No, this post is not a review of a Pedro Almodovar film, nor is it a gesture for you to engage in a conversation with my blogger persona. This post is a call to arms to put down your mouse, your phone, your pen, your latte, or your ipad and to transport yourself to any place in your office or life that might facilitate an engaging dialogue with a colleague or co-conspirator about the work that is being produced around you.
Architecture, as always, is in a time of inevitable “crisis.” Not to be a naysayer, but let’s face it– “Post” recession, schedules remain compressed, budgets have been cut, and on more than one occasion, expectations for good design have been replaced with bottom lines, straight lines, and of course, deadlines.
In some macabre way, I’m strangely okay with this. It’s reality, I suppose—having to think on your feet, respond to a multitude of unique parameters, to come up with innovative solutions to meet a lower budget, and to constantly figure out how to do things better…faster! Personally, I like to think these were the same parameters that led someone to invent the bicycle, the text message, 19 minutes abs, the microwave, and maybe most importantly, the Magic Bullet.
What I’m not okay with is the fact that in a tizzy to get things done, the initial seeds of dialogue people in an architectural office might engage in, mull over, and hopefully allow to grow into critical, meaningful ideas and shared conversations are being abbreviated (and dare I say—sometimes eliminated!)
So my quick, free advice is to stop producing (for a minute or 10) and start talking. Even if it’s off the clock, done holding a beer, in the hallway on the way to a meeting, or while you’re washing your hands in the bathroom (this has happened to me numerous times and can admittedly be a little awkward,) share your ideas and test them out verbally (and visually) before you make them reality.
For me, there is no better moment then when I’m talking to someone and they say something that makes me think about an issue or idea in a completely different light. Or better yet, when someone puts things in a way in which suddenly something that was foggy becomes luminous and crystal clear. The challenge lies in engaging someone in a dialogue where you’ve shared enough of your thoughts and ideas to be able to provoke this type of response or solicit a new question.
A few months ago, my colleagues and I started bi-weekly Thursday pin-ups in our office. At 4:30, anyone that’s available (and not facing a looming deadline or in a meeting) finds a perch around one of our internal pin-up boards, grabs an adult beverage, and talks about one of the on-going projects in our office.
After our first charrette, despite my initial nervousness at mediating a worthwhile conversation, I was relieved to find my nervousness unwarranted. The visuals and initial description of the project led to an organic conversation in which people seemed at ease with an opportunity to share thoughtful ideas, experiences, opinions, and questions. I left the charrette feeling refreshed and excited about the potential directions the project could take, thanks to collective thought and idea sharing.
Architecture—unlike spray tans, hair cuts, State Fairs, or jeggings (if you missed this fad, I am referring to leggings camouflaged as jeans,) is something that is meant to be built and remain for an extended amount of time. Therefore, every project is an opportunity to make an important, intelligent statement that, when upheld to an ideal definition helps enhance peoples’ daily experiences and modes of interfacing with their built environment.
Therefore, regardless of deadlines and schedules, I am advocating that the design community make it their responsibility to make the time to share their ideas and project potentials with one another, and to strive to continue to create things that, regardless of schedule or scope, challenge a known solution with a new, mind-bending question.
By engaging in this dialogue, you might even find a better, faster answer….right NOW!