Sunday, July 20, 2008

58. Know the Development Stages of a Famous Architect

An analysis of the development stages of a famous architect.

In this post, Jeffrey Kipnis analyzes the career and development of Finnish architect Kivi Sotamaa. He lists these as the general stages of development:


Architecture as an idea is a little bit like writing as an idea: There are writers that are journalists, there are writers that write business letters, there are writers that write fiction,and there are writers that write great works of literature.

Architecture is probably the one kind of creative form that most people don't understand, because they are around it all the time they kind of think that they get it.
Its creative component works at a more profound level and is a little less detectable.
I like to think of it like the the soundtrack in a movie.
The soundtrack controls the way you feel about the movie although you are never quite paying attention to it. You are always giving credit to the actor or the cinematographer; but It is really the music in the background that tells you how to feel.
That is what architecture at its best can do.

Conrad Newel

Liberating Minds Since August 2007

Saturday, July 19, 2008

57. More from the Little Devil on your shoulder

Conrad Newel

Liberating Minds Since August 2007

Based on the New York Times Article : I’m the Designer. My Client’s the Autocrat.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

56. Listen to the little Devil on your shoulder

Imagine for a moment that you were in TV land. There you always have a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other. They represent the good and evil side in all of us. Together the form our reasoning conscience.

Now imagine for a moment that you are a famous architect. That's right. Close your eyes and imagine that for a moment.

Now did you notice something different?

If you noticed that the little angel is gone and only the little devil is left, then you did the exercise correctly. Congrats man! you are one step closer to becoming a Famous Architect.

If not, no problem I will help you get rid of this annoying angel thingy on your shoulder.

The images below are a series of actual scenarios that if followed correctly will allow you to get in touch with the little devil on your shoulder that has helped guided so many famous architects to the top.

Conrad Newel

Liberating Minds Since August 2007

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

55. Talk to Tigerman about Ethics

Just recently Metropolis Magazine published this interview with Stanly Tigerman. I think it was probably more explosive than what they expected or perhaps not. This is the type of stuff that sells magazines. I decided to post a selected excerpt of it here not because I agreed with everything. In fact I think a lot of his arguments are implicative of taking a high road that treads on the border of career suicide, especially if you are hellbent on becoming a famous architect. Nevertheless, I think it is worth reading because he successfully illuminates a lot of the ethical cracks in the architectural establishment's celebrity machine i.e. (the schools, magazines, critics etc). The question is; How do you balance ethics in the current equation that includes branding, marketing, starchitecture, and starchitecture hungry dictatorial regimes?

So let’s talk about your idea of architecture as a social response. Why is that such a factor in your design?
I think it’s about being responsible. Architecture is a pursuit that ought to be seen in a more responsible light than it is. And I think that architects ought to be responsible to society in a number of ways and they need to do that for two reasons: number one is that they’re—presumably—human beings, and secondly, if we don’t do it, who the hell is going to?

I see my very good friends Peter Eisenman and Frank Gehry, who are very good architects. They are encouraging—inadvertently or not—as teachers, students to…how do I say… to emulate them. I find that problematic. I come from a generation where people like Harry Cobb—you know who he is, right?—and Paul Rudolph were very good at bringing us as good as we were. They didn’t try to encourage us to design in their image—not that Cobb had an image—nonetheless they produced a panoply of students whose work ranges from the extreme left to the extreme right. It’s an indication of a Socratic posture that can only be seen as admirable. I think things have happened since Paul’s time. Rome is burning.

We have to behave responsibly. That’s what’s fabulous about architecture; it’s like many other things in life. It’s transparent. If you’re interested in marketing and branding, you’ll be known for it. If you’re interested in being perceived as an aesthete, you’ll be known. If you’re socially responsible, you make your own judgments. You, Eva Hagberg. Me, Stanley Tigerman. Everyone else. I think that’s where architecture is at. It’s taken me my whole life to figure that out.

I’m not very smart. It takes a long time to figure this crap out. But I finally did. Do you want to spend a lifetime doing suburban villas for princes and princesses, or do you do something for people who really need what you do? Do you make your own decisions?

So one of the ways you try and change things is by teaching. What’s your plan there?
If you look at an educational curriculum, do you find any courses on ethics? I don’t think so. [EH, internally: My mom teaches ethics.] What you find is a lot of courses on computer technology to make you useful in an office. Is that what education is about? These are interesting questions. You gotta ask them. What about the AIA? You want to look at the website of the AIA ethics clause? When I joined the AIA forty-three years ago you couldn’t displace another architect without letting him know. You couldn’t undercut fees. You couldn’t market, you couldn’t brand. Now you can undercut fees, you can market, you can brand. And the AIA forces it at their conventions by spending tons of time on shit like marketing and branding! I’m asking YOU the questions.

I mean, why the fuck doesn’t Metropolis branch outside this interview? Spend the bulk of every goddamn issue on these ethical subjects, instead of branding Hariri + Hariri, or Peter, all of whom are very good architects of course. There’s this other side, the crappy architects you guys publish, at least these guys are really good. But I think encouraging signature work in formalistic ways is discouraging to people who are trying to be responsible, say, environmentally. Where were architects in the leadership field? Where were architects when ADA loomed large on the horizon? Were they leaders in terms of sustainability? Absolutely not.

Things didn’t make any sense to me in architecture school. We were shown images, then told, “You won’t understand this for five years but that’s ok.” I thought then when I didn’t get it that it just meant I was stupid. I think now that was an unfortunate way to teach. Why is architectural education so incomprehensible?

It’s to perpetuate a myth. In the same way that people talk in an arcane language. It’s not so that you can understand them, but so they can retain the myth. And architects are no different. You present it as part of a mystique.

From Metropolis Magazine :

Saturday, June 14, 2008

54. Take a lesson from Gage Clemenceau

What is Architecture?

I like to think of architecture as a very precise discipline. Very different from design and very different from sculpture. At the very basic level you have to deal with developing something with an exterior and an interior. Sculpture does not have that problem. I think that is enabling for architects because it gives us something with a very specific disciplinary rigor that we are required to address. So a lot of our work focus on the relationship between the exterior and the interior and how to create openings between them. We use a lot of surface design technologies including Maya, and Alias studio. For instance Alias Studio is used for car design. Car design has a similar problem that architecture has. You never build one thing, you build something that is made of multiple pieces (that looks like one thing) and you need a way to get inside and outside of it.

What is the role of the architect in contemporary society?

In the past, you meet with a client, the client tells you their problems, you solve the problem and you give them a building.

Thats not the role of the architect anymore.

The architect has to come with a very high level of expertise in contemporary design culture, about contemporary technologies, about contemporary materials, and it is the role of the architect to push these boundaries in the service of new forms of interior and exterior research.

Architecture right now is as popular as it has ever been in the past. It was probably started by 911 and the amount of press that was given to architecture in the competition for the development of the World Trade Center.

That generated a lot of interest sin architecture. A lot of people know who Frank Gehry is and who Zaha Hadid is.

The one thing I worry about is that it is becoming more a culture of celebrities and less a culture of the work. There are a lot of interests in the personalities and not the work as much.

What is the role of Social Networking?

It is second only to design.

There should be classes on how to network in architecture school.
There is no training in architecture school that allows you to graduate and know how to go about meeting people and getting work.

There are plenty of classes that tell tell you how to write contracts, how to do billing, how to stamp drawings properly, and how to deal with legal architectural issues.

There are very few classes that tell you how the world works:
How do you go out and meet people?
Networking is by far the most important thing you can learn.
All of our work come in from people going out and talking to each other.
very very few clients just come in from off the street without knowing someone or having seen our work and talked to someone about something.

How important is innovation?

For us it is incredibly important.
Thats were we gravitate. What are the new tools out there?
what are the new software packages out there?
What are the new fabrication technologies out there?
How can they be useful for architecture?
How can we use them to develop new attitudes towards design and new attitudes towards space?

The first thing that we do when we get a resume is look for skills. Part of the responsibility of going to architecture school is being fluent in the most contemporary skills you can pick up. We get a lot of resumes and the first thing we do is flip through their portfolio and see where they are with their skill set. Everyone here though they came from different schools has a level of skill set that were looking for at the time they were hired and thats why they are here.

Competitions are one of the only way to get your self out there.
It's great for young architects to develop their signatures, and their architectural vocabularies. A lot if it is a gamble, It can also be seen as an investment if you get published

from ArchDaily:

Friday, May 30, 2008

53. Take a lesson from IKEA

IKEA sells a brilliantly envisioned, meticulously conceived, inter-operational collection of constructed "components" of individual identity, situated in the domestic sphere, and supported by a global system of logistics, engineering, marketing, operations, but most of all DESIGN, that is really remarkable.

The connection that I made with all of this is the increasing significance of design, in the most universal, far-reaching sense, in the world of software. Apple Computers' incredible success of the last few years since the introduction of MacOS X, the iPod, and its super-sexy notebooks, is not about selling a Unix-based operating system, a digital personal music player, and mass-market commodity laptops - it's about DESIGN, transformative, transcendent design that engages us in experiences which makes our inner ape feel safe, happy, sexy, powerful - emotional experiences which stimulate our pleasure centers and form habits of use, habits of consumption.


Similarly Starchitects are not about designing a building, they about designing a brand of architecture and ideas that stimulates us in a certain way. To accomplish this, some are pushing a pre-existing trend of outsourcing to a whole new level.

REX for example is a relatively young firm. Both partners Joshua Prince-Ramus and Erez Ella are in their 30's and so are most of their staff for that matter.

They were able to design Museum Plaza [a complex multi program 62 floor skyscraper] relying on an equally complex team of consultants. In fact they see themselves as orchestraters of the design process. They hand pick the team, they coordinate communications, set the goals, and direct the conceptual ideas. Their contribution to the design is simply the initial concept and mission control from there on.

Below is their philosophy statement directly from their website.
We design collaborations rather than dictate solutions.
The media sells simple, catchy ideas; it reduces teams to individuals and their collaborative work to genius sketches. The proliferation of this false notion of "starchitecture" diminishes the real teamwork that drives celebrated architecture. [Read here why this Denunciation of Starchitecture is important to your mystique] REX believes architects should guide collaboration rather than impose solutions. We replace the traditional notion of authorship: "I created this object," with a new one: "We nurtured this process."

But REX is just one of many famous firms on this bandwagon. Listen to Thom Mayne of Morphosis on this very subject:

How does that team function, You are the lead guy on these projects, but what do you leave to the other people that work with you, how does that work?

Oh, I leave a lot.

We are called Morphosis and we were started in 1972
It was a kind of a very 60's idea
It was an idea about a collective practice

I was looking at film a lot and I saw architecture very parallel to film in its collaborative nature.

It was very conscious of removing authorship in a singular way. So the name Thom Mayne came out of the firm. It happens to be that Morphosis is a very generic name: the development of form. It applies to architecture, planning, landscape, and to industrial design etc. and we very much work like that. I guess my position very simply, would be that of the auteur: the director. I am definitely guiding conceptually the interests, etc of the group.

there are discussions and sometimes I am putting down the first hunch. Sometimes a form already closer to architecture and other times its just about ideas; about the land, or about a slope, or a force of movement or something else. Its just words working back and forth.

Its a collective practice where I am part of the directorship but it is absolutely collaborative. Then of course with that comes the huge amounts of people that work on large scale projects, the structural engineers, the mechanical engineers, the landscape architects, the cost estimators, on and on.

I left a meeting today and there were 20 of us at the table and we are at the very beginning of the project, just introducing the basic components and getting a pre-schematic together: The beginning essence of what a project is going to be.

I love that , I love working with a lot of people

A lot of people think of the kind of Ayn Rand- Frank Lloyd Wright idea of the architect. You enter the room, everything is in your brain [wherever it is located] you have this incredible creative instinct, you already have this genius idea in your head and you are going to lay it down for everybody.

For me it's the complete opposite, [Again, Read here why this Disassociation from Starchitecture is important] you walk in the room absolutely blank, nothing up there, and you start a discussion. If you put me in a room by myself, I would go nutty, I need interaction, I need push-back. I need dynamism of the group activity...

In essence what we are beginning to see is a gradual reshaping of the traditional model of the Architecture Firm. One that does not require the architect to be a specialist in the technicalities of building design within his own firm, but one that is a director of a team of consultants. By outsourcing much of the technicalities, this type of firm leaves itself room to focus more on concepts, research, brand, image, and publicity. The Architect becomes [as Mayne puts it] an auteur where he acts very much in the same way as a film director tweaking and stoking his crew and actors to achieve a certain effect on our inner ape.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

52. Know How to Tell Your Story in the Media

Publicity is by far one of the most effective marketing tools at your disposal, but how do you promote yourself to the media so that they will give your growing business the spotlight it needs?

Storytelling. That's right, because ultimately, business stories are human interest stories and every reporter is looking for a good story. In fact the press refers to the articles they write as stories. Here are 4 things you need to give the press to help them tell your story:

1. Personality. "A company is faceless without the people who run it," says Joanne Cleaver, a business writer whose work has appeared in Home Office Computing and Dividends Magazine. "In any story, you want the personality of the people to come through. You want to get a sense of who they are."

2. Facts & Figures. Reporters love facts and figures; they anchor a story in reality. However, if you prefer not to divulge sales figures, talk instead about your rate of growth. Say, "Our commissions have doubled in the last year," or "We've already met our objectives for this year, and it's only July."

3. Anecdotes. As impressive as numbers can be, they are not the whole story. Real-life examples of how you solved a client's problems bring your story to life. According to Cleaver, "Readers want to hear about real people, they respond to that. Your story says I've been there." Tell the stories behind the facts and embellish them with details that would make someone want to listen (This is where drama comes in handy).

4. Details that Reveal. Reporters have their antennae up for interesting details about the people behind the companies. More and more, that's the approach that reporters are taking, so you need to be open and to share details. Maybe the contents of your refrigerator reveals something insightful about your marketing strategy, or the fact that you work best in the nude. "No business experience is a straight line. Your motivation and vision for the business is affected by who you are. Think about the attitudes that have played into your success or your experience, " says Cleaver.

From The Art of Self Promotion #22, How to Tell Your Story in the Media by Ilise Benun

Saturday, May 17, 2008

51. Denounce Starchitecture

Starchitects Have Reason to be Gloomy

First, the good news. The early model of the starchitect incited by the image-mongering of Frank Lloyd Wright is still in play. It captured the extra-architectural imagination of the popular press and helped catapulted the careers of many architects ever since. Unfortunately we may now be seeing a more universal fatigue with the entire enterprise. Now, the bad news. The fatigue has become so bad that starchitects have now become a popular instrument of ridicule by the media in popular culture. The starchitect have come to represent vanity, greed and shallowness; an enterprise that is ethically challenged. The model has so many broken windows that it has become popular for every lowly wayward to throw a brick at it.

So many architects who have worked up the ranks to gain starchitect status are beginning to question whether there may be fools gold at the end of the rainbow.

Remember the old adage "Be careful what you wish for...". As one journalist put it "[it] reminds me of the one Looney Tune that terrified me as a child, where a selfish and gluttonous Porky Pig is subjected by a mad scientist to a nightmare of unending force-feeding. Enough already. Please. Enough."

In his article Anti-Starchitecture Chic:What’s a budding celebrity architect to do when the winds of change begin shifting away from fame?, Philip Nobel describes the current plight of the Starchitect.

Are we ready for something new? Starchitecture culture in its current form—characterized by the premature coronation of designers based on flashy forms and blowout press coverage, the infection of schools with the idea of fame as a career objective....[has reached it's] current levels of saturation

We’re bored with the stars...even at such previously starstruck schools as Princeton, Col­um­bia, and Yale—who are rejecting stardom as an aspirational model and are looking for other, perhaps more grounded ways to build a practice. Some of them also report a widespread dissatisfaction among their peers with the type of ­teaching—typically image-heavy and form-centric—that ­starchitecture has imposed on so many schools. In a related development, younger firms are more often using generic titles rather than marketing themselves exclusively as name-brand stars on the hoof...

Backlash is in the air, and using the same refined organs that so ably guided their rise, the smart stars can feel it.

So what to do? Here are three suggestions:

1.Denounce Starchitecture.
2.Denounce Starchitecture.
3.Denounce Starchitecture.

If you are not yet famous, do as I said in last week's post. Don't tell anyone you want to be a famous architect. Don't tell anyone you read this blog. Just chill out with it. I wasn't kidding. If this doesn't work laugh at it

If you are an almost famous architect [a prince in waiting to be crowned Starchitect], Nobel's article outlines the pros and cons of renouncing the monarchy of fame even while you are being crowned.
market yourself by saying “I am not a star” (as Josh Prince-Ramus has done since his split with Rem) [but this] is only to buy into the same tired trope. To get work, architects must sell a thing—the idea of a building—that by definition does not exist at the time of the sale. So recourse to some sort of theater is appealing. And their customers, prepared as they are to spend millions, are not the most easily sold—and in many cases, particularly for corporate or institutional jobs, they want the splash that only a star (or, it has to be said, a really great building) can reliably bring. It’s a puzzle; the economic pressures to operate as a star are many, and the alternative strategies are few. The only truly credible course may be to reject the very idea of using yourself as a brand, to work and work well, and then to get what press you get in the course of yet more good work. Boring maybe, but until a less destructive model of high-profile practice emerges, it’s the right thing to do.

But what if you have a full blown case of Starchitectamyelitis what do you do?
If you are a true virtuoso you can just denounce yourself. Nobel describes the real genius of Frank Gehry at the top of his game.

Gehry, of course, is an expert at managing his fame. Perhaps that’s why he felt compelled recently to deliver to me a T-shirt tastefully printed with “Fuck Frank Gehry,” and insist by proxy (the New York–based creator of the shirts acting as courier) that I wear it at the 2007 Temko Critics Panel (“What to Make of Starchitecture, and Who to Blame for It”). Apparently the shirts are popular at the offices of Gehry Partners LLP, and Frank was feeling frisky. My fellow panelists were amused and assumed I was a sellout, so it did have an effect on the proceedings. But I declined to wear the gift—ethics, you know, and anyway I prefer to get paid to advertise—and I responded by sending back a shirt with my name and a similar blunt mes­sage. May he wear it in good health—in front of as many cameras as possible.

Friday, May 9, 2008

50. chill out on your famous/oeidopus complex

Dear Cat,

No personal offence taken.

I am just very happy to get feedback.

Actually, your comment falls into the most common category of responses to this blog.
I think that most people believe fame is something that comes to those who work hard, do good design, are talented and have a bit of luck.
In my experience this is true but missing a very critical ingredient.
That ingredient is called "working on cultivating fame for yourself"

I wished we lived in a great meritocracy where architects are recognized purely on the basis of their work, but this is just not reality. Once in a blue moon a lucky chap will win a competition and get instant recognition. But if he/she does not cultivate their fame they will loose it. For the rest of us, its a goal that is cultivated and worked on over a lifetime like any other career path.

My hopes with this blog is to open people up to this idea. Fame is an achievable goal that must be tampered with talent, work, a bit of luck, etc, etc,. To focus on fame alone is just as bad as focusing on hard work alone. Haven't you heard the saying "Hard work and no Fame makes Jack a dull boy"

If I seem a wee bit obsessed with fame...well... that's just because I am! (genealogists have proven that I share a common ancestor with both Paris Hilton and Philip Johnson) It's also because this blog is just about this one aspect of the big picture. I don't wish to tell you how to design, or how hard to work, I leave that up to you. That's another blog.

I am not worried about being perceived as fame hungry because I don't talk about fame with other people as much as I write about it. I don't even tell people I write or read this blog and neither should you. See my post on how to read this blog.

Anyway, please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or comments.

Best Regards

Conrad Newel

Freeing Minds Since August 2007

--- On Tue, 5/6/08, cat wrote:
From: cat
Subject: famous architect comment (cat)
To: architect.journal [AT]
Date: Tuesday, May 6, 2008, 6:36 PM


Name: cat

i think you need to chill out on your famous/oeidopus complex
(cant spell, sorry).

its distrubeing, and though amusing..
ultimatley you will be perceived as the
one that wanted to be famous,
rather than the one who worked hard enough to
become famous.

nothing personal.

Date/Time: 2008-05-06 09:36:19 PDT

Thursday, May 1, 2008

49. Young Architects Now Means "Young"

This was just too good to pass up. We have been talking about this stuff all along and then came this. We have said don't wait. The age of "The Lone Genius" architect is gone we are now in the era of the united team , go out and work for a famous architect and most importantly Rem Koolhaas has wings. Well this just confirms it. If you can't take if from us take it from Icon:

Is it just us or is the young architect a very different beast these days? For the first time, "young" actually means young, but "architect" may no longer mean architect. This is our list of the most significant rising practices. Like all list stories, you'll disagree with some of it, but that's half the fun.

The first thing to mention is that the "young architect" is definitely younger than he or she used to be. We borrowed the convention of using 40 as our cut-off point, but at least half of the people on this list are 35 or under - and one of them is a 33-year-old overseeing a practice with 75 staff. Have we moved from the architect of promise to the upstart with power?

Secondly, the school of thought that architects need to build things to make their presence felt is losing currency. There are a few on the list who reflect that - these are the strategists and networkers who challenge legislation and foment debate.

Interestingly, of those who do build, by far the most successful in business terms are the practices who were nurtured by Rem Koolhaas at OMA. Theirs is a world of seismic competition wins and huge staff counts.

But where's all the rebellion? There's little sense here of a generation reacting against the ideology of its elders - Perhaps that's simply because we live in apolitical times. In fact, there are few signs of a coherent generation at all, although there are definite camps: the Children of Rem, the quiet but extremely sophisticated disciples of Zumthor and SANAA, the tower builders and the open network activists.

This is a global list in more ways than one. You'll find three Americans, two Japanese, two Chinese, a Chilean, and Indian and a bunch of Europeans. But increasingly these practices are international anyway, undermining notions of national architecture - more important (a crucible these days) are the practices they meet at. Having said that, you'd think a British magazine might put more British architects on the list. But then, the key thing that is giving all these youngsters their big break is the culture of open architecture competitions - and that's something this country desperately needs.

from Icon Magazine
original title - 20 Essential Young Architects -

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

48. Be Open & Coachable

Some time ago I visited a friend in architecture school at his studio there. While he was showing me around, and I noticed something rather strange. Some of the students' drafting boards were covered up like they had secret plans of Fort Knox under them.
I asked him "what was that about?"
He told me "they covered them up because they did not want anyone to steal their ideas"
I thought "Gollum!"
Do you remember Gollum from the movie The Lord of the Rings?
He was this guy that became possessed with a magical golden ring. He called it "My precious" and did almost anything to protect and keep it. In the end of the movie he became a sorry creature.

When you guard your idea out of competitive aims, your idea develops only with you. And when this happens, you become myopic. If you are like most human beings you will have blind spots [stupid obvious mistakes right in front of you, that you fail to notice because you are so close to your project]. You fall in love with your project, and your judgement becomes impaired. You take criticism of the project very personally and become defensive should anyone try to point out its weakness.

When you guard and protect your idea, you inevitably become a kind of a helicopter parent to it. The more protective and inflexible you are, the weaker the idea; it can't stand on its own, you will have to be there to defend it all the time. It is better to be like a mother bird and throw your idea out of the nest and fly on its own. When you let people in, they can see all the weak spots in your projects immediately and tell you. Of course it will be battered and bruised, but thats part of the testing process. When you are willing to give up darling parts that doesn't serve it and patch the holes, only then does your idea become stronger.

When I was in second year of college, a girl who was in 5th year at the time, who was quite smart and talented came to my desk and asked me if I had a moment to critique her project. I was a little puzzled at first. Why would she need the advice of a second year student? What do I know that she doesn't? But then as she began to explain her project to me, I began to see how useful it was for her just to just talk about it to someone. She spotted quite a few weakness in the project herself (just hearing herself speaking about it) before I even made a comment. In the end I was only able to point out a few other things that was blaintely obvious to me that she could not see. It wasnt becasuse I was smarter than her but it was because she was smart enough to understand the principle of being open and coachable.

JFK knew this. He was young and inexperienced when he came to office, but he was able to lead a country and have one of the most successful presidencies. How? He surrounded himself with smart people and took their advice on different issues. Ideas were thrown on the table and discussed. It was hammered out, criticized, and debated by the brightest minds. In the end he made the decisions, but they were informed decisions. The one man against the world thing is a myth.

Compare with George W. Bush who was not open or coachable. He ignored the advise of everyone around him [except those who agreed with him]. The Iraq War idea was not really questioned, not even by congress, because to do so was unpatriotic. He chanted either you are with me or you are against me. He was one man against the world. The individual against the collective. Sounds familiar? If he was an eloquent speaker he could have made that Howard Roak speech in the clip at the top of this page.

In contrast to good ol' Georgie and popular myths about the Famous Architect, Louis Khan was open and coachable. He actually took advise from a lot of people. The idea that he was this lone genius dreaming up these great projects out of his head is a myth. In her book Louis Kahn's Situated Modernism, Sarah Williams Goldhagen debunks the myths that have cast him as a mystical neo-Platonist, a visionary champion of Beaux-Arts principles, and a rebel against modernism. She demonstrates instead that the essence of Kahn's architecture lies in his deeply held modernist political, social, and artistic ideals. Kahn frequently discussed his ideas with other architects, even other famous ones that were considered his competitors. He was obviously not afraid of them stealing his ideas. Consider this, it was famous architect Louis Barragan who convinced him to drop the idea of landscaping the now famous plaza of Salk Institute with trees and leave it open.

The second benefit of being open and coachable; it is that it creates and/or build relationships. Just talking about your ideas with people can help to create a support base of people who see the idea as partly theirs and want to see it succeed too. By taking the time to discuss your project with you, people tend to feel that they have somehow made an investment [not to mention feeling complimented that you value their opinion enough to ask for their advice]. They develop a sense of loyalty to your project and to you. They will help your project even while you are asleep. They will talk about you and your project with other people. In one case someone who helped me, went to a party and met someone who is working with something related to my project and said "hey Conrad is working with that maybe you should talk to him" The next morning I got an email from someone that was able to push my project 10 times as far as if I tried to do all the research for it by my self.

This brings me to the third good reason to be open and coachable. Despite Howard Roak's claim that there is no such thing as a collective brain, this principle works like a multiple processor chip computer processing your project. Picture this, the more people you discuss your projects and ideas with, the more brains there are in the world churning for solutions to make it better.

If you take nothing else from this blog, take this:

Think less Gollum and more A-Team

Saturday, April 19, 2008

47. Pay Attention to your Clothes

The relationship between fashion and architecture is not a particularly oblique one. Both are based on structure, shape and prettying up basic necessities - clothes and shelter. The relationship between fashion and architects is less discussed. Yet even a glance at your garden-variety modern architect proves this is a group who are just as style-conscious as fashion designers. Hadley Freeman dissects their fashion choices

Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius established the look that has become Modern Architect Chic. Here we see the I-don’t-work-in-a-proper- office jackets and the I’m-a-bit-artistic bow ties that originated with this duo. Gropius’s bow tie is a little floppier than one would expect from the founder of Bauhaus (right), but Le Corbusier’s pulled-together look is surely what one would expect of a man who used to design whole cities for a giggle

Peter Eisenman is quite possibly my favourite of the lot. With the tie, the braces and, of course, the circular glasses, Eisenman's most obvious inspiration is Le Corbusier, but, with his penchant for Richard Rogers-esque bright colours, he sometimes looks a little more like a Technicolour Magritte. Most delightful is that, no matter how bright the tie and braces, his facial expression is always one of steadfast solemnity

Golly, do you reckon this chap gives much thought to his look? It’s just so insouciant - if I’m right in thinking insouciant is French for ‘more obsessively cultivated than a bonsai tree’. From the tips of his spiky hair to the heels of his trademark cowboy boots, Daniel Libeskind’s outfit couldn’t scream MODERN ARCHITECT any louder if it stood in the street and bellowed through a megaphone

Richard Rogers’ look rocks. The laid-back holiday style might seem at first a surprising diversion from standard Modern Architect Chic. But those of us in the know see a man who dresses like his buildings. I once bumped into Rogers in the Pompidou Centre, which is a plain structure encased in primary coloured detailings. Rogers wore a white suit with a bright yellow jacket: he was the human embodiment of his work

Here we see Zaha Hadid proving that her aesthetic inclinations with regards to buildings are echoed in her wardrobe. In this photo, Hadid is standing next to a sculpture she made for the Serpentine Gallery in 2007. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg question: which came first, the dress or the artwork?

If ever anyone wanted to prove that architects are more style-conscious than fashion designers, here’s the evidence: Future Systems’ Amanda Levete (left) competely outshining Stella McCartney. Where McCartney has gone for her usual all-black tailoring, Levete goes for a more interesting look that echoes her work. Note the precision with which she draws her black cuff s over the sleeves of her white coat. That schtick ain’t accidental, you know

Nigel Coates is a rare thing indeed: an openly gay architect. And, as sure as night follows day, he is by far the most fashionable of the bunch. Look at him here, all the way back in 1998, working that Doctor Who look almost a decade before most of us had even heard of David Tennant. In classic architect style, he clearly cares about details: note how his cuffs peek out of his sleeves at exactly the same length on each side and tie perfectly matches jacket

Bravely ignoring US Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s recent diktat, Norman Foster embraces the matchy-matchy look. Devotees of Trinny and Susannah will applaud the way Foster lengthens his leg by matching his trousers to his shoes. Every one else will muse distractedly on whether he has a different pair of shoes for each pair of trousers. Some may be surprised by his traditional attire. But as his full title is Baron Foster of Thames Bank, one feels it is a look that suits the man

Mike Davies has been having a hard time. Two words: Terminal Five. So who can blame the man for feeling the need to cheer himself up by wearing head-to-toe red, his signature style? You may not be surprised to hear that he works with Richard Rogers. But he is more hardline than his boss and sticks firmly to his beloved scarlet

From; originally title "Architecture and Fashon", By Hadley Freeman

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

46. Life lessons from "The Godfather of Fame" Phillip Johnson

Sometimes referred to as the Paris Hilton of architecture, Phillip Johnson was one of the most divisive architects of the 20th Century. He took on contrarian views and said taboo things that would outrage other architects thus making him even more famous.

I believe he was the one that said we architects are whores. If you are a non-architect reading this blog I will let you know that most architects believe in Architecture like most people believe in God. We take it very seriously, to the point of fanaticism most of the time.

So when PJ said this, we blew our tops, including yours truly. I have always despised him and in a lot of ways, I still do. He represented everything empty and shallow and demeaning to my holy profession. In retrospect though, I think PJ is just as good as he is evil. He was right, and he was wrong (as he would say), he was human.

He mastered the art of fame not just for himself but he was the godfather to others.

Love him or hate him he deserves at least 15 minutes on this notorious blog of fame.

On architecture:

Architecture is the mother of the arts, it is the thing that makes all other arts possible like wall paintings and things like that; they have to be in an architectural setting all day.

On great architects:

I measure the greatness [of an Architect] by whether they did beautiful buildings or not. Whether they got public acceptance? No [but whether they got] elitist acceptance in the world of people who understands art and architecture. You see, I might do a very popular building but that would not be equal to Mies van der Rohe doing the Segram’s building.

More on great architects:
You know what architects are, they are worst than Divas, they are the last of a bread, each one of them. Frank Lloyd Wright knew perfectly well that there was no architecture and after he died there will be no more architecture.

What was your biggest regret?
Being such a damn fool when I was young…
I got better judgment on what to do with my time, I spend it doing architecture which may or may not be good but it sure is great fun.

As an architect evaluate “Johnson” the architect.
He is not a very good architect, he is a chameleon, he runs around a lot, he never settles down, always looking for something new, and I see nothing wrong in that.

[But seriously] no...I am a good architect, not Frank Lloyd Wright, not Frank Gehry, not Le Corbusier, not Mies van der Rohe…

If you were asked “show me your best work” what would you show?
I would show them the monster...
Your most recent work?...You got this idea from?
(Got the idea) from Frank Stella,
So you stole it from Stella?
Of course,
This is not an original Johnson?
It got to be original...(laughter)…
Look we all learn from somebody and when you are 90 you learn more from other people because you are smarter...
You like it because…?
There is this moving space that surrounds you and makes you feel very good in the tummy and what more can you ask of architecture…
What’s the purpose of the glass house?
To make you feel good. Feel elevated...
how do you feel when you listen to a great symphony, you feel marvelous, you feel like you can float, but you can not analyze why…and no one can tell you.
It’s an emotional connection
…and that’s what architecture should be…
What about function?
Well it’s not very important. What’s the function of a Beethoven Symphony?

If you are going to give one last lecture what would it be?
Life is not dependent on money, on learning how to do things, its dependent on love, and dependent on enthusiasm, and dependent on battling

Do you believe in God?
it is what I feel when I am moved by something. If there is a God, that’s God..... whatever it/he/she is

Is not life a hundred times too short to bore ourselves”

from Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil 1886

Why is that a good quote?
It shows the you have to loose yourself in doing something that excites you

“There is only one thing in the world that is worst than being talked about, and that's not being talked about”
from Oscar Wilde...

I approve of that,…I love television I could be on it all day long

Liberaing Minds Since August 2007

Friday, April 4, 2008

45. Warning #2: Beware of the absurd (John Silber)

Consider this part 2 of the last post on "Warning: Architecture is Politics, so be Good"

From time to time I receive messages from disgruntled anti-starchitecture readers that referenced the book "Architecture of the Absurd: How "Genius" Disfigured a Practical Art" by John Silber. They use it as their Anti-Starchitecture Bible to decry any talk of fame. At first hearing about it I thought it sounded a little silly; "When was architecture ever a practical art?" was my reaction. I decided to actually read it anyway. After going through the first few chapters, I was a genuinely amused; I couldn't tell if the author was actually real or television character. The arguments sounded as though Archie Bunker decided to write a book on architecture.

Below: Archie Bunker argues against gun-control, John Silber style

Then another image came to mind: That episode on the TV program 60 minutes where Morley Safer took a bunch of school children to a contemporary art museum. He pointed to an abstract painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat's and asked one of the kids "can you do that?" the kid fired back a resounding "yeah!" with a confident smirk. Safer then concluded, quite seriously, "There you have it, Contemporary Art is Bullshit!"

I was going to write a summary of what I thought of the book in response, but then I found out that Mark Lamster, of The Los Angeles Times had already beat me to it. This is a rather large excerpt from his review below:

Back in 1981, Tom Wolfe published the archetypal work of reactionary architectural criticism, "From Bauhaus to Our House," a happy-go-lucky evisceration of modern design and the men who brought it to America. Wolfe's short romp through history struck a nerve, but one close to the funny bone. Reviewing it in the Nation, critic Michael Sorkin quipped, "What Tom Wolfe doesn't know about modern architecture could fill a book. And so, indeed, it has, albeit a slim one."

Now John Silber, former president of Boston University and failed Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate, has set himself the dubious task of assuming Wolfe's cranky mantle. It's a game effort: What Silber doesn't know about modern architecture has also filled a book, although one 46 pages slimmer than Wolfe's and absent the master's wit. Indeed, "Architecture of the Absurd: How 'Genius' Disfigured a Practical Art" is so riddled with red herrings, half-truths and gratuitously provocative exaggerations that Colin Powell might try reading it at the United Nations.

During a speech at the United Nations,Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up evidence from Silber's book showing how Famous Architects intimidate and overpower vulnerable developers around the world to build their shit.

Its central conceit is that a few shamelessly self-aggrandizing architects, most prominently Daniel Libeskind and Frank Gehry, have hijacked an otherwise pragmatic field and, out of naked self-interest, have fostered an "absurd" school of design that fails the functional, aesthetic and economic needs of those it is meant to serve. In his telling, the "Genius" architect is a kind of Svengali, manipulating clients with arcane "Theoryspeak" and grand visions until they "forfeit their dignity as persons and allow themselves, through vanity, gullibility, or timidity, to be seduced." And so we have Libeskind repeatedly orchestrating a "barrage of intimidation" in order to transform his evil plans into glass and steel, and Gehry, with his "contempt for the interests of clients."

Whatever distaste one might have for their architecture, these characterizations are misleading. Libeskind as intimidator? The man is about 5 feet tall, wears funny glasses and, in general, makes Woody Allen look like Dick Cheney. And Gehry -- never mind a recent lawsuit over his design for the Stata Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the building is pictured on the book jacket) -- has had no shortage of customers, many of them experienced developers who obviously feel he has their interests at heart.

Developers stand no chance against the manipulating tactics of Famous Architects like Daniel Libeskind who can intimidate and make shit at the same time.

The truth is that Libeskind, Gehry and architecture's other so-called geniuses are giving their educated consumers precisely what they want -- elaborate works of design that command the public's attention. It's telling that Silber fails to grapple with Gehry's 1997 Guggenheim outpost in Bilbao, the project that launched the current signature-museum phenomenon. That building doesn't quite fit into his narrative, and not just because it has proved a popular and critical success. This was not a design foisted on some naive client; it was the product of a partnership between Gehry and Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim director who latched onto the idea that visionary architecture could be a means of brand extension.

That view may not be appealing, but it is today's reality. Architecture is the lipstick on the pig of development; its practitioners are far more likely to be pawns of their clients than Svengalis controlling them....(read the rest here)

John Silber throws a brick at someone famous.

I can certainly understand that a lot of regular folks find the absurd in abundance in starchitecture today. It is well due for a serious critique. I have previously pointed out Delirious Dubai as a good start. Architecture of the Absurd is far from it!

Liberaing Minds Since August 2007

Friday, March 28, 2008

44. Warning: Architecture is Politics, so be Good

Being an architect is not very different from being a politician if you think about it.

Both are always responsible to a constituency if only on a moral level. In the politician's case its the general public in the area that they represent. In the architects case its the public who use the building and will interact with it even if they just walk by it.

Both are dependent on and oftentimes instruments of the rich & powerful. For architects we are dependent wholy on our clients for our income. While politicians get paid for their services as elected officials they usually dont get elected without the contributions of wealthy donors.

We are both criticized for being sellouts, whores, puppets of the rich, and so on when we fail to protect the public against the profit motivated interests of the rich developers. Its a tough place to be, having to choose between your career and the interest of the common good. For some it is an easier choice than for others. For architects like David Childs, its do what the clients want, its my career fuck everybody else. With others like Lebbeus Woods, its the other extream. You build nothing except on paper, but at least you have your morals. For most in between its a delicate balancing act.

The parallel goes even further if you consider the architect famous. Also, like politicians Famous Architects are constantly under scrutiny and held to much higher standards than the rest of us. For politicians, a laps in judgement like having an extra marital affairs, or use illegal drugs that are so common place among the public are grounds for ending a career. For Famous Architects, one leaky roof can become a blight as legendary as the legends themself. Never mind all their other meritable acomplishments. The less famous in our profession are guilty of much worse but because we are not in the spotlight we can easily let it go. We only have to answer to our own guilt and self standards.

Before you start promoting yourself, you had better make sure that you are more than talented. You had better be able to take a few punches, harsh and unfair criticism, and intense scrutiny. You had better be able to come back from a fall. The fame game is NOT for the faint hearted. You had better make sure that you are more than interesting, You had better be good.

By Conrad Newel,

Liberaing Minds Since August 2007

Friday, March 21, 2008

43. Make the Most of Your Business Card

Everyone knows Networking Rule Numero Uno – Don't go out without your business card – although I'm constantly amazed by how many people don't bring their cards to professional events. (Some kind of self-sabotage, I think.) Your card plays a major role in your prospect's first impression of you, and you don't often get more than one chance.

David Salanitro, owner of San Francisco-based, Oh Boy, A Design Company, has an interesting take on business cards. He believes they're essential, yet disposable, and he spreads his around like paper samples. "They're not keepers. They're scraps of paper that you throw at people. Their purpose is to create a first impression, over and over, to be there at the right moment, not to be kept as an heirloom." Here are a few tips from Salanitro for making the most of your business cards:

1. Hand them to people when you meet them for the first time. They'll remember your name better if they see it. Develop this as a reflex and don't be shy if they don't automatically reciprocate. Go ahead and ask for their card. It will help you remember their name, an invaluable marketing skill in itself.

2. Give them to people every time you meet them, not just the first time. This will avoid any embarrassment in case they forget your name. It doesn't matter if they don't keep the card; it will have already served its purpose.

3. Include one in everything you send out — intro letters, invoices, FYI's, article tear sheets.

4. Carry them everywhere you go. Put a few in your wallet, especially for those unexpected marketing moments when you meet someone with their guard down, standing in line at the bank or post office.

If networking is the most effective marketing activity – and it is – then your business card is your networking ticket. (In fact, Salanitro's card looks like a theatre ticket.) So whether you're walking the dog or taking out the trash, but especially when you are in work mode, always carry your cards with you. You just never know who you're going to meet and what they're going to need.

By Ilise Benun
from The Art of Self Promotion #23

Saturday, March 15, 2008

42. What is architecture?

This week I went through a selection of interviews by some famous and slightly famous architects. As I read, I looked at how they defined architecture during the course of these interviews. Below are some excerpts from those interviews where they answer the question "What is architecture?" . Though they are all taken out of context, it gives a candid insight into how they think about architecture and what they believe it to be.


I think architecture is about ideas in the first place. You don’t get to design until you have an idea. That idea has to be somewhat comprehensive. There’s always a client asking for a building. If you’re an architect, you’ll design the building. But if you’re a dutiful architect, you first have to question why the building is required. The architect has to take responsibility to participate in the rationale of the building and not just to design. The architect can either say we don’t need this building and walk away, or maybe we need a different kind of building. That’s why I don’t have a lot of clients.
Architecture requires the critical questioning of many things—it’s not just a thoughtful carrying out of a client’s wishes.

architecture is a multi-disciplinary field, by definition. But, as a multi-disciplinary field, our ideas have to be comprehensive; I think architects – at least those inclined to understand the multi-disciplinarity and the comprehensive nature of their field – have to visualize something that embraces all these political, economic, and social changes. As well as the technological. As well as the spatial.

I wrote some years back, architecture is a political act, by nature. It has to do with the relationships between people and how they decide to change their conditions of living. And architecture is a prime instrument of making that change – because it has to do with building the environment they live in, and the relationships that exist in that environment.


Architecture is handcraft. Architecture is art. Most of all architecture is framing human life. With architecture comes a great responsibility of trying to understand the human nature.

I’m convinced that architecture has to be functional, durable and beautiful. Furthermore it’s very important to me that my architecture reveals a clear and understandable concept – tells a simple story. I don’t believe that “less is more”, but I enjoy when simple and beautiful geometrical shapes solve all challenges in a project. Architecture doesn’t have to be difficult and I don’t think that innovative architecture has to look like something exploded.


What is architecture really? It is taking our world view, how we exist, how we deal with each other in a civil society, and it concertizes it, it makes it permanent, It makes it evident. The social act and the aesthetic act comes together.

Architecture is a public act: It can only finally be about our social space: connections between people, a public space, the connective tissue.


Architecture is a sensuous art, because it is perceived with the senses.
If you like a house or an inner space, perhaps a living room or a church, it is something you feel, not something you think. Of course, the mind comes into play too, as it is through experience that we understand how buildings work, and so there is a certain empiricism at work. But the most important thing is emotional understanding. This cannot always be rationalized or summoned at will. It is often just there.

Architecture is partly based on the sense of touch. Materials used in architecture are the equivalent of notes for the composer. I work with all materials, and like them all. The interest lies in finding ever-new ways to put the notes together – to achieve a specific final sound.


I consider architecture a discipline, not a profession. Considering the classic periods of architecture, architecture was more or less confined to the sacred and political power. Architecture represented a spiritual device and now it is considered that it should merely ornament our lives.

For me architecture’s role is to elevate the profane with the sacred. If you succeed in making architecture, the sacred has to prevail. That means that in the most profane or the most pragmatic program, the program always has to succumb to this period of the sacred whether it is a small house, a cathedral or a temple.


Architecture seems to be entrenched in two equally unfertile fronts: Either naively utopian or petrifying pragmatic.

We believe that there is a third way wedged in the no mans land between the diametrical opposites. Or in the small but very fertile overlap between the two. A pragmatic utopian architecture that takes on the creation of socially, economically and environmentally perfect places as a practical objective. In our projects we test the effects of scale and the balance of programmatic mixtures on the social, economical and ecological outcome. Like a form of programmatic alchemy we create architecture by mixing conventional ingredients such as living, leisure, working, parking and shopping.


Architecture is formed by forces outside the architect's control, You're at the mercy of endless vagaries. There is the constant back-and-forth between the intended idea and the reality.

Architecture is the most materially cumbersome and geographically fixed form of cultural expression. How can it represent a moving target, such as new media or other urgent cultural and social issues?

SCOFIDIO: Architecture is everything technology is not: inert and geographically fixed. The best role for architecture, outside of smart design, is to be a supple shell for the continuous updating of the building's nervous system.

Architecture is nothing other than special effects. With Blur, the technology was extensive, expensive, and very complicated--both hardware and software--but our intention was to sublimate the technology into only and simply effect. It was like a magic trick. A great effect that took a lot of artifice--and few asked how it was done.

Architecture carries with it an external program. We do, however, always find ways of integrating our independent agendas into the program and the work.