Monday, September 30, 2013

The worst architect in the world

Nope, it's not Frank Lloyd Wright, nor is it Peter Eisenmann. (zing!) It's this brilliant Old Spice commercial. See if you can figure out all the horrible, tragic mistakes he's made in his house in the last scene.

Monday, September 23, 2013

So what would I like for my birthday?

This week, Guy and I turn 45 and 38 respectively (for those new to WAD, my husband and I have the same birthday). I have a few professional engagements to attend to the first half of the week, and then we'll be in Paris, Bruges, and London for about a week and a half. As is our custom, we prefer to take a trip together rather than buy each other something for our birthdays.

We're all familiar with the trouble of buying gifts for other adults. What do you get someone that would be useful, and they'd like it, and it's not too expensive for you to buy? And what do you get someone like Guy and me, who try really hard not to have a lot of stuff around? (Living in a condo will make you edit your possessions, though not as much as we probably should edit them.) Guy and I get out of this conundrum with each other by taking a trip for our birthday, but Christmas becomes more problematic. Usually, we either get the other person a gift card, or we send each other a web link to the exact thing we like. Yes, it's anticlimactic and totally expected, but what it lacks in surprise, it makes up for in appreciation for the effort and follow-through.

But in my personal and professional malaise this summer (for which I am indeed receiving professional help, thanks for asking, but for which I'm also trying desperately not to have to take medication), I've been wondering what I want, what I really really want (thanks, Spice Girls). A gift should be unexpected, delightful, and useful, and it should be appreciated all the time, not just on the day of its receipt. So what gift would I most like to receive?

I'd like to see my profession rise back to a level of real respect and respectability. 

I'd like to see us get paid what we're worth and not constantly be worn down by the pressures of clients that can't figure out why it costs so much to have a skilled professional design a building such that you won't have leaks, get sued, or have huge utility bills, and so you'll be able to use it for decades to come (or sell it easily if you need to do so). I'd like to see clients stop asking us to shave off our services like doing a full assessment of your existing building is optional. I'd like to see clients stop thinking they can do my job because they watched a three-day marathon of Trading Spaces. The doctors I work with hate it when you come to them with your pre-diagnosed disease that you got off of WebMD, but they can't see the irony when they come to me having done the same thing with a crude sketch they made from a free download of Google SketchUp; nothing you just drew meets any building code known to the state of Wyoming, so knock it off. I'm drawing what I'm drawing because it's the right thing to do to give you a space that meets codes as well as human comfort and ease of use. I'm not trying to draw "fancy" stuff and indicate "fancy" finishes because I want to turn your building's lobby into the Waldorf Astoria--it's because these are the right finishes for the space that will wear well and that align with your original vision of having a hospitality-like "classy" building.  And speaking of building costs, I'd like to see the contractors I work with not turn every goddamn project into design-build. Every time I insist that the finishes and designs really are going to be the best in the long run, I get accused of jacking up the price to the owner.  And I know who's gonna win that little pointing contest. So much for being "team players."

But the biggest thing I'd like to see is architects themselves taking the reins back. I'd like to see us stop writing, speaking, and designing for other architects and start writing, speaking, and designing for the world. I'd like to see us really reach out to people who have never heard the work "architectonics" and don't give a fuck who Kenneth Frampton is. I'd like to see us use words that an 11th grader would use, not because I think the average non-architect is dumb, but because we need to use real, clear language with the world if we're going to explain to them (and convince them) why what we do is important and more relevant than ever, and why we need to be paid accordingly and respected and given the space to do that work.

Seeing architecture truly own the 21st century: that's the gift that keeps on giving.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Soggy but safe

The rains here in Colorado are supposed to end today, fingers crossed. There are some parts of the Front Range and east side of the Rockies that have gotten a year's worth of rain in one week. As some of y'all have probably heard, the entire town of Lyons is cut off from the rest of civilization because the roads in and out of it have been washed out. Literally--washed out. Gone.

Being in Denver proper has protected Guy and me from a lot of flooding problems, though my friends who live in Aurora and the outskirts of Denver have had to pump water out of their basements. Cherry Creek (the main waterway that runs through the heart of Denver) was way over its banks last week, which made bike travel problematic but not impossible. The flooding also affected some schools, so some of my coworkers had to stay home last Thursday and Friday because their kids' schools were closed.

Please donate what you can to the Red Cross to help out. Things should start drying out tomorrow, but it will be along haul to get some folks back in their houses and put their lives back together.