Friday, April 17, 2015

#ILookUp for Architecture Week

Hey there, folks.  Its #ArchitectureWeek, and its Friday, so I wanted to share some of my recent thoughts on architecture. It is spring, and flowers are out, trees are blooming, and cranes are moving.  What better reasons to Look Up?

Now, The US Architects who are reading this are probably aware that the AIA started a new campaign recently, called #ILookUp. For those not familiar with it, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has begun a three year campaign to promote architects, architecture, and the process of design.  The website is, if you’d like to check it out. 

I tend to like the phrase featured there, too: “Before beginning to design, architects look up. They look up to see what isn’t there and to envision the potential for what could be. Architecture surrounds us in our daily lives. Look up and be inspired.”

At first, I started the blog today this way:
"My name is Sean, and I am an Architect, I am a member of the AIA, and #ILookUp.”  There was a lot of hullabaloo in print and online media when the campaign started, and it felt like I needed to be in a group session introducing myself to subscribe to the AIA’s campaign.  In fact, I was disappointed, and downright surly at times, that many columnists took to writing articles insinuating or even declaring the campaign a failure, or a stylistic error, and that architecture is failing, on the brink of collapse, etc. after the FIRST ad in a three year effort was launched.

It made me wonder, after my initial surge of emotion, why are these people so against this campaign?  What a wonderful invitation to everyone - look up! What do you see? 

Here is what I see:

When #ILookUp, I see trees blooming, birds migrating, hawks gliding, clouds passing. I see the seasons at work in the reflections off of buildings. I marvel at the cranes on construction sites, and the effect that weather has had on construction. I look up to see wonderful marvels - fireworks, airplanes, etc.


Professionally, #ILookUp to see the context around me.  Architecture and urbanism are not professions that live in the moment. These are long range professions. I design homes and buildings that I hope will outlast me. That will give families shelter for decades at least. I have no control over what else gets built, and I hope that it will not be homogenous. I hope to see a range of styles, eras represented; I hope for renovation, preservation, and rehabilitation around our communities. #ILookUp to see how those interactions have been dealt with by others, to learn (whether to emulate, imitate, or avoid), and I gather inspiration.

To me, this campaign is NOT just about architecture, or design inspiration, or the connection between architecture and nature.  #ILookUp to see what is going on around me. I look away from my screen. I look away from my phone. I look away from the newspapers. And I focus on what is around me instead. What do I see in my community?

As I walk around my neighborhood, I see people growing more food in their front yards. I see people walking more than ever. I see neighbors interacting.  I see festivals, farmers markets, and people looking to help each other.

Behaviorally, #ILookUp so that I don't get stuck in a rut, doing the same things every day.

#ILookUp for hope. And for inspiration. And to remind myself that the world is a great place. Yes, we all face challenges, and there are problems around us all.  Architects tend to be problem solvers, though. And we work well in teams, and in communities. So when #ILookUp, I don't just see what IS there, I also think about what COULD be there.

Call it idealism, optimism, naivete, hope, or inspiration. Call what you will. 
THAT is why #ILookUp.

What about you?  What do YOU see when YOU look up?

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