Note from the Author: Help me help other architects! This blog is an excerpt from the first draft of my book: Breaking the Box: Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect. You can help by leaving a critique in the comment section below. And if you are just starting I suggest you check out the table of contents for an easy road map. Thx you rock! -Steve
This is part 2 of the Beautiful Story. I recommend starting on Part 1
The BAR Question Portion
After the architect has finished their presentation, the BAR members will ask a few questions. At every other BAR meeting I had been to, the questions were objective clarification questions. For example, you might get:
- What type of materials are you using on the south facade?
- What is the setback at the penthouse level?
- Are those windows operable?
But not on this day. The question I got on this day went a little deeper than a simple clarification.
"Mr. Ramos. Can you tell me how your building is beautiful?" - BAR member #3
Have you ever seen one of those TV commercials where someone is belittled by their spouse or their boss and as a result they start to physically shrink? By the end of the commercial, they are the size of an infant or smaller.
Well, that is how I felt that night. With each comment from #3, I felt like I shrunk a foot. The two interruptions during my presentation were bad enough and then I got the ultimate college essay question: “Can you tell me how your building is beautiful?”
So what did I say to that beautiful comment?
"Umm...........well…………......I don't use the word beautiful to describe my buildings." Said by Steve Ramos the bumbling idiot.
The Knockout Punch
"Well maybe you should." - BAR Member #3
And he’s down for the count!
What was I thinking? "I don't use the word beautiful to describe my buildings!!!!"
What I was trying to convey is that I am modest about my work. Or that beautiful is just not in my architectural vocabulary. I use words like elegant, sophisticated, sharp, and handsome. Beautiful is a term I reserve for people and fine art.
But no matter how I try to spin it, it still sounds like I was saying "I don't design good looking buildings."
Obviously #3 was not in favor of the design. Unfortunately, they were not the only one. The other four BAR members also spoke negatively about the design. Everyone piled on that night. The board deliberated for about 10 minutes before a motion was made. The motion was made by BAR member #4 to deny the project. The motion was seconded by BAR member #5 and all voted in favor of the motion. The project was denied with a 5-0 vote.
The Beautiful Comment
After the presentation that night I was in a bad place. I felt that I had let my client down. I felt I had let my firm down. I was bummed.
“I don’t use the word beautiful to describe the buildings I design.” A very unfortunate choice of words.
Aside from my beautiful blunder, the stage was already set. The project was not going to pass regardless of my presentation. And in hindsight, the result of the meeting was not a big deal. We did receive constructive criticism from some of the BAR members and were able to rework the design and preserve the initial concept. After a couple weeks of tweaking the design, we returned to the BAR and received unanimous approval.
And that’s the funny thing about the BAR. They will beat you up one day, and then you can return with a handful of edits and the design can be very well received and pass with flying colors. I found the BAR very polarizing.
At least we can laugh about it.
The beautiful comment has gone down in infamy. To this day, the client for that project and some of my colleagues love to tease me and ask, “How is this design beautiful?” It is always good for a laugh. I have even introduced beautiful into my architectural lexicon: “beautiful this, beautiful that.” Suddenly everything is beautiful to me.
The Power of Public Speaking
I shared this story because we learn the most from failure. I had a bad night for sure, but I also took away some valuable lessons that I will share in the next article. Although this story was about failure, I have had much success speaking as an architect and have realized it to be an invaluable skill. Public speaking is a skill that can push a good architect to great architect. Public speaking can lift you from a role player in an architecture firm to a leader of an architecture firm.
Do you want to be a role player or a leader?
Flip the page to: 10 Public Speaking Lessons for Architects
Welcome to BUILDINGS ARE COOL!
Hello, my name is Steve Ramos. This site is about what it's like to be a young architect in Charleston, South Carolina. In 10 years, I will write about what it is like to be a middle-age architect.
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