Not the land of make-believe
This month’s theme is “Building” at my son’s preschool. They are building with blocks, deciding what does and doesn’t work as a building material, and creating “all sorts of buildings” according to Little Guy. I also have a project in the framing stage that just happens to be about a minute from the school. So, after I collect him from his day, we swing by the job site and, depending on what is going on, we stop by and check on things.
“It’s like a real house.” This may very well be some of the most complimentary Architectural critique that I’ve ever received. I certainly hope my clients feel the same way! But there was much more behind the seemingly obvious observation. It is, in fact, a real house…or at least on its way to being one. “What do you mean?”, I asked him. He told me that “First it was just words. Then it was on your papers and it was just pretend. Now it’s just like a real house that we are in.”
Yes. Yes it is.
We proceeded to make our way in and around the newly framed walls that just barely define the different spaces on the first floor. I showed him the kitchen and explained where the sink would be. “This is where the oven goes. Over here will be the fridge.” “That sure is a big kitchen, huh, Dad?” Down the hallway, into the bathroom where he asked where the sink would go and proceeded to “pssshhhhhhh, wash his hands.” “What will this be? Is this a window? Do you have to jump out the front door? (the grade outside hasn’t been finalized yet).” It was truly amazing and extremely fulfilling to answer his questions about what exactly was going on in the skeleton of space we made our way thru.
“I like it.”, he let me know when we got back in the car, and I’m sure I smiled ear to ear. “Dad, where does everyone sleep?” We had not been able to visit the 3 bedrooms upstairs because…well, they didn’t exist yet! He said he can’t wait until the stairs get built.
It was, indeed, “just pretend” at one point. The design process does start with “just words” when the initial flood of ideas, the wants and needs of the client, all come out. There’s budget and timing and there’s sometimes things that people know they want, and know they can’t afford. There’s managing expectations, determining the level of my involvement in the process, and of course, making sure that the most important people (the ones paying for and living in the house, of course) remain connected and engaged during the process. And we haven’t even started yet.
Little Guy and I review drawings together. We look at “pretend” spaces and attempt to identify them. “What kind of room might this be? It has a big table in it with lots of chairs. This is a door. This is a window.” We test questions like “Why can’t the cars park on the roof? Why should the playroom be on the opposite end of the house from Dad’s office? (some answers are more obvious to me than they are to him…)” I like to think that he is absorbing all of this, and I’m sure he is, but at the moment, it’s just us having fun talking about what I do; showing him how spaces can be designed beforehand, and aren’t just the result of someone nailing a bunch of boards together.
This, of course, can apply to any number of things we encounter in our daily life. Things can be designed. We can design them. I hope to instill in him the idea that we don’t have to just accept things for what they are. We can think about how we want things to be. . . and make it that way, or at least experiment a little bit and make stuff up for the fun of it. It’s something that happens in the Architectural profession all of the time. We have ideas competitions, or hypothetical design solutions for non-existent projects. It sharpens the pencil, sharpens the mind, and maybe results in some ideas we may not have thought of otherwise. Sounds exactly like something we should be doing with our Children!
The LEGO Architecture book came out last year. It’s a story and visual guide to the LEGO Architecture products that I’ve highlighted in the past. Another product that may be more for Dad than for Little Guy, but as he gets older. . . we’ll see!