I hate our house

new render front.jpg

Front of future residence.

I’ve often mentioned the fact that my wife and I are planning on building our home soon.  It’s been a long process getting to get started on construction – which is not any easier because of the fact that the firm has been so successful.  What’s the saying?  “The cobbler’s children have no shoes”?  That’s me.  I keep telling my wife that our house would be finished by now if she just hired me and paid me!

We’re really happy with the way the house is turning out.  It has gone thru several redesigns based on aesthetics or cost.  I think we landed on something that balances the budget, the overall look & feel of the design, the function of the interior, and works well on the property that we own. We’re feeling like this might be our house!

Well…2 out of 3 isn’t bad, I suppose.  Little Guy clued me in on some info I didn’t have before.  “I hate our house”.

 

OK.  Well…back to the drawing board????

Previous to this comment,  we had been reviewing drawings for a commercial building that I am working on.  We determined that the roofs were “crooked” for a reason.  “The rain will slide off, and you can go sleigh riding off the roof on to the ground when it snows”.  *Flash forward to a trip to the ER in the next few years.

That’s true.  They only needed to be “a little crooked” because we don’t get a TON of snow in our area and the structure of the building is made of “metal”.  But what if you got a lot of snow?  What should the building look like then? (google image search “Switzerland house roof” to the rescue):

2_Swiss_Stockli.jpg

We talked a lot about why the pitch of the structure was so important and how snow would more easily slide off a roof like this.  We also dove into the economy of structure and the WHAT’S THAT?!?!

underground-home-vals-switzerland-mountain-house-2.jpg

Thanks, Google.  So now we are looking into underground houses…that I imagine are probably also in Switzerland, and THIS is the house that he wants us to build.  Not our house that we have been slaving away at, and finally have a design that works, and finally have contractors working on to give us construction numbers on.  No, not the house that works for us, works with the grade of the land, and that will be our “forever house”.  He wants an underground house. . . . and that’s it.  He hates our house.

Yea!

To learn more about how I can design homes for your family that your kids will hate, contact Studio m Architecture + Design!

new render rear.jpg

Rear of future residence.

Advertisements

This is Life

Picture 231.jpg

Bring it on!

Very frequently, I’ve said that the primary reason for this blog is to just do something else once in a while.  It’s a necessity, sometimes, to break away and just be somewhere else…or do something different.

So, here we are.  I “should be” doing about 10 OTHER things besides writing a blog post.  I SHOULD BE getting a client presentation finished.  I SHOULD BE reviewing the drawings that were sent to me today from a consulting engineer.  I should be working, billing, cleaning, mowing, working out, researching, organizing, learning…I should be doing these things.

So, I poured a scotch and opened up the blog…because with everything going on at the moment…I “should be” insane.

All good things.  Seriously.  I am extremely busy at my firm, Studio m Architecture + Design.  The phone keeps ringing, and it’s not primarily telemarketers anymore, so that’s a good milestone to track.  Lots of work, the firm is a success, and I still get to do what I love to do.

“I just want to be with you”.  Little Guy has been so patient with me.  In my endless late nights and my increasing time with a laptop in front of me, he has remained my little intern.  “Can I come in your room with you?”, he asks.  I tell him I have to work (again), and he tells me , “That’s ok.  I just want to be with you.  You can work and I’ll read a book or play with my tablet.”  And he does.  He sits patiently, frequently checking in with me to see if I am done yet so that we can go play soccer or build with Lego, or just be together.

 

He truly keeps me centered.  It’s so easy to kind of spiral off out of control when you are inundated (ask my wife how I get sometimes).  It’s the little things that keep me going:  a quick robot dance, a private showing of a new lego airplane design, or the gift of a Batman sticker are so vital to my existence sometimes.  When I start to feel like I’m drowning, he’s right there to help me out (whether he knows it or not).

Back to work!

Coffee Break

2016-04-04 16.21.21-1

Time to refuel

For multiple reasons, I (like most people) require coffee to get me thru the day.  Sometimes it’s precisely prepared and enjoyed, two hands grasping the cup as I contemplate the view out the window.  Other times, it’s a pre-ordered sprint into “the mermaid” (Starbucks) to grab some fuel on the way to a meeting.

But sometimes. . . it’s something else.  On occasion I get to make a visit to “the mermaid”, or “the place with the cookies” (a local shop) because Little Guy and I are driving back from preschool and we want to take a little break before we head home.  We select our drinks, maybe a snack, and after we sit down he usually kicks it off with a default, “so. . . how was your day, dada?”  It’s important time that I very much look forward to.

Caffeine, in it’s own way, is medicine to me.  Since I was a teenager, I have suffered from migraines and have sought out remedies and diagnosis from a multitude of doctors.  In the end, it turns out that increasing my daily intake of caffeine has had incredible effect on my life.  Once a week migraines have dissipated to one every few weeks. . . or so.  And the intensity of the event has been greatly reduced.  Medicine, indeed.

But my weekly visit to “the mermaid” (Starbucks is also referred to as “the place with the cake pops”) with my son is its own sort of medicine.  After a day of being on the phone, in meetings, writing emails, invoicing, drafting contracts, and. . . oh, right. . . getting the actual work done, our little side trip becomes a welcome pause in the day; a necessary break from owning and operating my own business.  It’s similar to running. . . or to the existence of this blog.  I don’t necessarily think I “have time” for these things. . . . but they are so necessary to prevent myself from burning out.

For him, he selects his drink, places it on the counter, and says “thank you” to the cashier.  Very much the way he learned to talk (by watching us and trying it out for himself), he is learning how to interact with people in public.  Be nice.  Wait your turn.  Say thank you.  Throw your trash away so that someone else doesn’t have to (this, apparently only applies to being in public. . . not necessarily to being at home, for some reason).

Most people have their own methodology.  Meditation, reading, exercise.  I’ve found that clearing my mind for a while really helps me re-focus on projects that I have running through the firm.  Since I have a ready, willing, and able 3 year old, who’s willing to share the details of his day (and who is genuinely interested in mine), why not optimize this time and benefit from it in multiple ways?  While breaking away for a bit, I get to connect with my son and dose myself with a little caffeinated medicine.  What started as a rushed, scattered routine has become a vital piece to both of our schedules.

Is that designed?

1400 Monroe BLDG 2 elev e revised 02-23-2016.jpg

A local, semi-abandoned shopping center/strip mall has recently been slated to become a “professional plaza”, and the look and feel of the existing buildings needs some work.  Studio m Architecture + Design has been lucky enough to have been chosen to liven up the place a bit.

Some may say that “it is what it is” and just assume that a strip mall is a strip mall. . . no matter how you dress it up.  I look at a building like this, which has good “bones” (solid structure, block walls), and see it as a fantastic opportunity to really start to look at the materials and colors in an effort to make the place more desirable to tenants, but without spending a ton of my client’s budget.

My son’s first question is, “Will it be designed?”  “Design” is a new word for him, and he is using it more and more.  He’s telling me things like “I think that’s like…designed”, which in most cases means that he likes it.  He asks me a lot about what I am doing, and often, my response is an explanation about how I am designing a new house or that I am working on a design for a new office building or restaurant.  I always immediately follow up with a question to him:  “What do you think?”

6 years of Architecture school and 16 years of working in the field have helped me learn how to utilize the response that comes from any critique of my work.  “It’s nice”, might sound like it’s desirable feedback, but other than finding out that someone doesn’t absolutely hate what I’ve done, that comment usually isn’t too useful.  “I think it looks like a stick building”, he said, obviously responding to the elevation (above) that is 200’+ long.

He’s kind of right.  As a response to the building that is there now, I chose to utilize linear materials to emphasize the “horizontality” of the building (there’s also a term, frequently used in the design world, called “post-rationalization”, which in a case like this, means that I found some material that I want to use, used it, and then came up with a “reason why” I used it . . . which honestly is only because I think metal panel cladding will look cool).

So my next task is to determine if “looking like a stick building” is a good thing or a bad thing.  I am already thinking of a few ways to break up the upper canopy over the sidewalk; maybe with color, maybe with some “up and down” or some “in and out” that will start to break up the 200′ long surface.  I will redesign it and see if it looks better or worse than its current “stick” form.

Some Architects will disagree with me, but design critique and input doesn’t have to come from an educated design professional.  If someone walks by a building and thinks “I like this”, isn’t THAT a success in some respect?

I’ve always tried to operate with the mantra, “How could this be better?”  There is always a better way to do something, but finding the balance of effort, time, budget, & literally just getting the job done, can be difficult sometimes.  I can sit a redesign a project forever, each time coming up with a “better” solution than the time before.  I would love to get paid for that:  endless ideas, unlimited budget. . . but clients tend to want their projects built and don’t have bottomless checking accounts.  “Design” becomes the successful balance of all of these factors, not necessarily just the look of the building.

As we drive around, he asks, “Is that designed, Dad?”, pointing to a building.  Sometimes, my ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is enough.  I know that, at the moment, his interpretation of design is the aesthetic of something, and that’s ok.  I’ll wait a few years before imposing budgetary restrictions and timetables on his LEGO buildings!

In the building above, I think that so far we’ve reached a good balance of the factors.  Until it’s built, we’ll continue to tweak the look & the numbers while keeping an eye on how much time is passing.  Hopefully a successful effort for everyone.

Who decides if I know what I’m doing?

IMG_20151029_072457.jpg

I know that I’ve always wanted to be an Architect and a Dad.  I don’t remember asking to be a business owner or a parent.

Being a Dad is easy!  In fact, my wife did most of the work to grant me the title.  As soon as I held my son in my arms, I was a Dad.  Anyone can be a Dad. . . well, half of us, anyway.   I love being a dad.  Dad’s get to know things like the names of all of the new cartoon characters and they get to decide that maybe it’s not too late for ice cream.  Being a Parent is much harder.  Parents have to know things like “how many teaspoons of medicine”, and “what’s the weight limit on the car seat”.  A Dad crashes in the bed after roughhousing.  A Parent lies awake wondering if they’ve done everything right.

I see the same dichotomy in my professional life.  I love being an Architect.  Architects get to work with people & come up with ideas that solve problems.  Architects get to be creative and make the spaces and places we inhabit.  Business owners have insurance and pay taxes, and have to make sure there’s a “next job” on the way.  An Architect falls asleep thinking about how to make your building work (or maybe stays awake designing it).  A business owner lies down and stares at the ceiling, worrying about cash flow.

I’m realizing that I’m attempting two of the more difficult ventures in my life so far. . . at the same time.  Don’t misunderstand this as “regret”, because these are also two of the things that bring me joy in my life.  And, “difficult” is a relative term, of course.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have chosen these opportunities for myself.  As a parent, I’m supposed to be invested in the choices I make.  The same goes for running a business.

On occasion, I am so confident that I have no idea what the hell I am doing.  How should I know what the long term effects of “timeout” are?  Is standing too close to the television REALLY that bad?  It’s just light!  Is this REALLY the best way to keep track of expenses and billing for the firm?  I went to design school, not expenses and billing school!

How will I ever know if I’m doing any of this right?!

“My family makes me happy.”

“I absolutely love the way my new place turned out.”

I suppose that sometimes, you just keep doing what you know is best. . . and the reassurance presents itself…

“Always Be Safety”

IMG_20150926_130140545a.jpg

Keeping people safe is serious business.

Yesterday, my 3 year old invented automated sprinkler systems.

OK, let’s back up a little bit.  As early as the 15th Century, people recognized the need for a quick, automated response to a fire.  In fact, Leonardo Da Vinci even developed a kitchen system that would help extinguish an oven fire. . . which flooded the fire and the entire kitchen, ruined all the food, and ended the Duke of Milan’s dinner party. . . so you could say it worked.  The sprinkler system as we know it today, really got its start in the early 1800’s.

Over time, systems have obviously become more sophisticated.  In addition to this form of “active fire protection” (meaning that there is a system literally attempting to extinguish a fire), there have been various means and methods developed to promote “passive fire protection” (contain fires & slow the spread of them) and “fire prevention” (eliminate causes of fire & educate occupants).  All three systems work together within a building to, first and foremost, protect the occupants of the building.  Saving the building, if it happens, is a bonus.

Many conversations with my son start with me asking him “What do you want to talk about?”  Some of those conversations investigate the minutia of which super heroes are the best ones (Batman, because he’s “just a guy”,  and Spiderman “because I said so”).  Sometimes we dive into the details of “Where does the mailman get the mail from?”

Yesterday, he asked me “what did you do today?”  So I told him.  It’s hit or miss with these conversations because he really doesn’t know what he’s getting into.  Sometimes, he cuts me off and asks me if I want to play, and yes, of course I do.  I thought he’d never ask!  Other times, though, he listens.  He doesn’t just let me talk. . . he really listens and turns it into a conversation.  I started talking about 2 separate projects that I worked on yesterday, both related to fire protection & safety within existing buildings.  Each has it’s own solution, but each serves the purpose of protecting the occupants inside.  I push the details with him. . . let him know, first of all, WHY people need to be protected.  If you have a “house” (residential occupancy) above an “office” (business/mercantile occupancy), you need to make sure that those spaces are protected from each other.  When people are at work, they’re not home.  When people are at home, they’re not at work.  So if there is a fire in the office at night, everyone is sleeping, and they won’t be safe. . . unless we make them safe.

“Can the fireman come and spray water and make it rain on the building?”  Yes.  Yes they can.  But, they have to drive there first and it might take a couple minutes.  The people still need to be safe until the firemen get there.  According to the rules (the 2009 International Building Code), we have to build our buildings to make sure they are safe, and we have to use materials that stop the fire (passive fire protection).  Sometimes, using the right materials between the office and the house is enough.  At this point, we got into a long back and forth listing things that catch on fire easily, and things that don’t . . . I think this lasted 3 or 4 hours (or at least felt like it).

And then my 3 year old invented the sprinkler system.  “Dad, if there’s a fire in the peoples’ house, they should turn on the rain shower and make it rain INSIDE the building until the fireman gets there (“rain shower” is what we call the shower in the bathroom so it’s more fun).”  I asked him what if the people are sleeping, or what if the fire is not in the bathroom.  “Maybe we can make a building with rain showers everywhere and they turn on by themselves, like when we wash our hands at Wegmans (they have motion activated faucets in the restroom that, of course, we have to try 4,000 times every time we go there – sorry, Wegmans).”

He’s right.  Although, to my knowledge, motion activated sprinkler systems have not yet been installed in any building. . . ever. . . that would be a potential solution . . . for about the first 10 minutes until they went off.  But, together, we came up with a better solution that involves detecting the smoke and the heat before spraying the water everywhere.

Sprinkler systems are expensive, and not all buildings require them.  It’s really an assessment of the type of construction, the nature of the occupants inside, and the size of the spaces.  There are many, many other factors that come into play as well, and every building is different.  You can rely on your friendly, neighborhood Architect to help guide you thru the process!

This morning, we got in the car and drove away, on our way to school.  A few seconds down the road an audible “ding, ding, ding” filled the car.  “Daaaaaaad, you forgot your seat belt!  Put it on so that you’re safety!”  I put it on and quickly changed the conversation before he invented the airbag. . . . . . . .

Pretend Architecture

IMG_20151116_082353604
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!

 

Architecture/Design Products:

book

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!

Check out:
LEGO Architecture book
LEGO Architecture Series 
Visit:
www.studioM-ad.com
www.facebook.com/designadad