June 14th, 2018 … it was a Thursday, World Blood Donor Day, the end of Ramadan, and the first episode of the Life of an Architect podcast came out. That was 1,421 days ago and a lot has changed. In what could be described at times as a love/hate relationship, the audio companion to this website was created. It has been an interesting 99 episodes and Andrew and I decided that it would be appropriate to take a minute to recognize the milestone and achievement associated with putting together the Life of an Architect Podcast. Welcome to Episode 100, cleverly titled as “The 100th Episode!
[Note: If you are reading this via email, click here to access the on-site audio player]
The Beginning jump to 1:24
The decision to start a podcast took a lot longer than I would have guessed – and ironically, I made the decision because a) I thought it would help recharge my creative batteries since I have been writing blog posts for so long, and b) I thought it would take less time since I am more of a talker than I am a writer. My expectation was that I could sit down in front of a mic and could just talk for an hour and hit publish … and I was completely wrong about that.
To make the announcement that I was going to start a podcast, in typical Bob fashion, I decided to write a blog post about where I am having a heart-to-heart conversation with the Life of an Architect website. The post I wrote to announce it was titled “Life of an Architect – The Inevitable” and you can read the whole thing by following that link but here is an excerpt that will help set the scene:
Bob: Well, let me just say that it’s not you, you’ve been great, but I’ve been feeling …
Life of an Architect: Wait. What?!? Are you breaking up with me??
Bob: Not exactly … erm, I’d like to explore a more open relationship, try out some new things, maybe get involved with, you know … PodCast?
Life of an Architect: I knew it! Podcast has been trying to come between us for years. Don’t think I haven’t seen the emails on your computer. I saw the images and links to XLR microphones and USB audio interfaces. Ugh … I thought you were going through a phase. I feel dirty.
… I think you can see how this plays out, it kind of starts writing itself at this point.
Once I made the decision to start this new adventure, one of the first steps was to actually choose a podcast co-host. I thought the obvious answer was literally sitting across the table from me in the form of Landon Williams, a young and rising superstar who worked with me in the office. I believed that as a young architect he would have a different perspective on things than I would as someone who had been in around the block a few times. Landon was great but it only took 12 episodes before he realized (as did I) that recording and publishing a podcast was a ton of work and he quite honestly didn’t want to spend all his spare time editing audio. I know it was probably difficult for him to tell me that he did not want to do this anymore but his situation was completely easy to understand from my perspective. So I turned to what probably should have been my first option, a longtime friend and similarly aged architect buddy Andrew Hawkins.
One of the things we discuss on the podcast during this section is the division of labor and responsibilities. The short version is that we share responsibilities for selecting topics but you can always tell who might be the champion of the topic because they typically lead the conversations – we both have experience in areas that the other doesn’t and we need to rely upon one another to drive the conversation. I will prepare a run sheet that is a basic outline of the conversation, facts, attributes, quotes, etc. so that I know not only what we are talking about (and thereby minimizing random rabbit-hole conversations.
Once we have recorded an episode, it goes to Andrew for editing with a focus on content and audio. Andrew gets the sound levels set as well as removing ah’s and um’s and the occasional story that doesn’t go anywhere. Once he’s finished the audio comes back to me where I put in the intro and outro, insert the music and fade in/fade out breaks if we have an ad. From there I typically then write the accompanying blog post.
From a timing standpoint, we are probably pretty close to a 50/50 split because it takes about 6-8 hours to do Andrew’s part of the editing. I figure it’s around an hour of editing for every 10 minutes of audio recorded. Despite the fact that our skills have improved and there are fewer and fewer mistakes to fix, most edits are measured in .25-second increments, which can be exhausting to splice out of the audio.
The Music jump to 17:31
I am a self-professed music guy and I spend way more time than anybody would ever care to know or would likely even notice when it comes to the music for the show. We have used 4 different songs for the music on the podcast and I have edited all of them into the versions you hear on the show.
We go into far greater detail on this in the episode but when we get our music (I buy a royalty song from a specialty music website) that comes to me with a dozen or so tracks broken down into loops, shorts, and stems. I then take all these bits and pieces and cut them into the versions of what you hear on the show – both in terms of length and content. Think of me as the producer and I am removing parts, making some parts louder and minimizing other parts. I also try to listen to the cadence of our speaking so that I can start the music on the beat …
… yes, I know few to nobody knows this takes place, but I do and therefore I put the time in to make it right.
Getting the Audio Correct [Equipment] jump to 32:39
As a follow-up to the music, we also try to make the audio quality as good as possible (despite the occasional show that suggests that we don’t care enough). When I first started, after episode 15, I spent an unreasonable amount of money to get equipment that would put us in the best possible position to at least sound professional. I don’t actually listen to many podcasts myself, but when I do, the quality of the audio is frequently the thing that turns me off and punt out of the episode, possibly the entire podcast if the problem is systemic.
Andrew used to come up to my house once a month and we would record a few episodes at a time but when the pandemic happened, Andrew and I were forced to start recording from our own residences, we needed to buy additional duplicate equipment. We also needed to get 4 of almost everything because as the show grew in popularity, we started receiving requests to record remotely and at conferences – a logistics nightmare in the beginning.
The last major element we purchase were some really nice carrying cases for all the equipment so it could be organized during travel and protected at the same time. Andrew spent time searching and getting customized foam interiors made that hold all the equipment in a rolling suitcase-type container. Andrew and I each have our own customized cases with a layout specific to the gear we are responsible for maintaining.
Guest Episodes jump to 41:37
You might be surprised to learn that we have had more guests on the show than you might realize – I know I was surprised when we put the list together that 20% of the shows have had a guest. Of our now 100 Episodes we have had a total of 20 guests on the podcast. After evaluating the stats here, it seems that we tend to do them in small clusters or groupings. Just take a look at all the episodes listed below and you can see a bit of that tendency. Overall, we have had some terrific guests on the show, and Andrew and I discussed that we definitely intend to do more in the future. There is a strong desire by both of us to reinstate the “Talking Shop with ______” series and get some new guests on to have those casual conversations about life and the profession.
One of the issues that have historically tampered with our enthusiasm for having guests on is that we tend to struggle internally with the issues of audio quality on our guest episodes. Since we are particular about the audio quality of the show, sometimes the guests’ audio can present a problem. This is not truly the guest’s fault as we do not expect them to have the same level of recording equipment as we do, yet it can cause some headaches in the editing process. We try to make everyone sound as well-spoken and professional as possible, including getting things squared away with their audio quality. We have admittedly gotten better at this over the 100 episodes, but it will remain a variable we cannot always control.
Listed below are the links to all the episodes with guests. If you have not had a chance to listen to them, you should.
015 Tools of an Architect – Anthony Laney
All industries have specific tools that make their business work – and architects are no different in this regard. During the 26+ years that have passed since I graduated from college, I have seen tools that I had previously used every day become obsolete while new tools have taken their place. Few architects actually draft anymore (I’ve got on left in my office) so once common names like “Borco” and “Mayline” have been replaced with “Revit” and “VR”.
018 Architectural Photography – Poul Ober
Architecture and photography have a symbiotic relationship with one another and every architect knows that a picture is worth a thousand words. For today’s episode, Andrew and I sit down with photographer Poul Ober to discuss the role that photography plays in telling an architectural story.
027 Is That Even Legal – Mike Koger and Salvatore B Verrastro
How much time have you spent thinking about the legal side of architecture? If you are like most architects, you probably haven’t spent enough time thinking about it. While it may not be the sexiest part of the architectural profession, it is something that every licensed architect must consider on every single project.
029 Architects Should Work Construction – Nick Renard
If I have one regret during my college education is that I never worked on a construction site. Once I graduated from college, I went straight to work in an architectural office, drawing up all sorts of stuff that I had literally never seen before in my life. I managed to get along but I was acutely aware of my lack of practical knowledge and I have been trying to make up for it over the last 20+ years.
030 Starting your Own Architecture Firm – Michael Hsu
Is it the dream of every architect to have their own firm one day? I can recall hours and hours of conversations that I’ve had with other architects throughout my career where this topic was front and center of our discussions. When I sat down and started to come up with potential topics to discuss on the podcast, “Starting Your Own Firm” was one of the very first topics that I wrote down.
033 Taking the ARE – Landon Williams
Since Andrew and I completed our architectural registration exams in a previous decade than the one we are currently in, we brought in someone a bit younger to assist us with today’s topic, someone who has just recently gone through the process of taking the ARE and did so well that he worked with the Dallas Chapter AIA to implement and improve upon existing ARE “Success Teams”.
034 Let’s Get Physical – Andrew Bennett
Architectural models are clearly within the architect’s domain but are you within the “physical models are better” or “digital models are better” camp? That’s the subject matter today as we discuss architectural models and their role in the creative process in a modern architectural office.
036 Labor is Cheap Skill is Not – Brian Turmail AGC
Architecture and skilled craft go hand in hand, but you may not be aware that the number of skilled individuals that are required to bring an architect’s ideas to reality and in today’s episode, Andrew and I are talking about the state of skilled labor in the construction industry. This is not a subject that receives a ton of attention, but one that can have a big impact on the work of an Architect. Currently, there is a major shortage of skilled workers in the Construction Industry and without concerted efforts on many fronts, this shortage will continue to grow.
041 Talking Shop with Omar Gandhi
Today is a special episode because we are sitting down with my very close and personal friend, even though we have never actually met, Canadian architectural rock star Omar Gandhi.
050 Talking Shop with Marlon Blackwell
We have special guest Marlon Blackwell, FAIA on the podcast today and if you are not intimately familiar with his work, I am excited to be in a position to share it with you. I originally met Marlon almost 30 years ago, just as his career started to take off.
054 Leadership with Barbara Hulit
What exactly is leadership and what does it mean to be a leader? Leadership is thrust upon those who, through the strength of conviction and moral character, lead through personal example.
056 Starting a Design Firm – Eric Reinhold
If you’ve ever dreamed of starting your own design firm, maybe you’ve just graduated from school, perhaps you’ve worked for another firm and seen first-hand what not to do and decided it’s time to go out on your own, today is the show for you because today’s topic is “Starting a Design Firm”.
058 Talking Shop with Building Science Fight Club – Christine Williamson
Understanding the physical behavior of the building as a system and how it impacts the energy efficiency, durability, comfort and indoor air quality is pivotal in the creation of high-performance buildings. What does this actually mean? It means we are talking Building Science Fight Club.
059 Architectural Visualization – Alex Hogrefe
Do you have architectural visualization skills? Maybe you’re asking yourself “what does even mean?” Well, you are in luck because today on the Life of an Architect Podcast we are dedicated to discussing all things related to architectural visualization and graphics and we have the perfect guest with us to do just that …
064 A Day in the Life of an Architect – Lane Acree
Answering the question of what exactly does a typical day in the life of an architect look like is nearly impossible. There are certain things that seem to be fairly standard to one of my “typical” days but if I were to compare a day last week with a day from 5 years ago, those days would look completely different. How different? That’s exactly what we are discussing on today’s show.
065 The Hypothetical Show – Andrew Bennett, Lane Acree, and Jason Hanson
Since this is the final episode of the year AND the 2020 Life of an Architect podcast season, there is no better way to end the year than to dedicate an entire episode to hypothetical questions … so welcome to the Hypothetical Show!
070 The Dirty Side of Clean Buildings – Tori Wickard
Today we are going to talk about Material Health and Transparency as it pertains to the practice of architecture, what this is all about, why it is important, as well as ask the question “What is the Architect’s Professional Obligation here?”
085 Design and Fabrication – Matthew Hufft
Design and fabrication is a topic that almost all architects discuss at one point or another. How does it inform the creative process, who gets involved, and why does it make sense? We are going to be talking about this and more, along with special guest Matthew Hufft.
086 Reimagining the Path to Licensure – Alfred Vidaurri Jr.
Getting licensed as an architect is difficult. It requires considerable time and dedication and achieving licensure is frequently a source of concern to architectural employers and even greater concern to those that are currently going through the process. To that end, we are excited to have Alfred Vidaurri Jr., incoming 2022 President of the National Council of Architectural Registration Board to join us today.
089 Small Firm Mentality – Mike McGlone
Inch wide and mile-deep versus mile wide and inch deep … the “Jack of all trades/Master of none” vs. “The Specialist” … conceptually this is the idea that distinguishes the nuances between a small architecture firm and a large architecture firm. But is that really true? Should it be true? How should this idea measure philosophically into how you run an architecture firm whether it’s large or small?
Things That Have Changed Along the Way jump to 47:17
Almost all of the pictures in the image above were taken pre-podcast – and I have a lot – and it’s because Andrew and I have been friends for years. Since we don’t live in the same city, most of the time we got to spend time together was at conventions. I even wrote a post that everyone except Andrew loved – it was titled “Convention Wife” and it spoke about how important it is to have a “dedicated” friend with you at conventions as it makes everything so much better. Andrew and I have been convention buddies for over a decade and getting to spend a few days with my friend is almost always the best part.
Obviously making the switch to Andrew as co-host was the biggest change that took place, but there are a lot of things that have evolved and changed over the years. The biggest change for Andrew and I has been how we dealt with the demands of our time. As I mentioned earlier, it is a huge time commitment to put a podcast together (at least the way we do it) and at times, it put a strain not only on our friendship but on our ability to actually enjoy recording a podcast. As a result, we’ve made some changes, some of which you might not have even noticed.
First and foremost we changed the amount of time that we recorded from 90-minutes down to just over an hour. We accomplished most easily by getting better at the process and we don’t have to over-record in order to end up with an hour-long show. This simple change was one of the major drivers behind changing the “Hypothetical Question” to a “Would You Rather” question. That one move saved about 15-minutes of recording time (which translates into an hour of post-production work).
We also used to include outtakes at the end of each episode, but as we made fewer mistakes, they became harder and harder to identify and create. We still make mistakes but if they’re amusing, now we just leave them in the original audio.
The show I mentioned 50:49 when discussing the podcast episode that disappointed me the most was Ep 49: Objects of Design. My disappointment wasn’t due to it being a bad episode – just the opposite, I thought it was a terrific show and we put a ton of prep work into it to find interesting stories and to accurately recreate and tell these stories. My disappointment came from thinking everyone would also find it amazing and it would do really well … but it didn’t perform any better than the other shows we recorded at the time. If you haven’t listened to it, do me a favor and check it out and let me know what you think.
The Hypothetical Questions jump to 58:13
This series seemed to be very popular with listeners. They were meant to do two things; one, humanize us and real people and not just talking figureheads espousing our knowledgable opinions, and two, act as an exercise in critical thinking which is something we do daily as architects. They were fun and usually a good discussion of the various aspects of the question. The real kicker for us was that it was a large-time killer. Often we could almost meander on during a hypothetical for almost as long as the actual episode topic. So the Hypothetical questions ran from Episode 10 through Episode 64. We had to make a change to a shorter format. This was mainly due to a strong desire to cut down on editing time and maybe just make the overall process a bit simpler. We always enjoyed the Hypothetical questions and had a lot of fun with them, but the amount of time they involved was just too much. Also, we began to find it difficult to come up with new questions. I know there are a plethora of these questions floating around in various books and internet pages, but the ones that were available or even practical to use on the show were limited. So like most things, the Hypotheticals had to come to an end. But they still hold a special place in the podcast story. We took some time to reminisce about the most memorable Hypothetical Questions from the show. While there were many more on the list (i.e. a majority of them) these were the few that we thought really give a glimpse of just how much fun we had during the Hypothetical run.
Episode 23 – The Fun Show
You wake up one morning to find that you have been secretly whisked away and deposited on a remote and hot, yet lushly vegetated, deserted island. Pinned to your shirt is a note that tells you that you will be picked up in 5 years and that you can have 3 things to aid you during your island vacation. What three things will you ask for?
We went off the rails during this particular question and at one point, Andrew is laughing so hard that he couldn’t breathe. Even more interesting is that we got so much feedback on this moment that we ended up making buttons to give away at conferences (which were snatched up at an alarming rate) as well as getting a request to make it into a t-shirt. All I know is that I would fall on my face if I ever saw anyone walking around in this shirt (monkey shirt)
Episode 25 – Architectural Bucket List
You have just learned from a high-ranking government official that an airborne virus was released by terrorists around the globe and as a result, the zombie apocalypse will begin in 3 days. You have been informed that these are the slow-moving variety of zombies and that 90% of the world’s population will be infected and will ultimately die off over the next 5 years. You are being notified because your DNA, which is conveniently on file, alerted the government officials that you will be part of the 10% that is unaffected. How will you use these 3 days to prepare?
If Andrew and I ever got close to getting into an audible fistfight, this was the moment. I still think the people I RESCUED would be able to see past the fact I locked them in dog kennels for a few days while Andrew thinks they would forever be plotting their revenge on me.
Episode 34 – Let’s Get Physical
You’re halfway through walking down a long alleyway when an angry full-grown chimpanzee steps around the corner at the end and you can tell he is about to charge you. To your right, you see a box of fruit, a shovel, and a small hatchet. As the chimpanzee begins his charge, you only have time to grab one of these items … what’s your next move?
Turns out that I thought Andrew Hawkins wasn’t going to actually throw his hatchet at a charging monkey, he was going to enter into a hand-to-monkey hand battle … and that makes all the difference.
What the Rank jump to 86:00
So we are starting a new end segment of the show … and that means that there would be limited “Would You Rather” questions moving forward. As with the hypotheticals, they were becoming more difficult to manifest. This new idea is about ranking certain elements in an order of preference. We are still working out some of the kinks, but the premise is that one of us will present a set of elements to rank, the other will rank them, and then the discussion will ensue. Imagine ranking your fingers from best to worst. Or maybe ranking your top five sandwiches. One will provide the topic for ranking and the other will rank. So here is our first effort at that concept and this time we both have a turn at it.
How would you Rank the Days of the week from Best to Worst?
The answers from us both are somewhat similar but we differ on a few of the secondary days. Of course, we each have a rationale, but I tend to think my order is better. But that would be the same for both of us. Let us know what you think about this new segment of the show. We will definitely need some ideas on what we should be ranking. I am not sure we intend this to be too serious on content so please keep that in mind.
Bob’s Ranking from Best to Worst = Friday – Saturday – Wednesday- Thursday – Tuesday- Monday- Sunday
Andrew’s Ranking from Best to Worst = Friday – Saturday – Thursday – Wednesday – Tuesday- Sunday- Monday
Let us know what your ranking would have been, especially if you think my ranking was right.
EP 100: The 100th Episode
It is hard for me to believe that we made it to 100 episodes but I am grateful to everyone who has participated and played along with us over the last 1,421 days – we could not have done it if it weren’t for the engagement, comments, and fun that we have had along the way. I have debated shutting down the site for years as the amount of work that goes into it can be fairly overwhelming at times. Even now as I am round hour number 6 working on this post on a Sunday, I still am excited to hit “publish” and see what happens. Andrew and I want to sincerely thank everyone for everything they have done to help keep us motivated. Extra special thanks goes out to Building Design + Construction for their belief and support that financially allows us to invest the time and resources to bring this podcast to air, as well as our biggest support, Amanda Harris-Eden at Fair|Game Public Relations – you can’t possibly imagine how tirelessly she works for us behind the scenes. This podcast simply wouldn’t be what it is without her endless support and energy.
Thank you – and here’s to the next 100(!?)
Special thanks to our sponsor Petersen, which manufactures PAC-CLAD architectural metal cladding systems. Petersen’s products include wall and roof systems in both steel and aluminum. PAC-CLAD systems are available nationwide in 46 standard Kynar-based PVDF colors. Visit pac-clad.com to learn more.