Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If I can't see my deadlines, they can't arrive

This picture of Hazel (taken just after Gracie arrived at the HKH last summer) illustrates just how I feel. I just wrapped up one deadline only to have another hanging over my head. Forgive the lapse, dear WAD readers--I'll be back in proper blogging form next week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Someone call Glenn Frey, because the heat is on.

It was 73 yesterday this weekend in Denver, but I wouldn't have known it since I was in the office. Spring makes for an uncomfortable time in large buildings here in Denver. Our spring weather has multiple personalities--it's 60, then it's 40 and raining, then it's 70, then it's 35 and snowing, and my ass has been through so many freeze-thaw cycles that I think it's just going to give up and fall off. Well, at least then maybe I can find some jeans that fit. Anyway, many large commercial and residential buildings are designed such that going from heating to cooling is a major undertaking--it isn't something you just flip over every other day as you feel like it. Once you flip the system to heat, the HVAC system is going to pump out warm air until sometime in late April or early May, at which point we will switch the system over to cooling, and then the system will pump out cool air from May to October. So if you get a hot day in March or a cold day in August, you're just gonna have to deal. Hence, we've had to turn the heat off and open the doors in the Happy Kitten Highrise condo here lately, and the kittehs are enjoying the sunbeams and fresh air and the change in weather.

The warm-up is making for an interesting office environment, too, and not just because we haven't switched over the HVAC system. Part of the reason that we've been so cold the last couple of winters is that there haven't been as many bodies and computers in the building, what with the layoffs and recession. But lately, we've been a-hiring and now the office is filling up again with bodies and computers and activity. I actually broke a sweat the other day just walking around the office. It seems that work is picking up, and we're getting some projects in finally (mostly healthcare, to be fair, but work is work, and of course I prefer healthcare over anything else).

But back to me being in the office on a lovely, sunny, 73-degree Saturday in Da Mile Hizzle: wtf? Well, one of the largest (and busiest and most profitable) departments in Gestalt HMO's Uber MOB came to us furious back in January. They didn't like where they were in the building, and they didn't like their layout at all, and we better fix this right away. So, having to revamp the entire floor on which they were situated put the project behind schedule, especially the interior part. In order for us to make up time, we're having to separate out the core and shell from the tenant infill. This means that the exterior, structure, floors, and roofs as well as the stairs and elevators and main toilet rooms on each floor and utility rooms will be released to the contractor before the tenant infill (i.e., all the departments of the clinic) will be released, and that core and shell will start construction first. (Note: this happens a lot when building a big building. I've done it in buildings as small as 60,000 sf.) But it also means that we're having to work fast and furious to squeeze as much air out of the schedule as we can and to make up the month-long delay as best we can between now and the end of the design schedule this fall. And that means working some nights and weekends. Hence, Shorty's in the office on a Saturday.

And Gestalt Colorado is getting pressure from the home Gestalt office in the midwest: deliver this building on time, at or under budget, on schedule, and not over-sized. Gestalt National told the local Gestalt Design and Construction crew that the building's total area on all five floors can be no more than 241,313 sf. Fine. However, in the process of laying out the building as well as making it look good on the outside and allowing for easy expansion later, we've found that the building needs to be 242,524 sf. And Gestalt National is having None Of It: get the building down to 241,313 or it's not happening. And they're putting pressure on some very reasonable folks about this, and the pressure is turning these wonderful people into unreasonable folks who fly off the handle at the drop of a hat. Howie and Sven and I have gone into meetings with these reasonable local Gestalt folks who suddenly start shouting and refusing to even hear us out on an idea of how to possibly fix the square footage issue without compromising the building's function or look.

So, yes. We're about to jump through some flaming hoops over an extra 1,211 sf in a nearly quarter-million sf building. We are arguing over five-thousandths of the building's total area.

It's a bean counter issue, not an architectural issue. Probably, someone who is good at estimating initial cost but does not fully understand construction costs, engineering, and making a clinical space actually work has set this 241,313 in stone and refuses to let anyone else budge from it. Sadly, in order to fix this short-sighted imposition, we'll either have to take a few inches off the outside of the building all the way around, or we'll have to engage in some engineering dynamics that will cost more than just letting us build the extra 1,211 sf. Plus, depending on how the 1,211 sf is taken out of the building, it could affect the flow of staff and patients through some very busy departments, including the one that we've been redesigning a whole floor for. Are we really "saving" anything here?

So, we have to figure out how to get this extra area out without hurting patient and staff flow or making the building look funny. And it takes a lot of time (which we don't have) and effort (which we do have, but it's easy to get burned out when banging your head against this all day). So, I'm working weekends.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Visual Inspiration: Teh Qte and Teh Annoyed

It's been 9 months since Gracie came to live with us, and Hazel could not be more annoyed. Or chagrined. Or put-upon. Just look at this: a couple of weeks ago, both kittehs managed to coexist on the chaise together, but only because there was a pillow between them, which obstructed their views of each other.

Gracie's workin' it for the camera, and Hazel's all, "*sigh* Do you see this camera whore on the chaise with me? Embarrassing."

Oh, but Gracie's not going to stop working it. Not when she knows she has Mama's full atten-shunz. Lulu in the background wants none of this, unless maybe there's some tuna involved.

Oh, oh, OH! I'll see your rolling around on the chaise and raise you a rolling-over-on-top-of-my-head maneuver! I need a belleh skritch NAO!

Hazel, unaffected, snores quietly, just beyond the fray.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Hooray! The amazing Mom (aka Wilderness Gina) turns 62 today! Here she is working at the sewing machine during a visit to the Happy Kitten Highrise in October 2010. Yayz for the Momness!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Monday Visual Inspiration: Scenes from a Vegas weekend, Part 2

Okay, so after Death Valley, we drove back to Vegas proper to spend the night at a little resort on the edge of town known as La Casita del Four-Footed Dictators. The proprietess of this establishment, Scarlett, welcomed us with open arms, open wine bottles, and the most amazing mini bundt cakes I've ever seen and tasted. The staff and service at La Casita was exceptional, to say the least.

Baxter, the concierge, was ready with a mini tennis ball, after which he would chase with such zeal when it was thrown across the room. He would Tokyo Drift into a wall to get that thing mid-bounce.

The bellman, Thomas O'Malley, checked our bags.

Security was provided by Tinkerbell. Formidable, that one.

After a night good food and drink and the Carrot Top show (whose birthday is on our anniversary, by the way), we were off to a little outlet mall shopping (I know, how American) and then our hotel. The Aria has only been open for about 14 months or so, meaning that it's still mostly in good shape, and we scored a great deal to stay there. To get to the Aria's self park, you have to access it off of Las Vegas Blvd (most places you can access their self park decks off of the back roads running parallel to the Strip). As we drove past City Center (the complex in which Aria is located), I snapped this photo (I think this is Koolhaas' building, but I'm not sure).

After checking in, we had tapas and then headed off to see the "adult" Cirque du Soleil show, Zumanity. (Not for children or the prudish, that's for sure.) I snapped this photo just before the ushers got on my case about no photos in the theater at any time madame, are you from Oklahoma City or something?

Our room was fantastic. Even though we didn't look at the strip, we had a great view and amazing amenities. Even the bathroom felt futuristic--the toilet was in its own frosted glass enclosure.

[middle of the night--Pixie and Guy awake to the sound of loud sex next door]
Pixie: [groggily] Is that someone's TV?
Guy: [not moving] No, it's our neighbors getting it on. It's coming through the door between our rooms.
Pixie: Well, it's almost 2am: he can't be that good at this hour. She should get an Oscar.

The next morning, Guy went off to play poker (where he was one of two left at the table and split the pot with the other guy) and I went to the spa. The entry to the spa was amazing--I'll post more photos of it later. The black monoliths below are fountains--water slowly and barely audibly pours over them. Oh swoon!

My aesthetic reverie was broken by a personal trainer who nearly killed me while I went through a workout with him. (Yes, I got a personal trainer while on vacation. I'm not normal.) However, the workout made the stone massage and facial afterwards feel that much better.

The next morning was our departure day. Here are a few shots of the 24-hour dining establishment at the Aria. I know--their "everyday" cafe looks like a Michelin five-star establishment anywhere else. Those glass-looking cones are heavy plastic discs cut and stacked on each other. Of course, Guy and I scratched and picked at everything to see what it was made of. Being an architect is like being an alcoholic--even if you're not a practicing one, you're still one. You can't stop wanting to know what everything's made of and can we do this on a project at home?

Just an amazing space, one of several dozen amazing spaces in the Aria. Unlike the Amargosa Opera House and Motel, I think I could get Guy to go back to this one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Visual Inspiration: Scenes from a Vegas weekend, Part 1

We did a lot over our anniversary weekend, so in order to do it justice I really need multiple posts, rly sry.

First, we landed at the Vegas Airport (McCarran), which is designed like a casino--shiny, overwhelming, and with little natural light. This photo does not do justice to the chaos.

Then we drove about two hours to the Amargosa Opera House and Motel, which is on the edge of the Death Valley National Park and is supposed to be haunted. The rooms were spare and old school--no TV or phone--but okay overall. I would go back to them; Guy, not so much.

The skylight over our shower.

Note the original early-20th-century bathroom tile and fixtures.

Hand painted murals on the rooms' walls.

If a room wasn't occupied, the door was just left open so you could walk around in it. This room was supposed to be haunted. I stood in it for three minutes and didn't hear anything. I'm a pretty shitty ghost hunter.

The Amargosa Motel in the morning light.

Then it was off to Death Valley. After breakfast at the Furnace Creek Inn, we headed to the lowest point in the U.S.--the salt flats. Standing on them at 282 feet below sea level, you could look up to a mountain right next to the flats that was over 11,000 feet above sea level. Talk about varied terrain.

There's a sign on this rock face waaaaaay over your head that says "SEA LEVEL". How cool is that?

Salt, salt, and salt. It's effing amazing.

Me: Is the ground salty?
Guy: I dunno, let's check.
Me: [leans over and licks the ground] Crap, it is!
Guy: [holding a piece of salt in his hand, standing upright] You know, you could have picked up a piece and licked it like a normal adult.

Just before this part of the road along Artist's Drive, the sigh says "DIP". No kidding.

Natural Bridge Canyon.

Closer to the parking lot in Natural Bridge Canyon.

Along Mosaic Canyon's hike.

Also along Mosaic Canyon's hike. The rock was so smooth you could slide down it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Back and into the fray

We got back Monday afternoon and have been back at it ever since. Despite the fact that last week was supposed to be Sign-off Week for the Uber MOB, there are still a bunch of changes that have to be done and a couple of deadlines to work towards. Then, a colleague of my sister's (and colleague and friend of mine) is coming to visit at the end of this week (she has another friend in Boulder, and she and I are getting together for dinner). (...oh Lord, I need to clean again...) The break was good, and yes, I owe y'all photos, which I will get to shortly--we went to Death Valley and stayed in a haunted motel, then stayed with Scarlett, then stayed at the Aria where a small sadist masquerading as a personal trainer kicked my ass. Good trip, good shows, good food, great company...fantastic trip!