Design on the Haus
Here in New York City, it’s Architecture and Design Month “Archtober” (ärk’tōbər)! It’s the fifth annual month-long festival of architecture activities, programs and exhibitions taking place during the month of October. Around the globe, there are a bounty of cultural festivals that also celebrate excellent architecture and great design and, this month, we’re highlighting some of the world’s best. Let’s start here at home in NYC with the Architecture & Design Film Festival…
Now, in its seventh year, the Architecture & Design Film Festival returns to New York, October 13 -18, with an invigorating selection of feature-length, short, and documentary films. Expect to be engaged and entertained by lively discussions with architects, designers, filmmakers and industry leaders. We caught up with Kyle Bergman, the founder and director of the Architecture & Design Film Festival.
Q: How did the festival get started?
A: I’m an architect by profession and I’ve always thought about the great connection between architecture and film. To me, they’re two sides of the same coin — architecture and film are ways for us to tell stories. They share similar characteristics, for one, they are both public acts. Both art forms consider light, scale, proportion, and it’s really a balance between art and science. Merging architecture and film was something that came natural to me. I really wanted to develop a film festival that engaged the general public as well as the design community.
Q: What is the film selection process?
A: We accept submissions year-round. We preview around 250 films and try to stick to a schedule of 25-30 films. However, this year we ended up with a selection of 33 films, which speaks volumes about the high caliber of submissions we received. Our selection process is “organic”, and we don’t adhere to criteria; we care more about how the films capture the creative design process.
Q: Were there themes that came together in making selections for this year’s programs?
A: No, we don’t start with themes, it generally evolves. But a Nordic theme became apparent when we were finalizing our program schedule. For instance, we’re showing Jytte Rex’s acclaimed portrait of the late Henning Larsen, and The Infinite Happiness, which features the giant 8 House designed by Bjarke Ingels. Festivalgoers may even detect mini-Irish and family themes.
Q: Can you describe the physical and emotional duress of putting on a festival like this?
A: I may disappoint you with my answer… I’m a firm believer that if you like what you do, you don’t even think about it.
Q: Tell us the best and worst part of your job.
A: The festival is something that I started, so I’m proud of that. But I would say the best part of my job is having the opportunity to increase architecture and design dialogue, and make it more appealing to a wider audience, not just for design professionals. Then, there are the filmmakers…I feel that the festival puts a spotlight on these talented filmmakers and showcases their passion and dedication to their craft.
Don’t miss out on the nation’s largest film festival celebrating architecture and design. Tickets and the program schedule are available here.
This post is the first in our new series “FunHaus” where we explore the people, places, and things we love. Enter the FunHaus!
“A new standard for online journalism,” commented Bencharif on the The New York Times’ review of the new Whitney Museum.
We couldn’t agree more. The review, if that’s still the right word for it, was a collaboration between writer Michael Kimmelman, a team of graphic artists, and the architect Renzo Piano – produced entirely without photography of the new museum. The goal was to “create a seamless experience that would leave readers with a greater understanding of the building than could be achieved in a more traditional story form,” wrote Graham Roberts, one of the graphic artists. Mission accomplished.
Architecture lends itself marvelously to video. It’s a visual medium, obviously, but also a kinetic one. Time is one of its components: buildings are designed to be moved through (see our recent post on architecture as experience by guest blogger and architectural historian, John Kriskiewicz). Designers looking to get their work published, even without photography, should consider creating similar fly-throughs with their existing 3-D models.
Kimmelman’s words are punctuated by several kinetic experiences. The reader/viewer passes through walls, zips backwards along an interior corridor, zooms in and out. The videos move fast, but one of the lovelier moments is a lingering slideshow of historic images of the uptown building.
No buttons to press, no links to follow; the experience is automatic. This curated approach is not to everyone’s taste. M Hagood in Brooklyn said, “I am giving up, because the design keeps hijacking my page and sending me off on a visual roller coaster. Look, I like design. I teach design. This is just a pain in the behind.” Overall, however, the reception was enthusiastic. Richard in Denver gets the last word: “The best review overall in decades.”
This month, we’re focusing on the experience of architecture. We welcome our special guest blogger, architectural historian John Kriskiewicz, Assoc. AIA, who takes us on a journey through two iconic New York buildings to illustrate his views on “architecture as experience.”
A native New Yorker, John holds a professional degree in architecture from Pratt Institute and is a board member of DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State. Over the past two decades, he has taught courses focused on architectural and planning history at Parsons School of Design, The Cooper Union, Fashion Institute of Technology, Stern College for Women, and Manhattan College, while designing tour programs and lectures for many of New York City’s institutions and corporations. His many exhibitions and articles have revealed history and preservation issues to a broad audience. John admits to a special affinity for New York’s extensive infrastructure, as well as its Mid-Century Modern heritage.
“When I enter a dwelling, I experience atmospheres one after the other – sequences of light and shade, of narrowness and space. There is a scenography, a dramatic structure for the space. Architecture is great cinema.We design buildings like films, whose power lies in leading us through worlds and catching hold of our emotions.” – Architect Thomas Willemeit of the Berlin-LA-Beijing firm Graft , 2015
The importance of scenography and sequence was understood by architects trained according to Beaux-Arts philosophies at the end of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century. They knew this carefully choreographed procession through space as “marche”, the French verb “to walk”.
“Marche” is the sequence we experience at Carrère and Hastings’s New York Public Library of 1911 on Fifth Avenue.
Ascending a set of broad stone stairs, from the level of the sidewalk, to a spacious terrace, we are encouraged to pause a moment to take in our surroundings, just above the heads of the crowds on the avenue behind us. In front of us, we survey a wide, white marble façade. The triple arched entry beckons us forward, up a higher set of white marble stairs, to the entrance portico. Here we are in transition, neither quite inside nor out. Through a low bronze door we are compressed for a moment, then we are released into an eruption of space. Surrounded by creamy white marble lit by both electric and natural light that pulls us ever upwards, towards the vast reading room. This most spacious, brightest, most elaborate public space, is the heart and soul of the building.
Through this choreographed sequence of spaces, materials, and light, we’ve made a journey from the quotidian, into the realm of the intellect. An architectural metaphor for the process of enlightenment.
Often, the most dispiriting of architectural experiences is air travel. Eero Saarinen’s whimsical 1962 Trans World Airlines Flight Center, now part of Jet Blue’s Terminal 5 at Kennedy International Airport reminds us of a different era. In his words,
“We wanted passengers passing through the building to experience a fully-designed environment in which each part arises from another and everything belongs to the same formal world.”
Saarinen’s concept, provided the passenger with a similar journey from the everyday into the glamorous world of air travel. A “jet-age” reinterpretation of “marche”.
For this example I must revert to the past tense. There are plans, however, that may allow us to experience what was, once more.
New York International Airport at Idlewild, planned by architect Wallace Harrison as “Terminal City”, placed TWA at a prominent bend along the circumferential roadway.
Designed to be experienced first through the windshield of a private automobile or taxi, this location was critical to the initial experience. Like the Beaux-Arts Public Library on its broad terrace, we are given the opportunity to comprehend the whole from the roadway before we enter. The building’s iconic silhouette was both a progressive corporate symbol and widely understood metaphor for flight.
If architecture is “frozen music”, TWA is Bossa Nova. Like that lyrical fusion of samba and jazz, TWA is smooth, sensual, expressive and Modern. Thin shell concrete, sinuously forms a porte coche, as we stepped from the car. Through glass automatic doors into a day lit, sculptural space, matte white circular tiles grew into fantastic forms; bridges, terraces, reception desks, arrival and departure boards. Up a half flight to a “TWA red” carpeted terrace. There, a sunken, red upholstered seating area where we could pause to survey a panorama of jet craft, through a broad, curved glass wall.
No need to descend to the tarmac to then climb up a rolling stair to the entry door of the plane, like all other terminals of the day. Instead, we walked from the daylight of the terminal terrace through white tubes awash with a luminescence whose source is hidden beneath the crimson carpeted paths. Gradually ascending, our destination was momentarily hidden by the arch of the tube, and then revealed: the “flight wing”. Here once again, daylight poured through glass walls and “jetways” connected directly to the aircraft.
From automobile drop off to aircraft, a seamless journey, made memorable by attention throughout to space, form, color, material.
From different eras, designed for different functions, yet The New York Public Library and The TWA Flight Center share that unmistakable, memorable quality of architecture as experience.
“Can you fix my backyard?“
If you’re a landscape architect, you’ve had to listen to this question a hundred times. Your friends think your job is to prune their roses and mow their lawn. You may also hear, “Oh, you live in New York? There can’t be much work for landscape architects there.” In reality, major urban centers attract landscape architects in droves. Or, “Frederick Law who? You mean Central Park did not spring fully formed into existence?”
What steps, then, can a modest landscape architect take to educate the world about the role she is playing in the community’s quality of life and physical well-being and promote her work, all at the same time? How can she shed light on her widely misunderstood profession, in the process positioning herself as a thought-leader (without coming across as an egomaniacal self-promoter)?
How would she explain that landscape architects design anything under the sky – or even, in the case of New York’s planned Lowline park — under the ground? That plants are not a requirement of a design? That landscape architects remove toxins from rainwater, sequester carbon dioxide, prevent floods, alleviate drought, create shade, produce food?
She could start by checking out the tips in our previous blog posts. If, like many gifted designers, she is more visual than verbal, she doesn’t have to reinvent the wheelbarrow. The ASLA’s Public Awareness page is chock-full of beautifully designed, clearly written materials prepared by journalists, marketers, PR professionals, and landscape architects. You’ll find fliers and buttons, posters and video, even certificates of appreciation. You’ll find “Designed by a Landscape Architect” signs to install in your local spaces, and guidance on how to organize a landscape rededication ceremony. Get involved with your local ASLA chapter.
In her own community, she can visit schools, and involve kids in designing playgrounds or urban agriculture. She can join her community board, or give talks at her church, garden club, or design week event. She can contribute op-eds on a topic in the news, such as her city’s flood prevention strategy; write letters to the editor. Participate in Parklet Day by creating a pop-up park in a vacant parking space. Donate her skills: organize an Earth Day tree planting or pruning, or a screening of Frederick Law Olmsted: Landscape Architect in April (Landscape Architecture Month). Sketch with a group of friends in a public place. Strangers will want to know what you’re up to.
The possibilities are endless, so use your imagination and grow some of your own. The better the profession is understood, the better it is for your business, the community, the planet.
April is Landscape Architecture Month, and the profession is in the spotlight. What can landscape architects do this Spring and throughout the year to get the attention of the media?
Landscapes take a long time to design and a long time to grow. Unless you’re Michael Van Valkenburgh, you probably don’t have a ribbon cutting every month. What can you do in between major milestones to stay in the news?
You don’t have to start a project campaign from scratch. If you’re working with an architect or engineer, then piggyback on their PR efforts. Engage with all members of your project’s design team to collaborate on press releases, award submissions, and project updates on participating firms’ websites and social media.
If your client is the owner or owner’s rep, suggest the same sort of collaboration to promote your project. This can be a sensitive area, so it may be helpful to set down the PR terms in the contract. If your side of the project is getting surprise media coverage, give your collaborators a chance to share the glory. Your generosity will strengthen your professional relationships with other team members.
But what if you’re on your own? Here are some specific ways to raise your visibility in the landscape design press and beyond:
Watch for trends and jump on the bandwagon. Three instances constitute a trend. For instance, a survey conducted by the ASLA revealed that sustainable, low maintenance designs are rated the most desirable. If you have any such projects in your portfolio, use the survey as the news hook to spread the word.
Grow your presence on social media. It’s not going away, and it’s not that hard. You may not land a project through a Tweet, but Twitter is where news breaks today. It’s where the journalists are. Pinterest is a great showcase for your residential work.
Connect your project with current events. Hillary Clinton’s announcement to run for president may not, on the surface, have much to do with placemaking – until you read this elegant commentary in ARCHITECT.
Become an expert for local news sources. Is there a flood or a drought in your town? Journalists will be looking for quotes from an expert on stormwater management or xeric landscapes. Make sure you’re their contacts list.
Create your own newsworthy event. Curate an exhibition on landscapes or design at the local library or gallery. Organize a fundraiser for an earth-friendly charity. Do a pro-bono project for a school, center of worship, or charitable organization.
Don’t forget to use the resources of the ASLA and its amazing team of public relations professionals who, like you, are out to promote the profession. If you’re not a member, join. Call and introduce yourself. Ask for advice. Ask if they have a media list they could share with you. Are they working on a pitch that your firm could contribute to?
Above all, if you’re getting coverage, don’t sit back and bask: mine it! News begets news. Email links to other journalists, clients, would-be clients, colleagues. Send newsletters. Update your website. Post to social media. Shine your light!
The scary truth about using social media is that it’s not as hard as you think. It’s up to you to decide how you want to use it and which platforms suit your firm best. Social media is an essential tool for successful marketing efforts. Design professionals can share their work and ideas in real time, while simultaneously making connections with one another. Once you start to integrate social media, an inactive social media platform will be about the most frightening sight you’ll see. Here are some tips for how to scare away those communications ghosts that may be lurking in your closets.
Don’t be scared, it’s easier than you think. Twitter and basic LinkedIn accounts are free. They are fast and inexpensive ways to open up communication channels with professional peers and potential clients you don’t know and those you already do. It doesn’t cost anything to maintain, so there’s no need for those hairs on the back of your neck to stand up! If you’re nervous about handling multiple social media accounts at once, consider using dashboard applications such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite to help organize your social networks and make posting a little easier.
You can network quickly. A popular social media platform like Twitter allows you to share information about your work and firm in real time to your followers. Use #hashtags to share your tweet information with an entire Twitter network of like-minded people looking to engage on a similar topic. LinkedIn is an interactive way to make those same connections in a more professional online setting. Do you feel like a petrified mummy about sharing information because you fear it could be misinterpreted? Don’t worry. What’s valuable about social media is that it’s more personable and there are fewer formalities than traditional forms of communication, so leave the dark side and come see the light!
There are design-specific platforms. If it feels like you’re stepping into a house of mirrors and you don’t which way to turn, don’t be afraid! There’s no reason to fear that social media is not geared to the AEC industry because online platforms exist specifically FOR the industry. Useful AEC-centric social media sites include Architizer, Houzz, and Honest Buildings. Each of these web platforms is user-friendly and many have guides to walk you step-by-step through the sites. Their large online communities allow firms and professionals to showcase their projects, and many offer easy-to-navigate forums for exchanging ideas and making connections.
What frightens you most? Creepy crawlers in the night, werewolves howling at full moons, haunted houses, or skeletons in the closet? Well, we’re scared of all those things, too, but what really frightens us is how some people communicate.
You may laugh, but it’s true! We have so many ways to communicate these days (some may say that we have a lot of ways to communicate badly) that it can seem like you’re always walking the plank over the treacherous and deep waters of messages and meanings.
Let’s take just the easiest example – and we’ve all done it. Did you hit “reply all” when you wrote a message that was just intended for one person? Did you send the right e-mail to the wrong contact? Or, just after you tossed off that angry e-mail to your (fill in the blank) boss/ex-boyfriend/brother, did dread and fear of the future consequences start to invade your body like a quick poison? For more on that topic, see this recent Wall Street Journal article here.
There are many frightening examples of the scary ways that people communicate. And, in many instances, you can’t blame it on e-mail or digital technologies. In fact, the following examples are downright terrifying.
Take these examples from The Toronto News of July 26, 1977. Keep in mind that they are actual statements from insurance claim forms where drivers attempted to summarize the details of their accidents:
“I thought my window was down, but I found out it was up when I put my head through it.”
“I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.”
“I saw a slow-moving, sad-faced old gentleman as he bounced off the hood of my car.”
If these sentences make your blood turn to ice, check out these examples and figure out what the author is trying to say:
“I urge you to waste no time making this candidate an offer of employment.” (Are you urging the person to hire the candidate or are you saying the candidate is not worth further consideration?)
“You will be fortunate to get this person to work for you.” (Is this person a great job candidate, or is this person extremely lazy?)
So, now that we’ve discussed the perils of communication, here are some ways to get the spook out of your spin:
- Chase away the miscommunication. It’s great that you can send an e-mail from a smart phone, but you need to remember that that e-mail is still a professional document. Make sure that you are being very clear and concise. If you’re not sure if you’re getting your message across, ask someone to take a look at your e-mail before you send it. By all means, don’t put a tagline on your e-mails that says “please excuse typos” – that’s for goblins and ghosts. Read over your e-mails thoroughly before you send them. There’s no excuse.
- Don’t be scared to pick up the phone. E-mail can be a terrific communications tool – it’s easy, it’s fast, and you can send an e-mail almost anywhere. At the same time, it’s not always the perfect way to get your point across, and your tone in an e-mail can be easily misconstrued. Don’t send an e-mail to someone sitting three feet away from you. And don’t send a four-paragraph e-mail to your printer to clarify how many business cards you need. Before you send a dozen e-mails back and forth in the same e-mail chain, do yourself a favor and pick up the phone. It will be a treat, not a trick!
- Bury the jargon. When you’re in a profession like architecture, you’re going to use a lot of words and phrases that help you communicate with your colleagues. Unfortunately, when you use this jargon around other people, they’re going to think you’re Frankenstein. If you really want to talk to potential clients and other audiences – and get them to understand you – then go to the cemetery at 2 a.m. and bury that jargon in a deep grave (full moon optional). Going forward, make sure you use plain language to convey your ideas and messages. You’ll be amazed at how clearly you’ll be able to communicate.
Image courtesy Platt College
Photographed by Sabrina Ahern
Jessica Wyman is principal and creative director of Wyman Projects, a graphic design and web development consultancy based in New York City. As a graphic designer with a degree in architecture, she has ten years of experience collaborating with architects, interior designers, engineers, and A/E/C consultants, to create meaningful print and web experiences that communicate professionalism and integrity. Jessica is currently art director for Oculus, AIA New York’s quarterly publication; and she regularly presents at the Chapter’s annual Fellows Workshop for FAIA candidates.
By Jessica Wyman, Wyman Projects
Have you ever visited a website where the copyright or blog posts date back to 2006? I have, and it saddens me to think that those companies spent a small fortune designing a website that quickly became stale and forgotten.
Thankfully, website development has come a long way since then. With out-of-the-box Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress and Drupal, building dynamic online experiences that are easy-to-use and easy-to-manage is within every design professional’s budget.
Still, building an effective website that will showcase your portfolio, communicate your expertise and get you new projects requires a thoughtful, strategic approach. Before you begin designing your new site, here are some things to think about:
Design Smart. One of the first things you should determine before designing your new website is its purpose. Who are you trying to reach with this new site? Potential clients? The media? Fans? All of the above? For most AEC professionals, a website is a tool to communicate your expertise and to convince prospective clients to take action and connect with you.
While your new site should reflect your firm’s personality and culture, its format, content, and design will need to appeal to prospective users. Unfortunately, design professionals often make the mistake of designing a site that they like rather than designing one that will be effective in reaching their target audiences.
So how do you do this? Understanding your company’s mission – and which clients you want to serve – is key to pinpointing the needs and habits of your target audiences.
Will your visitors be using a computer or mobile device to view the site? Is there anything you can learn from your current website’s analytics, such as pages with the highest bounce rate? What information does your target audience need most and how will you shape the user’s journey to satisfy those needs?
Think Big. Gone are the days of table-based layouts and small browser sizes, which resulted in small-scale images on the user’s screen. You are a design professional with beautiful project photography; so don’t be afraid to go full bleed. Consider using a full browser slideshow on your home page or project pages to make an impact and to define a mood.
Less is More. The impulse to feature or list every single project on your website is a mistake many design professionals make. A website should have enough curated content to communicate expertise and personality, while leaving the visitor curious enough to contact your firm for more information.
Cross-Pollinate. Create relationships between content and pages on the website to engage visitors. Curiosity keeps users clicking and strategies such as suggesting links to “Related Content” or crosslinking press items or bios will retain visitors and improve site analytics.
Don’t hide your contact information. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how many company websites hide contact information under submenus. Include a phone number and email address on the home page; and consider designing a special splash page with contact information and a map for mobile visitors.
Launch Strategy. Once you’ve designed and launched your website successfully…now what? Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Create a content strategy that includes a schedule for updating your new website with new projects, news items, blog posts, and links to your social media platforms.
Clients and prospective employees want to work with design professionals who are active and innovative thought leaders; providing these visitors with fresh content monthly, if not weekly, is key to engaging, and ultimately working with, your ideal clients.
This month, we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to feature a few of the women in communications that we most admire. We kicked off our March series in honor of Women’s History Month with a spotlight on Tracey A. Reeves, Director of Media Relations for Johns Hopkins University.
In this post, we’re shifting our gaze to the world of journalism. Editor Linda O’Flanagan (pictured at center, above) and reporters Sarah Trefethen and Holly Dutton (pictured above, at left and right, respectively) make up 75% of the editorial staff at Real Estate Weekly, which covers news affecting the commercial, residential and industrial New York real estate markets. To read more about how these women found their way to the paper, click here.
What did you think you would be when you “grew up” — and are you doing that now?
Linda: I initially wanted to be a veterinarian, but when I discovered what that entailed, I changed my mind. I am a wimp at heart, and although I still love animals, I can’t even cut my cat’s nails — never mind perform surgery!
What has always driven me in my work is my love of the human spirit, as dramatic as that sounds. People never cease to amaze me, and telling their stories allows me to be a part of that. Whether they have designed a magnificent building, figured out the engineering, carved the stonework or even sold the apartments, the passion that people have for their work can be infectious. I aspire to transfer that passion through the written word and, hopefully, inspire and amaze other people.
Sarah: There’s a scene in Superman II where Lois Lane is climbing up an elevator shaft spelling out the words “Pulitzer Prize” to keep up her spirits. I loved that scene as a kid. I spent my teens and most of my twenties traveling and collecting experiences rather than building a career, but when I finally decided to pick something to be when I grew up, that came back to me. I am, however, yet to find myself trapped in an elevator shaft.
Holly: Growing up, I was always interested in the news and I loved to read and write. I would religiously watch evening news broadcasts and shows like 20/20 as a young child. I remember setting up my own “news” broadcast with a video camera in my father’s home office in elementary school and then self-penning a school newsletter in junior high.
When I reached high school, I took a journalism elective my freshman year. One of our first assignments was to write a hard news story about a current event. The writing felt completely natural to me and exciting, and that’s when I knew for sure I wanted to go into journalism. In my senior year of high school, I took a photography class and fell in love with it, so I ended up combining my two passions and studying photojournalism in college. Now, at 28, I’m writing and photographing for a living and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
How have you seen women evolve in your profession since you started?
Linda: There are many women working in the field today. Frankly, I am of the school that your gender shouldn’t matter, although I know that it does, particularly in an industry dominated by men. My inclination is always to simply do my best and conduct myself in a professional manner and I encourage any young woman entering the business to do the same. Fear is what will hold you back in any business, so I say embrace the challenge and nothing will hold you back.
As a communications professional, what do you feel is your most important responsibility?
Holly: I feel that my most important responsibility as a reporter is to communicate all aspects of a story as best as I can. I want someone reading one of my stories to be engaged, find the story easy to understand, and feel that I covered all the bases and didn’t leave them with any unanswered questions.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Linda: Undoubtedly it is meeting people. Whether they are amazing, inspirational, genius or downright dumb, the diversity of the world really floats my boat. I have been lucky enough to meet great business leaders, celebrities, athletes, and regular Joes, and every one of them has impacted my life.
One big secret that few people know: I still enjoy writing obituaries. You can rarely tell from just looking at someone the kind of life they have lived. I love to see beyond that and get a glimpse of what made them who they were.