Have you ever called someone “crafty” and you weren’t referencing their Macgyver-esque abilities pertaining to yarn and popsicle sticks? In this the age of DIY, most people use the word crafty when talking about their ability to make decorative objects by hand … (typically involving the aforementioned yarn, popsicle sticks … and pallets, let’s not forget about pallets.)
I’m not particularly happy that the word crafty has turned into an adjective for people who make crafts. In fact, “crafty” has a completely different connotation that comes to my mind – a person’s ability to achieve their end results through indirect measures. Using that understanding of the word, I think I spend an inordinate amount of my time being crafty.
I had to take a physical education class while I was in college – at least that’s how I remember it – I had to take it. Despite being a native Texas, I don’t really like to sweat (the irony) and so I thought I would take a pass/fail Kung-Fu class … because I suppose I thought it would take place inside and that knowing kung-fu would come in handy at some point in my life, impress the girls, party tricks, you know … that sort of thing.
So I went to class to learn some kung-fu. Turns out, I didn’t particularly care for it because after a class or two, I realized I wouldn’t be learning how to double-flip-roundhouse-kick-you-in-the-face sort of moves in this entry-level class. Boring.
The teacher (or sensei to you kung-fu nerds) was this super old legitimate Japanese Kung-Fu Master who told us he didn’t normally teach anymore, but that he was extremely knowledgeable. He continued by saying that he hadn’t actually practiced his kung-fu in a while and thought it would be a good idea (for him) to teach our class. Let me tell you – beat up several people per class, it was amazing. I’m not even sure he could tell which of us were men or women because he frequently demonstrated his moves on people and he punched a lot of girls in the chest. Based on what happened next – young women clutching their chests and crumpling to the mat – it seemed to hurt. As they would lay there, he would simply look down at them and start walking off. We all thought he might be a little crazy.
As the semester wore on, and fearful for my tender parts, I might have missed a few classes here and there. I showed up one day and there was a test. A test? … What?!?
Next thing you know, I am facing some dude who proceeds to attack me as I “block” his attacks. Picture in your mind what it might look like if someone was being attacked by a swarm of invisible bees and you’ll get a good idea of the moves I was throwing out. Needless to say, I caught the attention of the professor and he gave me this “you aren’t going to pass this class” look. Since I am a crafty individual, I scheduled a meeting with him during office hours and I went in and made an argument for why I should pass his kung-fu class without actually knowing how to do ANY kung-fu.
And it worked. He said that I presented a well thought out argument and he would give me the pass in the class but he did feel the need to “punish me” as a lesson. All I heard was “I will pass you blah blah blah blah blah but I need to punish you.”
What? Why do you have to punish me?? (remember , this was the guy who routinely punched his students)
He said that I would need to read his latest kung-fu book – all 29 chapters – and write a 1 page summary on each chapter.
That’s it? How hard could that be? No problem, consider it done.
Then I started reading the book and the chapters could be described in the following manner:
Chapter 1: A History of Kung Fu
Chapter 2: Punching Someone
Chapter 3: Kicking Someone
Chapter 4: How to Not Get Punched
Chapter 5: How to Not Get Kicked
Chapter 6: Punching Someone Even Harder than in Chapter 2
and so on and so forth …
I think some of my best writing I have ever done was for a Kung Fu class – not that the teacher would know, I’m pretty sure he simply threw my papers in the trash after I turned them in since his task was to simply make me write them.
That story was a little down the rabbit hole, but it does demonstrate a certain sort of craftiness. The type of crafty that I think architects demonstrate day in and day out is a result of their ability to engage their clients into a process that requires a lot of trust based really on the strength of their personality. There is typically a “client educational component” to the process that I go through on many of my projects because most of my projects are residential and my clients have never worked with an architect before. I truly believe that this process of working with an architect and designing a home should be enjoyable – AND – that the project will benefit greatly if all parties involved have the opportunity to provide meaningful input to the end product. It is, after all, their home and I expect them to have an opinion during this experience.
What I think most architects are skilled at, and this is where being “crafty” comes in, is in providing the client with what they want, even though it might not necessarily be what they asked for. (see “Architectural Clients and Online Dating” for a longer explanation). There are loads of great ideas out there, but they don’t all work well on the same project. I also think it’s a bad idea to tell your client “no” – at least, not the “blurt it out” sort of no.
The results of taking this approach (which is really more of a process) is that we have created ownership and investment in the project from the client because now they’ve played an active role in the decision-making process. It has also created an atmosphere of collaboration between me and my client. Rather than coming across as the arrogant architect who doesn’t listen to their clients wishes, I’m the architect (with the foxy silver hair) who actually listens.
To really appreciate something, you have to understand it and by walking through the cause and effects of the decision-making process, the client understands completely why certain decisions have been made. This isn’t an architectural thing – it’s a human being thing and it works with everyone everywhere just about all the time. At times, if I am being lazy when I explain this process, it sounds like I am being manipulative, convincing the client to do what I want rather than what they want. I don’t think it’s semantics when I say that this is not the case, this is about providing information and clarity to a process where the end result is the knowledge to make a more informed decision. The fact that I got there before they did does not make this process manipulative, it means I am the professional who does this for a living. I should get to the conclusion before my client – why else would I be there?
This was the 7th post in a series of posts called “ArchiTalks”. There are a few other architects who maintain blogs who were given todays topic “Crafty” with very loose instructions as to what they are to talk about. I am particularly interested to see how everyone interpreted their assignment (I should since I’m the one who selects the topics for these posts.)
If you would like to see how other architects responded to this topic, just follow the links below. As the links get sent to me, I will come back and add them to the list.
Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Why I Love My Craft: Residential Architecture
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
Oh, you crafty!
Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
Underhanded Evil Schemes
Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
Master Your Craft – A Tale of Architecture and Beer
Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect
The HGTV Affect
Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC
Crafty-in Architecture as a Craft
Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL
Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
On the Craft of Drafting: A Lament
Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project
Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture
Cindy Black – Rick & Cindy Black Architects
merging architecture and craftiness