What I Miss Most About Working with Architects


It’s been more than eight months since I left my 9-year communications gig at HOK.

My time away from the AEC grind has allowed me to reflect on the many positive aspects of working in the design professions.

Beyond the creativity and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants reality, I also miss those pesky architects. Challenging and incorrigible as they can sometimes be, those hybrid right-brain/left-brain creatures also bring some pretty dynamic traits to the table.

Here are a few of the qualities I miss most about working alongside architects*:

The Passion. For most architects, their passion propels them to thrive in an often-thankless field that is largely under-appreciated, undervalued – and underpaid.

The Perseverance. They willingly sacrifice time, food, money, etc. for the sake of the project/client. And we all know how most of them refuse to retire at a reasonable age, choosing instead to design until they take their final breath.

The Pride. I loved witnessing the proud papas (occasionally mamas) beam at the public unveiling of their projects. I imagine there are fewer more satisfying experiences for an architect than ushering a project from idea to built form that will serve people for decades to come.

The Idealism. Most architects possess an inherent desire to “do the right thing” (in the areas of design, sustainability, resources, etc.), even if it’s not practical or feasible. Ultimately, it’s because they believe in the power of architecture to change the world.

The Glasses. A signature accessory for many, quirky glasses symbolize a designer’s creativity, individuality and not-so-veiled desire to be noticed and taken seriously.

The Black. It’s an unwritten (but almost universal) maxim that serious architects don’t wear bright colors. Or, usually, any colors. 

The Aloofness. OK, this one can definitely be annoying to someone whose role it is to communicate with and engage people. But I grew to welcome the challenge of breaking through their independent-mindedness. 

The Writing. Sometimes frustrating, often confusing, the convoluted “design speak” of architects always served as a rich source of comic relief. I was frequently amused and dumbfounded by the number of big-ticket words could be strung together to say relatively little.

The Egos. A controversial characteristic, I realize, but this elephant-in-the-room quality of many architects can be quite endearing (because it is a direct outgrowth of each quality listed above).

Although not currently employed by the architectural profession, I retain special memories of my time there and am grateful for the special friendships I maintain with folks at HOK and throughout the AEC industry. Hope you enjoyed my commentary.


* My broad definition of “architects” encompasses interior designers, planners, landscape architects, exhibit designers and other design professionals.

Greenbuild with Envy


Anyone who’s ANYONE in the building professions is heading to Chicago for the biggest, brashest, greenest trade show on the planet: Greenbuild ‘10. Unfortunately, I’ll be sitting on the sidelines this year, having traded my architectural pedigree for an alternate one in the global payments industry.

I experienced my inaugural Greenbuild last year in Phoenix, and I had a blast helping to capture Green Aha! Moments from willing conventioneers.

This year, the HOK booth (#1122) will showcase the firm’s prototypical design of a market-rate office building with net zero emissions (check out the free companion iPhone app). And, in signature HOK style, the firm also will invite passers-by to share their ideas for moving beyond net zero.

Anyone who’s ANYONE will be there. Tell ’em SomeChum sent you.


Savoring My Two Days of Transition


I am a man “in transition,” perched on the skinny platform between my old job and my new one.

I’m trying hard to enjoy this rare moment in time when I’ve got absolutely no deadlines to meet, no commitments to fulfill, and no projects to feel guilty about neglecting.

You might wonder why I didn’t build in a bit more cushion between my gigs. You wouldn’t be alone in asking that question — I’ve been called everything from a workaholic to an idiot.

The truth is, I wanted to honor my commitments to my previous employer while holding off the eager beavers at my future one for as long as possible.

So here I sit, savoring my wonderful Saturday and Sunday in transition. Unemployment never felt so sweet.