Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Tended and un[in]tended

For your Memorial Day enjoyment, a few photos from the weekend's stroll.

Evidently, now is the season for irises in Denver. And since the pot with irises in it on my balcony is devoid of anything green, I think it's safe to say that my irises didn't survive the winter. However, it's nice to see them thriving here, just two or so weeks after we had late-May snow.

There's something lovely about English-garden wildness in the Mile High. Roses and irises take over this yard in a calculated way, as if they'd pop up even if the people in the house suddenly disappeared.

The property in front of this restaurant looked a bit forgotten then it opened, as if they'd forgotten to landscape properly. Turns out they were waiting to build a really nice patio and ADA entry ramp.

O hai! Mama went into the coffee shop for some noms, brb. Funny, the dog's leash and collar tell you that someone will be back to get him shortly, but I felt like I should stand next to this furry cutie until someone returned for him.

Another victim of the economy, a retail tenant space in Cherry Creek North stands empty. The non-native pampas grass stands watered and nurtured by the glossy insulated glazing and storefront windows, and a passerby pauses to remember what used to occupy the now-empty space.

A victim of progress: the back side of the early-Modernist Post Office with its shade screens over the west-facing windows. The Post Office has no relocated into a new retail/office building next door to the south. (And I have a bone to pick with that new building's door hardware, but that's another post.)

The old Post Office's loading dock as well as a better view of the shade screens. The loading dock is a silent oasis in a busy retail and entertainment area, as if the most important activities are buying and selling and amusing, not sitting down to write a letter or sending an important package to another human being. You are not modern, Post Office, just Modern. You were built during a time when we thought we would have flying cars and self-cleaning houses. The world would be clean and perfect and communism would perish and we would only work two hours a day because computers would do all of our work. Now we give back our vacation time to keep working, terrorism haunts us like the shadow that communism wishes it cold have been, and we have computers meant for instant communication but nothing to say.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I have no idea what this is/was, but it's cool.

This was on the door of an old Victorian house undergoing renovation, just down the street from my sister's house. No idea if it's new or original to the house, but it's got a cool architectural steampunk vibe. Any of my architect/engineer readers know?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back from Georgia, more to come

I just got back from Georgia and have some great pictures to share when I get a moment. I had a pretty good experience overall doing a guest lecture for my sister's colleague, though I had a weird teacher moment when I think I might have been a bit too in-your-face for the kids. I told one class that I was in town specifically to do the lecture for this professor, and if it weren't for this class, I'd be back in Denver working on hospital designs. I meant that because I heard that this particular class had a few in-class texters, and I wanted to make it clear that I was here for their benefit and had come a long way to do this (usually the prof does this. but she had to step out briefly during the time that she usually did my intro). However, I think I kinda freaked them out a little bit--instead of getting them involved and excited about having a guest speaker, I think I made it sound like I would rather have been in Denver. However, it was the right-after-lunch class, so maybe they were in a carb stupor or something. (I'd be interested if anyone's had experience with this...) At least the morning class was exciting and interested and interactive.

Anyway, photos of interesting old houses and bad details coming soon!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Going to Georgia, brb

Skylight in The Crystal in Las Vegas, 2010. Architect: Daniel Liebskind.

Just in time, I'm getting a much-needed break from my pedestrian life--I'm off to Georgia today for a few days to visit my sister and mom while also giving a guest lecture for one of Kitty's colleagues. I really need a break--I've noticed that my focus and attention span has been giving out (or nonexistent) lately, and I think I need to hit the refresh button. Or maybe the reboot button. I can't decide.

Back in a few days!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Issuing a CO on the FailHouse

According to, the architect that named this house plan in his development didn't understand the racial and cultural baggage of = the phrase "porch monkey". He did change the name of the house style, presumably after a tremendous ass-whoopin'.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Spring fashions, circa March 2010

My apologies for the sparseness of my posts lately--I've been getting ready for two unrelated lectures/seminars. One is a week from today, back in Georgia for a colleague of my sister's. The other is a couple of weeks after that, which is for a collection of architectural professionals. After all of this is said and done, Guy and I are heading to Key West for a few days' rest and relaxation after all the prep work I've done for the presentation. All this work has left me bereft of some good pictures (I do have a few, but I need to fix them in Photoshop first), so today I give you some of the early spring fashions from shop windows in Cherry Creek North back in March. (Note: Mom, you could totally make any of these.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Praise Father, Son, and Louis Pasteur!

Y'all, we finally got signoff from the 9th floor OB/GYN clinic staff for their remodel. The nurse manager, the doc, and the med assistant came in and stared, s t a r e d at the plan in silence for about three l o n g minutes. Then they recounted each move in the plan: okay, patients come in here, they get weighed, they go there...gyno oncology patients go that way, their exam rooms are the closest to the waiting room... "How are we on waiting room seats?" asked the doc. "We're great!" I said, hopefully not too eagerly. They looked and looked, touched the rooms with their fingertips, tracing patient and staff paths...

"Um," said the nurse manager in a way that made me nearly break my pen in half, "can we move the shared counselors' office to here, and move my office off the windows, and then move the nurse visit room in here...?"

I glanced at the plan, though I didn't even need to. I knew this 12,000-square-foot space like the back of my ready-to-stab-someone hand. "In order to switch those three spaces around, the OB/GYN specialty clinic loses their storage room. Is that acceptable?"

", they need that room..." came the reply. It was in that moment that we all knew we had beaten the plan up so much that there was nothing else for it to give us. We had moved spaces around all that we could, and anything else is now just fussing, pointless activity that wasn't going to give us anything more. We spent the next 40 or so minutes talking about what the next steps are after this--casework, equipment, finishes, a few more meetings. We also explained to them that after this point--the sign-off point--there was no flipping round big chunks of program. We would now be moving doors or moving casework and sinks around in the room, but no more Hokey-Pokey with the program. We finally got them to sign the drawing 55 minutes after they walked into the room. I thanked them heartily and told them they'd done a great job with their space (which is 100% true no matter how you look at it and no matter how annoyed I got).

When they left the conference room in Glasnost's trailer and the door closed behind them, I whipped off my brown silk Ann Taylor suit jacket and whirled it around my head. Gretchen, the project manager for Gestalt, fell over laughing, and Viktor, the project manager for Glasnost construction, chuckled while looking a bit startled. "I'm gladth yew arre happeh, Peexeh," he said in his heavy Russian accent, "Buth I deed not bringk any dollar beelz to worrk today."

I cannot tell you what an immense relief that is for me. Hell, it's a relief for all of us on the design team. Here's the deal: until we get SD sign-off, Glasnost can't set a schedule for drawing prep and construction, and I can't draw the drawings they'll need to price the project and make sure we're still on budget. Without a schedule and budget, Gretchen can't give the departments being affected by the remodeling a date (or even a date range) in which they're going to have to move out or send some doctors to other clinics or what. Everything depends on the day at which walls stop moving. So sign-off allows us to move forward and make these changes happen so that the OB/GYN clinic can finally have a nice-looking and more efficient space. Did I mention their department hasn't been remodeled in twenty years?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vaya con Dios, mi amigo!

This week is Intern Timmy's last week at Design Associates. Timmy managed to get an interview over at the firm that Jacqueline (for DA architect, worked on Pomme de Terre, for those of you who remember) is at now, and he scored a great position with a respectable increase in salary. We're taking him to lunch this week, of course, and while I'm sad to see him go, I'm excited that he's going off to some new challenges at a smaller firm for more cashola.

It's not just the money, though. With less work in the office, Howie has become a control freak/micromanager extraordinaire, and it's killing those who must work with him. The money is what made Intern Timmy's new job offer irresistible, but the fact that his boss has become a grand mal pain in the ass was the straw that broke the camel's back. As I hear it (firsthand and secondhand), both Liz and Ingrid, two long-time members of Team Howie, would love to GTFO and work somewhere they weren't being micromanaged constantly, but there's still not a lot of hiring out there right now. (Timmy found a position that happened to perfectly fit his skills as an intern who's taken a couple of the ARE exams and is extremely good with Revit.) Myself, I know that I'm lucky to have been working for the past few months with Mr. Lassez-Faire himself, aka Sven, on Gestalt HMO's projects. That's probably why I'm still sane and not chewing off my own tongue.

Sadly, though, I understand from Timmy that Intern Kimmy is about to have to finish the CA on TCMC, which Timmy worked on in DDs and CDs and part of CA. Thing is, I worked on TCMC in DDs and CDs, but Howie didn't ask me to do squat on it. This is likely because the project's fee is really low, and Intern Kimmy will cost the project less than me, an architect. Now she has to deal with the mania that is Howie on a much more involved basis.

Working for Howie isn't awful, per se. He's clear and specific, and that can ultimately make one's job (and worklife) easier. But if he doesn't have enough to do, he puts way too much attention on too few tasks, and suddenly he won't get out of his employees' way and let them do their jobs. If he's not careful, he's going to run off a lot more than Intern Timmy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mommy's Day!

Happy Momma's Day to all my momma-readers out there! I have so much to thank my Mom for, the whole gift-of-life thing notwithstanding. Here are just a few of the lessons I've learned from my Mom:

Fearlessness pays. In 1981, my mom (who posts on this blog and on my sister's as Wilderness Gina) applied for a job as a carpenter on a hotel construction site. She needed a job, and she knew that the best-paying jobs were those being done by men. So through all the hassling and harassment (yes, she was occasionally fired for refusing some cretin's advances), my mom not only made decent money throughout the 1980s, but she held her ground in the male-dominated field of form carpentry. She even learned some crazy mad carpentry skillz that allow her to now work on her own house. I've co-opted that same fearlessness (or I've tried to anyway) while working in architecture and construction. I'm not afraid of heights (like Mom), and I'm not afraid to tell a contractor, "Ur doin it rong." I've worked hard to know what the hell I'm doing, and then swallowed the fear and spoken out when something wasn't right on a jobsite or in a set of drawings. (However, I have so far resisted the urge to remodel my condo. So far.)

Have options. Over the years, Mom has developed a wide range of talents, all of which she has been able to use for monetary gain as well as to keep her sanity. Mom's ability to visually organize and prioritize allows her to clean a room or a house in no time flat (side note: Mom, the condo is funky again; when are you flying out to attack my kitchen with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser again?). She has continually practiced her sewing talents such that her quilts, blankets, hats, and clothing are in demand around town (and in high demand by her daughters, one of whom owes her for recently making some extremely cute stuff for her--check is in the mail, Ma). Her construction skills allow her to be her own contractor, and she even developed some auto repair skills along the way. While my skills are considerably less useful (architect, writer, stand-up comic, public speaker), they still allow me to easily wear different hats at work and in my personal life.

Be independent. At one point in the early 1990s, my mom's second husband (whom we all fondly call "Shithead") left her with mounds of bills, and she had to file for bankruptcy while living in a house that didn't even have running water (to be fair, it's the house her dad grew up in, and she was restoring it to its former glory). Mom marshaled her skills and parlayed them into some sort of living--she worked at a local sewing plant, making men's suits; she cleaned a couple of churches, and she did tons of odd jobs for the farming widows in her community (one of whom was her ex-mother-in-law, my dad's mom). She had a 1977 brown Toyota Celica on which she replaced the starter and could set the points herself. I remember once that we had to pull over one pitch-black night to tweak something under the hood of that Celica, and this big Southern dude pulls up behind us, gets out, and asks my Mom while she's under the hood, "Can I hep yew with anythang, ma'am?" Mom said without missing a beat, "Yeah, hold this flashlight and hand me that wrench. Thanks." Classic. Mom.

Don't trust Whitey. Wait, no, I learned that from Samuel L. Jackson.

Take care of your self and your health. When I was ten, my Mom could still lift me out the car when I was fast asleep (and dead weight), and take me in the house and put me to bed. Even now at the age of 61, she can wriggle around under a house and install piping, drag big-ass plants around the porch, push a lawnmower across her acre-plus yard, haul bricks and cinderblocks (CMU), repair and replace the tin roofing on her house (which now has running water and TWO bathrooms!), and chase dogs and cats around. Some of the lessons I learned from her were about what not to do--take care of your teeth, if you think you have a tumor get it checked out--but overall, Mom put a lot of effort into looking good and taking care of your health so that you're left with something decent during the back nine. Just last night, I called Mom from the medicine aisle of King Soopers, describing my symptoms and asking what I should be taking. Mom told me what to get, give the meds a day or two to work, and if they're not working, go to the doctor. And lay off the cocaine.

Have a sense of humor, and use it. Not everyone gets my Mom's humor, but she is absolutely hilarious and irreverent, and I love her and it. Mom has zero problem heckling authority, friends, and loved ones. She also recognized the fact that well-placed humor can diffuse a tense situation, and I use my humor on a regular basis to break tension, liven up a dull meeting or workplace, and (hopefully) make the day go better for myself and others. It rarely fails.

So HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, MOMMEEEEE!! [patpatpatpat on your cheek]

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Things I have thought in user group meetings recently

  • How does one know if one is Fergalicious or not? I am up in the gym just workin' on my fitness, but the boys are not in fact linin' down the block just to watch what I got.
  • Man, the head of nursing sounds like the koala in the old Qantas commercials.
  • Why do you think flipping the two departments will make things better? The building is symmetrical! Each side is the same!!
  • Should I start using retinol? I'm 34, but I do live in a high desert climate.
  • OhdearGodinheavenquitpickingovertheplansyou'llberetiredinafewyearsandnoneofthiswillmatter.
  • Man, my elbows hurt from leaning over this table on the plans all morning.
  • I'm glad Gretchen is telling them to prioritize instead of me--it allows me to just be the architect and not the Bad Evil Architect Who Won't Give You Just the Building You Want Despite the Fact That We Don't Have the Room to Give You Everything.
  • My stomach's gotten flatter since I haven't made brownies in a couple of weeks. I wonder if I can keep that up until we go to Miami in June.
  • Yes, honey, I know your husband is an architect. Mine's an architect too. Yours designs high school gyms and athletic fields, and I do healthcare facilities. Stand down.
  • Eeerrgnnh, was that a PMS cramp?!
  • You know, I may in fact be quite Fergalicious.
  • Why are all of Glasnost Construction's project managers from Germany, Czechoslovakia, or Russia? They all sound like Boris and Natasha!
  • "Making brownies" sounds like a scatological euphemism.
  • Oh, now you deign to grace us with your presence at the meeting? How charming!
  • Yes, that's how long seven feet is. You have plenty of room for two people to work up urine specimens side by side.
  • I'd sure like to make brownies in this physician's car on a hot day.
  • I could go for an Izze and a footrub.
  • Good Gawd, my 90-minute meeting turned into a 160-minute free-for-all! Get me outta here!
  • At least I'm wearing cute shoes. Sometimes, cute shoes just save the day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Visual Inspiration: Spring is upon us!

You can tell spring is here--the concrete goose I pass on my morning jogs and walks is dressed to the nines and ready for a garden party! Recently, the family in whose yard this goose resides put a sign on their fence letting their neighbors know that someone(s) had been vandalizing the goose. A couple of outfits had been stolen off of the poor dear, and even its li'l nose has been chipped off. Evidently, the entire neighborhood is now keeping their eyes peeled for any ruffians who might be tempted to tamper with the goose. The dressing of the goose (as it were) is a longtime tradition in the 'hood, and woe betide those who would fool with tradition.