✱ Now /
I’ve created a Now page here on my web site. What’s a Now page? Great question. It’s a page where I’ve publicly stated the stuff I’m focusing on; therefore only the stuff I’m focusing on. As my priorities change, I’ll update it to reflect my current projects. Consider it a living document (which is something web pages are really good for).
I’m the type of person that has always been interested in many, many things. It’s always been hard for me to focus on just one or two main things. I mean, just look at the list of obsessions I have over there on the right side of this page. I love starting projects but I don’t always finish them, and that bugs me. For instance, a few years ago I decided that I was going to finish what I started and finally get my architecture license almost 20 years after graduating from architecture school. During that long, arduous studying and testing process I really wanted to start some new projects but I knew they would take my focus away from getting that damn license. So I negotiated with myself that I would not start anything new until I finished my last test. Once I got licensed, I started working on my trailer project the very next day, and I’ve been working on it ever since.
I haven’t been blogging much here or over on my Method website for a couple of years now, and the priorities on my Now page are the reason. The importance of having a Now page is that not only does it state what I’m currently focused on, but it also is an indicator of everything I’m not working on. Basically, if it’s not on the list, I’m not doing it. So if you have a project that you think you need me to help out with, check the list first. If it’s not related to one of those things, I’ll probably say no. Don’t worry, it’s not personal. I've just gained a heightened awareness that I need to continue to invest in myself and my personal development more than taking on things that scatter my focus. I’ve been doing this for the last 3 years and I am determined to continue. It’s been very rewarding so far.
This Now page wasn’t my idea. I read about it over on Derek Sivers’ web site first, where he talks about 'saying no’. I know it’s something I’ve needed help with for a long time. He recently created a page with information about what he's calling the Now Movement that you might want to check out as well. In fact, he was the guy who wrote No more Yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no that first got my attention on this matter.
Getting to the bottom of all of the clutter in my mind is the real reason for doing something like this. There are lots of people, myself included, that are open to saying ‘yes' to just about everything. Lots of people have written about all of the cool things that can happen when you say yes. It’s just not that season in my life right now. While there are so many cool things out there to do that I would like to be a part of, I’m resigned to the fact that I just can’t do everything. I’m doing the things that have meaning to me.
Do you have a Now page?
Consider making one if you don’t. Even if you don’t publish it online, it really helps focus your energy into the things you are passionate about. My thinking is that those are the things you’ll pour all of yourself into and do something really great. To me, that sounds much better than putting some of your energy into doing something that has bits of you in it and comes into the world in a mediocre way. It’s my goal to not do things half-assed any more. It’s just full-assed from now on.
If you do decide to make one, leave a link to it in the comments. I'd love to see it and find out what your passion projects are.
A friend of mine was beginning to teach a new architecture class at one of the local universities and he wanted to get the new kids thinking about architecture and what it could mean to them. They were new architecture students and were probably the type of people who didn't really know or understand the definition of architecture yet. From my perspective, it's a difficult thing to define if you haven't really thought about it. No, it's not "buildings".
He asked a few of us at the office who are passionate about the profession to give their points-of-view. It's a hard thing to define even for me, and I wonder if I might have given a different answer if it were asked on a different day.
"What does architecture mean to you?"
Architecture is a dichotomy in so many ways. It is where we spend the most personal and private part of our lives, and it is also the framework within which we all live and work in the public part of our lives. It is something we all participate in every day and yet is something many (most?) rarely notice. Architecture lies at the intersection of art and science. It brings together primal needs and high tech. It grounds us on the planet and often defies gravity. It is a huge, intricate, advanced thing that is still mostly built by hand. Perhaps the strangest part of our interaction with the built environment is what can be so evocative and meaningful for one person can mean absolutely nothing to someone else.
The process of architecture is not for the passive. It requires a passionate involvement and commitment to bring out creative solutions to complex issues. Architects are poised to solve many of the world's biggest problems, and we do so willingly. We are problem solvers by definition. Working with others (listening, exploring, creating, struggling, thinking, asking, etc.) and collaborating on solutions to these problems is the biggest workout your brain will ever get. The more I do it, the stronger it gets. It feels good and right, and I probably wouldn't want to do anything else.
When we as architects work on something we always try to reach that extra level… trying to achieve soul or depth. This is part of what separates architecture from buildings. In every project there is this inseparable combination of function and aesthetics; of function and emotion. It should make our lives better. Architecture has the potential to address form, tectonics, craft, color, light, texture, sound, reflection and shadow. It must achieve a provocative relationship between simplicity and complexity. It must access the unconscious... and that is maybe what architecture is all about.
So... I'd like to know: what does architecture mean to you? Write it down and post it for others to read. Leave your thoughts or a link in the comments.
I recently took to Twitter and shared a story about a visit to an architectural project I worked on with a photographer who will be shooting the project when it's complete. It was a great experience and I though I'd try a new way of sharing my story on Twitter instead of my blog. I spewed the entire thing out and a few salient tweets were retweeted out by some of my followers and friends. But I think it's better when there's context and seen as a whole, so I took all the pieces and put them into one larger story using Storify.
Here it is presented in its entirety.Read More
I was honored to answer a few questions for the Philadelphia University School of Architecture blog which is a great resource for architecture students. There you can read my thoughts about the importance of being a well-rounded designer and architect. You'll also learn quite a bit more about me, my background, and why I do what I do.
I'm so happy they publish this publicly so everyone can read it and get some good information about what it's like going to architecture school and what to expect once working in the profession. More like this please.
My friend Lee Calisti posted on his blog recently about the stereotype (and reality) of architects wearing black, which then started a great conversation over on LinkedIn. He followed it up today with another insightful post. It's a great thread that led into other tangents about the value and perceptions of an architect, types of work, and more. I truly appreciate everyone's comments who chimed in. It's great because architects should be talking about this stuff a lot more, and revealing ourselves to the public through this kind of discourse.
Regarding the value and perception of architects, I think (and I've said it before many times on the podcast - archispeakpodcast.com) that we should be like chefs. Who doesn't love to watch a chef cook? How many people in the last decade have dedicated hours of their lives to watching the Food Network? Just about every time I went over to my parent's house over a 5 year period that is what was on the television.
We should be sharing what we know freely and willingly. That's the allure of the Food Network. It is showing us who we aspire to be. Will we all become famous chefs? No, of course not. But we can all be great chefs in our home kitchens. We can all obsess over this stuff because it enhances our lives in a very personal way.
Architecture could sure use some of that magic.
People always want to know more "behind the scenes" stuff about professions they either know nothing about or at one time (maybe even still) aspired to become. Everyone wants to be a great cook. Many people want/have wanted to be an architect. Many architects actively protest their children's desire to become architects. People love to build. But we actively push them away. This is stupid, and it's up to us to make it better or else our profession will die. If our profession became better at sharing, like Lee does on his blog, we'd have a much better perception in society and we'd be a happier bunch.
I make it a point to share everything I know. Some people have asked me where I find the time. Believe me, I know better than anyone that time is fleeting. But I make it a priority. I hope more architects will too.
How's that for a tangent from Lee's original post? Thanks to him for hosting this discussion on his site and on LinkedIn.
Rejection is something every person working in a creative field has to learn to deal with if they want to get better at what they do. It's an essential tool that must be learned and put to use, as scary as it is. There are lots of people that think we get to do the "fun" job being the creative. While I would agree about the fun part, there are lots of non-fun aspects to the job that are actually downright terrifying sometimes. It takes a lot of guts to be vulnerable and put your work out there in front of others for it to be judged. Many people overlook this difficult part of the job.
For those of you unfamiliar with a common part of an architect's education, a jury of academics and professionals come together to critique a student's work that has typically been pinned up on a wall for everyone to see. It's called a Crit, which is short for "critique". The Crit is the home of rejection in an architect's life. It's what we do with the rejection is what separates the professionals from the amateurs.
Criticism is the practice of judging the merits and faults of something (or somebody) in an intelligible (or articulate) way.
- The judger is called "the critic".
- To engage in criticism is "to criticise"/"criticize".
- One specific item of criticism is called "a criticism" or a "critique".
Criticism as an evaluative or corrective exercise can occur in any area of human life.
While rejection is definitely not limited to architecture, it's the perspective I'm coming from. Architecture school was and is a good place to learn how to develop a thick skin because of the critiquing process students go through when presenting their projects. It's where we learned how to deal with rejection. Sometimes it was relentless. People cried.
It is the role of the designer to use said criticism to make the next project better as it is probably too late to make the current one any better because there is no time left. Make sure you understand: the goal is to make the project better. It is often a misunderstood method. Most of the time, at least early on, the student takes it personally. They shouldn't.
I always loved how after working tirelessly for weeks on end at a breakneck speed to hear "It was a good first pass" at the final presentation. The irony.
I've also noticed that we tend to lose touch with the idea of the Crit after school. A lot of times we take it personally because of our inability to separate ourselves from the work. Designers pour their lives into their work and it becomes an extension of them, so it makes sense. Other times it's taken personally because of the inability for some jurors to make a constructive criticism. Some jurors response and/or tone is often demoralizing and full of their own ego. We get to hear all about how they would have done it (so perfectly I might add). This is a problem, but not the point of this article. Those kinds of comments and attacks should be dismissed immediately.
I was sent links to these articles about rejection, and they are very well written so I thought I'd share them. I wish I’d read these years ago during school, but it's great to read them as reminders now. To be able to use rejection and criticism as a tool is a powerful thing. I've included just a small quote from each article but they really are worth reading in their entirety.
Rejection and the designer by Lisa Shaughnessy:
What are the results of working in a discipline where rejection, and its first cousins, compromise, dilution and modification, are ubiquitous? Does rejection harden ambition and act as a spur to better work? Or does it inject a debilitating toxin into the organs of creative ambition?
Of course it’s not social rejection that designers fear, but it’s almost as deeply felt, and strikes at the core of what it means to be a creative producer. How designers cope with rejection of their work is fundamental to how they progress and develop as creative practitioners.
And there’s a paradox here for designers: if we wish to avoid rejection we nearly always have to choose blandness, but on the other hand, if we want to make work with depth and resonance, we have to risk rejection. So unless we decide to settle for blandness and cosy consensus, we have to live with the near permanent threat of rejection.
So many great points. I must hold back from quoting more... please go read it for yourself.
And then there's this article coming from the perspective of a writer that easily crosses over into other creative work. The author describes why it's good to get rejected:
Get Rejected by Lisa Carver:
It may say something about you, positive or negative, that your piece (or your love) was rejected, or it may say absolutely nothing at all about you. (Same with having your piece accepted.) Rejection, personally or professionally, is only saying this doesn’t fit here. Maybe it used to, or maybe it would if this and this changed, but right now, as is, no. It may be a case of wrong time, wrong place, or it may be that what you wrote is just plain uninteresting. Some things you write are going to be pretty bad. It’s good to get notice that there’s something more you could be doing, writing, thinking, experiencing. Why be hurt by that? Go do something bigger, go try it.
Once you stop being frightened of saying no, that’s when you can say a real yes when it’s yes. When you stop being frightened of getting told no, that’s when you stop being frightened of their yes not being really yours, and you no longer need to worry over either a yes or a no like a dog with a bone about to be snatched. Get good with rejection, and you’ll be able, finally, to be accepted. And cherished. And celebrated. Every once in a great while. And you’ll know it’s yours.
Even now I use the critique/jury process during the development of my projects. It allows me to get a wide range of alternative perspectives to view my work; a 'fresh set of eyes' as they say. It takes deliberate thought and action for me to make sure I take the crit as potential ideas to make the work better. To not take it personally. It's then my job to weed through the comments and different points of view—to take some to heart and to leave others in a ditch by the side of the road as I speed off and never look back.
We did an Archispeak podcast episode on critique and criticism where we explored the subject more. The comments on the page by some of our listeners are golden.
The bottom line is that the Crit is the important part, and rejection is good for you. It's where you listen, and it's a tool you can use to become better at your craft. Once you figure this out, you actually start looking forward to Crits because they can provide clarity. If they don't, there are two things wrong: You're either not inviting the right people, or you're not doing it right.
The year is winding down and I’m sifting through 5,000 photos getting ready to make the 2014 Troxelmar Family Slideshow. It’s a tradition that I’ve done the last 3 years and this will be the fourth installment. I already have over 300 images earmarked and I haven't even gotten into the videos yet... Wish me luck.
I get a little better at it each time, and it’s become something I look forward to doing the last few days of the year. The first couple of years were pretty stressful. Now I’m knee-deep picking photos and videos, putting them in order, applying transitions, adding music, adding titles and BAM! It’s going to be an epic viewing. We usually cook up some popcorn and watch it on the big screen TV on New Year's Day. This is going to be the best shoebox of photos ever in about 10 years when the kids are all grown up and moved out.
It’s time to reflect. Why? Lots of reasons, but really the biggest one is because it's a good time to reinforce to my brain that I'm making progress in my life. This past year was definitely a turning point for me. In a nutshell 2014 was the year I decided to overcome the biggest hurdle in my life in order to do some of the things I really want to do, which was to finally get my architectural license. Done.
The main reason I was able to accomplish that and so much more is that I set goals for myself in October of 2013 and I reviewed them monthly. I also decided to put off some majorly-cool things so that I could focus on this priority. The side benefit to that decision was that I had some very cool things to look forward to when I finally did finish. I kept reminding myself that I'd get to do some awesome stuff as long as I finished well.
Setting goals has been the most important thing I've done in recent years. I mean actually writing them down and saying them out loud. If I were to just have all these ideas bouncing around in my head there is no way I would ever be able to methodically chip away at them. I would be aimless. The second most important thing I've done is to continually check in with myself and track my progress.
Starting this December, I set new goals in every part of my life for the upcoming year and I now review them weekly. This came out of a big brainstorming session, lots of coffee and my trusty Moleskin notebook. I set a weekly reminder to go off every Sunday so I would remember to do my weekly review, because otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Life just has a way of continuing on if I don't create proper reminders to pause and reflect.
Further, I'm using some tools like this one to help me focus on four main goals, and I'm tracking progress on them five days a week for 12 weeks. I've also been doing a lot more mind mapping lately, and I've found it to be an invaluable tool for visualizing my projects, organizing them, finding lots more clarity and answers. These tools help me really tune into what's working and what's not so I can make adjustments along the way to make sure I make it to the end.
Since I started two years ago getting up at 5am to study, I've just continued doing so to chip away at my new goals. It's a great way to start each day and figure out what small thing I can do to make it one step closer. I am super excited for what's coming!
The purpose of all of my current goals is to set me up for an amazing 2016 and beyond. I've found that looking ahead three years is just about right. Of course things won't turn out the same as I've planned them, but the point is to just have some sort of direction. It's loose on purpose. I make lots of adjustments along the way. I’ll probably add some new things in and remove others completely.
Here are some things I'm proud to have shipped in 2014:
WORTHY POSTS ON MY PERSONAL WEBSITE in 2014:
- I wrote about my history with the Macintosh on it’s 30th anniversary
- I launched my new website - TRXL.CO
- Burning Man 2013 photo gallery
- Vehicles of Alaska photo gallery
- Requirements for Creative Thinking
- Monumental Architecture: Neurosciences Institute by TWBTA
- Monumental Architecture: Salk Institute by Louis Kahn
- I’ve been participating in a blogging series along with many other architects about working in the architectural profession called Architalks:
- C-34892 - I reached my goal of getting my license to practice architecture in the state of California.
- For about half the year, I posted five interesting links a week and called it 5ives. I gave up after that because it was really hard!
PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL STUFF in 2014:
- I was promoted to Associate at HMC Architects.
- I passed the last five exams to get my license to practice architecture. HOT DAMN!
- I went canyoneering in Zion National Park. I lost both of my big toenails and could hardly walk afterward. It was very manly. (Photos coming soon)
- Our family went on vacation to Yellowstone National Park. We drove over 3000 miles towing a travel trailer and had the time of our lives. I swear a gallery will be going up soon. There are some amazing shots.
- I was named one of 25 architects you should follow on Twitter.
- I was named one of 8 Independent Architects Taking the Lead on DI.net.
- A school I designed won a 2014 Merit Award by the American Institute of Architects, Inland Chapter.
- The kids and I made a video over a weekend about our adventures while my wife was out of town.
MOST POPULAR ON ARCHISPEAK (MY PODCAST) IN 2014:
- Archispeak was named one of the eight best architecture podcasts by NCARB.
- Archispeak was mentioned in the 2014 American Institute of Architects Foresight Report.
- We recorded and released 26 new episodes in 2014.
- Here were the most popular shows:
Most popular on METHOD (MY DIGITAL TRAINING WEBSITE FOR ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNERS) in 2014:
- The Best Way to Name Your Files
- Architectural Rendering in Artlantis
- Over 23,000 people watch my tutorial videos, up from 19,000 last year.
- I made 9 new tutorials in 2014
I’ve never been one to sit still.
Regardless if you find these things awesome or lame, they are all huge for me. Progress is personal. I'm definitely not writing them as a comparison to you, so please don't read it that way. I think it's a good practice to evaluate our accomplishments yearly and memorialize them in our time capsules. This happens to be mine.
So here's to a great 2015! It’s going to be even bigger. Stay tuned, stay curious, and never stop learning.
✱ C34892 /
Two years ago I made a goal to get my architecture license by the end of 2014 and finish what I started when I went to Cal Poly Pomona to begin my degree in 1992. The nagging in the back of my head had to stop, so I decided to do something about it (finally). It took an immeasurable amount of internal motivation and discipline to get me to where I am today. A tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can say that I truly feel lighter.
Saturday, December 20, 2014 was the day I became a "real" architect; number C-34892 according to the California Architects Board. Or as my friend Drew says, "That's CEE-THREE-FOUR-EIGHT-NINE-TWO. BITCHEZZ." It's true; I am just a number (to the state) who now has much more potential to be on the wrong end of a liability claim because it can be proven that I know the difference between right and wrong according to a rigorous exam process. But I digress. No matter what the future has in store for me, I can't help but be excited and proud. The first thing I did was create my stamp.
One thing I know for sure is that I could not have achieved this monumental task alone. It has been the most difficult thing I have ever attempted and completed. More on that another time. Thank you to all that have supported me along the way. A very special thanks go out to my wife Jessie and my friends Mark, Brett, Drew, Neal, Cormac, Jacob, Robert, and Doug.
Read this article first. It takes about 10 minutes, and is completely worth your time if you do any kind of creative work.
This is an insightful article that has an amazing comment section which really adds to the original. It's nice to see an article have so many intelligent and well-written comments that hasn't degraded into a typical internet flame war. Asimov speaks early on in the article about the necessity of working in isolation to be creative. The older I get, the more I appreciate time to myself for thinking. I've been building it into my routine and it's paid off even though I wasn't really aware I had done this. After reading this article I can now see it. This isn’t new thinking, for sure, as you can see the article was written in 1959(!).
"My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.)
The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display."
We've talked about some of the topics in this article on Archispeak. Some things came to mind while reading the article, so I’ve included my notes here. I read a lot about creating environments that support creativity, so allow me to connect the dots with my thoughts, others’ thoughts, and the referenced article by Asimov:
- Conventional wisdom was not always conventional. This came to mind when reading about how things seem obvious (or ‘reasonable' as he says) now, but when originally conceived were considered out-of-the-box thinking (and shunned because of it).
- Creativity happens within a set of constraints. Blank pages are overrated and often overwhelming.
- Creativity happens when there is a safe place to practice it. For the best ideas to float to the top above the rest, you need to have a place where it's OK to have bad ideas often and not be shunned for it. I refer back to John Cleese's talk on creativity, which as I’ve said before is probably the best thinking on creativity I've heard.
- The people you work with are just as important as the (safe) place where you work. If you can trust those you work with not to belittle your "stupid" ideas, you have a much better shot at saying something stupid that ultimately leads to a breakthrough.
- A creative work environment should afford the freedom to play. The burden of constant results-based business that is always looking for more efficiency is killing this necessary aspect of play as a tool for creative thinking. It feels like we're living and working in a world where we need (or be perceived) to have all of the answers, when in reality it's our job to explore and find the answers. This is a maddening paradox to be sure.
- Creativity rarely happens on a schedule. It doesn't happen in a particular place or when you need it to happen. My best thoughts appear when I'm in the shower, out for a walk, or in the middle of the night. It's good to take notice of when your best ideas happen so you can be on the lookout for them. You can start expecting them to show up and you can be ready to write them down because you will surely forget them if you don't. I think we can all agree that it sucks when we don't write them down.
- Someone may have a good idea and it takes someone else to add to it to make it a great idea. I've witnessed this many, many times. This should be the basis of critique, as we spoke about in the Episode 45 of the podcast.
- I often find that the best group creativity happens at the dinner table with a bottle of wine or at the bar after work. The faster you are able to lower your inhibitions, the faster the ideas start flowing. Don't forget to bring a sketchbook... you'll need it if you want to remember all of your seemingly great ideas the next day.
With all of this in mind, some of the companies I know of that have this type of environment are IDEO, Pixar, and the Eames' office. They show that it is possible to run a company that champions this type of work, and the work they produce shows it. I'm sure there are more, and I'd like to know who they are. This goes especially for the architecture industry - who are the firms that exemplify these principles today?
I’ve included a gallery of architectural studio office environments here. This is what it looks like. The creative process is a messy one as expected; as it should be.
I was honored to be a guest panelist on David Doucette's ARE Podcast and the topic of discussion was, once again, centered around the use of the word "Architect" (of which I am legally not, but if you work in the software industry go ahead and feel free to use it) as an official title. Fine by me.
The show description:
We also discussed this very topic on Archispeak in Episode 21, and Jared Banks has a great article that came out on his blog just this week discussing the very same thing. I guess it's just that time of year.
Also, for those of you who really want to become architects, I highly recommend David's materials over at Architect Exam Prep.
*Remind me that I need a new background. Geez.
Today is the day that the Mac turns 30, and it has changed my life. There's a chance it might sound lame to you, or pretentious or whatever, but It really doesn't matter. It's my story. I am and have always been a computer nerd, and am proud to have been a Mac nerd specifically. I was rooting for the company when it seemed like everyone had given up and was using Windows; when people were saying it was on its last leg and about to die. They started in a garage. I always believed in the little underdog company called Apple and I still love them like I always have. Here's my Macintosh journey through the years.
Umair Haque (Twitter link) at the Harvard Business Review blog:
Wannabes are something like metric-maximizing robots. Given a set of numbers they must "hit," they beaver away trying to hit them. The leader knows their job is very different: not merely to maximize existing metrics, which are often part of the problem (hi, GDP, shareholder value), but to reimagine them. The leader's job is, fundamentally, not merely to "hit a target" — but to redesign the playing field. It's architecture, not mere archery. If you're hitting a target, you're not a leader. You're just another performer, in an increasingly meaningless game.
This is the best writing I have read all year on the differences between what leadership and management truly are. I highly recommend reading this short article.
We need a new generation of leaders. And we need it now.
Novedge is an online reseller and resource for digital designers that specialize in tools for designing the future. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Aurora Meneghello for their blog. I talked about what I do in my profession, my photography, my videos on my digital training website, why I podcast, and some thoughts about being an educator among other things.
There are lots of other great articles on their blog too, so spend some time there checking it out. I particularly like the one about Marica McKeel's architectural practice and the article on Matthew Shlian on how he uses digital tools to make his amazing folded paper projects.