Parts & Pieces

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Exploded Eames Lounge Chair – Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI

At times, it looks as if a toy factory exploded in the living room.  If you’re the one on the receiving end of a Little Guy hand-off, walking into the chaos can be overwhelming and kind of confusing.  How is it possible that this is the result of a 17 month old ‘playing’?  Surely the haphazard, strewn about array of blocks… and cars… and foam tubes… and books… and cereal… must have been the result of some sort of toddler dance party.

But when you’re there for the process and you witness how the end result comes to be, it’s actually quite interesting – and not quite as random as it sometimes seems.

I’ve experienced this same feeling throughout my career as an Architect.  Numerous times, I’ve been handed a job for one reason or another, that was started by someone else.  Dive in. Get up to speed.  And away you go.  Often, whether expressed out loud or not, after a bit of orientation I start to wonder “What the hell were they thinking?”  How did things get to this point?  Where’s the reason?  The cause and effect?  Is this just a series of random shapes and spaces or did someone actually have a methodology behind what I am looking at?  But when you’re there for it from the beginning, it makes a little more sense.  There’s reason.  There’s process.

The other day I watched my son push a pirate ship out of the sun room, thru the dining room and into the living room.  He had preloaded it with two pirates and a polar bear (I blame climate change).  This should have had the simple result of a pirate ship ending up in the living room.  However, along the way he encountered a cup of snacks and dropped anchor to enjoy.  The snack was good – enough to share with a few mateys – so a few were dropped onto the deck boards of the ship before setting sail again.  A few clicks later, a bucket was used as a platform for the pirates to stand on, then used as a helmet for my son – who then decided that he needed a spoon to go with the bucket – which was next to the plastic fruit and vegetables so he grabbed an orange (have to keep the pirates scurvy free) and put it on the ship too.  He pulled the ship across the floor and all of the above cargo was strewn about within a matter of seconds.  The pirates made it safely to the couch.  The polar bear was lost at sea.  All of this happened in about 90 seconds.  It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but by my estimation, he’s awake for approximately 38,000 seconds a day. . . .

I knew why there was a spoon under the dining room table, why there was a smashed piece of cereal next to fake food on the floor, why a lone polar bear sat on the carpet waiting to be picked back up, and why there was a pirate ship in a bucket on the couch.  It might not make sense if you walked into it, but there was some reasoning and a process that created it.

Studio m Architecture + Design is fortunate enough to have a good, steady stream of work for the past few months – and some good conversations in the works for the future.  I’ve never felt so sure of what I was doing in my career than I have since I started my own practice, and I think it has a lot to do with being here from the beginning.  I’ve made the decisions, watched the finances, set up the structure of the company, and the projects are mine.  I start them and I finish them and the process, the reasoning, and the path that I take with each client makes sense to me because I’m the one who gets to decide what happens.  It’s very reassuring since it seems to be working too.  There are piles of parts and pieces strewn about my workspace – a stack of professional liability research and invoices, in progress marketing material, a box of receipts, and scattered sketches and notes about a few different projects.  Good luck trying to make sense of it if you were to sit in my chair. . . but I have a process. . . .

 

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Waiting to surprise – Photo by Two Sticks Studios

Today, Little Guy fell down in the living room.  It was a minor fall.  Nothing worth crying about – in fact, not a tear was shed.  But he looked over to me to see what my reaction would be – which was nothing.  Everything seemed to be ok, so he got up, walked three steps, and then glanced over to me and fell down saying “ut ohhhhh, da da”.  Still no reaction. . . still no tears.  The third time he “fell down”, I asked him if he was ok and the universe exploded, the heavens collapsed, and immediate medical attention was needed (in the form of a comforting hug and a pat on the back).  Now that he had my attention, he took full advantage.

Interesting title to this post.  To clarify, I am not offering free Architectural services, only using a few words to get some attention.  False advertising?  Smoke & mirrors?  The words “free architectural services” of course imply that there may be services. . . Architecturally based. . . that may have no cost.  This is true, I suppose, in that my firm, Studio m Architecture + Design, will meet with you for an initial job meeting (at no cost) to determine if we want to work together, but after that, we’ll go into a contract for an agreed upon fee.  Look how fast that attention grabber dissolved.

“Act now”.  “Limited time only”.  “Order in the next 10 minutes. . . . “.  “ut ohhhhh, da da”.  “The diet that could be killing you”.  “10 things your toddler is going to do and almost kill himself”.  I get product recalls sent to my inbox.  Non-organic food is going to turn everyone into a mutant.  Exercise to stay healthy.  Too much exercise will hurt you.  That water has too much oxygen in it.  Stay out of the sun.  Close the blinds.  Hide the kids.  Make everything out of Nerf. . . . . . . . .

Everybody settle down.  Pause.  Breathe deep.  Now resume.

It’s interesting seeing my son learn a little manipulation.  It’s actually pretty humorous and reassures me that he is developing.  I could sit there all day with him and keep picking him back up.  Let him run into my arms for comfort again and again.  In some ways I start to question whether I am coddling him or not, but for now, it’s just a fun game as he learns to test his world.  He’ll move past it and start working us in another way; walking away and giggling after his reward of a hug.  I start to realize that our world is filled with these tests.  Little attention grabbers here and there.  As an Architect, I’ve worked with a lot of contractors.  “We’ve got a big problem here”, I’m greeted with on the phone one day.  “Hello, <contractor>.  How are you this morning?”  The “problem” turned out to be solved with a job site visit, a quick sketch on the new drywall, and actually a price reduction to the client because our new resolution was actually more efficient than the original design.  Big problems.  Major issues.  I’ve seen people get caught in the whirlwind and join the panic and bring a few others into the chaos on the way.  Pause.  Breathe deep. . . . . now resume.

I like to pride myself in not getting caught up in too many of these manipulations.  There’s usually a solution or an answer to our problems, but if you’re stressed out and fixated on the negative, you’re going to have a hard time finding the right way to go.  If everything went perfectly, maybe life wouldn’t be as interesting.  There’s a fine line – apparently – between complacency and outright panic.  Sometimes I find I have to lean one way or the other – more so for the other person.  Nobody wants to feel unheard or minimized, and others need to be brought down a bit so that they can actually hear what you’re saying.  I don’t have all the answers and I certainly have my share of overreactions.  All things I need to work on so I can teach Little Guy how to get to tomorrow.

(Amusing side note:  As I’m about to hit “publish” on this post, my son is waking up from his nap and just threw his stuffed Mickey Mouse out of his crib.  He’s now uttering “ut ohhhhh” thru the monitor in an effort to get me to come in. . . . and I can’t wait to get there.)

Oh, also. . . Act now and “like” DesignAdad on Facebook!  Hurry!  Time is running out!!

493 lessons learned

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It’s a very arbitrary milestone, 493 days, but it’s how old our son is at this very moment.  Someone asked me the other day how old he was and I replied “Just over 16 months. . . so, a year and 4 months. . . . almost a year and a half”.  I’m not sure if he was still listening at that point, but I began to think about the randomness of milestones and markers that we assign in our lives – and the thousands and thousands of days I’ve been able to wake up in the morning to learn a few lessons along the way.

For Little Guy, we can literally see the advances that are happening every day – all 493 of them.  Today he said the word “slide” because he wanted to go on the slide again. . . . and we were kind of blown away.  It’s pretty amazing knowing that tomorrow, it will happen again.  We expect it.  We can’t wait for it.

In between trips down the slide, I’ve been working on a few projects that Studio m Architecture + Design has going on.  I’ve been fortunate that my new firm has been gaining a bit of steam and I actually have 4 active projects now including a new home and a large student housing renovation for a local University.  My days are filled with the continuous melding of toys and design drawings, playtime and office time.  It’s refreshing and reassuring knowing that it’s working.  When I need to give up designing wooden block towers in favor of designing more permanent structures thru the firm, I can very easily shift focus and get into it – thanks to the support we have in place with Little Guy.  I’m busy.  It’s go, go, go.

I start to wonder if I’m keeping up.  He’s learning something new every day.  Motor skills, ABCs, jumping up and down (both figuratively. . . . .  and even more literally when he wants something extremely important like a piece of mango or to splash around in the bath).  I’m busy, but what am I learning?  What new information do I have today that I didn’t have yesterday?  I have the resources, the contacts, and the drive to acquire new knowledge, but why is it that a 16 month old is advancing at a much faster rate than I am (I realize that he’s in a different developmental stage than I am, but why should that be an excuse?).  It’s inspirational, really, to see such advancements in his life – every day – and I don’t even know what tomorrow will bring, I just know it will be amazing.  Why don’t we have that?  Why can’t we seek out new knowledge or experience something new every day?  It could be the case that it’s literally just a decision to be made.  Can I decide that, yes, starting tomorrow. . . no, today!. . . . I will dedicate time to better myself or experience something new. . . every day?  It seems very intimidating. . . overwhelming. . . . impossible?

I have a bit of an edge.  As an Architect, I’m in a good position to constantly research a new material or building methodology.  It’s easy to get online and find. . . anything really. . . like How to learn Something New Every Day.  That will, no doubt, advance my professional life, but that could also just be considered my job.  I want to show my son the world.  I want him to experience new things.  I can teach him the things I know, but how great would it be to explore new things together; seek out knowledge that neither of us have?  What’s the best way to make a paper airplane?  That sounds like something DesignAdad should know.  I’m sure he’ll be teaching me some things as well.

 

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The Polish company Ringo produces cardboard play sets that are “durable and difficult to destroy”.  Obviously they have not spent a day with Little Guy, but nonetheless, it looks like an interesting concept.  This could be a fun toy to learn how to set up streets and city blocks. . . . or maybe just step on and reflatten. . . .

Check out Ringo

 

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