We get asked a lot of good questions here on the show – they come up in the comment section, they are sent into our email inboxes, some slide into our DM’s. Some questions come with enough frequency that we select them for mass consideration – which is what’s happening today. When do you plan on retiring? Best way to up the structure of a large company? Can we hang out together … in India? All this and more on today’s episode as Andrew and I answer your burning questions where nothing is off-limits.. … Welcome to EP 120: Ask the Show – 2023 Spring Edition
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Bob: I am assuming Steven is asking for my opinion rather than a researched actual top three deficiencies. Andrew and I had similar opinions about what deficiencies are present and almost all of them are associated with the practice of architecture, the depth of construction knowledge, and business fundamentals. I’m not entirely sure that this is the direction that Steven was angling for since it isn’t specific to the act of creating architecture. The word “profession” in his question gives me some latitude in how I am interpreting this.
Andrew: I think one deficit is the lack of construction knowledge. We tend to lack the proper knowledge about construction materials, processes, and sequencing to inform our design work. To me, an architect can be a better designer if they know the mediums with which they design. Much like an artist or even a chemist, you need to understand the materials well before you can make them into their best combinations.
The second deficit I see is a lack of business comprehension. We are definitely not taught this in our education. Very little (if any) importance is placed on this aspect of the profession during school. Then when we work in the early years of our careers, there is a lack of transparency typically on those issues. So they are not discussed or taught in your early career either. As a result, so many of us start our businesses with little to no knowledge about business practices and what it takes. This deficiency can sometimes get us into trouble and, even in the worst cases, ruin promising careers. So I think it should be addressed in both education and early career.
Bob: This was not a particularly hard question for me to answer but I’m not sure that my response is applicable to all architects looking for their own inspiration. I look to the culinary world for its creativity, execution, and craft – partly because I considered being a chef as a viable career path for myself and I see untold corollaries between being an architect and being a chef. Just like architecture, there is a balance between the technical execution of creating a dish as well as some sort of creative vision. You have to be aware of the ever-changing palate of the general public at large but also the ever-changing landscape of available ingredients and equipment.
Andrew: Films and movies are a good source for me. I look at them in multiple ways. The first, of course, is for the architecture in the backgrounds and scenes. If it is futuristic or engaging, then I always take note. But I also look at how it is used to “make” scenes, provide tone, set moods, etc. I think seeing how others can use the built environment to create feelings can be compelling. I often find it interesting the choices made by some films to use particular architecture to evoke moods or qualities. Second, I like to examine the way the film is created. The tone, the edits, the structure; all of these can inspire me to think about my work differently.
On a completely unrelated inspiration tool, if you have been following my Instagram, I have been creating a large number of explorations using A.I. lately. So that is something that is making its way into my inspiration. Although I would categorize it as architectural, so probably not an answer to this question.
Bob: This is an important topic and one that Andrew and I focused on back in episode 97 of the podcast (I’ve included a link immediately below). In that episode, we focused more on what burnout meant, how to recognize it, and where to seek support. I tend to deal with burnout by trying to remove myself from my typical daily activities and go on some sort of adventure. This is a relatively new solution for me since the majority of my time spent in a small firm did not allow for me to mentally (and completely) disengage from my responsibilities. There was not much support and nobody did your job for you while you were out … but in a larger firm, this hasn’t been as significant of an issue.
The other challenge I have is trying to recognize that my personality type makes it hard for me to completely walk away from my typical routines – even the act of responding to emails, DM’s, posting images to social media feeds, etc. is extremely difficult for me since I know that if I ignore it for a week, that just means I have an ever bigger pile that will be hard to work through with the time I have so as a result, I tend to nibble away at those things every day … exactly what I need to avoid doing. Regardless of my level of success, removing myself and occupying my brain with something else is the only way I have been able to deal with whatever burnout I am experiencing.
Andrew: I tend to make attempts at small ways to unplug or disconnect from work daily. I take this route hoping to avoid a buildup of burnout feelings. However, I can admit that when I do not make the time to disconnect from work, the podcast, or teaching, it can build up rather quickly. So some days, I just come home and engage in something else entirely. While it may mean I am putting off some of those things, I need it for my mental health, and it allows me to go back the next day with a smaller renewed sense. While some might file this under procrastination, I argue that it’s necessary for my mental health and helps my overall production as a human. The real trick for me is not to disengage so much that it becomes detrimental to all my commitments. But some days, you just have to come home and take a nap!
When do you plan to retire or go “work optional”? jump to 33:08
Question submitted by private account – RunGilRun, AIA
Bob: I do not have a plan other than I don’t want to live in a refrigerator box under an overpass. I don’t think I can sit around and do nothing, which means I need to go on adventures, but I need to earn the money to pay for those adventures so I need to work … it’s a catch-22. I know other architects that plan on dying at their desks, which I definitely do NOT want to do. I want to travel, there are artistic pursuits I want to explore (I’ve always wanted to explore/create ceramic arts), and I want to spend time with other people in a social capacity. The number in my head is something in my mid-60s but that number will really be predicated on what my daughter is going to be doing and where she chooses to live her life. If I have to quit my job because I am going to move to another part of the country to be closer to family, that’s going to happen.
Andrew: Honestly, I haven’t planned or thought about it. In my mind, it will be sometime in my early 70’s. I hope. I must also admit that with my recent change of career paths, I have a sense of wanting to work longer. If I genuinely decide to stick with teaching, I want to do that for a long enough time to make an impact; or at least feel confident in my personal mark. So currently, that mode of thinking has kept me from considering my retirement all that much. I know it is coming, but I also have difficulty imagining myself stopping right now. I do have my “chuck it all” plan to be sure. This one involves me and a beach with Piña Coladas, but it is not my actual plan. I don’t think. But also, never say never.
How to get into an Architectural Master’s program without an arts degree background? jump to 38:27
Question submitted by private account – ryusure
Bob: I have a completely uninformed and fairly strong opinion on this but I am willing to concede that Andrew might have a better overall viewpoint on this matter. If I was reviewing applications, I would be looking for some manifestation of why you think you believe pursuing a Master’s degree in architecture is a good idea. While I don’t expect to see any sort of polished portfolio to demonstrate any sort of competence, I do expect to see something that shows me that you know what you are getting into. If I decide that I am interested in gardening, my first move is not to enroll in a graduate program to become a horticulturist, it would be to plant a garden. Your passion should manifest itself in some capacity that can be demonstrated – and I should say that I don’t expect to see any mastery here, just an indication of demonstrated curiosity.
Andrew: I just spent some time reviewing the 40+ applicants to the career change master’s program at my school. I can tell you, just from that task, there is plenty of variations of the skills, talents, and knowledge of that pool of hopeful students. I will say that there are plenty of applicants with no “art school” background or any design background, for that matter. I think the goal would be to explain why you want to make this change. What is the spark that pushed you to choose this path? How can you best articulate that? Of course, any creative portfolio helps, but they are not necessary. But if you have any (I mean any) type of creative work that you can showcase, you should include it in your application. Even photography will work. Do not, however, point me to your Instagram account. At least take the time to assemble the images you choose in a format that you control. Again, this is a sign of process and care given to your work. If you have the desire to study architecture, then you should apply. Do not let the fact that you lack experience intimidate you. It is acceptable, and you will learn when you get accepted.
Bob: Yes – we are planning on attending the AIA 2023 convention and there will undoubtedly be something that is organized that will allow us all to get together. Does that mean a tour? Maybe, but it might also just be a night out somewhere that everyone will be invited to come and hang out. I do know that we are going to be recording an episode from the expo floor and there is going to be an “Adult” milkshake bar as an added incentive for people to come and say hello.
Seems like a pretty good starting point.
How do you maintain identity, control, and standards when opening a 2nd office location? jump to 45:27
Question submitted by private account – Matthew Maloney
Bob: The short answer is that we don’t really try to control the differences between offices, instead allowing the culture to develop and reflect the location where each office is located. Typically the culture reflects the leadership of those offices and as a result, our Austin office is a little different than our Dallas office. As a result, identity isn’t something that we discuss as an item that needs much (if any) oversight. The other consideration is that of the four offices we have, Dallas is the main office and frequently provides support (in terms of manpower) to those other offices. Partners and principals travel between offices with frequency and when it comes to staffing projects, we put the best people available on the project regardless of where the work is located. To continue using our Austin office as an example, the principal there typically is the face of the project to the client, but if we needed to put additional project architects or drafting support on the project that exceeds the availability of staff locally available, we will supplement as needed, and this exchange of personal contributes to the maintenance of standards and control while allowing some flexibility of each office to reflect it’s own unique culture.
Andrew: You can for office standards and quality, but not for culture; that is not possible or probably desired, but you can make sure that each office produces the same quality of work and has set standards that apply across all offices. For me, this is critical for a successful company, brand, and identity. But I may see this as a measure of control that may not actually work. But I know that in my office of twelve, we all worked exactly the same way for a reason besides my personal needs as the owner. It enabled anyone to work on any project without a discernible loss of efficiency. I created these systems early on in my company, and they were kept in place as it grew. They certainly changed, developed, and adjusted over time but remained office-wide standards. The question of local identity and “vibe” is another story, though, I would imagine
What are the pros and cons of IPAL Programs in architecture school? jump to 52:31
Question submitted by private account – Moises Perez
Andrew: IPAL (Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure) is an NCARB program that allows most students to graduate with a license or be very close to completing all AXP hours and ARE examinations. There are some pros and cons to consider with this program.
Time savings: As a student, you can save time on the licensure process. So it gets you there faster. I also think it can increase your abilities as a designer, student, and architect much more quicker. So that is a positive both for school and for a career.
Cheaper(?): This can be true but may not always be entirely accurate. Some schools will pay for the testing fees. However, I think most do provide study materials. My school provides access to one of the more expensive ARE study programs to all IPAL students. So that can save some money while improving your testing success.
More job opportunities: Maybe? I do not think it will hurt you to be an IPAL student. But I would not be willing to guarantee that you have a better chance at a first job simply due to this program. The best possibilities lie in the fact that you have been working for several semesters during school, so you may get a permanent offer from one of those firms. This is also possible without IPAL.
Workload: The IPAL program can be intense, as students are working towards their degree and licensure simultaneously. This combined effort can be challenging for students working part-time jobs or participating in extracurricular activities. Architecture school can be difficult enough by itself. This adds to the overall workload. So it takes a dedicated student.
Loss of Study abroad/free time: While I can’t say that all schools limit the study-abroad opportunities, I can say that the goal of the IPAL programs is that you work in all the “free time” that you have. This condition is simply required to accumulate the number of AXP hours needed. So any of your possible times for travel abroad during your college semesters may be limited. In the program at my school, I know it is usually lost to IPAL students.
Risky: With this program, you definitely have to be all in! As mentioned above, it is a time-consuming tract. We have a “vetting” process for those students who enter the program. It is not for everyone. Also, NCARB will say it is not supposed to be for everyone. It is rigorous, challenging, and intense. Also, there is no guarantee that you will pass all your exams or get all the AXP hours. But that is true, though, regardless of the program. You may not pass parts of the exam at any time in your career.
What the Rank jump to 56:11
Today’s question has 26 possible answers but we all know that there will only be just a few proper answers, the real issue is whether or not you get the obviously correct letters in the proper order.
Today we are ranking [drum roll please] ….
The Best Three Letters of the Alphabet
|Andrew’s Best Letters||A||H||Z|
|Bob’s Best Letters||B||R||O|
As Andrew and I started to unbox this particular ranking, we both acknowledged that our selections were predicated on which letters were more entertaining to write, rather than their collective value in spelling words. I am well aware that the three letters I have chosen represent 7 of the 9 letters in my name, but that’s probably why I like them as much as I do. All you have to do is look at my signature below and determine for yourself why I chose the letters I did … same holds true for Andrew.
… except Andrew appears to only like 3-stroke letters.
EP 120: Ask the Show – 2023 Spring Edition
So there you go – our 6th installment of “Ask the Show”. We will be having our next installment of Ask the Show later this year – sometime in the Fall – so if you have your own burning hot question you would like us to answer, just be on the lookout as we place the call for those questions on my Instagram story.
Special thanks to today’s sponsor Construction Specialties – they are so focused on the importance of mastering movement, that they have created CEUs specifically on mastering the movement of sun & light, as well as architectural louvers. Each course is worth 1 AIA LU/HSW and is part of the Mastering Movement Academy by CS. Visit masteringmovement.net to take this and other courses.