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Blockbuster

I know many people that will read this article are Architects, so for them the thought of a future without Architects may be unimaginable.

But what about non-Architects. What would the world be like if there weren’t any more Architects? Would you even notice?

Last week, I traveled to Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning. In talking to some of the faculty in charge of admissions to the Masters of Architecture program, I learned that student applications are down as much as 25% nationwide.

Let’s do a little math.

If we assume that a 25% reduction is a trend and not an anomaly, how long will it be before no one applies to be accepted into architecture school? The answer is about 15 years.

Will There Be Architects In 15 Years?

Sometimes when I’m invited to speak to groups of Architects I’ll tell the story of 13 men that got together in February in New York City. You’ve probably been in a similar meeting.

Everyone talks about what’s going well and what’s not. You share experiences and advice.

The main topic of discussion amongst this group was that they were having trouble selling the value of their work and that other professions were using their words; the words they used to describe themselves and their work.

The punchline that many of my audiences don’t expect is that those 13 men gathered together in February of 1857 (not 2016) … and they were Architects. Nearly 160 years later, we’re still having the same discussion.

How many organizations or industries can you think of that survived 160 years while not pivoting to overcome fundamental challenges?

Kodak? Blockbuster? The recording industry?

Obviously the decline in enrollment in architecture schools and difficulty selling the value proposition of architects are complex issues, but I’d like you to think about a key factor at the core of the overall problem: relevance.

Are Architects Still Relevant?

Every week, I have conversations with Architects that want their prospective clients to know all about their latest awards and their collaborative approach. Every week, I tell Architects to put themselves in their prospective clients’ shoes.

I tell them to think about the first thing those clients worry about when they wake up in the morning.

I’ll bet it’s not finding an award winning Architect that takes a collaborative approach to architecture .

We Are In A Free Market.

The market doesn’t care about awards. The market doesn’t reward legacy or capacity or collaboration. The market doesn’t discriminate for or against all those things you list on your About Us page.

The Market Rewards Relevance.

Is your work, your knowledge, your experience, your expertise, your location relevant TO ME? Yes or No?

For a generation, programs like Rural Studio, DesignBuildBluff and The Design Workshop have championed works in communities most architects wouldn’t touch with that proverbial 10-foot-pole.

They are projects of the utmost relevance to their communities, yet they’re just blips at the edge, maybe even off most people’s radars.

Are We Prepared To Pivot?

We’re frustrated because we’re losing market share to Engineers and drafting services, even home builders.

We fight licensure issues against Interior Designers and lobby to block information technology fields from using the term Architect.

Yet, initiatives like Charrette Venture Group’s “Architecture Business Plan Competition” and Equity by Design’s “Hackathon” are paid little heed and leant little support.

We can argue professionalism, education and training wall we want … isn’t that what the Unions argue?

We can talk about design thinking, quality of life and #ilookup all we want, but if we can’t prove our relevance are we destined to fail?  

From Rural Studio to Hackathon, these are all efforts that fall outside the realm of the traditional model of architectural practice.

As I watched Todd Reding announce the 5 finalists for this year’s Architecture Business Plan Competition and I listened to Rosa Sheng plug this year’s Hackathon, I wondered:

‘If we ignore or dismiss these opportunities; if we don’t support, encourage and even increase the number of these opportunities, are we destined to go the way of Kodak?’

If Architects can’t prove their relevance, are we destined to a future without Architects?

This is my latest installment for the monthly #ArchiTalks series.

Every month, someone (usually Bob Borson of Life of an Architect) throws out a topic and a growing number of us in the architectural profession wax poetic (more or less) on the subject.

You can find a complete list of everyone participating in this month’s #ArchiTalks challenge below.

Did you miss last month’s articles? My latest contribution was “The Best Tool In Your Toolbox”

Here’s the rest of this month’s #ArchiTalks Crew and their riffs on ‘Architecture and …’:

If you’re interested in joining in the #ArchiTalks fun for future posts leave a comment in the Speak Your Mind area below and I’ll make sure you’re including on the email chain going forward.

My goal is to start an open dialogue and let Architect of the Internet be a forum where we can all learn to have success in the business of architecture through Storytelling, Marketing and Social Media.

About Jeff Echols

Jeff Echols is the creative Storyteller for Award-Winning architecture firms and the Social Media Campaign Manager for industry professionals. He is a graduate of Ball State University with over 20 years’ experience in the marketing departments of firms ranging from three to three thousand employees.

Jeff spends countless hours studying, developing and implementing strategies for insuring marketing success for Architects and other business owners in the online arena. He documents the good, the bad and the ugly in Social Media at Architect of the Internet and speaks about Conquering Social Media in venues ranging from the Board Room to the Convention Stage.

Comments

  1. michele hottel says:

    i am always amazed (i don’t know why, because we are all in the same profession) at how we have these common threads through all of our posts or they are some of the ideas that i thought about but decided that i couldn’t express them very well, so i moved on to cover the page with some other stream of consciousness. i was making a copy of a project last week and there was someone behind me with a small size (non-standard) sheet of vellum with a really crappy electrical plan on it that i could see and i asked him, “oh, are you an architect?” and he said, “no, but my wife knows all about it because she worked for years in the business” and i said, “oh, so your wife is an architect?” and he said, “no” and he said, “oh, are you?” and i said, “yes, i am..” and he said, “oh, so you’re the competition”. (well, i’m not the competition because i’m an architect and your wife is not.) but that is the way he and probably a. lot of the public see it. but of course, as i was running late for a meeting, i decided to not get into it with him…

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