Wednesday, September 21, 2016

[reel] fashion

i enjoy creativity in all places.  

the other weekend i saw creativity combined in two places foreign to me; fishing and fashion.  i attended the aptly named "fishing' for fashion" event during the boothbay harbor festival. an event requiring designers to use items and materials usually found on boats to create dresses.  among the materials used to create gowns were netting, woven nautical maps and even sea glass!  as an architect who enjoys using local context and materials for inspiration, i found this event incredibly fascinating.  i enjoyed seeing the imagination of the designers to find materials normally used for one specific purpose and envision them in a completely different way.  a quality i not only enjoy in architecture but any creative field.

Monday, August 29, 2016

getting [schooled] again

perfectly placed, this months #architalks found bob borson of "life of an architect" giving us the theme of "back to school" to write about.

as a kid, every year about this time, i only had one thing on my mind.

"what was i going to learn in school this year?"

would it be cursive? multiplication? algebra?  every new year had it's own new challenges, you knew you'd have to encounter. these thoughts continued all the way into architecture school as well.  you were very aware of what years you'd be taking structures, architectural history and professional practice.

then you graduate, and suddenly the subjects you learn about are no longer broken down neatly by subject or years, but rather learned on a need to know basis as you work in a firm.  given enough time, you can become fairly knowledgeable if you stay in the same spot and location.  however sometimes things change.  some people go back to school to further their education, some people go back to school to study something else completely, some people start their own firm, some people change firms and some people decide to move to a different part of the country.  i did the later.  i moved from kansas to maine last spring and at times it has felt like i was going [back to school].

the course list for this new [england] education includes:

-home economics
-foreign language

a book i've become very familiar with this year is the "nfpa 101 - life safety code."  portland maine requires code reviews on projects using both the ibc and nfpa.  over the past few years i had become familiar with the ibc, but this nfpa book was totally new to me.  looking through it the first time it might as well been written in greek.  it was organized differently, the verbiage was strange, it defined building uses differently and a few of the allowances were slightly different than what i was use to in the ibc.

also i find myself using the ibc more in depth than before.  in the mid-west the majority of my projects were on large parcels of land with substancial distances of separation.  currently the majority of the projects i'm working on are in more urban settings.  very rarely did i have to look at the separation distance of my building to determine the percentage of openings i'm allowed or if any of them need to be protected. now i do.

another book i've become more familiar with is "the international existing building code."  being in a much older city here on the east coast, this book has seen a lot more use than earlier in my architecture "education."

working in wichita for the past decade, i knew how the city permitting process worked, i've met most of the people in the permitting process and knew what to expect.  that's all out the window now.  i'm still learning how everything works here in portland.  who to call and when, what zones are where, what forms need to be filled out, how to submit and how to label what you're submitting.  this by far is my most frustrating class this year.

as an architect, i believe you should know the history of the city you live in and when you move to a new city there is a lot of catching up to do.  being on the east coast, naturally portland maine has a longer chronological timeline than wichita did and i've enjoyed hearing about the city from as far back as the 1600's.  knowing the history of the city starts to help you understand the current make up of the city. why certain areas are historic and why people are building where they do.  that's especially true when it comes to all the different neighborhoods found in portland. this class is by far my favorite.

my history "class" and geometry "class" are very closely related. geometry in this case refers to the architectural styles, materials and details, found in the area. learning new styles like "federal" and "colonial revival" not commonly found in the mid-west. studying the proportions of a "triple decker" to better fit into the neighborhood, or what geometries looks better with a shingle-style house.

one class i'm slightly embarrassed to admit i'm learning a lot in is "shop" class, or what you call "wood framed construction."  working mostly on commercial and retail projects i was very familiar with details of metal stud connections, however moving to a state that actually has trees finds me working almost completely with wood.  it's not a huge difference but it has been an education.  as wood framed structures in this city seem to be getting larger i can see me continuing in this class for several years learning how to better detail and fire rate wood structures.

home economics
just like in high school this class is teaching me about the home, or to put it architecturally, residential construction. the majority of my projects are residential, something i've never touched before and something that's taking a bit to get use to.  mostly it's a scaling issue in my head.  after drawing commercial projects for ten years i knew hallway widths, stairway widths, door heights and other variables for commercial projects.  i discovered quickly i was wasting too much valuable residential space on hallways and stairs.  i also enjoy residential being more personal. drawing break rooms for offices the past decade, it didn't matter a whole lot where the refrigerator was in relation to the sink, but in someones own home kitchen, it does.

foreign language
i'll just come out and say it... people talk differently here.  little phrases and terms that have caused a few chuckles and occasionally a little confusion.  just a week here i heard a contractor comment on a project as "wicked cool."  a phrase i knew existed but had never heard naturally in the wild.  i've also discovered in maine a "camp" is not an entire area with several cabins, pools, mess hall and recreation facilities but rather a just a single cabin.  this dramatically changed the scope of work i thought my boss had given me.

and don't even get me started on what it means to go [downeast].

there was always a bit of nervous excitement when you went back to school. that feeling of not exactly knowing what the year would hold, the anxious feeling in your gut that made it difficult to sleep the night before your first day.  as an architect i think it's important to keep the feeling coming back throughout your career. staying in a comfort zone won't move you forward [if that was the case i'd still be in mrs. matsons third grade class] just like in school, always learning something new is what propels you forward.

please take a look at the links below from the other #architalks members to see how they approached the topic of "back to school"

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Back to School!

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Designing Back to School

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: "Back To School"

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Have We Learned? It's Back To School For #ArchiTalks 21

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
good to go back to school

Mark R. LePage - EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Back to School: Marketing for Architects

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
4 Tips As You Go Back To School

Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
Back to School Again

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#architalks 21 "back to school"

Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Let’s Get Back To (Architect) School …or Work.

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Back to the Cartography Board

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Back to School

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
#ArchiTalks / 15 Ways to Make the Most of Your Architectural Education

Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
What's better than architecture after school?

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Back to {Architecture} School

Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Back to School...Suckasssssss

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Back to School: Seoul Studio

Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Back to School...

Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
[ArchiTalks #21] 10 Things Architecture Students Say Going Back to School

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Back to School? It Doesn't Stop there for Architects.

Tim Ung - Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
10 Things I wish I knew about Architecture School

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


it had been five months since my parents dropped me off at the wichita airport to start a new life in maine.  in any normal circumstance, five months isn't that long of a time, but for someone who moved into a new apartment in a new city, started a new job and had to make new friends, it felt like a lifetime ago.  they were a sight for sore eyes.

similar to when they visited me in college, i couldn't wait to show them every new thing i had discovered, luckily for them, unlike college, maine doesn't smell like a dorm room.  the eleven days they were here were a mix of showing them the city i had come to know and wanting them to discover for themselves what a wonderful city portland is.  for totally selfish reasons, i wanted them to "like" the city i was living in to help ease my guilt for moving so far away.  then, somewhere between showing them my favorite neighborhood bar and the "land and sea" tour they took themselves, something i didn't plan happened.  we discovered new parts of the city together, tiny little gems neither of us had seen, several of which have become some of my favorite spots in the city.  

the crazy thing is, heading back to these spots a month after they left, i now have memories of them there.  this new place i moved to doesn't seem as foreign anymore now that i memories of my parents here.  i can envision my mom looking for sea glass on willard beach and i can picture my dad enjoying the patio of the portland lobster company.

memories help make a new and strange place feel like home, and memories with family are some of the best to accumulate.  my parents trip up to visit me, in a weird way, made this city feel more like home.  

they call maine "vacationland" but my parents trip made it feel a little more like [home]land.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

a tale of two [boats]

it was the best of times, it was a test of times
it was a boat of wisdom, it was a boat of foolishness,
it was a journey talking about wine, it was a journey of tangled up line
it was an evening of sails, it was an entire day of scales
it was a touch of class, it was being sick off my ass
we had a sommelier before us, we had captain pete before us
we felt like heavan, i felt like the other way...

in short, both trips were a blast, and i wouldn't change a thing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

there's no place like [gin]

as a kid, with lots of relatives in western kansas, i attended my share of weddings, all of which  incorporated volga german traditions; the wedding march, the singing of the brautlied (bride's song), the flying dutchman and many other polka's.  i enjoyed them because my grandfather loved them and i knew they were part of my heritage.

it took moving 1,800 miles away from my home to realize just why these traditions are so important.

with a touch of homesickness last month, my fiancee suggested that we throw a "june" bucket party. this was a party held by my friends back in kansas every june which included a large cocktail drink known as a gin bucket; a party i was going to miss this year.  however with her suggestion, i was immediately excited!  we invited all our new friends and started planning.  i was meticulous down to every detail, annoying my fiancee with discussions of correct bucket sizes and number of basters.  

the night of the party, all of our new found friends and neighbors came over. they were a little apprehensive about this gin concoction involving drinking communally from a large bucket with turkey basters, however after a few "bastes," everyone was on board.  the night ended up being a wonderful time and all our new friends became better friends that night.

i couldn't have been happier that night. i was like tevye dancing around the streets of anatevk shouting out "tradition!"  somewhere between joking about getting "basted" and eating "walking tacos" out of doritos bags, portland maine started to feel a little bit more like home.

a few days later my fiance and i did a little wedding planning.  still reeling in the happiness of the tradition of june bucket and thinking about our upcoming wedding i began to think about all the volga german traditions i'd like to include.  that's when it hit me.  these weren't just simple songs and dances you did at weddings just for the fun of it; theses were traditions brought over from my ancestors who had left their home.  songs and dances that reminded them of good times with friends and family they were now apart from.  traditions bought over that helped this new world they found themselves in seem a little less scary. familiar tunes and lyrics they could get lost in and feel like they were home again. a little piece of their old life that helped make their new life feel more like home.  these traditions were tiny seeds of a world they once knew that they could plant in a new place.  with time and love those seeds took root and became a whole new tradition, the wedding songs and dances i knew as a kid a hundred years after they were planted.

who knows if my great great grandchildren will be throwing june bucket parties in a hundred years, but there have been requests for a repeat in 2017.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

the image of [portland maine]

during my architecture studies, i read the book "the image of the city" by kevin lynch.  its an easy read and if you have any interest in urban planning i suggest it.  to give a very short and generic overview of the book, mr. lynch studied the way people viewed their cities by understanding the [mental maps] everyone has in their mind.  through interviews and sketches he started to see five elements in a city which helped form these mental maps.

paths - streets and sidewalks
edges - boundaries of a city such as walls, mountains or shorelines
districts - large areas of a city with unique character
nodes - focal points or intersections
landmarks - objects or point references easy to identify

couple the fact this is one of my favorite books and i had just moved to a new city i tested myself on my own mental image of portland, maine after living here for a month.  i knew it would change drastically the longer i lived here and i wanted to document my first impression of the city; to make note of what stood out.  since my fiancee was new to the city as well and knew nothing of lynch i had her sketch a map as well to see the similarities and differences.

keeping track of the order in which the elements were drawn, here is what i discovered after we sketched out our maps.

1. portland maine has a very distinct and well defined edge. the very first thing we both drew was the peninsula, showing casco bay and back bay.

2.  the next step was the paths. we both drew commercial, danforth, congress and high streets. arguably all important streets although neither of us new exactly where they terminated. she even had running paths drawn, something i never would have included.

3. after the paths were drawn establishing a referencing grid we both started filling in districts.  we both drew the eastern and western promenade.  my fiancee drew buildings to show old port, while i  drew large squares to show old port, downtown, the west end and east end.

4. now it could be that i knew what mr. lynch was looking for or it could be that as a mid-westerner i love seeing actual squares in the city, but i did draw the nodes of longfellow square and monument square.

5. finally we started filling in our own landmarks. she identified becky's diner, the holy donut, portland headlight, casco bay bridge and the east bayside bowling alley.  all locations visited in the first couple of weeks here. not surprisingly mine were a bit more architectural. the hospital campus, victoria mansion, the arena, the state theatre and the ferry terminal.

now having two more months of mental mapping in my head it's easy to see a major problem portland maine already knows it has.  for being a city on a small peninsula, with very distinct districts, it's water front lacks any sort of major identity or character. although it's cool to know it's an actual working waterfront, in both our minds it was just a series of random docks on a simple line.  however the cities districts with congress and commercial streets tying them all together is an enjoyable and strong theme easily picked up on by two newbies.

as walkable as this city i know our [mental maps] of portland will only become richer, fuller and more intricate as time goes by.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

take me out to the ball[park]

i am not a huge sports "guy,"

i'm an architect.

if anyone starts talking about anything relating to any type of sport, i quickly find myself lost and without a clue to what is being said.  except when it comes to baseball stadiums.  i'm infatuated by them and love knowing all i can about them.

like a humble servant seeing the coliseum in ancient rome for the first time, i'm always in awe entering a baseball stadium. it has so much for an architect to appreciate. they're large scale projects which become icons for the city.  not only are they great examples of architecture themselves, but i love how the outfields frame the city or landscape they're in. stadiums also perfectly represent their time.  fenway and wrigley with their industrial feel; angels stadium, dodger stadium and kauffman stadium with their mid-century vibe; the throw back retro-ness of stadiums built in the 90's like camden yards and coors field, to more contemporary parks like petco park in san diego.

interesting and sad fact, there are no major league stadiums representing styles from the 20's, 30's, 40's or 50's as they've all been replaced and kauffman stadium, which opened in 1973, is the sixth oldest stadium!

as large of projects as they are, it's interesting to think they still follow some of the most simple rules of architecture design; site location and orientation, the approach a visitor takes to and into it, compression and expansion, scaling and massing.  although they have similar traits, i also enjoy the fact each park has its own little drama or flair, some feature unique to it.  fenways green monster, the old brick building in the middle of the left field stands at petco park, kauffman's fountains, and many more.  there are a thousand of things i pay attention to at a a ballgame, the least of which is the actual game.

i'm not sure i'll ever get to design a baseball stadium and i'm not sure i'd want to, but i still love knowing about them.  the other week i had a chance to geek out by seeing fenway for the first time, the oldest ballpark still in use. i was ecstatic the entire game looking at all the details and reading plaques! don't worry, i did pay attention enough to watch ortiz bat and i was rooting for them to beat the blue jays.  even though they lost that day the architect in me came away with a win knowing i had finally seen fenway.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

how to [make] friends and [meet] people

in life, there are times you're thrown into social situations where you know absolutely no one.  these situations can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few months.  i recently moved to a completely new part of the country; and besides my fiancee, didn't know a single person.

situations like this can be good for ones soul. it helps you get back to the root of your personality. it's almost like being on a deserted island. no longer do you have the ease of going to your local market to pick up food or open your fridge for a drink, you've got to rely on your instincts to catch your meal. in moving to a new town, the food you have to fight for are new friends. you have to rely on your instincts to meet new people.  skills that may be rusty if you've lived in the same place for a while.  alone in this friendless world you really have to answer the question, "do i have friends because i'm interesting, or am i interesting because of my friends?'

i've spent the last two months asking that question as i've tried to meet people here in portland, and i wanted to share a few tips i've discovered, in case any of you find yourself in the same situation.

my guide to making friends and meeting people

first and foremost

1. don't be creepy

the only people who want to be friends with a creepy guy are other creepy guys.  lots of people fail at this. as a short, stocky, balding and bearded man, i have to work extra hard to not be creepy.  thankfully my wonderful and beautiful fiancee balances me out. however when i'm alone i've learned if you dress nice and iron your shirt it helps a little.  also smile, but not too much....that's creepy. also smell nice. creepy guys smell bad, so spend some money and get a good cologne, not axe body spray.

2. get off your phone

being on your phone usually means your texting or chatting with friends, and you have none, so stay off your phone.  don't play games on your phone either.  no one's going to want to talk to a middle aged man they see playing candy crush...that's creepy. see rule number one.

3. wear one piece of interesting clothing

it gives a stranger something to comment on, such as "nice shoes" or "where did you get that hat?"  I prefer wearing interesting socks, showing just a hint of interesting-ness.  don't overdo it though.  too much interesting clothing can make you look creepy.  rule number one.

4. hang by the trash can

if you're hanging out at a large event and it happens to be catered, everyone has to eventually throw something away.  hanging near, but not too near the trash can, allows people to come to you, creating the possibility of interaction.  the same could be said about hanging near the restroom but....rule number one.

5. carry a moleskin or other type of sketch book

i'm an architect and i've learned that carrying a moleskine makes you look "artsy." it can also show you have a softer, more sentimental side.  however make sure you actually have something drawn or written in it because there's a fine line between "artsy" and rule number one.

6. hit up dive bars

find out where the locals go and drink there.  don't go to tourist traps. the only people that hang out at touristy places are tourists.  it might be easy pickings for interaction but you re not going to meet anyone to have a beer with in three weeks when your down and need to chat.  also, depending on how much of a dive it is, there's a good chance you'll be the least creepy guy in the bar.

7. talk to the bartender

in the digital world we live in bartenders are the cities own personified wikipedia page. they know about everyone and everything going on in town which is basically everything you don't know. don't worry about asking for suggestions on what to do, hey've already summed you up and will steer you in the right direction.  little tip, ask them where they drink. bartenders always drink at cooler places than where they work.  chances are they'll tell you about a cooler bar than the applebees you're currently drinking at.

8. new in town

if you do actually meet someone and strike up a conversation, as as quickly as possible, tell them you're new in town.  people love telling you where they think is cool, what stores to go to, where to eat and other places to hang out.  also if they're picking up any scent of creepy, telling them you are new in town gives you a bit of a bye,  they'll just assume the place you came from was creepy.

9.  buy a round

if you happen to meet someone or a group of someones, don't be afraid to buy a round. buying a round is a quick way for someone to like you...or at the very least, keep talking to you. however i would suggest only buying one round.  you don't want to look too much like the guy trying to get everyone drunk.  rule number one.
10. don't connect socially...just yet
as hard as it is, after you've talked with someone and hit it off, don't ask if they're on instagram or twitter.  it reeks of desperation and could potentially scare off a new friend.  what until you hang out with them for a second or third time.   besides, do you really want to know what some stranger you met one night thought of his street tacos next week when it pops up on you feed? the answer is no.  also, don't take a "selfie" with anyone you've known for less than 6 hours.  that's just creepy, and by now we should all know rule number one.
i'll let you know how it goes....

Thursday, March 24, 2016

switching a syrup [sap]

here in maine, they love their maple syrup; and when i say love... i mean they LOVE it.  it's on the same level as bbq in kansas city, deep dish pizza in chicago or bacon...well...wherever men are found. it's serious business here in the northeast. being a mid-westerner raised on "log cabin" maple syrup all my life, i couldn't comprehend the obsession over this coveted condiment.

side note: i've heard if they catch you buying "log cabin" at the grocery store in maine, they take you out back and beat you with a stick.

the other day i read an article in the local paper on maple syrup etiquette, discussing the fact you should always be sure your guests receive the "good stuff" and how restaurants will actually charge you if you'd like more than the given amount.  naturally this piqued my interest and i had to check this syrup situation out.  as luck would have it, a few farms were going to have an early "maple weekend" on saturday; which is a whole day of celebrating this sugary sap! the next day, my fiancee and i drove an hour outside of portland to hilltop boilers to see what all the fuss was about.

i'll be honest i was overwhelmed. it was a syrup sensory overload.  within seconds we had been given samples of maple fudge as well as ice cream with hot maple syrup on it!  inhaling the treats we took a tour of the "sugar house," where i discovered it took 40 gallons of liquid sap to get one gallon of pure maine maple syrup. at the end of the tour they had maple whoopee pie samples; two glorious new england traditions in one amazing treat.

i ended up leaving the farm with three different bottles of maple syrup and a maple whoopie pie the size of my face.  i had been seduced by the smooth sweetness of this sappy siren known as pure maine maple syrup.  if that whole experience hadn't been enough to do me in, the next day we made pancakes.  i'd like to say i used the syrup sparingly, but the truth is, i was basically doing maple syrup shots with a pancake glass.

well done maine, i get it now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

i [hate] goodbyes

i wrote my last blog post a week before i left wichita for maine...and things got a little crazy.....

the post was shared, retweeted and forwarded on to so many people i lost track.  i say "lost track" because it was well above the 35 people who normally read my blog; mostly friends and family.  thank you to everyone who shared my post or commented.  as a person leaving his hometown for a city he's never set foot in before, it meant a lot.  after 10 years of writing about my adventures in wichita, i had written the most personal post ever...and it must of hit a nerve.  i can't thank you enough if you were one of those who took time to read it.

the post was shared so much i heard from old high school teachers, college professors, business owners, city dentist...and several strangers whose only connection was wichita. the post eventually came across the paths of two people, who let me say goodbye to wichita in ways i could have never imagined and i'd like to thank them.

first of all, carrie rangers, a reporter for the wichita eagle.  not only did she chat with me and write a wonderful article, she also made short video of me talking about how great wichita is.  if it looks as though i'm getting misty eyed in the video, it's only because i had just finished chopping onions. thank you carrie for the wonderful article and video. you can see her work here.

next, i'd like to thank tony and alt 107.3 who let me guest dj the sunday night before i left.  not only did he let me play some of my favorite songs on my favorite wichita station, we also reminisced about wichita in 30-45 second segments.  tony might also go down as the last friend i made in wichita before i left.  a great guy doing his best to promote this wonderful town. 

below was my playlist for the night:

alabama shakes - don't wanna fight
cake - love you madly
the white stripes - seven nation army
the black keys - your touch
the la's - there she goes
beck - loser
leon bridges - better man
pixies - here comes your man
nirvana - smells like teen spirit
counting crows - mr. jones

both of them gave me an incredibly large platform to say goodbye to my hometown, which is a gift i won't ever forget.

lastly i'd like to thank my friends and family.  you all are the crazy cast of characters that made wichita so hard to leave and who i'm missing as i write this post.  i was lucky enough to surround myself with wonderfully talented people who all want to make wichita a great place, and that's what i'm missing most....

well....that and the chicken fried steak-n-eggs at the beacon.  holy cow! i had no idea a good chicken fried steak would be so hard to find here on the east coast!