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Saturday, June 22, 2013


This previously appeared as "Reflections" but has been substantially edited.
The following are comments I’ve recently received. Comments always make me ponder and I hope the following responses are useful. I am attempting to grapple with the puzzle we call architecture because I believe it must contribute to the invention of symbiotic cities within a limited Built Domain that protects our quality and source of life. If it accepts this goal it may not only contribute, but lead the effort since coordination is a skill it takes for granted. This skill is now applied to tactical objectives, but leadership is a skill that is a function of the goal.

(We need) Ideas that can help architects find more productive, and rewarding, alternatives.

If I understand this comment, it means that our education and knowledge must become more valuable to a larger market. Shelter is an essential need that is developing into a sprawling threat to survival. This is a public threat and there is no larger market. Addressing this problem with a symbiotic goal and strategic research will make the contributions of architecture a public imperative. This can only be accomplished with an agenda that correlates the skills and knowledge of many related professions.

Medici quote: “We are not good enough. We must build like the Greeks and the Romans!”

A quote from another time when population growth was not an issue and appearance was mistaken for Greek and Roman knowledge. It discounted the artistic accomplishments and structural advances made during the Middle Ages, in my opinion. Leadership always requires a focus and the Medici’s provided one. Increasing awareness changes the focus and we borrow the term “adaptation” to describe the process.

Today the schools of architecture are ascendant, forwarding an increasingly irrelevant version of architecture.

I don’t think they are in ascendance beyond the internal policy levels of the profession. Enrollment has to be in decline (an assumption) because I think a growing percentage of the population is beginning to understand the poor return on an increasingly large investment. I don’t think they realize, however, that one reason for decline is the inconsistent and unfocused education provided. Another is a lack of research that adds relevant knowledge of increasing value to an expanding market area.

If we make environments and buildings that support human life and the specific goals of each project, and if we emphasize that as our primary goal, without downgrading in the least our aesthetic concerns, we will become much more important, and valued.

Built environments and buildings support human life but they sprawl to consume their source of life. A building is a tactical objective. Architecture needs a strategic goal to serve the public beyond its current client base, in my opinion.

There is no sustainability if the people and the built environment do not complement each other. It is time for architects to take back the mantle of built environmental sustainability based on our expertise about how people and buildings interact. We need to return the engineers to their rightful roles as supporters of this, the main mission.

I don’t think we ever donned the mantle of built environment sustainability. (Energy conservation is not a solution. It is a delaying tactic.) I also don’t believe we have a strategic goal and agenda at the present time.

People and buildings combine to produce levels of intensity and/or sprawl. The word “intensity” has not had a decent definition in my opinion, let alone research that would produce “expertise”. “Sprawl” occurs from annexation we do not recognize as another “Ponzi” scheme using the Natural Domain as its victim.

Engineers are not the enemy. I think at least a majority would agree with the need to achieve a symbiotic future, and they have the natural inclination to pursue the scientific research needed. We can lead by mobilizing opinion and coordinating the efforts of many related professions. This will require a symbiotic goal with a global perspective.

We are the experts at how people and architecture interact. That is why we should lead the team and that is what our schools need to teach.

We have not built the knowledge to become experts. We use intuition and expect opinion to be considered expertise. We are the leaders of a process that includes experts, and cost estimation is our Achilles’ heel. We have focused on talent that reflects opinion, but must improve our ability to support opinion with fact and logic. This means we must decide what we need to know based on a goal we wish to achieve. When we do, the goal may elevate tactical leadership to strategic leadership and education must support the goal.

We need to teach our students the “facts of architecture” and how to ferret out the client’s and community’s needs.

The neglect of “programming” in architectural education has been a great disservice where it has occurred since it involves the leadership question, “What do we need to know?”

A lifetime is too short for one person to learn all of the “facts” involved. That is why strategic leaders coordinate. Tactical leaders specialize.

Education must understand the difference between tactical skill and strategic leadership. It has not emphasized tactical skill or recognized the components of strategic leadership, in my opinion. The result has been haphazard, independent interpretation at each school of architecture, in my opinion.

Building and zoning codes are an essential part of architectural education. They are actually “friends” that can be used to defend decisions. They should not be ignored.

Leadership involves an evaluation of options and attributes, not a calculation of technical engineering detail. An architect is not an engineer. He must be trained for a purpose that is clearly understood within the profession and the population.

Everything for a reason, artfully done

Everything for a symbiotic reason – eventually. Appearance will follow and some will be considered fine art.

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