what's a 10-minute architect, anyway?
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Phil Kaplan of Portland, Maine-based Kaplan Thompson Architects about an event operated by the Portland Society of Architects twice each year that gets many of its members out of their offices and mixing with the public and with each other. The "10-Minute Architect" event, which recently was held for the eighth time, invites members of the public--homeowners or commercial property owners--to sit down with one or two architects who have volunteered their time for this free design clinic. According to Kaplan, an average of about 30 practitioners attend each event, and typically the crowd of "clients" flowing through the gathering space--most recently a local coffee house--totals about 60.
Kaplan says that PSA members seem to really enjoy the design clinic evenings. "You'd think it would be hard to get architects to give away their time after they've been slogging through their own practices and working late, but it tends to be rejuvenating for them," he said. It's a low-key, relaxed event that offers a fun break from the daily grind. Also, PSA tries to team volunteer architects with other practitioners with whom they've never worked before, and these two-person teams take a crack at clinic clients' design needs together, learning about each other in a noncompetitive, comfortable environment.
The PSA began holding these design clinic evenings as a way to educate the local public (who Kaplan says don't tend to think architects as an option for their projects) and demystify architects and architecture. Although it's called "10-Minute Architect," walk-in sessions frequently run up to 45 minutes or even longer. The PSA member designated as the maitre d' for the evening asks visitors about their projects and directs them to the most appropriate team of volunteer architects. The events are usually held in the spring and fall each year.
It's turned out to be a great way to get Portland area architects more closely involved in the community, and design clinics have spread to a few other cities and towns around Maine. Any practitioner interested in launching a "10-Minute Architect" or similar program within their own design communities following the PSA format can feel free to contact Phil Kaplan for guidelines and suggestions: www.kaplanthompson.com/contact.php