Today, December 12th, the architectural world changed forever. Is that an overstatement? Entirely, but the AIA did launch a new social media campaign that it's really excited about. It's called "Look Up" and the AIA said it marks the next phase of its "multi-year repositioning initiative" to increase the public's awareness about the importance of design. Like all good social media campaigns, "Look Up" came into this world with a slickly produced promotional video and, expectedly, a hashtag: #ilookup. The video is awash in stock footage of clouds, skyscrapers, water, natural landscapes, a sunrise or two, and some science-y looking things. Mixed between the imagery are architectural models, blueprints, and noteworthy buildings (hello AIA gold medalist Moshe Safdie, twice). Take out the architecture moments and the video is almost a carbon copy of "This Is a Generic Brand Video," a parody created by Dissolve, a purveyor of stock footage. "Tell me," says a deep-voiced narrator in the AIA's video, "what do you see when you look up? Walls? Windows? Or do you see something else?" Before the narrator can answer his own question, there are some time-lapsed stars, a few trees, an intricate ceiling, a woman staring into the sun, and then, boom, he's back. "To be an architect is to look up, even before we put pencil to paper." With the video comes the inevitable Twitter campaign which asks followers to "look up" and post what they see under the hashtag #ilookup. For example, Twitter user Manuel posted a photo of the Willis Tower and Craig Toocheck saw the Chrysler Building. But here's the thing, sometimes when you "look up" you don't see the most interesting thing. Case in point, Toocheck's previous tweet: https://twitter.com/ctoocheck/status/543507558397657089/ It didn't take long for the AIA's followers to more directly attack the premise behind the "I Look Up" campaign. Ethan Kent, the senior vice president of the Project for Public Spaces, tweeted that he hoped the AIA would put more focus on human scale and place-making over looking skyward. To that, the AIA tweeted back "haters gonna hate," spurring a number of additional tweets among urbanism circles. The Institute has since deleted that tweet. Why don't we all just calm down and wait to see what Arcade Fire thinks. https://twitter.com/AIANational/status/543487974827388928
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The party’s over, folks. Take down the streamers, re-cork that bottle of champagne, and turn off the Taylor Swift. Actually, on second thought, turn the Swift back on because “Shake It Off” might be exactly what we need to hear right now. We’ll tell it to you straight. After months of strong momentum, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dropped from a 55.2 in September to a 53.7 in October. Here’s where Ms. Swift plays back into the data set—since any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings, things are still in the positive territory so we can shake, shake, shake the October Architecture Billings Index score off, more or less. By region, the South was still feeling that summer heat, posting a strong 58.4. The West wasn’t too far behind with a 56.1, followed by the Midwest at 54.4. The Northeast broke the positive streak with a sub-50 score of 47.0. We're not mad Northeast, we're just...disappointed? Okay, moving on. Let's talk sector, shall we? It was mixed practice at the front of the pack with a 56.9, followed by multi-family residential (54.7), institutional (54.4), and commercial / industrial (52.3). While things are still positive overall, the Design Contracts Index and the Project Inquiry Index both lost some steam, dropping from 56.8 to 56.4 and from 64.8 to 62.7, respectively. But despite these disappointing figures, AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker remained optimistic. “Though it has been slow in emerging, we’re finally seeing some momentum develop in design activity for nonprofits and municipal governments, and as such we’re seeing a new round of activity in the institutional sector,” he said in a statement. “It will be interesting to see if and how the results of the mid-term Congressional and gubernatorial elections impact this developing momentum.” In short, shake it off.
Via the Chicago Tribune, here are AIA Chicago's 2014 architecture award winners, revealed Monday: DISTINGUISHED BUILDING Honor Award •Beverly Shores Residence, Beverly Shores, Ind. — Booth Hansen •Jinao Tower, Nanjing, China — Skidmore, Owings & Merrill •Morgan Street Live + Work, Chicago — UrbanLab •Orchard Willow Residence, Chicago — Wheeler Kearns Architects •William Jones College Preparatory High School, Chicago — Perkins+Will Citation of Merit •FKI Tower, Seoul, South Korea — Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture •New Faith Baptist Church International Worship Center, Matteson, Ill. — Harding Partners •Ohio State University South Campus Chiller, Columbus, Ohio — Ross Barney Architects •WMS Boathouse at Clark Park, Chicago — Studio Gang Architects •University of Minnesota at Duluth Labovitz School of Business & Economics, Duluth, Minn. — Perkins+Will Special Recognition •Harbert Cottage, Harbert, Mich. — Searl Lamaster Howe Architects •Jacob K. Javits Convention Center renovation, New York City — FXFOWLE/Epstein joint venture •Wrigley Building, Chicago — Goettsch Partners INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE Honor Award •American Society for Clinical Pathology Expansion, Chicago — Epstein •Booth 455, Chicago — Woodhouse Tinucci Architects •Kids Science Labs, Chicago — Woodhouse Tinucci Architects Citation of Merit •Chapel and Office Wing, Lisle, Ill. — Harding Partners Special Recognition •PAHC Studio, Chicago — Studio Gang Architects •Pearson Residence, Chicago — Searl Lamaster Howe Architects DIVINE DETAIL Honor Award •Congregation Solel reading table, Highland Park, Ill. — Eckenhoff Saunders Architects •University of Minnesota at Duluth, Pickle Barrel Scuppers, Duluth, Minn. — Ross Barney Architects Citation of Merit •Soochow Securities Headquarters, Suzhou, China — Goettsch Partners •University of Chicago Administration Building Portal, Chicago — Krueck + Sexton Architects Special Recognition •Charles Deering Library West Entry, Evanston, Ill. — HBRA Architects •Illinois State Capitol Exterior Doors, Springfield, Ill. — Vinci-Hamp Architects UNBUILT DESIGN Honor Award •Liansheng Financial Center, Taiyuan, China — Skidmore, Owings & Merrill •U.S. Air Force Academy Center for Character & Leadership Development, Colorado Springs, Colo. — Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Citation of Merit •Nozul Lusail Marina, Doha, Qatar — Skidmore, Owings & Merrill •Tata Main Hospital, Jamshedpur, India — CannonDesign •Urban Filter Office Building, Geneva — John Ronan Architects Special Recognition •Bus Rapid Transit: HALO, Chicago — RTKL Associates •Haiti Cathedral, Port-au-Prince, Haiti — Epstein/Metter Studio •Virtual Water, Queens, N.Y. — UrbanLab
The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) report is back and it’s ready to party so drop that Monday morning cup of coffee and take a sip of the hot data the AIA is serving up. Last month, while we were all just going about our everyday lives, the ABI was soaring to new heights. Any score above a 50 indicates an increase in billings, but the ABI wasn’t satisfied with playing it safe. No, it went all the way to 55.2. Sure, it’s not the 55.8 that got the world talking in July, but it’s still good news and better than August’s 53.0, am I right? There's more. The New Projects Inquiry, presumably not wanting to be upstaged by the big kid on campus, did some work of its own and leaped from 62.6 to 64.8. As for the Design Contracts Index, it ticked down from 56.9 to 56.8. Get better soon, Design Contracts Index. We’re pulling for you. “Strong demand for apartment buildings and condominiums has been one of the main drivers in helping to keep the design and construction market afloat in recent years,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in a statement. “There continues to be a healthy market for those types of design projects, but the recently resurgent Institutional sector is leading to broader growth for the entire construction industry.” So how did it all shake out? By region the South performed best with a 55.3 followed by the Midwest at 55.1. The West kept it cool with a 54.2, and the Northeast plunged but played it safe at 51.0. Over on the sector side of things, multi-family residential had the strongest month with a 55.3. Institutional wasn’t too far behind at 54.9 and was followed by mixed practice at 53.8. Industrial kept us on the edge of our seats with a nail-bitingly close 50.8. Before we leave you today, let’s just check in on the Projects Inquiry Index. Last time was at 62.6. Where did things stand one month later? 64.8.
The Detroit Design Festival is underway, featuring 30 design events and 500 designers through Sunday, September 28. Panel discussions, art installations and flash-mob style gatherings are all on the docket for the six-day festival, which is sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) launched the festival in 2011 “in an effort to develop the economic potential of the city’s design and creative talent,” according to a press release. Corporate sponsors like Toyota have teamed up with the local AIA chapter to celebrate designers both celebrated and unknown. Read more about the festival on its website, where you can also find a full schedule of events.
As the summer turns to fall, it’s easy to look back and remember the season that was. There was that outdoor concert, that weekend trip to Montreal, that margarita served in a mason jar, and that time you and your neighbor Karl tried to repave the deck. Hey there, chin up, no need to get so nostalgic just yet, that's what the winter is for. There is one last way to relive that glorious summer right now. How? Through the Architecture Billings Index (ABI), of course. With the newly-released August-time data it's like the Autumnal Equinox never even happened at all. Lather up the sunscreen and throw on those shades because here we go! In August, the ABI posted a 53.0, which is down from July’s 55.8, but it's not all bad news, because, say it with us, “any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.” Exactly, very good. A similar story played out with the new projects inquiry index; it dropped from 66.0 in July to 62.6. No reason to get all bent out of shape, things are still looking up. For one, design contracts jumped from 54.9 to 56.9 in August. “One of the key triggers for accelerating growth at architecture firms is that long-stalled construction projects are starting to come back to life in many areas across the country,” AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a statement. “Long awaited access to credit from lending institutions and an increasing comfort level in the overall economy has helped revitalize the commercial real estate sector in recent months. Additionally, though, a crucial component to a broader industry-wide recovery is the emerging demand for new projects such as education facilities, government buildings and, in some cases, hospitals.” Let’s dig into the numbers even further, shall we? By region, the Northeast led the pack at 58.1, followed by the South at 55.1, and then the West at 52.5. The Midwest squeaked over the positive line at 51.0. By sector, multi-family residential pulled a Northeast and posted a 58.1. Mixed practice wasn’t far behind at 57.1, followed by institutional at 54.0. Industrial really played it close in August posting a 50.4. Living on the edge now are we, Industrial?
You should probably be sitting down for this because there is some big news regarding the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) that is not for the faint of heart. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s proceed. So everyone knows that the ABI has really been flexing its muscle this summer—it posted a 52.6 in May and then a 53.5 in June. Those are pretty solid scores given that anything above a 50 indicates an increase in billings, but then July happened—and it happened in a big way. Last month, the ABI posted a 55.8. That's important news considering the index hasn't been that high since 2007—since before the whole global financial meltdown. What truly makes this news so special is that everyone played a part. By region, the Northeast won the gold with a score of 55.5, the South took silver with a strong 55.1, and the Midwest got the bronze at 54.1. While the West didn't take home a medal, it still scored in the positive territory with a 53.5. So, if you think about it, they are all winners. The same can be said for each sector. Mixed practice really blew things out of the water with a score of 61.0, multi-family residential wasn't too far back at 56.5, institutional posted a respectable 53.3, and commercial/industrial landed in positive territory at 51.2.How about the design contracts index? How did that do? Well, how does a 54.9 sound to you? Pretty good, right? And the new project inquiries index? Well, have you ever heard of a 66.0? And that’s not all! The forecast looks good too. “Business conditions for the design and construction marketplace, and those industries associated with it, appear to be well-positioned for continued growth in the coming months,” AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, said in a statement. “The key to a more widespread boost in design activity continues to be the institutional sector which is starting to exhibit signs of life after languishing for the better part of the last five-plus years.” Let’s finish things off here today with just a little more data. The American Society of Interior Designers recently announced that in June the Interior Design Billings Index (IDBI) scored a 55.8 and the Inquiries Index went even higher to 58.2. Sure, that’s obviously down from May, but still positive, still positive.
Chicago architect John Vinci will receive this year’s lifetime achievement award from the AIA Chicago, the local chapter announced in June. Vinci’s work includes preservation activism—he helped reconstruct Louis Sullivan’s Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room inside the Art Institute of Chicago—and original designs like the Arts Club of Chicago and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. He is a principal of the design firm Vinci Hamp Architects. “No one has moved so effortlessly from past to present to future as John Vinci,” AIA Chicago executive vice president Zurich Esposito said in a statement. “His designs are rooted in history and informed by his scholarship yet most certainly of our time.” Vinci will be feted at Designight, AIA Chicago’s 59th Annual Design Excellence Awards, at Navy Pier on October 24. Last year’s recipient was Stanley Tigerman. Read more about Vinci at the Art Institute of Chicago's website, where he talks to Betty J. Blum about his career, design philosophy, and discovering preservation while at the Illinois Institute of Technology:
If you believe in something and fight for it, it's a strong statement about the society. And certainly preservation has had a hold on the society. Cities are rethinking themselves."
Yes, the rumors are true—the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) is in positive territory for the second straight month. That's right, the second straight month. After the ABI posted a solid 52.6 in May there was no telling what could happen next. Would it go up? Would it go down? Would it maybe even stay the same? It was anyone's guess. Today, those questions were answered and what we got was even more good news. In June, the ABI posting jumped to 53.5 in June. And that's not all, folks. The new projects inquiry index did some climbing of its own—moving from 63.2 to 66.4. So what’s to account for this blockbuster summer? “The recent surge in both design contracts and general inquiries for new projects by prospective clients is indicative of a sustainable strengthening across the construction marketplace,” AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, said in a statement. “With the first positive reading since last summer in billings at institutional firms, it appears that design activity for all major segments of the building industry is growing. The challenge now for architecture firms seems to be finding the right balance for staffing needs to meet increasing demand.” To the data! By region, the Midwest led the pack with a score of 56.3 followed by the South (53.9) and the Northeast (51.1), and the West (48.7). Any score above 50 signifies an increase in billings, but you know that by now. By sector, multi-family residential (57.7) and mixed-use practice (53.8) had the best month. They edged ahead of commercial/industrial (53.1), and institutional, which eeked a positive score of 50.2. All good news. The design contracts index, the new metric on the block, was also in positive territory at 55.7. See you here same time next month.
Are you heading to the AIA Convention? Come visit The Architect's Newspaper at booth 4940. Meet executive editor Alan G. Brake and Midwest editor Chris Bentley from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Relax in design classics provided by Carl Hansen & Son. Recharge your phone. Have a coffee or water on us. Network with friends and colleagues. Or just wave! See you in Chicago!
And there it is, after months in negative territory the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) jumped into positive territory in May with a score 52.6—that’s up from 49.6 in April. Any score over 50 signals an increase in billings. The new projects inquiry also jumped from 59.1 to 63.2. Rounding out the positive news is the AIA’s new design contracts indicator, which posted a 52.5. Nice job by all. By region, the strongest gains were in the South (58.1) and the Midwest (51.3). The Northeast (47.6) and West (46.9) had a rougher month. And by sector, the breakouts were multi-family residential (58.2), commercial/industrial (53.6), and mixed practice (50.4). Institutional was one the other side of the ledger with a 47.3. “Volatility continues to be the watchword in the design and construction markets, with firms in some regions of the country, and serving some sectors of the industry, reporting strong growth, while others are indicating continued weakness,” AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a statement. “However, overall, it appears that activity has recovered from the winter slump, and design professions should see more positive than negative numbers in the coming months.” In other data news, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) released a statistical report this week that found the "median age of people at initial licensure is the lowest in 10 years." Essentially, architects are getting licensed earlier in life—the median age for licensure is currently 34. The board also found "an increase since 2011 in the number of women applying for NCARB Records. The percentage of women applying continues to hold around 40 percent—a marked increase from 10 percent in the early 1990s.