Is the Profession of Architecture Corrupt?

Posted: April 27th, 2010 | Author: Jane Gaboury | Filed under: Education, Publications | Tags: , , , |

The following guest blog is from Victoria Beach, an independent architect and former lecturer in architecture at the Harvard School of Design.

Is the profession of architecture corrupt? According to the definition of “institutional corruption” currently in use at the Center for Ethics at Harvard University, yes.

The Center’s new director, renowned attorney Lawrence Lessig, has defined as “corrupt” organizations that have tragic structural flaws that undermine their own purposes for being. He has recently re-focused the Center’s resources on studying these ineffectual institutions and their corrosive effects.

Now, apply this descriptive framework to the architectural profession. Its purpose for being is to create architecture — that is, to make art out of the science of building. The purpose of this art, if there is one, is often debated but most agree it should engage, if not uplift, the individual mind and body as well as human culture as a whole. What kinds of structural features might be holding back the profession from consistently achieving these results?

Here are some possibilities.

  • Though the situation varies from school to school, the design academy tends to attract narrowly educated technicians, often without college degrees or any experience in the humanities, and proceeds to advance that narrow focus. This may be a distant residue of an ancient need for draftsmen and laborers, which is rapidly being made obsolete by computer technology. This vestigial practice can prevent  architects from understanding and engaging their work in the larger social questions and from collaborating with their broadly educated peers in law, medicine, and the like.
  • The internship that the architectural profession requires for licensure takes place in un-accredited, un-monitored, private offices across the country. Because this three-year period is mandatory, offices have an incentive to exploit intern labor, using it for self-serving rather than educational ends. Interns have no leverage to change these conditions and thereby further their training. Often they work for little or no pay, in violation of national labor laws, which virtually ensures their permanent economic dependency on this flawed system.
  • The examination for architectural licensure does not test for architectural acumen. It is primarily an engineering exam that does not capture qualitative aspects of humane design. The legal title “architect,” on which laypeople rely to find qualified assistance, therefore does not actually ensure any architectural ability.
  • The ethical codes that the profession enforces have been diluted over the years to minimal standards of basic citizenship. They no longer require, and often don’t even describe, the actions that would produce architecture. Neither laypeople nor architects could easily discern from these codes what distinct values architects are meant to uphold and what purposes they are meant to serve.
  • The primary professional society for architecture, the American Institute of Architects, mainly promotes, as its name suggests, architects rather than architecture. It is organized under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code, which means it is a “business league,” “promoting the common economic interests of … a trade.” The general public can therefore be excused for interpreting this technicality exactly the way the government does: Architects are businesspeople first and professionals or artists second, if at all.
  • The building industry has detected, enhanced, and leveraged the public’s confusion over what architects do. As architects surrender their leadership positions, the odds that buildings might serve interests beyond those of their developers worsen. Many architects now sit in the back offices of these developers and are economically dependent upon them – a circumstance that was ethically prohibited a century ago.
  • But even without the influences of the building industry, architects are faced with the same ethical conundrums of “agency” that all professionals are. When lawyers are put in the compromising position of knowing information that might clarify the truth of a matter but condemn their own clients, they struggle (one hopes). But at least with the legal system, the zealous advocacy model was designed to provide representatives on more than one side of an issue. Architects, on the other hand, are charged with representing the needs of their paying clients as well as the often contradictory needs of the non-paying users and the non-paying public. There is no other designated agent for these unorganized interest groups.

These seven structural features may indeed be corrupting in Lessig’s sense of undermining the profession’s ability to serve its defining ethical goals. Furthermore, many even stickier ethical conundrums are posed by the very existence of an artistic pursuit structured as a professional and commercial enterprise.

These issues, among many others, have been under intense scrutiny through the ethical research and teaching of professor Carl Sapers and others at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. On April 26, the Carl M. Sapers Ethics in Practice Fund, was established at Harvard to continue and enhance this work. This presents a unique opportunity to raise the discourse of architectural ethics and to address these many challenges.

100 Comments on “Is the Profession of Architecture Corrupt?”

  1. #1 Alan Burcope said at 10:26 am on April 27th, 2010:

    Is the profession of Architecture’s purpose to “make art out of the science of building?”

    Your article is very thought provoking despite this initial, debatable premise. Professions exist in legal terms primarily; all other inferred meanings are allegorical. The legal purpose of the profession is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. This purpose has been stretched beyond reason to include turning buildings into art.

    The fact is that few architects could be gainfully employed without the legal requirements for them, and a formal architectural education would be a luxury rather than a requirement if not required by law. The “corrupt” nature of the profession, as you put it, is that the “art” is forced upon a client base, and public who neither understand, appreciate nor would want to pay for it, given the choice. This is the narcissism of the profession that has developed over the last forty years, and it is this self indulgence which has lead us to the current situation.

    Aesthetics have become esoteric. The general public, whom the profession is sanctioned to serve, has been deemed incapable of making reliable judgments regarding such high brow issues as aesthetics. Only the highly educated and trained eye of the architect should be entrusted with such decisions. And, once established as the highest court, even the client and those paying for the building must acquiesce to the architect’s opinions, despite any cost implications, or national bankruptcy. The system has been cleverly designed to assure this.

    Our profession is not unique, and like others it is reaping what it has sown, and there are those who will resist change to the end because they are so heavily invested. Those who masterminded this state of affairs are in enviable positions today, and not by accident. Kudos to them. Perhaps we should expand the definition of “corruption” as we have expanded the definition of the “purpose of the profession.”

    Alan G. Burcope, AIA, MBA, LEED-AP

  2. #2 uberVU - social comments said at 11:28 am on April 27th, 2010:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by dinet: Blog sprouts good debate: “few architects could be gainfully employed without the legal requirements for them” http://bit.ly/9o7Qjx...

  3. #3 Palito said at 12:20 pm on April 27th, 2010:

    I can clearly see the problem why the profession is corrupt, just by reading the above email. We have too many alan’s running the practice of architecture and making decisions for the rest. That’s the main problem.

    Palito Loquito

    BAN and against the aia, ncarb, leed-ap, naab— they are all the same people running the show.

    We need a new organization that represents the new breed of young and youth talented architects. Everyone has had enough of the aia and their corrupt affiliations.

  4. #4 hovaard said at 12:37 pm on April 27th, 2010:

    i think when one looks at charles eames, samuel mockbee, paolo soleri, and other enigmatic “architects” - then sees that mr. stern is designing the new african museum in new york - the idea of what an architect does and what he takes responsibility for becomes a very personal and individual matter. hard to regulate these decisions.

  5. #5 Alan Burcope said at 1:35 pm on April 27th, 2010:

    Despite my reluctance, a personal attack such as this merits a response.

    While I am a member of the AIA, I am not one of those who are “running the show.” Quite the contrary, I work in a design-build firm that is not an AIA member firm.

    As Ms. Gaboury Beach pointed out, the education system outputs young architects (by advancing a narrow focus) who do not realize that their sensibilities and lack of business training are contributing factors to maintaining the status quo. It is a vicious cycle. Self-righteousness leads to the idea that “we architects know what is best for everyone else, and if they are too stupid to recognize it, then we will find legislative ways to force it on them.”

    Those who hear the words “think outside the box” coming from their own mouths need to take a hard look at themselves and ask “am I inside or outside the box?”

  6. #6 Ben said at 1:48 pm on April 27th, 2010:

    Architecture can never be corrupted because you can’t fake talent. If a non-registrant isn’t good enough to buddy up with a licensed professional to pitch his/her presentations, then he/she is probably not good enough to begin with. I know plenty of talented “designers” who find a way to do what they got to do.

  7. #7 Charles said at 3:40 pm on April 27th, 2010:

    “Self-righteousness leads to the idea that “we architects know what is best for everyone else, and if they are too stupid to recognize it, then we will find legislative ways to force it on them.”

    Huh?! In what way have architects used *laws* to force their ideas on anyone? If anything architects lament their inability to get their ideas popularized and built. Architects have little to do with the built environment and daily life in the USA today.

    “Architecture can never be corrupted because you can’t fake talent.”

    I think one look at the buildings in every city in this country will suggest that talent has nothing to do with architecture and hasn’t for some time.

  8. #8 Garrett said at 4:08 pm on April 27th, 2010:

    The problem with Mr. Burcope’s institutionalized position is the assertion that architects need to be better business people and economists than anything else.

    Usually everyone ELSE in industry of making buildings is in charge of a specific, narrow range of quantitative data: whether it’s a fire/life safety code issue, a programming issue, or a cost issue.

    If we can agree that the quality of an environment has an impact on the well-being of its users, its surroundings, and the environment (as in: longevity = sustainability), then what kind of sense does it make to just throw the qualitative into a little accessory definition called ‘aesthetics’?

    Mr. Burcope, your ‘aesthetics’ have become esoteric mostly because quality has become marginalized in this world of quantities.
    And yes, the profession likely has itself to blame in not being the best stewards of the qualitative aspects of architecture. But I would beg to differ that most of us ever find ourselves even close to the ‘highest court’, forcing the acquiescence of clients and their precious short-term bottom-lines. Perhaps those are your wealthy starchitect friends who have made good business out of imposing their personal ‘aesthetic’ brands on a tiny but loud minority of buildings, while the rest of us keep trying to convince the bean-counters why design might actually be a good idea, worth paying a living-wage for.

  9. #9 Name (required) said at 4:12 pm on April 27th, 2010:

    Good article, some comments…
    #1
    - It is a bad argument to say that students will not receive a broad education because their teachers have a narrow focus of specialization. Students learn from a variety of specialists, each an expert on the subject matter they teach. Whether students decide (or are required by curriculum) to take Western Civ, Philosophy or advanced calculus is another matter.

    #2
    - Agreed on the first part. Intern development needs be more structured. In fact, internships should be more closely monitored and addressed as part of academia and have specific curricula and metrics to track its progress. Now, I disagree that practices are responsible for creating this “dependency” system. Students (and architects in general) need to value their skills and simply refuse to work for no pay.

    #3
    - Agreed 100%. Architects talk about the importance of licensure. Even NCARB feels like it needs to apologize for the difficulty of the process. It is TOO EASY. Having a license does not tell me that you are a good architect. Anyone with a few months to cram a bunch of Kaplan books can get a license. Thus the title “architect” means as much as “real estate agent”.

    #4
    - Also agreed 100%

    #5
    - The AIA is a weak organization, we are not as numerous as doctors or lawyers and have even less economic resources. Bringing up the section of the IRS code seems unnecessary. What is the problem here? Architects are business people and professionals. The AIA is just as weak as other like-professional organizations (you would be hard pressed to even think of a professional organization outside of the BAR and the AMA).

    #6
    - Troublesome, but not as bad as doctors working with pharmaceutical companies.

    #7
    - Huh? architects deal with other architects in historical preservation societies, in city councils, as client representatives, neighborhood associations, activist groups, etc. Yes, there is no “designated agent”, but most large projects have a multi-adversarial system in place.

  10. #10 alessandra said at 5:20 pm on April 27th, 2010:

    This post and its subsequent comments are very telling – to reference the author’s last bullet, “architects are faced with the same ethical conundrums of ‘agency’ that all professionals are.” This is an undeniable fact.

    While the argument here might be distilled to reflect an ethical issue that seems to have evolved from historical changes (in society, professional requirements, human needs) in combining art and building science, as a non-architect—but rather, chemical engineer—I am interested to see how ethics is incorporated into another profession not from the profession’s principles but the profession’s people. Engineering advances with continued scientific and technological advances and is only unrelated to art in so much as the visual aspect of the work product is nowhere as necessary as it is in architecture; however, those who practice engineering can ultimately determine the fate of what constitutes an ethical problem in the face of a more “absolute” sense of design (only after the math is done, the science is validated and the purpose for the design is established). It is important to at least have a reference point for what constitutes corruption, or an ethical breach, within the profession—or else how can anyone arbitrate it? A Code of Ethics is a (perhaps only preliminary) step in the right direction, and as unfamiliar as I am with architecture, I am curious to know if there is an example Code that architects can unilaterally cite.

    I am facing a similar conundrum in chemical engineering regarding the ethical aspect for the introduction of sustainability concepts in engineering design or process development. Shouldn’t engineers be mindful of the longer-lasting effects of their processes and manufactured products?

    Here’s an example of a profession in parallel peril: http://chenected.aiche.org/sustainability/space-for-ethics-in-sustainability/. Thoughts from other professionals (or business people, as this discussion seems to designate all employed persons) are welcome!

  11. #11 brudgers said at 9:49 pm on April 27th, 2010:

    You have conflated bankruptcy with corruption. Architecture might be bankrupt because the licensure process is not concerned with aesthetics, but it is certainly corrupt with regard to unregulated internship.

  12. #12 Is the Profession of Architecture Corrupt? « Architects Directory said at 10:15 pm on April 27th, 2010:

    [...] mainly promotes, as its name suggests, architects rather than architecture.” A guest post in design intelligence by Victoria Beach suggests that: According to the definition of “institutional [...]

  13. #13 Shaunt Yemenjian said at 3:22 am on April 28th, 2010:

    Two quick points that would make my professors for Critical Thinking and Survey Methodolgy proud:
    1) The Center for Ethics at Harvard University provide a definition for a “corrupt organization” but does not offer a definition of a “corrupt industry.”
    2) I wonder if the author’s sample was a representative sample of the industry across all spectrums of practice and sizes of firms.
    These two, admittedly pragmatic points are rather important in refuting the claim that the “Profession of Architecture is Corrupt.” While I accept that there are instances of corruption in our profession, I find it hard to accept that our entire profession is corrupt. Here are some comments on the individual points which were made – many of which I agree with. It’s the blanket statement that the entire profession is corrupt that I disagree with.

    Academia – It’s ludicrous to say that the design academy attracts narrowly educated technicians. Since the Bauhaus movement, there are plenty of examples in US architecture schools that have taken the highly collaborative, cross disciplinary approach to teaching architecture. You can look at Columbia, Pratt, Sci_arc, UK and even a few great years from the GSD for examples of this.

    Internship –Perhaps things are different in California than elsewhere but I worked for four different firms while I was studying as both an undergrad and grad student and all of the firms I worked for paid me an hourly wage. The firms seemed to take the internship process seriously and were all very reactive to my requests for training review, planning future work to accommodate gaps in experience and supported the NCARB IDP process.

    Examination – I agree completely. This is a common issue that people [myself included] bring up about the examination process. I agree that it misleads the public into thinking that: A) those who have a license are ensured to possess architectural ability and B) those who do not have a license do not have architectural ability. I have adopted the phrase “meeting the minimum levels of competency” to describe those who have a license.

    Ethical Codes – I think the expectations are too high for Ms. Gaboury Beach here. Codes of Ethics and Ethical Standards have to be so diluted in this country because of discriminatory claims and fair conduct laws that no Code of Ethics can have any real teeth. I agree that their not very useful in our industry but I don’t have high expectations for Code of Ethics as it is anyway.

    Professional Society for Architecture – Perhaps a bit more research would have served this portion of the article well. I just got done reading the most recent issue of AIA’s Associate News and Forward
    http://www.aia.org/akr/Resources/Documents/AIAB082785 http://info.aia.org/nwsltr_nacq.cfm?pagename=nacq_nwsltr_current
    and find that both are often promoting people beyond simply their fellow members of the AIA. They, among many other publications do strive to promote the “craft of architecture” as opposed to simply promoting architects or AIA architects.

    Building Industry – I have to share a link to a TED Talk that Joshua Prince-Ramus of REX [formerly OMA] delivered which does a great job of addressing this very issue. If you don’t have time just watch the first 5 minutes: http://www.ted.com/talks/joshua_prince_ramus_building_a_theater_that_remakes_itself.html
    I agree that we have been somewhat cowardly in the past 80+ years and that the new generation must [re]seize the trust and confidence we once had from society.

    Agency – I stand with Ms. Gaboury Beach here in criticizing those who simply serve the paying clients without challenging themselves to use their opportunities to address cultural, behavioral, societal, civic issues through their work. To do simply what a client ask for and not think about how the client’s program fits into the bigger picture of its context and the context of global society is taking the path of least resistance and that’s not what we spent countless hours in architecture school learning – at least not where I studied [www.sciarc.edu].

  14. #14 Is the architecture profession corrupt? | News Junkie said at 4:03 am on April 28th, 2010:

    [...] and former Harvard lecturer Victoria Beach, writing in Design Intelligence, says architecture is suffering from “institutional [...]

  15. #15 Alan Burcope said at 10:20 am on April 28th, 2010:

    Architect: A person who, while originating from a middle to upper middle class background, has assumed a self image of aristocracy due to a belief that through intellectual and aesthetic pursuit and mastery, has been elevated to that level. Having attained this level, he/she is now sanctioned to levy upon the masses edicts of the correct way to build, to live, to politic and typically to render such without regard to economy.

  16. #16 Matthew said at 11:44 am on April 28th, 2010:

    I’m always suspicious of attempts to define architecture as “art.” This is an old beaux-arts notion that no longer feels applicable. We are designers, who make functional spaces that are also often beautiful. In some sense what we do is akin to making a car. Making a building is just as complicated, or more complicated than designing a car, except that for architects, every single building is the beta version. We start anew every time.

    I think that Alan misinterprets what is going on in the more experimental sectors of architecture right now. Sure, some people are playing aesthetic games, but the majority of my friends and colleagues in academic architecture and at high-design firms are much more intent on design processes, fabrication, materials, and passive systems than they ever were. The problem, it seems, is that the profession is dominated by the developers who provide the money, and thus by a corporate mentality.

    My perception is that in the US at least the old guard who runs the AIA and other institutions are slow to adapt. They don’t necessarily provide guidance for how to become a 21st century profession, nor for how architects might gain some autonomy from developers.

  17. #17 rj Chicago said at 1:37 pm on April 28th, 2010:

    May I suggest the following regarding the topic of ethics. It can be found as follows:

    http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/articles/entry/12/9649

    Or go to http://www.breakpoint.org/breakpointcommentaries and scroll down to the topic “The problem with Ethics” - in that article you will find a link to a speed that Chuck Colson - yes he of Watergate - gave to the Ethics Center at Harvard in 1992. I suggest anyone commenting on this blog read this. It is spot on given the relativism we live with in the culture today.
    Happy Reading.

  18. #18 rj chicago said at 1:39 pm on April 28th, 2010:

    Um…I meant speech - NOT speed - what was I thinking??!! Sorry.

  19. #19 Alan Burcope said at 4:28 pm on April 28th, 2010:

    If developers and corporate mentality are obstructing architects from advancing the “art” and “everything else that architecture should be beyond art,” then why don’t the architects who feel that way simply become developers and corporate entrepreneurs?

    Here is why….because they can’t, their own self-righteousness and under-thought value system preempts them from surviving in a truly competitive marketplace.

    It’s always someone else, the government, the evil greedy businessmen, the “man” who is keeping them down.

    You can’t live in the world you imagine, you can only try to change the world you live in into one that resembles your imagination.

  20. #20 brown matters said at 12:26 pm on April 29th, 2010:

    always nice to read thoughtful commentary, however, one proves the premise with the exception…SO, be so kind as to point out some exceptions, case studies, etc. and, how do harvard school of architecture and the last 40 years of harvard grad-led firms rate??

  21. #21 jeff said at 2:13 pm on April 29th, 2010:

    The reason that architecture suffers in this country is not because of the AIA’s mission, or because the licensure exams are too technical, or because design isn’t codified in land use code. You cannot codify quality design, or test for it. The reason that architecture suffers is that the publilc does not value it for what it really is. We, as architects, need to start creating more examples of why they need us. We have to solve problems, make life more enjoyable, more contemplative, more beautiful, through design and then point to it and say “that’s architecture”.

  22. #22 thinking design | DesignIntelligence: Is the Profession of Architecture Corrupt? said at 6:36 pm on April 29th, 2010:

    [...] Is the Profession of Architecture Corrupt? [...]

  23. #23 A meaty convo on corruption - Worklife said at 10:12 am on April 30th, 2010:

    [...] loves a juicy expose of corruption in the field. A recent Design Intelligence post, “Is the Profession of Architecture Corrupt?”, isn’t that. It’s a lot more substantial, and it appears to be just the beginning of a hearty [...]

  24. #24 Alan G. Burcope, AIA, MBA, LEED-AP said at 2:24 pm on April 30th, 2010:

    There are those who believe that the architect’s role in society is to represent the greater good, the social conscience in the building process. They believe them to be knights in shining armor fighting off the great beasts represented by evil greed, the inclination toward short term returns, quantifiable and economically justifiable investment, ignorance and apathy toward aesthetics and environment, and just plain stupidity. These are no doubt formidable foes that need to be tamed by some means. The question is, are architects the right knights to do it?

    The legal purpose for architects however has nothing to do with any of these issues. The legal purpose for the licensure of architects is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. Primarily this is done through the proper interpretation and application of building codes which protect the public from being killed or injured by poorly designed buildings. Notice that I did not say poorly “constructed” buildings. There is another set of laws and licenses that are intended to fulfill that purpose.

    The responsibility for the protection of the public welfare, while being an issue of regulatory enforcement, is levied upon private sector practitioners, architects, who act legally as the police force charged with enforcing the laws (codes) on the streets. Regulatory review processes are a very real part of every project, however, these government review boards do not assume responsibility for the compliance of any project. It is the architect who certifies that the building design is code compliant. That is the reason that a licensed architect must put his/her personal stamp on the construction drawings in most states.

    The conflict that emerges in architectural practice arises from the fact that a private practitioner is charged with representing the interests of society, and yet, he/she is compensated directly by the client, who may well have a whole different and conflicting set of interests from the public.

    Clever as architects are as individuals, and as a collective, they have developed contractual relationships (AIA Documents) that essentially absolve the architect of the financial responsibility for managing these conflicts, and in fact, even increase the architect’s fees when there is more conflict. This has created another conflict, a conflict of interest which has lead to a whole host of problems and a deterioration of the profession both in image and in compensation. Clients are frustrated with architects who seem less interested in serving them than they do on “saving the earth,” or creating “aesthetic masterpieces.” Is it any wonder that the profession is in decline?

  25. #25 t0wnp1ann3r said at 3:19 pm on April 30th, 2010:

    If you look at Lessig’s presentation on patents (http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/free.html), you can extrapolate that to apply to all professions… those in power exercise power to maintain power.

    Any system that reaches a steady state where the status quo is maintained for long periods of time has reached the adult level of growth. The only thing that will mitigate the impact of this system on other systems is a new, separate system that essentially kills the original system and absorbs the energy previously going to the original system.

    Architecture, landscape architecture, planning, law, medicine… these are all professions that are reaching their zenith and will maintain their current state until something else comes along and steals the energy currently running through these systems.

    Perhaps online collaborative design groups and peer-reviewed building certifications could one day replace architecture and building permits… around the same time that individuals go back to building their own homes a la Christopher Alexander. Until then, this “corrupt” state will endure.

  26. #26 The Rest of the Story? said at 3:23 pm on April 30th, 2010:

    Apparently Mr. Sapers has been close enough to the fire to get soot on his boots. Clients over a thirty five year period include NCARB, AIA and many architecture firms. If there are ethical issues, I would suspect he will be acutely aware of them.

    http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/people/faculty/sapers/

  27. #27 End-of-April Quicklinks « p s proefrock architecture said at 7:56 pm on April 30th, 2010:

    [...] Is the Profession of Architecture Corrupt? – Some of the criticisms seem off-base to me (unpaid internships, technically minded specialist programs in schools) and certainly aren’t my experience. But other criticisms are more accurate. More a piece for thought than a piece I wholeheartedly agree with, but a useful quick read.   [...]

  28. #28 J. Peter Jordan said at 10:24 am on May 1st, 2010:

    I am floored at the ignorance and naivete of the original posting by Ms. Beach. In my experience, many architects recieve a broader education than almost any other undergraduate major in the university; is a history major who doesn’t know how to solve a simple algebra problem “widely educated”? Is a chemist who is unfamilar the work of Pallado “widely educated”? In my experience in the academy, those architecture students who were not interested in wider issues (and who were not good students throughout the curricullum) were not very good designers.

    I do know that there are some interns who work to gain experience without compensation. In my experience, this is somewhat localized phenomena. It can result from students being given the impression that they cannot be successful architects without being excellent designers and that they must work for great designers to be great designers. This is not true, and most architects would agree that it can be extremely exploitive and is not merely unethical, but illegal. Firms that are able to attract these types of young people are usually inefficient and most likely would not survive if they had to pay people for the work they did even at minimum wage. As for the argument that these people are incapable of doing work worth being paid for… It it is true, then those people should not be pursuing architecture as a career at all, and allowing them an “unpaid internship” takes support from someone who has more to offer. If a firm needs work doing that is not worth paying for, then something is wrong with that organization. Students; interns; DON’T WORK FOR FREE! That means you are worth less than the receptionist whose only responsibility may be to wait for the phone to ring (actually a good receptionist is worth more pay than a good intern and many principals, but that is a different posting).

    The AIA is corrupt in the sense that it tries to do too much. It is actually very good at some stuff, but it is very poor at presenting architects as having a coherent body of expertise, the result of a lack of disagreement over the body of expertise that architects should have. The AIA represents a body that has many voices, and the AIA has decided to echo those many voices with the result that its message is often diluted. I suspect that Ms. Beach would not agree that the strongest service that the AIA provides is the development and maintenance of documents such as AIA A 201 (something you really don’t want to look at when you are on your last charrette in school). It is this effort, however, that affects most widely the practice of architecture and the construction industry.

    It seems to me that a key question in all of this is “Do architects want to be primarily responsible for public health and safety?” This is what architects have been saying to the public for more than 100 years to justify licensing/registration laws. If architects say that they are a type of visual designer specializing in the aesthetics of building design, does the responsibility for health and safety devolve to engineers and contractors?

    There are some award-winning buildings out there which have turned out to be disasters with relatively short useful lives. There are many other utilitarian structures that get used, reuesed, adapted, and reused again. It is an Owner (frequently a developer) with the capital resources who has the means to accomplish this with a support team. Most intelligent developers (this is not necessarily an oxymoron) consider a good architect to be an important member of the team. A good architect is one who works hard to implement his client’s goals, but also understands when to tell that client “No.”

  29. #29 David Wilkinson MAIBC AAA MRAIC said at 9:49 pm on May 1st, 2010:

    What a debate! What insight and discourse! What planet are you from?
    With the exception of Alan and a few others, you seem to be from the planet “Thereoughttobealaw’ where those who can’t get respect for the great things they feel they contribute to their society can invent laws that force others to appreciate them.
    As some commentators have mentioned, there are ways to put your money where your mouth is, to place yourself at the very center of our society’s urban and built-environment issues…but sadly many of us would rather stand well out of danger (and well out of relevance) and lob pretentious and self-serving rants.

    Either figure it out or log back on when you grow up.

  30. #30 55 Ways to Help Your Evolve as an Architect « Architects 2Zebras said at 7:19 am on May 3rd, 2010:

    [...] That is the question Harvard educator Victoria Beach asked recently at the Design Intelligence blog.  Read what your contemporaries have to say in one of the liveliest, most animated online [...]

  31. #31 DANIEL NOVICK BLOG said at 6:13 pm on May 3rd, 2010:

    [...] http://www.di.net/blog/2010/04/is-the-profession-of-architecture-corrupt/ [...]

  32. #32 re:place Magazine said at 10:47 am on May 5th, 2010:

    [...] [The Globe and Mail] Hume: Hockey trumps planning in Toronto [The Toronto Star] INTERNATIONAL Is the Profession of Architecture Corrupt? [Design Intelligence Blog] Stop by Stop, Subway’s Decline and Growth in 2009 [The New York [...]

  33. #33 Name (required) said at 5:31 pm on May 7th, 2010:

    Why don’t all of you unhappy frustrated types just leave the profession altogether and allow those of us with even a modicum of talent and desire to practice?

    (I concur with Mr. Jordan’s comment … we ARE broadly educated!)

    “Minimum levels of competency” have dropped down SO far … recently licensed folks are only tested on pieces of buildings and aren’t given a comprehensive exam in one sitting. It’s too easy to become licensed today.

  34. #34 Eye of the Fish | A wide-angle view of architecture, urban design and life in Wellington said at 2:25 pm on May 9th, 2010:

    [...] title caught my eye, as well it might yours. It is the subject of a posting on the Design Intelligence website, and well worth a read in total on the original site. While written by “Victoria Beach, an [...]

  35. #35 Rich Courbiser said at 11:36 am on May 10th, 2010:

    Architecture stdents need to be trained differently for the new reality. Students need to learn the real business of architecture, like how typical deals put together, how a profitable office operates,
    how various codes shape a design.

  36. #36 Carousel Tuesday « Amanda the Architect said at 6:46 pm on May 11th, 2010:

    [...] but the debate gained new momentum when the NYT posted an article on it. The debate really heats up here, on Design Intelligence blog, where the subject is Architecture: A Corrupt Profession? Posts and [...]

  37. #37 rich said at 7:54 am on May 12th, 2010:

    Perhaps not a ‘corrupt’ profession, but a ‘failed profession’. That failure, however, is quite a bit the responsibility of the leading schools and academics who go on teaching things only useful in a small part of the profession. But I doubt a GSD grad will go down that road.

    Question the leadership rather than the profession as a whole.

  38. #38 jcm said at 7:56 am on May 12th, 2010:

    By and large, I agree with Matthew’s comment:
    “I’m always suspicious of attempts to define architecture as “art.” This is an old beaux-arts notion that no longer feels applicable. We are designers, who make functional spaces that are also often beautiful. In some sense what we do is akin to making a car. Making a building is just as complicated, or more complicated than designing a car, except that for architects, every single building is the beta version. We start anew every time.

    I think that Alan misinterprets what is going on in the more experimental sectors of architecture right now. Sure, some people are playing aesthetic games, but the majority of my friends and colleagues in academic architecture and at high-design firms are much more intent on design processes, fabrication, materials, and passive systems than they ever were. The problem, it seems, is that the profession is dominated by the developers who provide the money, and thus by a corporate mentality.”

    If anything, I think there are opportunities to better align where architectural research is (at least some of the parts of it Matthews mentions) and industry trends such as BIM, IPD, PLM & user experience design.

    Also, it seems that the author ignores an important point. The notion of architecture as art is derived from a time when most building was not done by architects and architects only primarily focused on exceptional structures for large institutions and wealthy clients. Our reality is that almost all building requires an architect now and most of what we design is not intended to be “architecture” in the classical sense nor is it funded (with respect to money, time or allowance for creative freedom) to be architecture.

    Rather, I think the profession does an admirable job in understanding and addressing this aspect of its current role. I know many humble architects who make good, functional buildings and squeeze in just as much aesthetic refinement as circumstances will allow.

    At the same time, there are still clients that want “architecture” in the classical sense and there are those that gravitate to them to provide it. But this is not the majority of work and I don’t think anyone should see guilt or shame in that. Most of us perform a service in the interest of the public and on top of it, we get to be a little creative every now and then.

    But to return to my first point, I do think that in terms of strengthening the profession’s sense of itself and how it presents itself to the public at this time, in terms of practically defining the role and value of aesthetics in relation to necessary commercial pursuits, and also to make the production of academia and the profession more synergistic - or at least to help everyone see the opportunities - it does seem that appreciating what we do as more analogous to product design, to interaction design, to user experience design and even to systems engineering will help us strengthen our position professionally and intellectually.

  39. #39 FXA said at 8:38 am on May 12th, 2010:

    JCM’s points regarding the nature of architecture today are well taken and right on the money from my perspective so I won’t repeat them.

    Most architects work hard to design good buildings but there are a myriad of pressures that work against this. Architects navigate through issues of budget, zoning ordinances, building codes, neighborhood groups, accepted construction techniques and legal peril in their effort to make buildings that are both useful and wonderful to be in.

    We must admit, when we look around at the built environment we have made, it is generally not very good. When I say we I mean our culture, not just architects.

    As we move forward it remains the architects job to find ways of making buildings and places that are better than what we have. It is the architects job to have a vision of a better built world and inspire the public toward that vision. Some might call this an elitist position. I call it being responsible to a higher calling dedicated to a high quality of life for everyone.

    We can do a better job if we recognize the whole problem instead of blaming the Profession.

  40. #40 Randy said at 9:03 am on May 12th, 2010:

    I feel sorry for Mr. Burcope’s cynical view of architecture.
    Don’t get em wrong, I get very frustrated with what our profession has done to the built environment. Just the fact that we have to make the distinction between “building” and “architecture speaks volumes of our failings as a profession.
    I have not and hope to ever think of myself as part of an aristocratic mindset imposing MY will on my clients.
    Architecture for me is a continual search. A continual exploration of ideas the meld a clients desires and dreams into a more global context. Architecture aspires to inspire. It should not be an imposition but a desire to be more than just an existence.
    Part of the problem is that architects do need to promote and educate the public at large. Ignorance of what an architect does is pandemic and that is what needs to be discussed.
    As to the weakness of our professional associations well that can only be fixed from within and it starts with people starting to take the bull by the horns and making it happen.

  41. #41 Mal Birch said at 9:04 am on May 12th, 2010:

    Only in the USA could you have a debate about whether or not is “the profession of architecture corrupt?”. A very entertaining read, but with a couple of very astute commentaries (Alan G and J Peter) amongst the cleverness. But down here in Australia, we are just getting on with it. Our firm employs talented young students whilst still at university and they tend to stay on or are encouraged to move on to employers who can better cater to their skills.

    You guys worry too much! Chill out and enjoy the ride. And having interns (as you call them) around the office is a pleasure. They add enthusiasm, optimism and humor.

    Architecture is based in building. Get your staff on site as laborers, steel workers, etc. Our practice is always building one of our designs. Its a great learning environment as well as being very gratifying.

    If any students are reading this and are heading down-under at some stage, please feel free to get in touch. We work hard, play hard, then go home.

  42. #42 Allen E. Neyman, AIA said at 9:09 am on May 12th, 2010:

    It seems Ms Beach would have professionals represent “disorganized” groups who don’t have a position except that they would be affected by development in their unorganized state. “Builders of the world unite”, maybe, “to build for the betterment of others”. Admittedly, the outcome of development to the end user varies alot, but that’s life, ocaisionally corrupted.

    Ms Beach gripe is not founded in ethics.Perhaps the ethics insufficently codified include stylistic preferences and political affiliation, or an endless compliant of other’s shortcomings and misunderstandings.

    The poblems stated with internship are not informed, and though problems with the exam do exist, the quality of interns has never been higher.

    By promoting architects, the AIA does promote architecture. This is not obvious to Ms Beach but it’s not complicated - it’s like Academy Awards promotes films. That’s called the “indirect effect.”

    Unfortutely, Ms Beach is confused about alot - what architects and developers do for a living, that is, when they’re not out trying to save the world, which is way more confusing to me.

    As far as making an ethical position, start by checking your facts, set aside personal prejudice, and avoid hyperbole that could be misconstrued for the truth. Settle into this rewarding occupation called architecture that does not require the reinvention of ethics. Focus on the reinvention of architecture. Avoid corruption and vexation through creative thinking and acts. Leave the simplistic discussion of ethics aside, our failures in the profession are more complicated.

  43. #43 Brent said at 9:23 am on May 12th, 2010:

    This strikes me as grandiose talk from someone that does not have to make a payroll so employees kids can have a roof over their heads!

    Two things this author needs to do to grow and expand her horizons:
    1. Follow the money, it does not stop or originate at the architect. Architects do not control what gets built anywhere.
    2. Start a firm, get work, and try to survive untill you get paid. Then come back and re-write the article once there is real dirt under her nails.

    If the profession of architecture is truely corrupt as stated in the article then what in this country is not corrupt.

    I do not USE my interns I employ them and thus they can pay their bills and feed themselves. If I did not pay my interns they would not come to work.

    What world is she living in?

  44. #44 FXA said at 9:24 am on May 12th, 2010:

    I like the Aussie’s attitude but, just because we discuss and debate doesn’t mean we don’t have fun. We also build some of our projects and we also love the process with all of its warts.

    I’m just designed a house Daintree Rain Forest in Queensland. I’m working with one of your mates to get it done.

  45. #45 Bennett said at 9:37 am on May 12th, 2010:

    Architecture is no more corrupt the the frivolous studies conducted in the Ivy League.

  46. #46 FXA said at 10:15 am on May 12th, 2010:

    See below from a doctor Facebook friend -

    “Very interesting. With the substitution of a few words, the argument could be applied to organized medicine.”

  47. #47 DesignIntelligence » Blog Archive » Is the Profession of Architecture Corrupt? « radical|practice said at 10:37 am on May 12th, 2010:

    [...] of Architecture Corrupt? May 12, 2010 Michael Roush, AIA Leave a comment Go to comments DesignIntelligence » Blog Archive » Is the Profession of Architecture Corrupt?.  This is a fascinating article on the health of the profession.  I’m not sure I agree with [...]

  48. #48 Jeffrey Scherer said at 10:42 am on May 12th, 2010:

    “Most people have work that is too small for their spirits.” — Studs Terkel.
    This debate centers on the externalities of the profession and assumes that these externalities dictate and shape the responses and actions of architects. Willa Cather eloquently stated, “That is happiness: to be dissolved into something complete and great.” I for one am governed by my internal ethical, social justice and creative spirit-not these externalities. If someone is corrupt, they are wounded and can not be, by definition, open to the joy and possibilities of great architecture. Corruption is solved not by institutions but by internal awareness, moral obligations and human justice and fairness. Jeffrey A. Scherer, FAIA, past president of AIA MN.

  49. #49 CalArch said at 11:20 am on May 12th, 2010:

    A lively discussion indeed! Judging by the defensiveness exhibited in some of the comments, I believe the article has been misinterpreted. I didn’t read Ms. Beach’s blog to be an attack on the profession; rather an examination of the profession from a different point of view.

    As an architect with nearly 10 years of experience, I have felt, heard, and experienced all sides of this debate firsthand. Yes, architecture is a profession and a business. Yes, good design has a profound impact on the built environment and how we experience it. Our challenge as architects is to find a balance between the two that allows the profession to sustain itself over the long term.

  50. #50 David Greusel said at 11:42 am on May 12th, 2010:

    Thank you, Victoria, for a a thought-provoking blog. I wish to dispute your main assertion, that architecture is corrupt, without disagreeing with any of your supporting points, each of which is true enough.
    Architecture is corrupt when, and I’ll use the nation of Turkey as an example, bribery and favoritism compromise the structural integrity of buildings to the point that they are unsafe for human habitation. Though I’m sure that occurs in the U.S. at times, it is not systemic. When architects routinely falsify plans, builders falsify payment requests, and inspectors falsify inspection reports, that is a corrupt system. It is not, for the most part, the system we have in the U.S.
    Having said that, I think all your supporting points are good and worthy of discussion in their own right. Architects do live in tension between the paying client’s wishes and the public good, and we need to be reminded of it on a regular basis. But the claim that because we sometimes lean too far in one direction we are therefore corrupt is overreaching, in my opinion.

  51. #51 John said at 1:18 pm on May 12th, 2010:

    Is the practice of architecture corrupt? Now is that moral or ethical corruption posed in this question?
    Given the complexity of the language that we’re so casually batting about here, I believe that we’re missing a few key definitions – and there really is no such thing as an objective universe, so definitions in this case are going to be muddy at best.

    What defines Architecture? Now the architecture with a capital ‘A’, the aspirations that we’ve all had as architects when entering the profession to move the human soul thru the built environment and contribute to society and human existence in a meaningful way does fit the description that Ms Beach is discussing here. As a licensed professional I’d argue that this particular definition exists in roughly 10-15% of the buildings constructed nowadays – and there are a multitude of factors that determine this.
    “What kinds of structural features might be holding back the profession from consistently achieving these results?” In a word? Clients.

    Follow the money. The practice of architecture in all its forms is a collaborative process, driven by all sorts of variables, site, budget, time, program, material costs/availability, personal agendas and aspirations (either veiled or apparent), codes, environmental concerns, and a host of things that never seem to make it into the stated project goals at the inception of the project. Remember, A camel is a horse, designed by committee. As with any relationship, there are wins, losses and concessions in the process. That is, unless you’re Howard Roark or Frank Lloyd Wright wandering the site with the wrecking bar as bricks go whistling by his head.

    In the design and construction process toward creating a building, whether destined for world recognition, or whether it becomes the ‘corner store’ in a small hamlet somewhere, the architect’s moral and ethical obligation is to supply the client with a solution that meets the stated goals to the problem at hand. To provide a structurally sound, code compliant, healthy and effective solution that adheres to a budget, schedule, program, and a host of other variables (each competing with aesthetics for top billing), so that the client may use this property as they see fit. To paraphrase Michelangelo, It is the architect’s job to unearth the solution from a pile of parts to create something that meets ‘firmness’ and ‘commodity’ and to try and breathe as much life and influence as they can on ‘delight’ while still maintaining the initial objectives.
    And let’s face it – there are more people in this world that know the price of things and then know the value of them.

    Is it morally and ethically wrong to not break the client’s budget, stray from stated objectives and needs in order to create something that they didn’t want, can’t afford to pay for, but is yet somehow profound in the eyes of the critics? I’d say that that it’s more lamentable to do that than it is to design something that’s less aesthetically pleasing to the ‘mob’, than it is to serve the needs hopes and aspirations of the client.

    I’m not making excuses here, in my 15 years of experience, I’ve worked in all aspects of the building trades, whether it be an apprentice to trades constructing the building, or the guy given the charge to design and detail it, or any job role in between.

    Before formal schooling began, I worked as a draftsman for a log home company. Here I designed houses all over the world, learned the value of designing things so that someone could actually build it, what schedule meant and how to detail.

    During Architecture School, it’s largely up to the student to determine his/her curriculum. A degree was/is defined by reaching certain number of credits in a field of study, as well as achieving the base-level criteria for what is determined as a ‘well-rounded’ education. That’s just one facet as I’d argue that it’s up to the individual to learn everything and anything that they can while at an institution put together to teach, and stay hungry for this knowledge well after their tuition is paid.

    During my internship, I worked for several firms and companies, either practicing architecture with the capital ‘A’ or the lowercase ‘a’ the process was largely the same… ‘design’ was either promoted or discouraged based on the goals of the project (largely unstated), and the vision or lack thereof of the principal of the project. To which I’ve learned that as a principal, it’s important to ask the right questions and flush out all of the needs, hopes, dreams and aspirations of the client, whether they’re aware of them or not. Regardless of the criteria or who’s design goals were being met, I was fairly compensated during this entire process. The pay was lower, and the hours long – but that’s one of the underlying rules to the profession.

    As a professional, again working for various facets of the industry, for developers who only see the bottom line and the ROI, to the small business owners that want to make a small statement about what it is they do, to the boutique design firm that places design and inspiration above all other aspirations of the process (and currently serving as an ‘architect without a firm’)

    I find myself asking as a result of this, am I more or less corrupt if I’m a sole practitioner working on residential designs to pay bills? Having gone thru the gauntlet of schools, IDP, and working for a variety of firms on everything from light industrial, residential, institutional, to high-end commercial… am I morally and ethically corrupted by the process?

    My personal short answer is ‘no’ because character is not defined by outside influence. I strive every day to do the best that I can for my clients, to try and get back into the role at the firm that I love, so that I might partake in that architecture with the capital ‘A’, but by no means am I, nor are the design solutions ‘less’ simply because my options are limited.

    Basically, after writing this response, I believe that the answer to this entire question resides in another question, posed to the individual. Do you expect a faceless entity to define your stated goals, ethics, morals, or how much profundity and talent is in your collaborative creations - OR do you prefer to leave that to the client, patrons and occupants of these creations?

    I, for one, would tend to (and will continue to) define my own path under the framework of the profession as to whether or not I’m moving the human race forward or whether there is any particular critical profundity or ‘art’ in the design solutions. I leave that up to the patrons, rather than the critics or some invisible hand trying to tell the profession that it’s not doing enough to delight the eye of the passer-by. Its really all just a question of scale and tone.

  52. #52 John said at 1:43 pm on May 12th, 2010:

    I believe the better phrasing to the initial column would’ve been to describe the profession as aesthetically bankrupt rather than morally or ethically corrupted.

    I will offer an addendum to the earlier post, that I used to say that I was ‘losing my soul’ or described my particular job as ‘prostitution’ when I was working for certain places where design was treated as a negotiable commodity rather than a desired goal.

    I don’t consider myself completely morally bankrupt by that process… although I’ve no desire to undertake it again.

    Once you run thru the gauntlet of licensure, talent and character is going to determine your market value. The architecture school system was designed to weed out the weaker candidates, and it doesn’t matter that anyone with $1400 and 3 years of their lives can become licensed. If you don’t have the ability to deliver once you’ve reached that plateau - you’ll be ‘found out’ soon enough.

  53. #53 Dorothy Macdonald said at 2:32 pm on May 12th, 2010:

    I disagree, non-paying users and the non-paying public have the most powerful agent of all, its called city officials. Architects are actually faced with the daunting task of appeasing two clients with different criteria. There is also a vechical that allows non paying users, alot of leverage as to what and if can be built on their own land. The right to use seems to have almost no merit today.

  54. #54 Alan Abrams said at 3:06 pm on May 12th, 2010:

    is the profession corrupt, or is the culture that it functions in that is corrupt?

    in other words, (to use the author’s sense) does our culture have structural flaws that undermine its welfare, and, as a consequence, are its institutions tainted?

  55. #55 Saifullah Sami said at 1:40 am on May 13th, 2010:

    If architects as professionals are expected to “make art”, what and who decides that “art” has indeed been delivered?

  56. #56 BCBS said at 9:00 am on May 18th, 2010:

    I think the article is a bit dramatic, in that I don’t really think Architecture is any more corrupt than medicine, law, or academia. I think several of her points are misled:

    _ I don’t believe that architecture schools are all about churning out ‘technicians’… quite the opposite. I think most kids leave architecture school without knowing what size a brick is.
    _ I’ve worked for 3 offices of varying sizes in varying states, and all of them were committed to helping interns become architects. Sure, there are slave offices out their with interns working 80 hour weeks for free, but the intern knew that going into it and did it out of some urge to work for that famous firm, not because they were desperate for work.
    _ I think architecture has always been about business, because for most owners a building is one of the largest investments they’ll ever make. There are market pressures to change the way in which architects do business, and I think the onus is on architects to make themselves more relevant… just like you can go to a CVS now and a nurse practitioner will write you a prescription without ever seeing a doctor, and you can go online and get legal advice or write a will without ever speaking to a lawyer.
    _ For me, the key is separating ‘architecture’ from designing buildings. Samuel Mockbee practiced architecture. The majority of architects design buildings. Just because an architect was involved doesn’t make it architecture, nor should every building be high architecture. I think of it more as a long term goal than an everyday endeavor.
    _ If in fact architecture is corrupt, I think its for a reason not listed by the blogger: Architects don’t know how buildings are constructed anymore. From the master craftsman at the cathedral building site to FLW or Ando, the great architects understand how materials work and connect with one another as well or better than the guy in the field putting it together. That’s what gives an ‘Architect’ their capacity for leadership and their relevancy to an owner and to society.

  57. #57 M Kent Turner said at 9:06 am on May 20th, 2010:

    Having retained the DI eblast which contained Ms Beach’s link, i am compelled to comment before hitting “delete.”
    The notion that our profession is “corrupt” may fit the definition of elitist academics but in the real world - in which I am deeply embedded - the assertion is foolish. At a time when genuine debate, reflection, research and reinvention are high on the agenda of any serious practice, such rhetoric is a distraction at best, thoroughly counter productive and just simply wrong.
    Is it really useful to be as inflammatory as possible to prove one’s intellectual prowess?
    I feel almost guilty in even extending the conversation.

  58. #58 James P. Cramer said at 4:25 pm on May 24th, 2010:

    Kent has some excellent points here and you can just feel his experience — his frustration with the rhetoric — it’s palpable. Thank you Kent for your thoughtful response.
    The reason I’ve chosen to back this program and its questions at Harvard is because I think more professionals need to understand what it is to be a true professional. Some argue that we’ve lost the true professional in today’s context. I think not. Moreover, all professionals should understand why ethics matter. Getting to higher levels of understanding about professional and ethical habits can’t be a bad thing.

  59. #59 Matt Arnold said at 7:07 pm on May 31st, 2010:

    Well said, Jim. One thing to remember, though, is that those who deign to dispense diagnosis should do so from a position of recognized authority; I do not believe such a relationship is currently the status quo between practitioners and the Acadamy. It will take a truly herculean effort on the part of those presuming to speak to this subject to avoid an outcome in which the feud is simply escalated.

    A wise man once said, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

    The challenges that Architecture faces in the early 21st century will only be overcome when there is a unified effort on the part of practitioners, regulators, and academics, working together and sharing a common purpose. Sadly, all of us seem to be vulnerable to charges that we are falling short of our responsibilities.

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  61. #61 John MacDonald said at 8:43 am on August 1st, 2011:

    My perspective on our dilemma.

    Architects and Externalities.
    Our Achilles’ Heel.

    http://johnmacdonaldarchitect.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/architecture-and-externalities-our-achilles-heel/

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While $350 is admittedly ridiculously expensive for a remote, I did find the Ultimate a joy to use, combining the user-friendly interface of the mobile apps with the greater reliability of RF communication.Bottom lineWhether with or without your smartphone as the remote, the latest Harmony Hub line represents a great improvement over its predecessor, and a worthy alternative to traditional IR-based universal remotes—especially in locations where Wi-Fi network interference isn’t a big problem.Review: LyX is an advanced but easy-to-use document processor based on LaTeX typesetting When one thinks of document editors, it’s usually Microsoft Word and Google Docs that come to mind. But in the world of word processors there are marquee names, and then there are some worthies not yet in the limelight. Advanced cross-platform document processor LyX has its merits. LyX is free and Open Source. LyX’s workflow is something of an adjustment from Microsoft Word, but learning it can pay off. The results are similar to professional typesetting.Creating our first document on LyX is as simple as any other: Go to File – New. You can copy-paste or type your first text without bothering about any formatting. To start with formatting, we will say LyX uses Environments. Environments are lot like Microsoft Word and its use of Styles to format documents with consistency. But Environments give far greater control across a variety of document types.Document processors are usually WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). LyX is WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean), though the frontend does not differ much from any other document editor. The way LyX controls the layout of the document lies in the background, where it uses powerful typesetting markup language LaTeX.The default Environment is Standard. LyX has different Environments for typesetting sections, lists, sub-lists, verses, quotations, bibliography etc. Expanding the dropdown, we can choose to apply the appropriate ones and within a few clicks, our basic document now starts looking more professional. Different Text Styles can be used on the text. It can be previewed with a PDF reader.The idea is to separate the content from its presentation. Precise control over layout is a must for academic and scientific authoring. This is where LyX comes into its own. LaTeX is complicated. LyX is the friendly GUI. The program handles the final presentation, leaving the writer with only the business of writing the content. The end result is a more attractive and consistent document.Different documents like a book, a thesis, a letter etc. need to be typeset differently. LyX uses Document classes which tell it how to typeset the document so that we don’t have to bother about the distinctions. Each choice of a Document class also changes the Environments which go with it. Some are built-in but many Document classes and layout options are available online which allow us to extend LyX for all types of document processing needs.LyX is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, with unofficial ports for OS/2 and Haiku. For a fresh installation on Windows, opt for the 200MB bundle, which is fully functional and includes the complete LaTeX distribution (MiKTeX) and a bibliography manager. A 35MB update installation is available for older versions of LyX with LaTeX already installed on the system.LyX shows why the program is geared for the scientific community with its versatile Math toolbar. The Math toolbar helps us to create complex mathematical formulas easily. LyX has a detailed Math manual that explains all the features.Lyx uses MiKTeX, an up-to-date implementation of TeX/LaTeX. It is composed of packages (programs, styles, fonts etc.) that help to format and render documents. Many of the packages are optional. During the course of your text processing, the program might prompt you to update the packages if it finds that you need a custom package not available with the default installation. LyX You can search for relevant packages using the Package Manager and install them.Remember, LyX is WYSIWYM. In its raw form, the document might look like a mish-mash of brackets and typesetting elements. When you have finished with your text, render it with the default PDF reader. You can save it and render it later, or export it in many different formats (HTML, Open Document, Plain Text). On first launch, the GUI does not seem any different from a standard document processor (though it doesn’t resemble Microsoft Word’s Ribbon interface). If getting on the learning curve feels slightly overwhelming, you can avail yourself of very detailed instructions in LyX.org’s Introduction, Tutorial, User Guide, and additional manuals in the Help menu.If you have a long and cluttered document waiting to be prepared, try your hand on LyX. It costs no money, and for complex scientific documents, it could end up saving you time.Note: The Download button on the Product Information page takes you to the vendor’s site, where you can download the latest version of the software.Review: MacBook Pro with Retina Display redefines the concept of a ‘pro’ laptop Apple isn’t afraid to stir things up, making people rethink how they use technology. In recent years, most of that kind of innovation has focused on the iPhone, iPad, and iOS. But the , released at , now directs attention back to the Mac.The Retina MacBook Pro is not only a groundbreaking release, combining stunning performance and portability in a 15-inch Mac laptop; this model will also force you to change the way you interact with a laptop. From overhauling how you view and work with content to how you deal with external devices and connections, Apple isn’t afraid to push its customers in new directions. The Retina MacBook Pro is certainly a more-than-gentle nudge.Looking good: The Retina displayThe marquee feature of this laptop is right in the name―the Retina display. The Retina display made its debut in the , followed by the . It’s finally made its way to a Mac. You can look at the Retina display as another step in the iOS-ification of the Mac, or you can see it as I do―another way to remind you that all of these products are part of one big happy Apple family.The Retina display’s numbers are mind-boggling: 2880 by 1800 pixels―that’s 220 pixels per inch―for a total of 5.18 million pixels on a 15.4-inch backlit screen. When the Retina MacBook Pro is set at its (Best) Retina setting, it’s spectacular―the detail in photos is great, and text is the crispest and cleanest it’s ever been. For the first few hours with the Retina MacBook Pro, I even found enjoyment in reading the text of system alerts. The Retina MacBook Pro helped rekindle my appreciation for the little details of Mac OS X that, over time, I’ve taken for granted. There were no dead pixels or light leakage on the two Retina MacBook Pros I looked at, and compared to my 17-inch MacBook Pro, colors were exceedingly vibrant.With so many pixels, it’s easy to notice the amount of detail you can see in high-resolution photos. But it emphasizes the low quality of many website images. Fire up Safari and you can read an article displayed in finely rendered text, with images that now look jaggy. For anyone tuned to such nuances, it can be annoying, but don’t blame the laptop. It’s up to Web designers to start to optimize graphics for Retina displays. With the popularity of the iPhone and iPad, the addition of a Retina laptop, and the eventual adoption of high-resolution displays in non-Apple devices, it’s only a matter of time before the Web catches up.Videos on the Retina MacBook Pro look excellent. To display a 1080p video on MacBook Pro, the video is enlarged to fill the screen, since these MacBook Pros already have more pixels on the screen than on a HDTV. I didn’t notice any ghosting, and the laptop’s video card seemed to have no problem handling the video.The Retina MacBook Pro actually has two video cards―one integrated, one discrete. The integrated video card (which shares memory with the main memory, and is actually part of the CPU), is Intel’s , which is used to help preserve battery life. The discrete video card (a separate component with its own memory) is Nvidia’s GeForce GT 650M, with 1GB of video memory. The system automatically switches processors based on the activity you’re performing, so you’re not sacrificing performance while, say, playing a game. You can turn off automatic graphics switching, which then sets the Retina MacBook Pro to always use the discrete video card.With 2880-by-1800 pixels on hand, you might assume that the list of available resolutions in the Displays system preference would be unbearably long―there are 19 resolution settings for my 17-inch MacBook Pro. But that is not the case. In its ongoing effort to ease choices, Apple revamped the Displays system preference for the Retina MacBook Pro. Displays offers only five choices on a scale, which makes it much easier to find a comfortable resolution setting.To the left of the scale are settings for Larger Text, to the right are settings for More Space, and in the middle is Best (Retina). If you really need to know the resolution numbers for each setting, they appear when you mouse over each setting. For example, the leftmost Larger Text setting “Looks like 1024 x 640” pixel resolution, while the rightmost More Space setting “Looks like 1920 x 1200.”When a second display is connected and set up to expand the desktop, the resolution listing appears, specifically for the external display. When I connected the Retina MacBook Pro to my 42-inch HDTV, it instantly recognized the display, and when I turned off mirroring, I was able to choose one of four resolutions for the HDTV, and set the Retina MacBook Pro to one of the five settings mentioned above.I didn’t have a chance to install Windows on a Boot Camp partition, but Macworld Lab installs Parallels as part of the benchmark suite, and I ran Windows 7 full screen through the virtual machine. I was able to set Windows to 2880-by-1800, and I was able to use applications without a hitch. Our sister publication, PCWorld, is planning a deep look at running Windows on a Retina MacBook Pro, so look for that upcoming report.The Retina display also supports (IPS), which helps with color reproduction and viewing angles. Apple states a 178-degree viewing angle, and I don’t dispute that.A longtime concern about Apple’s screens is the reflective glare. With the Retina MacBook Pro, Apple redesigned how the display is mounted. There’s no longer a glass cover, and that, thankfully, reduces the glare. Apple says glare has been reduced by 75 percent; While I can’t scientifically test that claim, I can say that the reduction is noticeable. I don’t have to work as hard to ignore the glare as I’ve had to on previous MacBook Pros.Soon after Apple announced the Retina MacBook Pro, the company . With its support for 1920 by 1200 resolution―the native resolution of the 17-inch MacBook Pro―the Retina MacBook Pro serves as the replacement for the 17-inch model. I’m a 17-inch MacBook Pro user, and I use it because I want as much screen space as possible. Can you get the same amount of space with the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro? Yes, though the trade-off is that everything on the 15-inch screen is smaller than on a 17-inch screen. It doesn’t bother me one bit―yet. As someone who’s reached his 40s, I’m experiencing the change in vision that you expect when you get older, so it’s possible that folks with aging eyes like mine will need to make adjustments.What’s inside stays insideApple offers two models of the Retina MacBook Pro. The $2199 model has a 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 6MB shared L3 cache, 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory, and 256GB of flash storage. (Most people call it an SSD or solid state drive, but Apple calls it flash storage.) The $2799 model has a 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 6MB shared L3 cache, 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory, and 512GB of flash storage.The Retina MacBook Pro processors are part of Intel’s Ivy Bridge processor technology, which are smaller and more power efficient than the previous generation of Sandy Bridge processors. Ivy Bridge processors are created using Intel’s process, while Sandy Bridge processors are processors. Ivy Bridge also supports several features that promote power efficiency. Essentially, it promises improved performance from a chip that requires less power.The processors support Intel’s , which creates two virtual cores for each physical core present in the processor. With the quad-core Core i7 processor, Hyper-Threading creates eight virtual cores. Also, the processors have , where the processing cores automatically boost its speed past the specified rate if it senses that it is running under the power and heat limits. The 2.3GHz processor in the $2199 model can boost its speed to 3.3GHz, while the 2.6GHz processor in the $2799 model goes up to 3.7GHz.Before , rumors of a 15-inch MacBook Air ran through the mill. While the Retina MacBook Pro is part of Apple’s pro laptop line―and Apple representatives stressed during the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote that the Retina MacBook Pro is a pro machine―it has definitely taken some cues from its smaller, lighter sibling. One obvious cue is with the body design; it’s thinner and lighter than its 15-inch counterparts in the “regular” MacBook Pro line. (More on the design later.) But not so obvious are the RAM and flash storage implementations―which may turn some customers off.In the Retina MacBook Pro, the RAM is part of the motherboard; there are no slots and RAM sticks, and you have to decide at the time of purchase if you want to upgrade from the standard 8GB to 16GB. You can’t upgrade the RAM after purchase. The situation is similar for the flash storage; it’s not permanently attached, like the MacBook Air, but it’s not considered a user-upgradeable part. Companies such as offer flash storage upgrade kits for the MacBook Air, and chances are you’ll see similar kits for the Retina MacBook Pro, but you’ll possibly void your warranty if you use them, and Apple won’t support such aftermarket hardware.If your idea of a “pro” machine allows you to upgrade or customize some of its parts (like the Mac Pro, Apple’s most customizable computer), then the Retina MacBook Pro will be a disappointment. However, that message has been on the wall, starting with the , and reinforced with the 2010 ―you can even look to the iPhone and iPad. Apple did not change the design of the regular 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro, so you still have the ability to upgrade RAM and storage later on in the life of those machines.Upgrading to 16GB of memory adds $200 to the price of either Retina model. Unfortunately, the $2199 model does not have an option to upgrade the 256GB of flash storage. The $2799 model has a 768GB flash storage upgrade for an additional $500.Faster connections: USB 3.0, ThunderboltOn one side of the Retina MacBook Pro, you’ll find a MagSafe 2 connector for power, two Thunderbolt ports, a USB 3.0 port, and a headphone jack. On the other side, there’s another USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, and a SDXC card slot.USB 3.0 has long been on PCs, and it’s finally―finally!―made its way on to the Mac. With the widespread availability of USB 3.0 storage devices, Mac users will now be able to tap into the speed benefits of USB 3.0. The USB ports are compatible with USB 2.0, so you can still use USB 2.0 devices, though you won’t see an additional speed boost. is the high-speed connector here. Thunderbolt’s specification states data throughput of up to 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) per channel, though the actual speed depends on the connected Thunderbolt device.Thunderbolt is also used to connect displays such as Apple’s (?) or a Mini DisplayPort display like Apple’s (?). The Retina MacBook Pro can drive two external displays; you can connect a pair of Thunderbolt Displays, or a Thunderbolt Display and a Cinema Display, or even a display connected through the Thunderbolt port and a display connected to HDMI. With two displays connected, the laptop’s display is still available to use.Missing featuresWhat’s missing? Ethernet―the Retina MacBook Pro comes with 802.11n, and Apple sells a for $29. (You could perhaps use a USB to ethernet adapter, though I haven’t tried one.) There’s no FireWire 800, which I think is a bigger issue than the lack of ethernet, since FireWire devices are still common with Mac users. Apple will probably sell a lot of its new Thunderbolt to FireWire 800 adapters ―it’s too bad it’s not an included accessory. There’s no Kensington lock slot either, so you’ll need to find another way to secure the Retina MacBook Pro to a desk.Also missing is a SuperDrive, to no surprise. In my own personal use, I use the SuperDrive only to make backup copies of the DVD movies my kids get as presents, maybe five or six discs per year. I can’t remember the last time I burned data to an optical disc; too many times I’ve had a backup DVD that went bad, and I have USB flash drives I can use for times I can’t transfer a file over the network or the Internet. If you need a SuperDrive, you’ll have to get an external drive, such as Apple’s $79 .A not-so-obvious missing feature is an ExpressCard/34 slot, which was only available on the 17-inch MacBook Pro. The Retina MacBook Pro has no ExpressCard slot, so you’ll have to find other ways to get the functionality you’re used to having with an ExpressCard. For example, 3G connectivity: You can use a USB 3G modem, or you can use tethering on your iPhone.The Retina MacBook Pro uses a MagSafe 2 connector, the same kind that is used on the MacBook Air. The regular MacBook Pros continue to use the older MagSafe connector, and MagSafe 2 and MagSafe are not the same size. You can’t plug in a MagSafe 2 adapter into a MagSafe plug, and vice versa. If you want to use a MagSafe adapter with the Retina MacBook Pro, you’ll need a $10 . There is no MagSafe 2 to MagSafe converter.Slimmer bodyAt first glance, the Retina MacBook Pro looks a lot like the regular 15-inch MacBook Pro and the aluminum body design is essentially the same. The major difference is the thickness. With the lid closed, the Retina MacBook Pro measures 0.71 inches, while the regular 15-inch MacBook Pro is nearly an inch tall. The thin profile of the Retina MacBook Pro aids portability, but it also helps alleviate the discomfort you might have (as I do) with the edge of the laptop cutting into your wrist as you type. The angle isn’t as steep as it is with the regular 15-inch MacBook Pro, but it’s not like the tapered edge on the MacBook Air. It seems that Apple decided not to create a tapered edge in order to maximize the amount of battery inside.The Retina MacBook Pro weighs 4.46 pounds, which is nearly a pound lighter than the regular 15-inch MacBook Pro, and more than 2 pounds lighter than the 17-inch MacBook Pro. Lighter is better―that’s a given―but what’s impressive about the Retina MacBook Pro’s weight is that its 4.46 pounds feels evenly distributed. Of course, it’s a bit heavier toward the screen, but it’s also not too light in the area around the trackpad, so if you carry the laptop while it’s open (admit it, you’ve done that more times that you’d like anyone to know), the laptop won’t suddenly tip over.A minor cosmetic note: One thing you’ll notice with the open Retina MacBook Pro is that the MacBook Pro logo is no longer at the bottom of the screen. It’s on the bottom of the laptop. Apple got rid of the cover glass for the display, and the logo was part of the cover glass. Apple decided to not put the logo on the bezel of the display.Two other changes: The power button replaces the optical drive eject button on the keyboard, and there’s no longer a battery life indicator on the hardware.Benchmarks: How does it compare?To gauge the performance of the two new Retina MacBook Pro models, Macworld Lab tested the $2199 and $2799 models using , our benchmark suite of real-world applications and tasks.Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith, Mauricio Grijalva, William Wang, and Kean BartelmanImpressively, the 2.6GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro isn’t just the fastest laptop we’ve tested, it’s the fastest Mac we’ve tested, posting a remarkable 330 Speedmark 7 score. The isn’t far behind, with a score of 319. The previous fastest laptop was a , and the fastest desktop Mac we’ve tested was a .Compared to the fastest new 15-inch regular MacBook Pro with a 2.6GHz Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 5400-rpm 750GB hard drive, the 2.6GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro is 38 percent faster, and the 2.3GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro is 33 percent faster.If you look at the scores for last year’s MacBook Pros, the new 2.6GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro is a whopping 51 percent faster. The comparison with the new 2.3GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro is just as impressive; it’s 46 percent faster.How We Tested: We duplicated a 2GB file, created a Zip archive in the Finder from the two 2GB files, and then unzipped it.How We Tested: In Pages ’09 we converted and opened a 500-page Microsoft Word document. In iMovie ’11, we imported a two-minute clip from a camera archive, and performed a Share Movie to iTunes for Mobile Devices function. How We Tested: In iTunes, we converted 135 minutes of AAC audio files to MP3 using the High Quality setting. In Handbrake 0.9.5, we encoded a single chapter (to H.264 using the application’s Normal settings) from a DVD that was previously ripped to the hard drive. In Cinebench, we recorded how long it took to render a scene with multiprocessors. How We Tested: We installed Parallels 6 and ran WorldBench 6’s Multitask test. In Photoshop CS5, we ran an action script on a 100MB image file. How We Tested: In Aperture 3 we performed an Import and Process on 207 photos. In iPhoto ’11, we imported 500 photos.How We Tested: We ran Mathematica 8’s Evaluate Notebook Test.It’s the flash storage that gives the Retina MacBook Pros a serious boost. Compared to the new regular MacBook Pros, the Retina laptops see serious gains in disk-based activities, such as in our Duplicate 2GB Folder test, Zip 4GB Folder test, and Unzip 4GB File test. In other tests where the storage device comes into play (Import iMovie Archive, Aperture Import, iPhoto Import), the Retina laptops held an advantage.In other tests that aren’t so disk dependent and more CPU focused, the Retina laptops and the new regular MacBook Pros were within range of each other, such as in our HandBrake Encode test, Pages Import test, MathematicaMark, and the Cinebench CPU test.The one test where the new regular MacBook Pros clearly pulled away from the Retina laptops is in our Portal 2 frame rate test. The regular 2.6GHz Core i7 MacBook Pro was 9 percent faster than its Retina counterpart with the same processor. The regular 2.3GHz Core i7 MacBook Pro was 4 percent faster than the 2.6GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro, but it was 17 percent faster that 2.3GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro. Even though the Retina laptops and the regular MacBook Pros have the same graphics hardware (the regular 2.3 GHz MacBook Pro’s GeForce GT 650M has 512MB of memory, versus 1GB in the other three laptops), the Retina displays have so many more pixels to push that it can affect the frame rate in games.How We Tested: In Cinebench, we ran that application’s OpenGL frames-per-second test. Using Steam and Steam for Mac, we created a self-running demo for Portal and recorded the frames-per-second rating.Macworld is in the process of testing the four standard configurations of the new regular MacBook Pros. We’ll have a detailed review coming soon.We have a list of Speedmark scores that compares the new Retina MacBook Pros to , which includes some Mac models from 2009 to late 2011.Heat and noiseI don’t have lab-produced test results, but I’ll give my subjective observations. The Retina MacBook Pro, while running the Diablo III installer, warmed up, but not enough to make me uncomfortable while it rested in my lap. The heat was from the center of the bottom of the laptop, and it didn’t seem to radiate beyond that. The fans did not kick in.After Diablo III finished its installation, I ran the game. I was able to select 2880-by-1800 in the game’s settings, and during gameplay, the fans are definitely running and noticeable. The laptop heated up immediately, in the forward part of the bottom, underneath the keyboard where the GPU and CPU are located, and it heated up enough for me to move the laptop to a desk.I watched several YouTube videos and iTunes movie trailers, all streaming 1080p or 720p over the Internet. The laptop got a bit warmer than when I installed Diablo III, but not hot enough for me to need to move the laptop off my lap. I wasn’t able to trigger the fans while doing this, and the videos ran smoothly.I also used Handbrake to convert a movie file for my iPhone―the Retina MacBook Pro doesn’t have an optical drive and I didn’t try ripping a DVD or CD using an external drive. The file conversion took less than 5 minutes, during which time the fans did not run, and the laptop did not noticeably heat up.Battery lifeThe Retina display is power-hungry; you need a lot of juice to move all those pixels. The Retina MacBook Pro’s built-in battery is rated at 95 watt-hours. By comparison, the regular 15-inch MacBook Pro is rated at 77.5 watt-hours. The Retina MacBook Pro has a much bigger battery.However, Apple rates the battery life of all its 15-inch MacBook Pros at 7 hours of what the company calls “wireless web” use. When Macworld Lab tests battery life, we use a more rigorous test. We loop a movie file in full screen mode in QuickTime Pro until the battery is drained. This drains the battery faster than general use that involves Web access.Both Retina laptops lasted about five hours in our test. Even with their larger batteries, they didn’t last as long as the regular 15-inch MacBook Pros, which lasted several minutes longer. The previous generation of 15-inch MacBook Pros actually outlasted the new models by a significant margin.The new definition of “pro”Apple’s idea of “pro”―at least for laptops―doesn’t involve customizable hardware, which means a few hardcore users are at a crossroads. You can still buy the regular MacBook Pro, open it up, and have your way with it, but I’m guessing it won’t be too long before that design too follows the 17-inch MacBook Pro into discontinued status.So, what is Apple’s idea of a “pro” laptop? For now, it’s the Retina MacBook Pro, which is philosophically very close to the MacBook Air. Obviously, it’s light, it’s smaller than before, but the missing features force you to adjust, as with the MacBook Air. The “pro” aspect, in this case, refers to the performance; the general CPU speed matches the regular MacBook Pro (when you factor in the flash storage, the Retina MacBook Pro blazes past the regular laptops), so no performance compromises are made, and the performance is several notches past the MacBook Air.Macworld’s buying adviceWith the Retina MacBook Pro, Apple once again proves it is a company that refuses to sit still and get comfortable. It redefined the ultraportable laptop with the MacBook Air, and has now altered the concept of the “pro” laptop. Going lighter and smaller was expected, given how Apple does things, but the change in feature set will have current MacBook Pro owners reexamining their needs.One thing to consider: Customers actually have more laptop choices now than than they’ve had since the demise of the MacBook. There are three different types to choose from: the MacBook Air, the regular MacBook Pro, and the Retina MacBook Pro. It’s a good variety that ranges in price from $999 to $2799, not including BTO options.The Retina MacBook Pro, however, is the future of Apple’s laptop line―and it’s a bright, shining symbol of excellence. The Retina display is something to be marveled at, and the lightweight, smaller design addresses the demand for our devices to be even more portable. You’ll have to make a few adjustments, but fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice performance. The Retina MacBook Pro is quite a remarkable laptop.Editor’s note: Updated at 6/15/12 at 8 a.m. PT to correct a price reference to the 2.6GHz Core i7 model. Updated on 6/18/12 at 7:30 p.m. PT to add a link to Speedmark 7 scores.Review: Magix Page & Layout Designer includes advanced tools for beginner users Printed media may seem to be heading the way of the dinosaur, but until the proverbial meteor hits a stack of business cards, box of letterhead, or freshly-printed brochures on their way to a conference, we’ll continue adding paper and ink (and the odd PDF) to our marketing cache.MAGIX Page & Layout Designer ($150)? anticipates the needs of a growing business by providing a single source for designing anything from a single logo to business cards to a multi-page brochure. However, if you are a ($89) fan, you will recognize the UI instantly, and may be left feeling ripped off. It’s so hard to find a difference between the two apps, it seems that MAGIX has repackaged Xara with added templates and an inflated pricetag (although Page & Layout Designer is currently on sale for $90).About a dozen template themes are included in the MAGIX Page & Layout Designer download (you can’t access or view them all in the trial). Choose a theme that suits your business, then open business card, brochure, and letterhead templates that all match the theme and are fully customizable with your own logo, text, images, etc. There are about 100 templates in total. All are royalty-free, and many verge on stylish, but organization isn’t great. It can be hard to find the matching brochure to your business card design.MAGIX Page & Layout Designer’s slide-out bitmap gallery could mean you never need to hunt and gather on the server for your company’s logo again.Customizing the templates is pretty easy with MAGIX Page & Layout Designer, even if you don’t have any design training or experience. For example, a snap function helps you align objects, text is set to automatically flow around your images, and you can chose to work without or without layers.If you do have prior experience, setting up a page from scratch also is simple and intuitive. Plus, you can easily use MAGIX Page & Layout Designer to create logos and other vector drawings without too much difficulty; and use the photo tools to adjust and manipulate your images. Refer to the Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 2013 review for more detail on how drawing and image editing tools work, since these are identical.Currently, ($59) is included in the Page & Layout Designer download for free, and also includes some additional basic photo manipulation tools as well as the ability to organize your images. On the surface, this looks like a great deal. However, you may not need Photo Manager at all, as MAGIX Page & Layout Designer includes a slide-out bitmap gallery. With it, you can save and access all of your logos, logotypes, images etc. for any of your projects. However, I wish it were easier to organize things, and would love to be able to add text boxes (so you never again have to cut and paste your mission statement and other often-used blocks of text).It seems like MAGIX is trying to reach a new audience with Page & Layout Designer, with no mention of its powerful vector drawing tools and super-easy photo editing in their marketing of the product. But the non-sale pricetag is steep unless you were actually considering also purchasing the bundled Photo Manager MX Deluxe. If you already own Xara Photo & Graphic Designer (or , the $299 heavy-lifter in the family) you are going to be an unhappy T-Rex who’ll want to eat MAGIX for lunch.Note: The Download button on the Product Information page will download the software to your system.Review: Mailstrom puts you in control of your email Many companies claim to have the solution for email overload, but few deliver. That’s why I was wary of Mailstrom, a (currently) free service that promises to deliver the elusive “inbox zero”—a state of being so far out of my reach, I’m not even sure what it means. But after testing Mailstrom, I was pleasantly surprised at just how close I came to achieving that sought-after state.Mailstrom works with any IMAP email account. All you have to do is you enter your email address and it goes to work, analyzing your account. I sat back and waited while it “loaded” my account—and it didn’t take too long, considering that the account holds more than 22,000 messages. Once the loading process is complete, you head over to your Web-based dashboard to see Mailstrom’s analysis of your account.Mailstrom lets you browse the contents of your inbox by sender, subject, and more.Mailstrom displays a very detailed analysis of your email, showing you messages by sender, subject, time, and size, as well as those from certain mailing lists and social networks. Under each category, you can browse the most common traits…and it can be eye-opening to see who sends you the most messages and what subject lines are commonly used. Mailstrom uses a three-column view that’s similar to Outlook: The first column shows the categories, while the second column shows more detail on the selected category, and the third column lets you see lists of messages or the content of a specific one.But that’s all it does, and at first, I wasn’t sure what to think. Many of the email clean-up services I’ve tried, such as and , do more work for you, sorting your bulk mail into folders that you can scan when you want to peruse their contents. But that approach didn’t work well for me, an admitted control freak. I found myself too concerned that I was missing out on important messages (which I sometimes was, as none of their sorting systems was perfect).Mailstrom makes it easy to delete hundreds of emails with the click of a mouse.That’s why I like Mailstrom so much: It leaves you in control. It shows you the problems with your inbox, and lets you solve them yourself. For example, when I realized that I was storing more than 1,000 messages from the very editor who assigned me this review, I realized I need to create a folder just for her—a task I was able to easily accomplish from within Mailstrom. When I saw that I had hundreds of messages from a bookstore that’s no longer in business, I was able to delete them all in one fell swoop.The one feature Mailstrom is lacking is an unsubscribe option. It would be nice to see the hundreds of marketing messages I get, and then be able to unsubscribe from them instantly. Unroll.me does include an unsubscribe feature, but its filtering approach makes the service more able to make sure you no longer receive the messages you don’t want. 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There’s also?16GB of DDR3/2400 system memory, and not one, not two, but four of the best 256GB SSD we’ve tested―Samsung’s 840 Pro―configured as RAID 0 for blistering speed.ROBERT CARDINThe Maingear Shift Super Stock Z87 is a mean, green gaming machine. It’s a stupefying level of computing power, one that sets the bar for what an elite gaming PC should be. And this machine’s very existence demonstrates the enduring strength and appeal of the PC gaming market. Indeed, high-end gaming PCs like the Shift Z87 despite a in overall PC sales, and it’s not crazy to suggest that as more people abandon budget PCs and laptops in favor of tablets, premium hardware like the Shift will keep the PC gaming market afloat.The Maingear Shift Super Stock Z87 turned in an exceptional Desktop WorldBench 8.1 score. The Shift Z87’s Desktop WorldBench 8.1 score of 435 means it’s more than four times faster than our reference system, the modest . In fact, it’s the fastest desktop PC we’ve ever encountered. While that overall score is only modestly higher than the 421 that MicroFlex’s significantly cheaper earned, the Shift Z87 blew the competition out of the water when we benchmarked it playing the latest games at very high resolution.The MicroExpress 47B, for example, couldn’t deliver a playable frame rate with BioShock when we set the game’s resolution to 2560 by 1600 pixels and its visual quality to Ultra. That’s because the 47B is equipped with just one GeForce GTX 680 video card. The Shift Z87’s three Titan cards enabled it to play the game at that resolution at a mind-blowing 135 frames per second.ROBERT CARDINLiquid cooling and a unique vertically oriented case enabled Maingear to significantly overclock the system. As impressive as that is, the madness doesn’t stop there: The PCWorld lab team hooked the Shift Z87 up to three HD monitors and played Crysis 3 at a resolution of 5760 by 1440 pixels, all while achieving a consistent frame rate of 28 fps. That’s impressive performance, but more importantly it proves that all this power can afford you a real competitive advantage when playing games that challenge your situational awareness. Excelling during a Crysis 3 or Call of Duty deathmatch is easier when you can see everything in a 270-degree radius without moving your head.High-resolution gaming is certainly no obstacle, as the Maingear Shift’s BioShock performance indicates. But you don’t need to be a gamer to appreciate the Shift Z87’s exceptional performance. This machine also placed first in nearly every one of the productivity-oriented benchmarks that make up the WorldBench 8.1 suite, including PCMark 7 Productivity and each of the media editing and encoding tests we run.The Shift Z87’s signature chassis orients the motherboard 90 degrees to the right so that the ports and fans that are normally on the back of the PC are located on top. This leaves heat-generating components, such as the video cards, hanging from their brackets. This vertical orientation reduces the stress that the very heavy Titan cards place?on the PCIe slots, but Maingear also wisely mounted a bracket on each card for even more support. And because hot air rises, vertical channels between the cards keep the video cards cooler than they would be if they were mounted in a more conventional stacked configuration.ROBERT CARDINOn most computers, this shot would be of the rear panel. On the Maingear Shift, it’s a top-down view. This design is complemented by a proprietary, open-loop, liquid-cooling system that chills not just the CPU but also the motherboard’s voltage regulators to allow for higher overclocking. This also enables the system to run extremely quietly―I rarely heard the fans spin up to to full speed, even while gaming. You can gaze at all this hardware―helpfully illuminated by an internal white-LED light bar―through a clear side panel on the chassis. And that leads to one of my few complaints: The latch on that panel doesn’t easily disengage. I had to gently wrestle with it whenever I wanted to poke around inside.This machine can also deliver top-drawer performance with media editing and encoding chores. The Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 motherboard at the heart of this beast delivers pretty much every connection option your heart could desire: a PS/2 jack, two USB 2.0 ports, six USB 3.0 ports, and a pair of gigabit ethernet jacks. And each video card has HDMI, DisplayPort, and DVI outputs. And there’s a full complement of audio input and output connectors for microphones, headsets, and speakers. A slick recessed panel near the front of the Shift’s topside pops up to reveal a a memory card reader, another pair of audio in/out jacks, two more USB 3.0 ports, and a mini-DVI port.Most of us aren’t in a position to drop eight grand on a computer, no matter how powerful it might be. But the Maingear Shift Z87 sits at the apex of personal computing, and it’s always fun to lay hands on a super-powerful, lovingly crafted PC such as this―even if you’d have to be a high-rolling, Lamborghini-driving, trust-fund baby to afford one.Review: MapiCase’s Orion case for the iPhone 5 offers more style than protection The first thing I noticed about Mapi’s $90 is its stylish look, with a soft leather exterior and leathery smell. Upon closer inspection, however, I found that the case emphasizes style over protection, and the high-quality feel is limited to its looks. 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However, the back panel makes the case bulky and is hard to rotate around, as it tends to stick.?The Orion has cutouts for the Sleep/Wake button, earpiece, front and back cameras, and ring/silent switch, and press through overlays for the volume buttons. A small leather flap protects the Lightning port, which can be easily moved for charging. I had no trouble using any of the buttons or switches, and the case didn’t obstruct the back camera or flash.Bottom lineThe Mapi Orion case is big on style, but low on protection. It’s bulky and doesn’t feel great to hold, but makes up for it with a nice leather exterior. The Orion might win you some style points, but it’s not the case for you if you’re rough with your iPhone.Review: MarkdownPad makes composing Markdown even easier than usual HTML is the lingua franca of the Web. If you publish anything online, that’s the format your text will end up in. But while easy for browsers to render, HTML isn’t always easy (or fun) to compose. Some content management systems, like , solve this problem by offering a WYSIWYG editor that lets you edit visually. For those who prefer the simplicity and ubiquity of plain text, Markdown is the way to go—and MarkdownPad Pro is a simple editor that lets you compose Markdown and view your results instantly. MarkdownPad’s instant preview mode makes it easy to see what your final HTML is going to look like.By default, MarkdownPad Pro shows a split interface, with your text taking up the left side of the window and an instantly-rendered output taking up the right—much like online Markdown editor Dillinger.io. If you find the live preview pane distracting (as I do), you can hit F5 to toggle it. If you do like it, but don’t like the vertical layout, a quick tap on F4 switches the editor to a horizontal layout with the preview pane under the editing pane.Markdown is the format of choice for many writers, and MarkdownPad 2 contains several writer-friendly features: A live word count on the status bar, squiggly lines denoting typos, and frequent automatic saving are just a few. One feature that’s notably missing is the ability to copy formatted text as rich text, for pasting into Microsoft Word or other rich-text aware editors–something free editor WriteMonkey offers. On the plus side, MarkdownPad 2 lets you directly export a PDF document from your Markdown source.If you find the instant preview distracting, you can easily toggle it off and enjoy just the Markdown syntax highlighting.Markdown is a lightweight format, so your text shouldn’t be drowning in tags and angle brackets. Still, it does have its own conventions for links, titles, and text emphasis–and MarkdownPad offers syntax highlighting that makes it easy to see if you got the syntax right. It also offers toolbar buttons and keyboard shortcuts for many of the syntax constructs, but unfortunately doesn’t let you customize the shortcut keys. Ctrl+K, which I would expect to insert a link, instead inserts the token for a code block (Ctrl+L inserts a link).If you find Markdown too restrictive for your needs and require more power, you may want to try . This is an enhanced version of the Markdown syntax, including refinements like Markdown inside HTML blocks, and definition lists. MarkdownPad 2 supports Markdown Extra, as well as GitHub-flavored Markdown, for composing text destined for the open-source powerhouse.MarkdownPad ships with several rendering presents, but you can edit them or add new ones if you know CSS.MarkdownPad 2 is solid, but not spectacular. I am not convinced the commercial version justifies the $15 price tag, given Markdown’s inherent simplicity and the availability of free, powerful alternatives such as and . That said, it does get the job done, and the instant preview goes a long way towards ensuring your document ends up the way you want it to, without having to make last-minute tweaks to get things to render correctly. If you’re disappointed with the free alternatives, MarkdownPad 2 might be worth a try.Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor’s site, where you can download the latest version of the software.Review: Mash your motor with Euro Truck Simulator 2 I never thought a truck-driving simulator could be fun, but Euro Truck Simulator 2 proved me wrong. There is something soothing in watching the world go by from the high and mighty cockpit of a Volvo FH16 Globetrotter XL. If you are used to more traditional racing games, getting used to the way trucks handle in the game may take some time. They really do feel like trucks: Slow to accelerate, jarringly fast to brake thanks to air brakes, ungainly to maneuver, and immensely powerful.Euro Truck Simulator 2 offers a vast network of roads to drive on, with many missions to pick from.In this decidedly niche title, you find yourself in the driver’s seat of a full-trailer truck, hauling freight across Europe. Vehicle interiors are painstakingly rendered, and countryside views are breathtaking. The climate and time of day change, so you could find yourself enjoying a balmy spring day in one ride, and trying to navigate under torrential rain in the middle of the night in the next.With its superb graphics and realistic truck cockpits, Euro Truck Simulator 2 makes long-haul trucking quite attractive.You start the game as a freelance driver for hire, taking on trucking jobs across the continent. From one job to the next, you gain experience, unlock abilities, and set aside a nice nest egg you can eventually use to buy a truck of your own and start a trucking company.Euro Truck Simulator 2 has you carry diverse types of cargo, including heavy industrial tanks.Euro truck simulator lets you customize the controls and decide just how much of the driving you want the game to do, and how much you want to handle on your own. Manually switching gears on a truck hauling 20 tons of ore while navigating through a massive open pit mine is no mean feat…which is why it’s nice to have the game take care of that detail for you, at least as you’re getting started.Just like in the real world, Euro Truck Simulator 2 uses a GPS to help you get where you’re trying to go.Euro Truck Simulator 2’s attention to detail, convincing physics, and striking visuals transcend its niche status. This is a game so well-made, it can make you a fan of the category just by virtue of its sheer quality alone. The demo’s enough fun that you’ll find yourself speeding to buy the full game for $40.Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor’s site, where you can download the latest version of the software.Review: Master Gmail’s Keyboard Shortcuts with KeyRocket Engineers love keyboard shortcuts. So, like most Google products, Gmail offers you the ability to do pretty much anything with a keypress, from composing a new message (c for compose) to going back to the main list of emails (u for up). These keyboard shortcuts are one of Gmail’s best features: they let you compose, archive, forward, and reply to messages, move between labels, search, and more, all without reaching for your mouse.Alas, they’re also hard to learn. After enabling keyboard shortcuts in the Settings screen, you can hit “?” to get a semi-transparent overlay listing all shortcuts. For some people, looking at a long list isn’t the best way to learn–and KeyRocket thinks it can do better. Every time you use the mouse to do something your keyboard can do, KeyRocket would let you know.Veodin’s KeyRocket for Gmail sits in the background as you use Gmail, and quietly watches your every move. As soon as you tick the checkbox next to a message (to select it), it pops up a discreet notification letting you know you could have just hit “x” on your keyboard to do the same thing. When you hit the Reply button, KeyRocket informs you that “r” would have worked just as well.Because the messages are contextual, they are much more useful than a help sheet: You learn in bite-sized chunks, and only about those functions you actually use.KeyRocket makes key combinations easy to understand.KeyRocket isn’t perfect: Ideally, it should be able to tell when you already know a shortcut, and just prefer using the mouse now and then for the same function. KeyRocket shouldn’t tell me about the “#” shortcut the one time I use the mouse click the button.Still, despite this minor flaw, KeyRocket is an excellent learning aid for Gmail.Note: The Download button takes you to the Chrome Web store, where you can install the latest version directly into your Chrome browser.Review: Metro: Last Light is the most fun you’ll have in post-apocalyptic Russia Following in the footsteps of 2010’s Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light improves upon the gameplay of its predecessor without destroying what made the series great in the first place: the setting. Last Light takes you back to the post-apocalyptic Russian wasteland, employing an excellent soundtrack and bleak, desolate imagery to deliver a first-person shooter with surprising pathos and one of the most genuine game narratives in recent memory.Boot up Last Light and you’ll be dropped into the boots of Artyom–a man haunted by memories of his mother, or lack thereof–as he attempts to leave the Russian Metro to capture “a dark one”, monstrous remnants of the world before it was devastated by all-out nuclear war. Of course, nothing goes smoothly for Artyom, and along the way you’ll be captured by other survivors and work together with another captive, Pavel, to orchestrate an escape. Artyom’s quest ranges across the Russian wasteland, ultimately leading you through areas devastated by nuclear destruction and nests of enemies mutated by the apocalypse before culminating in one of the coolest and most intense firefight finales I’ve ever experienced.In Last Light you’ll leave the underground Metro to explore the desolate surface, and you’ll need to carefully shield yourself from the fallout if you want to survive long up here.But frenetic, fast-paced combat is tiresome without a meaningful reason to fight, and Metro: Last Light tells a meaningful story through emotionally-charged flashbacks to the moment the nuclear missiles struck, and how that moment affected the Russian people. It’s a series of powerful scenes scattered throughout the 9-12 hour campaign that don’t force themselves on you, allowing different players to experience as much–or as little–of the narrative as they like. That’s one of Metro’s greatest strengths: it doesn’t force anything on the player. There’s plenty of optional areas to explore at your leisure, allowing you to intuitively control how long you spend in Metro: Last Light’s bleak alternate reality.Moment to moment, the actions you’re taking in Metro: Last Light are very similar to those you performed in Metro 2033: exploring, scrounging, and fighting for your life with a hodgepodge of unique and innovative post-apocalyptic weapons. Even your weapons tell a story, like the handmade submachine gun that has a magazine that slides left-to-right, through the weapon, as shots are fired. It’s a little thing, but idiosyncratic touches like this do an excellent job of showcasing the unique, alien nature of Metro’s alternate reality Russia.Of course, those crazy cobbled-together weapons can be customized to fit your tactical preferences using Military-Grade ammunition, high-quality bullets manufactured before the apocalypse and now used in Metro as a form of currency. Paying a gunsmith to modify your armament with a silencer, lasersight, stock or foregrip is a simple way to significantly change the characteristics of each weapon, allowing you to tailor the game to your liking.The soldiers of Metro rely on an assortment of pre-apocalyptic firearms and improvised weaponry to defend their territory.Your limited inventory also forces you to make some meaningful tactical decisions: mod a semi-automatic pistol to be fully automatic and pair it with extended clips, for example, and you can use your new pistol to replace the submachine gun in your inventory. That in turn allows you to drop (or sell) the SMG, using the newly-opened space in your three-slot inventory for a long-range tool like the rifle. It’s a seemingly small decision that could mean the difference between living and dying when you’re exploring the wasteland on your own.Metro’s score is one of the best in the business and continues to establish not only the singular tone for any particular moment within the game, but a consistent and omnipresent theme throughout the entire narrative experience. Pair this with the spot-on sound effects–terrifying gunfire, wet gurgling screams, the frantic cries of communication between both enemies and the occasional comrade–and you’ll a sense of aural immersion to rival that of any great blockbuster war flick. The sound design remains exceptional throughout the game, though there’s a bit of weirdness with characters occasionally acting out of sync with their audio.Play Metro: Last Light on a powerful gaming PC with a good set of speakers if you can–you’ll be amazed at how engrossing the bleak landscape and stirring soundtrack can be.Unfortunately, for as strong as Metro: Last Light is, it suffers from a myriad of bugs and issues that can often disrupt the atmosphere it works so hard to evoke. Crashes to the desktop and random minimization happen all too frequently, destroying any sense of pacing that you might have.Occasional hard locks and freezes join the list of serious technical problems, but by far the most frustrating bug I came across was the seemingly random times that the player would become immobile and unresponsive, regardless of whether I was using the keyboard or the gamepad. It usually happens when both the protagonist and an enemy–especially the mutated creatures–make a melee attack at the same time, causing Artyom to become unresponsive, almost as if stunned.Bugs aside, Metro: Last Light still isn’t for everyone. It suffers from a lack of direction that often left me backtracking and searching the same areas multiple times before figuring out what to do or where to go. Some may find this lack of guidance charming, but it feels like even the most simple of navigational suggestions are absent and the experience suffers for it.But the main challenge of Metro: Last Light isn’t just poor directions–the game is hard. The two difficulty settings, Normal and Ranger (a special, harder difficulty setting that was made available as DLC to players who preordered the game) are a perfect balance of what you want in a game like Metro. I can’t speak to Ranger mode, but Normal is just hard enough that it forces you to slow down and think tactically in situations where, in other first-person shooters, you’d normally just run through guns blazing. That kind of recklessness will get you killed immediately in Last Light.Despite its technical flaws and poor guidance, Metro: Last Light is a uniquely challenging and heartfelt experience, a bleak first-person shooter that does more with its narrative that some films. It works well as an isolated experience too, making it a great entry point into the Metro series.Review: Microsoft Flight looks beautiful, might as well stay grounded Microsoft Flight is the current incarnation of a long and illustrious franchise of games, dating back to 1977. Unlike SimCity, you can start playing Microsoft Flight for free: Simply download the game and embark on a series of missions planned to both teach you the basics of flight, and hook you into buying later missions and additional aircraft. Microsoft Flight is the last of its kind: Microsoft permanently stopped work on the game in July 2012, just a few short months after releasing it. The futuristic Icon A5 Deluxe is not yet in production, but you can fly it in Microsoft Flight.Microsoft Flight’s graphics are gorgeous, and the scenery feels realistic. Hawaii serves as the backdrop for the first introductory missions, in which you get to fly two aircraft bundled with the free download: A thoroughly modern Icon Deluxe light aircraft and a WWII-era Boeing PT-17 Stearman biplane. These missions run you through the rudiments of taking off, controlling the craft in the air, and landing.Microsoft Flight lets you play several missions in Hawaii for free.You can fly Microsoft Flight with nothing but a game controller. There are realistic touches like preflight checklists, but in the early stages, the game runs through them on its own, checking items off as you look on.The Icon A5 cockpit feels almost like a car’s??and the GPS works.While the introductory missions are interesting and fun to play (especially the landing tutorial) and the graphics were strikingly beautiful, gameplay is marred by having to navigate using landmarks, rather than traditional waypoints. In particular, one of the challenges starts out midflight, and you’re supposed to land the plane. The trouble is, it’s not clear where the airstrip is. No heading is provided, and there’s no clear way to figure out which way to go. The careful narration that leads you through many of the other missions is utterly lacking on this one. Manually switching on the aircraft’s GPS map does reveal an airstrip, but after navigating all the way to it and executing a landing, I discovered it wasn’t the right airfield and failed the challenge after all.Another point of frustration is the low number of available missions. Microsoft Flight starts you off with less than ten missions and once you want to make progress, you have to pay up for the DLC.Microsoft Flight lets you switch between several cameras to get a better look at the action.In other words, the game suffers from the same issues plaguing many other “pay to play” titles, and even its fancy graphics were not able to redeem it. It is easy to understand why Microsoft ceased developing the game.Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor’s site, where you can download the latest version of the software.Review: MightyText wields control over desktop texting Free texting service MightyText actually manages to live up to its name.The hardest part of using MightyText is the initial setup. Like many desktop texting services, it works with Android devices only, and requires that you install a mobile app on your phone. Once the mobile app is installed and you’re ready to use MightyText on your computer or tablet, you have to do a bit of tinkering with your browser’s settings if you’d like to receive notifications of new messages. 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Switching between them is easy.To send a message, you click the new message button, and a small window for composing it pops up in the lower right corner of the screen, reminiscent of how Google’s Gmail works. And, much like Gmail, MightyText also puts a message composition window at the bottom of the conversations you view, making it easy to send a reply message.MightyText lets you mark favorite messages, browse through contacts, and easily adjust the settings (which include whether pressing enter should or should not send your messages and whether you want to get pop ups to notify you of new messages and calls). It also displays your phone’s battery life and notifies you of incoming and missed calls via pop-ups.Mightytext’s classic view uses a column-style layout, similar to Microsoft Outlook.MightyText is slick, seamless, and—best of all—free. 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