Tag archives for: design
May I ask why?
Aah architecture. The grand old profession of Wright, Sullivan, Mies and Kahn. The ability to shape cities with one’s own hands, to change lives and alter the course of history. To be Howard Roark of the Fountainhead, dreaming of blowing up your own creation because the client, a necessary evil of the profession, doesn’t share your noble vision.
So very romantic.
And so very wrong.
In the last five years the profession has shed about 60,000 jobs. They’re not coming back. Firms lucky enough to have a backlog of work make up the manpower shortage through technology. Profit margins, traditionally minute in the best of times are non-existent. Consolidation of mid-large size firms is rampant and sole-practitioners are an endangered species. The construction industry is not far away from engulfing architects in the construction process because architects use building information and drawing technologies like CAD, Revit and BIM. We’ve been commoditizing the profession for the last 20 years. That tide is not turning.
Our colleges and universities still eschew teaching the business of architecture, and graduates are ill prepared to deal with the realities of a profession in decline. And don’t dare ask them to draw. A pencil? What’s that?
Then of course there are the clients. The noble benefactors who embrace the architect for his vision, his ability turn their dreams into reality! More likely they’ve shopped around, solicited ten proposals then negotiated two or three firms down to the coveted 3-4% of construction cost fee that fits so well into their bottom line. And the architects fight tooth and nail to see who’ll reach the bottom first. Work is work.
Here’s my advice. Architecture, in its most pure form, is an art that few can understand, enjoy and appreciate. It is exhilarating.
It is not nor should it ever be a job!
It shouldn’t be bought and sold. Be passionate about all design. Architects are inherently creative. Pursue creative collaboration with other design professions. Cross pollinate. Design objects, think creatively at all times and tell everyone you meet that design matters. But practice “architecture” for yourself. Design spaces for yourself. Live in them, work in them, and dream in them. Don’t sell your ideas, your soul, your heart, to anyone. Be selfish because they don’t get it.
If you have to find another way to support yourself.
I’m sure Starbucks is hiring.
Robert Vecchione is an architect/designer and principal of the multidisciplinary firm Cobrooke Ideas-Architecture-Design (www.cobrooke.com)
When it comes to sourcing the right interview candidates, I’ve never been keen to use recruiters. But I recently changed my mind.
My company, Metal Mafia, has an excellent candidate screening process, a super training program, and a very successful team of employees to show for it.
But hiring has always been a difficult task for me because each time I get ready to hire, it takes me forever to find the right type of candidates to even get the screening process started.
Despite the fact that I carefully consider where to advertise for candidates–I try to maximize the search dollars and get a good mix of potential applicants–it always takes me a long time to find people suited well to the company, and therefore, even worth interviewing.
I’ve tried everything from placing ads on large job boards like Monster.com, to smaller specialized job boards that cater to sales hires or fashion jobs, to local university boards where I can post for free (or close to it). Each time, I experience the same slow crawl toward finally finding the right person. It has taken me up to five months to find the right kind of hire in the past. So in November when I decided I needed to think about hiring for the new year, I was not optimistic.
For me, recruiters have traditionally been out of the question because I figured they would be a waste of time and never be as good at sending me the right people for the job as I would be in reviewing resumes myself. They’re also too expensive for my small budget. But as I got ready to place my job ads again, one of my senior staff members came to me and offered me the name of a fashion recruiter she knew and thought could help. I was skeptical, but I called her anyway, figuring listening would cost me nothing.
The recruiter convinced me she would do a thorough job, but I still hesitated because of the price. I do not have large sums of money to devote to the hiring process, and by my calculations, when all was said and done, using the recruiter was going to cost me three times as much as my usual techniques. On the other hand, the recruiter would only charge me if she found someone I decided to hire, which meant I was risking nothing, and could always come back to my original methods. I bit the bullet and signed up, reminding myself “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
The recruiter sent me the resumes of 10 entry-level candidates. I screened six by phone, met three in person, and found the right hire–all in a month. The cost suddenly became much less, because I saved so much time in the process, and because I got a pool of applicants who were decidedly better to choose from than in the past. Even more interesting, perhaps, was an insight the right candidate shared with me during the interview process. When I asked why she had chosen to work with a recruiter rather than post on job boards, she said “because recruiters make sure your resume gets seen, while submitting via the Internet is like sending your resume into oblivion.”
If most people these days are thinking like my new hire, the recruiters will clearly have the best selection of candidates every time. Looks like I’ve got an essential new hiring strategy.
Vanessa Merit Nornberg: In 2004, Vanessa opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009. @vanessanornberg
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“It’s not for you”
“For everyone else, though, the ability to say, “It’s not for you,” is the foundation for creating something brave and important. You can’t do your best work if you’re always trying to touch the untouchable, or entertain those that refuse to be entertained.
“It’s not for you.”
This is easy to say and incredibly difficult to do. You don’t have much choice, though, not if you want your work to matter.”
Seth Godin, Seth’s blog
My work does matter, and I agree with Seth, it is hard to do. Hard to say “it’s not for you”. As a young architect I expended a great deal of energy trying to entertain those that refuse to be entertained. Trying to fit square pegs into round holes. The desire to practice architecture creates a tunnel vision; clouds rational thinking and blinds you to clients and projects that are not right for you. Architecture requires conviction. A belief in a core set of principles that guide the creative process.
You can’t be all things to all people.
It has taken me almost 30 years to consistently say “it’s not for you”. To say this is what I believe in; this is my truth and have the conviction that there are clients out there that “it” is for. And it’s hard. Especially in this economy.
But we’re guided by our convictions. And one project created in accordance with those core beliefs is better than 10 projects where you just go through the motions just looking to get paid.
Not everyone hears the music you dance to. Just have conviction that a dance partner isn’t that far away.
Turn the music up and keep dancing.
Robert Vecchione is an architect/designer and principal of the multidisciplinary firm Cobrooke Ideas-Architecture-Design (www.cobrooke.com)
In the “old days,” a firm might turn down a project because it didn’t have the necessary staff to handle it properly. Today, firms can maintain a lean staff in lean times and hire freelance consultants when business picks up. In the process they can hire people with the particular skills needed for particular jobs.
Architecture is not the only profession turning more and more to freelance employment. One study finds the number of temporary hires almost doubled in a recent four-year period – over 10 percent of them skilled technicians or professionals.
In fact, a growing number of young architects see freelancing as a fast-track means to getting ahead.
Instead of working on just one type of project or one aspect of design, freelancers acquire varied experience. The goal is to land permanent positions at a higher level more quickly than by remaining on one job for a given period of time.
Assuming that architectural firms will become accustomed to the freelance concept, this type of employment will grow as the demand for new projects returns to pre-recession levels.
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I work as a freelance architect and designer. In this particular instance, I was victim to the ignorance of an uninformed client. When you’re dealing with intellectual property, such as creating a design, it’s important that the client is knowledgeable and has the capacity to understand what they’re actually paying for: your ideas!
While designing Whitehall, located on 19 Greenwich Ave in New York City, I produced construction drawings, digital renderings, hand sketches, filing drawings for building permits, and material call outs. The built space was written about in Vogue magazine, and they not only left out my name but gave the owners the credit for the work, literally stating that the space was designed by Donal Brophy and Brian McGory.
After using all of my ideas, the clients claimed that they were actually the designers. Confused? I was too. After interrogating them, the response was that they had to deal with a lot of questions from the contractor. Has anyone ever worked with a contractor who doesn’t ask questions? If they’re not asking questions, they probably aren’t doing a great job.
In most cases, the client would typically allow the experienced professional to perform what is called Construction Administration. I technically should have been the one who was answering all of the contractor’s questions on this job and would have if the client hadn’t stated that he was also an “experienced” designer and therefore this role would be unnecessary for me to perform. The client asked me to remove that fee from our contract. I agreed to remove the fee and it was made clear that I would not be performing the CA role on this job. This was all agreed upon prior to beginning the work.
Even though I explained this to the client, he told me to take $3,000 in cash (the contract was for $8,000), off the books, and be done with it. I refused on moral grounds as I had clearly already done all of the work. To then be stiffed on top of that was just adding salt to the wound. As a result of this loss, in addition to having gotten short-changed by another client who claims he’s broke, I’ve been forced to give up my studio space.
“After using all of my ideas, the clients claimed that they were actually the designers.”
Freelancers don’t have a financial buffer like corporations do. We’re typically operating month to month and if you don’t have more than one job lined up, you have no leverage in your negotiations. Having worked in this industry for the past seven years, what I can now advise is that it’s not worth it.
If the terms aren’t to your liking and you don’t find yourself personally attached to the work or to the client, then walk away. Otherwise, you’ll always end up with the short end of the stick.
If you freelance in the New York City area, stay away from Donal Brophy and Whitehall. If you do decide to stop in Whitehall for a drink, tell them it’s on me!
Antonio is a freelance architect and designer. (The views and opinions in the posting above do not reflect those of Consulting4architects Blog.)
This story was submitted to the Freelancers Union
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Below: Part of the Teachers Village construction site, a project in Newark designed with education in mind.
NEWARK — Work has begun on an education-centered community featuring three charter schools and affordable housing for teachers in the city’s decayed downtown, with much of the design work done by the noted architect Richard Meier. The development, called Teachers Village, is expected to cost $149 million when it is completed two years from now. It will consist of eight low-rise buildings clustered around the intersection of William and Halsey Streets, in Newark’s Four Corners historic district. As such, Mr. Meier has designed buildings to reflect the historical nature of the area.
Teachers Village is receiving millions of dollars in government subsidies in various forms, with $14.2 million being provided in equity by the developers. Two of the buildings, together about 134,000 square feet, will be leased to the charter schools and day care while offering retail space on the ground floor. The other six buildings, totaling about 289,000 square feet, will contain as many as 220 rental apartments for teachers with retail space on the ground floor.
Teachers Village received its final approval at the city level in March 2011, but did not break ground until last month with a ceremony that included Mayor Cory A. Booker, Gov. Chris Christie and several private developers and investors.
Mayor Booker, who has shepherded the project from its first presentation in 2010, was not available for comment and referred a reporter to a news release: “Teachers Village shows that when Newark dreams big and makes ambitious plans, we can achieve development projects that meet the highest standards for innovation and excellence. While the global economy is struggling, we in Newark have fought to create transformative change that will lead to educational, economic, and social gains for our citizens.”
While the project seems to have the city’s unqualified support, some residents have protested the inclusion of the charter schools instead of traditional public schools, and others have said they felt left out of the planning process and disliked the project’s reliance on large public subsidies.
Ron Beit, a managing member of the lead developer, the RBH Group of Manhattan, said, “We were very committed to the point that you needed to create this community overnight.” Other partners include the billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen; the private equity giant Frederick Iseman; the financier Warren Lichtenstein and his firm, Steel Partners Holdings; and the short-term commercial lender BRT Realty Trust.
Teachers Village is the first step of a development project by the same developers that will entail building or rehabilitating 15 million square feet of space, including several skyscrapers, on 32 parcels of land downtown.
The school spaces have been leased to two established Newark charter schools, Team Academy and Discovery Charter School, and a new charter, Great Oaks Charter School. The schools, with a charter school that abuts the site, are expected to accommodate about 1,360 children.
They and their families are potential customers for the stores that will occupy the 64,000 square feet of retail space being built, Mr. Beit said. So are the residents of the 220 apartments, which are not restricted to teachers, he said.
The residences in Teachers Village will be marketed toward Newark educators in charter schools, traditional public schools, private schools and universities, Mr. Beit said. About 40 studio apartments must be kept affordable according to government requirements, but Mr. Beit said the public subsidies involved in the project will enable developers to keep all their prices low — about $700 a month for a studio; $1,000 to $1,100 for a one-bedroom; and $1,400 for a two-bedroom apartment, he said.
“Our vision for Newark is really sort of a middle-income utopia, very much like how Queens and the outer boroughs have succeeded tremendously with their retail,” said Mr. Beit, who is working with Jacobs Enterprises of Clifton, N.J., to build the retail space.
He said the larger downtown development, which is to have a wide range of rental apartments and condominiums, both subsidized and market rate, may eventually draw more upscale retailers and affluent residents attracted by Mr. Meier, who is known for buildings like the Getty Center in Los Angeles.
Mr. Meier, who designed five of Teachers Village’s eight buildings — the others were done by a local architect, Mikesell & Associates, and KSS Architects of Princeton — also spent a significant amount of time working on the streetscapes in the plan. He said he expected to work on the master plan for the larger project beyond Teachers Village, also in the historic district.
“We spent a lot of time with the local landmarks commission to make sure that the designs were historically contextual,” Mr. Meier said, “and to ensure the neighborhood was true to its historic roots, while at the same time ensuring that the community has a unique distinction and quality suggestive of the new chapter commencing in this neighborhood.”
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architecture, arts, BRT Realty Trust, business, David McFadden, design, Gov. Chris Christie, KSS Architects, Mayor Cory A. Booker, Mikesell & Associates, Real Estate, Richard Meier, Steel Partners Holdings, Teachers Village, transportation