Sunday, February 1, 2009

any action people can make?

If you have been reading at all about the stimulus package currently under debate in our Congress, then you know one of its main contentions is what seems to be a kind of ideological split between 'projects that provide jobs' and 'projects that improve America for the future'. This split is not so unlike the Republican / Democratic divide where the former has a history of rebuking criticism of country as unpatriotic and the latter more typically sees the country as a work in progress. The hot topics right now are education and infrastructure (coincidentally, two of the things most near and dear to my own heart). Teachers, school administrators, parents, and students are cheering the $160 billion the Obama team has allocated to education, though job advocates are asking what short-term relief such funding will offer. The infrastructure argument is also divided between those who believe 'shovel ready' will translate into status quo priorities and results, and those who believe it's simply better to build something and pay someone to do it now for the sake of the economy than to wait, get it right, and begin to shift the very nature of American mobility. We really do find ourselves in a moment of 'disaster capitalism', where we could allow the economic catastrophe to sidetrack our ambitions in a way that is short-sighted OR we could insist on a vision that, in the long run, will catapult the intellectual and literal shape of our country into a global position of leadership. In the meantime, allowing teachers, janitors, principals, nurses, librarians, engineers, designers, concrete suppliers, etc etc to keep their jobs is no minor contribution in combating the country's economic woes. Doing it right, while capitalizing on the skills present and in process to help lead these troubled times, is its own good investment.

For this week's guest spot, Gail Peter Borden proposes such an action. Gail is currently on the faculty at the University of Southern California School of Architecture and taught previously at North Carolina State University, Catholic University, The Boston Architectural Center and Harvard University. He has worked at a host of architectural firms including Gensler and Associates, Frank Harmon Architect, and The Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Paris where he was a designer on the Potzdamerplatz Project and the renovation of the Centre Georges Pompidou. He started the Borden Partnership in 1998 and has since won numerous design awards, been featured in exhibitions from Raleigh to Hong Kong, and is regularly at national ACSA conferences presenting the latest of his prolific writings. His essay in Expanding Architecture is entitled "Propositions for a New Suburbanism" and here is his cause of the week.

any action people can make?
Gail Peter Borden, AIA

The idea of changing the world with a simple action is an inspirational vision. Hire an architect.

We live in an amazing time of change - some for the good some for the bad, some that will hopefully stay with us and some that are bumps in the societal, formal and intellectual road. To help get through these hire an architect.

Architecture and its relationship to the broader conversation of global finance, social interaction, energy, and culture is at the heart of everything and yet seems left out of the conversation. Hire an architect.

If there is one small action I can suggest that people do - it would be to: hire an architect.

The knowledge and passion and ability held by the profession is immeasurable, yet when I look at the world class talent of my designer friends and colleagues they are all underutilized and looking for opportunity with hearts full of hope. Hire an architect.

As a profession that has implications on how we learn, shop, develop our built environments, interact in the public and private realms, impacting how we grow intellectually and physically, helping to determine how we find happiness and comfort in our environments, these are all the realm of an architect. Hire an architect

Whether you want to turn your front yard into a vegetable garden or devise a new city plan. Hire an architect.

Regardless of scale or scope - perceived significance or permanence, hire an architect.

If you are worried about cost, thinking you cannot afford the services, you might be surprised. I am not trying to devalue the services offered by an architect rather promise you the return will be tenfold. Hire an architect.


nathan said...

It is important to have a designer involved in any situation that necessitates material manipulation in order to solve a problem. For the most part everyone understands what they need objects or spaces to do in order for them to live their particular lifestyle. Architects, and designers, would ideally have the knowledge and experience to accomodate people's needs, and often times have the ability to help user's define their own agenda.

I have found myself in an interesting position being hired by a development company who has historically rejected Architect's as pretentious, incompetant artists. We had the ability to do everything we needed with a structural engineer, and a civil engineer. When I was hired full time two years ago this menatility was still prevelant, although we began hiring architect's for certain counties which required an architect's stamp. I have found myself managing quite a few projects in that time frame. Generally we have a building diagram that works for us, coupled with construction systems that have been perfected by our construction arm over that past 47 years. Since taking on many of these jobs I have seen a few architects fall flat on their face trying to make their ego fit into our business. On the other hand, I have worked with a couple architects who really listen to what we are asking them to do, and are willing understand what is the ultimate agenda. Having found such an architect has generally changed the attitude of the senior management. We have now entered a new level of making buildings. This paradigm shift has changed the view of my company in the eyes of design professionals around the area and we are now being recognized as serious builders. Although we have always constructed our buildings to the highest standard of performance, now we are begining to consider a higher standard of design. Obviously these are just my thoughts, and an example of a change in attitude towards design.

lcsamuels said...

As you prove by your experience, small actions can result in large changes. In the case of your company, a few good experiences with attentive and sensitive architects has opened up a whole new set of relationships and opportunities, including a higher standard of design, which is a hugely valuable contribution to the built environment. This value is what we believe is unique to the architectural profession. Not only is your experience useful to share - thank you - it also pushes design professionals to continue to refine, foster, and communicate what we mean by 'the value of design' and why we feel it is a skill each project can't do without!