Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guest Post | Jim Lammers, FAIA

To the Editor:
The subject matter of the last issue of Architecture Minnesota seemed very inappropriate in these times of deep recession—people out of work, record foreclosures, more homeless than ever—yet we have the audacity to publish cabins. Amid all the economic chaos we highlight those who can afford two homes and some are architects even. Many of us are doing work which makes a difference in people’s lives, we’re doing pro bono work, we are needed. But this issue marginalizes us and our profession.


Christopher Hudson, Editor said...

I love getting feedback—constructive criticism included—from those who care deeply about the message the magazine sends to the public. And I certainly see Jim's point.

The cabin theme had been on the editorial calendar for the better part of a year, and I wrestled with whether to make a late change as the economy continued its downturn. In the end, I decided to stay the course, knowing that a cabin issue would do well on newsstands—many Minnesotans can relate to the design of a cabin because they own or want one. And I tried to focus the coverage on what cabins can teach us about the sufficiency of smaller living spaces, about reducing our energy needs, and about staying connected to our natural surroundings and to our family and friends—all virtues worth promoting in this economic climate.

But cabins are indeed second homes. Jim's feedback is a reminder of how mindful we at the magazine need to be in crafting our message about what architects do and the value they bring to the whole community, and not just to individuals who can afford their services.

betadinesutures said...
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Ken Koense said...

While I do appreciate the sentiment of Jim Lammers commentary, and being one of those unemployed professionals, I and many others appreciate it even more. However, I must respectfully disagree that the latest issue is "audacious" in this economy, and I hardly feel "marginalized."

This economic crisis will be here in September, October, November and in all likelihood will be here until the middle of the next year. Will Architecture MN need to have issues solely dedicated to the plight this country and our profession finds itself in, until it finally turns the corner? In short, I would have to answer, no.

There are times and places for all kinds of commentary and projects - real and unrealized - this latest issue happens to take a close look at smaller projects that are a reflection the moments that most of the general public finds themselves in at this time of year; vacations, staycations - now a word - and getaways to the thousands of lakes in this state.

Many, if not most, choose to make a decision to connect with family during the summer, and make a conscious decision to disconnect from the realities facing their families and country. It is a time to reboot; to enjoy friends and family, to kick back with pulpy fiction, to laugh, listen to music, and focus on what makes life worth living, and not spending one or two more months worrying. There will be plenty of time to do just that, when they get back to work or home, but perhaps for now, we can allow everyone a justly needed break.

John Gavin Dwyer, AIA said...

It's true, many of us are doing pro bono work in the hopes of making a difference in the lives of those who need it most. But if there's one thing I've learned in my pro bono career, it's never to sacrifice life to preserve life. In New Orleans, the people needed celebration before housing, they needed life before accommodation. Maybe there's a similar hidden message in our latest AM. What if celebrating the joy of the Minnesota summer through the expressive freedom of the American cabin IS the right response to the recession? In some ways, it's a mature response, one that admits the level control we architects have over the economy, and one that sees the bigger picture, that the economy always has its ups and downs. So maybe we just need to relax and be patient. Tough words to swallow for the unemployed right now. Even tougher for the small firm owners struggling to keep the lights on. But the New Orleanian in me knows that when it starts to rain, you don't run out in it, you find a quiet spot and wait for it to pass. What better place than a cabin.