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.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: Look, just take it off our hands

This bank was built after 2001, and not even ten years later it was vacant.

Wonder what they planned to do with it?  Sell it? Rent it out?

Maybe both?  "Look, man, you can buy this building off us, you can lease it, whatever.  Just take it, man."

I've been seeing a fair amount of "Price Reduced" and "Make An Offer" signs outside of buildings and houses lately around Denver.  I think the market is still a little meh, but people just want to get on with their lives.  Even our neighbor in my condo building moved across the country and is letting her unit go into foreclosure.  I know she's been having money problems for a while, and I bet she's ready to make a clean break and move on.  I can't say I blame her, and I don't blame the company that owns this bank building either for wanting to unload it by any means necessary.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The band is back together, and we're going on tour

The recession was hard on a sister, and on Design Associates as well.  We laid off a lot of good people, and to their credit DA has hired some of them back.  Elliott was brought back as soon as we could get him, and then Kellye was rehired back in early 2012.  And now, we have the final piece of our team in place: Jimmy Ray.

Jimmy Ray left Denver back in 2007, as I was just starting this blog.  He moved to the Midwest when his wife got an amazing promotion that they couldn't refuse.  Fast forward to 2012, and her company was bought by new owners who laid her off (as well as everyone else who made as much as she did).  Suddenly buoyed by her new freedom and the realization that her job had been making her miserable for several years, she decided to go back to school to become a therapist.  Guess where some of the best schools for her particular kind of therapy are? Yup--the Mile High.

So, a few phone calls later, Jimmy Ray has a job with Design Associates again.  He started last week and will be moving his wife out to the Mile High sometime this month.  And guess whose project he's on?  Yup--St. Ermahgerd, with yours truly.  This is a huge relief to me, as Jimmy Ray knows how to put a hospital together, and I need help making some stuff happen on a deadline as tight as ours.  Jimmy Ray is a solid dude--smart, funny, gives a damn about his job, and easy to get along with.  

This is gonna be fun.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Visual Inspiration: Delusions of grandeur in Cherry Creek North

While walking through Cherry Creek North recently, I discovered a detail on a recent building there that caused me to do a double take.  The building below was built in the last ten years (probably newer than that), but it was the feature over the large window on the right that gave me pause.

Um, is that the hand of God and Adam touching each other, resplendent in stucco, or--God forbid--EIFS?  And what image is on those diamond-shaped medallions?

Oh good Lord.  It's da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, immortalized in some sort of bronze plating or cast stone.  And there's a little security camera to catch the faces of anyone who dares pause at this capitalist edifice and ponder the possible meaning of plastering Renaissance imagery on what is essentially a high-end strip mall near downtown Denver.

I like art.  I like capitalism. I like brokerage firms and restaurants.  I like da Vinci. I like Cherry Creek North.  I even like stucco.  I do not like them all lumped together as an attempt to prettify or even legitimize a 21st-century building with 17th-century artistic references.  Be modern and be proud.