an irascible love of the game

On Sunday morning I woke up to a message from an old friend, who I worked with while interning at Asakura Robinson Company, a landscape architecture firm out in Houston.

Unfortunately, the news was a complete shock, Patrick Chang, one of the principals, had a sudden heart attack and passed away over the weekend.

Patrick wasn’t a principal when I worked at ARC, but he was one of the lead dogs at the small office when I was there.  As I pondered my two summers as a grad student intern, I realized how much I have since modeled myself on his example. He was a superb project manager, thoroughly understood the technical aspects of the profession and could run a project to make great drawing sets.  More coarsely, Patrick knew his shit and fucking made the trains run on time. He never bothered to get his licence, but he was exactly what you would have wanted in a landscape architect, except for passing a couple tests.

He worked hard (maybe too hard) but he would also take time to talk shop at that dingy cafeteria with a big vinyl graphic of a tulip garden at the basement of 2990 Richmond. And those conversations were real. As a PM he could be honest about how things were going, both good and bad, by both outsiders and within the hierarchy. He spoke truth about the firm and the profession. He didn’t have to hide what annoyed him, because he was confident in his love of the work.

For some folks, A+D is a passion you wear on your sleeve.  You aren’t just an architect, you’re an AAArrrkkitect. I’m envious of those folks, cause I’d also like to be super cool like that, but constitutionally that ain’t me.  I like the job, I enjoy the work, and I want to run a smooth process while banging out clean drawing sets. But I’m not going to be all in your face about how much I love this shit.  I mean, I do, but I don’t have to keep emoting all the time, do I?

The phrase I kept mulling all Sunday was that Patrick had an irascible love of the game.

He wouldn’t wear it on his sleeve, but it was obvious that this was his passion and he loved the profession.  He loved his teammates and he loved the work, the design, the documentation, the process.  In all, I worked with him maybe four months.  Not a very long time, but his example has resonated throughout my career, even if I don’t huddle up in a dark blue hoodie every time the AC goes into overdrive.

Every Christmas I send out a holiday email out to old friends and colleagues.  And every New Years, Patrick made a point to say hello back and see how I was doing.  In a couple months, I’ll send out another card, but he won’t respond.  He was the consummate professional and he will be sorely missed.


3 sayings

I had an old friend in town and in today’s conversations before he left, three sayings / concepts came up worth saving.

  1. Any endeavor worth doing will require an iterative process.
  2. If you don’t have a solution, you don’t have a problem
  3. Concepts around Design thinking, design integrity, and working out solutions “in parallel.”