PASSING THE HAT

THERE COMES A TIME WHEN THE CHEERING RECEDES AND THE HAT GOES INTO THE AUDIENCE. THE SAXOPHONE PLAYER ON THE STREET WITH HIS CAP ON THE GROUND. THE VIOLIN MUSIC IN THE SUBWAY TUNNEL WITH THE CASE OPEN. YOU CAN GET THE NEW YORK TIMES FOR NOTHING ON THE INTERNET AND A LOT OF OTHER THINGS, INCLUDING MY BLOG.

I AM VERY PLEASED THAT JUST AFTER A COUPLE OF MONTHS THERE IS MUCHO ACTIVITY ON MY BLOG. IT HAS TAKEN OFF LIKE A ROCKET. MANY OF YOU HAVE HELPED SPREAD THE WORD, AND I THANK YOU.

IN THE UNIFORM, WITH THE HIP COLLAR

I BELIEVE IN BARN RAISING AND POTLUCKS. A PITTANCE FROM MANY CREATES NEEDED SUBSTANCE. AS MY FIRST BLOG INDICATED, I AM CRAWLING OUT FROM HUGE DEBT AND HAVE EXPENSES AND OWE MONEY TO MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS. THIS SUMMER I HAD TO BORROW TO PAY THE RENT ON MY DINGBAT APARTMENT. MY WEB SITE TECH MAN HAS A FAMILY WITH TEENAGERS TO SUPPORT. HE HAD TO TAKE A HOME MORTGAGE LOAN TO SUPPORT THEM WHILE HE FINISHES SCHOOL. (THIS TYPE OF SITUATION ENDED UP IN FORECLOSURE FOR ME).

I ASK YOU TO TAKE THE SAME AMOUNT YOU SPEND ON A CUP OF COFFEE — SAY $3 — AND DROP IT INTO THE PAYPAL HAT TO KEEP ME FEELING LIKE I AM PART OF THE CAPITALIST WORLD. IF YOU DON’T CONTRIBUTE, DO NOT FEEL BAD. I LOOK AT PUBLIC TELEVISION ALL THE TIME AND NEVER CONTRIBUTE A DIME. EVEN IN THEIR FUND DRIVES, I STAY TUNED AND LISTEN TO ALL THE PROMOTIONAL MUSIC TO ENTICE DONATIONS. IF THEY ARE SO INTELLIGENT AND RIGHT, WHY HAVE THEY NOT INCLUDED ME IN THEIR PROGRAMMING?

THIS IS A HAPPY STATE OF AFFAIRS TO TURN A BUCK. MY DAUGHTER LUCIA, WHO MADE THE MOVIE “MY FATHER THE GENIUS” POINTS OUT THAT I DO NOT GET PROPERLY COMPENSATED FOR THE WORK I PERFORM. SHE IS CORRECT, BUT THAT SEEMS TO BE MY PLIGHT. MAYBE YOU INSIGHTFUL PEOPLE CAN CHANGE THAT. THIS IS NOT CHARITY; THIS IS COMPENSATION FOR SERVICES RENDERED.





MY APPROACH FOR YEARS TO A POTENTIAL CLIENT WAS: “LET ME DO A DESIGN FOR YOU, NO MONEY UP FRONT. I WILL LISTEN TO YOUR CONCERNS, NEEDS AND DESIRES. IF YOU LIKE MY ROUGH PRELIMINARY, YOU ARE OBLIGATED TO PAY ME AND PROCEED WITH THE PROJECT. IF NOT, YOU OWE ME NOTHING. IN RECENT YEARS, I USE THE SAME APPROACH WITH A MINIMUM RETAINER. IT RELAXES THE CLIENT AND ALLOWS ME TO DESIGN WHAT I THINK IS RIGHT WITHOUT ME FEELING GUILTY FOR CHARGING FOR SOMETHING THE CLIENT MIGHT NOT LIKE. BUT THERE IS NO ASSURANCE THAT ALL WILL GO AHEAD SMOOTHLY. MANY PRELIMINARY DESIGNS HAVE HAPPENED WITH NO GO-AHEAD TO BUILD. SOME HAVE WALKED AWAY. I GETTING MOMENTARY JOY OF CREATING WITH IMAGES, MODELS, AND DRAWINGS FOR MY JAMMED PORTFOLIO.

A POINT OF CONCERN IS TO GET COMPENSATED FOR CONSTRUCTION OBSERVATION, WITH CLAUSES IN THE CONTRACT FOR EXTENDED TIME PERIODS. 1) OBSERVATION OF CONSTRUCTION IS A MUST. 2) LOTS OF TIME AND EXTENDED TIME IS NEEDED TO DO IT PROPERLY.

OFTEN, I HAVE BEEN KILLED FINANCIALLY AT THE END OF CONSTRUCTION. ONCE REALITY KICKS IN AND THE CLIENT AND CONTRACTOR FLEX THEIR MUSCLES, RICH CLIENTS OFTEN DO NOT MAKE THE LAST PAYMENT DUE TO CONCERNS AND CUT THROAT ADVICE. I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED THIS PERSONALLY; I HAVE HEARD THIS DIRECTLY FROM ARCHITECTS THAT SERVE THE RICH.

TRUST ME

I WAS IN THE BUILDING DEPARTMENT YEARS AGO PUSHING A DESIGN THROUGH AND I WAS COMPLAINING TO THE PLAN CHECKER, WHO I USUALLY TRY AND TREAT AS A FRIEND AND CONFIDANT, THAT I WAS GETTING PAID INSIGNIFICANTLY TO DO MY ARCHITECTURE. HIS RESPONSE WAS, “YOU DO NOT NEED TO GET MUCH; YOU ARE DOING WHAT YOU LOVE.” IN MY OFFICE IN NICARAGUA, I HAD A COUPLE OF TABLES FULL OF ROUGH STUDY MODELS. THE MOTHER OF MY PARTNER’S WIFE WALKS IN. SHE HAS PUT FOUR KIDS THROUGH COLLEGE WHO MAJORED IN BUSINESS, AND SHE HERSELF OWNS AND OPERATES A CLOTHING MANUFACTURING BUSINESS. SHE LOOKS AT ME, MY SCISSORS, PAPER AND GLUE-GUN IN HAND, DOING MY THING, AND DECLARES: “YOU ARE NOT WORKING, YOU ARE PLAYING. ” WELL, WITH THIS INSIGHT OF HOW THE ARTIST ARCHITECT IS PERCEIVED, IT IS UNDERSTANDABLE THAT THE MONEY WORLD IS TOUGH.

ADAPTING TO NICARAGUA

IT IS REAL SIMPLE WHY ARCHITECTS DO NOT RESEARCH FOR THE GOOD OF HUMANITY. THEY RARELY GET PAID TO DO SO. ARCHITECTS FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL. THE STATUS QUO PREVAILS. OTHER PROFESSIONS DEPEND ON INNOVATION TO STAY VITAL, AND POUR TONS OF MONEY INTO RESEARCH. JUST LOOK AT THE ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY, COMPUTER WORLD AND MEDICAL FIELD. THERE ARE ALSO LABOR UNIONS AND LOBBYISTS CONTROLLING THE WAY BUILDINGS ARE BUILT. OH YES, WITH THE GREEN MOVEMENT THERE IS INNOVATION, BUT THE BIG PATTERNS OF VESTED INTERESTS ARE ALREADY IN PLACE. WHAT IS IRONIC IS THAT THE GREEN MOVEMENT HAS MADE IT MANDATORY TO RETROFIT AND OR BUILD NEW, WHICH IS A MAJOR MONEY MAKER. IS THIS REALLY GREEN? WHILE TEACHING AT SCI-ARC, OTHER PROFESSORS WERE CHASING CLIENTS AND SUBSIDIZING THEIR PRACTICE WITH PROFESSOR MONEY AND FREE STUDENT LABOR, I WAS DOING PROJECTS THAT I BELIEVED THE WORLD NEEDED. I WAS TAKING MY STUDENTS INTO A WORLD OF INNOVATION THAT CHALLENGED THE ESTABLISHMENT.

YOU WANT ECO FRIENDLY: HOW ABOUT THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE? (PHOTO JAN MARDIAN)

THE WORLD IS UPTIGHT, AND HONESTY SCARES THEM TO DEATH. SO BEING ON THE LOOSE IS REFRESHING TO OTHERS AND ME. HOW AN ARCHITECT SPINS HIS APPROACH TO GENERATE MONEY IS NOT MY FORTE. I JUST WANT TO BE PAID FOR PUSHING TO MAKE THINGS BETTER. THE BLOG IS CONTINUING, REGARDLESS. IT FEELS GREAT TO NOT YELL AT THE CEILING, AND INSTEAD RELEASE MY THOUGHTS AND CONCERNS ON THE BLOG.

IN SAVANNA GEORGIA THEY HELD A FILM FESTIVAL IN 2002 AND INVITED MY DAUGHTER LUCIA TO PRESENT HER FILM “MY FATHER THE GENIUS”. THEY FLEW ME IN FROM NICARAGUA, TO ADD A PERSONAL TOUCH AND TO GIVE A LECTURE TO THEIR ARCHITECTURAL DEPT. AS USUAL AT MY LECTURES, THE STUDENTS RAVED AND THE PROFESSORS WERE POLITE.

THE FESTIVAL GAVE A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD TO THE LATE SYDNEY POLLACK DIRECTOR AND ACTOR. HE DIRECTED NUMEROUS EXCELLENT FILMS. (I RECENTLY RE-WATCHED “THE WAY WE WERE” WITH ROBERT REFORD AND BARBRA STREISAND. IT WAS GREAT). AT THE FESTIVAL, SYDNEY GAVE A STOREFRONT LECTURE WITH ABOUT A HUNDRED PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE. I WAITED TILL THE QUESTION AND ANSWER WAS TERMINATING TO INTRODUCE MYSELF AS THE FATHER OF A FILM MAKER, AND THAT I HAD CLAIR POLLACK (WIFE OF SYDNEY) IN MY CLASS AT SCI-ARC AND HER LARGE TENSION TENT STRUCTURE THAT SHE HAD DESIGNED WAS IN MY DAUGHTER’S MOVIE. THEN I MENTIONED THAT SYDNEY HAD TURNED DOWN A SCRIPT OF MINE ON THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE. THE AUDIENCE STARTED TO COME ALIVE. SYDNEY WAS MAKING A DOCUMENTARY ON FRANK GEHRY AT THE TIME; I MENTIONED THAT FRANK WAS IN MY DAUGHTER’S FILM TOO. I HAD CAUGHT SYDNEY’S ATTENTION BY NOW AND HE ASKED: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” I SAID, MY DAUGHTER HAD MADE A MOVIE ON ME AND THAT SHE WOULD PROBABLY WIN AN AWARD AND WE WOULD BE ON STAGE WITH HIM. MY QUESTION TO HIM WAS: “I HAVE BEEN AROUND HERE FOR TWO DAYS AND HAVE SEEN THESE STRUGGLING FILM MAKERS TALKING ABOUT MONEY TO DO THEIR WORK. HOW DID YOU SYDNEY DEAL WITH THIS?” HE ANSWERED THAT HE WENT TO NEW YORK AND STUDIED, AND BECAME A TEACHER AT THE NEIGHBORHOOD PLAYHOUSE SCHOOL OF THEATRE. THEN, HE STARTED DOING STUFF. THERE DID NOT SEEM TO BE A SENSE OF STRUGGLE IN HIS CAREER. HE REALLY WAS NOT IN TOUCH WITH THE STRUGGLES THAT IT TAKES TO MAKE FILMS WITH NO MONEY THAT THE AUDIENCE REFLECTED. HE HAD TALENT, THE RIGHT BREAKS, AND MET THE RIGHT PEOPLE EARLY ON, LIKE ROBERT REDFORD AND BURT LANCASTER. HE BECAME VERY SUCCESSFUL AND OWNED HIS OWN JET PLANE. HOLLYWOOD STORY.

YOU WANT TO DISCUSS SOMETHING?

TWO NIGHTS LATER MY DAUGHTER WON BEST DOCUMENTARY AND WE WERE ON THE STAGE AND I ASKED: “IS SYDNEY IN THE AUDIENCE? I WANT TO TALK TO HIM ABOUT ARCHITECTURE.”

THE SOUTHERNERS REALLY KNOW HOW TO THROW GALA PARTIES AND THAT NIGHT WONDERING AROUND, A YOUNG BUCK COMES UP AND NUDGES ME ANNOUNCING, THERE IS SYDNEY OVER THERE, (LIKE SICK HIM). AS I WAS APPROACHING SYDNEY, WHO WAS OF GOOD STATURE, I COULD READ HIS BODY MOVEMENTS GO INTO SHOCK. NOW HERE IS A MAN, PROBABLY A BILLIONAIRE WITH ALL THE CONNECTIONS AND SUCCESS IN THE WORLD CRINGE WITH MY ARRIVAL. WE TALKED ABOUT HIS WIFE AND THE MOVIE ON FRANK, HE ASSURED ME IT WOULD NOT BE A FLUFF PIECE. I SUGGESTED THAT HE GET SOME INTERVIEWS WITH PEOPLE THAT DID NOT LIKE FRANK’S WORK. THE EDITOR SYDNEY CHOOSE FOR FRANK’S MOVIE WAS THE LATE KAREN SCHMEER (WHO RECENTLY DIED A TRAGIC DEATH AT THE PRIME OF HER CAREER IN NEW YORK BY A THIEF ESCAPING FROM A CRIME AND DRIVING RECKLESSLY.) KAREN WAS A VERY CLOSE FRIEND AND ROOMMATE OF MY DAUGHTER LUCIA SMALL. SHE WAS ALSO THE EDITOR ON MY DAUGHTER’S FILM “MY FATHER THE GENIUS”. KAREN’S TAKE WAS, (WHICH I HEARD SECOND HAND) THAT “SKETCHES WITH GEHRY” WAS CONTROLLED BY GEHRY TO NOT REVEAL ANYTHING SUBSTANTIAL THAT WOULD SHOW GEHRY IN A NEGATIVE LIGHT. IT WAS A FLUFF PIECE. THIS POINT HAS BEEN MADE BY CRITICS AS WELL, SUCH AS IN THE LA TIMES. MY READ ON SYDNEY’S BEHAVIOR WAS THAT HE WAS FRIGHTENED OF ME. I WAS NOT ONE OF GEHRY’S ESTABLISHMENT BUDDIES. THIS WAS NOT CHARLIE ROSE, AND HE HAD NO CONTROL OVER ME. WITH NO MONEY AND BEATEN UP, I WAS DANGEROUS TO HIM.

THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE CROWN THAT MESSES WITH MY HEAD (PHOTO JAN MARDIAN)

I AM REMINDED OF THE SCENE IN THE GRADUATE WHEN DUSTIN HOFFMAN STARTS POUNDING ON THE GLASS WALL IN THE BALCONY OF THE CHURCH TO DISRUPT THE WEDDING, THEN, STEALING THE BRIDE OUT OF THE CHURCH BY JAMMING THE EXIT DOOR WITH A CROSS, AND RUNNING OFF TO HITCH A RIDE ON A BUS WHILE MRS. ROBINSON, THE BRIDE’S MOTHER, (WHO IS THE BEST THING IN THE MOVIE) YELLING IN HORROR AS IT HAPPENS; ALL THE WHILE, THE AUDIENCE IN THE THEATER SCREAMING WITH DELIGHT. BUT IF YOU TRIED PULLING THIS OFF IN REAL LIFE, EVEN YOUR CLOSE FRIENDS WOULD TURN ON YOU.





WISHING YOU THE BEST,

GLEN

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  • http://www.metamechanics.com Chris Teeter

    Was trying not to be the first…and you covered a lot.

    The gehry documentary – I’d say whimsical, sketches? Hiis own descriptions on how he made his buildings from fish inspirations to how he gets clients is kind of laid back – I liked hockey, eisner liked hockey, boom I was doing disney…we all know its a lot harder than that. Its the kind of documentary you show freshman in architecture school..as opposed to my first studio prof stating – half of you will drop out, the other half will quit architecture, and half of those who do architecure only one or two will do meaningful design, he was right of course.

    The last payment and construction observation – this is a key reason to architecture demise as far as public importance. First, CA should be 50 percent of fee, real CA, like every day at site and forensic check ups on means and methods. CDs, real CDs, not conceptual design intent that gets completely reworked in the shop drawings, 35 percent of the fee. That’s leaves 15 percent for conceptual design, which is what most firms do these days anyway, even if the copy pasted design detail with 3 part spec is signed and sealed…its pretty much conceptual.

    This last quarter I am sure has resulted in less and less architects inspecting anything and more and more lawsuits because contractor cuts corners on items hidden by the finishes that only rear their ugly heads after owner has sold property. Because less and less architects inspect, less and less know anything about construction and hence contractors do what they want anyway.

    So the 85 percent of what could be an architects fee is divided between CMs and special consultants (often architects who are specialized)

    Glenn, I wouldn’t worry about all those people with serious psychological and self esteem issues who can’t handle the truth, they will never understand and that isn’t your problem. Now its amusing to have you call them out. Good post (I am broke this month, building a design – business expense tax deductible)

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      CHRIS,

      THANKS FOR THE COMMENTS, I WAS BEGINNING TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT READERS HAD NOT BEING MOVED MY THE STORIES. I HAVE A TON TO TELL, SO I WILL KEEP CHURNING THEM OUT.

      THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF STORIES I CAN TELL, ONE ON PERSONAL THINGS IN THE PROFESSION AND THE OTHER ON MY DESIGNS. I LIKE TO COMBINE THEM, AND THAT IS WHAT SEEMS TO DRIVE THE BLOG. I STILL WANT TO PLEASE, WHICH REALLY SHOULD NOT BE THE OBJECTIVE. THE PLEASING COMES FROM TELLING IT STRAIGHT AND LETTING THE CHIPS FALL.

      GLEN

  • Don

    “THE WORLD IS UPTIGHT, AND HONESTY SCARES THEM TO DEATH.”

    Hear, hear and hear!

    If you chose to live life on your own terms, you not only have to swim upstream with respect to finances, but you’re also subject to a subtle resentment by the majority of people who’ve sunk themeslves into the game.

    Or maybe I’m being paranoid…

    I think that some folks don’t always want to work with me not because of a lack of talent or experience or competence, it’s simply that they are worried I might do or create or say something that would crack the thin veneer of acceptibility we’ve created to help us get through the day. I’m not confrontational at all; it’s just that I have a hard time nodding my head in agreement when I think something is not quite right.

    One of the fundamental rules of the “game” is that we all have to agree to play nice and not stray from a very small, carefully prescibed reality. We want everything to be happy and safe and clean and we don’t want to be reminded about the messy reality that most people on the world have to exsit in, (a messy reality that we need to maintain our lifestyle: take a good hard look at how our clothes are made or how are food is produced).

    I’m glad you’re here, Glen. Your experiences are informative and inspirational.

    Don
    Los Angeles

    • http://www.metamechanics.com Chris Teeter

      Don thanks for coming out of the woodwork among many other characters on this blog, and of course thank you Glen.
      this thin veneer frustrated me so much years ago, damn near enlisted in the Marine Corp…
      re-iterating Don’s last sentence.

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      DON,

      YOU SHOULD BE WRITING THE BLOG, YOU SAY IT IN SUCH A CLEAR AND CONCISE MANNER. THERE IS A BIT OF PAIN THAT LIES BENEATH THE SURFACE. THAT IS LIFE.

      WISHING YOU THE BEST,

      GLEN

      • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

        CHRIS TEETER,

        I AM GLAD YOU ARE ON TOP OF IT ALL, RUNNING AWAY JUST FINDS THE SAME ISSUES IN ANOTHER SETTING. IT TAKES A LOT OF EFFORT TO LIVE IN PARADISE, AND WHEN THERE, I HAVE DISCOVERED PARADISE IS REMOVED FROM THE ISSUES I WANT TO ADDRESS.

        THANKS,

        CHRIS