Tuesday, August 29, 2006

0-for-6, But Thanks For Playing

How organized are you?

If there is one personality trait that all good architects share, it is organizational skill. The details that need to be tracked and documented throughout the design process are staggering, and without organizational skills, all is lost.

Thus, it would be natural to assume that a good architect would have an organized desk. Well, perhaps not if Howard is to be considered a good architect. Granted, there have been scores of examples proving once and for all that he is not. But just for now, let's humor the old man and stipulate for the record that Howard is good at what he does. Despite the rotting trash piles on his desk.

While sifting through some old documents, Howard recently came across a list of prospective projects that he made a bit less than a year ago. And he didn't have to dig too far down into the refuse to find it either.

The list contained six projects for which he had been contacted -- in most cases even meeting with the prospective clients for that "free initial consultation."

One project was for a wealthy couple in a neighboring town that owned an extremely prominent piece of land on a hill overlooking much of the town. They wanted an architect to design something Frank Lloyd Wrightian. Howard said he was their man. They seemed to believe him, and everything went very well until they never called again. The property now appears to be in the process of becoming just another a strip mall.

Project number two was for a fireman in the same neighboring town who owned a shack on a large piece of property. He was interested in hiring an architect to design his passive solar dreamhome -- one that he could build himself while continuing to live in the shack. But first he needed to sell another property to provide the seed money. The other property did not sell as quickly as hoped, and Howard never heard from him again.

Project number three was for a client who loves Modern Architecture, and whose goal was to buy a modest ranch-style home in their preferred neighborhood, and then tear the roof off -- a "Pop-Top" -- and rebuild bigger and better and Modern. Though they really liked Howard, they couldn't find a house at the right price in the desired neighborhood, and ultimately bought a large ranch-style in decent shape that was far far away... and needed no architects.

Project four was for a Las Vegas couple who owned a large and nicely-oriented piece of land in the exurbs. They needed an architect to design their house since the grade and soil conditions were so extreme, plus they had such discriminating tastes that they were unlikely to find any old builder to meet their needs. Unfortunately, they needed to sell their Las Vegas home first. Didn't happen quickly enough and Howard never heard from them again.

Project five was an office building remodel. The unoccupied office building was owned by a prominent investor in Omaha, Nebraska whose name shall remain confidential. The interview with the owner's agent went well, but the owner decided to sit still and let the property appreciate despite the lack of rental income. To this day, it's still a shell of a building.

Project six never really bloomed into a prospective project so much as it was an interesting phone call from an old guy calling on behalf of a friend who needed an architect for a major addition and renovation to his home to make it more livable in retirement. The old guy said he was having a problem finding architects willing to take on such a "relatively modest" project, but Howard told him that he does those all the time. The old guy sounded encouraged and said his friend would call. He never did.

While Howard has four projects under contract right now with two more waiting in the wings -- and is not trying to make the case that the architecture biz is currently suffering or anything -- it's still interesting that at the time this list was made some ten or twelve months ago, all six of these projects seemed like good prospects. And yet all six failed to materialize.

What could all this mean?


Blogger Cara Lietuva said...

It means that architects who are self employed need to learn the art of bird-dogging. Isn't that what seeking out new projects is called? I don't think they teach this in architecture school--the art of getting work. They certainly didn't teach it in my MFA program in creative writing, but you know what? They should have. Because it's one thing to create and to know all the things involved in bringing something from idea to physical reality, but to even get the opportunity to create, whether it's a building or a published story, is often quite difficult. My professors NEVER talked about that. This is where our colleges are failing us as students and alumni--they gave us theory, they gave us how-to's, but they didn't teach us about the reality of our chosen art forms: how to get work, how to maintain your creativity even in projects that don't challenge it, how to make a living, how to deal with clients/editors, how to market, how to keep records, how not to lose heart.

9:36 AM, September 01, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home