Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Visual Inspiration: Halloween 1981

I found this while flipping through some old photo albums. It wasn't the Halloween pic I was looking for, but it's still a good one. Kitty (left) and I (right) were ready to go trick-or-treating on a chilly October night in our Mom-made costumes. Halloween in rural Georgia usually means being driven door-to-door by your parents to the seven or so houses of your neighbors (all at least a half-mile apart). Stopping at my grandmother's was the evening's highlight--homemade sugar cookies and a chance to chat with her by her always-roasting-at-twice-the-temperature-of-hell fireplace. Sweet tea and sugar did I ever get to sleep?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Visual Inspiration: The tragedy of the poorly-planned toilet, Part 2

Poorly-designed toilet rooms make me sad. I'm sad because it's a waste of resources and building materials. I'm also sad because a poorly-designed toilet makes difficult for some of us the most basic and private of functions: going to the bathroom. Below is yet another example of an improperly-designed/built toilet room (photos taken at a gas station toilet room outside Estes Park, CO). Comments are below each photo.

Over and over, I see the same error: add some grab bars and the toilet room is now "accessible". There's nothing farther from the truth. Making a toilet room ADA compliant involves a series of space and fixture layouts and dimensions of various accessories in relation to each other and to the floor. The above shot shows some of these problems: the toilet paper dispenser is way too high above the grab bar, and the sink is located within the required clear space of the toilet. Also, the seat cover dispenser is way too high and it's above the toilet--both are no-no's. Further, the trashcan (albeit movable) is located within the toilet's clearspace. If you come in here in a wheelchair, pray you can roll up and hoist thyself onto the throne.

Here's the door from inside the toilet. The pull on the door is okay--it doesn't require grabbing, twisting, or pinching--but there's a metal box of some sort that seems to be in the way of the required 18" clear space on the pull side of the door. But what about that little locking mechanism above the pull handle? Well, it does require grasping, pinching, and twisting, which is not ADA compliant.

Mom is standing by the door to make another point about the door lock. Mom is 5'-4.5", so the door lock is maybe 8"-9" below Mom's head, making it about 56" above the floor. Unobstructed forward reach for someone in a wheelchair is 15"-48" above the floor, which means that not only is this door lock hard to operate if your hands are incapacitated in some way, but you'll have a tough row to hoe in your in a wheelchair and you pop in here for a quick dooky.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Scenes from a project, Part 1

Pixie, Contractor Sid, and some surgery staff members are in a conference room, discussing the layout of a pre-op and post-op suite.

Nurse 1: How big is that patient toilet?
Pixie: It's 7'-2" by 7'-6", a little over 50 square feet.
Nurse 2: Wow, it looks...big.
Nurse 1: [to Nurse 2] Our toilets at Bierstadt Building aren't ADA, that's why this looks so big.
Pixie: Correct. An ADA-compliant toilet is so big I can breakdance in it.
Nurse 2: Oh, okay, well that's fine. I wanna go back to the pre-op bays, though--
Contractor Sid: [looks up suddenly from his laptop] Wait, I wanna go back to the toilets. How did we all just miss Pixie breakdancing?

Pixie, Sven, Contractor Sid, and two Gestalt project managers are talking after the radiology user group meeting.

Pixie: So, the radiologists want to redesign the entire department to have the front desk towards the west instead of the east.
Sven: Aren't we a month out from the end of SDs?
Gestalt Mgr 1: This is a lot to change so close to the deadline--
Gestalt Mgr 2: But if these changes need to happen and the department won't work without it, then... [throws hands in air]
Pixie: Well, look: how about I take just an hour or so to see if what they want works?
Sven: Can you do that in an hour?
Pixie: Well, maybe two. Depends on what you [gestures at Gestalt Mgrs 1 and 2] want. Do you want me to see if it can really work, or do we just want to be able to say 'yeah we tried but it's not gonna work' to the radiologists?
Gestalt Mgr 1: Well, I suppose, um...
Pixie: I can make this plan work or not work. What I'm asking is, do you want me to use my powers for good or for evil?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Visual Inspiration: By God, if one is good, then two is better.

Vault toilet at the Mud Volcano area of Yellowstone National Park.

Guy rolled his eyes when I took this, but it cracks me up. It's like whoever was installing the grab bars said, "Listen, we're gonna make this sumbitch even more accessible! The only way this gets any more accessible is if we put a lift and winch in the ceiling!"

Grab bars do not an accessible toilet make. There are fixture heights, clearances, overlaps of clearances, door handles and hardware, and so on. This whole toilet is just....wrong. It's just wrong.

[throws down microphone in disgust, walks offstage]

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The deadline: close, but no cigar.

(A quote on a whiteboard in the Canyon Visitor Center at Yellowstone National Park. I'll wait while the grammar/spelling sticklers among us finish twitching.)

We wrapped up our 100% construction documents (CD) deadline for the Gestalt Uber MOB on Monday. I took today off to get a delayed break from the weekend I worked through, and many of my colleagues on the project did the same today and/or yesterday. But we're not done.

Generally, the architect has to produce an addendum (and sometimes multiple addenda) a few weeks after the CDs go out as a response to questions coming in from bidders on the project. However, the addendum/addenda are sometimes used to capture additional items that need to be coordinated but that couldn't be coordinated before the deadline. Also, the addendum can be used to revise the drawings to include last-minute owner-driven changes, of which there will be many in the Uber MOB.

The question we get sometimes, even from engineers and up-and-coming architects, is this: if we're gonna do an addendum anyway and it's a given, why don't we just move the CD deadline to when the addendum would be due? There are two reasons, one practical and one philosophical. The practical reason involves permitting: the CDs are complete enough to take to the city and/or county and start the process of getting a building permit. Since a building permit can take a fair amount of time (generally about a month for most large municipalities), the contractor wants to get that process moving with the CDs while the architect uses a little extra time to work out details or tweak scope in the drawings. The only reason to delay the CDs to match up with the addendum would be if the addendum would include info or drastic changes that could potentially affect the permitting process. The other (philosophical) reason for not moving the CD deadline to the addendum deadline is that this sort of delaying process could go on indefinitely. CDs are never really done--every architect can look at a set of CDs he or she has worked on and see four or five things they wanted to detail/fix/tweak/do better/differently. If we moved every CD deadline to match the addendum, it would get easy to delay it for just a few days or week more, then a few more, then the owner woud hear that we have extra time and say hey if we have some time, let's redesign the so-and-so to look like this and then we'd be forever tweaking the drawings.

So, I have an addendum due in about three weeks. But first, I need a manicure and a nap.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Happy birthday, Dad!

If my father were still alive, he'd be 65 today. That's old enough to retire legitimately, not partially as he intended to do when he was 52, or inadvertently as he did when he was 50. I often wonder what he'd be like now. Probably somewhat optimistic and mildly cantankerous, talking to me about Gestalt's Uber MOB and to Guy about his time in the Army and about investing and what Missouri is like. We went to dinner tonight (Mexican, one of Dad's favorites), and we'll have some chocolate cupcakes later this evening.

I love you Daddy, and I still miss you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Visual Inspiration: Yellowstone, the Building Edition

Again, I appreciate everyone indulging me with the constant photo-posting while I get through this deadline. I took strangely few photos of buildings in Yellowstone, mostly because man-made built stuff takes up less than 2% of the area of the park. However, a few buildings were really cool, and I did get pictures of that which struck my fancy.

Gas station near the Roosevelt Lodge. What a wonderfully throwback early 1950s building.

Restaurant at the Canyon Lodge. Another wonderfully throwback 1950s A-frame building. Those light fixtures look custom...and original.

The lounge of the Canyon Lodge restaurant. Same light fixture with different bulbs in them. I'm amazed at how much of the original architecture and finishes are left in the buildings at Yellowstone. As someone who spends a lot of time facelifting buildings and interior design that's only 15 years old, I effing love this stuff.

The front of the Old Faithful Lodge at Old Faithful. Built in 1904, this building was made from actual lodgepole pines. As in, they cut down a big-ass tree, sat it up on the foundations, and braced it to some other lodgepole pines, and used them as the columns for the lodge. Check it, yo:

This is the main atrium inside Old Faithful. Architectural. History. Squee.

Cool acoustical baffle-cloud-thingys in the theater in the new Old Faithful Visitor Center.

The lakefront side of the Lake Yellowstone Lodge. This was the original lodge in the park (late 1800s), and it was facelifted about the time the Old Faithful Lodge was built (renovation overseen by Old Faithful's architect). It's a weirdly-nice building, though it reminds me of the Overlook Hotel in Kubrick's version of The Shining.

Each lodge also has a small general storage inside or near it. Some of them even have gas pumps, which is smart because doing the figure-8 loop of Yellowstone is a couple hundred miles. This was the old general store and gas station at Lake Yellowstone. It's boarded up now, but I love the forlorn nature of this building, photographed on the eve of our last day in Yellowstone.