public trust will be a function of the public benefit perceived and acknowledged. Contract documents are taken for granted. Cost containment is difficult to prove. “On time and on budget” is a claim made by all competitors. I don’t believe they have been, nor will be, successful arguments for higher fees. There is just too little ability to distinguish quality and too much competition. Higher fees will be justified when there is better organization and greater recognition of the public benefit received from private effort. This is one reason why I have emphasized the link between architecture and city design based on a goal and advanced education. In the meantime we must eat. This is why there is a distinction between practice and research in all professions that serve the public.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Other Architectural Puzzle

The most common form of architectural problem involves land area that is given, but in some cases the land area is unknown and the gross building area objective has been defined. If I were to guess, this condition is encountered far less frequently, but there is an entire series of forecast models devoted to predicting land area solutions when gross building area GBA is known and height is an option. They are included in software entitled, Development Capacity Evaluation, v.2 that is attached to a book/ manual entitled, Land Development Calculations, 2.e, McGraw-Hill, 2009. The forecast model CG1B is included as an example and labeled Figure 1. The “C” stands for all non-residential land uses. The composite “G1” indicates the design category, which in this case is grade parking around, but not under, the building. The “B” indicates that the gross building area is given. 

The design specification template in Fig 1 is used to enter given information. Data entry locations are indicated with boxes containing bold and blue typeface. The values entered can be changed at will to test an unlimited number of design options. The project open space value (S) and the parking values (s) and (a) produce the most noticeable forecast changes when altered. 

The planning forecast panel below the template also contains a data entry column that permits floor options FLR to be tested beyond those listed. The number of floors contemplated is a design variable that also produces significant changes in the buildable land area needed. 

Figure 1: Forecast Model CG1B 

The term “buildable land area” BLA and BAC were not casual references; and the term “gross buildable land area” GBLA in this context includes right-of-way dedication and future expansion area estimates. The total land area TLA that must be purchased can be significantly different from the gross buildable land area needed GBLA. Such things as ponds, ravines, historic reserves, extreme topography and unstable soil must be subtracted from the TLA to define the GBLA remaining for the purposes anticipated. These areas cannot be predicted by forecast models, but must be included in any final analysis of the potential site location and area needed.

Finally, my essay, “Taking the Pulse of Architecture”, suggested the following equation to define architectural intensity:  

I = GBA / (S*BLA) 

In this equation, “I” is intensity. “GBA” is in sq. ft. “BLA” is in sq. ft., and “S” is project open space expressed as a percentage of the BLA provided. BLA does not include rights-of-way and future expansion areas.

Intensity statistics INT are reported in the right hand column of Fig 1. 

The line drawn under the five story statistics in the planning forecast panel indicates that anything greater than five stories produces a negligible increase in GBA for the G1 design premise under consideration. I have explained these relationships in “Replacing Density” and “The Limits of Shelter Capacity”. 

The entire list of forecast models available can be found on pages 4-6 of the book mentioned above and can be previewed on The intensity equation mentioned above is an improvement, however, and this version is not calculated in the forecast models mentioned.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Architectural Education Dialogue: Part 2

A number of recent comments have caused me to reflect on some personal assumptions that have become personal opinions without my knowledge. These are the most dangerous. They hide in plain sight without further examination. The comments are in bulleted quotes. My response is in italics below each. 

·         “…I think first and foremost, it needs to be recognized that not all schools of architecture are the same despite NAAB student performance criteria which establish a loosely defined set of minimum standards for architectural education…I have had the good fortune of teaching at three architecture programs to date. All of which have very different strengths and consequently send three very different sets of graduates into the profession.” 

o   I have always assumed that the blanket term “architectural education” meant an education to “practice” architecture. In fact, my first reaction was to say that it was unfortunate that a minimum level of professional competence is not being uniformly provided to every student. After reflection, I realized there are a number of specialized architectural areas that do not require a license to practice such as, but not limited to: history, planning, education, government, construction management, property management, specifications, working drawings, contracts, bidding, field representation, rendering, model making, etc. It makes sense to have different programs suit different objectives, but I suggest that educational advertisements clearly explain these distinctions to prospective students and parents, if they don’t already. This would make “architectural practice” a specialty and its formal education “pre-architecture”, since “practice” programs depend on internship employment that may not be available, thus making the final “architectural practice” goal unattainable.  

·         “…One emphasized graphic communication and craft… but in terms of technical knowledge - specifically technology knowledge needed to tackle issues of sustainability - and social issues (who were they designing for and how) graduates from this program were lacking.” 

o   Sustainability is a common concern with as many facets as there are sciences, professions and technical specialties. I’ve struggled with this term for a very long time, from an architectural perspective; and would like to suggest that it begins with geographic limits for a built environment that protect its source of life. The built environment is a physical presence (urban form) that is woven together with space. This space creates composition that includes shelter, movement, open space and life support systems. The land use allocation of activity, space and intensity determines the level of economic stability present. The composition and context of activity, space, intensity, form and appearance determines social and psychological reaction. The resources consumed and replenished by this composition determine its relationship to the planet’s ecological system. When urban form expresses symbiotic function, we will be closer to rejoining the system we have abandoned.  I’ve called these “city design” issues, and referred to solutions as the “city design of urban form”. It is part of an ecological puzzle with many shelter pieces that cannot be ignored, since shelter that consumes its source of life is a parasite that must adapt to survive.  

·         “…Unfortunately, graphic communication can be hit or miss in this program leaving students with a limited ability to communicate their ideas and concepts to others clearly.” 

o   Graphic communication is like handwriting. It does not guarantee knowledge and logic. Public and private clients generally notice when it’s snowing in the room. The public frequently demands proof in debate. At this point, appearance is rarely an adequate defense. The entire issue of knowledge, logic, presentation and debate is a vast undeveloped area of the profession, in my opinion.  

·         “…Finally, the third school strives to balance making…and…technical proficiency…. When trying to balance all of these issues, it is difficult to make the students truly excellent in all areas." 

o   Architectural practice uses knowledge and logic to correlate technical information, evaluate options, reach decisions, offer recommendations and make contract documents for prototype construction. “Making” and technical proficiency are inseparable elements of basic practice skills, in my opinion.  

·         “…All of these schools meet the NAAB criteria (in two cases they are model schools and have repeatedly been given full six-year accreditation terms), but all could be accused of not creating "competent" interns in one way or another.” 

o   This comment assumes that architectural practice is the goal. If it is, then one strategy should be planned with tactics designed to achieve each objective, in my opinion. 

·         “…To be frank, I don't think the current education/internship/licensing process can be simply adjusted to better prepare students for the profession and create a clear path to licensure.”  

o   I couldn’t agree more, but licensure is an objective and practice may not be the goal. It might help to back up and examine all assumptions at this point. 

·         “…My suggestion would be model architecture education/internship/licensure after engineering.” 

o   Let me suggest that a practicing architect could be an engineer with advanced training. I don’t think the PE model goes far enough. It can be a customized technical foundation that leads to EIT eligibility for those who go no further, but it does not extend to the correlation responsibilities of architectural practice. 

·         “...This would put a greater responsibility on academia to make sure students were prepared for this exam.”  

o   A worthy objective when the goal is architectural practice. 

·         "...At the same time, it would put a greater responsibility on the students to make sure they were prepared for the exam and internship.” 

o   This again assumes that practice is the goal. I believe that practice education should make the graduate immediately eligible for licensure. If it doesn’t, it is not a complete education, in my opinion. I agree with the concept of internship, but I like the medical model. It does not withhold the title “doctor”. It simply withholds eligibility forindependent private practice until completion.  

·         “…Finally, the second comprehensive exam should be given at the end of the internship. Again, the comprehensive nature of this exam will require interns to have had a diverse set of experiences at a firm to do well. These TWO exams will enforce academia and practice to make sure that students and interns are prepared for practice.” 

o   Internship is required for licensure. This is based on the assumption that a graduate architect can find employment to complete these requirements. I believe this is an unstable foundation for the profession and a burden the student does not fully appreciate, even when told. Exams are a secondary obstacle that I believe are overdone to compensate for insecurity with the practice preparation structure.  

·         “…I am not sure why architecture has deviated from the engineering model. I'm happy to hear your thoughts.” 

o    Engineering has limited technical objectives distinguished by the adjective applied, such as civil, mechanical, structural, electrical, environmental etc. Architects have broad general objectives that involve the correlation and bonding of independent technical information. They evaluate options, guide efforts, and weave decisions into a coordinated set of contract documents for prototype construction. This adds management and leadership complexity to technical decisions that would otherwise remain isolated. I would not say that architectural practice has “deviated” from the engineering model. I would argue that it has expanded to accommodate the need for leadership correlation. I have also argued that even this does not go far enough. The issue of survival involves ecology that is the ultimate form of correlation, and shelter is part of the symbiotic equation. From this perspective, architectural practice must expand to correlate science with engineering in an effort to produce symbiotic cities that do not compromise our quality of life; but this will remain an altruistic dream until the reward is worth the sacrifice.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Architectural Education Dialogue: Part 1

It appears there is little enthusiasm for the topic of architectural education. It may be that everyone is exhausted. The topic has been around for as long as I've been around. Degree requirements have been added for license eligibility. Eligibility after 8 years of experience with a high school education has been dropped and a 5 year program has changed to a 4+2 program. Continuing education has been added. Three years of apprenticeship, now called internship, remain. The title "architect" is still withheld after graduation. These changes were thought to address substance but have not produced a more successful profession. They have added burden, expense and frustration while reducing return on investment and attraction, in my opinion.

Change begins with a goal. If it is a professional goal, it must involve some form of essential, acknowledged public benefit and private reward in return for the sacrifice. (Again, in my opinion) Neither has been achieved and attraction to architecture may be in decline at a time when a much greater public need is emerging. I have suggested a goal in my three "Harnessing" essays and won't bore you with repetition, but I don't believe "tinkering" is an answer. The answer involves attitude adjustment and integrated solutions, but everyone may be exhausted by the lack of consensus.

At the present time, architecture does not build knowledge. It borrows knowledge and does a poor job of teaching correlation. Pessimism is pervasive. Optimism will emerge with desire and confidence in a new approach based on new polices goals and objectives. My three "Harnessing" essays were an attempt to start the conversation. My following responses to four comments represent part of this continuing dialogue.

·         “…what's important enough for NAAB to mandate that every school teach every student, and how much room should schools have to provide unique content and individual students have to create their own paths?”

o   What is important are minimum qualifications to protect the public health, safety and welfare. The unique paths of the past led us to cities and buildings that were a threat to these fundamentals. The journey continues with environmental awareness and a symbiotic mandate, but we must learn to walk before we can follow the random path of discovery.

·         “…I have suggested that NAAB have a bare minimum of hard requirements (i.e., that we change and improve the existing curriculum by replacing required courses with electives), and that schools and students be allowed significant room to customize their programs.”

o   This does not seem responsible to the public or the student. If professional architects cannot define the education required, how will a student define an education of value that protects the client and the public?

·         “I believe that this diversity of knowledge and interest strengthens the overall profession far more than graduating wave after wave of competent graduates taking most of the same courses.”

o   This indicates that “diversity of knowledge” is preferred over “competent graduates”. It reminds me of pre-law education. If this is the objective, then the student’s education should be labeled “pre-architecture”. Any other name would be a deceptive indication of practice and license qualification, in my opinion.

·         “NCARB's formal internship program is as much a part of the education and training of architects as ACSA members' accredited degree programs are. Yet there is no Accreditation Review Conference for internship, and no National Architectural Internship Board to complement NAAB. Why not?”

o   Unfortunately, this is very true. The lack of “competent graduates” has forced NCARB to place a great burden on private offices. Many are not prepared for the task, nor are many of the “teachers” compensated as tenured full professors with lifetime retirement benefits. I don’t believe that shifting the burden of educating competent architects to private offices is a solution. The offices will simply refuse to offer the programs when low salaries fail to subsidize the cost or when the office fails to remain viable. This is an unstable platform for a profession that seeks to provide shelter within cities to protect the quality and source of life for growing populations.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Harnessing the Architectural Curriculum: Part 3

I mentioned a high-rise decision in Part 2. It was meant as an analogy to an educational decision that leads to more detailed curriculum structure and course selection, but what led to the high-rise decision? Was it part of a larger city design plan for urban form woven together with open space for public benefit? Was it simply opinion based on unique experience and proprietary evaluation? 

Opinion always fills a vacuum, and it depends on the credibility of underlying knowledge. Scientific credibility is in the forefront followed by medical credibility. Political credibility is last. Its facts are unreliable and knowledge is often abused. Architectural credibility is somewhere in the field. Its decisions have been labeled “fine art”; it involves prototype design without fixed cost reliability; and is expressed with contract documents scrutinized for potential change orders at inflated prices after contract agreement. This is not a healthy formula for the prototypes needed to provide symbiotic shelter within sustainable geographic limits. I’ll label this goal 3SGL for convenience. It’s based on a political policy to protect our quality and source of life. This is a universal policy that has many detractors for many reasons, but is the only path to the protection of life as we know it – in my opinion.
In the case of architecture, I’ve argued that the “high-rise” decision should be made within growth limits for the built domain, and on the development capacity evaluation of shelter options within the built environment, which does not include agriculture in the built domain. I’ve called this the city design of urban form. It is the foundation for physical, social, psychological and economic stability, in my opinion; and is focused on the 3SGL goal. This goal is meant to protect both our source and quality of life when pursuing the protection of public health, safety and welfare. Ecology, wrapped up in the term “environment”, has been a monumental “welfare” oversight promoted by our present concept of property ownership, freedom and construction -- again, in my opinion.
My apparent digression from education is meant to argue that city design is an unrecognized public necessity. It is currently limited by the concepts of two-dimensional land use and project architecture. If we are to protect our source of life, land use must be recognized as a three-dimensional problem within ecological limits; and that development capacity evaluation is a rational way to allocate land use activity, building mass, pavement, and open space within these limits. I’ve called the resulting urban form an expression of intensity design decisions and labeled these decisions “city design”. The final form and appearance of these decisions will reflect the success achieved.
It’s up to traditional architecture to transform each massing objective into the form and function of symbiotic shelter, but this is only part of the problem. Architecture can be qualified to make city design decisions with the right research and educational background. This can lead us toward the 3SGL goal. It’s what I have in mind when discussing the public benefit of a doctorate in architecture -- and the curriculum structure and content needed to take us there with reward to the intrepid few who dare to travel.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Harnessing the Architectural Curriculum: Part 2

I’ve been distracted by course lists and claims that architectural education does not need reform. I’m returning to “Core Issues: Part 1” and “Harnessing the Architectural Curriculum: Part 1” to get back on track. I don’t believe my comments represent a final solution, but hope they expose new avenues of approach to the issue. It comes down to our goal. As an example, if the goal is to build a high rise, structure and detail follow. I’ve been suggesting that our architectural goal is symbiotic shelter within sustainable geographic limits. Educational structure and detail follow, but we must build institutional, educational, business and professional models that provide a decent return on this investment in an architectural goal.

My suggestion has been to structure architectural course consideration around a three tier educational format that leads to versatile employment opportunities. The format emphasizes joint educational programs. It begins with a joint Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and architecture that leads to PE qualification. It continues with a joint Master’s degree in business and architecture that leads to management and leadership qualification. It ends with an interdisciplinary doctoral degree in arts and science that focuses on adapting our cities, buildings, and behavior to the fundamental ecological laws of survival. It also includes an internship program that begins with formal education and extends beyond, but does not withhold licensing qualification and designation as an architect after graduation. It assumes employment agreements that respect the qualifications acquired.

Architecture as I’ve known it has been a monumental challenge. I haven’t simplified things. I’ve attempted to focus the effort on a goal with clearly understood public benefit that increases demand, credibility, and the chances of human survival.

We can’t do it alone. Doctors depend on nurses. Lawyers depend on paralegals. We cannibalize our profession because architects, including graduate architects, need work. It’s a source of increasing frustration. We turn architects into draftsmen and direct them into specialties that were never an interest. We have to sort this out before education has a chance. One focus is not the answer. Too many expectations end in disappointment. This is why I suggested joint educational programs within a three tier structure, but I didn’t address technical support. This is a parallel issue that I have rarely seen discussed because manpower is so plentiful, but an office full of architects can be full of frustration. 

I still believe the goal is symbiotic shelter within sustainable geographic limits, but have become increasingly aware that it is not simply a political, planning, and scientific issue. Unfortunately, architects are not organized, mobilized or trained to address a threat that is still below the horizon of awareness for many. This means the first goal is awareness. The second is direction. The third is training, and the fourth is benefit. You could label awareness, direction and training as “education”, but benefit will require leadership.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Harnessing the Architectural Curriculum: Part 1

The institutional and educational divisions of architecture influence the business and professional divisions, but they are not united by a common goal. If a poll were conducted, my bet is there would be more than one definition. It’s difficult to rally division goals around an absent flag. I’ve had the temerity to suggest a common flag in the past and will rephrase it here.

OPINION 1: The strength of a profession is based on its perceived public contribution.

PUBLIC POLICY SUGGESTION: To protect the source and quality of life for all populations

CITY DESIGN GOAL: To plan for urban massing that provides shelter and contributes to quality of life for a growing human population within sustainable geographic limits.

ARCHITECTURAL GOAL: To define massing objectives with building form and appearance that encloses symbiotic functions

OPINION 2: I believe this policy is part of an  environmental threshold we must reach to survive. For those who agree, the public benefit of the specific goals is obvious; but the knowledge, skills and tools available must be improved.

ARCHITECTURAL STRATEGY involves the planning and deployment of division effort to achieve a common goal. Each of the four divisions mentioned above must contribute its unique focus to serve the common goal. Since education is the topic, I’ll suggest a division objective to get the ball rolling.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVE: a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral program of teaching and research designed to expand the profession’s contribution to public benefit.

OPINION 3: If education provides an inadequate return on investment and feeds a declining market, public and private benefit will suffer from a limited interest in the sacrifice required.

In this suggestion, the educational objective focuses on the architectural goal and is supported by a curriculum organized in stages to build knowledge, ability, and employment opportunity. This is why I have suggested links to IT, PE, MBA, and JD education for related employment opportunities and a Doctor of Architecture as the only degree eligible for a license.

OPINION 4: Curriculum is not a goal or an objective. It is a program of effort required to achieve an educational objective. In this case the objective is meant to support the architectural goal.

Educational management organizes the curriculum and performance monitoring required. This involves another set of objectives.

Educational execution teaches the curriculum knowledge assembled and involves a separate set of objectives.

Educational research expands the curriculum knowledge available with its own set of objectives.

All of the four divisions first mentioned need a common goal before they can form their own objectives, programs and activities to contribute. We will continue to drive in circles, however, debating hundreds of curriculum details that don’t come up to this level of leadership -- until we decide where we want to go.


I liked John Missell’s latest curriculum comments under this title and would like to add a few of my own.

I don’t think that architects are perceived as “…leaders exhibiting superior qualities that have perceived value by society.” This is the political and technical problem, in my opinion. Architects have become servants to a system that does not appreciate their value, and they have little ability to alter the equation because they have less power to change the conditions created. Adaptation will require political support for a goal that makes public benefit from private practice not only evident but desirable.

I liked the term “employable proficiency”, but would like to add the word “versatile” in these turbulent economic times. Versatility is needed to face the economic cycle that confronts architecture, since education that does not respond will face declining enrollment and continue to provide students with limited employment opportunities and a poor return on investment, in my opinion.

A few other quotes caught my attention, so I’ve attached brief comments in italics.

1. “Design as an investigation of the built environment on (emphasis added) the natural environment.”

I would suggest substituting “in” for “on”. This simple preposition reveals the history of human dominance and the next level of environmental awareness required, in my opinion.

2. “…without a firm foundation in the engineering applied sciences you will be no leader…”

I wouldn’t go this far, but I do agree with the objective. It’s part of the new educational policy needed to correlate knowledge from related programs.

3. “History…There is little hope of contributing without fundamentally knowing what has gone on before … your work continues the story line of man.”

I couldn’t agree more. It’s a fundamental curriculum topic.

4. “Architects, as leaders, are useless as just design leaders. They must come into the marketplace with several years of understanding how businesses work…”

I agree, if this understanding includes leadership, management, and operations. It’s also part of the new educational policy needed to correlate knowledge from MBA programs.

5. “Professional practice - Leaders should leave school understanding the role and use of the various building and life safety codes, understanding the mechanics of zoning and planning ordinances, the AIA family of documents should be studied and the issue of "risk" should be understood fully; specifications and how they have evolved etc. This should be a multi-year requisite series of courses.”

Again, I agree. It’s another curriculum decision that will be a function of the time available.

“I think the design studios should be designed to embrace a broader investigation and approach than just a building typology…some very obscure notions.”

My impression is that “some very obscure notions” are often substituted for structured logic and convincing debate in defense of a design proposal. The real world expects to be convinced and doesn’t believe “it just doesn’t understand” obscure notions. Speech, debate, and logic should be part of a new educational program to improve the public perception of a very complex, creative thought process.

You didn’t mention electronic information systems, but I think you will agree that they’re also part of the new educational policy needed to correlate knowledge from IT programs.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


The following correspondence was generated by “Core Issues: Part 1”

June 6, 2012: Reply to Dr. Peter Magyar, RIBA

I can’t ignore an avid reader. It’s good to know I have one!

I use the term “city design” to honor a graduate degree professor who promoted this program. His name was Rudolf Frankel and a current professor has written a book about his achievements before, during, and after WWII. His program was my first exposure to the word “conurbation”. I understand the distinction you’re making with the words “macro scale”, since cities have become political lines on a map of sprawl, but we have a hard time explaining ourselves to the public as it is. We need to connect and the words “macro scale” are even less connective than “conurbation”, in my opinion.

The word “urban design” has always meant work on city segments or districts to me. In my mind, it’s smaller in scale than “city design” and doesn’t come close to the settlements whose sprawl threatens our source of life. This shelter must be organized into symbiotic areas for survival. Intensity options and functions must protect our quality of life within these limits. The limits themselves must preserve our source of life. Perhaps the term should be “symbiotic design”. The phrase defines an architectural goal in the public interest, but is also a term they must digest.

If you want to attach the word “saturation” to the word “intensity” it makes me fear that I have not gotten my point across. I avoided the term “intensity” originally because it does not presently convey the spectrum of options available. It has a very negative connotation in our culture; while in architecture the intensity of shelter on a two square mile farm is at one end of the spectrum and high-rise buildings are at the other. In this context, combining “saturation” with “intensity” would simply elevate the public fear factor, in my opinion. This has caused me to reconsider my off-hand remark about re-titling my book “Intensity”. I don’t know that I will be totally happy with any title, but I’ve been most happy with the software title, “Development Capacity Evaluation, v.2”. I thought of it long after the book title was set, or would have given both the same name.

I take the use of a word seriously since it conveys a message, and appreciate your comments in this regard. I’ve had fun considering them since connecting with the public is one of our greatest challenges.

June 6, 2012: Reply to John Missell, AIA (message included below)

I don't think your issues are addressed in the current educational format. They're some reasons why I believe we must adapt, but all problems can't be solved with education.

Part of your issue relates to cost estimation and the power to produce, particularly the CM issue you raise. I can't see this changing without greater political emphasis on the public benefit compromised with the present approach (sprawl/symbiotic deterioration), and greater architectural ability to offer an alternative. Imagine Roosevelt and Patton without Marshall and Eisenhower and you have an analogy to the present leadership of architecture.

On the employment front, architectural education is too specialized to qualify for broad employment opportunities and too inadequate to qualify for licensure and partnership. I don't have answers so I'll throw out some ideas to start the conversation.

Consider a Bachelor's degree that qualifies an architect as a civil engineer; a master's degree with a legal and MBA emphasis; a Doctorate that qualifies him/her as an architect and symbiotic planner; licensing that does not attempt to compensate for inadequate education; internship that does not withhold the title "architect"; and some form of partnership employment agreement at the end of the tunnel. It must be worth his/her effort, and this means the drafting room must be filled with qualified technicians. History and design would be threaded through the entire program.

The intent behind these steps is: (1) To create a unique interdisciplinary program with an engineering foundation that emphasizes correlation rather than specialization; and (2) To expand employment opportunities at the end of each educational phase.

Beyond this, a doctor may choose to specialize in any of the vast number of architectural/engineering segments involved, but his/her family will not be committed to a dry oasis.

The current architectural models have combined to produce a group of warring city-states. It's time to form a united government.

June 5, 2012: From John Missell, AIA

Walter and Peter: The engineering world and / or the large E/A or A/E firms are devouring our profession. I fully understand your thinking about architectural teaching and what's appropriate but it still is "Architect centered" and this may not be a reality in 10 years - or even now. Then what ? I think continuing to address architecture students like they are going to be the team lead or the master builder is a disservice to them and still doesn't re-orient architectural programs in alignment with the reality of the profession and how to get and stay employed. I was contacted by a corporate recruiter 2 years ago to see if I would be interested in taking on a position as chief of party for an international US funded program that was new and renovated public buildings in the Middle East. It was scheduled to be a 5 year program. It was a building type I have significant experience with. The firm that hired the recruiter was delighted with our interviews, my resume and knowledge of how to prosecute a large multi-year, multi-disciplinary capital plan and this firm is internationally known. The funding agency wanted a civil engineer in the chief of party position even if the individual has no experience with the building type. They were not even willing to consider a substitute based on expertise and references. What does this say ? Although I can't reveal the players, these are major players that anyone would recognize. The same is happening in the US. It is common now for the construction manager is hired before the architect and in fact as "the owner representative" participates in the architectural selection. I have worked in those relationships and they are conducted quite differently from our standard AIA approach to contract execution. Frequently the architect in these situations bears all the blame and the CM receives all the credit - and a substantially larger set of fees. Are we going to explain this reality of relations in architecture programs? If the teaching doesn't in some way capture the reality we might as well leave the higher educational institutions alone. The profession has changed in a serious ways - how is this addressed in the educational process?

June 5, 2012: Reply to Peter Papesch, AIA

Your e-mail caught my eye and I’ve spent the last two hours responding. I haven’t read your work yet since I’ve been preoccupied with the quote.

“My main thrust is the interdisciplinary collaboration training of prospective building sector professionals in order to become proficient in climate change mitigation…”

-----Peter Papesch, AIA, June, 2012

I agree that the educational focus for architecture must include interdisciplinary training. Without it, correlation of technical options is impossible. Architecture can’t possibly be technically proficient in all of the disciplines involved, however. The tendency has been to try, but proficiency is not the objective. The objective is to identify system attributes for evaluation, correlation, and integration in shelter that protects its source of life. Architecture needs references that stress system evaluation, correlation, and integration; but we have borrowed technical books from other disciplines that do not suit our purpose, in my opinion.

Your focus is on climate change. Mine is on land use allocation, economic stability, and natural preservation based on an understanding of shelter intensity options and implications. They are both pieces of a puzzle that must be solved to survive, but we can’t find integrated solutions when we focus on independent technical ability. We only feel inadequate when we try.

Our goal involves the correlation of technical effort to produce symbiotic shelter that protects our quality and source of life. We cannot survive without adequate, integrated solutions.

Each technical discipline is a tree in the forest. It’s up to architecture to see the forest and correlate the trees with symbiotic design. This will require an entirely new focus on research, knowledge creation, and textbook assembly to support interdisciplinary solutions. This is when form will follow the functions required to survive. It is the law Sullivan mentioned at the end of his famous quote, and the environment Ruskin anticipated from Victorian England. It’s been a long journey from the architecture of Imhotep, Ictinus, Vitruvius, Viollet-le-Duc, and Alberti when shelter for growth without end meant survival and plague threatened extinction.

My software CD and book/manual represent an attempt to contribute an interdisciplinary language of architectural intensity equal to the challenge of population growth. The problem of growth is a worthy challenge for architecture, since climate will change if we do not correlate an interdisciplinary solution. I can think of no greater public benefit from a Doctor of Architecture.

June 4, 2012: Reply to Peter Papesch, AIA

I have long felt that architecture is not supported by the right format, but know that a Doctorate in Architecture has to be worth the effort, convey more than a credential to teach, and be recognized as a public benefit. At the end of the process an internship may be required, but a license and the title “architect” should not be withheld during the time period nor taken away at retirement. Some form of partnership agreement should also be the basis for employment. These criteria may get everyone to take the issue of making an architect seriously.


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2013 National Architectural Accreditation Board Conference Preparation 

“Does it matter if we alter education if at the end the economy and market forces will come to bear and change the situation for us?” -- Tara Imani, AIA summary of Brian Szymanic, AIA comments

We are not helpless. We are creative and must use the gift to adapt our performance models to the economic climate, but there has to be a willingness to consider change equal to the scope of the problem. Without this commitment, decline will continue based on predatory fee competition and cheap, unqualified but intelligent, labor that has been sold a dream many finally conclude is a mirage.

There are so many deficient areas in architecture that it’s hard to focus on root causes because of the distraction, but I’ll suggest five: (1) the education model; (2) the business model, (3) the institution model, (4) the political model, and (5) the practice model. The practice model has received the most attention, but improving practice by adding qualification requirements to compensate for deficient education does not make sense. It simply contributes to decline. The investment in knowledge, licensing, and continuing education must be worth the effort. Many have been questioning these models for a long time, but few have been listening.

First, let’s try to avoid the distraction of vocabulary. Medicine is a vocation. Medical school is a vocational school. The same applies to law and engineering. Its time architecture became a vocational school of equal caliber. Architectural practice must be supported by academic research and education that improves the tools, skills and performance of the practitioner. For some reason, architecture has resisted this definition during my lifetime in my opinion. I can think of many reasons, but won’t mention conjecture.

I have heard architecture referred to as a “fine art” for as long as I can remember. It was in the School of Fine Art at my university, but we were told we were studying for a “professional” degree. I have recently heard it referred to as a “liberal art”. Liberal art seems more appropriate than fine art because it implies less professional training. I simply can’t believe that some students are not trained to use computers and relevant software as part of their architectural education. From this perspective, both terms are less deceptive than the term “professional degree”.

In my opinion, architecture is an applied science that has lost its way. The problems begin with: (1) the educational ladder of teaching and research designed to build knowledge and convey professional skill; (2) the business model of competition that cannibalizes collective professional benefit; (3) the institutional model that is distracted by a forest of detail and depends on the business model for support; (4) the political model that perceives public benefit as a threat to individual freedom; and (5) the practice model that is expected to compensate for all deficiencies. Dependence on the practice model is like expecting your family doctor to come up with the Salk vaccine and share it with his/her competitors.

John Ruskin believed that the seven moral categories, or “lamps” of architecture, were: sacrifice, truth, power, beauty, life, memory and obedience. This is quite a departure from Vitruvius, and Ruskin was on the road to environmentalism; but I’ll leave this history to the reader. My purpose is to suggest that a number of core issues must be in place before modern architecture can build an adequate foundation for the ideals of many like Ruskin.

I’ve written a number of essays on core issues 1, 2, 4, and 5. I’ve ignored (3) but consider the AIAKnowledgeNet a great way to reach out to the entire profession, and beyond; since membership is not required for participation. All of these essays are available on my web sites and

If we can agree on the core issues, it may help us focus our creativity on the detail required to define solutions.

I’ve dusted off an essay entitled, “Architectural Education: Part 2”, for this note. I wrote it in October, 2011 and am including a portion here to complete my comments. I’m also including a previous reply to Brian Szymanic that was more generic.

“…In the traditional three phase format of higher education, the first priority of education for a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture should be consistent employment through turbulent economic times. It should leave students with a design introduction and flexible technical skills that can adapt to shifting employment opportunities. I will stay away from curriculum suggestions because debate over detail will overwhelm the goal suggested. A master’s degree should leave them with advanced design skills, management skills and flexible employment opportunities. A doctoral degree should leave them with professional design skills as well as research, practice, teaching, and licensure opportunities. If this doesn’t provide a decent return on investment however, it will simply represent more commitment to sacrifice while others profit from the effort. This is becoming increasingly less acceptable to those who must struggle in an economically unstable world.

The devil is in the detail and I have avoided curriculum for that reason. A debate over detail will overwhelm the goals suggested, but the relationship of economic issues, employment opportunities, practice standards and research emphasis must be resolved by educators, institutions and government before architects can make the contributions needed to shelter growing populations within sustainable environmental limits. This is critical because solutions must not threaten a population’s quality of life with excessive intensity. Private interest is simply not equal to the effort required, but is capable of participation. If this is the goal, then we need more architects, not less; but the market is undeveloped because the need for city design is not recognized.

City design begins with geographic limits for a Built Domain that includes agriculture and protects the primacy of the Natural Domain. The Built Environment expands within the limits of a Built Domain. In my opinion, this is the only realistic concept on a finite planet with limited resources, and it requires extensive collaboration and political acceptance for definition. After these limits are established, city design for the Built Environment will begin with development capacity evaluation and end with shelter, movement, open space and life support systems designed to protect a growing population’s quality of life. This is not an interest of development speculation, but it is in the public interest. Architecture can work to protect this public interest, and serve private interest; when it recognizes the need, creates the market and builds the knowledge and tools required.”


I’d like to refer you to my essay, “The First Priority of Architecture” in the COD and general blog categories. The words “allocation” and “correlation” are key terms in this text.

Correlation is a fundamental strength of architectural practice, but I’m not sure it’s recognized by education. Architects are no longer engineers, but education still emphasizes engineering detail when an architect’s contribution is to choose among system attributes for the best combined cost and benefit. In other words, if we keep sizing the beam we may overlook the most appropriate system. (I might also add that a complex building code could be reduced to a series of “what if” decision-making spreadsheets that improve accuracy and reduce time-consuming effort, but this is another evaluation topic.)

I believe it was Archimedes who began evaluating the strength of materials, but will not bother to confirm the credit for this note. His research began to answer architectural questions that eventually led to structural and mechanical engineering. Architects now correlate rather than calculate the engineering detail required to serve a client’s interest, but their system comparison references need improvement.

Architectural practice is about decision-making that is legally and diplomatically referred to as “recommendations”. The challenge is to reduce the time and improve the quality of these decisions and their definition. The options to consider have entered a new dimension of symbiotic science, however; while we struggle to correlate old systems and issues in a timely and credible manner.

The need to correlate shelter decisions has expanded from architecture and engineering. It now includes the allocation of economically sustainable land use categories and activities within symbiotic limits. This can only be accomplished with a thorough understanding of intensity options and implications. Shelter is an essential element of survival, but sprawl consumes its source of life and excessive intensity reduces our quality of life. This is why I’ve added “allocation” to “correlation” in the list of architectural challenges, since allocation of activity and intensity options to shelter population growth within symbiotic limits is a public mission with a political message. This message is one that can add credibility to the educational, business, institutional and practice interests of architecture.

I’ve written Development Capacity Evaluation, v.2 software to assist architects and all other land design, development, evaluation and regulation professionals with this challenge. I’ve explained its use in the attached book / manual entitled, Land Development Calculations, ed.2, 2009 that is available from The McGraw-Hill Companies, and others. I should have titled the book, Intensity, and still think it’s a shelter topic that should be correlated with symbiotic science in the curriculum of all associated with this essential element of survival.