Architect as Leader
This week I am writing on an assigned topic to contribute to the AIA 2013 National Convention. The theme of the convention is Building Leaders. I think that is a great theme. Especially since it is hinting at the future and not assuming that Architects are presently leaders.
I am a residential architect. I am raising three boys. With two of them in their teen years, they are on a fast track to becoming men and leaders in whatever path they choose. My husband and I try to teach life lessons. You know, like: don’t eat dirt, follow your passion and take responsibility when you drop the ball.
I went to architecture school with a few guys that I am sure used to eat dirt. I’ve never met an architect that isn’t full of passion. The issue of taking responsibility when you drop the ball is what I believe we, as architects, need to pay close attention to.
The housing collapse and the architects’ role in it.
I know, beating a dead horse…but I just don’t think we get it. It was greed, it was disreputable builders, it was bad banking. But architects seemed to duck their heads and look the other way when responsibility should have been taken. It may seem like a stretch at first, I don’t think it had anything to do with bad design or needing to “green” things up. The way architects contributed to the housing collapse: Residential architects quit taking responsibility. We stopped doing the hard things. We dropped the ball.
We all learned in school that, in the beginning, architects were master builders. What a romantic notion. I’m sure it was a terribly difficult job. But architects were leaders. In generations past residential architects would design and follow through with contract administration. I’m sure it was a hard job. But architects were still leaders.
Not so long ago, builders said we don’t need oversight – let’s cut out the architect from the building process. Banks said, yeah, neither do we – if we send our own guys to the field, we can control the information. And architects sat around playing with their electric erasers. Architects were no longer leaders.
Architects no longer wanted to do the hard job. We let other professionals do the hard work of holding people accountable, making sure it gets done the way it should, following the money and being responsible for the results. I get it, these are not the glamorous parts of the job. They are not the parts that give you glossy photos and accolades at cocktail parties. But clients pay professionals that do the hard job, that take responsibility and lead. We architects are not leaders.
We have given away our spot as leader, but I truly believe we can earn it back. Taking responsibility is the first step to becoming a leader.
Now if you are skimming this blog, you are going to want to dial back in. I’m not going to spend the rest of this article telling you how we should go back and everyone hire an architect and it would all be honky dory. (Although we should, and it would). I’m not naive enough to think that clients would believe it. And I’m certainly not arrogant enough to try to swing a whole industry mindset.
What I am bold enough to believe is that, thanks to social media and the Internet, I can help a whole lot of people help themselves. For better or worse our clients have become a community of DIYers. Just look at the TV channels dedicated to it. My passion now is to work at furthering architects’ responsibilities in residential architecture. Residential clients need guidance through the residential building process because the industry is a mess right now. They just don’t know what it looks like. There is a huge hole left where architects used to fit in, but it looks much different now. You know, round peg – square hole. Our hard job right now is to find the shape of what we can offer. It is hard work. But that’s ok, because architects ARE leaders.
I’d love to hear what you think. Have personal experience with this? Leave me a comment and let’s discuss!
My Mission: Being a residential architect for 16 years, I have seen my fair amount of frustration, stress and heartache. Money has been lost, misspent and stolen. I have seen bad structure, bad design, and plenty of bad decisions.
I’m not sure how long ago this industry got off track, but it is far from where it needs to be.
With the right guidance building your custom home can be the best, most exciting and fulfilling experience!