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Five Weekend Diversions for Architects and Designers

If your summer days aren’t quite as lazy as you’d like, and taking a full-fledged vacation is not in the picture, don’t worry—we’ve compiled a short list of simple day-trip destinations that can refresh you just as much as a week on the beach. All of our suggested sites are homes and/or studios of artists, so you can tap into the creative vibe and further your own artistic interests during your visit—kind of a busman’s holiday.

 

manitoga russell wright

Manitoga

Garrison, New York

Overlooking a water-filled quarry in the Hudson River Highlands, mid-century designer Russell Wright created the interiors for his home and studio; David Leavitt was the architect for the house, which was built in 1960. Trails wind through the 75-acre woodland garden. A program of music performances and art installations continues throughout the summer; guided tours are offered May through November.

 

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Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio

Abiquiu, New Mexico

This adobe compound was in a ruined state when Georgia O’Keeffe’s first visited the property in 1945. After a four renovation, she moved into home and converted a stable into her studio; she lived there until 1984. About 50 miles from Santa Fe, the property is open for tours from March through November.

 

 

grant wood

Grant Wood Studio

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Grant Wood painted American Gothic in this studio in 1930. Located on the second floor of a modest 19th century brick carriage house, he remodeled the raw loft, creating an unexpectedly interesting and space-efficient live/work home. The building is open for visits from April through December.

 

The Benton Carriage House

Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio

Kansas City, Missouri

The humble-yet-heroic paintings and murals of Thomas Hart Benton offer a powerful look at American life in the 1930s, with the people and culture of the Midwest his most frequent subject. The artist worked in this studio for 35 years, until his death in 1975. The property is open from April through November.

Doctor in the Haus: Millinery-Maddened Millennial

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Dear Doctor,

At our mid-sized architecture office, I wear many hats: My official title is marketing coordinator, but I’m also administrative whiz, technology trouble-shooter, and webmaster. Our partners recently decided to commit to working with a public relations firm, but I’m not quite sure what they’re looking to accomplish. Can you advise me on where, oh where to begin? How do I figure out what that means, and then find the company that’s right for us?

Signed,

Millinery-Maddened Millennial in Minneapolis

Well, Millinery, it’s good to know that someone else has not skipped off to the beach for the summer! Otherwise, the Doctor would get very lonely in the office—talking to the plants is good for a little while, but inanimate objects are not always the best office-mates. So, I’m glad you are reaching out, and you have come to the right place!

There’s nothing that I like more than a good strategy, which is the first item on your PR agenda. Most important, from the outset, you need to establish some goals. Just think about it: you can’t run a race without knowing where the finish line is! So, when your partners say they want to hire a firm, what exactly are they trying to accomplish? Many people think that public relations is press, and that’s a big part of it. If that’s your goal, then you have to determine what kind of press you want: local or national; business press, trade, or design press; project-related articles or trend stories.

Now, the Doctor tries to make it easy for you, of course, but she also wants to give you a lot of options! And, don’t forget, it’s probably some combination of all these things. Some people are “either/or” types, but I like to think of myself as a “both/and” person when it comes to outreach. On that note, going beyond press, you should also think about other ways of building your influence. Let me be clear: we love press—yes, we think it’s the bees’ knees—but you can also get a lot of buzz through speaking engagements, professional organizations, and being active on social media.

See, Millinery, I bet there’s a lot more than you bargained for! But the Doctor wants to point you in the right direction. I suggest that you try to get as many specifics as you can from the partners, and that will help you figure out what kind of firm you need to bring on board. When you have your goals, you can look for the right partner.

On that note, it’s low tide, and I’m off to the shore to stick my toes in the sand….

Away From It All

July is the month when vacation season starts in earnest. Temperatures climb, work weeks shorten (if you’re lucky), and the beach beckons. We’ve rounded up some architecturally auspicious summer homes by the shore (perhaps you’ll recognize a few of them) where we’d be very happy to while away a few days.

 

1 arango_house_lautner

Designed by John Lautner in 1970, the Arango House still has an avant-garde appeal. Overlooking Acapulco Bay, its solid, swooping forms handily defy easy categorization.

 

2 Brighton Beach

A vivid bit of vernacular design, the photogenic “beach boxes” of Australia’s Brighton Beach are an architectural inheritance of sorts, passed from one generation to the next. When one of these colorful cabanas does come on the market, the asking price—around $200,000 AUD—belies its size.

 

3 cooper_hse_gwathmey_siegel_architecture_hausman

Photograph by Bill Maris

An instant icon when it was built on Cape Cod in 1968, the Cooper House by Gwathmey-Siegel featured a peace-keeping program: the childrens’ bedrooms were separated from the parents’ master suite.

 

4 f2architecture.com.au 1

Photograph by Matt Lord

Clever photography and superlative engineering imbue this home, the Pole House Fairhaven by f2 Architecture, with the illusion of floating over the Australian coast.

 

5 garves_malibu_architecture_hausman

Post-modernism is having something of a moment, now, so we’re including this Malibu beach house by Michael Graves on our list of seaside retreats.

 

7 vault_hse_johnston_marklee_architecture_hausman

North of LA in Oxnard, the Vault House overlooks the Pacific. Architects Johnston Marklee designed the geometric exploration in 2013.

 

8 Norton Gehry Architecture Hausman

Frank Gehry‘s Norton House has been a landmark on the Venice, California boardwalk since 1984. The “lifeguard tower” structure, inspired by the homeowner’s erstwhile summer job, is used as a writer’s studio.

 

9 jeffreydungan_alys bch_architecture_hausman

Moorish meets Moderne in this spirited stylistic hybrid. In Alys Beach, not far from the epicenter of New Urbanism, Seaside, Florida, it’s designed by Jeffrey Dungan Architects.

 

10 mackay lyons two hulls architecture hausman

Reaching out over the waters of Canada, the Two Hulls House illustrates MacKay-Lyons-Sweetapple Architects’ continuing interest in pared-down forms set in a primordial landscape.

 

11 meier_malibu_architecture_hausman

At this Malibu residence, Richard Meier forgoes his traditional white facade in favor of a slatted screen of wood. How very Cali.

 

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The harbinger of a Bay Area regional style, Condominium 1 at The Sea Ranch was not initially well received by its developers, who sent a terse telegram—”Stop work. It looks like a prison.”—to architects Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, Bill Turnbull, and Richard Whitaker in 1965.

Creating a Monograph That's Not Monotonous, Part 2

Continuing his look at the creation of an architectural monograph and managing a multi-media publicity campaign, Brien McDaniel, Communications Director, Senior Associate of FXFOWLE, reveals the details of publicizing Reveal Filter Evolve Effect (ORO Editions, 2015), the latest publication from FXFOWLE.

 

7A

A select number of copies of Reveal Filter Evolve Effect (representing about 300-350 of our contacts in New York City) were packaged in custom tote bags and hand-delivered by messenger. All of these bags included a personal note from a member of the FXFOWLE leadership. The remaining 1,200 monographs were mailed via a specially designed box, with or without personal notes. Only once we knew that everyone on our list had received a copy of the book, did we publicly announce that the monograph was published.

7B

Why did we reverse the typical sequence of events for the book launch? We wanted to get the biggest bang for our buck—meaning no one really knew we were publishing a book and we wanted harness that element of surprise. This was achieved via an e-blast to our entire database and a press release (yes, this form of communication is not yet dead). To raise the monograph’s visibility across all of our social media channels and to give it an identity at all of our events, we created a logo inspired by the book’s design.

 

8A

Every piece of communication about the launch—whether a press release, an e-blast, or social media post—included a link to an announcement of the monograph on the FXFOWLE website. This not only increased traffic to our site over the course of a year, but it also gave us the opportunity to tailor our online message, highlighting the firm’s culture and services. The announcement was featured on all seven of the website’s landing pages and on the News page. Reveal Filter Evolve Effect also lives in its entirety in ISSUU format on the Profile and Publications pages. However, we did wait to upload the book until after the launch was completed—a period of almost nine months.

 

9A

As part of the launch promotion, we developed a series of panel discussions (open to the public, as well as invited guests) to connect with our audience in fresh ways. These talks also posed strategic opportunities for business development, press relations, and to initiate new partnerships or strengthen existing relationships. Such was the case with the AIA|DC Chapter, the National Academy Museum & School, and Open House New York. We teamed with these organizations to host events and programs, which helped us reach new, diverse groups.

9C

For example, our exhibition at the National Academy gave us a chance to share with our audience a unique firm initiative over several months. Throughout the run of the exhibit, FXFOWLE partners conducted personal tours of the show for colleagues, clients, and potential clients, allowing them to enhance existing relationships as well as cultivate new contacts by presenting a personalized, inside perspective on the firm’s work and mission. An invitation-only dinner was staged at the gallery, making for a truly extraordinary evening.

 

8C

We also collaborated with leading publications, such as Architect, Landscape Architecture Magazine, Preservation, and The Architect’s Newspaper, in innovative ways. While this didn’t generate any major coverage (nor was that expected), the experience served to deepen the editors’ knowledge of FXFOWLE and the culture of the firm.

 

10

The results of our campaign were a revelation, and truly gratifying. We had overwhelmingly positive responses from all corners—even though it didn’t translate into work (which we knew it wouldn’t). We developed new partnerships; expanded our press coverage to include art, book publishing, and general publications; and received not one, but two reviews of Reveal Filter Evolve Effect. We also saw significant spikes in website traffic each time we posted news about the monograph; overall, our social media traffic increased more than 20% for 2015. Something we didn’t think about at the beginning of our planning was that preparing for the book launch was the perfect opportunity to update FXFOWLE’s contact database; after doing that, our bounce-back rate dropped from 20% to 2% within three months. And finally, the monograph drove internal conversations about our brand, from project reviews and presentations to discussions about our website and marketing messages.

While creating a monograph and orchestrating a year-long multi-media campaign is certain to raise the visibility of your brand, there are plenty of ways ways to achieve that goal. Here are a few ideas—adaptable for any scale or budget—about how your firm can connect with targeted audiences:

If you have space in your office for an exhibit (it doesn’t have to be a large area), consider curating an art show highlighting your in-house talent; many architects sketch, paint, or are passionate photographers. You could also feature study models and drawings to pull back the proverbial curtain on your firm’s working process. Plan an opening reception and invite key contacts to build one-to-one relationships in a setting outside of meetings and industry-related events.

 

Team up with your AIA chapter, AEC colleagues, or even a local publication to self-produce a topical event or panel discussion. Don’t forget that your clients and consultants can be partners, too.

 

Seize the opportunity presented by a holiday, or a project-oriented or company milestone, to create a one-of-a-kind announcement. Because we’re all saturated with emails, e-blasts, and other electronic input, you might consider using a hard-copy format in order to stand out. There are many online self-publishing companies (such as Lulu and Blurb) that offer inventive products and designs to promote your brand at any price point.

 

If none of these strike a chord with you, be creative. And despite their ubiquity, e-blasts are still a great vehicle to connect quickly with your audiences…just make sure all of the information on your website is current and correct before you hit that Send button!

 

Creating a Monograph That's Not Monotonous

Brien McDaniel, Director of Communications, Senior Associate, for FXFOWLE, has over 23 years of communications, media relations, and special event management experience for higher education, cultural institutions, and architectural practices. At FXFOWLE, Brien is responsible for ensuring that all communication strategies are integrated with the overall vision, values, and strategic business goals of the firm. He also leads the FXFOWLE’s social media initiatives and secures press coverage across all international media outlets.

Today, Brien gives an overview of the planning process behind the release of Reveal Filter Evolve Effect, the latest monograph from FXFOWLE. Next week, he’ll go into the details of producing and publicizing the book, and the results of the outreach.

 

1

A brand is worthless if it doesn’t connect with the right audiences in a relevant way.

—Cory Torrella

I came across the above quote while preparing a presentation on FXFOWLE’s monograph, Reveal Filter Evolve Effect (ORO Editions, 2015) for the 2016 AIA convention. I was immediately drawn to it because it encapsulates everything I try to accomplish in marketing and communications, but in particular, it’s a “hit the nail on the head” description the strategic approach I took in planning the book’s release.

My presentation on the FXFOWLE monograph launch was part of a panel discussion (along with Tami Hausman and David Rocosalva of EverGreene Architectural Arts) which focused on the advantages of combining traditional and digital marketing. If you are planning a multi-media campaign, whether for a new monograph, a project announcement, or marketing initiative, I hope my recent experience might inform your efforts when promoting your brand.

 

2A

A little background about Reveal Filter Evolve Effect (since I’m talking about a book, think of it as a prologue of sorts) will give a bit of perspective on the project. Since the firm’s founding in 1978, FXFOWLE has published three monographs. The two previous books are very traditional and follow a structure common to many monographs: a look back at a body of completed works. For Reveal Filter Evolve Effect, we wanted to break away from the conventional and place more emphasis on the firm’s philosophy and practice. This was a strategic opportunity to be memorable and unique, and, like the aforementioned quote, to connect in a relevant way.

 

3

Who is your audience?

With a limited press run of 1,500 copies, we knew we couldn’t send a book to everyone in our database, nor could we afford to do so. The initial edit of the list was easy; staff, colleagues, clients, potential clients, and of course members of the media would receive a copy. But who else should we reach? Well, since we wanted to better connect with academia, we added deans and professors from prominent architecture schools to the list. And then we thought to include influential people—specific individuals such as real estate developers, business professionals, and industry experts who are persuasive, admired, opinionated, and have their finger on the pulse (It didn’t hurt if they had huge Twitter followings, too, which would help our launch announcement go viral). These were people with whom we had little or no existing relationships, but wanted to connect or engage with them further.

 

4

What are your goals?

We identified four objectives for our launch campaign:

  • Initiate strategic partnerships and build new relationships with potential clients, organizations, and key influencers.
  • Strengthen our reputation as a design firm or even reshape that perception.
  • Promote our firm culture.
  • Last and not easiest: Get Reveal Filter Evolve Effect reviewed in at least one architecture/design publication.

 

5

How do you shape your approach?

Because we wanted to approach the monograph’s launch consistent with the manner in which we developed its concept and design—to be different, set ourselves apart from other firms, to be super-heroes (like my good friends and colleagues at Hausman Communications)—we opted not to go the traditional route with a firm-wide party or a one-off event. We brainstormed (yes, that meant a lot of meetings!) and came up with three concepts:

  • Create strategic opportunities to share big ideas.
  • Find the most effective, thoughtful, and surprising ways to connect with our audience.
  • Whenever possible, elevate the design dialogue.

 

6

How are you going to accomplish everything?

To follow through on these approaches, in the six months preceding the release of Reveal Filter Evolve Effect, our team of three partners, two marketing/communication coordinators, a graphic designer, and myself laid the groundwork for a series of special events that would provide simultaneous opportunities to publicize the book and the FXFOWLE brand. Panel discussions, invitation-only dinners to facilitate one-to-one connections with VIPs (we called them ‘salon dinners’), traditional book signings, college lectures, and an art exhibition that highlighted the firm’s creative process allowed us to reach a diverse, targeted audience in memorable ways.

Next week: We look at the details of producing and publicizing the book, and the results of the outreach.

Volume Metrics

Throughout the month of June, we’re going to take a look at books. With any luck, you’ll find some time this season to devote to reading—and possibly writing—some well-crafted words. We’ve compiled a short list of (mostly) new titles to get the literary ball rolling.

Once summer is over, there are two noteworthy events to replenish your reading list. The NY Art Book Fair comes to PS 1 September 16-18. Organized by Printed Matter, the fair features artist-produced books that range from affordable to investment-quality. The 2016 Designers & Books Fair will be held on November 11-13; check designersandbooks.com for details.

 

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Dance the Bauhaus

Torsten Blume

Seemann Henschel

While the Bauhaus is known worldwide as an avant-garde workshop for architecture, art, and design, some might be surprised to learn that the school also nurtured the study of dance as a means of investigating questions of form and space. Bearing names like Form Dance, Glass Dance, Metal Dance, Stick Dance, and Space Dance, the experimental choreography was performed during Bauhaus festivals, often accompanied by a band playing a mix of jazz and traditional German folk tunes—haus music, one might say.

 

architecture_happiness_hausman

The Architecture of Happiness

Alain de Botton

Penguin

On Paul Goldberger’s list of must-reads for architects, this generously-illustrated book journeys through the philosophy and psychology of architecture and the powerful connection between identity and location. One of the root causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of the designed environment—and yet a concern for architecture is often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent. De Botton takes the thought that where we are heavily influences who we can be as his starting point, and argues that it is architecture’s task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential.

 

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Twenty Over Eighty: Conversations on a Lifetime in Architecture and Design

Aileen Kwun and Bryn Smith

Princeton Architectural Press

A variant on the 40 Under 40-genre of talent-prognosticating, this book is a collection of intimate and often irreverent interviews with twenty architecture and design luminaries over the age of eighty. Revealing conversations with architects Denise Scott Brown, Stanley Tigerman, Ricardo Scofidio, Beverly Willis, and the late Michael Graves; urbanist Jane Thompson; product designers Ingo Maurer, Richard Sapper, and Jens Risom; graphic designers Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser, and Deborah Sussman; critic Ralph Caplan, and others shed light on how and why these pioneers continue to shape their disciplines well into their ninth decade.

 

nanotecture-tiny-built-things-architecture_hausman

Nanotecture: Tiny Built Things

Rebecca Roke

Phaidon

Consider this a portfolio of the possible. Three hundred thought-provoking architectural works of diminutive size—including demountable, portable, transportable, and inflatable structures, as well as pavilions, installations, sheds, pods, and capsules—use new materials and methods to demonstrate that small-scale constructs can prove inspiring in their own right.

 

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A Burglar’s Guide to the City

Geoff Manaugh

FSG Originals

From the author of BLDGBLOG, this book offers an atypical perspective: How any building transforms when seen through the eyes of someone hoping to break into it. Chronicling nearly 2,000 years of heists and break-ins, the book draws on the expertise of reformed bank robbers, FBI agents, private security consultants, the LAPD Air Support Division, and architects past and present to analyze the strengths and vulnerabilities of a range of building types.

 

landscape_national_parks_hausman

Picturing America’s National Parks

Jamie M. Allen

Aperture; co-published with the George Eastman Museum

To celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service, this book assembles some of the finest landscape photography in the history of the medium. Featuring the work of masters such as Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, William Henry Jackson, Edward Weston, and Minor White, as well as contemporary artists such as Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld, this volume explores the role of photography in promoting national heritage, land conservation, and wildlife preservation.

 

And one to pre-order…

never-built-new-york-architecture_hausman

Never Built New York

Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell

Metropolis Books

Due in October, this follow-up to Never Built Los Angeles features nearly 200 proposals for bridges, skyscrapers, master plans, parks, transit schemes, amusements, airports, plans to fill in rivers and extend the island of Manhattan, culled from the past 200 years. Included are Frank Lloyd Wright’s last project, the Key Plan for Ellis Island; Buckminster Fuller’s design for Brooklyn’s Dodger Stadium, complete with giant geodesic dome; developer William Zeckendorf’s Rooftop Airport, perched on steel columns 200 feet above street level, spanning 24th to 71st streets and Ninth Avenue to the Hudson River; and Stephen Holl’s Bridge of Houses, which offered housing options from SROs to modest studios to luxury apartments along a segment of what is now the High Line.

Sneak Peaks

hill harbor

We wrap up our month-long look at nature and architecture with a look at one of the newest public parks in New York City. Designed by West 8 landscape architects, the Hills on Governors Island are scheduled to open on July 19—but we’ve got a secret to share with you. Over the course of Memorial Day weekend, free hardhat tours of the Hills will be offered. Hour-long tours will depart from Liggett Arch at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday. Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governors Island, will lead the 11am and 1pm tours both days. Hardhats and vests will be provided, and closed-toe shoes are required.

governors-island-hills

Governors-Island-Park-The-Hills

The ten-acre site features four hills, built of recycled construction materials and fill. Grassy Hill is a 25-foot-high slope overlooking the island’s new and historic landscapes, as well as the Manhattan skyline. Slide Hill, rising up 40 feet, is home of four twisting slides, including the longest one in New York City. Rachel Whitehead’s Cabin has been installed on Discovery Hill, another 40-foot mound. Overlook Hill provides both fully-accessible paths and a granite-block scramble to its 70-foot summit, where panoramic views of harbor and city can be enjoyed.

Architecture in Bloom

In an extension—logical or otherwise—of last week’s post on green architecture, today we’re taking a look at buildings that cite nature as a design influence, as well as at a few structures whose purpose is to provide shelter for collections of exotic fauna.

 

safdie2 lotus

An abstracted lotus blossom gives form to the ArtScience Musuem in Singapore by Moishe Safdie.

 

studio505-lotus bldg

At the other end of the design spectrum, 505 Studio‘s Lotus Building in Wujin, China offers a slightly more representational visage.

 

lotus-temple-delhi

Built in 1986 in New Dehli, the Lotus Temple by Fariborz Sahba conforms to the Bahá’í precept requiring religious structures to have a plan based on a nine-pointed star.

 

rawlings

Turning from architectural metaphors to buildings actually designed for botanicals, we have the Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory in Baltimore. Opened in 1888, it’s the second oldest glass-and-steel-framed structure still in use in the US.

 

palmenhaus-schoenbrunn

On the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Franz Segenschmid designed the Palm House in 1882. The glazing was largely destroyed during World War II; following five years of reconstruction, the building reopened in 1953.

 

jewelbox st louis

A curious bit of Art Deco in St. Louis, MO, the Jewel Box greenhouse was designed by city engineer William C.E. Becker. Built in 1936, the project was largely funded by the WPA. A 2002 renovation included new HVAC systems.

 

adelaide-botanic-gardens-rainforest-house

In Adelaide, Australia, the Bicentennial Conservatory was designed by Guy Maron in 1988. The curved structural steel and the aluminum-framed glazing units were prefabricated, then assembled on site.

Meaningful Contributions

flw

 

It’s April, and thoughts turn to taxes—and charitable giving. While it’s too late to reap the benefits of a deduction to eligible organizations in the current filing season, supporting worthy causes throughout 2016 will pay off in both fiscal and feel-good ways. Here, we share a few design-oriented non-profit entities that are deserving of recognition. FLW would approve.

 

Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) is one of the country’s largest supporters of direct care for people living with HIV/AIDS and preventive education for those at risk. Merging care and commerce, supporters of DIFFA come from all fields of fine design and the visual arts, including architecture, fashion design, interior design, photography, and consumer product design.

With fundraising efforts bolstered by strategic partnerships and unique events showcasing innovation and creativity, DIFFA has mobilized the immense resources of the design communities and granted over $41 million to hundreds of AIDS service organizations nationwide.

Founded in 1984, DIFFA grants funds to organizations which fight AIDS by providing preventive education programs targeted to populations at risk of infection, treatment and direct-care services for people living with HIV/AIDS, and public policy initiatives which add resources to private sector efforts.

 

The International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites, and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement (DOCOMOMO) promotes the study, interpretation and protection of the architecture, landscape and urban design of the Modern Movement. It promotes the exchange of knowledge about this important legacy which extends from the planned city and the iconic monument to the house next door.

Docomomo is an international organization, with chapters in 69 countries. It is an important presence in conservation and in architectural culture, worldwide, working in partnership with other international organizations, national governments, and regional and national associations.

The United States branch is organized in regional chapters and friend organizations throughout the country, from east coast to west coast and from the Gulf of Mexico to Minnesota. Chapters sponsor educational programs and tours, provide technical assistance on the preservation of Modern Movement buildings, conduct research and surveys that support a nationwide register, publish newsletters, and advocate for threatened sites.

 

The Urban Design Forum comprises leading developers, architects, planners, builders, public officials, scholars, lawyers, and journalists that have demonstrated a commitment to building great cities. Founded in 1979, and headquartered in New York, Fellows of the Forum hail from over fifty cities across the United States and around the world.

The Board of Directors invites a select group of distinguished leaders of urban design, planning and development to participate each year. Candidates are nominated for their significant contributions to the fields of urban design, planning and development; standing among his or her peers; and ability to participate actively in Forum programs.

Marching Forward, Part 3

Wrapping up our March coverage of women in the AEC industries, we’re featuring Fiona Cousins, a mechanical engineer and Principal with Arup. Here, she writes about the price of leadership in the contemporary workplace.

What is “all” after all?

I’ve spoken to many people about the notion of “having it all” both to satisfy my own curiosity and in preparation for speaking publicly about the role of women in construction.

I think that there are two things that professional women think of, apart from their jobs, when they think about having it all: First, the conventional expectation that no woman is fulfilled unless she has children of her own, and the consequential mountain of expectations that we all bring to what good motherhood means. This is often linked to expectations on the role of “wife.”

Second, there is plenty of research that backs up a nagging suspicion that strong, assertive female leaders are not as well-liked by their colleagues as are strong, assertive male leaders; somehow, there’s something unfeminine about the whole enterprise of leading. This is a double-bind: You have to be strong to be a leader, but if you are not well-liked, you will soon find your head bruised by impact with the glass ceiling.

Another frequent answer that gives us a clue about how we manage to “have it all” is that people feel it is possible to have it all, just not all at once.

Much of the corporate and social narrative around this subject suggests that we need to achieve a better work-life balance, as if work is not a part of life. My firm’s ethos is pretty clear on this: Work and life are not inseparable, and satisfying work is a part of life, and deserving of the type of attention and care that you put towards the rest of your life. This is often not about the particular job that you hold, but what you think the purpose of your work is.

I would argue that to be a good leader you need to be happy and fulfilled, and the ingredients of such a life will be different for different people. The work-life dichotomy is too simplified. There is a good deal of literature that suggests that achieving balance means paying attention to work, to home, and to some other thing, described in some cases as the “third place.” The crux of the argument is that everyone needs somewhere where they don’t have to work so hard, where there are no chores, where the stakes are lower, where you are reminded that you are yourself. For me, just one “third place” is nowhere near enough to support creativity and generate joy; I can think of at least four activities that feed my soul.

Whether you choose to view life as a balance between work and life or between work, home, and other activities, it is important to remember that to be good at what you do needs you both to be skilled and to have an assignment that allows you to apply your skill. We come to leadership by making choices, and I believe that we will be most successful—at everything—when our chosen activities support both our personal well-being and our professional lives.

 

FionaCousins_227x173_profile copy

Fiona Cousins is Principal of Arup, the preeminent provider of interdisciplinary engineering, consulting, and design services. A mechanical engineer, she leads the sustainability team in the New York office. She also directs technical investments for Arup’s Americas Region and is a member of the Arup Americas Board.

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