Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Another grand turn-of-the-century house not content to hide with elevation alone. This one is ensconced behind a brick wall topped with a chain-link fence and a dense layer of trees and shrubs about 8-10 feet deep.
One house turned its garage/carriage house into another small home and even gave it its own little side yard behind a wrought iron fence with yet another layer of black mesh behind the fence. I took this through the black mesh, which is the shading around the edges of the image. It wasn't until I got back to the house that I realized there was a wire of some sort looping over the fence and into the view of the camera.
Some things hide in plain view. This old-school steakhouse in Cherry Creek North nearly disappears with its dark wood paneling and recessed facade beneath the ultra-modern metal paneling of the adjacent stores and loft-inspired condos above. I just happened to stop to check my cell phone, looked up, and realized it was there.
One of the constant bugbears of urban construction is what to do with the space on the side of your building where it comes up to the property line. Do I build right up to it? Or do I leave some space for occupation? What often happens is what you see here--both occupants leave just enough room to pass between the buildings on their side of the property line. What's interesting though is that the new mixed-use building on the left used that leftover/tucked away space to provide for little balconies for the condos above. The unintentional side effect is that passersby who care to turn their heads and look up will see galvanized roof/floor decking and drain pipes. But no matter--the only people who look up at ceilings are prostitutes and architects.
Sometimes the private space we seek out in urban areas has less to do with actual private space (like a backyard) and is simply more about separating ourselves from the public realm. Beyond these gates is the interior courtyard for about eight or ten brick townhomes, which back onto the access alleys to their respective garages. All this courtyard does is a) give them something nice to look at instead of the street, and b) give them an extra layer of protection from the madding crowd below.
I just love this. A very nice house pushed a bit off the neighborhood street, it uses a semi-circular drive to access the front door and garage. The front door is visible, but by simply layering elevation, materials, foliage, and space, the homeowners claim their space without putting up fences and gates. And it's glorious to look at in the fall.
Another li'l courtyard to about five or six small townhomes which riffs on the theme used above. There are some stucco and stone posts at the entry walkway to this courtyard, but no gate or fence--just something to say, "here's where you enter, but you really need to have some business here before you step over the threshold."
A few houses down, there's a wood fence by a duplex, and this hold is about two feet off the ground. Kneeling down and peeking through it, you can see a garden with a seated Buddha statue in it. Even cooler is that you see him from the side, not the front--you know he's facing in another direction where he's meant to be "seen", but he's also kinda meant to be peeped in on from here. If you bother to kneel down and look through the hole.
Another house had a nice yard with a stucco and iron fence around it, nicely manicured and well-kept...and then this wee statue of St. Francis under a tree almost in the side yard. Elsewhere in the yard, large dog toys were strewn about with children's toys, a happy mixture proclaiming the joy inside the home's walls. And just without the walls but within the property, a little reminder of the protection invoked onto those who dwell here stands quietly, asking those who pass by to take a second look at the yard and maybe to look out for all creatures great and small, two-footed and four-footed.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
A reader recently emailed me to ask if the pay for architects is truly as abysmal as it sounds. The succinct answer is yes, it sucks for the first few years, but getting licensed and/or changing firms can help increase your income. However, everyone getting out of college for the past several years—regardless of their major—is getting paid crap compared to the cost of living. It just hurts architects more because of a) the professional costs of continuing education and professional dues and testing and so on and b) the business costs of all the special software we have to buy and insurance we have to have in order to practice. I have two previous commentaries on what architects make here and here.
Another question I received recently regarded how much it’s worth slogging through architecture if the pay is crap and you have behemothesque student loans. First, let me say that again, like everyone else, your student loans are out of scale with your out-of-school income. Again, it’s the whole cost-of-living thing. Second, and more importantly, how much it’s worth it depends on what you put into it. There is indeed some luck involved in how well you do in your profession; for example, if you get out of school and join a firm that lays you off after six months and you spend the next fifteen months on unemployment (which happened here in Denver a great deal), then you suddenly find yourself behind in the game with regard to getting experience so you can get licensed faster. But that’s if you even come back to the profession at all—this economy is going to make architecture lose some pretty good people. But if we set aside luck and the nature of the economy, you really only get out of architecture what you put into it. I’ve seen interns and architects thrive and do well in nearly the same environment as other interns and architects who are barely hanging on and self-medicating every night at home out of misery and disappointment.
So, the short and simple (but not easy) answer about architecture as a job, a career, and a profession is: it depends. Which is probably true of a lot of professions. Is it true of yours?