Societal Architect: Richard Swett (Essay 3)
According to James Freedman, the well-known retired
First and foremost, an honorary degree recipient must be skillful in his field. In his essay, “Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professions,”
Furthermore, he has served on a number of committees and is involved in every part of a process. A powerful illustration of his viewpoint is best exemplified in the following statement: “Like an artist’s rendering of a proposed building, what is presented…is a flat illusionary image of the much more desired three dimensional reality.” Swett sees the world in its entirety and believes that to dissect it, is to do a disservice to its complexity and beauty. The
The quality of Swett’s work and contributions is exemplified in his numerous praises and accolades. Architecture Week describes him as “one of the few architects who excels at civic leadership… [who] does everything he can to encourage other architects to take on community leadership roles.” While finishing his bachelor’s degree, Swett was awarded the prestigious Timothy Dwight College Master's Cup. In 1993, he was recognized by the Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of the ten most outstanding young Americans of that year. The awards and recognition did not stop there, however. He has gone on to judge numerous design competitions, and was even on the board that chose the architects for the
Freedman has said that “in bestowing an honorary degree, a university makes an explicit statement to its students and around the world about the qualities of character and attainment it most admires” (117). One of the most unique and admirable qualities of Richard Swett’s demeanor is his idealism. He believes in the world and that everybody can and must make a positive impact on those around them. In his book, Leadership by Design: Creating an Architecture of Trust , Richard Swett explains that architecture “is not a solitary pursuit,” but rather being a “multilayered process built on coalitions, cooperation and understanding.” This is inspirational for architects as well as for people in other professions. Architects create civilizations, but there is a certain responsibility for them to include the people they desire to serve. Instead of merely being designers, Swett believes that architects are rather "polymaths", culminating math, science, society, and environment to create something that is beneficial for people long into the future.
Martin says “satisfaction must go beyond money and social recognition” (26). Although the power and fame that come with his professions are undoubtedly important to Swett, one could conclude that his motivation is not entirely self-interested. In fact, one might even go so far as to say that he gains the most joy from recognizing the potential of others in society. His passion can be derived from the statement that, “architects spend their working lives turning ideas into reality through the servant-leadership process.” According to Swett, “too many stark instances spring to mind of leaders manipulating the masses with fear and confusion.” Many architects have easily become self centered and egotistical in designing and building only what they see fit and using the most resources possible without regard to the environment or the lives of the future population. This view is the complete antithesis of Richard Swett’s, who believes that “commitment to clear, shared, and actionable purposes is the antidote to ambivalence and apathy.” He is the ideal role model of Martin’s professional who “provides opportunities to make ongoing contributions to the well being of others and should promote the good of clients” (23).
According to the criteria for honorary degree recipients, USC looks for people who “have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities of which they are a part.” Richard Swett has helped the much larger USC community, by advocating peace. Politics is not just a chance at fame, more importantly it is a chance for change. Although no longer holding office, Richard Swett, as recent as September 2006, was making
Furthermore, Richard Swett believes that “citizens must feel ownership” of the work he presents to them. Everything is a team process. His purpose is not to create buildings, but rather to help people create their own reality, according to their present and future needs and wants. He is involved in all parts of the decision making process and is fully informed about how things work and who is affected by certain actions that are taken. Like USC, Swett looks to “nurture an environment of mutual respect and dignity.” He explains that the foundation of architecture is trust and in order to gain the trust of clients and the community, an architect must reach consensus with everybody affected by the decisions he makes. In a similar claim Martin states that, “A calling links a person to the larger community, whole in which the calling of each is a contribution to the good of all”(28). Swett not only calls upon architects to become more involved in their civic duties, but he requests that the general public does the same. The
Perhaps the greatest criticism of nominating Richard Swett for an honorary degree is the fact that he is a politician. According to James Freedman, there has been a long history of politics behind the honorary degree. One Dartmouth President refused to honor Abraham Lincoln during 1864 because he disagreed with
In the case of Richard Swett, however, his actions match his words. “The ‘real’ or authentic self is not an isolated atom, but instead defined and fulfilled through concerns for goods beyond the self,” according to Martin (31). Swett works for the good of the public, free from alternative motives that are inconsistent to the wishes of the members of society. This can be seen through his votes during his time as a representative of
Green Persuasion: A Website Analysis (Essay 2)
With oil and other natural resources becoming scarce and the looming threat of global warming, people are looking for alternatives to conventional ways of building. Instead of focusing on merely minimizing immediate costs, companies are beginning to look at their effects on the future of the environment, by way of sustainable architecture, or “green building.” But businesses are by no means altruistic. Many are good corporate citizens only if there is some type of monetary benefit. The National Resources Defense Council has realized this and created a website to cater to the interests of the business owner. Knowing how fast paced society has become, the NRDC has chosen the best medium available to convey the potential cost-saving aspects of the green building. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in the beginning of 2006, 73% of American adults used the internet, of those, 91% had a household income of $75,000, many of whom are likely to be business owners or managers. Given these statistics, the NRDC would be at a loss if they did not take advantage of this growing phenomenon. The NRDC’s Webby Award winning site breaks down the incentives of green building into terms that make sense to the practical business owner, who does not have time to sift through superficial details. While the site still has room for improvement, the NRDC has provided useful and relevant information to prospective adherents of green ideals.
Part of the awe of the web comes from the ability to use powerful visuals that enhance the content and give the information a different dimension. Webby Awards cites design as one of six integral factors used to judge nominated websites. According to the awards, “good visual design is high quality, appropriate, and relevant for the audience and the message it is supporting.” The effective use of visual aids and design, including page layout, can dramatically influence how much information users process and whether they will remember the site’s content long after leaving. In the case of the NRDC, the visual theme is one of the strongest assets the site has to offer. Upon arriving at the website for the first time, the reader is instantly drawn to the bold colors and clean structure of the layout. The Web Style Guide warns against the use of such color schemes, stating that an effective site avoids “bold, highly saturated primary colors except in regions of maximum emphasis, and even there [uses] them cautiously.” In the case of the NRDC, however, the bright and prominent colors help capture the user’s attention. This is a result of the appropriateness of the hues, which are all shades found in nature and reinforce the theme of sustainable architecture and environmental conservation.
In addition to the color scheme, the Building Green website has a cogent layout. Quick and easy access is necessary in the business world because without it, there is a potential for millions of dollars to be lost. The NRDC appears to have taken this into consideration when constructing the overall look and feel of its website. Along with appearing professional, which is a must in business, the visual hierarchy is consistent and gives a sense of logical progression. Visitors can easily access different parts of the site. For example, in order to move from the “Sustainable Buildings” section, to the “Building Your Business Case” section one would only need to go to the main menu found on all of the pages. This menu allows the person to read about a certain topic on a different page without the fear of losing their place within the order of the information, which is necessary for people whose time is limited, such as owners of businesses. The NRDC has made sure its audience is able to rely on this structure throughout the site. Titles such as “Reduce Your Risk” and “Command Higher Rents” are straightforward and do not leave the user guessing as to what might be discussed.
In the same way that people assume a building will work and meet the demands of the residents without seeing the pipes and air ducts, people also assume their websites will function without being aware of the inner workings of the structure. “The best information designs are never noticed,” according to Web Style Guide. The building green website adheres to this principle by providing a structure that is simple and logical. Information is organized by the use of sequencing. On the main menu bar, the user quickly realizes the progression from “Build Your Business Case” to “Capitalize on Your Investment.” This “division of information,” as said by Web Style Guide, continues throughout the website in other forms and is crucial to providing clear and organized content. Overall, the navigation and organization of the Building Green website is “consistent, intuitive, and transparent” while also allowing the user to know what to expect when they click on a topic, which are the key criteria of effective structures according to Webby Awards. By doing this, the NRDC has, in essence, minimized uncertainty, one of the most highly sought after ideals in business.
“Good content is engaging, relevant, and appropriate for the audience,” as stated by Webby Awards. In the business realm, reliable material is everything. Throughout the site, the NRDC keeps its audience in mind by relating architectural topics back to profit. For example, when the organization discusses the need for spending adequate time in choosing the project’s site they bring up the potential cost-savings along with the benefits to the environment. This is evident from NRDC’s recommendation of landscaping “the building's grounds or roof with native or adapted trees and plants” in order to help “increase occupant comfort and lower air-conditioning costs.” In addition, the content on the NRDC site is reliable and concise. The website provides information about sustainable architecture in ways that are easy to understand given that the main constituency is not aware of the specifics of the field. For instance, the word charrette is used several times. Knowing that their audience may not recognize this word, the NRDC has not only provided the definition, but has also included trivia about where this interesting word originated.
The NRDC has provided manageable information that is not overwhelming in size or depth. As mentioned earlier, only those topics relating to sustainable architecture that are relevant to businesses are discussed on the website. Main subjects include “Capitalize on Your Achievement” and “Set Your Budget and Goals” are highlighted instead of various construction techniques. The site focuses more on why various methods are used, rather than the specifics of the approach itself, as can be seen from the suggestion to “install operable windows, which keep occupants comfortable and more satisfied by allowing them to control their access to fresh air.” As can be seen through the various examples given thus far, each concept is succinct. The Building Green website avoids including too many details which can cause the user to miss main concepts, or even worse, leave the site for one that is more concise and possibly less informative or reliable. According to Web Style Guide, information should be distributed throughout the site in “chunks.” The NRDC has avoided this potential problem by dividing the information into small, yet highly focused subjects, thereby maintaining user interest while also catering to those who are looking for answers to very specific questions. A visitor can easily find out about becoming green certified or how to “alert the local media” about their green building.
Links to case studies can be found throughout the site as evidence to back many of the claims brought forth by the organization. These case studies are supplied in both summary and in full, which can be useful to a person looking for evidence regarding the possible construction of a sustainable building. Some of the topics that can be found under the summary heading are the architects, occupancy, dates the buildings were created, and the various awards received. This allows the reader to find those cases that are specific to his needs and interests and to avoid those that have little relevance to his project. Additionally, given that the primary focus of the website is to inspire businesses to build using green technology, the site includes many impressive statistics to back all claims. According to the NRDC, “by paying an average of 2 percent up front on efficient green features, you can save as much as 30 percent to 40 percent on your energy and water bills.” This extraordinary fact is enough to turn anybody’s head, but especially a person looking to maximize profits on their investment. Overall, the NRDC has made a positive attempt at persuading their audience to think green by providing important and relevant information.
Although award winning, the site is not without flaws. The Green Seal link and others under the resource center do not connect to their intended pages. This leads one to speculate whether the information on the entire site is relevant, since there is no revision date. According to Web Style Guide, “every Web page in a corporate or institutional site should carry a revision date that is changed each time the page is updated so that users can be sure they have the latest version.” In addition to the outdated links, the visitor could become annoyed by how the page is aligned to the left instead of centered. These problems are minor, but if not corrected, they could damage the site’s reputation for excellence. One of the greater weaknesses of the site, however, is in regards to the content. Despite the numerous topics commented on throughout the website, only a few are fully elaborated. Each topic appears more like an introduction than a rich full body text. For instance, the subject titled "Lower Your Maintenance Costs" states, “by saving on operations and maintenance, you can generate increased cash flow and higher margins.” Aside from this, the topic relies on only two pieces of evidence, which require the visitor to rely heavily on reading the case studies. It must be noted that even though the case studies are important, they are specific instances and their results could be abnormal. Even though the NRDC should still avoid using too many details, their website could be more persuasive if more each topic went a little more in depth.
Another aspect of the website that the NRDC could improve on in regards to content is the amount of the information provided by the website that is repetitious. Due to this, the reader may infer there are fewer reasons to spend the additional money using sustainable architecture than the site initially suggests. For example, many of the topics mentioned in the section titled “Set Your Budget and Goals” are repeated later in “Apply Sustainable Building Strategies.” Both sections Although these topics are elaborated on in the latter section, it could be more efficient and beneficial for the audience if the NRDC combined the two sections in some way, or made the each section completely distinct.
Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the website provides an assortment of impressive findings and figures that serve to inspire the audience to build green, however, there are few places where these findings are cited. In one case, the NRDC claims “you can save up to 30 percent on your energy bills by choosing an orientation and shape for your building that will optimize solar heat gain and loss.” This fact would be much more impressive and reliable if there was a citation accompanying it. According to the Web Style Guide, “The key to good hypertext linking is to maintain context, so that the reader stays within the narrative flow and design environment of your site.” Instead of merely having a section devoted to links, it would be beneficial for the NRDC to disperse them throughout the site. Given that their audience is looking to make a major investment based on the information on this site, it would behoove the NRDC to state which sources the findings came from in order to give more validity to their argument.
Obtaining information in this day and age is easier than ever before, however, ensuring that specific information or opinions are heard is much more challenging. The NRDC has created a thought provoking website that concentrates on appealing to the audience they have set forth to persuade. The website is not only informative, but also well organized and aesthetically pleasing, all of which help guarantee that their message will not be lost among the vastness of the web. Although the NRDC could take certain actions to enhance their argument, it is clear that their Building Green website well deserves the accolade presented to them by The Webby Awards.