As 2008 comes to a close, there’s no question that the economy is the top concern for architects. With countless layoffs at firms, few new projects being announced, and Federal funding for current projects waning, the full impact of the economic downturn and how the profession will be affected has yet to be seen. The only ways to sustain until better times, in my opinion, is for design professionals to band together and provide as much support for each other as possible. After attending the “Not Business as Usual” discussion at the Center for Architecture, I know I am not alone.
Spearheaded by AIANY Secretary Abby Suckle, FAIA, LEED AP, the premise of the session was to brainstorm ideas about how individuals and firms can stay afloat. Some in attendance represented media outlets that are willing to offer free classifieds to those looking for part-time employees, to rent out empty desks, or to post resumes. Others offered their time for portfolio and resume reviews, or to meet with firms and help coach on maintaining clients. Participants encouraged unemployed designers with more free time to get involved with politics or volunteer for organizations like Architecture for Humanity.
One thing is clear: the AIANY Chapter and Center for Architecture Foundation are committed in the coming months to transform the Center for Architecture into a nucleus for information, accommodating the changing needs of design professionals. The Center itself may become a resource for job listings and space-sharing postings (designers looking for work can already upload their resumes online). It may host training sessions, from test preparation, to software training, to how-to discussions on topics such as working with public agencies and putting together successful presentations. Starting in February, the Chapter is launching an ARE Boot Camp for those studying for ARE exams, with significant discounts for AIA members (for more information, e-mail Suzanne Mecs). The discussion focused on how the Center can grow by offering more day-time events and, in essence, becoming a “Starbucks for architects,” a place for people looking for work to connect with people looking for employees.
While more brainstorming discussions are planned, follow-through is essential. Anyone with ideas or suggestions can contact Suzanne Mecs. It was encouraging that many great ideas were brought to the table, and it seemed as if many were willing to donate their time to the effort. Hopefully, the Center for Architecture will become a hotbed for the profession in new ways to carry us all through these tough times.