• Writing about Architecture

    Tweet 2012 Nov 6 2 Comments

    Last month Payette’s internal Women in Design (WID) group hosted a lunch discussion with Renee Loth, current editor of ArchitectureBoston, the quarterly “ideas” publication of the Boston Society of Architects. Renee shared her outsider perspective on the architecture-design scene in Boston, and recommended solutions on how architects can improve the communication gap between architecture and the general public. The overall consensus; it’s all in the storytelling. 

    Renee recognizes that architects and designers always have a great story to tell, but sometimes the ‘secret language’ we use to communicate our design intentions isolate the community at large. Standard architecture terminology and acronyms are great communication tools between industry-related professionals but might not be the best way to engage our peers from other, often design related industries in active conversation. Stories need to be relatable. As an example, Renee suggests for clarity, one choose the descriptive word, ‘random’ over of the similar, yet perplexing word, ‘stochastic.’ This is not to say architects need to ‘dumb down’ our intentions for the public, but rather, write with a welcoming, universal language, which helps steer the educational process and explain why design considerations matter. Renee is applying this principle to her writing in ArchitectureBoston to open up communication to a wider audience.

    While discussing the topic of communication, Renee also posed the questions, ‘Are architects out of touch?’ Do we sometimes design for the public or for other designers?

    The website unhappy hipsters pokes fun at a ‘lonely modern world,’ showcasing pictures of modern buildings and materials that seem disconnected with human activity. (For example, children playing on a polished, concrete floor.)  Many concrete buildings in Boston experienced backlash from the general public and have been described as isolated, ugly, and cold. In her discussion Renee recognized the love Boston feels for brick and the city’s historical tie to the  material, but she also mentioned that there are architects out there making beautiful, fluid designs that can make people ‘love’ cement again, like the new Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion.

    Renee left us with the encouragement to be extroverted when it comes to sharing our stories and making connections while acknowledging others work.

    To learn more about Renee and ArchitectureBoston, pick up a copy of their fall issue of ‘AB’ that includes Renee’s interview, ‘Memory is a Verb’ with architects Julian Bonder and Krysztod Wodiczko, discussing links between social memory and built memorials.

  • Renee's points about using universal, understandable language to communicate architecture to the general public are right on the money. For great examples of this, I recommend reading architecture reviews by Paul Goldberger ("Building Up and Tearing Down"), Herbert Muschamp ("Hearts of the City") and Ada Louise Huxtable ("Kicked a Building Lately?").
    November 7, 2012 Todd Larson
  • Great piece. And what a great thing to do - bring Renee into your firm for a discussion. I had the same thought, but you actually executed it! Nicely done.
    November 6, 2012 Karen E.
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