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right and wrong in architecture

As a general reference point, we are not hiring at this time. I would love to change that scenario 180 degrees, and people who know us know the painful and common details there. However, I get resumes almost every day – I enjoy replying to letters of interest on principal alone, but also out of an ambitious acknowledgement that the current creative market makes it possible for projects to source from any direction.

I enjoy getting to see school projects again: intense levels of purpose and detail. Supreme craft at page layout and model making. Projects limited by no law: budget, building code, gravity. Really, really big ideas. And, I almost always want to see at least one of the student portfolio pieces built in my town.

I get crummy resumes too: resumes like I sent when I was in college, cover letters done with Mail Merge. I get resumes from people with four-times my years of experience, and I wish I knew the answer to that problem. Contemporary resumes come with links to personal websites – I think that’s cool. It’s a good idea, it’s clear, it’s expressive, and it’s cheaper for everybody.

Sometimes, I get an eye into the school experience that I would rather forget. Today I got a link to a portfolio with at least one really bad assignment. Architecture school is quirky, it’s hard to see what’s going on all the time, and it’s hard to know where to find the answers. Today I got a resume from a graduate in Chicago that included an “Addition to The Farnsworth House” by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the purest examples of very, very good modern architecture.  [More information about the house here.] This student assignment should not have happened:


This was my response to the problem:

I enjoyed reviewing your website. Specifically, I enjoyed the website itself – it’s laid out well, useful, and clear. The Blue Line project is relevant to the current market, and I recommend that you continue pursuing projects like it.

Regarding the Farnsworth House Addition: when your professors asked you to do it, you should have said no. In the land of IIT and some of Mies’ greatest work, an assignment like that is ironic at best and professionally offensive at worst. In fact, it relates well to a lot of the disastrous cover-up architecture in the 70’s and 80’s that corresponded with or responded to or caused urban blights in the 90’s. I support urban infill, functional modernization, and dramatic improvements to all kinds of architecture. However, it’s better to let that house continue to change the world around it instead of the alternative. You might even consider taking it off your website or promoting the work in another way.

Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
19 W Hargett Street, Suite 700-A | Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 889 6823 | | TWITTER: aoarch

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Osterlund Architects is a full-service architecture and interior design firm, committed to our clients and their work from concept through construction, and through to their next opportunity. Our firm has expertise in all project phases, including programming, pre-design and planning through construction administration and closeout, as well as interior design, including furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) services.

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