Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Reflection of the Idea Sketch Problem

Well, you're probably back in your office today, wondering what the heck happened that a year or so worth of experience only looks like ten days on the calendar. As a way of recalling (partially) what you were up to last week, I thought I'd offer up the comments you made on my series of "What if..." statements. (Please note that all of the bullet text, even the parenthetical remarks, are drawn from the Post-It Notes.)

What if... we invited our client rep to be a regular member of our design team, instead of presenting things to them?
  • Teach them?
  • We already do and the meetings are hours long 'cause the client goes in circles.
  • Can I pick which client?
What if... we did some of our work in our clients' current office?
  • I don't like their offices.
  • We need to walk in their shoes.
  • We would learn more about them.
  • Agree.
What if... you started a mentorship program in your office?
  • For the young and young at heart.
What if... you ran for mayor?
  • I would probably lose, BUT if elected, I would invest a ton of $ into downtown redevelopment, implement 'green' programs (i.e. Chicago), privatize the school system, renovate the ugly buildings, cut through bureaucracy, and then... smile!
  • I'd be fooling myself somehow.
  • Improve public transportation so the public doesn't have to rely on personal vehicles.
  • I would like to create more housing for the homeless.
  • What if you worked WITH the mayor?
  • What if "nothing was stopping you?" (see below)
  • Okay, I'm going for it.
What if... your office had a drop-in clinic for everyday questions from passers-by?
  • I would get to make more models for our window display!
  • Both would spread a well-needed understanding.
  • Educate the public/candid view.
  • No one would come to it. (Why? Because your service stinks?)
  • It would be a long line.
  • I'd hate to be the one answering.
  • It would be one hell of a marketing tool.
What if... your future firm had a billboard on the highway? What would it say? What would it show?
  • "We listen to YOU."
  • It would have an image that created emotion. No text, except logo.
  • it would be a picture of a fantastic view that reminds you of vacation (beach), because home should be an escape.
  • "Have you had a bad building? Give us a call and we will take care of that problem for you!"
  • "You probably can't afford us, but give us a call anyway." --Architects.
What if... your program document was only language and music, with no lists or numbers?
  • "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
  • Sounds like they are asking you to design a building that SINGS.
  • Make sure to select music that the client appreciates.
What if... nothing was stopping you?
  • There's always an excuse... thus there is nothing stopping me.
  • "Imagine what you could do, if you knew you could not fail."
  • That sense of "freedom" would be the greatest thing in the world.

Thanks for a terrific week.


Eric Randall said...

First of Herb, thank you for all that you have done.

Stop me if this sounds familiar: After a long and weary plane ride home, after being greeted by the loving arms of my wife and daughter at the airport, I began to recount the last 9 days to my family the best that my fuzzy memory allowed. From the energy of the design studio, the horrors of the hotel room, the awful coffee, greasy food, and the friendships that defined my experience, and the utter life changing experience of Herb's class. I explained to my wife at length how we discussed big ideas and how Herb opened my eyes that I, too, can be a vehicle of change and where would I lead the world if it followed me. I explained with utter certainty that this marked a turning point in my career.

Then, with a single question, she stops me dead in my tracks: "So what are you going to do about it?" Its the inherent danger in big ideas that they remain just that - some big ephemeral thing that is never acted upon, and is ultimately relegated as a piece of nostalgia and a reminder of our fleeting youth.

So let me pose this question, then, to my fellow classmates to help me search for my own answer. If something struck a chord with you - your personal eye-opening "WOW" moment from the last 9 days, what are you going to do different today than you did yesterday? Grab your virtual sharpie and your favorite pack of post-it notes, and help me out...

Melissa said...

Eric, you make me smile!! Thank goodness for a little continuation here!

I tried to explain the scenario to my husband and to my friends and co-workers but somehow their eyes don't register the sparks I am feeling. Why not??! Do I not tell good stories? Or is this what I am going to look like when the afterglow is gone? I am terrified that this is an unsustainable high. I sent my husband an email this morning saying I was so restless and I want to get out from behind my elevations and change the world. He said he wished he could think about that but he's so busy right now he can only think about his 1pm meeting. Is this going to be me again in a few weeks, months, years??

All morning I have been thinking about what I am going to do. Now I am not even sure I want to be an architect anymore! Is that really enough? At lunch I even decided I wanted to do the Peace Corps. Seriously, is this even realistic!?! I think I have gone off the deep end. I've always wanted to go to a poor country and build homes for them. Maybe now is the time.

Deep breath. Yeah, this was life changing. And the coolest part is we're only 3 weeks in. Nice.

Starting today, what am I going to do differently?

I want to hold a neighborhood art installation similiar to our pinup in Herb's class. Maybe do it in our office. (this is trickier b/c I am stepping on a lot of toes.)

There's a few empty lots down the street from me, what if I put a soccer goal on them and a b-ball hoop in the parking lot? what would that do?

whew, changing the world is exhausting.

Singleton said...

Do you think that you could offer a supplemental class for our significant others? Perhaps while we are in studio, you could be working with them. Of course I realize that you have nothing else going on, and that teaching another Architectural Theory class to a class of non-architects would be right up your alley. :)

It is almost impossible to describe the feeling and emotions that your class brought forth - its even harder to explain it to my (pinhead) boss - who really doesn't have much vision or even want to attempt to make the world a better place.

How can we transcribe your class for our coworkers, friends, and family? Any suggestions?

As for now, I'm going to look for a new job (with another architecture firm) - a firm that might be willing to take on the challenges we spoke of in class, or at least feign an interest in making some changes.

Thanks again for inspiring all of us. I think we're all attempting to take one step forward to changing the world...or at least trying to make it a better place.

Eric Randall said...

What if....We rethought the entire concept of an architecture firm?

Instead of a physical location, what if it was a collection of 13 folks scattered across the country from, say, Ohio, Alaska, Utah, Nevada, Florida (may even two from here?), Minnesota, Mississippi, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Illinois, and Oklahoma, who collaborated on projects via the internet?

Mike said...

Now THAT'S a good idea. Let's talk implementation and timeframe. There is no reason technologically why that couldn't work. And I think the last 9 days has proven there's almost no reason why relationally it couldn't work.

Melissa said...

hmm, what would those 13 people do? perhaps create a small village that looks like disneyland? that sounds cool. oh, or BLINGtown? I've always wanted to go there.

Mike said...

BLING town. Now that's another good idea.

Chad R. Kohler said...

I am on board for BLING Town!! Maybe it could even look like the elusive sea cucumber!! One other note… lets not have presentations in dark rooms in what ever design we all come up with.

I do like the question that Eric brought up. How do you implement something like changing the world? People do actually try to change the world and are very successful at attempting the gigantic task. Most of those people have enough money to just keep throwing it at the problem, however, sometimes it is just people like me and you that attempt to take on the world and fix the problems. Like Melissa said about joining Peace Corps, that is helping to change the world one person at a time.

I think the biggest hurdle to over come is the fact that one person CAN change the world. For example, it could be argued that Mother Teresa changed the world. It can also be argued that Osama Bin Laden changed the world.

Moral of the story, one person can change the world. That person just has to maintain the passion and continue to focus on the goal. Let’s hope that if somebody does have that passion that they use it for good.

Thanks Herb for an incredible week, like everyone else has said, truly eye opening and life changing!

Herb Childress said...

I'd be happy to teach a class for your partners when you come back in August (though I expect they'd rather hit the beach and go watch Blue Man Group).

I also like Eric's idea of forming a virtual design firm very much. Hell, I might even join it.

Nick Graal said...

All of what has been said here, rings true to me as well. I would like to share a quote I have had pinned up in my room for the past few years.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens could change the world; indeed it is the only thing that has." -Margaret Mead

I will let that sink in.
Remember, you are not trying to change the world by yourself, you have 12 other people right behind you. Albeit working in 13 different parts of the country, we are each others support. Not everyone in our offices will share our new found enthusiasm towards architecture/changing the world. That is OK. One step at a time.

Nick Graal said...

I think this idea of a "virtual" firm is great. We should all together and join a student competition to test out the idea. After the next five weeks of course. I have been wanting to do a competition for sometime, this may be a spring board to something great. Habitat for humanity has some competitions-a great start to help facilitate change.

I never got the chance to personally thank you for your class. To say the least, it was inspiring.
I think everyone will agree with me when I say that last week was a pivotal moment. This speaks highly of not only your class, but as the program as a whole. Where we all take it from here will be very interesting, indeed.

Eric Randall said...

Nick - the competition idea is fantastic. As Enno said, many of the European firms make a name for themselves by winning a competition or two. I would love to test this out - not in the next 6 weeks, but sometime. Maybe if we win enough competitions, get our names out there for our virtual firm we could even afford Herb's salary...

Melissa said...

How serious are you about having a class for spouses?? My husband may meet me in Boston at the end of next session and going to the beach and blue man are about at the botton of his list of things to do. He's super smart though so he's always challenging and fun to talk to!