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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Architectural Comments Worth Considering

Mr. Jonassen,
I’m afraid I haven’t kept up with all the AIA posts while working on my book. I just noticed your post on Dec. 19, 2014 and wrote the following recommendation.
I recommend that all architects ponder Mr. Jonassen's comments and his first sentence in particular. The remainder emphasizes the goals of a successful practice, which I also recommend; but a successful practice is a business achievement.
Mr. Jonassen mentions that the profession "...demonstrate(s) no specific purpose that resonates with clients." This is at the heart of the matter because the profession is the only forum that can focus on building and sharing common goals supported by the education, information, tools and knowledge needed for achievement in a competitive environment. Even if you agree with the concept, however, it is meaningless until adjustment is able to meet the challenge.
Mr. Jonassen’s comments posted Dec. 19, 2014:
The profession as a whole and many practices demonstrate no specific purpose that resonates with potential clients.
Those practices that find, profess and live a purpose in which clients sense an intellectual, financial and emotional connection generally get respect and work from those clients.
When the architect's purpose is limited to the minimum of mandated professional responsibility and great design, defined solely in aesthetic terms, the reach of client resonance is pretty limited. Those practices which believe and act on a purpose which includes achieving a high level of intellectual, emotional and financial value for clients generally succeed.
Of course this is not’s just true.

NOTE: Mr. Jonassen is a partner at the architectural firm NBBJ, Seattle.

Monday, February 9, 2015


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An architectural office is a city-state that competes with others for work. I have never had the impression that offices are very interested in sharing their competitive advantage, if it exists.

I have the impression that the architectural profession wishes to improve the public perception of its value in order to increase the work available to competing offices. This requires cooperation rather than competition.

At the risk of over-simplification, an office goal is to survive competition. A professional goal is to increase market share in an effort to protect the public interest.

It appears to me that the profession is struggling to develop an argument that will increase the public perception of its value in order to increase its market share, and has had difficulty achieving its goal by repeating the arguments of the past. It has also had difficulty defining research that will produce the tools and knowledge needed to improve this argument and the public perception that follows.

The Point

My point is that all must recognize the difference between practice goals and professional goals if they haven’t already. Professional goals improve the tools and knowledge that is shared by architectural practitioners. I agree that we must communicate with the public in terms they can understand. This is no different than a doctor talking to his patient, but it is a practice goal. The professional goal must be to improve the knowledge, education, tools and experience all practitioners can use to solve a problem of great public significance.

A medical analogy might help to make my point. The goal of the medical profession is to improve the tools, knowledge and treatment of injury and disease. The goal of a doctor is to successfully treat a patient with the education and experience provided.

In the case of architecture and city design, the problem is shelter within sustainable geographic limits without excessive intensity. This is the larger context that has great public significance, and the problem grows one project at a time in a pattern currently referred to as “sprawl”. A practitioner must be able to address a project. A profession must be able to address the problem before solutions can be found.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A FORK in the ROAD

This is a response to a conversation being held on the AIAKnowledgeNet.

I thank Mr. Singer, Mr. Graham and Mr. Hainsfurther for their words of reason. Emotion is often connected to reason with a thread of wisdom. It is not the path to knowledge but it can be a source of instinct, awareness, anticipation and inspiration. This is why I believe architecture is art and science, but it must earn this recognition. At the moment it appears to prefer art and faces another fork in the road.

One fork continues with the pattern languages represented by Architectural Graphic Standards. The other leads to a scientific form of expression that can build the knowledge required to shelter growing populations within a limited Built Domain that protects their quality and source of life – the Natural Domain.

I decided earlier to ignore the personal attacks that came via the back channels of the AIAKnowledgeNet, but have re-considered now that Mr. Ely has gone public. I’d like to explain a few of the terms he has used in all of his correspondence from my perspective.

I am working on a project that has forced me to invent new terms to get my point across. Everyone interested will have to judge if it is “invented jargon” when it is published. The fact that I have referred to some of the logic I have considered over the years and some of the content I plan to include in this project could also be construed as “hermetically self-referential”. I am sorry if this is the impression that has been conveyed, but this accusation could apply to all original work. (I’m actually impressed with the creativity of the phrase.)

I don’t agree with the accusatory terms: “obfuscating”, “wrong-headed”, “designed to infuriate”, and attempts to convey “intellectual superiority”. If I were intellectually superior I would have had this done long ago. As for the other terms, readers will have to judge and I’m sure these opinions will be shared by some critics. It can’t be helped.

I thank those who have offered support along the way. I believe the finished product will represent a contribution. This is the conviction a writer must have to continue, and a little encouragement goes a long way in these formative stages.