Friday, February 26, 2016

Architecture and...

My Generation.

There will always be shifts in who our leaders and clients will be.  Currently, we are seeing a shift in that the decision makers are in my own generation.  But it is just as true that this will shift again in time.  We, as architects, are a service driven industry.  As our clients change, so must we.  Cue The Who song...

"People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)."
The Who, My Generation.  

We were in our staff meeting and our longest tenured partner was entertaining the staff with a PowerPoint presentation outlining the distinguishing features between the various generations represented by the employees in our office. There has been a shift, of course, in the almost 40 years he has been with RLPS. The firm began with the Silent Generation, not only for our original partners but for our clients as well. 

The Baby Boomers, the group to which the presenter belongs, has been at the helm of the ship for some time now.  The characteristics provided by the study included optimistic, confident and goal-driven.  About 28% of our 75 staff members currently belong to this group.  Mostly positive traits were conferred on this generation, raising my suspicions as to which group the author of this study belongs.

Then to my Generation, which got shafted with the singular letter X designation.  Also called the MTV generation (which isn't much better) Gen X makes up another 25% of our staff.  Our traits are somewhat burdened by our experiences as latch key kids, but we also are shown to be way more comfortable with change and diversity than our predecessors.

June 9, 1997 cover of Time.  One of the first articles that said, "Hey, maybe they're not ALL bad".
And last but not least, the Millennials, where our office has seen a large bump in population in the last few years specifically, accounting for over 46% of the current staff makeup.  Along with negatives like fickle and lazy, they also called optimistic and socially and environmentally conscious.  This mixed bag of traits may become more definitive over time.  This generation will surely mature into itself, just as my own generation did, as referenced in the Time Magazine article from 1997.  But I think we can agree that Gen X has been kind of the middle child, situated between Boomers and the Millennials.

For the last two-and-a-half years, ever since the first baby boomers started to hit 65 -- which they will continue to do at a rate of 10,000 a day for another 16 years or so -- media attention on generational change has tended to focus either on them or on the socially tolerant, liberal-leaning politics of 20-somethings, or millennials. Generation X has been an afterthought. Which pretty much figures, given how its members have always viewed their inattentive treatment by society at large. Yet it is members of Generation X who are coming into full maturity and thus leaving their stamp on community life.
Bob Gurwitt May 2013 Article accessed 03.04.16

The point of our partner's presentation was to summarize some of the characteristics of each generation to show how we can complement each other and work together. Many of the buzz words used to describe each generation surely came from noteworthy sociological articles.  Though by definition they are generalizations, the terms seemed pretty spot on, at least when I thought in terms of myself.  For Gen X the descriptions listed were: adaptable, independent, prefers to work alone and cynical.  But when he came to one term for Gen X, our partner asked the group what it must mean: “hesitant to share”.

I happened to be in the front row, and as he looked around the room his eyes fell on me.  So I responded.  As opposed to a reluctance to share our toys, I said "I think we're slow to share emotionally".  Being a father to two Gen X'ers himself, a look of realization came over his face.  But he must have thought I could articulate the reason for such hesitance as a representative of my group.

"Why do you think that is?" he asked.

It came to my lips so fast, there couldn't have been any thought getting a laugh. Not even for someone like me who uses humor as a coping mechanism.

"I would rather not say."

Hmm.  Some generalizations may just hold true.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a theme and a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is "Architecture and…" which either left a lot to the imagination or allowed me to shoehorn the topic I was already thinking about into this post.  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Architecture and Photography

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Architecture and a Future Without Architects

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
architecture and __

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Architecture and Travel

Jes Stafford - MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Architecture and Gaming
Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
architecture and m&ms

Rosa Sheng - EquitybyDesign [EQxD] (@EquityxDesign)
Architecture And the Era of Connection

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#ArchiTalks 18: architecture and... the bigger picture

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks 18: Architecture and Mathematics

Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Architecture and Yoga

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Architecture and Ego / The Architect's Unique Struggle with 'Good' Design

Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Architecture and Kids

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Architecture and More

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Architecture and the Myth of the Master Builder

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Architecture and Interior Design

Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Architecture and Wrestling

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Architecture + Memories

Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
[#ArchiTalks 18] Architecture and Strange Travel Etiquette

Collier Ward - One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Architecture and Storytelling

Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Architalks 18: Architecture and ... Parenting

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Architecture and Ego

Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Architecture and Real Estate