HOW TO GO TO A COCKTAIL PARTY

IF EVER THERE WAS A MANDATORY CLASS NEEDED IN ARCHITECTURE THIS IS IT.

COCKTAIL PARTY OLE! SCHMOOZING, SUCKING UP , NETWORKING.

WINE, COFFEE, CIGARS, GOURMET FOOD, GOLF, TENNIS, DESIGNER LABEL CLOTHES, BLACKBERRY, IPOD AND SOME ADVENTURE SPORT LIKE YACHTING, MOUNTAIN CLIMBING, FLYING ETC. A KNOWLEDGE OF ART AND JAZZ.

I SHOULD HAVE BEEN SCHMOOZING

PHOTO BY JASMINA DEDIJER-SMALL.

IF YOU ACTUALLY LIKE THIS STUFF AND PURSUE IT WITH VIGOR YOU CAN CHAT IT UP ALL NIGHT TO MAKE CONNECTIONS TO GET COMMISSIONS AND PUBLICITY. THERE IS A COMFORT THAT TAKES PLACE WHEN EVERYONE IS TALKING COMMON INTERESTS . THE CLUB IS SECURE.

THE FAMOUS “FUTURE OF ARCHITECTURE” PANEL AT SCI-ARC IN 1976 WHERE I CALLED FRANK GEHRY “A HUSTLER , MAN ABOUT TOWN, ALWAYS WITH A GIMMICK”, WAS NOT REFERRING TO FRANK AS A WOMANIZER, I COULDN’T CARE LESS ABOUT HIS PRIVATE LIFE. NO, MY CYNICAL COMMENT WAS BASED ON THE IDEA THAT PURSUING RICH OR CONNECTED PEOPLE, WITH THE GOAL OF GETTING PROFESSIONALLY AHEAD, WAS UNETHICAL. I WAS DEAD WRONG, LOOK AT GEHRY TODAY, THE ARCHITECTURAL HERO OF THE ERA. I CAN NOT REMEMBER HIS COMMENT ABOUT ME, SOMETHING TO THE EFFECT I WAS INTO AGRARIAN ARCHITECTURE. AT THAT MOMENT I WAS TOTALLY IDEALISTIC ABOUT THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE AND DEDICATING MY LIFE TO MAKING THIS PLANET GREEN AND BIOMORPHIC.

SINCE MY MASTERS THESIS IN 1967 MY IDEAL SIDE APPROACH HAS BEEN TO SEEK OUT A SITUATION THAT NEEDS TO IMPOVE THE PLANET, DO A SCHEME AND LET THE WORLD RESPOND. WHAT THIS DOES IS TO ALLOW FREE THINKING WITH NO RESTRAINTS. THIS STARTED WITH THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE AND IS ALIVE TODAY WITH THE LA INFRASTRUCTURE SCHEME. THE PROBLEM WITH THIS IS YOU HAVE NO CLIENTS TO PAY THE BILLS. I USE TEACHING TO DO THAT. WHAT IS HAPPENING IS THE CLIENTS ARE STARTING TO TURN GREEN, BUT ALWAYS WITH THE DOLLAR SIGN. WHICH SCARES ME. NOTHING HAS CHANGED, HOW DO YOU GET THE MARKET PLACE TO LOOK AFTER EVERYONE, INCLUDING THE EARTH AND THAT MEANS GLOBALLY? ANOTHER TIME.

I FIRST KNEW OF FRANK GEHRY WHEN I WAS AN OFFICE BOY IN THE SUMMER IN 1955 AT VICTOR GRUENS, JUST BEFORE I STARTED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON. I DELIVERED MAIL TO HIM. VICTOR GRUEN WAS THE FIRST ARCHITECT TO PROMOTE THE SHOPPING CENTERS WITH CLASS. THERE WERE MEMOS ON WHAT GROUPS AND CLUBS THE ARCHITECTS IN THE FIRM WERE TO JOIN. THERE WAS A DEPARTMENT FOR PUBLICITY WORKING FULL TIME AND GETTING CONSTANT PRESS FOR THE FIRM. I WAS OBLIVIOUS TO SPIN THESE THINGS, WHEREAS FRANK USED THESE LESSONS TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL CAREER.

MILICA DEDIJER MY SECOND WIFE WAS ALWAYS IN THE KNOW. SHE READ THE NEW YORK TIMES, HAD HER EAR TO WHAT WAS HAPPENING, COULD REMEMBER NAMES AND HAD A SOPHISTICATED EDUCATION. SHE DRAGGED ME TO SOME WEST LA PARTY TO MEET JEAN NOUVEL IN FROM FRANCE WHO WAS PUTTING TOGETHER THE PARIS BIENALLE. THAT WAS MY GREEN MACHINE ERA, I PUT IN AN ENTRY OF TWO BOARDS, ONE THE GREEN MACHINE AND ONE ON THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE. THE GREEN MACHINE WAS SELECTED. WHILE TAKING SOME STUDENTS TO EUROPE THE NEXT SUMMER I HAD LUNCH WITH NOUVEL IN PARIS AND HE PUT THE GREEN MACHINE IN THE PARIS BIENALLE. I DID NOT KEEP THAT CONNECTION ALIVE. NOW LOOK AT NOUVEL.

RICK MATHER THE ARCHITECT OF LONDON FAME AND NOW SPREADING INTO THE U.S. IS A BUDDY OF MINE FROM MY DAYS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON. HE WOULD THROW PARTIES WHEN I WOULD STAY WITH HIM IN LONDON. I REMEMBER PETER COOK, OF ARCHIGRAM FAME, SAYING SOMETHING LIKE, LOOK AT THE TALENT BEFORE ME. ZAHA HADID AND I WERE TALKING. NEED I SAY MORE.

TAKE FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT. NOW HE WAS A SHOWMAN. HE UNDERSTOOD PUBLICITY AND GIVING THE PRESS SOMETHING TO WRITE ABOUT. WHEN CLIENTS SHOWED UP IN SCOTTSDALE THERE WOULD BE A LINCOLN WAITING WITH A HANDSOME APPRENTICE AND A RED WOOL BLANKET IN THE BACK SEAT. THE CLIENT CAME FIRST. HE CHARMED THEM WITH HIS VAST INTERESTS OF THE ARTS, LITERATURE, LIFE, AND ARCHITECTURE.

FOR THE UNVEILING OF THE MILE HIGH TOWER SCHEME FOR CHICAGO, HE RENTED A GRAND ROOM IN A HOTEL. DID A DRAWING THAT WAS TWO STORIES HIGH AND CALLED A PRESS CONFERENCE.

EERO SAARINEN KNEW THE CONSTRUCTION COSTS ON THE TWA TERMINAL IN NEW YORK WERE WAY OVER THE BUDGET, SO HE CALLS A MEETING OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF TWA TO UNVEIL HIS SCHEME, JUST AT THE APPOINTED HOUR, HE HAS THE PRESS SHOW UP AND HE UNVEILS THE MODEL, THE PRESS JUMPS UP AND DOWN WITH GLEE AS EERO TURNS TO THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS. THE ASTUTE BOARD REALIZES FREE PUBLICITY COMING THEIR WAY, AFTER THE PRESS LEAVES, EERO SHOWS THE OVER BUDGET FIGURES TO THE BOARD, THEY SIGN OFF TO BUILD.

THE FIRM OF ANSHEN AND ALLEN IN SAN FRANCISCO WAS STARTED BY A COUPLE OF YOUNG ARCHITECTS TRYING TO DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM THE PACK. THEY READ THE SOCIETY PAGES AND CAME ACROSS A BANKER WANTING TO BUILD A HOUSE. SO THEY MADE OUT A FIFTY DOLLAR SAVING BOND IN HIS NAME ASKING FOR AN HOUR OF HIS VALUABLE TIME. SENDING MONEY TO A BANKER, NOW THAT IS CREATIVE. THE BANKER TOOK THE MEETING AND SPENT HOURS TELLING THEM ABOUT A ROMANTIC STYLE CASTLE HE WANTED. THEY WENT BACK TO THEIR OFFICE AND DESIGNED HIM AN ULTRA MODERN HOUSE WITH A LOT OF GIMMICK THINGS. TURNED OUT TO BE THEIR BACKBONE CLIENT. THIS SAME APPROACH WORKED FOR THEM AGAIN WITH EICHLER, WHICH THEY WERE A MAJOR ARCHITECT FOR MANY OF HIS EICHLER HOMES, WHICH ARE NOW SOUGHT AFTER MID CENTURY MODERN GEMS.

I CAME TO SAN FRANCISCO IN 1963 TO WORK FOR ANSHEN AND ALLEN. ANSHEN INTERVIEWED ME FOR THE JOB FOR ALL OF MAYBE FIFTEEN SLIDES BEFORE HE HIRED ME. I THOUGHT AT THE TIME WHAT KEENNESS OF INSIGHT, THE REALITY WAS, HE HAD JUST BEEN HIRED TO DO A HIGH RISE FOR THE BANK OF CALIFORNIA IN DOWNTOWN SAN FRANCISCO. WITHIN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS A GOOD SIZE DRAFTING ROOM WAS FILLED WITH VERY TALENTED DESIGNERS, INCLUDING THE EDEN BROTHER AND DONALD MCDONALD, NOW THE ARCHITECT FOR THE NEW BAY BRIDGE. THERE WAS AN IN OFFICE COMPETITION AND THE EADEN BROTHERS WON. I ENDED UP DOING A LARGE MODEL. ANSHEN HIRED A FILM MAKER, TOOK A MAJOR DRAFTING ROOM TURNED IT INTO CONFERENCE ROOM AND LAID THE GRANITE SLABS FOR THE PROPOSED PLAZA ON THE FLOOR. THE ENTRY HALLWAY FROM THE STREET.WAS REMODELED TO THE ELEVATOR, HE HIRED AN ELEVATOR OPERATOR ALL DRESSED UP IN WHITE AND BLACK. THE BUILDING ON POWELL WAS ABOUT 5 STORIES, BUT ANSHEN AND ALLEN OCCUPIED TWO FLOORS. THE DAY OF THE CLIENT MEETING HE PUT A SIGN OVER THE BUILDING DIRECTORY, SAYING ANSHEN AND ALLEN ARCHITECTS, INFERRING THE WHOLE BUILDING WAS THEIRS. THE BANK OF CALIFORNIA BUILT THE ANSHEN AND ALLEN HIGH RISE.

I WAS TELLING THIS STORY RECENTLY TO ONE OF MY DAUGHTERS, SHE ASKED DIDN’T YOU LEARN ANYTHING?

MAYBE READING THE FOUNTAINHEAD THREE OR FOUR TIMES DIDN’T HELP EITHER. ROARK NEVER SOUGHT WORK, CLIENTS CAME TO HIM. I DID NOT FOLLOW ROARK’ S EXAMPLE EITHER, HE STAYED IN THE SAME CITY.

THE PRESS DOES NOT SEEK ONE OUT, THE ARCHITECT SEEKS THE PRESS OUT.
HUSTLER IS THE MAGIC WORD.

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  • eric chavkin

    Great stories Glen, didn’t know any of these. David Hertz has that too, that showmanship hustle with the Malibu airplane house. I like it. It’s audacious, sensational, and has the wow factor.

    I love the grabbing of parts and re-assembling them.

    Eric

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    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      LIZ,

      THANKS FOR THE COMMENTS. I WILL DO A BLOG ON THE HUSTLER PERSONALITY.

      LUCK AND CONNECTIONS ARE BIG.

  • http://NA Large n’ Tiny

    Motivational, inspiring, and just another sad reality of the Architecture world. Maybe a designer can learn how to be a good schmoozer but can a schmoozer learn how to be a good designer? Glen start a school, teach us what we really need to know….this 3d crap isn’t cutting it anymore. I need, we need to be inspired once again…Thank you for sharing!

    LaR

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      LARGE N’TINY

      THANKS FOR THE COMMENT, A BIT TOO TIRED TO START A SCHOOL. TAKES A LOT OF ENERGY OF ORGANIZATION STUFF WHICH IS TOO MUCH.

      AS YOU SURMISED THE SECRET IS TO REALIZE FROM THE START THAT CLIENTS ARE IMPORTANT TO ALLOW ONE TO BUILD. I WILL DO A BLOG ON PAPER ARCHITECTURE THAT CHALLENGES THE IDEA ONE HAS TO BUILD TO BE RELEVANT. BUT BUILDING IS EVERY ARCHITECTS DESIRE.
      WISHING YOU THE BEST, GLEN

  • http://architectswives.wordpress.com liz ferrier

    These are fascinating accounts Glen (and wonderful drawings). You’ve certainly had the right talents and interests in the right place at the right time. Meeting, working with, observing, teaching/training so many designers and architects of note has been commonplace for you. Yet for all those opportunities and the positioning, it’s also been a really bad time for architects I think, as the profession and all the values that inform architectural practice have been eroded and contested by changing economic and social circumstances.
    Malcolm Gladwell talks about this a lot in Outliers, where he demonstrates that it not only takes talent and hard work (10,000 hours) to do well, but also a combination of luck, the right education and family background, and location (being near opportunities) and timing (so many of the super successful computer/technology entrepreneurs are around 55 yo. and from major American cities. But most importantly he says they have persuasive communication abilities. This is particularly difficult for architects I think, who by their very nature think differently to other people, may have contempt for such schmoozing and ‘talking up’ of ones work. However good architects may be at communicating to people who are on the same page as it were, they may not be so good at translating their vision for different audiences and clients. They’re often visuo spatial thinkers rather verbal types. Most of the uber architects have been performers or hustlers, extremely persuasive as well as having all the right opportunties and talent.

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    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      NINJAS

      WHAT AN INFORMATIVE SITE, I WILL MAKE IT A MUST TO REVIEW.

      THANKS,

      WISHING YOU THE BEST,

      GLEN