Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I went to two different schools for my B.S.A.S. and my M.Arch, and at both schools, my major was referred to as “architorture.” At my graduate school, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architectural Students (actual organization, by the way) made up ”Architorture” t-shirts featuring an emaciated figure sporting a riveted metal mask and straitjacket with a T-square tucked under one tightly-wrapped arm. Actually, it looked like a rip-off of a Quiet Riot album cover. [banging head and playing air guitar] And I doooon’t knoooow why!

BaxterWatch’s post reminded me of this phrase, and interestingly enough, my schools were not alone in the use of this word. The alma mater of my husband, Mile High Guy, also used this particular nomenclature for those in his major. Fellow coworkers from every corner of this strip-mall-covered republic we call the United States have used “architorture” as a synonym to “architecture,” and there’s good reason for this. I alluded in my inaugural post to the fact that it’s a tough major, and it is indeed. Students stay up late into the night and next morning drawing, detailing, and building models of their projects. They cantilever, exhausted, over their drafting boards, elegantly tracing thin ink line after line onto mylar, a plastic drafting sheet medium that ran at least $12-$20 for a 30” x 40” sheet back when I was having to buy it. They hunch intently over thin twigs and slices of basswood, painstakingly gluing the pieces together with Zap-A-Gap, a type of cyanoacrylate (clear super glue). They watch the sun set. They draw. They glue. Someone’s making a run for coffee; does anyone want some? They draw more. They glue and hold two twigs together to make sure it takes. The coffee arrives. Some nurse it; others slug it like a shot of whiskey in an Old West saloon. They glue. They erase a line they just drew, dammit. They watch the sun rise. They go to the restroom and change shirts so they can go to class because it’s Thursday now. And they’ll do it all again tonight, because good design takes time and this shit’s due Friday at 2 and it’s got to be something you’re proud to stand next to and show your classmates and professor at pin-up time.

Meanwhile, one doesn’t escape the architorture just because one gets a degree and starts working. I’m presently balancing my time between a project I worked on from start to finish—my project—and a project that’s more like a despondent gaping maw of a vortex than a building. Wheatlands Hospital* in Kansas, my hospital, is about halfway done, and at this point in the process the questions from the field become fewer. I have a good contractor who saw most of the problems coming early on, so we’ve already solved the big stuff. Since I can manage Wheatlands in about 10-20 hours a week, I’m helping out on the massive hospital project to which I referred in my last post. Pomme de Terre Hospital* is a massive project in Idaho that will ultimately cost nearly half a billion dollars and end around 2012. I wish I could say I made that up for the blog, but alas, truth is stranger than fiction. I started out just laying out one department for them, but now I’ve laid out two floors in the new building and three floors in the renovation portion of the existing building. I really, really, really need MCRI to start soon before I get sucked into getting neck-deep in this project and forgetting my own name, left only to drool and occasionally mutter, “The doctor’s lounge has to go somewhere!”

When I do, rest assured I’ll be wearing a metal mask and a strait-jacket.

Though I don’t know why.


Miss Kitty said...

You're a meeeean go-getTAH! And you don't know why? Anymore?

$500 million is a lot for any hospital anywhere, much less someplace like Pomme de Terre. Why there, of all places? Isn't it like Aladamnbama, except with snow?

The Wandering Author said...

If it was in Massachusetts, it would be estimated at half a billion, with completion in 2012. All the politicians would start buying new cars and building new houses, it would finally be finished in 2030, for a total cost of 4 billion. And they'd call it the Big Bulger...

Baxterwatch said...

Ha - Miss Kitty, AladamnBama is NOT like Kansas - you should know that!!! They don't take their football seriously enough. AND they have family trees that branch.

(so says this Ala native)

One quarter my roomie was an architorture - she informed me that I slept with my eyes open - this was because she never saw me except when I was sleeping at 4 AM.

you architects are CRAZY. And I'm a chemical engineer- I know where from crazy.

faded said...

Ahh, the fond memories of my design studio class. All the insain work and the arbitrary judgements from the professors. This was a 6 credit course and I busted my butt to do well and be creative. My second semester of my senior year was carrying an A in design studio. I had A's on all the projects, things were good.

I get my final grades and I had a C, what's this? I checked with the assitant dean and asked about it.

I have never forgotten what he said to me, "There were to many A's this semester. We changed your grade to a C because we know you really can only do C quality work."

To minister death to injury I had a job lined up in Washignton DC when I graduated. The assistant dean called my future employer up and told him not to hire me.

I spent another year looking for work in the architecture biz.

The folks at my alma mater (CUA in Washington DC) can't seem to figure out why I will not give them money.

That happened almost 30 years ago and my blood pressure stills goes up when I think about it.

Miss Kitty said...

MHP and I were born in Alabama and lived there until junior high school, so we feel we have the right to make fun of it (as you do). :-P

Then again...people out in the Big Flat Square States do like their Big 12 football, and take KU-KSU and CU-Colo State pretty seriously. Of course, not as seriously as we take our SEC football rivalries. I think that's called sheer madness.

Mile High Pixie said...

Faded: what happened to you was complete and utter bullshit, and it's something that really disturbs me about architecture school. The skills for which I was mocked in college are the very skills that make me successful and highly-prized architect in my office.

Kitty: Pomme de Terre is at least doubling their size because of a need to become a large, regional medical center with pretty much every medical service a person needs, including (I think) even open heart and brain surgery. Also, their existing facility is pretty old, and new codes require that rooms need more space than they used to, so you need a bigger building, so it costs more.

Baxterwatch: Kansas may have family trees that fork, but they don't have trees or hills. More people die on I-70 in Kansas every year than anywhere else in the state because the scenery looks the same for 700 miles, and drivers, thinking that the car has actually stopped, get out while going 75 mph and are hit by passing cars or tumbleweeds. It's just tragic.