Balancing Scales of Sustainability

A few months ago, in the early throes of a fruitless job search (literally fruitless – being unemployed and broke, I couldn’t afford fruit), I offered a single word as my driving professional goal: ‘sustainability’. While recognizing that (for me) it transcends mere building performance or energy generation, I still couldn’t offer a clear interpretation of it, spouting instead some ambiguous definition – ‘the ability of a system to sustain itself’.

So what the hell does that even mean, Kev? How does that even RELATE to architecture?

Forgive me for the following stream-of-thought as I struggle for an answer…

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Assaulting suspicion

Last week, a several-year old compilation of things not learned in architecture school resurged between us bloggers. Having before only read such lists while in school, I figured I’d give it another go to see if anything felt relevant to my current situation. A third of the way down the 101 item list, #36 stopped my eyes.

“Expect to be regarded with suspicion if your undergraduate degree is not in architecture.”

Memories surfaced. Me, shifting around in ill-fitting clothes, explaining my undergraduate career to architects in crisp suits, of how and why I switched. Defending my educational choices, trying to sell them as positive. Fingers frozen over my computer, I felt the same stressed fluster, as if I was still wilting under scrutinizing and skeptical gazes. A few bad experiences need not make the rule, but after seeing the words following #36, I have to ask.

Is that the common view? Continue reading

The art and… what..? of architecture

Incomplete house from Graduate Design Studio II.

One of my greater failures (so far).

Whenever I speak to someone new and mention that I’m in architecture, they’ll say without fail, “Oh, how creative! You must be an artist!” I’ve learned not to argue, to just smile and nod instead, maybe chuckle and say, “Something like that.”

 I grew up in the sciences, on the neuro side of psychology. I threw myself into biology, into anatomy and physiology. Into chemistry and physics, even. I was a research assistant for three years and found myself preparing for med school. My dad, a family practitioner and the biggest reason I flirted with becoming a doctor, once told me about ‘the art and science’ of medicine:

To be a good doctor, you need a deep grasp of the science behind the medicine. To be a great doctor, you need the ‘art’ – the intuition to know when to go with or against what the science seems to say.”

Here I am in architecture now, and I miss the science.

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Venn and the Art of ‘Sustainability Maintenance’

Venn diagram showing relationship between sustainability, building performance, and solar power

Building performance is only a piece of sustainability, and solar power is only a small part of building performance

December was an interesting time to graduate. With several holidays immediately succeeding the celebration, I had little time in those first few weeks to reflect on leaving studenthood behind. I enjoyed time spent with family. I reconnected with friends I had hardly spoken with in years, catching up on all the stories missed, just… enjoying myself. And my freedom…

… until The Inevitable Question would come at me like the coffee shakes after a French press on an empty stomach. ”So what kind of architecture do you want to practice?”

Immediately sweating, I would stammer an answer…

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… and New Designs.

new year-01One week ago, Beth made our jaws drop when she shared an extensive and diverse list celebrating the best of 2012. As the new year embraces us, we saw a perfect opportunity within such inspirations to drive the evolution of our own website, regarding not only the feel and aesthetic but its overall functionality and use. In the coming weeks and months, we will strive to become a greater resource for you.

With this new year and its inspirations, we hope to headline your own eventual “Best of 2013 Resources” list. What grand designs might you care to see?