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via Times Online
October 30, 2009
From Carmody Groarke to EXYZT, recession can inspire young architects
by Tom Dyckhoff

Out of adversity comes creativity. That's the spin that many architects are putting on this particularly vicious recession -- one that's hit their profession more than most.

The last time anything on this scale happened was when the oil crisis of the early 1970s brought the great postwar construction boom to a halt.

Perhaps the biggest collapse then was in New York, where the city's fiscal crisis ushered in the "decaying city" backdrop to classic films of the period such as Taxi Driver. Yet out of New York's decline came punk, disco, hip-hop -- and guerrilla gardening.

The city's building slump left thousands of abandoned plots. By 1977 there were 15,000 vacant acres. About the same time, Liz Christy, a Lower East Side artist, began laying down topsoil with her neighbours on a local derelict site. Block by abandoned block, they moved across the city, planting cuttings, or lobbing in balloons stuffed with peat moss and wildflower seeds. Thirty years on, New York has 700 neighbourhood gardens, more than any other city.

The same spirit of countercultural activism spread across the Atlantic in the 1970s. Derelict plots in Covent Garden became home to countless temporary uses. Many were masterminded by students from the nearby Architectural Association, at the time a hotbed of creatives such as Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid, and now part of the Establishment.

The 1970s recession, while tough, gave enough breathing space to rethink architecture completely, ushering in the wild shapes of today's "iconic" architecture. Exactly the same spirit of creativity returned in the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, and looks set to return again today.

This downturn could be a boon to young architects on the Cheesegrater site shortlist. It gives them the chance to strut their stuff cheaply. Recently the French architectural activists EXYZT created the Dalston Mill, a bakery complete with its own wheatfield, on a derelict plot in East London. Another young team, Carmody Groarke, created a much-lauded temporary pavilion behind the British Museum last year. If we're lucky, this recession, for a whole new generation, could turn out to be very rewarding.


Photos: Top to bottom, Entrepreneur's Row, the Icehouse, Entergy Innovation Center, New Orleans.

One of my friends recently blew through town on her way to SXSW and has shared her recent obsession with co-working with me. After reading her blog and catching up on her adventures, I've taken to reading more about co-working and how it is thriving in many communities, especially during the recession with many individuals sharing overhead and putting their heads together in large, loose, and largely fluid working environments nation-wide. Essentially, co-working is exactly what it sounds like: a working community of individuals or small business working in the same space and sharing overhead through contracts that range from daily to monthly. Most of the time it's a hot desk situation where at the end of the day you pick your stuff up and go but some co-working centers have cold as well as hot desk situations.

On her road trip down she has checked out a number of different co-working sites along the way and was stopping at Launch Pad in NOLA.

Launch Pad New Orleans - Opening June 1st, 2009 from Chris Schultz on Vimeo.

Here's a great article about the New Orleans and a number of other co-working sites there:

Some amazing snippets on why NOLA's co-working scene is poppin':

- New Orleans' metro area gained 100,000 nonfarm, post-Katrina jobs from October 2005 to June 2009, and by 2016 is expected to grow 24% from 2006 levels to 98.8% of pre-Katrina levels.
- At least four entrepreneurial hubs now exist: a coworking space for nine companies called Entrepreneur's Row; the Icehouse 'coworking warehouse'; a cluster of technology and start-ups known as the I.P., ('intellectual property'), and the Entergy Innovation Center, offering a group of companies affordable office, retail and community meeting spaces sponsored by Idea Village, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs.
Not bad for a city that many said shouldn't have a future.

Why New Orleans? Three major reasons:
1. "There's a sense of opportunity and possibility, combined with people who have the horsepower to actualize those possibilities," Michael Hecht, 38, president of Greater New Orleans Inc., a nonprofit economic development agency. What excites a creative more than an opportunity to actually create something? That's definitely post-Katrina New Orleans.
2. Low rents. That, along with business tax incentives and...
3. New Orleans legendary music and culture... and voila!

Another article via @RosieHoyem: An Entrepreneur's View On The Benefits of Coworking:


Also, be sure to check out Rosie's adventures HERE or follow her on Twitter HERE.


The latest discussion for Coll[arch]quial tackles the future of the "Green Job" market and what the investment in green technologies will mean for the design profession. Recently the GCCDS has been researching best practices for a new set of specs and it was really great to see so many great suggestions coming out of all the work. This got me thinking about the investment that Obama proposal to invest $150 billion over 10 years to produce 5 million jobs (there's a great article on page 15 of the November 8th issue of The Economist).


This influx of money into the system has certain obvious advantages, but as the Economist notes should not come without penalties for waste produced by companies as well as subsidies for those companies that are producing cleaner energy and products. I also stumbled upon a great quote that was culled from the thousands of hours of off-camera recording of the election. From

The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, “I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that's green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.?

Not necessarily the Green vote that Obama was talking about, but also welcome...

But the fact remains that after all the rhetoric, what does this mean for the architectural profession and design community as a whole? We certainly have begun to explore sustainability in our own ways with LEED accreditation for our working professionals, but Sam brought up a great point. How can someone become LEED certified without ever having worked on or managed a LEED building? It seems that the memorization of facts is good enough to prove that you are a green designer without any time actually having to be logged while working on a LEED certified project. This seems a bit ludicrous to me. Now, I don't want to sell anyone short that goes through the committed efforts to study for and take the test, in fact many of my friends have just taken it today and passed. Their firm has never worked on a LEED certified project.

Another question is the idea of sustainability being one-sided in terms of qualifications and quantification. There's a great article Mike sent to me called "It's the Energy Stupid" from that talks about this in great detail and makes a couple of fantastically snarky, very well informed, and articulate points regarding "greening" and sustainability in building.

The last point to touch on is the idea of SEED vs. LEED with SEED (Social/Economic/Environmental Design) being a grass roots movement dedicated to community-based architecture and ethical design practices. Read the following article off the AIA Committee on the Environment and then leave a comment and let the discussion begin!

The SEED Network
By Barbara Brown

The SEED Network is a collective of practitioners, activists, and theorists devoted to collaborative, community-based design. Encouraging what Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Frederick P. Rose Architectural Fellowship, refers to as a “more holistic ethic for building,? the group acknowledges an inherent value in involving community members in the shaping of their built environment, while still balancing other aspects of thoughtful design.

Advocating design as a mode of community support and empowerment, SEED participants hope to facilitate culturally and ecologically sensitive, community-based design efforts through the supportive web of its membership. Through the fusion of local and professional assets, the network believes that communities will find both the means and the best responses to their own challenges.

The Network emerged from a roundtable organized by Maurice Cox, Bryan Bell, Kathy Dorgan, and Stephen Goldsmith at Harvard in late October 2005 to discuss how design could more relevantly address the social, economic, and environmental issues faced by communities without access to such services. A second meeting at New Orleans in February 2006 furthered the development of this network, while also allowing its members to discuss potential modes of collaboration in regards to the needs of the Gulf Coast.

During the first two meetings many ideas emerged from the SEED Network including: 1) the development of a system to support young, socially inclined professionals as they enter the workforce; 2) the institutionalization of design ethics into architectural curricula; and 3) the need for a more effective system of incentivizing socially oriented design in the architectural realm. This last item might be satisfied through two complementary activities: creating a complementary system to green certification systems like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and encouraging architecture critics to acknowledge the importance of positive change through design in the built works they evaluate.

Although the group has not yet adopted a single set of principles, it is significant for the many facets of design that the SEED Network exists and that its members are further developing the concept. An open forum for discussion on the Internet allows any interested persons to engage in the creation and further development of SEED Network. Plans for a third meeting on the east coast in July are already underway.

Barbara Brown is a graduate student in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. As the first Luce Fellow associated with the Center for Sustainable Development at Utah, she is working to foster relationships between the School's Basic Initiative program and local communities, while also investigating the social architecture movement through her active participation in the SEED Network.


On the next Coll[arch]quial: Community Design/Studio


Also, if anyone has ideas for Coll[arch]quial let me know. I have a couple of ideas on the docket but am always looking for more. Feel free to leave a message or e.mail me at james.wheeler [at] gmail [dot] com.


This is one of those questions that go on and on. What to call an unlicensed architect? In Canada the can call themselves 'Graduate Architects' but we're still stuck with 'Intern Architect' here in the states. There are people who say that perhaps it is the licensed architects who should add to their title similar to engineers having the P.A. after their name, similar to P.E. And while you can't toss an "M.D." at the end until you get your license or practice without passing the bar, there's an incongruity in the essence of the 'intern' label among those practicing designers who have not yet taken their ARE's. The debate always rages whenever it comes up on a message board or in conversation and I think it's a great topic for the first Coll[arch]quial. These entries are meant to spur the comments forward on the blog and start to build a dialogue on the site so weigh in with your thoughts by leaving a message!


A Question of Title
By Casius Pealer

Many unlicensed architecture-school graduates have a difficult time describing their jobs to family, friends, and others outside of the profession. Though classified by the profession as interns, their work is remarkably similar to the kind of work they would be doing if they were licensed. Yet the title of architect is restricted by state licensing boards to refer only to currently licensed practitioners. The challenge is that, to most people outside of the profession, intern doesn't resonate as a proper title for a graduate with a professional degree in a respectable full-time job-especially one a few or more years out of school.

Based on a ruling from a recent court case in Colorado, this confusion may be resolved, at least for casual conversations and other noncommercial situations. Jack Johnson, 42, was an architecture graduate running for the Aspen city council. During his campaign, he referred to himself as an architect in various public forums, though he was also careful to explain that he was not a "licensed architect." A political rival filed a complaint with the Colorado Board of Examiners of Architects, and the board issued a formal cease and desist order to Johnson, demanding that he stop referring to himself as an architect or face a $1,000 fine or six months in jail. Johnson instead sued the board for violating his First Amendment rights, and the board eventually rescinded its order. However, Johnson pursued the case in order to fully resolve the issue, and in May 2006 the Colorado District Court ruled in his favor. Specifically, the court held that the board's action was "far more restrictive than it needed to be in order to protect the interests which were the board's charge."

When asked why he sued the board rather than simply stop referring to himself as an architect, Johnson said, "The board's position was wrong. The board refused to make a distinction between commercial and noncommercial speech, and I wanted to make it clear that there is such a distinction and that the board does not control noncommercial speech." Johnson also won his election and now sits on the Aspen City Council. He regularly draws on his architectural education and experience to inform a variety of public policy issues in Aspen, including the redesign of the main road entering the city, and affordable housing in this resort town. "As an architect influencing public policy, I would have expected the board to encourage me rather than to censor me," said Johnson. While Johnson agrees that licensing boards should regulate the use of the title, he also agrees with the court that outside of commercial transactions, unlicensed individuals have an expansive constitutional right to use the word architect as they see fit.

To get in touch with Jack Johnson, please e-mail him at


On the next Coll[arch]quial: The Green Collar Movement

Also, if anyone has ideas for Coll[arch]quial let me know. I have a couple of ideas on the docket but am always looking for more. Feel free to leave a message or e.mail me at james.wheeler [at] gmail [dot] com.