Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Visual Inspiration: These boots are made for walkin', and washin', and everything else

Back in September 2010, Guy and I spent a weekend in Manitou Springs, CO. While there, we visited a few impressively-curated historical places loaded with frontier ephemera. I've been lax in posting on that trip (or on anything around here for that matter), and I found myself excited and intrigued yet again upon rediscovering the digital photos from that trip.

When I was a wee Pixie in Alabama back in the day, my parents bought us all 15 volumes of the Childcraft Library. One of the volumes was on places all over the world, and my favorite chapter in that book was on "Scary Places". It described haunted castles, the misty Scottish moors, the creepyness of the unstable ground in the Everglades...and this incredible phenomenon known as "ghost towns". It took a while for my brain to wrap around the notion these places were not complete towns settled by ghosts, but rather by actual humans pursuing gold or silver and then suddenly abandoning those towns only ten or fewer years later after building them. I remember thinking, even as a four-year-old, "Man, I want to go see on of those."

Now I live in a state full of ghost towns. If you have a decent four-wheel-drive vehicle, you can see many of the settlements that were part of that early drive to settle the Western Frontier. It furthermore blows my mind when I stop and realize that I actually live in the place once known as The West. It blows my mind even more to know that women--with their East Coast and European traditions--had to live out here and make do in this weather. I can barely stand to wear an Ann Taylor pantsuit during a Denver summer, never mind a hoop skirt and full sleeves. So I present to you a few images we took of women's clothing and accessories during our Manitou Springs trip to the Ghost Town Museum and Miramont Castle.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hooray! The internet's back!

Guy and I just switched over to Qwest and DirecTV for our cable and internet, which means we suddenly have a crapton more channels, reliable wireless internet, and DVR capabilities for about what we were paying for Comcast. What this means is that we have 500 channels and not much on, but at least we can DVR Robot Chicken and The Ricky Gervais Show as well as some good standup, which means we may be able to cancel Netflix, at least for a while.

Meanwhile, we have a bunch of meetings this week with the user group for Gestalt HMO's Uber MOB. (O Holy St. Renzo of Piano, deliver thy humble archispazz from meetings.) I still need drafting help for all the departments I'm working on, but Sven and Howie have yet to pluck some unlucky soul from the madding crowd and assign him/her to me.

Also meanwhile, one of the kittehs here at the HKH has giardia, so we're having to treat both Hazel and Gracie for it just to be sure. This means taking a pill twice a day, or rather having a pill shoved down our throats twice a day. I was spoiled by how well Maddy (RIP, Big Girl) took pills, and so now Guy is having to play Nurse Ratched and dispense all medication in the house. Also, Papa bought us a bunch of fun toys, like a feathery fishpole, a refill for the Turboscratcher, and one of those arched emery-board Turboscratchers. Gracie is finally playing with the regular Turboscratcher, but she fears the Emeryscratcher, and she is utterly paranoid of the Feather Fisher, though Hazel wuvs it and played with it (and Papa) for twenty minutes straight last night. As Guy said afterwards, "I don't think I've ever seen her that active in the ten years I've lived with her."

I'm slowly going through my closet to organize and clean it out, as Guy bought me a closet organizer for Xmas (which I asked for, don't get offended). I want to paint my closet before he installs it though, so I'm a) thinning the herd and b) girding myself mentally to overhaul my closet, right now when I can barely make myself Swiff the house and do laundry. Updates will be provided as conditions warrant.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

...technical difficulties....

Sorry folks, our home internet is horked temporarily, so I'm having to post on a borrowed machine. It should be back up later this week, and I can post some nonsense again.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wish in one hand, draw with the other

As my colleagues and I slide into the new year and move forward with the big new 250,000-sf medical office building (MOB) for Gestalt (which they're tentatively calling Uber), we face the most rewarding and yet most frustrating part of designing a building: working with the users. When architects work on a project, sometimes the owner is the user: a single-family home or a small commercial building, for example. However, we quite often work for a client who is not the user. The obvious example of this is when we design a spec building for a developer to lease or sell to other tenants, be they residential or commercial. Less obvious but just as frequent are the local projects we do for a national company, and Gestalt is a prime example of this.

The owner of the Uber MOB is Gestalt HMO. They will pay for the building's construction (and all design and construction team fees), and they'll hire the doctors, nurses, specialists, and other staff members that treat patients in the MOB. However, the users are the teams of people who might or will work in the building, and/or who are in charge of the existing departments in Gestalt's other MOBs. For example, when Howie and I are designing the ambulatory surgery center for Uber MOB, we show and talk through the proposed floor plans to the surgery director and the head of nursing at Gestalt's Bierstadt MOB. With their feedback, we know better how Gestalt's staff will use this department (and all its other departments) and can design accordingly.

However, Gestalt's headquarters, based in the midwest, have their own set of rules and regulations and list of program for each of these departments. They even have diagrams and sample plans to show how each department should ideally be laid out. However, Gestalt Colorado does some things differently than Gestalt Headquarters, and it causes some friction. Some departments say that they don't need a consult room, or they need two consult rooms instead of one. We're not supposed to vary from the program that Gestalt HQ sends us, as those programs are based on meetings with those same users that we're now meeting with, but often the head of a department can change between setting up the original program and finally having the design meetings, and just as often the users will realize that there's an error in the program. Either they asked for something in those early programming meetings that didn't get filtered down to us, or they realize now that they see their needs put onto paper that they've forgotten something. Sometimes, the users just get drunk with power: we have a brand new building, and we're gonna make it awesome!! It is at this point that we have to explain that we're architects, not sugar daddies.

So while we're figuring out what spaces the users do or don't really need, we have to design the outside of the building along with the inside. It's a real balancing act to get the outside to fit the inside and not go over the square footage that the owner--Gestalt--mandated, while also making sure that each department inside the building is the right size for both the users and the owner, and that it flows well for the users. So if a department is undersized or oversized, it's not a simple matter of let's-stretch-the-building-to-the-north-four-feet, because that has repercussions on other floors--it might make the first floor work great, but now the second and third floors are hosed.

We're putting together a list of all the changes that the users have asked for, and we're going to submit it to Gestalt HQ at the end of the week. We might be able to talk them into some of the changes the users asked for, but we, and thereby the users, might get shot down. I have my fingers crossed, because there's really not much we can do short of a drastic redesign on some of the departments.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

...aaand we're back.

I returned to Design Associates after a two-week break with a sense of anxiety and foreboding. First of all, I had practically forgotten what I'd been working on: schematic design on various departments in a quarter-million square-foot medical office building for Gestalt HMO, plus an ongoing remodeling project at the Bierstadt Building for Gestalt. After spending some wonderfully lazy and unproductive time in Georgia with my mom and sister, Guy and I got back to Denver for half a day in order to take Gracie to the vet (where she was pronounced pesky and healthy). We then spent the weekend at Copper Mountain for New year's, where those of you who watch the Weather Channel like it's SportsCenter know that the high was -10 on New Year's Eve and about 3 on New Year's Day. And guess who went cross country skiing in it? (Look, anything below about15 feels the same to me, so what's another 15 degrees?)

After lots of rest, wine, good company, and fun, I remembered how stress-inducing work had been, and I dragged myself into the office, only to find that Ingrid (a longtime colleague and awesome architect) had worked on my project and had kept it afloat and going well in my absence. Later on Monday, Howie called Sven and me into a conference room to let Sven know that I had been the subject of a colleague's hissy fit two weeks ago, and that it wasn't right that a) that colleague acted that way towards me and b) I shouldn't have to deal with that kind of crap, as I had too much to do. It was really a compliment, in a way, that Howie had been thinking about the hissy fit for two weeks and wanted to let Sven know that This Crap Shall Not Fly. It was also a relief, as I didn't feel like I had walked into a hornet's nest when I returned.

Here's hoping that 2011 will be busy but not horribly hectic, not just at work but in life in general. I don't really make resolutions (any change I've ever made that was substantial and stuck with me was made at some random point during the year, not on January 1st), but I have decided that this would be a good time to start setting some limits and rationing out (and saving) my energy a little better than I have in the past. And here's hoping that everyone reading this also has a balanced year: a little busy, a little quiet, always good.