Wednesday, November 25, 2015

To the Student in Architecture (Part One)

Over the years I have had contact with aspiring young architects from grammar school to university.  Student groups of all ages have come through my office, I have given talks at career days, and I have counseled young people thinking about a career in architecture at every invitation.  For a few years I taught architectural design at the college level and even taught architectural drafting at a trade school. Whenever these young students ask me what I think of their contemplated career choice in architecture, my answer is always the same: run in the opposite direction as fast as you can!   Most people have deep misconceptions about what an architect does - how he or she spends a typical day and, especially, what they earn. Architecture is viewed favorably among professions, with few negative connotations. That’s because it is perceived as something far more glamorous and financially rewarding than the reality.

Of course, my usual follow-up when discouraging a career in architecture is, unless you truly have a passion for it. That would be true with most jobs. However, it seems to me to be especially true of architecture because the path to obtaining a license is very long and the remuneration rather dicey.  Is there enough reward for the investment? Some careers might be a logical choice because the money and benefits are so great you can put up with a lot of BS and some degree of delayed gratification (early retirement, for example).  That’s probably not going to happen with most architecture-related jobs.  Unless you are a star architect working internationally (think Gehry, Liebskind, or Hadid) the hours will be long, the pay meager, and the opportunities for creativity few. Think, young student in architecture, if six years of college, an extended internship, and low pass rates in the professional exam are worth the time and expense.  Career paths in law and medicine are much faster and more lucrative. Or get an MBA and open doors in business and finance. Perhaps go into construction or development where the decision-making power in architecture truly resides.  Anything but architecture itself!

And yet, do I regret my own choice of career? No. Because I didn’t have a choice. I had to be an architect. The kind of passion I had for architecture drove me to get the education and experience I needed to become an architect. It sustained me in seeking out clients to support that ambition.  So, if you truly have a passion for it, nothing will stop you from becoming an architect. These next couple of  blog entries are addressed to that young student in architecture.

Monday, November 16, 2015

An Architect's Screensaver

Every day I find myself smiling when I look at the screensaver on my iPhone. It’s an image of Santiago Calatrava’s Milwaukee Art Museum. The main space, which serves as a lobby and an event center, is a cathedral to art. It is pure space, uninterrupted by superfluous furnishings or ornamentation. The photograph (taken by the late Rob Munger) captures the building with people to give it scale. Light shimmers on the highly polished floor surface. The structure soars to great height and seems to hover above lake Michigan, seen through the arc of windows. Of all the iconic museums designed by famous architects in recent years (Gehry’s in Bilbao, Liebskind’s in Denver, Renzo Piano’s in Chicago, etc.) the Milwaukee museum is, in my opinion, the best. I could (and sometime probably will) spend some words on analyzing why this is so. For now, please allow me to share my current screensaver. 
The lobby of Santiago Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Is Dr. Ben Carson an Architect?

This blog is about exploring architecture in all its facets. It says so right on the masthead. Architecture is my area of expertise and I am pretty scrupulous about limiting my observations to just that subject. Sometimes other realms overlap this singular intent, as when I felt compelled to write about Donald Trump being “classy.” (The architecture he espouses is distinctly not classy.)  Now it happens again: politics intrudes into the world of architecture with Republican candidate Dr. Ben Carson's assertion that the ancient Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain. In 1998 at Andrews University he said “when you look at the way the pyramids were made…. My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids in order to store grain.” On November 4, 2015 Dr. Carson confirmed his original statement when questioned by reporters. The subject has become entwined with 2015 presidential politics.

Is Ben Carson an architect? Or an archaeologist? No on both counts. So on what authority does Dr. Carson make this ridiculous claim?  He knows the pyramids aren’t hollow, doesn’t he? A grade-school-level of knowledge tells us the pyramids are mostly solid rock with a few small chambers and tunnels. Egyptian writings tell us their purpose: for royal entombment.  The pyramids also happen to predate the biblical Joseph. Furthermore, the Bible itself provides no corroboration for this empty idea. Dr. Ben Carson has no training in architecture; he had best stay away from the subject altogether and stick to something he knows, like politics. Oh, wait. He has no experience in politics either…
Pyramid at Giza.  Mostly solid.
Dr. Ben Carson.  Mostly hollow. 
For a detailed analysis of the pyramids-as-granaries idea, read Jason Colavito’s November 6th blog: The Long Strange History of the Pyramids as the Granaries of Joseph.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lantz Architecture Blog

In this blog I have written about the architectural work of LaVerne Lantz . Now another writer, Maureen Brock, is devoting a new blog to Lantz's work. Brock is a marketing professional specializing in the design of websites and social media strategies. Her blog is a labor of love featuring original photography of Lantz projects.  It also reproduces old photographs and drawings from the Lantz archives. You can find Ms. Brock's blog at LaVerne Lantz: An American Architect. 
Wurster residence by LaVerne Lantz.
LaVerne Lantz's own residence in Delafield, Wisconsin was opened by Molly Lantz for a recent tour of Wright-influenced homes. This was in addition to a hugely successful "Wright and Like" home tour in 2014 which included six of Lantz's projects.  This activity reflects a growing interest in Lantz's work and mid-century modern architecture in general. There is even a Facebook page devoted to current and former home owners, friends, and fans of LaVerne Lantz's architectural legacy, The LaVerne Lantz Homeowners Group. I ran across the Facebook page while writing this entry and found, to my surprise, a photo of one of my own designs identified as a "little gem by former Lantz apprecntice, Denver architect Michael Knorr." (In fact, I was only eighteen years of age when it was designed and Lantz was instrumental in helping land my very first client.)
Wurster residence.
For those interested in my previous Lantz blog entries, here are the links:

Part I.
Part II.
Part III.

Images: George Hall