AIA CRAN Chronicle Article, February and March 2016

The following is the link to the published article of

AIA CRAN (Custom Residential Architect Network) Chronicle, February, March 2016 “TECHNOLOGY From the Perspective of an Architect Who Still Hand Drafts”

CRAN Chronicle: Technology Article

I checked the link and I can't find it so here's
the unedited version if you want to spend a little longer reading it :)

From the perspective of an architect who still hand drafts.

                                        Credit: Michele Grace Hottel, my desk

I find it kind of ironic that I am writing an article about Technology because I will confess, I do not use any CADD programs in my practice.   AutoCad, Revit, etc., etc., it is all the same to me, it is drafting on the computer and ever since I had a class in AutoCad version 1, in architecture school, I was less than enchanted by the whole thing.  I guess because I could actually draw and draft by hand, very well, I was not intrigued at all by this “innovation”.  I can open files and make some changes and I have colleagues who excel at the skill and if I was ever approached by a client who had to have their project in any of the above formats, have offered to help me in that regard.

I do however, use a computer for writing and my blog and most other business (except for completing AIA Contracts, because I still use a typewriter for those) which brings me to my history of Technology of the computer.

When I was a senior in high school, I was encouraged by my mother to take a personal typing class so that I could write my papers in college.  I had my home room in a typing class filled with IBM Selectrics, that we were forbidden to touch but the second the homeroom and typewriting teacher would leave the room, several other students would flick the switch and type furiously creating such a din and by the time she ran back to the room, the typewriters would be absolutely silent.  

So, when I went to take the personal typing class, I thought it would be easy as I had some experience with these machines and we had a manual typewriter at home.  What nobody had told me, was that in order to be an expert typist, one cannot look at the keys while typing!!!  I was doing horribly in the class because we were still expected to do timed typing and still had to be accurate as well.  I only passed because the teacher became ill and we had a substitute for the rest of the trimester who thought that we should be graded on our improvement in the class and so it ended well.  Well, as I relayed this story to some architects last week, I said, “Well, I did not believe that I would ever have to type BECAUSE, I planned on being an architect and having a secretary (now referred to as an administrative assistant) do all of my typing and phone calls”.  One of the other architects thought that was hilarious that I had that insight as a high school student.

Of course, the reality is that when I wasn’t able to have my mother (who was a paralegal and when she would want to correct my grammar or language and I would tell her that it was exactly what I wanted to say and those were the terms that we used in architecture, “you are definitely going to be a professional because you speak like all of the attorneys I have worked for, they make up things too”.) type for me, I was really at the mercy of how much correctable tape and wite-out was available.  As for other technology in the late seventies, early eighties, my stepfather who was a design engineer who designed printing presses was super excited when he came home with a black rectangular object called a calculator, had shown us a fax machine at his office, and a rubber tube that “bent light” (LED). My brother and I didn’t understand how that would make any difference in our lives, and were too busy taking “selfies” on the xerox to machine to really listen to him talk about the future.  The only advice I can give to parents out there is, “Don’t listen to your snotty teenagers when they laugh at your ideas; you could make millions”.

I did take a history of the computer class in my first year of college, so that I was familiar with what Binary Code was and Basic, Cobol and Fortran and how it took up rooms and rooms of machines and accomplished very little from what I could see in a very long time and there seemed to be an inordinate amount of typing involved for anyone who was actually a computer science major.  

I went to Denmark for a year for architecture school in 1986-87, and I brought my Nikon FG (black body of course) and a ton of film, I would take photos and mail the canisters back to my parents who would develop them because it was very expensive in Europe, and in turn my parents would say, “I know there are a lot of buildings in Europe that you are seeing but could you please put yourself in front of one of them”.  We wrote letters because the phone rates were so incredibly high that a thirty minute phone call could cost $100.00.  We took the train everywhere and travelled and nobody knew what we were doing for days at a time because there was no Facebook.

So, returning from study abroad, imagine my surprise when we discovered that while we were gone, the personal computer had arrived at the campus and the College of Environmental Design (ENV) had one computer lab in an adjacent building with about five MacIntosh computers. That’s right Millenials, we had to share five computers between the Schools of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning.  Well, sometimes we would go “down the hill” to the main computer lab BUT why would we have gotten to know Business students or Computer Science majors who would go on to establish Software companies who would make a bazillion dollars and that would have supplied us with plenty of work for the rest of our lives when we could stay in our own little world at “the top of the hill”?  

                              Credit: Apple Computer Inc.

 And even though my experience with the company of “Apple” at that time was limited to attending both US Festivals where Steve Wozniak was introduced to the audience and then the real entertainment started, I was enamored by the little smiley face computer icon that would appear when one turned on the Mac.  And the amazing thing was that I could type and type and no longer have to worry about whether I was making any mistakes, because I could just hit “delete” and it would disappear!  I could write and the computer could sense whether I was spelling things correctly or if there was a grammatical error!  The computer helped make a typist out of me!

                                 Credit: Apple Computer Inc., Susan Kare Icons

I personally did not own a MacIntosh, but I had a few friends who owned them.  I was later given a couple Macs and I bought a used MacBook and never really used it because I wasn’t connected to the internet.   Years later, when my youngest child was in the fourth grade, he told me that he had to do a science report and he was going to do it on the history of the computer and I offered to help him because I had taken that class in 1983.  So I told him the history that I remembered and then he said after a couple minutes, “I am doing it on the history of the laptop computer”.  I didn’t know there was a history but after that project, I did.  I sent him in with the Mac and the carrying case with the shoulder straps (the first “portable computer backpack” that weighed about fifty pounds) and the MacBook

                                         Credit: Apple Computer Inc. MacBook

Twenty years ago, the offices I worked were primarily custom residential and still drafted by hand, we still made blueprints, and we used a computer for all of the office management, word processing and billing. Most people did not own a cell phone and the ones who did had a car phone because quite literally you didn’t take the suitcase it was in out of the car.  We had numerous catalogs and drawings in endless piles, okay we still have those….

So, here I am in 2016, I still use a pencil and trace for sketching, I still use a lead holder and vellum for drafting.  However, my practice has still changed multitudes because of Technology.
I have a desktop, a laptop, a printer (with a fax machine incorporated into it where the fax is rarely used because of a thing called a scanner), and a digital camera.  We don’t make blueprints anymore (even though people call asking for them).  We can give other architects, consultants, clients and contractors drawings, even my hand drawn ones, by scanning and sending them via the internet.

And I own a smartphone, and it is an iPhone.  

                                   Credit: Michele Grace Hottel, Apple iphone

Which quite literally, can almost transport you to the meeting or job site, though if you really want to get the project or a signoff from the plan checker or inspector, you will show up in person. I can send emails, I can take photos and video and send it instantaneously to people who maybe care about it, and of course this is a curse and a blessing.  I am seriously considering making an addendum to the contract about “Text Messages are not a formal means of communication and should not be used after business hours”.

Of course I think that one of the best ways to use Technology in our practice is our sharing of ideas and stories through “Social Media” and while some architects are somewhat wary of this way of disseminating information, and I am not for divulging all of my life on it, I enjoy the camaraderie of social networking.  Where once architects were limited to getting together at the AIA conventions once a year, we can now connect in less cost-prohibitive ways. several times a year or a day depending upon how much time you want or have, to put into it.  One year ago, after I made a comment on women in architecture on Bob Borson’s Life of an Architect blog, I started writing in the #ArchiTalks series.  Every month, we are given a prompt and a deadline and a spreadsheet that we update and publish to share everyone else’s.  I am able to put my words and images into a digital format and publish it and have people from all over the world read it.  I can create in my mind, input them into the computer, refine, delete, copy/paste, insert, download, save, etc., etc. and hit “Send”.

         Credit: Michele Grace Hottel, “I’ve never met a woman architect before”

My friends say that they understand my blog better than me because now my thoughts and perspective are organized and this is how I use Technology.

And I still do not have a secretary.

                                       Credit: Kelley Elizabeth O’Leary

Michele Grace Hottel has been practicing Architecture with her own firm, Michele Grace Hottel, Architect since 1994.  She is licensed in California (1994) and Texas (2015).  She is a Commissioner and Subject Matter Expert for the California Architects Board and a City of La Mesa Planning Commissioner.

One can read her blog, “I never met a woman architect before…” (the trials and tribulations of being a woman, architect, wife and mother) as part of the #ArchiTalks series.

Please contact me via my website below for more information on the firm and sponsorship of the blog and podcast.