Experiment Week One Results

I’m posting this for Sunday but its Thursday as I write. So its been 5 days since I started the experiment and I have 7 posts. I’ve fallen back on some tropes that I often talk about inconjunction to architecture and I suspect I’ll revisit them soon enough. One positive side effect I can see already is that I’m actually reading some of the freebie magazines around the house. These past couple years I’ve gotten on the mailing lists of a few homebuilding/multifamily housing magazines but the dead trees have just been stacking up. Now that I’m looking for ideas, I gotta start reading more!

I suspect if I keep doing small short posts (almost-tweets) I can keep this up or the next three months, the length of the experiment. But I wouldn’t be horribly shocked if I run out of steam also (see all my old hobbies except for boardgaming).

And here’s a shout out to Seth Godin since its his blog that is the model for what I’m playing with.

On a lighter note….

Badger got sick this past week, turns out it was a urinary tract infection. But he’s off of pellets for a bit, which means lots and lots of veggies. But since his appetite is down, guess who got to eat most of the veggies!

Which brings me to one of the major conundrums in Peppercorn’s world. She LOVES food but HATES cooking. As such the kitchen has always been a conflicted space for her. And generally she just avoids it. In our previous apartment, it had a tile floor so the material change maybe discouraged her from visiting the kitchen. But now its all tile, but she still avoided the kitchen.

Till this morning. Now that she realized what’s going on, she came flying into the kitchen hoping to get an advance copy of the bok choy.

Barbarians at the gates

It is a awkwardly personal thing working on a remodel. I haven’t worked much on the client side, so I didn’t actually get to “know” the clients of my projects, but I’ve measured my share of homes and it is always a bit invasive. You go through their entire house, every room — there is nothing hidden by the time you leave.

Then after you take all this raw data, as the draftsman you work out a silent struggle with the original designers and builders. As you draft everything up, it comes together and you tease out their logic, forcing them to give up their details and secrets. It is an intimate chat with history, with silent arguments and by the time you’re done, an amicable agreement.

Unfortunately the design of the remodel is often the least personal aspect of the project. Because this remodel will most likely be the most expensive modification on what is already the largest purchase of the client’s life, the design is often most focused on what the homeowners can recoup when they sell the house. That part is not very personal. Its awkward, most remodel projects are awkward, but it’s market driven.

A kit of parts

I remember my sophomore studio’s final project involved a kit of parts. It was a seemingly pointless exercise. And in many ways it was. The kit of parts was merely structural pieces, nothing of any complexity. However, when working with these non-cutting edge buildings (and I suspect even when you do) it definitely becomes an exercise in arranging a kit of parts.

For example the kitchen has counter space, appliances, cooking zone, connections to the breakfast nook, dining room, etc., etc. Especially, when you’re working in an existing building, its a matter of massaging this kit of parts to fit and to work together. Coming up with a great solution, especially in a remodel job is not easy. But it is a lot of fun.

The hardest part of the task is not settling for merely a “good enough” design but coming up with something that is “truly good”.

We’re all experts!

Certainly at the way we live our lives, heck most of us are experts at how others should live!

But that doesn’t translate into being experts at arranging the spaces that surround our lives. There’s a lot of architects who aren’t good at that either.

Paperwork!

As I do more and more construction administration, its kind of scary how this last part of the process is really a LOT of paperwork. After taking a week and a half off in Vegas, I came back to a pile of 200 or so emails. That doesn’t sound so bad, but still, given our paperwork tracking software and the contractor’s paperwork tracking software, it took me a day and a half to go through all the emails and just put them in the right place. Literally, just moving these individual emails into the correct filing boxes. Ugh.

And I have it easy. The typical construction administration process stipulates that all correspondance with the consultants (MEP engineer, structural engineer, etc.) goes through the architect. With the way my two projects are set up, at least the contractor is able to email the consultants directly — otherwise I’d be a bottleneck and I’d be forced to do this sort of mailbox cleaning every day just to make sure the project is being digested properly.

I’m not sure if there is a better way to do things, but the amount of filing I’ve been doing makes me think there has to be a better way!

Remodeling yesterday’s home for tomorrow

One of the most interesting things about remodeling a house is seeing how it was built before you got your grubby hands on it. Having worked on some older houses, I’ve gotten to see servant quarters, back staircases, old sunrooms turned into now-old bathrooms, etc, etc.

A building is an artifact of its time. Not just of the way people lived, but of the way people felt they should live – fashion and market pressures. I was just looking at a floor plan of a house that my coworker is remodeling. I found it quite interesting in that it looked like just an 80’s or tract home, so it wasn’t that old. But still with a separate den, dining, and living rooms it was definitely an artifact of a different time.

I wonder what people will think of our gianormous shared spaces and our almost equally gianormous master bedroom suites when they remodel the houses of today in the future.

Allow me to reintroduce myself…a new experiment

Just for fun, I thought I’d push this blog along in a slightly less ecletic/personal bent and push it in a more architectural bent. I’m not sure exactly what it means, but I’m guessing I’ll find out soon enough, maybe after three months, mor maybe its will peter out long before then. In any case, I hope to have a more interesting run than my previous attempt at a weekly friday post. I will try to post on a semi-regular schedule, lets say at least every other day though I’m thinking maybe even 5 days a week (!).

Since everyone who reads this, mom, dad, sister and gradschool buddy knows who I am, there isn’t much to say in terms of introduction, but I’m gonna do it anyways. I’m a registered architect in Texas. I have a portfolio here that needs a little work. Currently I’m working for Ziegler Cooper Architects, in the multi-family studio. After producing a majority of the construction documents for an 8 story midrise apartment complex in Houston, I am now doing construction administration on that project as well as a similar project near by. My previous experience was in single family residential, additions and remodels, and yes I think I really do enjoy working on residential projects.

As I’ve stated before, I like it when projects run into reality, so I am typically a fan of buildings that manipulates constraints to create something interesting and delightful. But then again I’m a modernist so I do love the occasional iconic building, though not nearly as much as many of my peers. I love my work and I love buildings, but what happens in them is where life happens.