What would it take?

What would it take to get YOU sharing your ideas on architecture with more of Pittsburgh, and more of the world?  The Pittsburgh Architectural Club (PAC) was recently restarted as a vehicle to increase the quantity and quality of dialogue about architecture in Pittsburgh.  PAC was conceived as a venue for all people in our community interested in architecture to dialogue in both professional and social ways.  We also hope to attract the attention of the world beyond southwest Pennsylvania to the treasures of our City.  We believe we’ll all benefit if the energy and communication related to architecture rises in our community.  But we need you to help. What would it take?

Never has the need for dialogue and collaboration been greater.  Architects everywhere are talking about the bad economy for building, the changing nature of the opportunities that architects and related trades take on, and even about the survival of the profession itself.  We need to discuss, and to join ranks to fight for the profession so many of us love.  Thom Mayne, in his essay “Change or Perish,” as well as many others I have talked to, including local architects, have warned that global trends seem to be moving away from the profession we once knew, perhaps even away from the profession we were trained to practice.  The need for signature “Design” may be changing, the opportunities for the art of architecture giving way to solution sets.  The centers of construction opportunities, building material production, and innovation in the field seem to be moving abroad.  Foreign architects are starting to be increasingly important players in the field: they will be grabbing more and more opportunities over there, and surely coming here soon to design and make buildings in our backyard.  What can we offer to counter these trends?  How can we convince Pittsburghers and the world of the value of what we do?

The reaction to these trends in our field has been varied, but certainly one notable trend has been “consolidation.”  One local architect ventured to say that in as little as 10-15 years, there may be only two types of architecture firms: the 1-2-person “boutique” offices, and big mega-firms that can deliver quickly and efficiently, world wide.  Many other large industries have gone through this trend, from cars to electronics and computers.  Will this trend continue in architecture?  Where would that leave you, your firm, and your aspirations?

But there is hope too.  Much of the world looks to us for meaning, comfort, and inspiration in the increasingly drab, mechanized, and corporatized world being creating.  Mark Gage recently wrote “Architects are by nature a talented lot.  We have always been, probably as far back as Vitruvius, on the cutting edge of combining high technology with operative theory… Case in point: a few years ago I was teaching at Yale, we invited Chris Bangle (then BMW’s Head of Design) to chat with our students. He said, verbatim, ‘I truly believe that what we do in cars, we do because you do it in architecture first, and where you go, we will follow’.”

The “democratization” of information and communication systems also offers hope.  The internet, and the proliferation of grassroots organizations, has allowed many more people and organizations to have a voice, and to act.  Small firms can have big impact.  Non-profits and clubs can carry a big megaphone.  Big firms can do amazingly inspirational work if the opportunities are presented and taken.

While architecture has always been a “service industry,” more and more buildings seem to be delivered without taking opportunity for “expression” and craft.  We can’t afford just to cater to “demand”; we have to attempt to create a market for the expertise we can offer, to create demand.  It seems clear to me that if architecture is to remain a kind of art form, alongside its service component, we must express ourselves in any medium we can.

We want the PAC and its website to be a gathering space for ALL architecture-related things in town.  We are eager to partner with ALL other organizations that focus on architecture, building, construction, the arts, and the built environment.  Let’s partner to get more people to architecture-related events, to get more people talking, to network with other you don’t yet know.  We want to create an architecture community as vibrant as those in the biggest cities, but show our particular Pittsburgh variation.

We had this PAC website professionally designed by some folks from Wall-to-Wall Studio to help in this process.   Through this website PAC aspires to bring together the many different organizations and ideas in town and their (often over-lapping) events.

We would like to become the central CALENDAR that people go to if they want to know what’s going on in architecture.   If you work with a different organization, we are happy to have you list your events on our site.  Look on our site to see what else is going on on the day of your event so we don’t all overlap.   If you know of, or hear of any events not listed, please let us know.

We want to feature HIGHLIGHT buildings in the area that members or friends worked on or admire.  A select archive of these highlight images are to rotate through on the website, changing every time you come back to the site.   Members will be encouraged to suggest examples of work to be included in “Highlights,” including their own, and we’ll upload the best.  We hope it draws some publicity to their work, but also gets members conversing and knowing the work that’s being done in the area.

We have a NEWS section where we can post news stories or any announcements members want to make.

We have created a page full of useful LINKS to make connections to local architecture-related organizations, as well as sister-organizations nation-wide and internationally.  If you would like us to list your organization, let us know.

We’ve provided ways to COMMUNICATE with PAC, to send us a message, to download a membership form, to contribute in many ways.

We want to be inclusive, spanning from professionals to laypersons, from veterans to beginners, from retired people to young adults, anyone who is interested in buildings, architecture, cities, infrastructure, and all the related arts that shape our built environment.  You could also do us a HUGE favor if you would promote the club and its website as a venue for all people interested in Pittsburgh architecture.  We’ll all benefit if the energy of the architecture community rises in our town.  We’re looking for hits to our website, visitors to events promoted through the site, club members, and above all comrades in architecture.   If we all do our little part…

What would it take? Please write a comment to this post to start the discussion.

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