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.