October 23, 2013
Keynote speaker will delve into the architects' personality
International scholar and university professor Brian Little will be the keynote speaker at the 2013 annual conference of the Architectural Institute of B.C. and the Northwest and Pacific Region of the American Institute of Architects, taking place Oct. 23-26 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
When architects gather under one roof for a four-day conference, the professionals will hear a tailor-made presentation about their complex minds.
On Oct. 23, international scholar and university professor Brian Little will paint a reflective picture of architects in his keynote address, Strange Creatures and Creative Achievement: The Personalities of Architects.
Little’s talk is part of the joint 2013 annual conference of the Architectural Institute of B.C. (AIBC) and the Northwest and Pacific Region of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), taking place Oct. 23-26 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
“Architects are distinctive,” said Little, a pioneer in the field of personality psychology and a distinguished scholar at the University of Cambridge in England.
“They need to create something beautiful and firm, but they need to satisfy the client,” he said.
According to Little, there probably isn’t any other occupation that requires so many different abilities to get the job done.
Architects must be creative.
It is the first, but mandatory, step in their quest to design a pleasing yet functional structure.
Architects must also have vast technical skills to ensure their creative ideas are well-executed by the engineers and construction experts they work with.
Architects are also business people, who must keep projects on-time and on-budget, and may run their own business.
Architects also need people skills, in effect being part-time psychologists, Little said.
They need to work with clients who can run the gamut from a rich homeowner to a large government ministry.
So, architects are, in effect, Renaissance men (of the roughly 1,600 architects in B.C. only about 17 per cent are women).
But within the field, there are the soaring creative stars and some who are less so.
An early developer of environmental psychology, Little has found through his research, that the star architects are extremely introverted, but nobody knows.
“They’re able to act as pseudo-extroverts,” said Little, who confesses he’s in the same psychological boat.
Those introverted architects, who convincingly advance their visions on the centre stage, do it because it’s a project they care about.
In effect, they’re silver-tongued chameleons.
“They can put on the charm as needed,” he said.
But, such acting out of character carries a risk over the long-term.
“It leads to burn-out” Little said.
What architects need are periods of quiet or what Little calls, “restorative niches,” settings and times where they can let their very active minds rest.
In fact, architects will design such niches in their own buildings, creating the “pockets of quiet,” they may consciously or unconsciously crave.
Little, whose home base is Ottawa, said his restorative niche is playing everything from classical to punk music on his keyboard.
The distinguished professor earned his Ph.D in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
He has also taught at Harvard, McGill and Carleton universities.
Born and raised in Victoria, B.C., Little was in the first graduating class at the University of Victoria in 1964.
The AIBC’s director of communications first heard Little speak when he was attending Carleton University in 1984.
“Friends were asking me if I had heard this professor and told me I should go and see him, regardless if you’re in his class,” said David Wiebe, who was studying law and journalism.
“He was very compelling. He had a very effective way of engaging people.”
When Wiebe had the task of finding a keynote speaker for this year’s conference, he recalled Little’s big impression.
Wiebe was also keen to get away from professional conferences where so often it’s architects talking to architects.
“There’s value in getting an external perspective,” said Wiebe, who has been with the AIBC for almost seven years.
Little said he was drawn to focus on architects when he got to know some practitioners and began realizing how their rampant creativity blended with their other job requirements.
Wiebe agreed that architects are an extremely unique group, who truly possess creative, technical, business and people skills.
“They can be all things. One thing for certain, they’re passionate about what they do,” Wiebe said.
Wiebe noted that the Sea Change conference is the first time the AIBC and AIA have joined forces for an annual gathering.
“It makes sense. We have so much in common up and down the West Coast than with the rest of Canada,” Wiebe said, citing geographic, environmental and cultural (First Nations) similarities.
“It’s a natural fit.”
About 500 architects are expected to attend.
Roughly 80 per cent will be from B.C. with the remainder from the U.S. Pacific Coast states.
A handful of architects from Alberta and Ontario are also attending.
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