I’m Nine Years Old – Middle Age

As party week powers relentlessly on, today is a look at years 6, 7, and 8, what has come to represent the depressing middle age years … 

Life of an Architect – Year’s Six (2015), Seven (2016) and Eight (2017)

Just like all architects seem to really start hitting their stride once they hit middle age, the blog saw it’s best moments during this period … it also saw it’s very worst. Things were going along somewhat swimmingly from a professional standpoint but this was the year that I learned my limit on the things I could say “yes” to … unfortunately, you don’t really learn that limit until after you’ve exceeded it. I was heavily involved in extra-curricular work-related activities in addition to having a really heavy workload in the office. I was on the Board of Directors for the Dallas AIA, Chairman of the Digital Communications Committee for the Texas Society of Architects, on the Advisory Board for 3 magazines, took part of 3 design award juries, and gave 10 presentations at various AIA component events throughout Texas, Florida, Minnesota, and California.

In late 2015, I found out that I had been nominated for Fellowship in the AIA, which was a great honor and a ridiculous amount of work. The package you are required to submit is highly rigorous in its requirements and when completed, is every bit of 40 pages of why you are the greatest thing to ever happen to the field of architecture. I don’t care if you are the vainest person around, it is an unpleasant experience to be so gratuitously self-congratulating. In the end, I found out in early 2016 that I was not selected and in the feedback I received, it all seemed to hinge on the fact that the person responsible for being my advocate didn’t understand the evolving role of digital communication, and was offended that I wrote the following passage in a blog post titled “Your Behavior Matters“:

Pretty much every time I saw the owner of the construction company, he told me he was going to sue me, that he would crush and bury me while laying ruin to my career … He actually called me “son” every time he told me all the ways he was going to wreck my life.

It sucked.

The advocate didn’t feel that the word “sucked” didn’t belong in an application for elevation to Fellow.

After some explaining, I was told to resubmit my without any changes and the person I had spoken with at AIA National said they would be in the room and would make sure that this issue would not repeat itself.  While I still took responsibility for apparently telling my story in a way someone who doesn’t understand digital technology would understand, I decided to completely overhaul my submission – and I was notified in January 2017 that I had been selected for elevation into the College of Fellows. If you would like to see some of the pages from my submission, you can read Guess What? I Just Received an ‘F’

While receiving my “F” was obviously a highlight, the hacking on my website began in earnest in 2017 and became a constant and omnipresent issue. Constant interruptions to the site and incredibly slow loads times started impacting the rating search engines like Google and Yahoo use when responding to search queries. June saw the beginning of a slow but steady erosion of the traffic to my site and despite what felt like constant effort and attention, it didn’t seem like anything was working … things just kept getting worse.

My favorite blog post of 2015 is:

How tall are babies - architectural scale figures

Architectural Scale Figures
Architectural scale figures play a fairly large role in allowing people to imprint scale on to conceptual design. Of course, this only works when the scale figures you use are the right size. 

First off, I call myself a 565 baby and that, almost by itself, makes this my sort of post. This post seemed to beg me to write it for years once I had started the Life of an Architect Playhouse Competition. So many amazing entries were submitted but one overarching issue that derailed the majority of the entries was an issue with the scale of their design. As was typically the case, a scale figure or two would be included and let me tell you that they were hilariously sized – all in an effort to visually address a scale and proportion issue with the entry. In a way, this post was my attempt at providing a valuable public service – I am paying attention. My favorite line was:

These are simply the average sizes of children from birth through the first 5 years of life – so if you were 4 feet tall at birth, you are not the average (if you were 4 feet tall at birth, I’m not sure what you are). 

My favorite blog post for 2016 is:

Possibly the Worst Paint Job Ever

Being an Architect is Hell – My New House
Being a residential architect is normally awesome … but not when you buy a new house. You easily see every bad decision the previous homeowner made in shocking detail.

I frequently talk about my own house, particularly how bad it is and how painfully I am aware of all the issues. Just the other day, with specific regards to this very post, that they didn’t whether to laugh or cry while reading it. Personally, I think both would be appropriate. Everything you really need to know about the status of my “new” house can be summed up in the picture above … someone literally must have come to a terrible ending in this room, I know the smile on my face certainly died.

My favorite blog post for 2017 is:

work is hard on your back when you're old

Young Architects Should Work Construction
If you are a young architect or plan on becoming an architect one day, I think the best advice I can give you is to find your way onto a construction site – even if that construction site is your own.  

Sometimes I think I missed my calling as a contractor. There are few things I enjoy more than being on a job site, and what I learn from every trip seems to dwarf any classes I took in my younger days. I have never worked construction and it is one of the biggest regrets I have from my formative years. I spend considerable effort making up for that void now and truly enjoy pulling out my tools and tackling new projects … I just wish my back felt the same way.

I have established that the next section of these posts is a look at the site metrics with the idea of showing how things have been evolving, and just like you (assuming you’ve been reading all these party posts along with me) I am getting a little sick of looking at these images.

Life of an Architect Metrics 2015

In 2015 I continued my slide in content creation and wrote 67 posts – barely more than once a week. It was about this time that I reflected back on those earlier days and wondered how in the heck did I ever write 180 posts in a year.

Life of an Architect Metrics 2016

The content creation continues to drop … and yet 2016 was the high water mark in terms of visitors to my site. Content creation dropped to 56 posts and yet I still managed a staggering 8,266,564 page views (an average of 22,648 per day). While my workload and extracurricular activities were still piling up and forcing me to spend less time on the blog, I was still on board with using the site as a creative outlet.

…. but it wasn’t much longer before things started to turn.

Life of an Architect Metrics 2017

2017 was a rough year for the website. Not only did I barely manage 49 posts – my lowest yearly total to date – the website came under constant attack and I probably spent more time trying to keep the site up than on any other blog-related activity. I switched server platforms, went through multiple IT web specialists, spent more money on web services than the previous 6 years, all in the hopes of trying to fix what would turn out to be an on-going problem that still exists.

2015 – Year Six Page views – 6,273,242 
2016 – Year Seven Page Views – 6,849,825
2017 – Year Eight Page Views – 6,849,825

Year Six, Seven and Eight Countries/ Territories – 237

2015 – Year Six Top Five Cities – New York, London, New Dehli, Los Angeles, Sydney
2016 – Year Seven Top Five Cities – New York, London, Los Angeles, Dallas, Sydney
2017- Year Eight Top Five Cities – New York, London, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles

The Popular Posts

There is definitely a pattern emerging now that I am looking at the content and which ones seem to be the most popular based on page view totals. The problem with aligning popularity with page view counts is that the way the search engines work, once an article becomes popular, it moves further and further up the search results until it is at the very top. This translates into the most trafficked posts getting even more traffic and it skews popularity with accessibility.

Here is the most viewed post from 2015:

Architectural Redlines by Bob Borson

Architectural Redlines (219,357 year six page views)
It’s just a word but if you are in certain circles, it’s a powerful word. “Redlines” is all you have to say to either send some into some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

I don’t think I necessarily create redlines like most architects, at least not like any of the ones I know. Redlines are typically created to indicate mistakes or missing work. Since the vast majority of my career has been spent in small firms, I tend to create redlines that are more narrative and collaborative in their nature. Rather than only telling someone exactly what I want them to do, I frequently write questions and present options for consideration. In my mind, these are teaching moments and I will go through all these redlines with the employee rather than simply dropping them off on someone’s desk and expecting them to pick them up.

The most popular post of 2016

Off Center Pivot Entry Door with sidelight by Dallas Architect Bob Borson

The Front Door to Your House is Important (289,626 year seven page views)
One of the very best things about being a residential architect is getting to pay special attention to the little things that can take an ordinary project to a spectacular one. Today, we are going to take a look at the front door to your home.

It is not that uncommon that I will share construction drawings and details on the site. These are almost always very popular and I definitely have a love/hate relationship with putting this sort of information out there for general consumption. Frequently the comment section in these posts is where all the action is at – people chiming in with suggestion in the case of this particular post, my lack of thermal breaks in the steel used to create this door had some people extremely concerned. As one of my friends posted one day, I should take the day off and “let Facebook do my redlines.”

The most popular post of 2017:

Danielle Anderson's Architectural Portfolio

Architectural Portfolios (188,543 year eight page views)
Since it is that time of year and my inbox is starting to get clogged with portfolios that people email me blindly, I thought I would provide some insight into what people like me are really looking at when they see your portfolio. I can almost guarantee it isn’t what you think.

To be honest, I am surprised it took me as long as it did to write a post on architectural portfolios. It’s entirely possible that it simply took that long before I got my hands on one that I felt was worthy of holding up as worthy of setting the bar for consideration. That distinction goes to Danielle Anderson, one of the employees working in my office – although I’m not sure she is all that happy about having her college work on display for hundreds of thousands of people to evaluate.

The number of times I thought about quitting the blog during this three-year window was probably a lot – like in the amount of every day. When I think back to the reasons that I started the blog in 2010, the thoughts that come to mind are learning a new skill set and taking advantage of a new creative outlet. Somewhere along the line things changed and I was the recipient of so many amazing experiences that I felt that I owed it to the people who supported me to keep at this and continue preaching the value of architects while trying to have as much fun as I could along the way. How dare I complain about the hand that was feeding me!! One day I woke up to realize that the blog was no longer something that I felt like I wanted to write, it was something I had to write. I started looking for ways to reinvigorate myself to the process but after 8 years, maybe my interest has moved on to other shiny objects. After eight years, I have 842 published articles and another 47 in the draft section … shockingly, I might have  run out of things to say.

Tomorrow will be a look at year 9 – the final year. I’d like to thank all the people who have stuck with me this week for this slog through 4 consecutive days of what is possibly brutal reading. That having been said, I hope you will join me for the rest of the story. If I’ve left out a tale you were interested in, or possibly have a question you would like me to answer, please feel free to add it to the comment section.


Bob signature FAIA

This is the third in a series of 5 articles. I think it’s best if you start at the beginning but you are a grown up and can make that decision for yourself. 

The Birth Year covers the first year of the site (2010)
The Early Years is a closer look at years two and three (2011 and 2012)
The Teenage Years is a look at years four and five (2013 and 2014)

Source: Life of an Architect