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Architectural Solutions to Human Problems

Archive for April, 2012

Why the Farmers Market?

Three years ago I set up a table at the Newark Natural Foods Farmers Market. I had been laid off in November the year before and had worked my way through “What Color is Your Parachute”. One conclusion from that was that Sustainable Design was a foundational part of my practice. But where were the people who cared about sustainable design? At Farmers Markets. And then I recalled an article I had read about John Morefield and his Architecture 5 Cents booth in Seattle. And like a good architect, I took the idea and generated a solution from it. And I bumped the price up to a quarter. And thus was Architectural Help 25 cents born.

I really thought that this would be a way to generate business for me. I was very wrong. For two reasons: 1) the economy was still terrible in 2010 and no one wanted to spend money; and 2) if someone is ready to start a project, they’ve already got people lined up for it. What it became was a way to educate people about what architects can do for them, and to reduce the perceived barriers between people and the profession.

I did get a few projects out of the effort – but most of those projects came months to years after I met the people at my booth. Mostly I answer questions that range from “where should I put attic ¬†insulation?” to “where should I live?” But the most common question is “what are you doing here?” And my answer is a short version of the preceding paragraphs.

At the end of the summer I had met nearly a hundred people, handed out a bunch of business cards, and made a number of connections in my community. And I decided that I wanted to keep doing this. So the next summer I signed up with the Kennett Square Market on Fridays. And the next summer I added New Garden Market on Saturdays. And that’s enough. Three markets in a row really wipes me out, but I’m still educating people and still presenting the profession as problem-solvers and still generating business.