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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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