Reed Kroloff is a renowned educator, writer, critic, and consultant. He’s the newly appointed dean of the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture and previously served as the director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art and dean of the school of architecture at Tulane University. He was also the editor-in-chief of Architecture magazine and runs the consultancy Jones Kroloff. In this episode, Jarrett and Reed talk about his unease in becoming an architect, how he started writing, and how he thinks about running an architecture program.
Jarrett Fuller Hey, welcome to scratching the surface. I’m Jarrett Fuller and this is a podcast about finding your place in design. Today’s episode is honestly one of my favorite conversations that I’ve had for the podcast I am joined by the great architecture critic, educator and writer Reed Kroloff. Earlier this year read was named the Dean of the Illinois Institute of technologies College of Architecture. But before this, he was the director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art and the Dean of Tulane University is architecture school, and was the editor in chief of architecture magazine. He’s also the principal of Jones crow loft, a design consultancy that helps clients envision their projects and helps helps them select designers. So, as you can imagine, we had a lot that we could talk about this conversation begins with read in architecture. And feeling like he’s not sure he’s cut out to be an architect and how this feeling led to the multifaceted career that he’s had that spans writing and criticism and teaching and administration. We’re also talking about how writing and teaching influenced his own thinking, the evolution of design criticism and how he’s thinking about his new role as dean at IIT. This conversation could have easily gone on for another hour, I found it completely inspiring and informative and just really admire the career that Reed has built over the last 30 years.
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I actually want to start with something kind of related to what we were just talking about before we started recording in preparing for this and in kind of reading about you and your work, I stumbled upon a short article that was written by, I guess one of your former teachers from grad school when you were studying architecture and this I think this was written shortly after you became the director at Cranbrook and What this professor said is that they were kind of just saying how successful you were and that there was they were like watching your career blossom but that when you were in grad school, you were this kind of smart, articulate person who was interested in architecture, but just hated the studio classes and kind of felt like maybe you shouldn’t be an architect, and we’re kind of ready to give it up. And so I want to start there. And so the first question is, is that an accurate description of your experience in architecture school, and then to if it is, what was it about architecture that you even decided to go back to school because you didn’t originally studied architecture and then why was it once you got there? Did it not feel right? Or what was kind of not interesting to you about it?
Reed Kroloff Well, that is it is it definitely accurate and, and I know who, who was speaking there. A man named Lawrence Speck, the former dean of the University of Texas at Austin and now a principal at an architectural practice called page and he’s been a true mentor and and good friend of mine since the day I got to school and and Larry’s Larry is just the picture of what one hopes to find in an educator. Something that someone who goes way beyond way beyond their it as an educator to to being someone who helps you shape your own life. Care very carefully, asking the right questions and pushing you here and there until you till you get on a path that that makes sense for you and without ever shaping it for you having a huge which one shouldn’t do, right having a huge impact on you nonetheless, and I truly Oh my entire career. Over and over again, to Larry’s guidance. So I’m glad you got to see that. And the answer is yes. I was very frustrated after a year of architecture school because I don’t think I knew what to expect. I got interested in architecture early as a child and my, my parents supported that fantasy. We lived in Phoenix. My mother was a real estate agent when I was young, and she used to take me to every open house and a lot of things that were for sale, I would do floor plans, of all the buildings that we had seen and also a half dozen Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and Phoenix and a number of other prominent architects and she would take me to see all those my father as well. And so they encouraged it at that time, when I told then I went to college. And in college, my parents suggested that I take a class from a art historian who they had heard of when they were students, because we’ve made a big splash. Early in his career Vincent Scully Yeah. And oh, you should take this guy whiplash from this guy scaly. My dad said, Yeah, he’s either an art historian or a baseball announcer but one of the two needed one will hurt you. And so I went to take Vince’s class and I dropped it. Because I thought after listening to him talk about architecture the way he talked about it, that he was either crazy or or someone should maybe not allow their kids to take classes from someone. Because of the way he spoke about architecture, and very, with great, great physicality, descriptions, and my parents made me go back and take it again. And oh, wow. Yeah. And I did and I stayed for the second lecture, and I fell in love with Vincent Scully. Jim head over heels I just everything about the man was so extraordinary. His his his brilliant His wit, his ability to to convey information that would be as dry dusty as it could possibly be in another context and turn it into something living, pulsating. Just absolutely enveloping was nothing short of masterful and, and the material itself then it wasn’t just the man there was a lot the man and he appealed to the to the showman in me. Yeah, frustrated actor but it was it was much more of the scholarship to brilliance and the material itself. architecture was my eyes were opened in a way that one hears about, you know, when you when people talk about themselves, having that moment in school, and this was it, and I’m very fortunate. My parents are generous and remarkably supportive people and they had Deal with their kids that if you did well in college, after college, you could take six months off and they would support you in some crazy adventure. Whatever.
Jarrett Fuller Oh, that’s that is nice.
Reed Kroloff It was very nice. I being the complete pin headed nerd that I’ve always been thought, Oh, good. I can go back to school.
Jarrett Fuller Yeah, yeah.
Reed Kroloff Yeah, so I enrolled in architecture school at the University of Texas at Austin. I was a state resident, so it meant it was very inexpensive to take this experiment. And I was just completely intoxicated with the subject. And unfortunately, school made me sober up. Realize that, that this was actually a real profession, you had to work and there were certain conventions about what that meant that were that were difficult for me. I’m not artistic and learning to draw was was painful at that stage. And there were others who could do it with such facility. And and so quickly and that was frustrating and the kind of romantic side of the profession of the educational aspects of architecture. were quickly overwhelmed for me by the practical, right. And and I found myself in deep distress at the end of the first year and I went to see Larry and told him I just thought I wasn’t cut out for this. And he said something that so completely encapsulates him but also explains partly why I became an educator. I said, I said to him, I think I’m, I’m failing. I’m failing all of you, my faculty. And he said, No, read, actually, we’re failing you. There should be a place in architecture for somebody like you someone who really loves it and is energetic. And isn’t without talent as a designer just is struggling to get here. And we have to do better for you. And so please don’t leave. And so I stayed and, and he helped me in terms of how I could do better and design and drawing and it became easier for me as it does for everyone who stays with it. And then he did something wonderful, which was to put me on the staff of the new new publication that the school was starting called Center, which is a, a scholarly, a mostly scholarly, academic review of various subjects in architecture. And that that was one of those first, that was the second magic switch. So yeah, Vince was the first Vin Scully was the first magic switch. Larry spec and center was the second magic switch. And and the third magic switches. I became Larry’s to Huh. And that enabled me to have my first experiences teaching. And that was it, the three switches had been thrown and three is a magic number. And my career began to have a little bit of a shape I knew at that moment that it was unlikely that I would be a traditional architect because these other things teaching and writing were very important to me. long answer for you
Jarrett Fuller No, I I loved that and I don’t mean to kind of like parallel this to my own to my own story, but but I see a lot of my own life in that also and I think the differences you know, when you talked about kind of going TO to Austin and studying architecture and realizing the, the I forget the word that you use, but kind of like the constraints of the profession. That was me. As soon as I finished undergrad and I had my first job as a designer, I was like, This is not what this was like, when I was in school. And not that it was hard or not that I didn’t want to do it or that I didn’t want to put in the work, but just, oh, that this kind of intellectual stimulation that I got from school is not the most important thing when I’m working. And and I think there’s some similarity there. Can you talk more, I don’t mean to make this whole conversation about, you know, the kind of trajectory of your career but I think it’s interesting that while you’re in school, you find writing and you find teaching, and that kind of literally does set up what you’ve been doing since when you were there. Work teaching and writing did that seem like a career or you know, what were you kind of thinking was going to happen after what did you want to do next, where you’re kind of looking at for teaching jobs?
Reed Kroloff You know, initially I, when I went to school, I didn’t think I would be an architect in a way. Although there was a kind of prophetic moment that I should have paid more attention to at the time when I first got to Austin. I responded to a call for movie casting. And I went and read lines. And amazingly they called me back. And they had me read some more lines. And then they actually offered me a part in this movie that was going to get made in West Texas, and I didn’t know what to do and I went to see the dean’s office, I said, look at I’d love to be able to go do this, but take 16 weeks, can I start in January? And they said no. You have to Jen and just in September because studio sequences are sequential. The studios are sequential, sorry. And we just don’t have a way of starting you in January. So you have to choose, you can come back next year if you’d like. And so I check it out. And when I had went to school, I should have recognized that there was that was a piece of me that Brett that needed attention. The teaching thing was marked by Scully. He was just such a master and such a showman. And such a scamp. I mean, he pulled every trick in the book to to try and sell the product as it were. Yeah, the texture. It was, it was by turns, fascinating, brilliant, humorous, painful, emotional. I mean, he was able to bring all of that out of a one hour talk and I was so impressed with that, that I really did immediately think Wow, what an amazing opportunity. Teaching offers you to be able to make a subject Like that come alive. Yeah, wouldn’t that be fun? And then Larry was the exact opposite. He’s just the most amiable, easygoing. Nothing we, although he had his tricks too, but not just not show me like, like Vince, just a very folksy a very folksy. That’s I think the word I’d use approaching his ability to talk to people in regular day to day language, the language last week was just marvelous. And again, though, it would be the net result was the same hundreds and hundreds of people who change their minds and decided designers are trying to or at least studied art and became sympathetic. Right. So that was always in me a little bit. Yeah, and then you know, the experience of school enabled me to have a little opportunity that and to, to confirm to me that it was an area of interest. And I started teaching immediately after graduating and didn’t stop until I became editor of architecture.
Jarrett Fuller So and So immediately after was that, did you go to Arizona State to teach immediately after
Reed Kroloff that? No, there was there were a couple of years actually, I foolishly went into business with a partner, a friend. Okay, a woman who’s had already had a practice in interiors. And she and I opened an architectural practice which, okay, close to do, because neither of us was licensed. And you have to work for a licensed architect before you can do that. So, but we had clients and so we, we thought it would be fun and it wasn’t really architecture was really more kind of simple design and additions, but we both started teaching to support ourselves in the interior design program at the University of Texas at Austin. Okay. And then two years later, a teaching job at Arizona State came along Okay, that’s when the real teaching career began.
Jarrett Fuller And can you can you talk more about what it was about teaching that? grabbed you? I mean, you’ve been kind of hinting at it throughout. You’ve been talking about the kind of theatrical performance side, I think, especially thinking about scali there’s this historical side that’s, you know, kind of talking about the architecture scene, something that that you were interested in. How did that feel like the better fit for you then being the architect in the traditional sense? Sure. And I talked about the theatricality away in in a in a self deprecating events was the article but what he really was was scholarly.
Jarrett Fuller And Right, right. I know what you mean.
Reed Kroloff that would that that appealed to me. It appealed to me that you could convey scholarly information which is often so dry in a fashion that was so engaging and so appealing. that people really lost. They lost a sense of where they were and just became one with the subject. You couldn’t help it. And it was like a great minister, you know, on on, depending on your faith on a Saturday or a Sunday or and it was, you know, again and again, he would take you away. And when the when the class was over, it was really disappointing, because you were back into regular life again, and it was rupt it was suddenly the light red, that was it. And so, the ability to to, to get people excited about the subject of architecture, which excited me really, truly underlay my, my desire to be a teacher, which, in academia is not necessary in higher learning is not really the fundamental mission of the institution, which is primarily research, and right, I didn’t realize that and that that, to me is problematic for me because later because I’m not a researcher, I don’t have a PhD. And I don’t want to become the writer of long form deeply researched pieces. That’s that is not of interest in So once again, I found myself in a weird position wanting to be in the field, and yet not really cut out.
Jarrett Fuller Right, right.
Reed Kroloff I got the I need to do it a different way.
Jarrett Fuller Yeah, I’m curious about that. And I don’t know exactly. As you were talking about that I was trying to figure out the word that I’m looking for it I don’t. The word I keep coming back to his process. And I don’t mean that maybe like your approach or your point of view, how that is different or how that is, where it’s different and where it’s the same. Whether you are teaching versus writing or editing, so you were the editor of architecture magazine, where that is, you know, literally text to page was that process, you know, kind of forming those essays writing that or then when you’re editing, possibly editing other people, how was that different than standing in front of a room talking about these things? Was it you know, were subject matters different was kind of your your process of structuring those different How can you talk about that kind of back and forth a little bit?
Reed Kroloff Yeah, I love that as a question. I haven’t really thought about it, particularly in those terms, but they do share a lot in common. My writing started with a newspaper in Phoenix. And so it was immediately in a forum that’s highly public. Your approach is to a broad audience. Rather than to an audience of specialists, which academia can do both, but has a tendency to lean toward the specialists, and you hope it does, because that’s a demonstration of true scholarship. And you want that to happen over and over again, and in my many administrative posts, I just have such incredible respect and fascination for these scholars, you know, for this special Yeah, you can really find all of that out in and I try and support it as heavily as I can, because it’s a critical function in any in any discipline. And we’re not just a profession, we’re a discipline, but we’re a profession to and that’s one of the beauties of architecture and part of what I think Had I known how to talk about it better than I might have been able to articulate which is part of the beauty of this field is that it is both it is profession out there making and doing and it is a discipline something with clear rules and and terms of engagement and methods of investigation and and tempering and trying and testing. And that that leaves so much room for investigation for anybody for whom that is a pleasure and so many different ways of doing it, you could you can be scholarly and you can be out there hammering and sighing and be equally engaged by the professional. And that to me was it took me a while to recognize that and understand it but it is that and the same is true and in the writing and the teaching. Both of them. Both of them are attempts to I think our attempts to to identify see Identify arguments, identify conversations, identify ideas, and help expound upon them help extend them to audiences that might not have gotten them before out of them. Whether it’s in the written word or the spoken word, and the newspaper versus the magazines, that’s too similar. Those are the same. Although in my case, it was a newspaper, there was a general circulation in the Arizona Republic, which is the big paper in Arizona. It’s that the daily and Phoenix vs. Architecture magazine, which is highly directed toward professional practicing architects, so right, different audiences, but nevertheless, overlap between the two. And we work very, very hard at architecture, where we have just an amazing, amazing group of people working at the magazine at that time, that tried to reshape that magazine to appeal more to a general audience. Yeah, not lose the architects at the same time to help bring those two together, if you will.
Jarrett Fuller Yeah. How did you how did you go about doing that? Or what? This is something that I’m always fascinated by when I talked to people who are writing for, you know, right, you know, architecture critics who are writing for major newspapers is how do you write about architecture in a way that somebody who maybe thinks they know nothing about architecture can get something out of it and learn it, but then also somebody who is right in the middle of the profession can also read it and not feel like this person has no idea what they’re talking about, or Oh, I actually learned something from this. Also, how do you kind of strike that balance? Or how do you hit both of those, those audiences?
Reed Kroloff Well, you know, in in an architectural magazine, you have an opportunity to do it in a number of ways that are convenient. So some subject matters, let’s say architectural, let’s say structural technology. Or material technologies, you can break those out into separate conversations, separate kinds of stories, separate sections of the magazine, so that someone with expertise can look at that and know that they’ll be engaging material and conversations that are familiar with them and are in a language that they’ll understand and, and a language that expects a certain amount of expertise before you start. And then there are stories and seven matters that you can move into more general conversations. And we did that wherever we could, by trying to tie architecture to popular culture, trying to remind architects that they remind them and remind them and remind them that they are part of a much larger cultural enterprise. And that they have to see that and respond to it at multiple levels at all times. And that, that’s just preaching to the converted. Good, you know, the strong architecture Love that that’s why they’re in the field. It keeps them going every day, they get excited about it. And we tried to move that magazine way from a rather hackneyed approach to architectural journalism and toward one that was informed by that kind of recognition of architecture as a popular cultural medium, the newspaper is much easier. I was the critic. My job was to talk to general audiences about subject matters that were of interest to them. And there are so many of those, especially in a place like Phoenix, which is where I live right time, which is just heads, who’s the physical environment of which has just been so badly abused by so many players? That it’s, it’s picking low fruit?
Jarrett Fuller Yeah, can you know you were the editor of architecture. In like the late 90s, early 2000s, and I got interested in graphic design in the early 2000s when I was a teenager, and I remember being 14-15 years old and finding issues of Emigre magazine and all of this, like really interesting design discourse. And I felt like I had just missed, like, the biggest moment in graphic design. And I feel like the 90s, early 2000s in design generally was such a great era of design writing and, and theory and the way we talk about these things, and I try really hard to not romanticize that as somebody who obviously was not a part of it, and kind of looking back of it was better than, but I’m wondering your thoughts on how design writing, design criticism, design discourse even if you want to use that word, from your point of view, how has it changed or evolved since your time editing architecture to the way we talk about design today or the way you’re talking about architecture today, or the types of architecture and design writing that are happening today? What are the How is that kind of evolved? Or do you have thoughts on that evolution? Even?
Reed Kroloff Sure. And I think, sorry, Yes, I do.
Jarrett Fuller Sorry. Yeah, I know, I asked you like five questions in there.
Reed Kroloff That’s quite all right. I think in many ways, that conversation is unchanged, and of course changing and that sounds you know, that’s, that’s just classic, you know. So that you can always be the expert. Well, I said it was changing and unchanged. It that isn’t that isn’t meant to be in any way. Putting the question off the you were, you’re absolutely right. That periods End of the 90s in the early 2000s was a moment of extraordinary excitement in the design fields. And that where they first started to come together in a very clear way that design boundaries were disappearing. And, and so that you could have questions you could have conversations about theory and, and practice with designers across disciplines in a way that you hadn’t had in a long time. I mean, it happened before, obviously, the bows, which is where it comes from. Right. But it had clearly engaged that kind of conversation, but it got away and replaced by a much more kind of practical approach. And in the late 90s. As a result, I think of the, at least in part of the terrible recessions of the 80s in architecture and design, economic relations that put so many architects and designers out of work, who instead started right and, and have conversations and and birthed the postmodern moment which forget the historicist overtones in architecture was really much more about conversations about the nature of what, what comprises architectural thought. And they weren’t. That conversation didn’t always end up in the best place. But that that was really its underlying messages or underlying subject was that architectural thought is much larger, broader and deeper than folks might initially have imagined. But, and I do want to say one thing, that part of the reason that architecture magazine could do this was because of two exceptionally brilliant people. The first one was Abbot Miller. Oh, yeah. Who, who redesigned our magazine, right? And it just tossed all of the regular conventions of magazine design on their ear, particularly magazine design for architectural publications, which had been so deadly dull up to that they were all exactly the same one centered building photograph on the cover with very traditional font. Yeah, announcing, you know, something, and that was it, you know, and then five stories about five buildings on the inside, that was the end of it, and avid really through all that over. And then even more influential for our magazine was our creative director, a woman named Lisa naphthalene, who cut a remarkable swath across New York design in New York, in that same time period, not just an architectural design, a magazine design, but all kinds of design, who came in and really helped us understand that the magazine that every decision we made had to be purpose driven Right, you didn’t make any decision about who you were trying to write what the page looked like, what the subject matter of the story was without design in mind, both visual design and intellectual design of the issue. And she remade Abbott’s work, she kept the law of his best parts, stripped out the parts that needed reconsideration and, and helped us intellectually turn that magazine into something far greater than it ever could have been. I mean, it just all credit where credit is due.
Jarrett Fuller I mean, I kind of want to connect some of that to this kind of larger theme of this conversation of kind of you feeling. I mean, you’re kind of making this magazine that is using graphic design in a non traditional way to kind of speak to different audiences and you are talking about how you never quite feel in place in the, you know, in the kind of different roles that you are in and I hope I can kind of phrase this right I want to talk about, you know, basically the last 10 years of your career and then you know, hopefully then connect that to what you’re doing now. But you know, you were the dean at Tulane, you were the director at Cranbrook, which I’d like to talk a little bit more about now, you were just appointed earlier this year dean of it, and where you’re in these kind of leadership roles. You’re not just a teacher anymore, you’re kind of directing these these programs. And I’m thinking about your background and this kind of experience of kind of straddling worlds are feeling kind of out of place in those worlds, and how that influences you now running these programs or running these schools. And I am thinking about two people that I’ve talked to before. I just recently talked to Vishaan Chakrabarti, who I saw that you know, and won a grand prize. We’re good buddies.
Reed Kroloff One day I’m going to grow up to be as smart and as clever as elegant and urbane and good looking as Vishaan Chakrabarti. in another life because he’s so far ahead.
Jarrett Fuller That conversation was so interesting to me when I talked to him but but we talked about his new role as Dean. And this idea of the practitioner Dean and the kind of reciprocal nature of that. But I also talked to Christopher Hawthorne, the former Los Angeles Times design critic who’s now the chief design officer of the city of Los Angeles,
Reed Kroloff Former contributor to architecture mag. Right. Thank you very much.
Jarrett Fuller It all comes together and I I talked to him about the fact that the mayor of Los Angeles picked Design critic instead of an architecture instead of an architect, picked a writer or a critic to lead that post and what it means to be a critic now, being the chief design officer, and I’m curious how you think about that, as somebody who has been a teacher who has worked as an architect who is a critic and a writer and an editor, how does how does that background affect the way you take on these roles of deans of these programs?
Reed Kroloff Well, I think that’s another really great question and a whole string of them. This is a lot of fun. Chris Hawthorne is super bright. And what’s interesting about it is not only is he not an architect, he didn’t go to architecture school. Yeah, I at least went to architecture school and practice and you know, had that kind of first hand experience to decide whether or not this was right or wrong for me. Right, right. Chris came at it. As a traditional journalist and we met him when he was in the design journalism PR specialty program at Columbia, over right for are already practicing journalists. I think he’d been he was out in Seattle, I believe writing for either the reader or one of the, one of the local Seattle papers and He’s, uh, he’s just a terrific writer and very ochre. And what was great about having him write for us is we tried, we, we got rid of it architecture, most of our traditional architectural writers in favor of journalists and, and novelists and, and artists in order to try and broaden the tone of the magazine and Chris was one of those and he he did a great job and what was clear then, when he was very young, and has remained clear as he as he reached middle age is sorry, Chris. Anybody who has seen us My grandkids are as like Java that’s approaching middle age. He’s, he has a really broad vision. And this will answer your question. I think part of what has enabled me to move from academia to the private sector. One of the things that I would add to the kind of 10 years was of my last 10 years was that I’ve run a private practice for years that helps people find architects for projects and consults on on what it means to make an architectural project and on big interesting projects. But that that bouncing in and out is what and as an Chris’s vision, and he’s, he’s not alone there. There are plenty of other people like this, I think gives them the ability to look out across across a complicated field and start to see common denominators where others might not have seen them. Others vision is Either constrained or, or is trained toward the particular those that have trained toward the general can see things in ways that others might not see that doesn’t make it superior. It just makes it different. And I think is a subtle argument for the strength of liberal arts education. And Chris is a product of that as well. And so I, you asked the start of this question from the position of being a man out of time and space, and I’ve never felt like that hurt me. I read not like it helped. And I still do feel like it helps.
Jarrett Fuller Yeah, I mean, when I asked when I asked that question, I was thinking about the kind of the, practitioner Dean versus the practitioner. I thought I was like, you’re kind of neither you’re not really the Christopher Hawthorne critic. Now chief design officer and you’re not quite for Sean practitioner Dean, but you’re also kind of both of them. Yeah. And so I was kind of curious how you think about that. So that’s that. I think that kind of the way you talked about kind of toggling in and out of these different modes is exactly right.
Reed Kroloff Yeah, it’s an oscillation. Really. I mean, I love myself as a composite, Chris Hawthorne and Vishaan Chakrabarti, that would be a lot smarter than I am right now. I’m probably taller, too, but it but you’re right that that oscillation is, has been. I don’t think I was aware of it when I was young. But I got I became aware of it relatively quickly. Because before I was 30. Well, before I was 40, I had Yeah, in my mid 30s. I had already and I went to school late, you know, so this doesn’t almost Let’s see, I’m almost 30 years old before any of this begins. So in a relatively short period, I’m, I’m in and out of teaching and journalism and practice, all at once. And, and it’s exhilarating, it’s exhilarating, but it’s a little lacking in direction. And this direction starts to take hold, then it becomes a very different kind of conversation, and one in which I can actually look back and say, What did we do over here? And how could that inform what I’m doing over there? Every day here at IIT, which after, after all is a very different kind of place. This is a technical, you know, yeah. Right. And, and really wants to be understood as that. I’m not a technician. Not an engineer. I’m not an I’m not a licensed architect. So how do you work in a in a in a institutional setting that has this storied history of technical intervention, intervention invention, excuse me, right? Right. Right attention. And, and, and the art and architecture of both design, invention and methodological invention, after all means had a very particular way of taking the object of architecture. And having run the Bauhaus had had the experience a very different kind of experience there. Right and, and it’s also interesting to remember here that the Institute for design is here as well, which was Laszlo Moholy-Nagy one of these colleagues coming to Chicago completely separately and ending up not very happily for either one of them personally, in exactly the same place. And yeah, and both coming up with a very different interpretive pedagogy. So that that kind of question about pedagogy and an unusual Place or ever sorry, in a place that you might not expect it to be, is one that I find really invigorating. And I do look across all of these other things and say, Well, how does that have an effect on a university? that’s trying to move forward in a highly, highly technologically driven age, right and remain relevant and only relevant, but to help define relevancy? How does it you know, how do you how do you reach across these other disciplines and bring that to play in?
Jarrett Fuller And I do, I think about it all the time. What you’re saying, again, I don’t mean to turn this podcast into kind of career advice like me asking you career advice. But I again, see so much of myself and in the way you are talking about your career and that and feel like I’ve had this career where I’ve gotten to where I’ve worked as a designer, I’ve worked as a teacher, I’ve worked as a writer, I’ve done all these things, and kind of thinking about that direction. And I’ve started thinking about kind of settling into academia and I think You know, my 10 year plan would be to direct a design program, Dean kind of what what you have done. And I’m interested in the role of being a dean or even at Cranbrook the role of being a director where you have the pedagogy, you have the kind of critical side, but you also have this administrative side. How does that then filter in? Is that how does your background kind of help with the, the almost the, I don’t mean to, like, make it sound so cheap, but like the business side of education also, is that something that you’re thinking about too? Oh, yes.
Reed Kroloff And I would, I would just caution you be careful what you wish for. Because academic administration is not what I thought it was. Okay. But happily, I found out that I like a lot of it. And because I’ve been in the private sector running, you know, being at that magazine for seven years That’s a private sector job, right. And recently, today we were in as editor in chief, for five of those five and a half of those seven years. I was running a business, a multimillion dollar business and had an annual target for profit that we meet, we met or every year, I had 14 people that whose lives I had watched over for whom I was responsible from, you know, getting them paid every week. I had a boss above me that had very strong expectations for this little little architectural magazine. And, and so that was my that was a very quick immersion into the private sector. And then when I left to Cranbrook, but about in 2014. My partner and I had had opened this private practice in around 2002 And we’d always kind of swapped back and forth, who was going to be running it depending on who was who had the time in their their career path. But by 2014, it was I was running it on my own. And we had, we hadn’t have big clients. They’re very we got we were very fortunate we’ve, we’ve worked with clients like the Highline and the Whitney Museum. Oh, yeah. And now the LA County Museum of Natural History is a long running client. As is, as some I can’t mention sorry, but a number of substantial clients that that we worked with, those are all private sector concerns and they all are a matter of balancing the financial needs of clients with the ability to create great architecture. Right? It’s a tricky balance. And so when you’re back in the university setting as I have now, you are balancing the same sorts of concerns the desire on the part of an outstanding faculty to be able to make a contribution. The the overriding and most important and fundamental reason we’re here interest, which is in enabling our students to find a career path that makes sense for them, and then to excel once they found that, or at least along this part of the path to finding it. I mean, that is really why we’re here. At the end of the day, we can talk about theory and practice. But when you’re, when you’re in when you’re in academia, you’re here to build the best possible learning environment for a group of students and they also are what makes it the most exciting thing that you You do every day truly the most important thing every day is walking in this building, which I have to say, is crown Hall. It’s
I walk in and just go, oh my god, you actually work in
this building I get every day.
But the thing at what, what continues those goosebumps is to run into this, this young man, this young woman who’s working on this project, and they’re so excited and they’re so frustrated and they’re, they’re so energetic and they’re so defeated, and they’re so happy. So sad, and they’re just all of that bundled up and you you cannot help but get choked up. If you
Unknown Speaker Yeah, you really need to leave.
Reed Kroloff Right? If it doesn’t affect you in that way every single day. And it does me anyway. You should be reconsidering it. And so if it does affect you that way,
then the rest of the time is being Okay. What’s the good stuff that enables that To make that happen,
right, right. And that’s a ministry, that part becomes not a drag. It’s not brag for me to work on budgets and I like Actually, this is gonna sound
Unknown Speaker awesome. I love working on.
Reed Kroloff It’s okay, I’m supposed to be writing advanced architectural theory, but in fact, I really love finding an extra $50,000 to buy that laser cutter that we need.
It’s that part is really fun for me. But that part, that’s me personally for you and for others. What’s important is to be able to understand that that is what enabled is that red, red? Yeah.
Jarrett Fuller Can you talk more I think you know, this talking about, you know, getting goosebumps and thinking about the contribution that you can make stepping into this, this new role that that you’ve now had since since July. What How are you thinking about it? What do you want to bring as Dean? What do you You know, what do your unit skills bring to it? Or even how do you how are you kind of thinking about you know, the beginning of this, this this new
Reed Kroloff phase in your career of new to this next chapter, you know, the one of the things that has been a byproduct of being all around and over and through architectural practices as a, as a practitioner for a number of years as a as a professor for a number of years, and as a client. And then as a critic, and writer, I’ve had been afforded the great opportunity to see an experience architecture from a set of perspectives that not everyone is allowed. Yeah. And I think it helps me see the profession in a way in a way that’s very different than many others and to see, to understand so much of its potential and to be at the same time so for us straighted over and over again by its failure to live up to that potential, which is I guess what makes architecture of human beings both the ability to achieve and the failure to achieve? What What fascinates me about this and why I think there’s such great opportunity here at IIT is that this is a school that’s always been about architectural practice. And over the last 20 or 30 years, I have detected a distinct and I’m not alone in this drift between the academy and the profession. Yeah, yeah. And I would like to help rechannel that, if possible to move the two back together much.
Jarrett Fuller Yeah.
Reed Kroloff It is a very bad and dangerous situation. Both the legal profession and the medical profession depend upon their university schools as the backbone of their research and the center of their practical training. And architecture doesn’t have that relationship. And right, I would really like to help begin that conversation much more in earnest than it has been in the last 20 years.
Jarrett Fuller Yeah, I love I’m so glad you brought that I could talk to you about our that. I mean, that’s that’s really where this podcast started is I felt like I had to choose between academia or practice. And I didn’t understand why these were so separated. And I wanted to figure out if there was some way to bring it together. And so I was talking to people who I felt were doing that. And the side. Yeah, I love that.
Reed Kroloff My I think it’s, it’s, it’s such an exciting subject. I’m glad you like it, because it means for the next 30 years in your career, you’re never going to get bored.
Jarrett Fuller Yeah, hopefully, that’s the plan. My last question, this is a quick question that I used to end all of all of these conversations. I’m just curious what you’re reading right now. Is there anything interesting that that you’ve been reading or thinking About
Reed Kroloff You mean when I’m when I’m not reading terrified every day to pick up the New York.
Jarrett Fuller Yeah, yeah, we’re all reading that we’re all feeling that feeling that is there any anything else?
Reed Kroloff So yeah, there is I, I’ve started several different novels, I used to concentrate on contemporary literature by women for about 20 years, I just dove into that deeply. And it that that’s a huge well, so I’m going to try and return to that as I love that, you know, but I’m also starting a number of other books and I’m going to see which one which ones grabbed my interest the most, that are both fiction and nonfiction. I’m a pretty voracious reader the last couple of years I’ve concentrated on short form media. Yeah, because it’s what I write. And then medium form. So short form newspaper, medium form something like the New Yorker brand or the Atlantic. And those of those have been where I’ve really concentrated and now I’m edging back into to a longer form media.
Jarrett Fuller Much more nonfiction than I did before used to be entirely in fiction read. This was such a great conversation. I enjoyed this so much and found this so interesting. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.
Reed Kroloff It’s absolutely My pleasure. Thank you for thinking to even invite.
Jarrett Fuller This episode was recorded on October 4 2019. Our theme music is by Andy Borghesani, we’re on Twitter and Instagram @surfacepodcast. You can find us wherever you get your podcasts and at scratchingthesurface.fm. Thanks for listening