Party week for Life of an Architect continues with a look at years 4 and 5 and the drastic changes that happened to the website once personal engagement was encouraged. Today is what I am calling the Teenage Years …
Life of an Architect – Year’s Four (2013) and Five (2014)
I am calling years four and five the teenage years of the site because it was in 2013 when the site got the latitude to start exploring all sorts of new directions. Halfway through 2013, I left my last office of 13 years and joined Michael Malone Architects to form a new company called “Malone Maxwell Borson Architects.” Now that I had my name on the door, part of my responsibilities in the office was to become more engaged in the architectural community, both locally and nationally, where appropriate. As a result, I was encouraged to take advantage of all the lecturing and speaking opportunities that I had previously been declining. Over this two year period, I lectured at 4 different universities, delivered AIA presentations in Texas, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Tennesse, and Illinois, and was one of the Keynote speakers at the AIA Illinois Leadership Conference.
One of my most favorite memories from this time came from the National AIA Convention that took place in Denver. My wife has family that lives just outside Denver and we planned to visit with them after the convention was over. She flew up for the last day of the convention and attended the “Host Party” along with me and my good friend (and podcast co-host) Andrew Hawkins. The party was a lot of fun and it was the first time that my wife was able to see the impact the blog had on other people. Granted, it’s not a stretch to think that being at a convention full of architects when you write a blog about being an architect will bring some attention. For some reason, and far more than any convention before or after, I had tons of people coming up asking for autographs and to get their picture taken with me. My wife found all of this rather confounding because, in her eyes, I was the same person she had known for years so why the attention now?
As flattering as the attention can be, I don’t actually do well with receiving it. Maybe it’s my Lutheran Norwegian upbringing, but I don’t take compliments very well and I still maintain that I am no different than anyone else. Anybody can write a blog, the only difference between those people and myself was that I actually did it.
My favorite blog post of 2013 is:
Architect + Architect = ??
What happens with two people from a creative field get together and have a baby? I have predicted the most likely outcome from that union … and the results might surprise you.
This post is the very definition of absurd, which is part of the reason I like it so much. It took me a long time to prepare this post due to the time it took to make all the icons for the different groups represented. The best part is that people still email me after reading this post and ask me to predict what their child will grow up to be.
My favorite blog post for 2014 is … uhm, …undecided.
Your Projects from Architecture School are Silly
What sort of projects do architectural students solve? Most college architecture projects will be silly because they are designed to make you think outside what you already know.
Did you know that this was the first and only time I have showed any of my work from my time in college? I was hesitant for a long time because I don’t have great records of my college work – “digital” didn’t exist when I was in school so a little bit of my work was tossed in the waste bin each time I moved until I am only left now with just a few drawings from that time. I’d also like to think that I have improved my design skills from when I was in school and there isn’t a reason to hold them out as an example of anything … other than to show how your projects from architecture school are silly.
Architectural Sketching – or – How to Sketch Like Bob Borson
Ever wished your sketches looked like mine? I didn’t think so but that didn’t stop me from sharing the tips and techniques I use to get my sketches to look the way they do.
Why anyone would want to sketch like me is a mystery but there is no denying that anytime I talk about sketching or show the projects I am currently sketching up a the office, people are interested. Ultimately I think this is just people feeling nostalgic for the things that are stereotypically associated with being an architect. There is no question that I think sketching is important but I am not an artist. I don’t think sketching, at least how I do it, is a gift. It is a skill that can be developed through practice and with just a few tips, and the right sort of pens, anyone can sketch like me.
Pier and Beam Foundations
How does a pier and beam foundation work? A close up look at the progress on the KHouse Modern and an opportunity to explain how pier and beam foundations work.
When I decided to write a post on pier and beam foundations, I don’t really think I knew what I was getting myself into. The origins were simple enough – I was actually explaining how they work to one of my employees and I decided to take the sketches I had created during our conversation and turn them into a blog post. At the same time, I had a large project under construction and the foundation was going in so I had a ton of process and sequence photos I could use to help the conversation along by showing real-world conditions. I fully expected this post to be overly technical and dry and therefore of little interest to most people. I couldn’t have been more incorrect as this post has become one of the all-time most read posts on my site.
Site traffic information isn’t all that interesting to people unless you are either looking for validation for your own site or use this information as an example to show that there are a lot of people out there that are interested in what architects do for a living.
First, here’s a look at 2013, otherwise known as year four:
Growth is still really good and I keep wondering when things are going to go South on me. It was really in this fourth year that the visits to my site seemed to be more of a reflection of my entire library of posts rather the actual new content that I was preparing. The number of posts I wrote this year climbed from 96 in 2012 to 129 in 2013 – which might not sound like much but represents almost 1 more post per week. I’m trying to remember why I would decide to increase my workload because I know that this was the time when I was trying to figure out how I could take a step back from the blog because the work associated with the site was starting to get out of control.
And here is 2014:
Despite site traffic continuing to climb, I finally did take that step back and only wrote 96 posts in 2014 … and based on my previous pace, this felt downright luxurious.
Year Four Page views – 6,273,242 Year Five Page Views – 6,849,825
Year Four and Five Countries/ Territories – 222
Year Four Top Five Cities – New York, London, Los Angeles, Sydney, Melbourne
Year Five Top Five Cities – New York, London, Los Angeles, Sydney, Melbourne
There is definitely a pattern emerging now that I am looking at the content and which ones seem to be the most popular based on page view totals. The problem with aligning popularity with page view counts is that the way the search engines work, once an article becomes popular, it moves further and further up the search results until it is at the very top. This translates into the most trafficked posts getting even more traffic and it skews popularity with accessibility.
Here is the most viewed post from 2013:
How Much Money Does an Architect Make? (188,621 year four page views)
Architects can make a great living but there is balance between money and happiness that must be found. A look at the best places to work and what areas pay the highest salary for architects.
The fact that this post was originally written in 2011 and is still attracting almost 200k visitors four years later is a testament to the lack of information out there for the sort of compensation available for architects. I have no doubt that the majority of people hitting this post up were by people who wanted to be an architect but were told that we don’t make any money.
The most popular post of 2014 was a bummer for me.
Top Ten Reasons Not to be an Architect(153,321 year four page views)
Some of these are personality based but even then, this list applies to almost any job
I will admit that there are a lot of times when I wish I hadn’t ever written this post. None of the ten items I prepared are particularly specific to being an architect – these items hold true for almost any profession. I suppose the mindset of the reader matters for this post – you take out of it what you brought in.
Without a doubt these were the best years of the site – everything was possible and despite the work that was required, I was still motivated to continue. Being able to go out and talk to people about the site and the content was rewarding for the simple reason it allowed me to start putting a face to the work. I was finally able to start meeting the people I had been engaging with for years and this allowed me to experience a different level of reward.
In one of my presentations, I use the image above to introduce the subject of blogging to the audience … that this is the image that comes to mind when you think of bloggers (sitting awkwardly in their parent’s basement in front of a bunch of computer equipment). At times, when I was sitting in my house responding to emails, writing blog posts, preparing presentations, etc. that this picture is not that far off (… I don’t smoke). Years four and five got me out of the house and allowed me to connect personally with people, which is really my most favorite thing to do. A great many of my best friends are scattered around the country and I wouldn’t have ever met them if it weren’t for Life of an Architect.
Tomorrow will be a look at years six, seven and eight. I hope you will join me for the rest of the story. If I’ve left out a tale you were interested in, or possibly have a question you would like me to answer, please feel free to add it to the comment section.