Monday, March 30, 2015

arts and [crafty]

architects are, and should be, crafty.

crafty in the sense that they should be clever in achieving their aims by indirect, or possibly even deceitful, methods.  now, deceitful might be going a bit far, but i love the idea of accomplishing goals indirectly.

the world needs architects, and not just in a stamped a set of drawings in get a permit kind of way.  the world needs architects so buildings are more than just four walls and a ceiling, but rather they start to take on a sense of space and become something more. a quality, which turns locations into places and boring into beautiful.  however with budgets, code requirements, zoning restrictions, short time lines and crazy deadlines sometimes beauty can be hard to achieve.  thankfully, as i mentioned, architects are crafty.  in my limited experience, i feel there are three main ways in which architects can be crafty and achieve the goal of beauty.  below are examples of craftiness in my personal life as well as professional.

using simple materials in creative ways

at my desk i would accumulate various sizes and shapes of scratch paper. hating to toss them into the recycle bin, i started practicing origami. weirdly enough, the few simple pieces i had made, inspired our office-cleaning guy to get into the game as well. soon after, i started finding better examples of origami on my desk, which i gladly kept.  i love the idea of how paper, which could have easily been tossed aside becomes something beautiful. i keep them at my desk to remind me of this.

similarly, the eames house by ray and charles eames used this idea. they used off the shelf steel parts for the structure of their house and created an icon of modern architecture. an extremely creative use of simple materials to create beauty.


growing up, my mom would save the uneaten heels of bread in our freezer.  when enough of these frozen bags had accumulated, she would take the heels and make amazing bread pudding. not only that, but the unused bags would then become my lunch bags.  as a punk 12-year-old kid i hated this, as i had to constantly answer questions from classmates on why i had brought bread for lunch. luckily as an adult i realize my mom was simply reusing the bags because it was easy, simple and saved money. oddly enough i still find myself saving these bags and heels even though i don’t make bread pudding nor take my lunch in the bags.

the house of dance of feathers was a project i worked on after college.  we rebuilt a backyard museum in the lower ninth ward, which had been destroyed by hurricane katrina.  we had a tiny budget and had to scavenge for nearly every material we used. we gathered donations from companies, salvaged old parts and equipment and reused building scrapes. we saved and used everything. we were desperate, without the luxury of a budget. we had no choice but to be crafty.


i was told as an architecture student that good proportions don’t cost any money. when you factor in the cost of materials this might not be entirely true, but it’s close. getting the height and width of a building right is priceless.  there’s a feeling you get when you walk into a well-proportioned space that just feels right.  in my young experience i’m not sure i’ve ever designed a beautifully proportioned space, but it’s always a goal. it’s a crafty way to achieve beauty in the face of restrictions.

i also use good proportions in my personal life. at 5’-10” and 200lbs i’m a stocky guy. however i’ve discovered if i wear my redwing boots, i add just a bit more height, evening out my proportions. not only do they give they give me height, but the seem to be the hipster shoe of choice, keeping me fashionable as well. arguably not spending any more money than a good pair of dress shoes and great for the job site. using craftiness to achieve beauty….

well… maybe not beauty…but at least another inch.

simple materials in creative ways, reusing materials and good proportions.

stay crafty my friends.

other architects talking about being crafty.

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect
Architects are Crafty

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture
On the Craft of Drafting: A Lament

Marica McKeel - Studio MM
Why I Love My Craft: Residential Architecture

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet
Master Your Craft - A Tale of Architecture and Beer

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect
panel craft

Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect
How to Craft an Effective Blog Post in 90 Minutes or Less

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC
Oh, you crafty!

Rosa Sheng - Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project
Which Craft?

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC
Crafty-in Architecture as a Craft

Ghost Lab

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect
Underhanded Evil Schemes

Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture

Cindy Black - Rick & Cindy Black Architects
merging architecture and craftiness

Tara Imani, AIA, CSI - Indigo Architec
 Crafting A twitter Sabbatical

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

architects and dating - a pain in the butt[tress]

lately, there have been several articles written on how "sexy it is to be an architect", or "why you should date an architect."  that’s all fine and dandy, but there are a few issues that make us an absolute pain in the ass to date.  

i’ve narrowed it down to three main factors.


we’re always looking at options.  i don’t mean in the sense we’re looking for other people to be with, although frank and lou didn’t help our reputation on that issue.  rather our head is constantly looking at realistic possibilities to various situations. last weekend, my girlfriend and i, who i’ve been dating for a year and a half, had a very serious talk about the future.  during that discussion i may have said something to the effect of,

“well if we stay together, so and so will happen and if we break up, this could happen.”

to which she rightfully asked, “ you think about us breaking up?"

naturally, i don’t, but i told her it is an option to consider.

*this did little to get me out of the hole i was digging myself

through a little more conversation and another glass of wine, i was able to explain to her why i constantly look at options.  my whole job as an architect is to look at options.  nearly everything we do is looking at different possibilities and how we might deal with them. situations like, what if code won’t allow it?  what if the project needs to expand in the future?  what if the project is over budget?  what if the material specified is unavailable?  our whole day consists of looking at different options. unfortunately, i feel this trait follows me into my personal life.  i always have the overall goal of creating a great building, or in this case a long, healthy and beautiful relationship, but you have to be prepared for the worse, even the possibility of the project getting canceled.


a trait that quickly follows looking at lots of options is the stubbornness we have when we've come to a conclusion.  i’ve been told by multiple ex-girlfriends and several close friends i get very defensive when discussing ideas.

“you state everything as though it's the only right answer!” has been said to me more times than i’d like to admit.

i blame this on the profession as well, or more specifically our schooling.  most of architecture school is preparing projects for critiques, a situation where you must defend your thinking, rationalization and design against a barrage of questions. you prepare for every angle of attack, think of every possible detail they could discuss, and most importantly, you answer those questions confidently, even if you’re unsure.  it’s not hard to imagine how this training can make you appear like a jerk when involved with anyone who starts to question why you did something.  i know personally in arguments i’ll think to myself, 

“do you honestly think i didn’t think of that already! i've already looked at all the options!” 

not the best thought to have during a discussion but one i'm sure most designers have.  this can be a bad trait to have when things get heated with anyone, but ten times worse with a fellow architect.  if you ever happen to be in a situation where two architects are in a heated argument, get yourself some popcorn and a comfortable chair because it’s going to be a show.


i’m not sure how anyone, who isn’t an architect, vacations with us. honestly, my idea of a perfect vacation is simply walking around looking at buildings, going on building tours, admiring qualities of space, or sitting in a plaza sketching.  all incredibly wonderful to me; completely boring to most everyone else.  i once forced my parents to drive an hour out of our way to see a jewel box bank designed by louis sullivan in the middle of nowhere iowa.  i was enthralled, they sat in the car, waiting for me to stop taking pictures so we could drive the hour back to the interstate and continue on our way.  thankfully they’ve now figured out my vacation agenda and let me wonder around by myself all day long eventually meeting up to enjoy dinner with them.  i would like to tell you this was a single occurrence, but i’ve recently had my girlfriends parents drive me to various buildings around boston in the dead of a new england winter so i could take pictures.  i walked around admiring the architecture in the freezing cold, while they waited in the warmth of the car and, i’m assuming, wondered who in the hell their daughter was dating.

there are various other problems such as; late nights, lack of color in wardrobe, expensive furniture taste and impossible to shop for, but in my opinion the items discussed are the top three.

that being said, it really isn't all bad to date an architect. if someone is willing to accept these qualities, or rather, if we’re able to keep them in check, we really do make great partners. for the most part, you’ll have an individual who craves culture, can be a professional while still having an artistic side, will always to try find creative ways to show their love to you and will always be down to sit and enjoy a great cup of coffee with you.

or you could simply do what our clients have figured out; pay us to listen ad be civil.