Friday Keynote: Teddy Cruz

Teddy Cruz

The Injured public and the Search for New Civic Imagination:

Teddy Cruz began his presentation speaking about the economic situation and its effect on the public, over the past few years. He spoke of the correlation between inequality of wealth and marginal taxation over the past 80 years and the differences between the political responses to the great depression and the current recession. After the great depression, we had the ‘new deal’ and the second bill of rights, that expressed the political will to reengage the public. There was a mobility of institutions to engage in public spending in public infrastructure, education, and housing. There was a reorganization in resources between 1945 and 1979 that we have not experienced since the recession in 2008. Cruz believes, that the ‘mythology of the American dream’ is hurting the public; “the reality is that the poor are supporting the wealthy.” There is a belief that the wealth of the superrich will trickle down to support the public through taxation, but the reality is that none of that money is used for the public good. He then went on to talk about the three slaps in the face of the American Public: the first slap is the Wall Street bailout as a result of the bubble burst. The second slap was the foreclosures as the result of the lack of accountability of institutions with regards to regulation. The third and final slap was belief that everyone has to sacrifice, resulting in the public spending cuts. These have led to the shrinking relevancy of the public while the top 1% remain untouched. “This is a cultural crisis. This policy of anti-taxes, anti-public, and anti-immigration is injuring the public.” He continued stating that Arizona is the epicenter of anti-immigration. This discrimination is criminalizing individuals. Cruz urges that we must take a position. As leaders, we must ADVOCATE.  The defunding of public infrastructure has been occurring for a while, but we’re just now realizing it now that we need it most. As problem solvers, Cruz suggests we must understand what produced the crisis in order to produce a solution. We need to understand the resources available to reorganize them to our benefit. He goes on to talk about unsustainable selfish sprawl. What’s unfortunate is that our solutions are the problems; we camouflage the problem with really getting into the root of the issue.  We must move from neutrality of concepts to specificity. We must actually engage the issues rather than simply acknowledging them or addressing them. We must take a stance.
Cruz continues by speaking about his experience working with a community in Anyang, where he worked to design protocols and the rights of the neighborhood. He spoke about coexistence and the conflict between vertical density and horizontal sprawl, where he suggests that developers are destroying neighborhoods with homogeneity. Cruzes process to develop a solution to engage the city in a charrette to discuss issues that affect the policies of the city. They created a model of the community and discovered the intimate ecologies and urban ecosystems that sprout throughout the city. The model was a tool for them to speak with activists about the homogeneity that result in plains or parking lots. The result was a new political language. Using the model allowed them to develop the language to communicate the issues that were difficult to explain. Intervening in the debate is a tool to enter a problem and start a conversation. Cruz and his team was able to produce rights to enable the co-existence of different economics of housing, the right to develop and spread and grow at different rates, the right to share profits of urbanization, and the right to retrofit itself. Cruz asked how does a community participate in new housing?
Teddy moved on to talk about reflect on idea expressed by General Patraeus after his first tour in Iraq; Patraeus stated that the contemporary soldier must transform into a social worker and an anthropologist. Cruz suggested we borrow the procedures of social workers and anthropologists to adapt our process of design. The effects of social networking and the necessity of developed ways of communicating has become necessary.
He then got into the topic of borders and the issues surrounding them. He suggests we must radicalize the local with specificity. He is more interested what happens more inland of borders. Taking an 80 mile section cut along the San Diego/Tijuana border, Cruz spoke about the major issues as you start in the outskirts of San Diego and move south until reaching Tijuana. In San Diego, the issues is the flattening of landscapes for development. Moving south, there is conflict between the large infrastructure overpowering and destroying the watershed. More south, a military base is located within an environmental zone, effecting the natural habitats. There is conflict at the border where the natural ecologies collide with the informal ecology. Moving south into Mexico, there is a conflict between density and sprawl. In Tijuana, there natural and the political are in battle. To create a solution, we must open up and understand these conditions. The border wall exists to transgress. The very notion of citizenship is one dimensional. The concept that a document ties you to a single place is destroying the public. He continues to talk about issues of land use and the problem with density. Right now, density is measured by people per acre. Cruz suggests we measure by the amount of socioeconomic exchanges per acre. He urges us to use this concept when we are designing. In addition, we must understand who owns the territory and the resources. In the real world, the developers run the show. We must rethink ownership. We must design the political and economic process; we must design new social contracts.

Share your views and opinions by commenting on this post?

So many Buildings: So what?

So Many Buildings, So Little Architecture

This seminar was intended to discuss why there are so many buildings, but non containing real architecture. Those presenting this information targeted this subject to our country.

There was one landscape architect on the panel and his response to the matter was that the reason buildings are only buildings is because we are such a cultureless society. However, as an architect jumped in to answer the question responses began to shift; this architect suggested the problem begins with us as architects. He believes that only 1% of architects produce architecture and that only 1% of buildings are actually architecture. He did not entirely agree with the first response that we are a cultureless society, but rather we are simply uneducated. His solution to this problem is that students whether interested in art or architecture or not should not be allowed a grade school, high school or college degree without courses related to this topic.

As another architect put his opinion into the discussion, responses once again shifted. This architect being more optimistic to the issue, states that change begins with experiences. Not necessarily the experience of designing, but more so the experience of being in a space, such as a beach, church, etc. These memories provide the drive to care and make change. Once an architect understands about these experiences that the people sometimes unknowingly search for, change can happen. It is our job to engage and educate the client and people about our architecture. The content of the project must be real; they need to be more than just beautiful buildings.

So, what do we need to know? Whether we are put in with a good or bad situation, we must be able to distinguish the two and learn from both of them. We must be responsible and know when to back away from a task. We must maintain enthusiasm no matter what the situation is. We are in an extremely demanding profession and self responsibility is key. Knowing that you do not always need to be the one designing is crucial. Team work! Listening to colleagues and professors can prove to be highly beneficial, and will make solving the problem easier.

Finally, and most importantly, take risks and do not be afraid to fail. The more risks the designer takes the higher level of knowledge one obtains; knowledge and professionalism are intertwined; and know opportunity and potential are always waiting for us.

author: Lindsey Janousek

So Many Buildings

This panel discussion dealt with the issue of having a society that both lacks the knowledge needed to appreciate architecture and the lack of true architects in the profession. The discussion was lead primarily by Michael Johnson, a local architect in the Phoenix area. It is his view that only 1 percent of the building constructed today are true architecture, the rest are simply structures. Consequently it is his view that most of the people in the profession are mere draftsmen and women, not architects. The phoenix area, plagued by developer driven projects is an epicenter for this pandemic sweeping the nation.

After stating that he would rather “shovel coal” then work for a firm producing poor architecture, a discussion arose related to working in the current economic state. He and the other members of the panel who included a landscape architect, two additional successful architects and an AIAS student, concluded that given the current economic state and the requirements set forth to become an architect, a transitional period of working for a lesser firm may be required and could be a vital part of the education process.

The moderator introduced the topic of ‘Producing true architecture with the constraints of budgets.’ The panel was very divided on this issue, the AIAS student took the view point that larger budgets are essential in producing true architecture. Johnson was of the opinion that budgets are entirely irrelevant in creating true architecture citing both his own work and the works of others including students. The two other architects on the panel took similar stances however they would not go as far as to say that the budgets are irrelevant. They saw value in having larger budgets in creating architecture but stated that a budget should never be allowed control the end result and should never be used an an excuse for poor architecture.

During the question and answer session the issue of convincing people that design is in fact important arose, the panel concluded that as architects it is our responsibility to inform the public and clients the value of design. They said that the best way to do this is to keep our own selves informed, the ability to convince someone is based in knowledge not opinion. Design needs to be shown as something critical in our society that can help to improve our lives. In addition knowledge about specific aspects of projects can help to let people see the value in design.

All of the discussion about architecture brought about the question of what is architecture. In Johnson’s view, architecture is defined by multiple aspects pulling from aesthetics, form, function, experience, cultural and historic significance. The others on the panel reiterated his thoughts, stressing the importance of cultural significance.

Author: Cesar Rodriguez

Please share your views on this topic.

Graduate Track: Presenting to Persuade, Setting Yourself Up for Success

David Zach

David Zach is a futurist. Yes, that is a real thing. Yes, he does have a degree in Studies of the Future.

But that is not what brought David to FORUM.  As a professional speaker, David has innumerable experiences and insights to share with upcoming professionals. The session focused on Presentation of Self and Presentation of Ideas.
Presentation of Self.
The primary bullet points to successfully presenting yourself were described by David as the following:
Posture: Be confident in your posture. Be sure to use meaningful gestures and avoid meaningless habits (cracking knuckles, picking at your finger nails, etc). Make strong eye contact with individuals around the room.  David suggested, “…find attractive and friendly faces in the audience…” with whom to make eye contact.  Understand and if possible survey the stage ahead of time; take note of well lit areas of the stage and distracting sounds such as squeaky floor boards.
Clothing: Making the audience comfortable with what your wear by drawing, “Just enough attention, and then forgotten” as said by a department store in Milwaukee.  Know your audience and dress to their standards without out dressing them.  Strive for unassuming elegance.
Mistakes and Interruptions: David outlined the mentality of a crowd as wanting you to succeed, but quick to attack if you falter.  Follow your mistakes with a fun and creative response and you will win the audience.  The same is true for responding to interruptions [such as cell phones ringing or intoxicated audience members] with a level head and humor.  One of David’s preferred responses to a ringing cell phone is to stop and call out the offender. This doesn’t only evoke a chuckle but also encourages others to turn off their phones.
Voice as a Tool:  Becoming comfortable with your own voice by listening to it, learning it, and training it allows it to become a powerful tool during presentations.  Changes in the speed, controlling the pitch, and setting the rhythm of your voice will draw focus and set the mood of your words.  With an average attention span of just 9 seconds, focusing an audience is necessary throughout a speech.
Know your Audience: Each presentation should be tailored to your audience.  An association will differ from a corporation (no clear hierarchy vs. a formally defined and sensitive hierarchy).  A group of firefighters will respond differently than a school board association.  Different professions are associated with different personality traits; ex. Sensors vs. Intuitives.  As part of meeting your audience, know how to small talk – avoid the dangerous topics of sex, religion, and politics.  Be in tune to events occurring prior to your presentation (a disappointing previous quarter, company wide layoffs, corporate mergers, etc).
Words: Selective the right words for a presentation depends heavily on the audience.  Architectural jargon will work well at FORUM but confuse and alienate a client from outside of the design profession.  The way words are said will also heavily influence a audiences perception of what is being said.  Tone and rhythm can determine a words definition.
There were several overarching ideas present throughout the session.  These included the following:
Determine Your Goals: Before presenting, you must sent your goals for the presentation.  Are you in the position to ask for the buy on a project or do you just need to successfully present a design?  Are you hoping to make a friend, sign a new client, or both?
Making Allies and Friends in the Audience: The above bullet points can call be used to create friends and allies in the audience that will allow you to take risks, have fun, and confidently present your content.
Perfection: You can pursue perfection, but being good at what you do and being a good person are important first steps.
Be Prepared, Be Brief, and Be Seated: Learn and adapt the conventions of public speaking and follow these three commandments.
Learn Continuously: Late in his life, Michelangelo said, “I am still learning.”  Approaching life with this attitude and being willing to outsource learning will allow you to continually improve and advance your work.
Watch Others, Watch Yourself: Learn from those who are already successful public speakers.  Ask friends to take notes and video tape your presentations for review and improvement after the fact.  Watch the video without sound to focus on your posture and body language.
Elegance and Eloquence: Do not try to louder, brighter, slicker than those around you.  Use elegance and eloquence to hold the attention of your target audience.
Know You: Know your strengths and weaknesses.  If you are bad at telling jokes, don’t tell jokes. Find a different way to introduce humor into your presentation.
David Zach led an energetic, engaging, and all around thought provoking session.  It is sure to stick with me and help me improve future presentations ranging from client meetings, job interviews, project critics, and professional discussions.
David can be reached in the following ways:
Linked In: David Zach
Twitter: @DavidZach
And his presentation can be found at this link:
author:  Dan Valenza

Thursday ‘General Session’

At the first general session of FORUM 2011, the roll call was a sure smashing introduction. Excited for the night to unfold, the three host school directors introduced themselves, as well as gave a nice welcome for the students who were attending. Topics that were introduced included advocacy for “federal loan forgiveness”, collaborating design disciplines, and even moving past design innovation, into the future of design and our roles as emerging professionals. In other words, we should be thinking about new ways of designing in general, in the most economical way. The highlight of the night was the keynote speaker, Jeffery Inaba, principle of INABA. The argument he made was architecture is one of few professions where one can design their career. Students especially, have multiple interests in all kinds of areas. School is the time to test these interests, and apply them later. There is not only one path to do this, but many routes to craft an original career design.  The two objectives Jeffrey Inaba strives for is to bring “content to form”, and “form to form”. This means that information he has found by researching urban issues for the public (the content), can be interpreted and represented in a way that is easy to understand (form). An example of the other objective, “form to form” was designing the representation in a way that attracted people to look at it, or in simple terms, make it look good. The better it looks, the more people will want to look at it, and learn from it. He also stressed the importance of constraints, and instead of viewing them negatively, use them for your advantage. An example was the book “World of Giving”, when the low budget seemed to be a constraint. By using that as an advantage, the book had a vibrant color variation, because it was cheaper to print pages of text of one color, rather than multiple colors on one page. Overall, the commentary on the public research that Inaba collected was intriguing – always striving for a result that people could take and learn from. Shortly after Jeffery Inaba’s question and answer session, the candidates for 2012-13 AIAS Board of Directors presented a speech. The passion and drive the candidates conveyed in all of the speeches were very impressive, and exciting to see for what is in store for next year’s AIAS Board of Directors. The night was a wonderful beginning of the rest of the general sessions that will follow this FORUM 2011.


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Water Design Charrette

The Charrette began with a bus ride out to the headquarters of the Central Arizona Project (CAP). The CAP is the largest water delivery system in the state, and consists of a series of aqueducts, canals, pumps and tunnels that take water, predominantly from the Colorado River, and deliver it to the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. Much was made about the logistics of the system, which is incredibly complex in scope and scale. Treated as a single entity, it is the largest user of electricity in Arizona, and it’s role speaks to the need for large scale water importation in order for large urban areas to exist in such an arid environment.

After this, we were driven back to the Sheridan and treated to an excellent lunch in a addition to a discussion with Grady Gammage. A self-described “dilettante,” Gammage is a lawyer who deals with water law. His own assessment of Phoenix’s water history is complex and extremely well informed. Unlike most, he argues that many efforts to qualify the Phoenix area as “unsustainable” are too narrow in their criteria. He argues further that there’s never been enough water to support the population and that water is not unlike any other resource in that most cities appropriate resources from the surrounding region. His own assessment of environmental issues, especially those concerning resources such as water, is critical, frank, but above all honest and optimistic.

Following Grady’s talk, David A. Chasis gave a quick presentation on the role of PVC piping and how other related resins and polymers can assist designers in ensuring that their projects can deliver vital services while conserving resources in an environmentally responsible way.