Happy 6th birthday

Happy birthday; Panfilocastaldi; 6; Six

Today Panfilocastaldi turns 6, meaning I have survived another full year of blogging. As I have on each prior anniversary, I’m going to take this opportunity to reflect on the scope and focus of my writing. Why do I write? What do I write? Who is it for?

As I review the content I’ve published this year, what strikes me most is the stark contrast between my first year of writing and my most recent:

2011

  • My early articles spanned a wide range of topics, covering 17 different categories from food to theatre and many things in between.
  • I wrote prolifically, publishing an article on average every 3 days.
  • Though frequent, my articles were short. My very first piece, on the 2009 Mies van der Rohe Award, needed just 365 words.

2016

  • My articles this year focus almost exclusively on architecture practice, with all but one so categorised.
  • I write sporadically now, publishing an article on average every 21 days.
  • Though infrequent, my articles are long. My most recent piece, on the incremental tasks fee method, needed 1,119 words and was in fact the last in a series of 5 articles of similar length all exploring the architectural fee.
2011; 2016; Blogging; Infographic; Data; Word count
Word count comparison

Why the contrast? Well, I suspect that the changing nature of my writing is the result of the changing nature of my life.

When I started Panfilocastaldi, I was living in Milan (in a street called Via Panfilo Castaldi for those of you who didn’t know) and travelling a lot. Even when I returned to Melbourne soon after, I was still doing and seeing a lot of different things. Indeed, the inspiration for this blog came from a desire to continue living the traveller’s lifestyle: it encouraged me to seek things to write about, so I attended festivals and lectures and exhibitions, then wrote about them, then sought more things.

Today, I live in Melbourne, run a thriving architecture studio with my wife, and spend the majority of my spare time being a dad to my two young children. My daily experiences have narrowed considerably, and thus so has my writing. To be fair to myself (and parenthood in general), I do still get out and do things, I just can’t seem to find the space in my life to write about them.

2011; 2016; Blogging; Infographic; Data; Categories
Categories comparison – refer to sidebar menu for expansions

I often reflect on the carefree and exuberant time I spent in Milan. I even yearn for it on occasion. There was an oasis-like quality to my time there that reminds me of Ann Patchett’s sublime Bel Canto. It was a vivid experience insulated from the tough job of growing up and working out how to contribute to the world.

But returning home and having kids have done a wonderful thing to my perspective. My early writing was personal and mostly self-indulgent. I wrote broadly but shallowly, and primarily to amuse myself. Did anyone really need to know what I thought of kitchen utensils or nuclear fallout in Japan? In contrast, now that my time is so much more limited, my writing has become narrow but deep, and I like to think useful.

I still write for myself, as a sort of catharsis that helps me process the challenges of growing our architecture business. But I also write for all the other young architects going through the same challenges I am, and the many wonderful people thinking about engaging them to build something.

My earliest article on architecture practice (in early 2012) was fittingly about reinventing the wheel, and appeared amidst other articles on urbanism, product design and photography. Gradually, these other subjects have fallen away, and the intersection of architectural culture, practice and business has emerged as my (almost) sole focus.

This slow transition has helped me find my voice, one underpinned by the expertise I’ve gathered from founding, growing and improving Mihaly Slocombe for the past six years. Architecture practice has become my focus because it’s what I know and care about. It has also helped me understand two important things about the world:

Sharing is better than hoarding

There aren’t many architects in Australia, and of course far fewer architecture practices. In contrast, there is an ever-growing cackle of rival occupations eating away at our authority, territory and opportunities for creativity. Individually we sink, together we swim. This is why I share the things I share, some of which are quite private insights about our business. Whatever wisdom I’ve earned I feel the need to contribute to the profession.

Data is everything

Data about time spent on things, resources divided between things, money earned from things. I’m certainly not the first person to realise that knowledge of the underlying truths of our architecture practice helps us make the right decisions about its future. I may be the first to collect data about these truths so passionately. For me, data is just another way of saying the science of business.

2016; Blogging; Posts; Graphic design; Logos

Where does all this position Panfilocastaldi within the bigger picture? At the cutting edge I hope.

Architects love to talk about design. We share ideas via print and online media, within awards programmes and in exhibitions, during workshops and conferences. We gobble up every photo, diagram and sketch like a fat kid does a bucket of fried chicken.

But we don’t love talking about business. At university, I learned about the history and theory of architecture, about construction, detailing and sustainability, about design principles, communication and execution. I did not however learn about business. I remain incredulous that all that I know about client acquisition, marketing strategies, future planning, workflow management and income generation I’ve learned on the job by trial and error.

No wonder the profession is in crisis.

So anyway, this is my voice. I talk about these things because by and large very few others are. I have set about in my own small way to inject questions of money and productivity and marketing into our broader discussion. It’s my hope that this injection steers the conversation somewhat towards pastures more open-minded about the political economy of design.

All time; Blogging; Infographic; Data; Tags
All time use of business-related tags

I was chuffed recently to make it onto a list of important Australian architecture blogs, but a bit disappointed that the author used adjectives like pragmatic and everyday to describe my content. Yes, the articles I write are about the everyday, but I believe they are the things that facilitate the momentous. The crisis of the architecture profession is fuelled I think by a resistance to business. But design and business aren’t mutually exclusive, indeed they are tidally locked. Each can’t and shouldn’t exist without the other. Good business facilitates good design, and vice versa.

The origins of this blog may have been frivolous, indistinguishable from the hundreds of millions of other blogs floating around the internet, but I’m pleased they’ve led somewhere productive. This voice that I’ve found and am continuing to find has become a new source of inspiration, one that has evolved well beyond the original purpose of Panfilocastaldi.

So what next?

For me and my time-limited life, one of the attractive qualities of blogging is how incremental it is. The idea of sitting down to write a 200,000 word book scares the shit out of me, but taken together, that’s about how many words I’ve written across my 310 Panfilocastaldi articles over these past six years. One article at a time isn’t so scary.

Despite this, I think I would like to write a book. Something that gathers together the various threads I’ve explored on this blog into a cohesive, narrative-driven resource for the architecture profession. I have a few ideas about the what and the how, but I’ll keep them under wraps for now for fear of putting a mozz on myself.

A question for you though, dear readers: would you buy and then read a book I’ve written? Would it be useful to you in your daily lives? What do you think it should be about?

I think I’ll leave it there. Thank you for your support this year. Who knows what 2017 will bring, and whether I’ll ever find the pathway to putting together an entire book. For now, Panfilocastaldi continues to be a labour of love, self-sustaining because it’s enjoyable for its own sake. If you promise to keep reading, I’ll promise to keep typing.

Yours sincerely,
Warwick Mihaly.


Image sources:

  1. Happy 6th birthday, author’s own image.
  2. 2016 vs 2011 word count comparison, author’s own image.
  3. 2016 vs 2011 categories comparison, author’s own image.
  4. Article montage, author’s own image.
  5. All time tags, author’s own image.

Happy 5th birthday

Panfilocastaldi, Happy birthday, Anniversary, Blogging

Today, Panfilocastaldi turns 5. I have survived another full year of blogging. Over the years, my focus has gradually shifted and sharpened, away from art, photography and the environment, and towards the culture, practice and business of architecture. I’m proud of the content I produce, and the way it has struck a chord amongst the Australian architecture profession.

This year, I published on average one post every nine days, helped along somewhat by my August series of daily lessons for design students. I’ve had articles co-published in Parlour, Architecture & Design and Interns Australia. My favourites of the past 12 months:

Once again, I’ve synthesised this year’s key statistics into a series of infographics:

Blogging, Statistics, Blogging categories, Architecture, Architecture Practice, Lessons

Blogging, Statistics, Months

Blogging, Statistics, Australia, United States of America, United Kingdom

Blogging, Statistics, Months

And some highlights in plain English:

  • 41 new posts, with a maximum of 17 in August of this year.
  • 20 post categories, 7 of which received new articles. My most prolific category this year, Lessons, received 22.
  • 106 new tags, bringing the total to 1,346 and ranging from Stratosphere (1 post) to Australian Institute of Architects (33 posts).
  • 86 new comments, bringing the total to 533.
  • 4,320 new spam comments, bringing the total to 29,616.
  • 39,730 new page views, bringing the total to 180,649.
  • An average of 109 page views per day. Our busiest month this year was August with 6,942 page views or an average of 224 per day.
  • Visitors from 153 different countries, ranging from Belize (1 page view) to Australia (14,333 page views).
  • 12,347 referrals from search engines, comprising thousands of unique terms. Lots of Some great practice-related long tail search terms this year included disadvantages of negotiated tendering process and design brief for construction a house.
  • 5,861 referrals from 128 other websites, with a maximum of 3,112 from Facebook. This smashed Twitter for social media referrals, which only provided 479.
  • 175 blog followers, increasing our count by 40 over this time last year, with a further 22 comment followers and 739 Twitter followers.

Thank you for your support this year. Who knows what 2016 will bring, or how Panfilocastaldi will evolve? For now, it continues to be a labour of love, self-sustaining because it is enjoyable for its own sake. If you promise to keep reading, I’ll promise to keep typing.

Yours sincerely,
Warwick Mihaly

Happy 4th birthday

happy birthday

Today, Panfilocastaldi turns 4. We have survived another full year of blogging. The focus we developed last year on architecture and architecture practice has continued to deepen, with these subjects representing the lion’s share of this year’s articles.

We are now publishing on average one post every week and a half, and have had articles co-published in Parlour and ArchitectureAU. Our favourites of the past 12 months:

  • Why working for free is not okay. What are the costs of unpaid staff? An in-depth study into the complicated issue of unpaid internships. Co-published with Parlour.
  • Richard Leplastrier. A tribute to the great Australian architect.
  • The ideal client. What ingredients make a great client? Analysis of the ideal client, and exploration of how we might go about getting more of them.
  • You can’t sell an idea. Thomas Edison once said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. An article that explores the recipe to success in the architecture profession.
  • Interviews with WHBC Architects (Malaysia) and Jo Noero (South Africa), speakers from the Australian Institute of Architects 2014 architecture conference. Commissioned by ArchitectureAU.
  • Our work is all about you. The first of 10 reasons to engage an architect.

Once again, we’ve synthesised this year’s key statistics into a series of infographics:

categories

months

countries

readership

And some highlights in plain English:

  • 38 new posts, with a maximum of 8 in April and June of this year.
  • 19 post categories, the same number as last year. 12 categories received no new articles, continuing evidence of our shift in writing focus. Our most prolific category, Architecture practice, received 30.
  • 118 new tags, bringing the total to 1,240 and ranging from The Fountainhead (1 post) to Australian Institute of Architects (28 posts).
  • 116 new comments, bringing the total to 447.
  • 9,228 new spam comments, bringing the total to 25,296.
  • 37,521 new page views, bringing the total to 140,919.
  • An average of 103 page views per day. Our busiest month this year was April with 3,868 page views or an average of 129 per day.
  • Visitors from 153 different countries, ranging from Yemen (1 page view) to Australia (13,503 page views).
  • 20,856 referrals from search engines, comprising thousands of unique terms. Some great practice-related long tail search terms this year included what to ask for when visiting a builder for tender and should australian architects charge for doing a fee proposal.
  • 3,705 referrals from 144 other websites, with a maximum of 512 from Facebook, pipping Twitter by 7 referrals as our primary social media platform.
  • 135 blog followers, increasing our count by 52 over this time last year, with a further 23 comment followers and 542 Twitter followers.

Thank you for your support this year. Who knows what 2015 will bring for us, or how Panfilocastaldi will evolve? For now, it continues to be a labour of love, self-sustaining because it is enjoyable for its own sake. If you promise to keep reading and commenting, we’ll promise to keep posting and replying.

Yours sincerely,
Warwick Mihaly, Erica Slocombe and Dew Stewart.

Happy 3rd birthday

happy birthday

Today, Panfilocastaldi turns 3. We have survived another full year of blogging. We have narrowed our focus somewhat, engaging more deeply with events in Melbourne. We are writing less about art and photography, and more about architecture and architectural practice.

Our posts have become less frequent, but also longer and, we hope, more insightful. We were pleased this year to have our first articles published in other online outlets and print media. Our favourites from the past 12 months:

  • Chutzpah. The first of 10 things one needs to start an architecture practice.
  • Sharing is better than hoarding. A rallying call to the architecture profession to get better at sharing knowledge, processes and resources.
  • The invisible profession. Generated contact from the legal department of the Australian Institute of Architects, identifying our unauthorised use of the AIA logo and instructing its removal. A plea to Victorian Chapter Manager and national CEO was to no avail. We removed the image and remain bemused that our first official contact was a legal sanction.
  • Dear Sir or Madam. An open letter to architecture graduates revealing how to write a better job application. Useful too: we now direct all hopeful applicants to read and learn from it.
  • The legacy of Robin Boyd. Our first commissioned article, for the March 2013 issue of Architecture Australia. Republished here 7 months later unedited and in full.
  • Pretoria travelling studio. Our first article by a guest contributor, Jake Taylor.
  • Out of Practice and Small projects. Reviews of lectures from inspiring international architects, Gregg Pasquarelli of New York and Kevin Low of Kuala Lumpur.
  • Material 2013: An overview. The AIA 2013 architecture conference in review.
  • Vote Flinders Street: conclusion. The last of many articles examining the much hyped Flinders Street Station international design competition.
  • Bad architecture drives out good. A treatise on the demise of the built environment, and what we can do about it.

Once again, we have synthesised this year’s key statistics into a series of infographics:

categories

months

countries

readership

And some highlights in plain English:

  • 43 new posts, with a maximum of 11 in April of this year.
  • 19 current post categories, up from 18 last year. 7 categories received no new articles, evidence of our shift in writing focus, while Architecture and Architecture practice, the 1 new category, each received 22.
  • 139 new tags, bringing the total to 1,122 and ranging from Stalinism (1 post) to Australia (26 posts).
  • 135 new comments, up from 84 last year and bringing the total to 331.
  • An exponentially increasing 13,605 new spam comments, up from 2,055 last year and 408 the year before. This represents 98% of all comments making their way onto Panfilocastaldi.
  • 40,479 new page views, bringing the total a touch past the magic 100,000 to 103,398.
  • A slight reduction in our readership from last year, down from 120 to 111 page views a day. Our busiest month this year was surprisingly January, which has previously been amongst our quietest, with 5,534 page views or an average of 179 per day.
  • Visitors from 154 different countries, ranging from Papua New Guinea (1 page view) to Australia (13,649 page views). Australia now outranks the United States as our number 1 source of visitors by a significant margin.
  • 25,188 referrals from search engines, comprising thousands of unique terms predominantly in English, but also in Spanish, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Dutch. Our favourite, surely based on spoken words misheard, was, miss van dero.
  • 3,582 referrals from 210 other websites, with a maximum of 881 of Twitter, supplanting Facebook as our primary social media platform.
  • 83 blog followers, more than doubling our count of 39 this time last year, with a further 14 comment followers and 296 Twitter followers.

Thank you for your support this year. Who knows what 2014 will bring for us, or how Panfilocastaldi will evolve? For now, it continues to be a labour of love, self-sustaining because it is enjoyable for its own sake. If you promise to keep reading and commenting, we’ll promise to keep posting and replying.

Yours sincerely,
Warwick Mihaly, Erica Slocombe and Dew Stewart.

Happy 2nd birthday

Today, Panfilocastaldi turns 2. We have survived another full year of blogging, despite some significant personal upheavals. As new parents, getting out into the worlds of architecture and art is proving more difficult but not, with determined effort, impossible.

Looking back, many of the posts remind us of enriching experiences and conversations. It is always difficult to narrow down a few favourites from so many, but once again we’ll do our best:

With a nod to David McCandless’ excellent Information is Beautiful, we have decided to represent this year’s various statistics as a series of infographics:

And in plain(er) english:

  • 58 new posts, with a maximum of 10 in July of this year.
  • 17 post categories ranging from Literature (1 post) to Architecture (35 posts).
  • 309 new tags, bringing the total to 983 and ranging from Richard Neutra (1 post) to Architecture (82).
  • 84 new comments, with a maximum of 19 for Herman Miller vs. Matt Blatt.
  • A whopping 2,055 new spam comments, representing 99% of all comments making their way onto our blog.
  • 43,941 new page views, with a freak maximum of 1,249 on the 4th of this month and 7,543 for the most popular post, again The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
  • An increase in readership from an average of 88 a day in October 2011 to 210 a day in October 2012.
  • Visitors since February from 142 different countries ranging from Lesotho (1 visit) to the United States (11,911 visits).
  • 34,108 referrals from search engines, comprising thousands of unique search terms in english, hebrew, arabic, russian, swedish, serbian and italian.
  • 1,763 referrals from 186 other websites, with a maximum of 471 from Facebook.
  • 39 active blog followers, 5 comment followers and 114 Twitter followers.

Thank you for your support this past year. If you promise to keep reading and commenting, we’ll promise to keep posting and replying.

Yours sincerely,
Warwick Mihaly, Erica Slocombe and Drew Stewart.

Slow architecture

Bruder Klaus Chapel by Peter Zumthor

What is it?

A number of years ago, Peter Zumthor presented a memorable lecture in Melbourne. Among the projects he discussed was the Bruder Klaus Chapel, as yet unbuilt, a chapel he was designing for a small community in Mechernich, Germany. Zumthor explained that the community was to fell a number of trees from the adjacent forest, strip them and stack them like a teepee. The trunks would be encased in concrete then burned out, leaving the extraordinary marks visible above.

This, we would be the first to agree, is slow architecture.

But then again, the term is a tautology surely: of all the arts, architecture is the slowest. The painter may work on a canvas for a few weeks, the sculptor on an installation for a few months, but the architect will spend years on even a small building.

The architect must therefore possess considerable patience, particularly when his project dawdles in pre-design, languishes in town planning or tarries in documentation. He must learn to hold the image of his future project in mind so it can drive him through every last drawing, schedule and instruction. Architecture is a long game, a prolonged and dedicated commitment to the future whose everyday appearance often resembles any other desk-bound profession.

Though each built work provides deep and lasting fulfilment, even the most stoic of architects itches for more immediate creative reward. Thus, as principle architects of our own practice, we exploit the flexibility to actively seek out such reward: we write articles for this blog, we teach at the University of Melbourne, we enter design competitions. First and foremost, these activities establish a meaningful synergy with our practice of architecture, each inspiring and receiving inspiration from the others. But they are also fast – a design studio lasts months, a design competition weeks, a blog entry days. Such rapid turnarounds provide quick sustenance to interrupt our otherwise leisurely cycle.

So with what sort of frequency do our various interests occur? What do the last 12 months of our lives look like in terms of projects, competitions, articles and studios?

Spam comments

What are they?

3,540 unrequested, irrelevant and nonsensical comments that have arrived at Panfilocastaldi in the 22 months of its existence. We received the following example earlier today and could not bear to delete it without sharing its utter absurdity with the world. The words are (mostly) English, yet strung together they barely even conform to the basic grammatical rules of the language:

Emergence. This could be blended with bathrooms normal water. Or you do obligationgationgation preventntnt these routines might possibly impact the emotional health has already been a real repeat. When prescription antibiotics can be to wipe out the damaging harmful bacteria. Their tea pine gasoline pessaries for a person’s publicize the whole thing (to date while doing so pay for it can result in bacterias hence create male bacterial vaginosis reason bv. You will have to explicitly locate adult females will do is normally try out a a purple pallette carpeting by means of cautious, in either very little problems and often will at the same time cost you around a 1,000 dollars is prejudicial . any chemical compounds that your launch right from Yeast may have some also been driving you will want to pick out shirts or dresses you should easily stop by its lifetime. Females that induce damage vulvar can’t wait. Despite the fact that a female might not be our body and might do well pertaining to fibroids, to cultivate that would often be extremely abundant. Just a mild treatment for lose weight.