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This essay competition is intended to encourage, promote, and reward critical thinking and writing--two traditionally under-emphasized areas of architectural education and training. Our hope, however, is that we can also raise awareness of opportunities for young professionals to share their aspirations, ideas, and thoughts through writing--well beyond the confines of this grassroots competition.

Opportunities can be as informal as letters to the editor of national magazines and local newspapers or as formal as scholarly peer-reviewed paper submissions to academic conferences or journals. In most of these settings, the presence of young professionals' perspectives is rare, but highly valuable.

journals, magazines, and newsletters

The following list of writing opportunities is extensive, but by no means comprehensive. If you would like to suggest others, simply email them to and we'll add them. The majority of these publications welcome unsolicited submissions in the form of book reviews, critiques, letters to the editor, interviews, design projects, etc.

    National Print

    306090 Architecture Journal is a nonprofit journal of emergent architecture and design, edited and published by young architecture professionals.

    arcCA, the journal of the AIA California Council, is published quarterly and covers a wide range of themes.

    Architectural Record is a monthly print publication and the official magazine of the AIA. Its companion, ArchRecord2, is geared toward young architects.

    Architecture magazine is a monthly print publication that delivers coverage of architectural design, projects and products, industry news and trends, building technology, computing, practice issues, and professional development.

    ArchitectureBoston is a self-described as an "ideas" magazine rather than a "picture book." Published by the Boston Society of Architects (BSA), its stories connect architecture to social, cultural, political, and economic trends.

    Blacklines magazine, though not published in recent years, features the work of black designers in architecture, interior design, construction, development, and the arts.

    DesignIntelligence is a monthly newsletter published by the Design Futures Council and produced by The Greenway Group, Inc. It is geared toward leaders involved in transformative processes improving the built environment and the design professions.

    Crit is a publication of the AIAS, published semi-annually. It is the lone national student architectural journal, although it readily welcomes submissions from young and seasoned members of the profession alike.

    Harvard Design Magazine aims to provide a forum for thoughtful and articulate practitioners, journalists, and academics, primarily from architecture, landscape architecture, as well as urban design and planning. Essays, images, discussions, book reviews, and recent projects appear regularly.

    Journal of Architectural Education (JAE), published quarterly by the ACSA, is one of the few peer-reviewed journals in the field of scholarly architecture. Articles include a wide range of topics such as history, theory, practice, and design.

    Loud Paper is a zine dedicated to increasing the volume of architectural discourse, although its website hasn't been updated in nearly a year. It is self-described as a "slambamgetitoutthere way of linking architectural thoughts, musings, and new work with the culture at large."

    Metropolis, published monthly, examines contemporary life through design--architecture, interior design, product design, graphic design, crafts, planning, and preservation. also welcomes submissions and issues a regular email newsletter.


    Architosh is the number one web portal dedicated to Macintosh IT resources for CAD/3D/AEC students and professionals, now serving over 25,000 unique readers monthly in more than 70 countries around the world.

    ArchNewsNow email newsletter, published daily, hyperlinks directly to the latest news and commentary gleaned from sources around the world.

    ArchVoices publishes a free, weekly, email newsletter providing information, opinions, and resources on issues affecting young architecture professionals.

    The nac-q is a quarterly, electronic newsletter produced by the AIA National Associates Committee.

general resources

There are ample writing resources available online and in print, including a number of classic and widely-used style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style and the Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook. Neither of the aforementioned are available online in their entirety. Minus a few published essays in books and journals, Writing for Design Professionals (1998) is the only book geared for us designer types. Defying the stereotype that architects can't write, it's authored by Stephen Kliment, FAIA, past editor-in-chief of Architectural Record.

The most comprehensive and easy to use online guide is arguably Garbl's Editorial Style Manual, based on the Associated Press Style Book and Briefing on Media Law. is an annotated directory focusing on creativity, the writing process, English grammar, action writing, 'fat-free' writing, style and usage, reference sources, word play, and even tips for overcoming writer's block.

These days, every word processing program has a pretty extensive spell check vocabulary, at least for this type of writing, but you may also wish to utilize a dictionary or thesaurus. Merriam-Webster offer both online at

Are you partial to any writing resources that are not listed here? Email your recommendations to

reference essays

The following three excerpts are presented primarily as inspiration. The competition submittals will be judged only on relevance to the competition theme, and do not need to respond to any of the specific ideas in the following essays. In fact, we encourage you to use your inspiration of choice, whether it be past issues of ArchVoices, any of the 2003 or 2004 essay competition submissions, books and texts from outside the profession entirely, fortune cookies, classified ads, '80's song lyrics, television commercials, epic poems, or whatever gets you going.

Whatever it is, though, be sure to cite your source(s). Finally, and most importantly, we encourage you to talk about your essay with your colleagues and peers.

    Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline
    By Richard Posner

    Specialization makes it difficult for an intellectual to write for a general audience. His orientation is toward writing for his fellow specialists on narrow topics in an esoteric jargon. For jargon is the natural tendency of language when people communicate primarily with members of an in-group--and so we witness the increasing mathematization of economics and the obscurity of word and syntax of much of the current writing in the humanities. The modern academic intellectual usually cannot, as earlier generations of intellectuals could and did, pitch his writing at a level that is accessible to a general audience yet does not strike the author's peers as lacking in rigor--he needs two styles of writing, one for the public and one for his peers. Tenure and the sheer size of the academic community have liberated academics from having to learn to communicate with anyone outside their in-group. If they want to reach a broader audience they must make an extra effort to do so.

    The increasing specialization of knowledge has also made it more difficult for an intellectual who can write for a general audience to obtain the credentials that will impress that audience. He will first have to become an academic specialist. He will have to learn to walk the walk and talk the talk. This generally requires a tedious and time-consuming apprenticeship repulsive to many intellectuals; Richard Rorty has spoken aptly of the "introverted hyperprofessionalism" of the modern academic. A related point is that specialization makes it difficult for an intellectual to pursue a nonacademic career; it pushes him into the academy. I mentioned in a preceding chapter that journalists are not in a good position to acquire specialized knowledge and here I add that neither are writers of fiction, traditionally an important source of public intellectuals--think only of Hugo and Zola, Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Albert Camus, Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, and James Baldwin. As knowledge becomes more complex, the areas in which writers can contribute to it shrink. Moby-Dick is among other things a competent (for its time) natural history of the whale, and writers as diverse as Edith Wharton, William Faulkner, and Ralph Ellison were skilled ethnologists; Swift, Dickens, and Orwell superb political satirists; and Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn distinguished fictionalizing historians. As the natural and social sciences mature, the room for amateur contributions contracts.

    Specialization narrows the mind at the same time as it sharpens it. Intellectual tasks are broken up into smaller and smaller packets, and intellectual workers just like factory workers achieve proficiency by concentrated, repetitive application to narrowly circumscribed tasks. One symptom is the growth of collaborative authorship in academia--academic work increasingly is teamwork, just like industrial production, where each team member performs only part of the overall productive function. The modern academic thus buys intellectual power at the expense of scope. A public intellectual is a generalist, but in an age of specialized knowledge the generalist is condemned to be an amateur; and the views of amateurs carry little weight with professionals.

    (Posner, Richard. Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, 2nd edition. Harvard University Press, 2003: 53-54)

    Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture
    By Ross King

    These official tributes may strike us as somewhat modest in light of all that Filippo accomplished, but it is safe to assume that no European architect or engineer had ever before earned such renown, either during his lifetime or in the years after his death. Today we are so used to celebrating the brilliance of architects like Michelangelo, Andrea Palladio, and Sir Christopher Wren that it is hard to imagine a time when architects and architecture were not esteemed. But the great architects of the Middle Ages had been virtually anonymous. The name of the master mason who constructed the abbey of St. Denis--the first building ever raised in the Gothic style--remains unrecorded, and the three masons responsible for the ill-fated cathedral at Beauvais are known in the documents simply as First Master, the Second Master, and the Third Master. A little more is known about Arnolfo di Cambio and Neri di Fioravante, though history does not record where or when either of them was born or died, nor do we have any indication of their personalities or aspirations.

    Part of the reason for this anonymity was a prejudice against manual labor on the part of both ancient and medieval authors, who assigned architecture a low place in human achievement, regarding it as an occupation unfit for an educated man. Cicero claimed that architecture was a manual art on the same level as farming, tailoring, and metalworking, while in his Moral Letters Seneca mired it in the lowest of the four categories of art, those which he classified as volgares et sordidae, "common and low." Such arts were mere handiwork, he claimed, and had no pretense to beauty or honor. As such, architecture ranked even lower than the "arts of amusement," which included such things as fashioning machinery for stage plays.

    Filippo's work at Santa Maria del Fiore set architects on a different path and gave them a new social and intellectual esteem. Largely through his looming reputation, the profession was transformed during the Renaissance from a mechanical to a liberal art, from an art that was viewed as "common and low" to one that could be regarded as a noble occupation at the heart of the cultural endeavor. Unlike the builders of the Middle Ages, Filippo was far from anonymous, and his feat in raising the dome without a wooden centering was celebrated far and wide. Latin poems were composed in his honor, books were dedicated to him, biographies written, busts carved, and portraits painted. He became the subject of myth.

    Above all else, Filippo was praised for his ingegno, "genius," a term invented by the Italian humanist philosophers to describe a natural ability for original invention. Before Filippo's time the faculty of genius was never attributed to architects (or to sculptors or painters either, for that matter). But Marsuppini's epitaph refers to Filippo as possessing divino ingenio, "divine genius,"marking the first recorded instance of an architect or sculptor being said to have received divine inspiration for his work. For Vasari, the campomaestro has been a genius sent from heaven to renew the moribund art of architecture, almost paralleling how Christ had come to earth to redeem mankind. In his unquestionable brilliance the writers of the Renaissance found their proof that modern man was as great as--and could in fact surpass--the ancients from whom they took their inspiration.

    (King, Ross. Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. Penguin Books, 2001: 157-59.)

    Leadership by Design: Creating an Architecture of Trust
    By Richard Swett

    This book's purpose is to strengthen the foundations of democratic society by providing examples of individual architects who were able to use their own particular brand of leadership to accomplish important work in their communities. The nature of this kind of leadership is constructive and inclusive, not divisive and adversarial like so much of what we see in contemporary civic and social debate. These individuals had the courage to think broadly and boldly and drew upon their creativity and professional experience to fashion viable solutions, the implications of which were often not immediately apparent.

    Most important, the creative processes employed allowed for participation by leaders and the public alike, with each participant making an important contribution to the development of our civic institutions along the way. How was this possible? It was possible because the relationship between the various participants was based on a foundation of mutual trust.

    Today public trust is a very difficult social value to foster and maintain, particularly because it is now customary for opponents to actively endeavor to destroy public trust in those with whom they disagree. Add to these destructive human impulses a world that has become so incredibly complex and the collective ability to trust is further undermined. Distrust has become the common denominator of a disengaged polity.


    Why has the issue of public trust become so difficult? In part because we as citizens are no longer being asked to participate in a way that results in meaningful input into our civic processes, much less a positive impact on the eventual outcomes. The personal experience of being a good and responsible citizen can be very unpleasant at times. Just imagine being a voter in the state of Florida, where the 2000 national election ended in chaos, and ongoing local manipulations have exposed a constitutional process that is still seriously flawed in both theory and in actual practice.

    Voters don't have to feel this way. A foundation of trust can be constructed in our communities, giving each of us a greater sense of belonging and a greater ability to participate in the public decision-making process. But, to do this we need leaders who are integrators, not segregators.

    Trust is an intangible asset that needs space and time to grow. It must be demonstrated with consistency over time. It is built up, block by block, as an integral component of a mutually beneficial relationship. Initially trust can be freely given, but to be sustained it must be continually earned and reinforced. And if it flows in only one direction, its potential power is dissipated and eventually lost.

    Communities in which people truly feel valued require leadership that is inclusive and genuinely cooperative. Expanded opportunities to participate must be met with an equally expansive vision for the community. And all those who do participate will see how the variety of contributions can be combined to improve and accomplish their shared goals.

    (Swett, Richard. Leadership by Design: Creating an Architecture of Trust. Ostberg Press, 2005.)

did you know?

    "Writing skills were cited as a weakness by majorities of administrators, faculty and alumni." When asked to indicate how strong or weak they considered teaching of writing skills at their school, 66% of administrators, 65% of faculty, 42% of students, and 59% of alumni said 'weak.'"
    --Ernest Boyer & Lee Mitgang, Building Community, p.70 (1996)

    47.2% of respondents felt that "too little" emphasis was placed on verbal/written communication skills in school.
    --ACSA Tracking Study of Architecture Graduates from the classes of 1967, '72, & '77 (1980)

    Of the approximately 140 U.S. newspapers with a daily circulation of more than 75,000, only 13 have full-time architecture critics. The nation's largest newspaper, USA Today, has no architecture critic at all; nor does Houston, Detroit, Sacramento, or Kansas City.
    --The Architecture Critic, National Arts Journalism Program (2000-2001)

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