« The trouble with convention centers | Main | Slam dunk: Trail Blazers return to Memorial Coliseum »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Poor workmanship should always be the first to go. They should be let go even when times are good. They should only be the last hired because anyone with poor workmanship doesn't stay long.

Should a firm really keep a poor employee on over a new employee who is a good employee? That is what your order suggests to me. Seniority should be secondary.

I'd also be careful of "doesn't click with the overall company vibe". Is the "vibe" old white guys? Young and single without kids? All from the same church? This could quickly lead to descrimination claims.

Family status should not be considered at all. It is also protected from descrimination. You cannot be hired or fired because of family status. So you can't fire someone just because they don't have kids or because you'd feel bad laying someone off because they do have kids.


i may misunderstand, but does this post confuse 'tried and true' with 'timeless,' or would those words be considered one in the same? in my mind most of these examples of timlessness are historically 'standard' construction methods or building typologies. i may be wrong, but i'm not sure i would call them timeless. perhaps that's why i'm not sure anything can be timeless. i feel like 'timeless' has a connotation that relates to style, and that typologies are common solutions without style.

it also seems that you're presenting forms as timeless objects. although some of these forms are old, i feel like construction methods have changed so much in the last century, that all curved forms can be dated to a specific period of time.

i guess i'm just not sure about our use of the word timeless in architecture. would 'classic' (not classical) be a better term? you'll have to put me in the 'still unconvinced' group.

to end on an agreeable note, i'm on the same page about learning from history, lest we be doomed to repeat it. i don't know many people that want to go through post-modernism again...


As someone who is without children, I find the layoff discussion offensive. If retaining those employees who have children is adding "compassion and integrity to this difficult process," the implication is that laying off those without children is perfectly fine. Glad to see that those without children don't matter. I agree with rwnobles above - family status should have absolutely nothing to do with layoffs.


Well at least the subject of layoffs is being discussed on this site again. I'd like to see a further investigation of it.

I can say that for most of this year, anytime I'm around other Architects we're not talking about Holst's latest building, or whether or not Michael Graves' building is timeless. We're talking about which firm just layed off another round of staff or swapping tips on how to handle furlough's or unemployment.

I'm not saying what is discussed for the most part is not interesting or worth posting about, but the issue of employment or lack there of is ravaging the Architecture community and the popularity and exposure of this site could be a forum on how to best deal with it from all perspectives from principal all the way down to intern and even student.


One thing that has not been brought up in the above discussion is marketing. It seems like a common thread around town has been to retain the folks that can help bring work into the firm. That may seem like common sense but it usually means that firms are keeping senior staff while shedding the folks actually doing the work. While a seeming necessary evil, it is the path to survival for most firms. In the process, certain firms are losing much of the backup talent that has made those rainmakers successful. I wonder if clients see this.

Another thing that I really worry about is the fact that it will likely never go back to the way it was. It seems that Portland firms were exporting a ton of work both nationally and oversees. With the economy in shambles everywhere, I think that everyone everywhere is giving more priority to firms local to the project, leaving us here in Portland with too many Architects for our local economy to support. My ultimate concern is that for Portland's Architectural industry to really recover, there may need to be a significant culling of the number practicing. As for me, I'm really not sure what I would do other than this. I guess I will keep fighting the good fight.


I would reverse Traci's order -

Get rid of:
1. Those that didn't seem to click with the overall company vibe. Why keep people around that don't get along with others

2.Those with low productivity or poor workmanship. Some people are just better at their jobs than others.

3. Last hired, first out. Those with least seniority have less claim to their jobs. I don't care how long you have been here. If you don't get along with others and don't perform to my standards - you are out of here!

Traci - if you feel you have been discriminated against due to having kids, please contact your lawyer.


Combing Jim and Mudd thoughts about order of layoffs really works for me.

I do not know if employers are as logical to make a list or not (or if they just choose names of the top of their head), but choosing who to cut when is I think more of a reflection of how good a business person you are then how ethical you are. That is, did they make the decisions that will best allow them to continue to employee the people who are left.

I know this is unlikely, but I would like to heare some anonymous posts from those who have handed out the pink slips.


in addition to the above, we look at salary and our bottom line. take 3 employees possessing comparable skills, workmanship, etc... and the one w/ the highest salary probably gets the pink slip.


@ Traci
I think that the greater job loss of people with young children is a matter that has more to do with how many years of experience and subsequent skill set people who have recently had children tend to have rather than the fact than the fact that they have children. From what I have read and heard, it is the mid-level people (let's say between 6 and 12 years experience) who have been hurt the most in our field. I would bet that this experience level really closely correlates to when yuppies like us start having kids.

With that said, I am sorry you lost your job. But, I am not going to feel that bad for you if you have a job in Seattle now.


It's definitely a sensitive subject and perhaps too generalized. But it does make one wonder when you start seeing the trends. What if most everyone that was laid off was black...women...and everyone that was left with a job were all white men. Yea, I'm going there! I just hope ethics are being played into these difficult decisions because coming from someone on the laid off end, it's tough out there. I also question the order. The decision to lay off today has much different parameters than 5 years ago. Now, it's for economical reasons. The decision should be based solely on economics and not on whether the person clicks with the firm or any other excuse. If they didn't click, they had plenty of time to be laid off. It's down and dirty these days. The decision should be based on the persons salary range. (ie: lower, mid, upper) Senority would play a role if there is a few people holding the same range. You obviously cannot lay off all the uppers, but perhaps a few from each level.



I reject the old paradigm that embraces the 20th century Capitalism economics that demand that companies grow and contract in size, in relationship to the market. It is a woefully inadequate response to economic forces, which places greed above all else. To wit, how Wall Street banks are able to post tremendous profit increases while income remains flat. Profit via attrition is unbridled greed.

Our society has been drawn into the simplistic argument of ME versus YOU. I thought we were a creative bunch, but apparently not. We're suckers for sticking with trite rules that were forged by greed and self-interest from the 19th Century.

If your company's income is down by 50%, cut salaries 50%. If it drops another 25%, cut salaries another 25%. Every employee matters. Do you actually buy into the idea of concurrent winners and losers? If you do, you cannot complain about CEO salaries.

I believe in all in or all out...we're either all winners or all losers.

How do you, for instance, justify cutting employees while maintaining salaries of principals? How do you justify cutting some employees' salaries while keeping others at full scale? It cannot be done, because you will have created a value system that is ordered differently from one individual to another.

If I'm a Socialist-Capitalist hybrid, so be it. I'd have it no other way.


While I'm interested in more news about the economy, I understand that the architectural industry isn't your "beat" as is specific projects happening locally.

Regarding timelessness, I would include another bit of nuance:

Architecture is a language. In the great mixing of races and tribes you find those words that remain universal or timeless. You also find slang words and fad words "That's boss!" "Neat-o" who only have a limited imprint on the imagination.

The language applies to style, it applies to strategy, it applies to materials, it applies to building codes, and most importantly it applies to common sense.

I think this is what he's getting at.


I agree that if there is a salary cut it should be across the board, all employees, but if business drops by 50% and you stay staffed at 100% what exactly are those employees doing? Are you cutting their time back 50% as well as their salary? Take your suggestion much further and it makes even less sense.

Why would a company hire more people when there is more work coming in, but not shrink when there is less? The amount of work($ billable) coming in has to justify the size($ wages & expenses) or the whole company goes under. How is that helping the employees if the company cannot succeed? I wonder how long you'd stay in business if you started a firm following your theory? Not long.

the real Jon

I am an architect who worked in Portland, moved to Seattle, now unemployed in Seattle (without a kid). I worked my ass off just to be laid off, from what I can tell, lack of seniority and knowing/working with the right people in the firm. It is hard to see someone (like myself) work hard for a job, while those with seniority skate through with salaries 2x mine... First in>first out is just plain dumb. There is no good way to determine who stays and who goes in a layoff, i mean, we all got into architecture for the love of design (hopefully).

Sounds like Traci is bitter about some perception of discrimination.

The people making these decisions often times have little connection or working relationship with the actual people they are laying off... just numbers on a page, surface relationships. CFOs don't want to have a layoff either.

It sucks, yes.
Lets all get over it and move forward, can we? How can we be positive in this mess? As architects we all win and all loose together. Hope it turns around for all of us.


@rwnobles - With a lot of open time at work, people have the opportunity to use it to constructively to contribute towards the back-end of the company, including archiving of old projects, going over old template details, recompiling office standards, or even marketing. The idle time can also be spent learning how to apply Revit or other software towards a project, or entering competitions. They can build trust and connections by contributing their open work hours towards a non-profit, either through design, planning or simply helping out with miscellaneous tasks. There are a lot of things that can be done.

Aren't we supposed to be a creative bunch?!?


i'm guessing most of work architects feel like our specific range of experience was hit hardest...i don't know many of this year's graduates that have had success getting into architecture firms right now, even if we might be a cheaper staffing solution than others.

i wonder how many recent graduates are going to have to leave the field they love before they even experience it professionally.

everyone is trying to swim upstream or stay afloat right now, just trying to get through it. it's tough going for most parties involved.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Lead Sponsors


Portland Architecture on Facebook

More writing from Brian Libby


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad

Paperblogs Network

Google Analytics

  • Google Analytics

Awards & Honors