didn’t I see you crying

20 May 2013

The_North_Wind_and_the_Sun_-_Sun_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994 

Isn’t it funny how certain songs come to mind at odd times? They hold the answers to the mysteries of life.

As I was reading and participating in an online AIA blog where people were debating the role of architects and how we could or should expand our services to a broader market, many things came to mind. Some advocate that municipalities should mandate an architect’s seal on any project requiring a permit. Some advocate that architects should be willing to tailor or limit certain services (namely CA) to clients not wanting those services. Others feel strongly the opposite direction believing it cheapens the profession not to give our full value. I suppose they advocate for turning away those projects. Lastly a few believe a large market lies in speculative housing away from the end user and work directly for the developer. The premise is a huge market awaits our involvement if we are willing to be flexible to provide only those services requested by the client. Again, this is a tailoring or limiting of our traditional role or “full services” approach.

Yeah, it’s too much to unravel in one post.

Did you ever read the fable where the sun and the wind were debating who could get the man to take off his coat first? The wind used force to no avail; the sun used warmth with success.

Despite your position on each of these issues, this famous Cheap Trick song lays it all out for me. Yes I’m an idealist, perhaps just stupid. All of this arguing and we’re getting nowhere…remember that insanity definition? Maybe my point here is a lousy business plan but it speaks to the heart of the matter. We cannot force people to use our services or to use “all” of our services. If we want to vote on the issue, we can respond by accepting or rejecting the work that comes our way. Simple right?

First of all mandating an architect’s services on residential design will simply go over poorly. I understand the life safety issues and I support that notion. I think we can make a larger case to the public that our involvement protects their HSW. But is that all we do? Ah, no.

In the case of residential design just put yourself in the client’s shoes for a moment. Would you want to be required to hire someone for a service when you were not expecting to need them? You don’t really want their services so every dollar you pay for them is already too much. In fact you probably won’t even use the instruments of their service (i.e. drawings) anyway. It’s simply a means to an end (building permit) and it’s just delaying that end. Therefore, you are left angry but you have to pay for something you did not want. The service provider at the other end isn’t motivated because they know their client is begrudging the entire process and won’t show real appreciation when it’s over. This is being an American.

So what is the secret for how we get people to want us? How do we get people to understand that they need us? Yes we would love for them to love us by letting us show our skill, our value, our worth and how we can “teach the world to sing with perfect harmony…” Sorry, I got off track.

I don’t know. I just know that when the sun got the man to take off his coat, the man was happy, the sun was content and the rest of the surrounding community got a sunny day to enjoy. Everybody wins.

What I do know is the live version of this song is waaaaay better than the studio version.

photos are from the Wikimedia Commons (used under the Creative Common License)

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9 Responses to “didn’t I see you crying”

  1. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    Everyone “wins” except the “wind”! What is happening to our profession is it is morphing into the computer age. Software and DIY (do it yourself) is taking hold fast and furious! We architects need to sell “service” and focus our attention on solving problems for our customers. You can’t legislate need.

    • leecalisti Says:

      You can’t legislate need and yes the wind tends to lose. However, I’m not finding a winning situation coming from those who want to sell architecture with a hammer.

  2. Andjela Says:

    I believe it also begins with lack of understanding what an architect is or does.

    I enrolled in architecture school, and I believe sometimes I did it out of the prestige, because of how they marketed the school (shame on me)… it wasn’t like I had a dream to be an architect, though I do remember always thinking spatially and making many house models from leggo. I kind of just wanted to help society and thought engineering was the way to it, because it was clear to me what engineers do, and how they do it; whereas I never reallly had any contact with architecture until architecture school.

    And even after two years of architecture school, now in my third, I am still finding myself skeptical at times like why am I here? what am I doing? am I even contributing to this project, when I barely know anything (in a concrete way)? (i.e. as an engineer I guess I’d be able to show you my knowledge through calculations or something because they’ve specialized in engineering something, as an architect, it’s like… welll… give me a project I guess and then I’ll be able to show you something?!?!). I think because of the way life works on this planet (or seems to work) we tend to look for results, or proof in physical terms). This means that things are specific (to be able to be concrete / formed). Architecture is both specific but not and even academics / practitioners can’t define it, so if my reply is really crappy, I’m sorry I’m really confused.

    and I find my perspective is dominated by this sense of lack of understanding my role in the world, and if I’m actually learning anything. because to do a studio project, without any construction knowledge or how things come together, or when they do come together in a project is pretty horrible when as a semi-realist these things are on your mind.

    After having conversations with my mom about my studio projects, she said stuff like you come up with the space idea, and the engineer figures out the specifics (though you contribute to what that structure should do in the overall project)… basically she was teaching me apparently what I taught her as I was telling her theories about what i thought architecture was. She, as a “layperson” didn’t basically understand what an architect specifically (key word) does, until I shared my schooling with her. Then, she had appreciation for it.

    So I think the issue is that architecture, as a topic I guess, is not clear cut; and that’s both its “curse” (if you see it that way) and its beauty.

    What this ultimately means is that architects are specialist generalists, of any project. In the building industry even, you have to deal with different types of construction you have to become a certain type of architect, and that possibly means that for example, if you specialize in large scale buildings, your knowledge might not help small houses (though I think it’s easier to downscale than the other way).

    … so I guess the imagery I associate this with is like the Tower of Babel, and trying to get a universal language. Eventually there’s too much chaos. I don’t know if that’s the state of the profession? maybe just a bit.

    if you want to check out my portfolio I included a link! :D But it probably underlies the fact that I am still trying to figure out what space is, and haven’t done enough spatial 3D renders ….

    Ultimately I am really interested now in how the drawing or diagram makes a space / tests it out.

    I think if this work gets shared with people more that are not in the industry, it might benefit your question, because some times (as my mom has shown me), an exterior perspective best points us to what we needed to hear from ourselves but refused to listen. (sometimes);.
    Thanks for your post!

    • Andjela Says:

      (the link is embedded in my name on the comment!)

    • leecalisti Says:

      Andjela, I’m not sure how to answer your question or if you really want an answer. I don’t think it is important that you find an answer, but I think it’s crucial that you ask questions. You have to believe that design matters and find where you can contribute.

      • Andjela Says:

        Hi Lee,
        Yeah I feel the same way about it, but I then I believe that’s because it is reflecting my own personal decision / relationship to design.
        However, I guess my point was to be that it’s not necessarily a shared empathy on the part of the client who would pay for that service. Which is I guess your essential point, i.e. that you can’t force the client see the good in design, but you have to try. (as the wind analogy shows).


  3. Lee, it’s refreshing to be reminded of that fable from my childhood. But it is a great analogy and right on point. I couldn’t agree more.


  4. […] architect Lee Calisti’s funny blog post Didn’t I See You Crying got me thinking about other songs about the practice of architecture. Of course, […]


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