Saturday, December 22, 2012

Attempting to slow down

So, yeah, I haven't posted lately.  I've been working a lot and worn out.

No, not worn out, exhausted.

No, not exhausted, depleted.

2012 has been brutal in terms of workload and schedule. More work, less real architecture, some issues with management, and spending each day looking into the mirror and being faced with nothing but my own shortcomings.  The fast schedule and massive size of St. Ermahgerd doesn't help, but the fact that we can't seem to get the info and decisions we need from the client is compounding the problem.  Further, the health system of which St. Ermahgerd is part (aka, the people who come up with the construction money) have added a design and construction person to the project who seriously doesn't know what the fuck he's doing.  I wish I had a more diplomatic way of describing the situation, but I don't.  The things that come out of this person's mouth tells me that his understanding of what the engineers, contractors, and I do every day is about as deep as someone who watched a hospital get built once or twice while making coffee. He might have well watched a weekend marathon of TLC's Trading Spaces for the amount of help he's shaping up to be.

So right now, I'm sick of being an architect.  Not that I want to change careers--I just don't want to be an architect for a while, maybe the week between Christmas and New Year's.  I think that might help me feel a little better.  

I hope all of you have a great holiday season, and I'll post more (hopefully) next year after I've had a break.  Word, and peace!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

While looking back through old posts...

...I found this hilarious exchange between Guy and me about religion and Dungeons and Dragons. It actually made me laugh, even now.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Architects: the swingers of the business world

I just got back from a couple days' worth of meetings in Montana with St. Ermahgerd's staff. It was a good almost-week of meetings, but it meant I was out of the office for longer than I'm usually used to being gone. I love working with the users of a space to figure  out what they need in their clinics and departments and offices--I get to find out yet another way that hardworking medical staff deliver care and heal a small community one patient at a time. These days of meetings usually require that I'm booked to talk to these folks in back-to-back 30- to 60-minute blocks of time. Sometimes this can be a gauntlet of meeting after meeting where I suddenly look up and three hours have passed without me drinking any water or peeing. This trip was much more reasonable, though--the meetings were spaced well enough that I could get a break in between and get some water or a snack, hit the ladies' room...and check my email about my other projects.

Architects have to walk into every meeting acting like their client is the only client they have, but that's only true in rare cases.  If a project is really big--100 beds or more, 200,000-sf of building or more (as was the case for Gestalt's Uber MOB)--then your architects are very likely to only work on that one project.  At some point, a project is too big and detailed (or the schedule is too fast) for me to work on anything else.  But in many cases, I'm working on at least one other project while I'm working on yours.  This is especially true as architects move up the management food chain.  My interns might only work on St. Ermahgerd because there are so many drawings to do and those drawings take a lot of time. But as the planner on the project, my efforts are more focused and my scope is more limited, so I get to work on more projects.  For engineers, this is even worse: Design Associates might be able to support me by putting me on 2-3 projects, but engineers typically work on 4-12 projects at any time, depending on size, because of their even more-limited scope of work. It's a miracle any of us get anything done.

When we go to the doctor's office for a checkup or a sore throat, we know we're not their only patient.  Even without a glance around the waiting room, we know this. We know that our car is not the only one that our mechanic fixes. We know that we are not our financial planner's or psychologist's or or massage therapist's only client, so why do architects keep up this charade with their clients?  And why do some clients feel entitled to this? I suppose ultimately it's a matter of my profession not doing a good job of managing client expectations, both in the short term with clients and in the long term with our culture. Society, it seems, thinks that it's still 1786, and the architect/interior designer works for one person at a time, grandly hand-drawing the plans and selecting ornate gilded armchairs for the drawing room. But we are far from that--architects scurry from client to client, gathering the information needed to design the right building for their clients while interns feverishly turn these user comments into Revit models that contractors use to price the building, check the budget, and eventually build what's been drawn in the time allotted while trying to dodge material shortages, labor issues, and weather conditions. And given what we as a profession often charge for our services, we need more than one client to keep things afloat.

Monday, November 19, 2012

'Tis the season to get your ass in bed

Starbucks already has its Christmas cups out in November, even before Thanksgiving.  King Soopers (the western incarnation of Kroger, for my eastern readers) had its holiday decorations out right next to the Halloween candy in the clearance bin. Target is advertising that its Black Friday sales start at 9pm on Thanksgiving Day.  Seriously, Retail America: knock this shit off. Render unto Santa's what is Santa's, and render unto Thanksgiving, what is Pilgrims and other sanitized versions of America's founding.

The leaking of the holiday season into non-holiday parts of the calendar is part of a cultural problem noted by Ayurvedic and other traditional medicine and philosophical practitioners.  Starting in late June but becoming especially noticeable in late September and early October, the days grow colder and the daylight grows shorter and less intense. Deciduous trees lose their leaves, our plants start going dormant, woodland creatures start flying south and stockpiling food like they're preparing for a seasonal zombie apocalyse. By the time November comes, our bodies are trying to slow down to respond with these earthly changes...but we can't.  Our culture throws the two busiest, most physically busy and emotionally-charged holdays into a six-week span when we should be our most dormant.  December 21st--the shortest day of the year--is only a few days before Christmas Eve and Day, the two emotionally and physically busy days of the calendar year.  Who has time to celebrate the Winter Solstice with a single candle and a moment of quiet introspection?  I only have three more days to shop and cook OMG OMG OMG OMFG!!!

It's easy to point at our modern culture for this paradox of culture versus climate, but we forget that architectural progress has been crapping on human behavioral patterns for a little over 100 years now.  How easily we forget that by 1900, many large cities had widespread use of electric lights in both public and private buidings. Much of rural America finally got electricity during the Great Depression as part of one of the various public works projects in operation at the time. Even before television and the internet, electric lighting made it possible for people to stay up late and read, talk, dance, plot revolution, sew bloomers and lobby for women's suffrage, make moonshine...anything but sleep. Electric lighting plus central heat allows people to sit in separate rooms in the house and read, plot, etc. without having to interact with each other.  (Before central heat, everyone had to sit around the same fire and few candles for warmth and light.  Suckas.) If you no longer have to depend on a finite candle or the waning sun to tell you when it's time to go to sleep, then who will? is always open.

Our constant going and doing at the holidays isn't a product of Target and Starbucks, though they're not helping. This busyness and inability to slow down during the winter is a long time and several generations in the making.  Guy and I are doing our part this year by having turned down 50% of our holiday party obligations and by giving fuss-free gifts for Christmas. (If you're related to us and reading this, you're getting a gift card this year.  Deal with it.) The other part of unplugging at the holidays is harder, especially for me.  Work is so exhausting that most days I can only come home, eat dinner, and watch a couple of DVR'd episodes of Top Gear and Squidbillies, when what would probably be more fulfilling and replenishing is to eat dinner, work on my crafting and art projects, and go to bed at 8:45.  I'm going to try, though, to get away from electric lights and glowing screens as early as possible and to honor natural human rhythms.  Right after this episode of Top Gear, where they make amphibious cars....

Monday, November 12, 2012

A blogging conundrum

I got an email recently from an intern who used to work at Design Associates; he found me by finding this blog. He assured me that he wouldn't tell anyone that it was me, and knowing him as I did when he worked at DA, I do believe him...but he never answered me when I asked him how he figured out it was me.  I've always felt like I changed enough details about projects that someone from the outside (e.g., a client) wouldn't be able to know who or what project I was talking about, and I've generally figured that someone would have to try really hard to find the blog in the first place. Apparently, I thought wrong.

I suppose I have more to fear by talking smack about my coworkers than by talking about my projects and clients.  Even then, though, I've realized that I'd be willing to defend what I say about my coworkers (and bosses) if any of them ever confronted me about it.  But I also recognize that a lot of what I wrote in 2006-2008 was pretty angry, and frankly, it wasn't the best writing anyway.  I realize that everything lives on the internet forever, cached somewhere random and remote, even if I deleted or archived my earlier posts, but it seems as if those posts should be taken down in some way, if nothing else but for my own peace of mind.

But shitty writing and general crankiness aside, I still feel compelled to write about architecture as a profession and a practice from my practical non-starchitect working-for-the-man-every-night-and-day standpoint.  How am I supposed to do that by using generic examples? Sure, I can highlight magazine and website articles and talk about various general current-architectural-event topics, but at some point I'm just doing what every other social web commentator does. for me, the point of starting this blog was to explain how we architects do what we do every day, the pleasures and the pitfalls; the happy and the sad;  the well-budgeted and the underfunded, the good, the bad, and the EIFS.

So, I ask of thee, my tens of readers and the blogging community: what say you? What are your thoughts on my conundrum?

Edited to add: A blogging colleague commented that my work here would likely not be considered libel for two reasons: 1) I make no monetary gain from the site, and 2) I've changed names and identifying details.  Further, I imagine you'd have to know me personally to be able to figure it out as opposed to being a complete stranger--that's the only way you'd have enough details to piece together. That being said, I still started looking through my old posts from the beginning of the blog and deleting a few...but not many.  Mostly what I ended up deleting so far are posts about clients that made me crazy, but overall (again, so far anyway) I stand by anything I've said about coworkers or bosses.  To be fair, I haven't gone through the entire blog archive (and I haven't gotten to posts made during the recession, some of which were pretty bitter).  Ultimately, blogs in particular and life in general are about being accountable to others for our words and actions, and if I'm called upon to be accountable for anything I've said here, then I'll have to face that music.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Random things that make me happy

Lord knows Shorty loves to bitch about stuff, but I recently realized while attempting to meditate that I have a pretty damn good life and there's a lot out there to enjoy. Lest you think my whole life is boo-hooing about white-girl problems, here's an extremely-abridged list of things that truly make me happy.

  • Top Gear, the British version on BBC America.  Few things actually make me laugh out loud spontaneously, and this show is one of them.  Watching Jeremy, Richard, and James hack up old cars, slide around a track and wreck things, and "take the piss out of" each other is a wonderful way to unwind in the evenings after ten hours of architectural bullshittery.
  • Ink! Coffee. Roasted in Vail, Colorado, their 6610 Blend is strong but low acid.  (Translation: it cleans me out but doesn't give me a stomach ache.) Their coffee shops are clean and modern but cozy. Their staff is casual and hipster-ish yet professional and always pour a mean cup.  I go to the one in Cherry Creek North, but they have several around Denver and in the mountains.
  • Kitteh pictures from my sister.  Nothing makes my day like random pictures of one of my sister's several kittehs roaming around the house, nomming something from her plate, playing on the sofa, or snoozing in a cuddle puddle.  Epic. Wuv.
  • Homemade Greek Pizza.  Use either a Flatout! Wheat tortilla or a Boboli crust (or a rolled out pillsbury thin pizza crust) and top it with chopped up cooked chicken, quartered artichoke hearts, sliced kalamata olives, a little shredded pizza cheese, a little crumbled low-fat feta cheese, and some thawed or fresh spinach (red peppers or sundried tomatoes optional).  Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 7-8 minutes, and top with fresh oregano when you pull it out.  Slice up and devour.  Pass out from the awesomeness.  Repeat as many nights in a row as you like.
  • My arms. Since I dropped a few pounds this year, my arms have started looking super-cut.  Not only do I love the way they flex, but I love the fact that I can suddenly lift some pretty heavy stuff without breaking a sweat.  Looks like the new fitness routine is paying off.
  • My husband Guy.  Sometimes, when I'm feeling proud of my arms, I'll run into whatever room in which Guy is sitting and start flexing and yelling, "You just won VIP Tickets to the GUN SHOW!! EHN!!!"  And Guy doesn't laugh--he just plays along and yells back, "Oh mah GAHH!  GUNS!!  It's the Guns of the Navarone, muthafucka!"
So what makes you happy?  What odd pleasure, great or small, gives you a lift?

Monday, November 5, 2012

I could do my work if it wasn't for my job

My suspicions were recently confirmed about my workload as an associate: it includes lots of meetings and lots of things that barely have anything to do with architecture. I spent my first two weeks trying to get caught up on St. Ermahgerd while scheduling and sitting through employee reviews. Over the course of those reviews, it came to light that there were some serious issues still with Prudence's management of the interior designers. There were some meltdowns and hissy fits, (several of which were justified, in my mind), and several folks made counteroffers to their proposed raises.  Meanwhile, the associates kept not meeting for their weekly get-together with the partners because we were trying to get reviews done.  By the time we had an associates' meeting again, I missed it for being in an actual project meeting. 

Longtime readers of WAD know how much I hate meetings.  I. Fucking. HATE. Meetings.  Meetings are events where people take minutes and waste hours.  Things don't really get done in meetings, and I base the quality of my day on how much useful activity and tasks I've actually accomplished, not talked about.  To me, an ideal meeting is 20 minutes long, decisions are made, and everyone leaves with one or more tasks to complete.  The meetings I've been getting pulled into over and over lately are 30-60 minutes long, and I'm not sure everyone's leaving with a clear direction of what we're all supposed to do. Many of the meetings I've ended up in don't have a focus or start ping-ponging around in terms of topics--it's just a recitation of the latest brain droppings or panic from the latest shitstorm that has brewed.

The sad truth about white-collar work is that the better you get at your job, the higher you rise in the ranks, and the more meetings you attend.  The sad truth about architecture as a profession is that, more often than not, the better you are at it, the less you actually get to do it. So now, instead of working on planning and programming and healthcare and life safety codes for 42 hours a week and healthcare studio development 1-3 hours a week, I work on planning for 36 hours a week and sitting through exhausting-ass meetings 6 hours a week.  And I can't daydream off in these meetings at least for a few minutes at a time, like in a project meeting when the engineers start talking about VAV boxes--these are meetings where I have to focus and listen to stuff I don't care about, just in case someone says something that I care like hell about.  So at the end of 90 minutes, I'm exhausted and irritated, which is not a good combination.

I suppose my next challenge is to figure out how to steward my energy better. I'm just getting 6-6.5 hrs of sleep a night right now, which clearly isn't good for me and isn't allowing me to rest properly.  It's interesting that my next challenge/goal/achievement actually has to do not with doing something but with not doing something--just resting.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: And finally, Victoria.

We spent our last couple of days in Canada in Victoria, B.C.

First, we toured Butchart Gardens.  This is the hedge wall that confronts you in the parking lot.  No, that's not growing on a wall or anything--it's growing on itself.  Yes, that's a 15-foot-high hedge. I told you this area was a rain forest.

The entry complex.  It included a cafe/restaurant what was very reasonably priced and very good.  A solid lunch fortified us to go a-lookin' at plants for two hours.

The Star Garden near the Rose Garden.

A path in the Japanese Garden.  I could have sat in the Japanese Garden all day.

More Japanese Garden awesomeness.

OMG a wee black ferret/stoat looking thing in the plants!  SQUEEEEE!!!

The next day, we attempted to see some whales on a small open-boat trip, but we just saw porpoises.

And seals.  A lot of seals.  Seals are dog mermaids, did you know that?

Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest legal street in Canada in Victoria, which has Canada's oldest Chinatown.

The Empress Hotel at night.

The old theater near Chinatown.  We took a ghost tour around the harbor and into Chinatown, ending here.  The owner of the theater fell on hard times and eventually hung himself in the theater, so supposedly people see a dark figure swinging in the shadows when the lights are off, but of course the figure disappears when the lights turn on.  It's a neat building to look at in the daytime, too, as you can tell that the buildings that once flanked it are now long gone.

Quit fooling around, y'all.  This is serious coffee.

The view from the ferry that took us from Victoria, B.C. to Port Angeles, WA, U.S.A.  We flew out of Seattle back to Denver, which was way cheaper that flying out of Victoria or Vancouver.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: Vancouver, eh?

We got off the train in Vancouver and spent a couple of days doodling around the city.

Gastown district of Vancouver.  Amazing little shops and restaurants. If I had to move to Vancouver, I'd insist on living here, even if I had to work three jobs to afford a 200 s.f. loft.

Along one of the main streets of Vancouver.  Great modern architecture and glass towers, which in some ways is similar to Toronto.

Yeah, y'know, we grow trees on top of our buildings cuz we're pretty much in a rain forest type environment.

Waterfront in Vancouver.  Damn, now that's a skyline.

Moshe Safdie's Vancouver Public Library.

A bit blurry, but Lexus was shooting a commercial in Gastown one night while we were there.  Reckon I'll keep my eyes peeled for this around Xmas.

Neon sign exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver. The buzzing in this room was almost deafening.

Ladies and gentlemen, the actual Riot Act.  You have been read it.  Now go.

Inside Safdie's library. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: On the train

After a few days in Toronto, we took a train trip across Canada to Vancouver.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, under construction in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The original St. Joseph's Cathedral in Winnipeg.  It burned in the 1960s and was rebuilt on a site just behind this original shell, which is left standing and makes a marvelous public space.

The Cathedral had a graveyard for me to play in--yay!  This headstone was about 6 or 7 feet tall.  I held my camera above my head to get this shot.

Portage La Prairie was one of the stops along the rail line.  I think that's French for "Small Town with Few People."

Abandoned warehouse at one of the stops.  We were allowed to get out and walk around a bit while some folks got on and off the train.

This was the "new" train station in that small town.  Love the corner window detail.

This was the old train station in that town.  A lot of these towns looked like any minute now I was going to see Eddie Albert shinnying up a telephone pole to make a phone call.

Ah, the beginning of the Canadian Rockies....

More Canadian Rockies, on our way to Jasper, Alberta, where many passengers switched trains to go to Banff.

A WiFi-free cafe, where people actually might have to talk to each other--novel idea.

A street scene in Jasper.  It felt a lot like being in Estes Park, CO.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: Fancy Buildings in Toronto

The Bata Shoe Museum.  Yes, a museum full of shoes.  Yes, we went--it was compact but cool.  They had a Roger Vivier exhibit going on, with Serge Gainsbourg's music playing the background.  Talk about surreal.

Liebskind's addition to the Royal Ontario Museum.

There's a lot of construction in Toronto right now.  Canada didn't suffer as much as the U.S. in the recession, but that means that housing prices are a lot higher there than they are here.

The CN Tower.  You can pay $35 to go to the top, or you can buy an entree in the CN Tower's restaurant and see the view and exhibits included in the price of your lunch or dinner.  Lunch with a glass of wine at the CN will run you about  $45 or $50, but the food is fantastic and the view can't be beat.

Park near one of the marinas on Lake Ontario.

Flatiron-shaped building near the coast of Toronto (the city borders Lake Ontario).

Under the bridge of a small urban park at night.  I think this water was coming off of a cooling tower, but I couldn't quite tell.

Toronto's equivalent of Times Square.

Loft buildings on West Queen Street.  I saw some wonderful shops, but alas, very few queens.

Interior of Liebskind's museum addition.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Aw, thanks, y'all!

Thanks for all the kind wishes, y'all.  I just got back into town to see all the mad props from  my awesome tens of readers.  I'll catch you up more on the goings on at DA and how St. Ermahgerd is going later on this week--right now, I've got to get through my emails from being gone for a week.  Yeesh....

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rly sry, birthday time

Would You? Could You? In a Car?

Today Guy and I share yet another birthday, and we're on a cross-country train trip of Canada for the week.  There will be no work and lots of, um...reading Green Eggs and Ham. Hence, there's not much to post or say. 

You Never Know What's on the Horizon

We'll be sure to stay aware of our surroundings.  [giggle]

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hell yeah.

I made Associate today.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The curse and blessing of answered prayers

I've been going through a weird time lately, and I've hesitated to blog about it because I haven't fully gotten my arms around the feeling, the current that's been running through my days/nights/mind.  Then I remember that Kierkegaard said that life is lived forward and understood backwards, so I might as well write about it.

Every day, I've gone to work and sat down, flipped on my computer, looked at the sketches on my desk, and felt a wave of discomfort that ranges from mild anxiety to a blast of panic.  I have a variety of jobs to do and roles to play on St. Ermahgerd, and I find myself constantly wondering if:

  • I'm doing the right thing
  • I'm doing it at the right time
  • I'm working too much
  • I'm working too little
  • I'm using the right people for the right tasks
  • My staff is learning and feeling supported in their jobs and roles on the project
  • My colleagues are getting what they need from working with me
  • My colleagues and staff enjoy working with me
  • My bosses (Bosley and Howie) like the job I'm doing
  • I've officially reached my level of incompetence
I suppose this level of self-doubt is normal to anyone who's gotten a promotion or taken on new responsibilities at work.  I wanted to be a healthcare planner/architect, and now that I got what I wanted, I'm regularly seized with a low-level sense of anxiety about what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. The biggest question I have is the one to which I can't seem  to get a good answer:  is this level anxiety normal? How should I be feeling?

As usual, when I feel any discomfort, I turn to books. (I also turn to wine, but I'm trying to resist the siren call of the corkscrew for now.)  I found an interesting book called Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong by Kelly Wilson, PhD and Troy Dufrene, which discusses the nature of anxiety, its role in modern life, and how to live with it and be free of it.  Their angle is that you're not going to ever be rid of anxiety, but you can live life without it weighing you down and adversely affecting you.  Wilson's approach is part psychologist and part Buddhist meditator: learn to sit with the anxiety, since it can't actually hurt you, instead of instantly trying to solve it or run from it or conquer it.  Just sit with it and you'll see how anxiety is an emotion of either the past or future, but never the present--we can only be anxious about something we did in the past or something we fear might happen in the future.

Part of loosening anxiety's grip on us is to recognize and live/be in the present moment.  Part of living in the present is taking stock of where you are and what you're doing.  Part of what I'm doing, I've recently realized, is what I really really want to do: plan and lay out hospitals and healthcare facilities.  Yes, I still have to occasionally answer a question or review a shop drawing for Gestalt's Uber MOB or go to a meeting on some other random project for which I was project architect before St. Ermahgerd kicked off, but overall my time is spent doing the part of a project where my skills are most useful.  And because my strengths actually match the stuff I'm doing most days, I actually feel pretty good about what I do.  I'm busy as hell, but I'm doing the part of architecture that I most enjoy.

And then the anxiety kicks in: yeah, I'm doing what I like, but is it enough? Am I doing it right? Is it working?  And the most insidious fear: by doing only the parts I like, aren't I being lazy? I suppose the answer to that last question is: perhaps, perhaps not.  It does seem a bit avoidant not to do all the parts of architecture, the planning and the construction detailing.  But also, it would seem like asking me to do the detailing when we have people in the office, like Chloe, who are stellar at detailing and project management would be like asking a duck to build a dam out of sticks while asking a beaver to take flight from a pond's surface.  Sometimes, it's okay to do what you're good at instead of slogging through the crap that you're not good at. If you pride yourself on efficiency, as I do, then it just makes sense.

So, sometimes I feel wracked with panic, and sometimes I feel like I'm doing things just right, and sometimes I feel like there is no right or wrong way to do what I'm doing, only many ways.  I'm doing what I do the only way I know how, which is good enough for now.

Monday Visual Inspiration: Unimpressed Mom is unimpressed

Mom: Who designed this shit?
Me: Proenza Schouler.
Mom: Well, she can kiss my ass.  Standing on a trash can in that dress, when she oughta take it off and throw it inside the trash can.
Me: Mommy!
Mom: And then burn it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: Dear Mom, I bought some new shoes.

No, they're not brown like you told me to get, but they're black.  Yes, I needed new black pumps, but you knew that.  No, they weren't on sale.  Yes, they are now the most expensive article of clothing I own.  Yes, they fit fabulous and look amazing.

I don't know why I'm rationalizing new shoes to my mom.  Even for as practical as she is, she never denies a fellow woman new shoes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Introducing the cast of St. Ermagerd

St. Ermagerd is about to own my life for the next 12-18 months. This isn't unusual--a decent-sized project can last 6-12 months for planning and another 12-18 months for construction. As the lead healthcare planner on the project, my involvement is heaviest during design, starting to taper off during CDs (construction documents, when we're making the drawings they give the contractor to build the building) and tapering way off once bidding and construction begins. I'll occasionally answer questions during that time, but by then I'm supposedly off designing another project. Or that's the plan, anyway.

St. Ermagerd is about 100,000 sf of hospital and about 70,000 sf of medical office building (MOB). Clearly, I'm not doing this all by myself. The project is a Bosley project--he's the partner in charge, and Howie is involved as another partnerish project manager architect person. (We'll see how well that works out-- the combination of Bosley and Howie on a project can be incredibly annoying with so many would-be chefs in the kitchen.) The rest of the St. Ermagerd project team is thus:

Chloe, the project manager: she's responsible for making sure everyone has what they need to get the building designed and detailed. She's doing code studies, talking to the Bieffee MT building department, checking in with and setting up meetings with the engineers, and so on.

Pixie, c'est moi, the healthcare planner: my job is to work with the users and with the various building and healthcare codes to program the hospital appropriately. I have to make sure the facility has all the right spaces and rooms in the right sizes and quantities, which means I also look at a facility's utilization statistics (how many patients of what kind use what services and how often). I then use that info to locate the departments and rooms/spaces in those departments appropriately. This is more of a process than a one-and-done thing.

Chester, the lead designer: Chester's job is to figure out how this building should look, what it's made of, and how to get that outside to look and wear well given the spaces inside and the weather outside. This is not going tone easy, between designing with Montana's climate and Howie's attempts to interfere with exterior design. Godspeed, Chester.

Jimmy Ray, healthcare architect: he'll yeah, Jimmy Ray is on the scene, and not a moment too soon. He's been helping me work through planning issues, and he'll be very helpful when we have to start really drawing how this building goes together. Healthcare architecture isn't just thrown together, and Jimmy Ray knows all the codes I do. I'm relieved that he's here.

Devon, the design intern: I got Devon an interview at Design Associates, and they hired him quick like a bunny. Good thing, as he's not afraid to push back on Howie when he disagrees with a design decision. He's sharp and inquisitive to the point of almost being annoying. However, I'd rather answer a lot of questions than answer none--he wants to learn everything he can.

Vera, the planning and exteriors intern: Vera has skills in healthcare space planning as well as exterior detailing and she's pretty good with details as well, so we need her skills in a lot of places on the project. That being said, I'm really trying to reserve judgement on Vera, but it's tough. She refuses to work any overtime whatsoever, which is a pretty tough stance to take as a non licensed person in my field. Her questions sometimes feel like the wrong kind of pushback; not like she's trying to rethink how we do things, but rather it almost sounds like she wants to avoid doing anything that takes a lot of time. Yet she does and comes up with some amazing stuff sometimes. Again, I'm trying to reserve judgement, but it's tough.

Candace the planning intern: Candace expressed an interest to Bosley that she wanted to do healthcare planning and get away from exteriors, so she's helping out on planning as well. I worry that she wanted to be a healthcare planner because she thinks it'll be less work than doing CDs, but so far she's not bad. She also doesn't like overtime, but she will occasionally stay late at the last minute to help with a deadline.

That's the main group at DA for the project. We also have Evann, our landscape architect, and Shana, our interior designer, plus a host of eternally-entertaining engineers. I'll tell you more about them as the project moves forward.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: home, interrupted

About a month ago, our condo building manager texted me to say that the building handyman smelled something odd near our unit, so they were going to go in and see if anything was wrong.  Then came a text that our unit was fine, they would be checking the neighbor's unit.  A chill came over me--I realized that I had neither seen nor heard our neighbor for a month.  I hadn't heard her barking dog, the jingle of her house keys at 5am when she usually left for work, nothing.  Guy had seen her a while back, loading her cat and dog into her worse-for-wear Jetta, the cat yowling from the passenger seat and the 70-lb dog stubbornly refusing to climb in.  I knew she'd been having money problems and health problems lately.  What if something horrible had happened next door...and I was now among the legions of couldn't-be-bothered neighbors who never noticed that a fellow human being had died--or killed herself--next door?

Turns out that our neighbor had gotten a new job on the east coast and had moved out over a month before. I was slightly relieved that there would be no stories of the Capitol Hill condo owner whose pets had been chewing her face off and drinking from the toilet and a leaky kitchen sink to survive, nor would I be interviewed on camera to describe how quiet and nice the deceased had been.  To be fair, she'd always kept to herself, and that was what many of us who live in urban places want--to live our lives uninterrupted by the questioning and prying eyes and rumors spread by busybodies that sometimes permeate suburban and rural life.  And also to be fair, our units are on the side of the building with the trash chute, so if there had been any odor from her place, I would have written it off as fumes from the chute across the hall.

It turns out that the neighbor's financial woes had become too much, and she abandoned her condo to foreclosure.  When Guy saw her loading her pets into her car, that was her final retreat from our building. It also turns out that her emotional state had her living like a hoarder, according to the building manager--cat food cans piled up, broken furniture on the enclosed balcony, and the carpet ripped up from the living room so that only the bare concrete of the building's structure remained. She had been living like that for years, he said. Bad plumbing eventually betrayed her secrets; a slow leak in the kitchen had finally pooled water on the floor of the kitchen, dining room, and living room where lay at least six inches of trash, left from when she moved.  The building manager and the handyman spent ten hours shoveling trash out of the unit and bringing in fans to air out the musty, humid damage.

What does it look like? I wondered as I came home that evening. I tried the door handle, and it opened.

The manager and maintenance worker had done their best, but the condo was still in disarray.  I stepped over piles of clothes and bags of trash and peeked into the bathroom.  Bottles of Philosophy shampoo in the shower, Dr. Perricone face serum on the filthy, mildew-encrusted sink and counter.  This woman didn't just leave this place--she fled.  No one leaves behind Dr. Perricone face serum unless they're in a God-awful hurry.  I turned in the other direction and could just make out a pile in the bedroom corner.  The cat food cans.  I looked back at the cosmetic expanse on the bathroom counter.  When Guy saw her leaving for the last time, she was taking the most important things with her--her pets.  Everything else could be left.  And now, with the bank foreclosing on the place she bought not long before Guy and I moved in next door to her in 2001, everything else must go.

We live in urban areas for the convenience but also for the anonymity.  No one to pry into your life means that no one can spread rumors or be nosy, or even hold your failures up to your face constantly.  But I have to wonder if Guy and I could have helped this woman.  And then I wonder if she even would have let us in--Guy mentioned that if she ever answered the door, she barely opened the door and stood so that you couldn't see past her into her condo.  And for all our attempts at privacy and not wanting others to interrupt our routine little lives, we are interrupted by real life--people die, jobs are lost, homes are foreclosed upon.  Regardless of our tragedy or circumstances, we gather up that which is most important and go elsewhere, searching for the normalcy that allows us to live again uninterrupted.  I hope she finds the peace and quiet she deserves, I would say into the camera as the local TV reporter asked me about the neighbor: she was a quiet neighbor, and a nice person.