008 : The New State of Architecture with Jane Frederick


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Architects have a unique role as creators and curators of the built environment. Their roles also extend beyond the built environment, but also to the shaping of culture. In the worlds of Winston Churchill, “we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.”

In this episode, Steve Chaparro speaks with Jane Frederick, FAIA who is a Principal Architect at Frederick + Frederick Architects and serves as the 2020 President of The American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Jane shares the top issues that the profession of architecture is facing such as climate change and how it parallels the current pandemic condition of COVID-19. She also describes the resources developed and task forces formed in response to this history-shifting time period.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • How Jane never would have thought that her 2020 presidency of the AIA would have included the “biggee” of crises. 
  • How the climate crisis has shaped the focus of the profession of architecture.
  • The parallel between climate change and the pandemic – “if you wait until you see the impact to act, it’s too late.”
  • How the leadership of AIA has responded to the needs of the architecture profession by the launching of task forces including best practices for crisis response centers, addressing business concerns, and how to move back into buildings.
  • How the design of space may change in response to COVID-19 including access to outdoor, work and transition spaces in our homes in addition to flex time to work at office, different antimicrobial building materials.
  • How the International style was partly in response to the 1918 pandemic.
  • How to address the generational transitions within the profession of architecture
  • The need for architecture professionals to develop new skills to stay relevant.

Resources Mentioned in this episode:

About the Guest:

Jane Frederick is the 2020 President of The American Institute of Architects (AIA). Her current role is the culmination of her decades of leadership in the profession of architecture at both the AIA and as Principal Architect at her firm, Frederick + Frederick Architects.

Sponsor for this episode:

This episode is brought to you by the Culture Design Studio, a consulting firm that helps people and cultural leaders who feel constrained in their ability to engage their employees to become champions for their people through a series of facilitated workshops. They provide a practical and collaborative process to transform the culture within your creative organization.

Culture Design Studio has worked with organizations like Duarte Design, Design Thinkers Group, Red Bull, USAID, Bacardi, and the Office of Civic Innovation

If you’re looking for more than just a consultant and want someone who can facilitate your organization through a structured conversation to transform your culture, Culture Design Studio is the one for you.

Contact them today to learn more about what they can do for you and your company.

Full Transcript: Powered by Otter.ai

Announcer Welcome to The Culture Design Show where we feature conversations with leaders and thinkers who are passionate about culture and design. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Steve Chaparro Steve Chaparro, here. I am the host of The Culture Design Show, a podcast where I feature leaders and thinkers at some of the top creative firms in the world, including architecture, design, technology, and marketing. What’s the one thing they all have in common? They all believe in the power of culture, and design.

This podcast is brought to you by Culture Design Studio, we help people in culture leaders who feel constrained in their ability to engage their employees to become champions for their people. Through a series of facilitated workshops, we provide a practical and collaborative process to transform the culture within your creative organization. We’ve worked with organizations like Duarte Design, DesignThinkers Group, Red Bull, US AID, and the Office of Civic Innovation. So if you’re looking for more than just a consultant, but someone who can facilitate your organization through a structured conversation to transform your culture, reach out to us at culturedesignstudio.com.

Jane Frederick is the 2020 president of the American Institute of Architects, otherwise known as AIA. Her current role is the culmination of her decades of leadership in the profession of architecture, at both the AIA and as principal architect at her firm, Frederick and Frederick Architects. Jane, welcome to The Culture Design Show.

Jane Frederick Thank you so much, Steve. It’s great to be here.

Steve Chaparro Well, I wanted to read I’m so glad and grateful that you accepted the invitation to be part of this, you know, with being an associate member of the AIA and you know, started my career in architecture. It’s A pleasure to talk with you in as you took on this role of becoming the president of the AIA for this year. Now, I would imagine though, as you started this, your tenure here, you could not imagine that this would be the context for your presidency.

Jane Frederick Not at all. As I was telling you earlier, George Miller, who was a president a few years ago said, there’s always something that happens in your gear that you’re not expecting. And I think I got the big, it’s got to be a big, big pivot for us this year. We were all in for the climate crisis. Last year at our membership meeting, we passed a resolution that was like 98-99% positive to focus solely on climate for the Institute. You know, a lot of people don’t realize that 40% of the carbon in the atmosphere comes from buildings. And so that is a big responsibility we have and that’s the the Energy, that’s not even talking about the embodied carbon, the carbon that is in the materials that we put in there, the concrete, the steel, the transportation of getting those to the side. So we haven’t backed off of that. I mean, it’s still still really important.

Um, the last live event I went to was the 2030 climate positive summit in LA, at the end of February and that everything changed after that. Yeah, what we have done this year, we have adopted the Climate Action Plan. And we’re putting and we’re putting that into the action. So it’s specific items that individual architects can do. It can be some of our components can do. Students can do it. Even civic leaders can do it. We work very closely with the US Conference of Mayors and work with mayor’s on how we can reduce the carbon in the buildings in their cities. So the Climate Action Plan is Designed to set out actionable, measurable steps toward achieving net zero emissions in the building sector. And so we have three overarching goals on that, which is mitigating the sources, adapting to the impacts, and catalyzing architects to act. Part of that what we weren’t going to do we were gonna have a major TV campaign. Yeah, yeah. And that’s really when the ads already shut out. We’ll do that in the future somehow.

But it’s really interesting because the climate crisis and the pandemic are fundamentally connected, because they affect all people, and all people must be part of the solution. And scientists point out a very instructive parallel between the pandemic and the climate crisis, because if you wait to see the impact, it’s too late to act. Right. Yeah. I think that that’s starting to bring home to people that the climate crisis This is something we really need to be focusing on. And also the World Health Organization. Their research shows a direct correlation between the climate crisis, globalization and the rise of infectious disease in pandemics and epidemics. And so we can’t just think about it as an environmental issue. The climate crisis is a health issue and that we really need to focus on that.

Steve Chaparro Yeah, those are those are some pretty powerful things. I know that definitely talking with leaders across the architecture, community and construction. It’s becoming a as your as your platform in the organization around this topic of making sure that we’re looking at climate as well as how do we protect the environment. And all these things together are really critical thing to think about. And and this will be something that cannot be set down. Even in the interim, while we’re focused on maybe some other things like you saying that the idea of the climate As well as the World Health Organization working together to solve some of these issues.

Jane Frederick One of the programs we have is the Architecture 2030 commitment and this is firms making a commitment to reduce the embodied energy in the, in the not just embodied energy but the operational energy in the buildings that they’re designing and we’re seeing tremendous growth and how much energy that we are saving so that’s really huge.

Steve Chaparro Right so now we’re you know, using mentioned at the end of February, you went to that conference here in LA, which is my part of the world. In fact, I was probably around the same time in your part of the country. I was in Raleigh, doing some workshops out there, and, and everything you know, in March at the beginning of March, even though COVID-19 had already started to take impact across the world. Since COVID-19, has impacted our climate, what have been the challenges and the needs That you have been hearing from the architecture community that it’s good for us to address.

Jane Frederick Well, I’m really proud of the architects throughout the country. We set up several passports for the AIA. One of them was a group of architects led by Molly Scanlon. She’s a architect and also a water specialists. So we set up some healthcare architects, Molly was leading this group, some other scientists to look at how do we set up alternative care facilities that are safe to use? So that’s like, if you’re turning the Javits Center into a temporary health facility or the LA Convention Center, where we would have been just next couple of weeks the conference, how do you do that safely. So they came up with a number of guidelines on how to do that so it can help architects Working with the community leaders to determine what buildings are suitable to turn into a temporary care facility and how the best way to go about it.

Then we set up another task force that mobilized architects around the country to use that information that Molly’s team had put pulled together. And so they worked with the local components, working with their state and local governments on implementing this, then, that has been tremendously well received. Last time I talked to Molly, and they did this in like a week and a half. I mean, they just were working straight out doing that. And then I talked to her last week, and the State Department is interested in the work that they did to translate into three different languages to share with embassies around the world. So it’s a big impact there.

We also a lot of our architects are concerned about their work…

Steve Chaparro Yeah.

Jane Frederick …because a number of cities have shut down construction sites, some of them are beginning to open back up. But that really impacts their ability to move forward. So we set up a task force to look at our firms and how we can best help them. And the staff at a national has been tremendous. If you go to our website, it looks totally different these days. It’s all about resources for architects, firms, individuals, how we can be moving forward. And then tomorrow’s Friday, right? Yeah, big days all together. Don’t I mean, it’s just so tomorrow, we’re starting a couple of charrette groups, which is really exciting because what we’re looking at as firm as businesses open back up, what is the best way to do that? How do you safely move back into the buildings so it’s The teams that Molly’s part of it. We have first we’re looking at office buildings. And then we’re looking at schools, daycares that, you know, what, how many people can be in a room? How do you set it up? What are the best materials? How do you transition it? What do you do with the pitch points when you have everybody getting in the elevator at the same time? How do you manage that? So we’re looking at office buildings, we’re looking at schools, we’re looking at commercial structures, hospitality and restaurants. And then we’re looking at apartment buildings, dormitories, senior living, and so we’ll be doing a different several charettes on that. So we will have some best practices from the top minds to share with with communities so they can know how they can best open up.

Steve Chaparro Here is what I love what I’m about what I’m hearing you say when I go back to even my training and my work in the field. And the role of architecture and architects is you could almost summarize it as being the curators and creators and stewards of the physical environment or the built environment. And that whether that is at a very small scale at an interior design level, or if it’s creating the physical space of the building, or even going to the scale of urban design, and looking at all of those reasons why human beings gather at those places, do you think that this is going to impact the way we think about space moving forward? I know that some of those health related concerns will be addressed. But do you think that because we’re working from home, a lot of us, do you think that there’s gonna be a different relationship that we have with space moving forward?

Jane FrederickOh, I think so. I think one of the things that, if you think about it, having access to outside space is gonna be huge. I mean, If you think about if you’ve several of our not several, a lot of our members are in New York City but I’ve talked to a number of them that are in an apartment and haven’t been out in 40 days and they don’t have a balcony. So to think about living spaces that you have access to the outside that you have operable windows, you have a little balcony or an in an office building or a hotel that you have a terrace outside or you have large balconies that we were at the Intercontinental Hotel when I was in LA I don’t know if you know that project, they have just really nice outdoor spaces, oh, you know, several floors up that you can go out and and sit at. So I think that’s going to make a huge difference.

I think in housing is going to make a difference because people will have we’re thinking about as you come into the house, you really kind of need a transition zone, able to take off your outside clothes, wash your hands. You know, before you move into your sacred space inside your house, so I think we’ll be seeing changes there. I also think that will, with all these people working at home, that there will be more dedicated place for working. Because the people that have home offices, you can tell I’m in my office, My office is on the same piece of property as my house. So I’m kind of lucky there. But we’ll have dedicated space in houses I believe, you know, for children to do schoolwork or for people to work at home.

And I believe the work balance will be more flexible in that in thinking about we don’t want so many people in the office at one time that there will be more flex time for people to work at home. So you’re only in the office maybe three days a week or two days a week. And so it’s more square footage per person in the office. So I think they’ll be a lot of changes. And I also think that I think it’s interesting if you think about New York, how they’re shutting streets down and just making it all pedestrian so there’s more space for you to walk around that it’s not you’re crowded on the street and cane social distance from somebody so I think that that more outdoor space will be more designed outdoor space thought about it a lot more. And then I also think that we’ll be thinking about different building materials that we’ll think about morenaturally, anti mog Okay, say four or five little syllable words to me. You know, copper pipes are natural, taken out microbes or brass door handles, you know, so changing things like that, or they’re solid surfaces that we use to make sure that they are easily cleaned. And you and well easily cleaned. I mean, that’s very mainly what it is. And if you think about, I’m sure you’ve probably seen some of the articles relating back to the international style. A lot of that was that cleanliness after the…

Steve Chaparro Very interesting, yeah.

Jane Frederick …1918 pandemic, so it was like, you know, the, the Victorian with all the stuff in the fabric. And the…

Steve Chaparro Yeah, that’s a very interesting point there is like, what were some of the impacts of the 1980s pandemic? And what were some of the design related responses? That’s very interesting. I had not thought of that. Part of this, this podcast is called The Culture Design Show. And the premise is you can look at the topic from different ways. One is the culture of design, or we could say the culture of architecture, what does that look like? And how what are some of the challenges the things that we can improve? And then flip in and say, How can we use design to help shape the culture of our firms? What are some things that come to mind in that particular discussion?

Jane Frederick Well, I think a lot of it is if you think about workplace design, and one of the things that we’re have been looking at is the building that our headquarters in, in in Washington DC, and it was designed in the 70s. And it has very much the 70 workplace culture, which was a cubicles that were ha no interaction space. No, I’m not recognizing a diverse group of people might be working there. So as you think about especially an office space, how do you design it? So it speaks to the diversity of our society?

Steve Chaparro Yeah.

Jane Frederick That you have, you know, you have people that want to ride their bikes to work because you I mean, now do you want to be on public transportation so you know, you need to accommodate that, you know, showers and locker rooms, you have for mothers that are coming back to work after six weeks off, and you need to provide a lactation room for them. You have small meetings that you want to accommodate. You want to have bigger meetings and you want to accommodate you want to have a maybe a coffee bar that you can just have an impromptu conversation. So how you design that space really can afford a different interaction for people. That’s one of the things that you that you look at. And then you can think about it with all building types. I mean, when you go into a hotel now and they never call it a lobby anymore, it’s the living room. Right? Yeah. You know, they’re encouraging that impromptu meeting with people.

Steve Chaparro Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah. When you when you’ve talked with your colleagues and fellow leaders in the architecture industry, and he talked about the culture of architecture and you Think about the transitions between different generations and, and different sort of the purpose and meaning that one, you know, I hate to put it in generational terms, but that one generation may may seek from their work in architecture. And then the new generation comes behind it, then a third generation comes in. I would imagine that with that comes different expectations of, of people in the architecture profession, whether it’s their employees and things like that. What are some things that you’ve seen that are changing and need to evolve as different generations enter into the profession of architecture?

Jane Frederick One of the things that the AIA has done, we have a whole series of equitable in practice guides, there’s none of them, and they address a lot of that. It’s um I know when I first started out I was I graduated in 1982. So it was a long time ago. But when I was in high school I wanted, I knew I wanted to be an architect. And there wasn’t one in the small town I lived in. So my mother took me over to a town, you know, 20 miles away or so. And I met the architect and his comment was, oh, I guess girls are going into architecture. So yeah, changed in that realm, which is really good. And we need to keep focusing on that and making sure that we are profession mirrors. The world that we serve, yeah, but I think it really makes a huge difference in the design of the built environment to have a very diverse group of people doing the design, but a lot of things too. I think it’s maybe not so much a generational but um, age related Cuz where you are in the stage of your life because, you know, I had one I had small children at one time and work. You know, they’re grown now. So that’s a whole different issue that you encounter then. So I think a lot of it is, is almost your age and how you’re keeping up. I know the 2008 recession, a lot of the baby boomer age architects had not kept up with their computer skills. Yeah, not kept up, never learned them. And so it made them it made it very hard for them to switch jobs at that time if they needed to, or to move into a different position. So it’s I think it’s more age related that where you need or you need to be at the time.

Steve Chaparro Yeah, and that’s one thing that I’ve been seeing too is the need for folks to learn new skills every three to five years, and I’m not sure For how that necessarily overlaps in the field of architecture, but because things are changing so much, I mean, I, I graduated from architecture school in 97. I was in the field for five and a half years. And at that time, we were using AutoCAD. And then I left the industry for about 10 years to work in real estate development. And I was looking to come back in 2010, which was probably a bad year to come back in. But not only was there not necessarily jobs, and when I did come back into the industry, I don’t care. It wasn’t even the primary form of you know, of drawing anymore. And so I realized that I had had lost a lot of time in the industry, and was years and years behind. In terms of on the production side of things. Now, my leadership really evolved in business development and strategy and things like that in the firm. But that just showed me how fast the industries are moving in, I would imagine it’s moving even faster now. And So when you have those conversations with firm principals that are seeing this pace of change, what are some of those squinted? Look, some of those conversations look like,

Jane Frederick oh, everybody. I mean, even in my firm of five, we do virtual reality. So we put our clients in the 3d glasses and they walk around their house going, Wow, this is great. This is great. But where are we going there? I mean, it’s, um, you know, people are talking about how construction documents will be different, that the partnership with the building manufacturers will be different because it’s such a complex endeavor to put a building together that we really rely heavily on our building manufacturers, right. And they’re the experts on their products. So they will be feeding information into our our models, our construction documents, I mean, construction documents will probably look very different in a few years. Though we’re studying it, it’s out.

Steve Chaparro Yeah. Well, as we’re about to wrap up our conversation, Jane, I’d love to hear if there’s any subject that you are particularly passionate about that we haven’t discussed yet. Before we go.

Jane Frederick The one I’m passionate about is the climate crisis. As we’ve already discussed, one of my goals was to double the number of firms that are participating in the 2030 commitment this year, and we’re well on our way to doing that. So it’s that’s very exciting. So hopefully, we’ll get that done.

Steve Chaparro Well, folks, we’ve been talking with Jane Frederick the 2020, President of the American Institute of Architects and Jane if folks want to learn more about you your work at your firm and AIA, where can   they go?

Jane Frederick Okay. My firm is Frederick and Frederick architects in Buford, South Carolina. And you can also look at the AIA website which is AIA.org.

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