Urban Art Museum

2009 Design Futures Council Fellows Named

DesignIntelligence proves every year that they are the architectural community’s greatest oxymoron with the publication of their highly suspect and highly controversial ranking of accredited undergraduate and graduate architectural programs in the country. If you have had any doubts about the credibility of DesignIntelligence’s yearly ranking of architectural programs, you are really going to love this. I received an email from a friend a couple of days ago regarding the announcement of the new 2009 Design Futures Council Fellows. I did not care at first, because I did not even know what the Design Futures Council was. Upon further research I discovered that the Design Futures Council is the committee that directs and guides the research and analysis that is conducted and published by DesignIntelligence. There are some very interesting names on the Design Futures Council, the name that is of particular concern to me is the CEO of the alphabet soup firm that I work for, so I will have to craft my argument very carefully ;) The below quote is an excerpt from the DesignIntelligence website:

DesignIntelligence is the Design Futures Council’s bi-monthly report on the future, delivering original research, insightful commentary, and instructive best practices. Design leaders rely on DesignIntelligence to deliver insight about emerging trends and management practices, allowing them to make their organization a better managed, more financially successful enterprise.

My personal favorite is that they state in the above that DesignIntelligence is a report on the future, which is almost as funny as the fact that they try to pawn off DesignIntelligence as one word. I was severely disappointed when I did not see Leonard Nimoy or ‘Spock’ on the list of the Design Futures Council Fellows. Seriously, it states on their website, ‘a report from the future’. The DesignIntelligence site also states that the fellowship is granted to individuals who have provided noteworthy leadership to the advancement of design, design solutions, or the design professions. The main focus of this article is to address the issue of the credibility of awards and honors that are handed out like door prizes in the profession of architecture. I have won design competitions and awards where I was not the best entry, and have been found holding the short straw several times where it was quite obvious that compared to the winner, my second or third place entry should have won. Why can we not make these awards more transparent, why can’t the jurrors or committees that hand out these awards address questions such as: Why did the person win the award? Why was their entry better than the others? Why are the below people better than anyone else, and deserving of such an award? I think that DesignIntelligence rather than listing each name as if writing a guest list, should state why each of the people are deserving of being a part of the Design Futures Council Fellows, and what that even means. Awards and honors like these further damage the credibility of a profession which is short on integrity. I will attempt to generate a hypothesis (havn’t used that word since 9th grade) as to why each of the Fellows were honored as such. Some are obvious and others are more suspicious selections. If you have further information to contribute to this article, please comment below.

My spell check is freaking out right now, because DesignIntelligence is not one word, so let’s give spell check a break and see if any of the new fellows actually meet the above standards. I now present to you the 2009 Design Futures Council Fellows, drum roll please. . . .

Carrie Byles, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLC– SOM is one of the original founders of the Design Futures Council so this is of no surprise.
Wing T. Chao, Walt Disney Imagineering – For those of you that do not know, Chao has lead the creative development of Walt Disney as executive vice president of master planning, architecture and design at Walt Disney Imagineering for 40 years and is the first candidate that clearly belongs on this list.
Daniel P. Coffey, Daniel P. Coffey & Associates Ltd. – A quality firm and I don’t mean to knock them, but I will, there is no awesomeness to be found at Daniel P. Coffey & Associates Ltd despite the firm boasting that it won an AIA Firm of the Year Award, what they fail to state is that it is a Chicago AIA award, not a National AIA award, big difference.
Maj. Gen. Del Eulberg, United States Air Force – I fully support the armed forces, but have failed to see why the Major made the list.
Michael Graves, Michael Graves & Associates – Michael Graves is certainly one of the leaders in the design and architectural professions. He has also managed to bridge the cap between design and mainstream popular culture, as well as bring accessible design to the forefront of design, something which I am a huge supporter of. Although I am a huge fan of Michael Graves, I have to classify him in the same category as Christopher Reeves, because he is someone who didn’t give a damn about the cause he supports now, until it affected him. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but it turns me off when someone becomes an advocate for accessible design after they are confined to a wheelchair. This is just my opinion, and like I said, I am a huge fan. I am not sure why it took so long for him to be a fellow, but maybe they were holding out for a Target sponsorship.
Robert C. Grupe, USG Corp. – is Director of Architectural and Technical Solutions at USG Corporation and is a true sustainable dsigner, not to be confused with LEED or being green. Of all the people on the list, Grupe is the man and is most deserving of this honor. While researching for this article I found an interview with Grupe on the USG website, and here is a quote from the man:

After doing some research, I’ve come to believe that “green” is nothing more than marketing spin, while “sustainability” is a method of design. While “green” has its roots deeply embeded in excellent goals, it has been reduced over the years to an apparent positioning race. “Sustainability,” from a product standpoint, encompasses everything from a product’s raw material content to how it’s handled through manufacturing and shipping, during and after installation, as well as throughout the life of the installation.”

Grupe if you ever read this, thanks for calling it like it is, and I would love to do an interview with you. Have your people call my people.

Craig W. Hartman, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLC – I repeat, SOM is one of the original founders of the Design Futures Council so this is of no surprise.
Jane Poynter, Paragon Space Development Corp. – Jane Poynter is one of the original crew members of the Biosphere 2. She locked herself up in a bubble for two years and survived, and now she has a blog. Certainly a pioneer in the area of research and sustainable ecosystems.
Renzo Piano, Renzo Piano Building Workshop – People even love his bad buildings. Renzo Piano is another choice that leaves one wondering, why did it take so long?
Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services – She can’t be all that bad, she is a native Cincinnatian, but why is she on this list? I searched high and low and found out it’s not who you know but how you spend the tax payers’ money. In 2006 she requested that $200 million dollars be given to the Department of Energy Biomass and Biorefinery Systems Research and Development Program.
Stephen J. Senkowski, Armstrong World Industries – This man is rich, and looks stunning in his glamor shot, whilst his medal for great hair hangs around his neck.
Alan Webber, Fast Company – Alan Webber was the editor of Harvard Business Review and left to start his own magazine Fast Company. I guess they need someone to write about their fellows.

This has to be the most diverse class of fellows ever established, anywhere in history, but wait there is one more:

Brad Pitt, actor and environmental advocate – Seriously are you kidding me? Can somebody stop Brad Pitt before he actually convinces someone that he is an architect? I think that what Brad Pitt does with his fame and money is a great thing, but he should stick to philanthropy and quit trying to promote the image of him as anything other than an actor and a philanthropist. You are not a designer and you are most certainly not an architect. Just because I watch movies and know a lot about them, has not earned me the right to win an Oscar. Disclaimer: I do support Brad Pitt and the Make It Right Foundation as they are one of our sponsored architectural charities, but give me a break. Critique This! below.