Engage and be Relevant

I’ve been talking a lot lately about talking. If you’ve followed the AIA’s Repositioning efforts you’ve notice by now that much of the focus is on not only how we work but how we talk about our work; how we tell our story.

One of the dangers that any professional organization or business can face is the trap that we fall into when we spend more time talking to each other than we spend talking to clients, customers, partners, friends and family.

We have our own issues and our own lingo, our own language that no one outside our group fully understands.

The American Institute of Architects will be most successful when we learn to adopt a more accessible language. We cannot abandon our level of professionalism but we need to speak in inclusive terms and frame compelling arguments.

Let’s focus on how the general public benefits from our work; on our impact on everyday lives.

As we move forward, let’s invite others into the conversation. Let’s engage with people outside of our organization. After all, they are our future clients and partners and users. Let’s remember that they may not understand the language that we use when we’re in our committee meetings and at our conventions. They may not understand our issues.

Our success will come when we understand and speak their language; when we understand and help solve their issues; when we become relevant in their world.

How are you engaging with your clients and your community? I’d like to know. Tell me by leaving a comment below.

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Forge New Ground!

The 10 Most Overlooked Women In Architecture History


When was the last time you got the recognition you thought you deserved? As professionals many of our friends and colleagues play behind-the-scenes roles; they are the very definition of ‘unsung heroes.’

In celebration of International Women’s Day, ArchDaily published several articles on the topic of women in architecture. My favorite was this one.

The 10 Most Overlooked Women in Architecture History” illustrates an idea that I’ve been talking about a lot lately. There’s a lesson to be learned in looking for examples in our lives that may not be Starchitects but that may be making great contributions to their communities and our profession.

It’s hard to pioneer new ground as these 10 women did; but we can do it. As Architects we have the strength to go where we haven’t gone before. As a professional organization the American Institute of Architects cannot afford NOT to forge new ground.

Who do you know that’s forging new ground? I’d like to know. Tell me about them by leaving a comment below.

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Architects: Practice with Passion!

What are you passionate about? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Are you passionate about coffee? Are you a traveler? Are you a connoisseur of ‘70’s disco music?

I’m passionate about leadership. That may sound boring to some but I truly get excited about strategizing and directing and serving. Yes, servitude is part of strong leadership.

At some point in your life, someone probably told you to follow your passions. On some level, that’s easier said than done. Even if you’re the world’s most renowned Architect of vintage 1970’s style discothèques you may be struggling in today’s economy.

Hopefully you’re passionate about architecture. We need you to be passionate about architecture.

As I’ve said before, the title Architect can mean many things. Being passionate about architecture can mean many things. I hope that there’s something in your career that impassions you about our profession; that propels you out of bed every morning.

Whether you’re an Architect designing buildings, or an Architect managing construction, or an Architect that teaches in the classroom, the American Institute of Architects needs you to be a champion of our profession.

Passion will do that.

So what are you passionate about? Let me know in the comments section below.

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What Do Architects Really Do?

When was the last time you went to a meeting and you were the only one at the table? Can you remember the last project where you were the only person on the team?

As Architects, we don’t work in a bubble. We team with highly qualified engineers and professional construction teams. We interact with building code and zoning officials. We work with real estate professionals and developers. Our email distribution lists can be lengthy.

Collaboration is a cornerstone of our process and partnerships can be numerous.

We have been taught to lead the process. From the early planning stages we have invested creativity and expertise in the future success of the project. Many times, we’ve been charged with assembling the rest of the team.

Sometimes, we fight to retain our foothold as project leaders as others lend their voice to the choir. We grumble at respect lost to other professions.

How do we change this course? There are members of the American Institute of Architects working as construction managers, as teachers, as elected officials, as developers, as local officials, and as engineers; but do they have a place in our organization?

As a professional organization we must recognize that the term Architect no longer refers only to a person that designs buildings. There is a bigger picture.

I’m certainly not advocating for the widespread adaptation of the title in other fields but we need to realize, better yet promote the fact that there are registered architects practicing in non-traditional roles.

In a time when we may feel as if our profession is shrinking; losing ground in the battle for professional services and regulation, we need to expand. We must let the world know that we’re leading the way in more than simply designing buildings.

As a profession, Architects are essential. We are the strategic collaborators who lead the building process and shape our physical environment.

So go do what you do.

Are you an Architect practicing in a non-traditional role? I’d like to hear your story. Let me know in the comments section below.

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Leadership and Legislatures

Courtesy AIA http://info.aia.org/blast_images/mrkt/cmp/2013/2w.html

It’s AIA Grassroots time again and this year’s Leadership and Legislative Conference is sure to be one of the most important in recent history. Much of the focus will be on the AIA’s Repositioning Initiative.

In many of my upcoming blog posts I’ll share my thoughts about the modern Architect’s roles.

Join me and many of your fellow professionals to enjoy a Keynote address from Frank Stasiowski, FAIA; see a Repositioning presentation from LaPlaca Cohen and Pentagram and participate in a Repositioning Forum hosted by Mickey Jacob, FAIA and Robert Ivy, FAIA. There will be ample opportunity to participate in conversations and workshops that I hope will catalyze real change.

We’re at a crossroads. What will our role as leaders be in transforming our organization and profession and proving our value?

What do you think? I’d like to know. Leave a comment for me below.

Will you join me at Grassroots? I hope I’ll see you there.

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The True Value of an Architect – Tell the Whole Story

If we are going to prove the true value of an Architect to our society, to stem the erosion of our profession as it were, we need action. We need concrete action and impactful action. Many people think of Architects as designers of buildings; and we are. But what is our true and full impact? Aren’t we more valuable to our communities than just being those people that “draw blueprints?”

As Samuel Mockbee, the consummate “Citizen Architect” proved, we share a common motivation to serve the public good; to make a difference in the lives of others. Many went before Mockbee and many, many more will follow in the spirit of embracing their community, extending a hand and helping them to a better place.

We have colleagues across the nation serving their communities through Zoning Boards and School Boards, by being proponents of Sustainability or Public Transportation. They are impacting our future.

Every day, everything an Architect does has some impact on our lives. “People need places to live, work, eat and play. So, no matter where you go, you can see the impact of architects’ work.” That’s how the California Architects Board puts it.

Continue to serve; continue to make a difference through your generosity and your leadership. Continue to be the “Citizen Architect” and prove the true and full impact of our great profession on communities and lives. Continue to lead. And next time you talk about your latest project, talk about the architecture, the light and the proportion. But also talk about the impact of that project, on the community, on jobs, on lives.

Tell the whole story.

What impact are you making? Let me know.

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Expanding the Architect’s Role

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of sitting down with Gary Parr, Editorial Director of Commercial Building Products Magazine to talk about expanding the Architect’s role in the building industry. We talked specifically about how my employer, Schmidt Associates, has continued to serve our clients by expanding and diversifying services to meet their growing needs.

I hope you enjoy the interview. Let me know what you think. How does your firm expand the role of the Architect?

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The Leaders of our Future

Two weeks ago at the 2012 AIA Kentucky & AIA Indiana Convention, a group from Ball State University’s AIAS Chapter made quite an impression. Not only were they the largest contingent of students at the event, but they won the student prize in the Design Slam, and participated with a University of Kentucky student in a design charrette and discussion with Kirsten Murray, AIA and Steven Rainville, AIA of Olson Kundig Architects. Along the way, they had the opportunity to spend time with leaders of some of the most decorated firms in our State and the Nation. In short, they were immersed in the world of the leaders of our profession.

It’s fitting though. These young people are our future leaders. They are the few that seized the opportunity to attend the convention. They are the group that put themselves out there in front of large group of professionals at the Design Slam. They had the delightful audacity to seek out the leaders of the firms that are shaping our immediate future. That gives me comfort. Our future is in good hands.

Now Sarah Hempstead, AIA and I have the opportunity to spend more time with the students in a workshop atmosphere as part of the Ball State AIAS Engage Lecture Series. Tomorrow night we’ll host “Leadership and Your Future Career.” We’ll talk about building leadership skills, accomplishing career goals and developing career strategies. Sarah and I will talk about our experiences in taking leadership positions at Schmidt Associates. Personally, I’m excited to see what I’ll learn from these amazing students.

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A Knowledge is Power Partnership

The American Institute of Architects and the National Institute of Building Sciences announced a groundbreaking partnership last week. The organizations will begin collaborating on issues related to design, construction, operations and maintenance of high-performance buildings; issues that impact the entire building community and that can improve our nation’s buildings.

One of the goals of the partnership is to work collaboratively on the development of a publicly accessible, on-line portal for building industry research and knowledge. According to Robert Ivy, FAIA, “The AIA has long recognized the power of knowledge to inform design. For many years, the AIA Knowledge Communities have provided ample testimony to the value of that orientation. The AIA-NIBS research portal will enable practitioners to use knowledge creatively in ways for which they have impatiently hoped. Now the wait is over.”

To learn more about the announcement and burgeoning partnership read the full article on AEC Cafe.

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The Super Bowl is More than a Sunday

To some, the Super Bowl is an event, a game or maybe an annual party to attend. To some cities it means the influx of millions of football fan’s dollars. To Indianapolis it means so much more.

Indianapolis; a mid-size midwestern city struggling to transform itself into a major player. Let’s be honest, this is the midwest and we’re usually somewhat insulated from the radical booms and crashes in the real estate and economic markets but we’ve certainly not been immune to the recent recession. So what’s a town to do? How about host a Super Bowl?

I’m extremely proud of the way that our City has approached planning for the Super Bowl. From Sustainability (1st and Green) to Expansion (Indiana Convention Center) to Public Space (Super Bowl Village / Re-designed Georgia Street) to Revitalization (St. Clair Place) our City, our Architects and our Planners have succeeded in developing an event that has transformed our City. In her Atlantic Cities article “Indy’s Super Bowl Building Boom,” Emily Badger highlights several of the most notable physical impacts the Super Bowl has had on Indianapolis and the Architects behind them.

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