summer SUSTAINABILITY course in session!

Monday, March 17, 2014



Architects are white men who are ego-centric, overpaid, workaholics who wear bow ties (or black turtlenecks) and fabulous eyeglasses.  Well, that description didn't happen on its own.
Dude's probably an architect (just guessing)
Image courtesy of r_neches via Flickr

There are about 130,000 architects in America (83% male & 90% white), with a mean income of about $70,000/year (much higher than the American median of $28,500, but considerably less than the median for all those with a professional degree @$100,000). No numbers on the bow ties, but I understand sometimes doctors and lawyers wear them, too.

Architects can be know-it-alls... because they're rather expected to know it all.  This is excessively off-putting in a social situation!  The good news is that they are typically lifelong learners, and they don't hit their professional stride until their 50s, 60s, or even 70s, when many other brilliant professionals are put out to pasture.

Architects can be idealists and pragmatists at the same time.  In fact, that's rather the perfect combination.  If we go back to the definition in lesson #001, we're talking art and science.

But what do they DO?

A lot of what architects do all day is talk on the phone.  Talk to clients about changing goals & budgets, talk to contractors about substitutions & delays, talk to the team about issues that arise as the details of the project become clearer, talk to the draftsmen about errors in the drawings, talk to the municipality about zoning and building code variances, talk talk talk talk talk.
NOT why most architects wanted to be architects, I can assure you!

The work most architects are excited about is the design itself: create all the wonderful things!!!!

Once the design is done and the building starts, there's also supervising the construction (contractors don't generally like to be told they're doing something wrong... this is where it's handy to be VERY confident/overbearing or very good at collaborating).  This part is actually a lot of fun, though, because you get to see your ideas come to life.

Homework #002 Homework review

Is that a bow tie?
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1926
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Nothing much to review yet, "show me the money"!
Well done on the map of Birdlandia, Josh.  

Homework #003A Watch a film:

Homework #003B Answer these Questions:

What movie did you watch?
How did the movie portray the architect? What did it look like he did at work?
Did the movie imply that our built surroundings were important?
Do you agree?

This Week's Q&A #003

definitely a bow tie
Le Corbusier, 1933
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Sandy: What is the difference between a structural engineer and an architect?

Ally: [Understanding that my answer comes from the point of view of the architect and that a structural engineer would likely give you a different answer…]

A client will typically hire an architect to assemble and lead a design team.  Depending on the complexities of a building, the architect may or may not gather several members of a team, including (but not limited to):

  • Structural engineer
  • Mechanical engineer (for heating, a/c & plumbing)
  • Electrical engineer
  • Landscape designer
  • Interior designer
  • Acoustic engineer
  • Daylighting consultant
  • Environmental consultant (for sustainable/green performance)
  • Building sciences engineer (for high performance buildings)

This usually works one of two ways:

  1. either the architect designs with the input of the team OR 
  2. the architect proceeds to design the building and the team is left to sort out the issues that arise with no adjustments to the building form or design.

Philip Johnson in 2002 at age 92
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

1. In the first scenario, everyone collaborates.  The architect says, "I really want to have a huge area of the floor cantilever over this creek."  The structural engineer counters, "Great!  You do realize that if you choose to do that in concrete, you're talking about 36" deep beams, right?"  Architect, "No, man, are you serious?  What are my other options?"

2. In the second scenario, the architect draws some drawings and everyone has to go away and make it work without changing the basic appearance of the sketch.

An architect is licensed/allowed/qualified to do his own structural calculations, but for anything out of the ordinary most architects hire a structural engineer whose sole focus is physics: keeping the building from falling down.  In fact, architects are rarely required to have any consultants on their team at all.  They can do it all like Frank Lloyd Wright (he would often do the preliminary structural engineering AND design the china pattern when he designed a house... though he would use his structural engineer son-in-law to assist).

Structures; or why things don't fall down
Speaking of engineering, the book on the right is a surprisingly entertaining text book on introductory physics for structures.  It was used in my freshman-level structures class taught by an Indiana-Jones-like professor-architect, in a bow tie.


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