Sep 11, 2009

Marketing Architecture

Is everything Marketing? For the absolute-haters, no. But having good marketing skills can be just as, if not more, important than having good design skills in the current economic times. What exactly is Marketing? I will copy/paste the American Marketing Association definition:
“Marketing is an organizational function and a set of process for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.”

Are architects marketing-smart?

Architects may have found it rather intuitive, something to be learned as one practices the profession. But I would suggest deeper studies. Architectural Practice classes are just the tip of the iceberg. In the book Blink, Malcomn Gladwell writes that a person has 2 seconds before jumping to a conclusion. Misleading or not, it is a judgement upon which the subsequence client decisions will be based. When all we have is a website, a handshake, a voice machine, an attire, a business card, or a few pages to respond to a RFQ (request for qualifications) or a RFP (request for proposals), we have the equivalent of Malcolmn Gladwell's 2 seconds to make the correct first impression on a client. Our design skills might not even come into play when being judged; instead, our marketing skills do. Are we portraying our business the way we want it, are we selling effectively? Is our professional persona portraying the quality and type of work we are after?

In the current economic disaster, we have few architectural firms hiring or investing. Those that are, are looking for marketing leaders who would help them win projects, or saving their cash flow for marketing pursuits. In one way or another, we recognize the importance of marketing as the essential piece of the architectural work. As such, we should analyze our current efforts in this deparment, and come out stronger than before, as the savvy architectural marketers we should be.

the Basket Building

Along the lines of iconic buildings and eye catching structures, don't forget about the 'basket building'. It is literally designed to resemble a picnic basket. Hats off to the client for sticking to their ideas and not following the status quo. The architect, NBBJ. The building, a monument to pure EIFS construction. EIFS, Exterior Insulation Finishing System

Longaburger Baskets, the homestead, golf course, factory, and giant basket office building.

Zanesville, OH

The best surreal and approaching view to the Basket Building is going through 37. History has it that they were originally planning on adding a napkin, and salt & pepper shackers to serve as entrance elements. Personally, I'm glad they didn't.

Ohio, state of the most beautiful sky.

Sep 9, 2009

My IDP / ARE Experience

Most likely, the beginning of my IDP experience was just like yours. I opened my NCARB file back in 2004 with the support of my firm, and using the recent graduate discount. Back in 2004, there was no economic downturn. Everything was booming and moving at a fast pace. As a recent graduate with a Masters from the Savannah College of Art and Design, I sure was glad to have chosen an accredited NAAB program. Without which, you would have to go back to school if they you ever wanted to get licensed.

At first, filling my IDP credits was extremely intimidating. All the categories, the 700 credits, and the required experience in those seemingly unattainable sub-categories —how did they come up with such an intricate system? It felt so challenging that I didn’t file anything for more than a year. Then I realized that if I wanted to be a licensed architect, I needed to get on with my credit history. The accounting ladies were kind enough to print me dozens of pages of detailed work of all the hours I had logged. And in one weekend day, I was able get on track.Before my IDP experience was over, NCARB came up with a new IDP catalog and rules. I wished they had ‘clouded’ the changes so that more interns could catch the change. For once –at least for me– NCARB had great news: IDP credit will be given at 1.5 units per hour for all continuing education programs. Finally, attending lunch and learns, hard-hat tours, and other continuing education sessions was paying off. In 2007, I was able to finish my IDP.

Next step in the process was to get an ARE candidate number. Working with Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) and NCARB took another half a year to complete; lots of phone calls, lots of “we are processing it” answers. Something that perhaps not all states do is the written test that DPOR mails you. It is more like an open-book test about professional ethics and resource information. The answers are available online; you must fill in the multiple choice questionnaire and mail it back. I have to say that DPOR was always easy to reach, over the phone or via email.

Choosing the order of my ARE exams had me asking everywhere and reading everything: interns at work, interns knew through the AIA local chapter, college classmates, the, etc. They all had different answers. But if someone asks me now, I would say three things. First, start with Construction Documents: it gives you a good frame of reference for your ARE goals, and your firm. Secondly, don’t stop there; all the ARE exams are somewhat connected, so keep studying. And three, the best time to study is winter; you will find fewer excuses to go out and not study. The new version ARE 4.0 was a great motivator. NCARB’s transition chart was what kept me going and studying in an attempt to get done before June 30th. Talking in new version terms, I am done with 6 exams, and I am studying for my very last exam. I will definitely schedule it before the new cut-off date, October 1st. By the end of the year, I am hoping to read AIA letters after my name.

Between here and there, I’ve had several project deadlines to meet, transferred my license registration from one state to another, and renewed my NCARB files twice. But the closer you get to the end of the ARE list, the better you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The AREs are just a means to an end. The end, obviously, is becoming a licensed architect. We haven’t gone this far to stop before the finish line, we can do it.

Sep 8, 2009

AIA Columbus Chapter

Just as I get settled after the long weekend break, I get great news. I have been nominated for an AIA Columbus board position as Associate Director. We shall wait til next month for Election Day. At any rate, exciting indeed. Thanks AIA Columbus.

Sep 3, 2009

M. Arch + M.B.A.

At the beginning, an architect was an autodidact, a real apprentice that learned the trade, hands on in the field. A Brunelleschi, a real orchestrator of all the construction. Then, the professional degrees weighed in. And for a while, having a plain Bachelor's degree in Architecture was good enough. Later on, the Masters in Architecture came along. And it seemed like it was the 'it' degree to move up within E/A firms...

Now, numerous universities are offering the new deal: M. Arch + M.B.A.

Among them, Yale, U Penn, Washington University at St. Louis, University of Michigan... You must apply to both architecture and business schools separately in order to be accepted in this dual program. And then it will get you more graduate credits that you've ever dreamed of. But is it worth it? Is it really a good ROI?

I'm still debating on this. But time is ticking and time will tell. Soon the new wave of graduates will be out there sending out their resumes. Will it be to architecture or financial/consulting firms? It might be a very objective and financial decision itself, where b-students will prove their strategic skills. Four or more years of graduate school and living expenses can't come cheap. And that I know of, MBAs can easily make 3 times interns going through the IDP will in the first couple of years. What kind of job will pay for being both a MBA and M. Arch. right after graduation? If you know, let me know, I'm still scratching my head here.

After being in several architecture and E/A firms for over 5 years (and counting, knock on wood), I even question the value of the Master of Architecture degree if you already have a professional Bachelor of Architecture. Of course, the NAAB and NCARB might disagree.

If you are set to be your own boss in your own architecture firm, the MBA might be an overkill. All the successfull and self-employed gray-haired architects out there didn't seem to need it. But if your plan is to go along with the MBA as your primary degree, the M.Arch might be the back-up plan you'll never need to have.

On the other hand, will the M.Arch + MBA degree become the new must-have to move up in the A/E world ladder? Will this force already-licensed architects to go back to b-school? What happened with learning experience along with Amazon books?

We shall see.

For the time being, the Masters of Architecture can visit . We might save a few bucks, or thousands for that matter.

ARE Warriors

To ya'll,

Those who stay up all night studying Times New Roman 14 fonts so you can pass the rigorous Architectural Registration Examination. Those who sacrifice happy hour $1.50 drafts for books with little-to-none colored images. Those who hope (and pray to all saints and virgins) to pass them all in the first try, so they don't have to wait 6 months with the donkey hat.

To all those ARE warriors, I admire you and your tenacity. Hang in there, even though the ARE exam fees' have gone up... again.

This is getting to be like the USPS stamps.


So this is it, plain and simple, what do you dimension to? -to the face of the stud, OR to the face of the finished surface?
I have always thought it was to the stud. Think about the building sequence, and you'll agree with me, ha! But hear me out, the 1st thing that would be laid out is the stud. Therefore, the 1st thing that the building constructor would want to know is where to lay the studs. And let's face it, we must make it easy for them so we can avoid errors and silly RFIs. However, if you want to show that your plans meet ADA clearances (ie bathrooms) to a building official, then you can say face of finish, adding a "CLR" next to the dimension.
But arguibly it is a matter of preference, firm standards, and (I must add) CAD limitations (Archicad anyone?)...
I still believe it should be to the face of the stud. What say you?