Dear Future Architects

Dear Future Architects,

I am writing this letter assuming it was wrapped up in a time capsule (most certainly a well-designed time capsule) which has been un-earthed 50 years from now in what was most likely from a Papa John’s parking lot where it was buried.

Strap in, my conversations tend to hop all over the place and my writing does as well…

First let me say hello, I hope you are enjoying that virtual reality software that is allowing you to design buildings practically hands free from anywhere in the world (are you on a beach?).  I hope it’s not in the “chain yourself to a desk” standard office like I used to work in, who knows I am probably still there, dead, hands on keyboard and mouse and nobody really knows what to do with the body.   I so miss being in the Army sometimes, sure there is the occasional deployment into combat, BUT at least I had the ability to change things up on every once and awhile and get out of the static boring office environment and oh boy, nothing gets the blood pumping like someone shooting at you. Let me tell you that working in that static office does have its challenges though, the conversations heard throughout an office can be both enriching and education professionally. However, sometimes the baggage and politics that comes with those conversations can be rather taxing.

I am sure your grandparents have told you something about working in a boring office? Maybe? Or there is some Mad Men style show glorifying the way we worked in my time. Wait? Do you even know what Mad Men is? Doubtful.


image from ironman 2008

I will tell you I am envious of your ability to 3-D print all of you buildings, it must be nice not to spend 5 years dedicated to one project.  Was that a gasp I heard you let out?  Yes, I did say “5 years dedicated to one project”.  I am sure over the course of 5 years with all of your technological advances in design and construction that you complete at least 50 projects?

I guess the point I am making here is embrace the advancements in technology, you will need to stay relevant both in the profession but also with building design and construction technologies.  Don’t let the future pass you by, be an active participant in the technology that helps you design and build, you’ll appreciate that what this technology does is allows you to work faster and smarter, more collaborative and in the end will give you more time to do those other passions that both enrich your life but also help shape the professional you need to be.

I often wonder here in my time whether we will ever have the technological capabilities to move away from the chair based work life and work more virtually so we can really be based anywhere and work anywhere.  So I guess what I am hoping for is that you are more of a globally based architect while still maintaining a local sensibility.  Or maybe it should be a locally based with local sensibilities the way it was 50 years prior to me…one argument I always make about the globalization of architecture is that we have seemed to have lost our sense of place, when you have say a Spanish architect working on a high profile project in say New York City the project tends to be less about the place its built and more about the object, sure it’s “pretty” but does it have any context? Is it simply a work of art that could be picked up and placed anywhere is wants and there will be the same unidentifiable connection to its place no matter its location?

Well I digress, but I suppose my point is that maintaining that local identity is sometimes important, the homogenized work that seems prevalent in my time has made every place feel like it’s any other place.  So no matter if you are in China or Tatooine it will still feel the same but yet oddly foreign and out of place…rambling again.  OK, forget that bit about the global architect.

image from the muppets

I do hope that we have moved past this old boys club in architecture, and have really embraced diversity and equality I really feel that stagnation of design and discourse in the architecture of my time has a lot to do with the make-up of the faces I see throughout the profession.  It is changing however not fast enough, much like my previous ramble about the homogeneous architecture looking the same no matter where you are in the world.  If the profession stays the same we face much the same problems, we have the assumption that the same faces in architecture will pump out the same homogeneous designs and it will make the everywhere seem like the same place.  No I know you are thinking “but diversity and equality in the profession means more than that” and it most certainly does.  As both a father (you remember President Phalen don’t you?) and a brother with three older sisters I know what equality means to me, the influence of my sisters on my live is really immeasurable, coming from a family of divorced parents my sisters kept me balanced, they supported me and most certainly kept me going when I didn’t feel I could.

I have that same feeling about equality in the profession, we have faced challenges in this profession where people question the relevancy of architecture, surely we can do without the architect and get a builder to build me a building without the issue and cost an architect brings?  Can I? Sure, but can a builder understand the spirit of a place?  Can they understand what goes into creating successful buildings, developments and towns? Rarely, but what is needed is a fully diverse profession of users, of creatives that understand and engage the built environment on a daily basis will you get that from a profession where all of the faces look the same?

Look, I have rambled on long enough, and offered you no practical advice from this letter, less you call “hope” no practical advice?  I will say this, stay hopeful, stay optimistic, stay changing and growing, don’t let the pessimistic world drag you down.  There will be times when things seem really hard and you feel like giving up and don’t see the point in continuing in a profession that sometimes seems like it only takes and never gives back?  But trust me, there will be those times when it does give back and everything will be worth it.  And when you get that feeling you’ll want to keep on going until the next time you experience that feeling…and TRUST ME, this profession is worth it.

image from tomorrowland 2015

Oh, and go to the library (you still have those right?) and look up Archispeak Podcast Episode 65 – we discuss hope and the will to keep going quite a bit.

This is rambling letter is part of the ArchiTalks series of blog post. This is #19 in the series and there are several participating in this series topic of “Dear Future Architect.”  Please take the time and check them all out.

Bob Borson – Life of an Architect (@bobborson)
Dear Future Architects – You need to Hear This,

Brady Ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Dear Boy in the Plastic Bubble,

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Dear Future Architects: 3 letters

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Dear Future Architects: 4 Perspectives

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
dear future architects

Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Dear Future Architects

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
future architects: #architalks

Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Dear Future Architect, Listen Here

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Dear Future Architects…

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Dear future architects, are you credible?

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
Dear Future Architect, a Letter to My Younger Self

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Dear Future Architects…

Ken Saginario – Twelfth Street Studio
Dear Future Architects…

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Dear Future Architect — Remember Then

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“Dear Future Architects,”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Dear Future Architects..

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Dear Future Young Architects… Please Quit Screwing Around!?!!

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Dear Future Architects: Don’t makes these 4 Mistakes

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Dear Future Architects, Be Authentic

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Dear Future Architects: A Confession

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Dear Future Architect,

6 responses to “Dear Future Architects

  1. Cormac, I really loved the point of view you wrote from.

    I think 3D printing all of the buildings could be fun to deal with some day. I wonder how long it will take to reach a wider audience. 10 years? 50 years?

    Also, I love when you said, “So I guess what I am hoping for is that you are more of a globally based architect while still maintaining a local sensibility.” Technology will likely help us connect and reach farther, but we should always remember the context of the problem at hand.

    Nice post! Love ArchiTalks too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mike, I had a much longer version but wanted to keep it short (though it looked as if others were real short in comparison). If you had seen tomorrowland, they had these flying 3D printers (essentially) and it was amazing to think that this could be possible one day. I am thinking it might not be in my lifetime, but it will happen…but what does that mean for the architects?

      sorry, I can drone on….


      • I’ll have to check out ‘Tomorrowland.’ There are so many movies these days, it’s hard to keep up! I do wonder, as you have, what kinds of tech will be available to future generations of architects long after we’re gone. I think it’s the sci-fi nerd in me.


  2. Pingback: [ArchiTalks #19] Dear Future Architect, a Letter to My Younger Self - Defragging Architecture·

  3. Pingback: Dear Future Architect: 4 Perspectives - Studio MM Architect·

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