What I’m reading…How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off

From the NYT. “You can’t program a child to become creative. Try to engineer a certain kind of success, and the best you’ll get is an ambitious robot. If you want your children to bring original ideas into the world, you need to let them pursue their passions, not yours.”

The creative child: 9th grader’s Digital Art project self-portrait

What I’m reading…A New Map for America

From the NYT. “…there are now seven distinct super-regions, defined by common economics and demographics, like the Pacific Coast and the Great Lakes. Within these, in addition to America’s main metro hubs, we find new urban archipelagos, including the Arizona Sun Corridor, from Phoenix to Tucson; the Front Range, from Salt Lake City to Denver to Albuquerque; the Cascadia belt, from Vancouver to Seattle; and the Piedmont Atlantic cluster, from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C.”




Basketball, Bluegrass & BBQ: an Architect’s Observations from the Field

flyerAsked to do a lessons learned recently. Also asked to host a TEDTALK-like conversation about CULTURE, QUALITY and PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT within my organization. In the end what got served up was some NC BBQ with a side of architecture in one Prezi. I organized my observations in 2 parts:


In Situ

Part 1: Maps & Legends offered “a slice” of NC, some of what I’ve learned about the place and a timeline of my connection to Architecture and NC for the last what…30 years: since those regular roadtrips in HS from VB to the Outer Banks; Architecture School in Charlotte; studying abroad and a handful of economy class (a la Eurail Pass and pre-Yelp paperback of Let’s Go Europe) Grand Tours in the Ecole de Beaux-Arts tradition; moving back to NC for work and family after grad school in Seattle; leaving NC for the Balto./DC region only to go back again to deliver a Cancer Hospital in Chapel Hill; and now traveling back and forth more recently for a hospital project in Hillsborough.



bbq legend

Part 2: Plans & Specs put specific examples of the work into context, and by this I mean to emphasize that: what we draw (and I think these days we call it “modelling” now?) matters, what we spec. matters, and how immersing ourselves into the place (which is Part 1), can enhance outcomes, even elevate the work and our personal experience.

Sociotechnical Competency

Since I think all the time about the way we work and ways to contribute to the success of a project in the CA phase, I presented the loose use of the idea of “Sociotechnical Competency” from Wiki’s Sociotechnical theory about joint optimization, with a shared emphasis on achievement of both excellence in technical performance and quality in people’s work lives, to ask whether our teams possess the right balance of socio- and -technical competencies: does the work we do enhance the good work of those who use the spaces we design? Are we having fun? Is it meaningful, do we see our work as translating to improving the lives of others?

Lastly, I presented the view that in CA, we are charged with the task of being the one party in the O-A-C relationship with the big picture on the design. Yet we are asked detail questions all day long.

I argued that CMs go to CM school to make a living in CA and that there was nothing in Architecture School that could’ve prepared me for CA in particular, how to finesse professional and personal human interaction in real-time in the field: knowing when to pull back, to say wait a minute, think twice about our response or knee jerk, to understand the detail question in a larger context, 3 dimensionally, not only aesthetic effect or the often times very convincing case for ‘ease of constructability’, but adjacencies, downstream impact on work by other trades, cost implications, and so on.


I was studying for the AREs using those ArchiFlash cards years ago and there was this question that went something like: The Architect is the final arbiter of what aspect of a project? The answer was that we are the final arbiter of “aesthetic effect”. That’s it folks? We are both type-cast and hard-wired to take the designer’s position, when most of the time what’s best may often result in the ‘organic evolution’ of the original design idea. If we choose to choose our battles, we may arrive at a better product and reputation for service as a team player, seriously talented folks who are also fun and easy to work with, and who can relate to the needs of all the stakeholders.

The Prezi, which can be found here, offered some examples to illustrate what I mean when I say what we “model” matters, what we spec. matters, and how immersing ourselves into the context of the work – the programming and medical planning, the needs of the end-users, the patient experience and empathy: taking the caregiver, patient AND the visiting public’s point of view into consideration, how drawing from the collective experience of our organization and expertise of our consultants, and building on that experience – matters.


peds infusion

I believe we enhance outcomes in CA

Because design does not stop at the end of CDs and I believe we enhance outcomes in CA, make connections and connect the dots, to find deeper meaning in the work as we see our ideas through to fruition. Which is also why I say the Architect should have a seat at the table through to closeout and beyond, and come back 6mos. post-occupancy. And ideally onsite, especially for projects of this scale, complexity and long, drawn out durations.

A CM said to me once that this is the phase (CA) when the CM wins a client and the Architect loses a client. Do you believe that? I say, design offense is the best defense. Design matters. And when design inspires, its not a struggle. We win the client, and we all win.

Ubiquity & Rootedness

The Cancer Hospital was designed in Seattle. And it was easy to juxtapose the big, now ubiquitous innovations coming out of Seattle – there’s 3,000 miles between SEA and RDU after all –  to make a case for rootedness. Which is why it was imperative to set up a field office in NC. The outcome? Top-shelf design, connected to the community. As for the CA phase, there is no better perspective on the work, the people and the place than on the ground, in the trenches and onsite in the field. In Situ.

Missing a Third Place

I am reminded perhaps by time and depravity, that I am missing a third place. We used to walk to our third place, aptly named Third Place Books and in the basement, the Pub at Third Place. Imagine that, an after dinner stroll, to book browse or for a beer. If ever you find yourself in the Ravenna neighborhood in NE Seattle, drop in and stay a spell.


Pajamagram: a Work-Life Balance reader for the resocialization of working dads

UPDATE: Telecommuting can improve employee performance: study

“It could be there’s higher wellbeing, there could be creativity benefits too” …and “working parents have lower stress levels when they have the option to work remotely…”

Creativity benefits!? Lower stress levels!?  That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!


My Work-Life Balance reader is for the resocialization of working dads. Specifically, the absentee parent of the 2-career household, enabled by their working spouse since what, grad school? This subset of working dads among the 40 million of us GenXers that have been oblivious, aloof or adrift until this collective catharsis, among the 80 million Boomers on the one hand and another 80 million Echo Boomers on the other, and who I hope are in the middle of an ugly divorce from social media, re-engaging their families, the Children, and their communities in meaningful ways, and adjusting their perspective and priorities toward a work-life balance strategy for their own personal health and emotional well-being not to mention their marriage and, for dramatic effect and a little self-aggrandizement, to contribute you know, live and in-person to the health and well-being of society as a whole.

Follow me. It’s 2012 and the Atlantic article doing the rounds while we were living in Seattle was what got us all to scratch our heads, lift our nose off the grindstone and look up, from our open-office workstations…Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.

The follow-up article to Slaughter’s, also in the Atlantic…Home Economics: The Link Between Work-Life Balance and Income Equality was by Stephen Marche. I regret not discovering his earlier article until now, Is Facebook Making Us Lonely,  because I would be 2 years not just 2 months cold turkey-divorced from Facebook already. But I digress, only because a discussion about balance is lopsided without consideration in the current and pervasive social media context. And one more social media fallout piece for context…Twitter is Destroying Your Marriage, You Self-Absorbed Jerk.

Specific to the architecture profession, there is this podcast, starting @ 19 mins., that put into words how getting the best out of each employee requires an employee retention policy, actual performance reviews, goal setting, wait for it…caring, an accountability culture, purpose, ownership and a sense of being part of the whole. I offer this podcast to establish a baseline workplace culture for this work-life balance rant, anything less confuses balance with flight. Because I would hate that us working dads would stoop to hiding behind our children to get the heck out of a dead end, demoralizing and chronically anemic office environment. In the event this describes your workplace, it might be time to challenge the culture of fear and intimidation, the butt-in-chair, co-located and at-your-disposal business model is old school. And without a job description, work is: do as much as you can physically, emotionally and psychologically bear, go home, take a shower and come back. Eventually, any romantic notion of a nurturing workplace erodes for short-term gain, and the perks of employment – an Aeron chair, beer-thirty, a corner office, a reserved parking spot, a raise, promotion or title – can’t make up for lost time. My children are not motivated by coercion, guilt or one-upmanship, why should I? And why should an employee have to sneak in after 8:30am because it was their turn to drop off the kids or slink out before 5:30pm because you want to be there for soccer practice. Looking at our present day relationship to work, we never put it down, the “it” being the smartphone. A work email never sat unread, and the race to respond was a cultural attitude perpetuated at the price and sacrifice of time, time logged well beyond the 40hr week, time that belonged to someone else, family.

So back to this reader: for some generational perspective…Jimmy Fallon, Elon Musk Lead An Overlooked Generation X.

For the water cooler vibe, the constant state of overwhelmed…America’s Workers: Stressed Out, Overwhelmed, Totally Exhausted

Enter the Federal Employee Act as a point of reference.

So fight or flight?  Telecommuting may be the grassroots way to forward policy and shape the culture of the workplace from within your organization, by example. It’s Unclearly Defined, but Telecommuting Is Fast on the Rise.

Work-Life Balance culture can also and should more often come from the top-down…Sheryl Sandberg Leaves Work at 5:30. Why Can’t You?

And on the 40hr work week…Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week.

On ‘resocializing’ working dads and stigmatizing workplace flexibility…The Unspoken Stigma of Workplace Flexibility.

“It’s an issue of balance. If you don’t have adequate arrangements, then it’s very hard for women to maintain their attachment to the labor force and for employers to invest in the women’s skills.” But it’s also an issue of perspective. For women to be able to take advantage of these arrangements without judgment, men need to use them freely, too. But that requires viewing men not solely as breadwinners, but as individuals who also have the same choices as women. “Not only have we put women on the mommy track, we put dad on the daddy track,” said Kenneth Matos, an organizational psychologist and senior director of employment research and practice at the Families and Work Institute, a research group.

Work-Life balance = career penalties…For Workers, Less Flexible Companies.

“Most organizations still treat workplace flexibility as an accommodation,” said Erin Kelly, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota. “But there is a lot of downside when you set up flex work arrangements as a perk. You are implicitly saying, ‘Most of us will be working these traditional ways and the rewards will come to those working these traditional ways.’ And that is where you have this stigma or career penalties.”

And Slaughter’s 2012 article is bookended with this /TEDtalk: Can we all “have it all”?

Anne-Marie Slaughter made waves with her 2012 article, “Why women still can’t have it all.” But really, is this only a question for women? Here Slaughter expands her ideas and explains why shifts in work culture, public policy and social mores can lead to more equality — for men, women, all of us.

Even our President, the working dad-in-chief, takes up the cause: Presidential Memorandum — Enhancing Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Program.

I should report that since summer break, I have carved out 2 days of flexible telework time per week, incremental really, but it goes a long way toward a viable work-life balance strategy for our family. And just as the children’s routine is disrupted (or in the hearts of kids and kids at heart: as things should be in the hazy lazy daze of summer bliss) and Mom adds teaching an online course to her career aspirations, I exhale, scratch my head, lift my nose up off the grindstone and look up from our kitchen table — with my standard-issue laptop and VPN, contemplating the time we set aside to commute in to central business districts, the SF cost to lease Class A office space, the supply chain to support the typical downtown lunch hour rush, what it means to be present, and how to make the most of [real not iOS] face-time at work and at home, but I am also tormented by statistics that call teleworkers 19% more efficient all the while 50% less likely to get promoted for being out of sight and out of mind — in my PJs.

Open Mic at the District Architecture Center

First to clarify “Architect-Musician”, if there is any doubt, there are Itzhak Perlmans (Musicians) and there are Daniel Libeskinds (Architects).



Now this is fascinating: the violinist virtuoso and…the accordionist architect. Tel Aviv, 1959.

Daniel Libeskind on Being a Musician Before an Architect

From the Village Voice, “Libeskind’s a child-prodigy accordion player, a little moxie machine, pudgy fingers banging on the keys, boggling spectators with the sight, as one reviewer recalled, of “the strange, small accordionist onstage, hidden, except for his feet, by his bright red Sorrento, with its silver registers and ivory and ebony keys, the zigzagging folds of its bellows delineated with black and white stripes.” Daniel Libeskind, the architect-about-town who has overseen the hole in the middle of Lower Manhattan, was some kind of dervish, channeling strange spirits into that sleek squeeze box. Libeskind, he’s our hurdy-gurdy man.”

Now, why architecture is my day job, is why I wonder…why Architect-Musicians came out of the woodwork for the Open Mic at the District Architecture Center in Washington, DC. Is it possibly a left brain-right brain thing? A love of music and pattern and structure? Or a love of the musical instrument itself – the beauty in an object’s utility?


There is certainly a camaraderie, a team effort, a sum greater than the parts. Like in our work. And an opportunity to express yourself creatively, like in our work, making something, form-space, sound-silence.

There is also a certain satisfaction in serving our client-audience a little something more manageable and digestible, expressing ourselves and our ideas in just a few minutes time, than say the months and years it takes to serve up a whole building.

Here’s our take on a bluegrass standard, “Mountain Dew” at the Open Mic Night for would be Architect-Musicians. I hope you enjoy it. We did.