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.

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

 

Because I Do

IMG_20150902_111624287_HDR-a.jpg

“I’m extremely frustrated.”  It’s a short sentence that says a lot.  I’ve been pursuing a few job leads that haven’t amounted to anything yet and the jobs I am working on have seemed to become just a little more difficult.  Except, it’s not me that said that sentence.

Little Guy is making the rounds as a new three year old (always hold up 3 fingers when you tell people you are three because. . . then they will get it).  He’s exploring and explaining every single thing that’s around him and it’s all really amazing  (and often a very amusing process) to be a part of.  And of course, every once in a while, a toddler will get extremely frustrated.  I’m just surprised that he could tell me that.

I asked him how he knew those words and he replied, “Because I do.”

How do you know that song?  “Because I do.”
How did you remember where the coffee aisle is?  “Because I do.”
How did you know how to change the oil in the car? . . . . well. . . we’ll get there. . .

There’s an endless feed of information coming across his world view, and I’m pretty sure he’s taking it all in and saving for later.  If you press him a bit, you can get it out of him.  “We sing that song in school”, or “This is where we got coffee last time.”  But it doesn’t matter how he knows those things, it matters that he knows them.

Sometimes I can get away with that during the day too.  At Studio m Architecture + Design, I’m constantly reviewing projects for code, aesthetic, & overall thoroughness.  How do I know how much clearance is needed in and around an ADA restroom?  Because I do.  I don’t expect clients to “get into it” with me and start questioning why I know that or what events lead up to today so that I can solve the problem without looking in a code book (although I would be more than happy to do that).  I make decisions because I’m a professional and I have years of experience and lots of opinions about how things should be.

We put our trust in people who “know things” every day.  You get on the train in the morning and the people operating it know what they’re doing.  Why?  Because they do.  I think.  Well, there’s obviously a system in place that will make sure that the right people are there so that I don’t have to worry about it. . . right?  Probably?  I mean, you know, the National. . . Train. . . Drivers. . . Association. . . NTDA, right?  I know I have a few expensive pieces of paper in the drawer that represent people who are basically saying, “Yeah, he does.  He knows things.”

So, somewhere along the way, we stop taking someone’s word for it (and that’s a good thing).  How do you know that that block tower is going to stand?  “Because I do.”  Hey, you’re right!  Good job.

How do you know that I can take this wall away and my building won’t fall down?  Well . . . . . It’ll work, but we’re going to have to consult a Structural Engineer and once we have his calculations, I’ll design everything according to his recommendations (he’s licensed too).  Once we have everything coordinated, we’ll size the final structural members that will replace the wall.  All of the drawings will, of course, be signed and sealed and additional drawings will be included to detail how exactly everything will look when we’re finished.  Don’t believe me?  No worries.  The drawings are then sent to the local jurisdiction for review and permitting. . . although some of those people use 3rd party specialized review services to ensure proper review of the design.  THEN, you can get your wall removed. . . well. . . by someone who is licensed to do it, and after he’s finished, we’ll all go back and make sure it’s right.

So, my advice to Little Guy?  Keep reading.  Keep learning.  I’ll take your word for it most of the time, but when you start to “know” things like that you can land in the pool by jumping off the roof. . . . don’t be surprised if I start questioning your knowledge.  It’s nothing personal.  I just know that you might need a little help along the way. . . because I do.

 

Architecture/Design Products:

8415

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has a store with lots of Wright inspired products.  I’m coming full circle back to FLW.  Every college architecture student gets flooded with “falling water” related material because he’s basically the only Architect that most people have ever heard of.  But there’s a reason for that.

The Prairie House Blocks are really nice and capture the long, horizontal lines that define the style.  These look a little smaller than typical blocks, so check to make sure they’re not too small.  This is one of those toys that could be for the budding designer. . . . or maybe for dad. . . .

Check out:
http://www.shopwright.org/product/blocks-prairie-house/blocks
http://www.flwright.org/

Visit:
www.studioM-ad.com
www.facebook.com/designadad

It’s still here!

IMG_20150831_071709488
Wake up!

“I have a blog”.  I keep it updated and current, and once in a while I let it slip for a bit of time – like maybe 17 months give or take a few days.  A few comments from friends over the past week have pointed me back here.  “Don’t you have a dad blog?”, “What ever happened to those ‘articles’ you used to write?”, and “I guess you don’t blog anymore, huh?”

So, I came back to take a look, dusted the cobwebs off a few posts, read some of my ‘articles’, and I quickly realized that I missed it!  Why did I ever abandon Design-a-Dad?!  I need to get back on this!  I’m going to post something right. . . . (phone rings – detailed, hour long contractor question & answer seeking ensues. . . . ).  Oh yeah.

I can’t complain. . . or at least I shouldn’t.  My ‘one man show’, Studio m Architecture + Design, is doing well.  At any given time (including right now) I have several things in the design stages and construction phase that I should be working on.  When that’s not happening, Little Guy is patiently waiting (or at least. . . waiting) to do lots of fun stuff with me, and is smart enough to say things like “you can work later” to lay the groundwork for a little guilt that I’m “on the ‘puter”.

So, that’s it:  I’m busy.  That’s my excuse for not posting.  Welcome to parenthood, right?  “You didn’t come to the Halloween party last week” (I was trick or treating).  “We need to grab a drink tomorrow night” (I was driving to a client meeting an hour away).  “Come on, Dad, let’s play ‘Paw Patrol'” (OK!).  As much as I love my job, and I love my Son. . . I am tuning into the fact that I need some little outlets here and there.  I’m not talking about going on a week long self realization retreat in the desert. . . but maybe a little break now and then to do some of the things that I like to do.

And here we go . . you have to take a first step, and that’s what this post is all about.  Next up is the James Bond movie. . . and yes, I do want to grab that drink!  Hopefully I can maintain a little time for me.  We shall see (Now back to reviewing bids for our new home build in the Spring. . . . .I’m fulfilling the role of G.C.  How much time could that require????).

Architecture/Design Products:

fantastic_cities_1

This book was featured by the American Institute of Architects recently and, although I have not purchased it yet, I think it’s going to be a hit with Little Guy.  Let’s face it though, it may be a little intricate for a 3 year old (unless it’s appropriate to color everything one color in a circular pattern).  I see something like this and I think of cool things I can do with it.  It could be interesting to give him a page every 6 months and have him color it.  Over time, I would have a progressive timeline of his coloring abilities. . . all on an architectural based graphic which might be cool in a series of frames for the office.

Check out Fantastic Cities.

Visit:
www.studioM-ad.com
www.facebook.com/designadad

Designing A Dad

IMG_3206

What do you say when you see a horse for the first time?  “Hi.”

I have the great fortune to be able to experience my second Father’s Day.  The past year has brought so many monumental changes to my life.  I’ve finally stopped messing around and got my Architecture license, I’ve started my own practice, and every day has brought us a few steps closer to breaking ground on our new home.  I have a few ongoing and new design projects and am so fortunate that Studio m Architecture + Design is a success so far.

All of that is great.

Amid all of this planning for the future and looking forward and preparing for what is next, the most successful aspect of the past year is the shift in my thinking about my time with my son.  Before I started working on my own, my time with Little Guy, as it is with most fathers, was limited to nights and weekends.  Maybe, if I was lucky enough, he would wake up before I left the house, but even then it was just a quick good bye without him even realizing what was going on.  This is the norm.  This is how it is.

Unless you change it.

I Realize that I am one of the lucky ones.  I know that I am one of the few who gets to dictate their own schedule.  We can’t all own our own business and adjust our lives as necessary.  It just wouldn’t work that way.  I’m not suggesting that everyone else is doing it wrong.  There is sacrifice too.  There are more and more nights that I am awake at 2 o’clock in the morning getting work done, paying bills, drafting contracts and a thousand other things that I can’t get done during the day.  It’s a trade off.  It’s balance.

What I get in return for my efforts is that I learn to be the dad that my son wants.  With the amount of time we get to spend together, I see firsthand what works.  What makes him laugh?  What makes him upset?  How can I be the best dad I can be?  Easy.  Know my son.  Not just play with him or feed him or drive him around. . . . but actually KNOW him.  The time I get to spend with him is time that he gets to let me know who he wants me to be (even if sometimes I have to be the guy who lays down the law too).  He gets to teach me while I’m teaching him.

Do the worlds collide?  Absolutely – if you want to look at it that way.  Last week I sent out a design presentation on a potential job that I am looking at.  Of course, the next day I spent the majority of my 9 to 5 with my son, so when the developer called, I had an 18 month old running circles around me while I sat on the floor spinning to keep up.  Option one:  voicemail.  Option two: stick Little Guy somewhere safe and hope he only screams a little bit until I get off the phone.  The unfortunate decision here is ‘who am I putting first?’  If I let the call go to voicemail, it’s obviously saying that my son comes first and work can wait.  If I tie my son to a chair so I can take a call without interruption, it’s because this job is important to me and I need to remain ‘professional’ during work hours.  I want both. . . so Option three was to answer the call and let my client know that today is a day with my son, but that I didn’t want to miss his call.  He’s cool with it, my son doesn’t feel abandoned, and I get to keep my life in balance.  Everyone who I work with knows that I am, at any given time, potentially with my son.  That’s why they have emails sent at 2 AM waiting for them when they get to work.  This is time that I won’t get back if I let it go.

The past year has taught me to continuously pursue this balance.  It’s not easy at times.  There are still meetings that need to exist without a child in sight.  There are still times when the phone just needs to be turned off.  Although I very much look forward to what tomorrow brings, I try my hardest to stay in today.  Enjoy the Now.  Live in the moment when I am with my son as much as I can.  Hopefully he will learn to recognize how important the time together really is.

 

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there!  No matter how you’re doing it, make sure to enjoy the minutes. . . because they do run out.

 

Visit:
www.studioM-ad.com
www.facebook.com/designadad

Parts & Pieces

Image

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. . . .

 

Visit:
www.studioM-ad.com
www.facebook.com/designadad

 

 

Free Architectural Services!

6O4A8295

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!!

Top 10 Reasons my Son is amazing

Image

You will hear it again and again how incredible peoples’ kids are.  They are much more advanced than they should be for their age.  It’s unbelievable that they can already do this one thing that nobody else in the world could do at that age!  And if, like mine, your facebook friends are an ever increasing pool of people who are contributing to the world’s population, you have a front row seat to it all.

There are infinite “cute” pics that fill my screen – lots of the kiddos sitting there chewing on something – a few of them holding something they shouldn’t be – lots of them dressed in clothes that they couldn’t care less about.  Although a picture’s worth a thousand words, maybe sometimes we need to know why you think so.  So, here is why I think that my son actually IS amazing:

1. Mind Control
Little Guy is lucky enough to have been born with the power of mind control.  I didn’t realize it at first.  I thought that maybe we were all just getting to know him better and anticipating his wants and needs.  Not the case.  At 13 months old, he can already direct me to do things he wants me to do without me even thinking about it.  Just the other night – in a comatose state – I rose from my bed, changed his diaper, and returned to my resting position without even realizing what had happened.

2. Eccentric Food Critic
Although he has not developed a British accent yet, Little Guy has already perfected the “don’t bite your tongue” approach to judging food – in both presentation and in taste.  Some reality TV cooking shows have taught us that sometimes, the brutal truth is what the aspiring chef needs to motivate them properly.  In “spot on” impressions of Gordon Ramsay, plates are tossed across the dining area, food is spit out, and frustrated but determined cooks head back into the kitchen in an effort to continuously please.

3. Male model
I cannot complete a shopping trip without a slew of googly-eyed ladies swarming my son.  I’m not kidding.  Babies are cute, for sure, but I believe that Little Guy has been sneaking out at night to watch Jake Gyllenhaal movies while listening to Michael Buble – all the while studying their every move to assist with his own crooning efforts.  We are in trouble. . . .

4. Passion for Life
How do you wake up in the morning?  Do you get up, get excited, and stand up in your bed jumping up and down in anticipation of the day?  Do you laugh and smile when someone opens the bedroom door to take you from your cozy bed?  Can you hardly wait to see what the day will bring?  He does.  Maybe we should too. 

5. Thirst for Knowledge
I’ve never seen anyone become enthralled with a credit card.  Some of them are pretty cool, don’t get me wrong.  I customized mine with some of my photography, but they are still just mundane pieces of plastic – to me.  After swiping my payment method the other day, a little, grasping, flexing hand reached over in a silent ask to inspect the item I was holding.  It was either a credit card or a rare, newly discovered artifact that had only just now been experienced for the first time by humans.  Amazing, indeed.

6. Slight of Hand Magician
Like David Blaine, Little Guy leaves people standing there in awe asking, ‘What just happened?’, or ‘Where did that go?!”  With the quickest movement, something that was just in his hand one second ago is gone.  Divert your eyes for an instant, and he’s across the room.  Amazing, scary, and absolutely keeps you on your toes.  A true entertainer.  Does anyone have a dollar bill or a cell phone I could borrow?  Don’t worry. . . . you’ll get it back. . . .

7. Cold Hard Self Control
There is a quality that James Bond, 007 has that shines when he is held captive.  Despite the evil villain’s best efforts to get him to break, the secret spy can endure hours of uncomfortable situations all while keeping his cool and still managing to deal out witty remarks.  Likewise, my son can push the same button over and over and over again listening to the same sound or quirky song again and again and again.  Sometimes he’ll look me in the eyes and without flinching, just when I think it is over, he pushes it again.

8. Stamina, Tenacity, and Perseverance
Sometimes, despite my best efforts, there is nothing I can do to stop the drive and effort that this kid puts forth.  He wants to go over there and he wants to go over there right now.  Nothing will distract him.  Nothing will divert his attention.  There is one goal and one goal only.  He will also enroll me in helping him get there.  Nothing will stop him and you had better not try.

9. Conditioned, Determined Triathlete
Not exactly “swim, bike, run”, but more like “climb, climb, climb”.  Little Guy will crawl right over you if you’re in the way.  Up the stairs, thru the chairs, over the cushions. . . there’s always a leg being thrown up in an attempt to rise above.  Most of the obstacles are taller than he is – doesn’t matter.  I don’t know how many things per day I attempt to get over that are as high as my shoulders.  He attempts them all.

10. Instant forgiveness
Sit him in the playpen for 2 seconds or take away the deadly weapon that he’s chewing on and you will definitely get an earful from Little Guy.  How COULD you!?  But bygones are bygones, and as long as you are up for it, he’ll gladly hang out and play some more once the worst part of the day is over.  At the end of the day, all is right again.

Building your Baby – Guidelines for Success

Image
“Build a Baby Kit” – ACME Archives Direct

I’ve heard many business owners refer to their creation as “their baby”, in relation to the amount of time and effort and care that goes into creating and maintaining its existence.  I’m fortunate enough to be nurturing two babies at the moment – my Little Guy and Studio m Architecture + Design.  Both need lots of attention.  Both of them bring me great joy.  Both of them have the potential to bring wonderful things into my life.

I’ve poured over approximately 4.2 billion books, articles, forums, blogs, videos, and legal documents about my babies.  Some of the information is helpful.  Most of it is gibberish.  I’ve distilled some of my new knowledge down into a few points.  You decide what baby they apply to!

1. The first steps are the toughest – hang in there.
You will never be fully prepared ahead of time.  Something will happen that feels like you’ve been thrown off course and maybe aren’t ready.  What were you thinking?!  You’re probably going to mess it up. . . and you believe it.  It’s happening.  Step up.

2. Things may go to s#!t.  It’s what you do next that matters most.
Despite your best efforts, some things are out of your control.  The inevitable will happen and make things more difficult – and that stinks.  Each time, you learn to accommodate and become more efficient.  Deal with what you’ve been given, and try your best to make the change.

3. Make sure to set the tone early so that you have something to live by.
Rules are made to be broken, but if you don’t have them, you won’t have anything to gauge the progress.  Decide what is important to you and stick to it.  It may be the foundation for the future.  You’re allowed to change the rules.

4. Every day will bring something new to deal with.
Prepare all you want, but you have no idea what you’re going to be dealing with tomorrow.  Welcome it.  Learn from it.  You’ll find that you’re slowly building your toolbox to deal with anything that comes along.

5. Don’t underestimate how much time it will consume.
Seriously. . . . . don’t.

6. Expect some negotiations to break down.
Sometimes holding your ground works.  Sometimes it just makes things way worse.  Pick your battles.  The ones you pick, you still might lose.

7. Nobody will care as much as you do.
It’s true.  When you go to sleep at night, you try your best, but sometimes everything ends up in bed with you whether you want it to or not.

Who is this guy? A new identity emerges

Image
“The Son of Man” by Mike Stimpson

This morning was one of those days when you look up and think “Who is this guy?!”. . . . twice.

Little Guy is fast approaching 13 months old and will be at a nice age for the holiday season.  He’s beginning to show excitement for different things, remembers what to do with various items (comb goes on my head, socks go on these feet, and if I touch that thing over there, everyone will freak the hell out).  After we had our morning ritual of looking out the window to see the day (there’s snow today!), played with a few toys while listening to new music (this morning was Christmas Jazz), and ate some fruit and oatmeal, Little Guy walked over to the steps, turned around, and reached out his hand with a summoning “Daaad” so that I would come over and assist him with the climb. . . . then nodded his head in excitement as I started to make my way toward him.

Who is that guy?

After the “hand off” so I could get to work, I sat down, made a priority list, and dug in.  Time management is paramount with the new business Studio m Architecture + Design.  Snap your fingers and I am now a business owner with a laundry list of things to do (including. . . literally. . .  the actual laundry) to make sure I am starting off the right way with the business while maintaining the role of Dad at home.  Spring into action, sit down, bang out some drawings, and I can take a break to write a blog post if I get enough finished.  I have a proposal to write.  I wonder what we’re going to make Little Guy for lunch today.  There’s some consulting info that I need to reach out for.  Is the Holiday Train coming tonight or tomorrow?  There are 3 draft emails that need to go out today no matter what.  Oh, and I started running again – and I love it.  Pause. . . breathe. . . and we’re back.

What just happened?  Who are these new identities that have very mischievously emerged as we built our block towers and formed our new companies?  Don’t misread what I am saying, this is not a complaint.  The “hustle and bustle”, the changes, the transformation really, that both Little Guy and I have (and are going) through is not a bad thing.  It’s just very interesting to realize it as it is actually happening – and the realization may actually assist with the process.  We are changing as people and if I see it and if I know it, then I can react to it and make sure that the good things, the desirable traits and habits, don’t change too.

Who are these guys?

Although it’s been over a year since our son joined us on our journey, my wife and I still look at each other and say things like “we’re a family”, or “we have a son”, in a kind of amazed, sudden realization.  Actually, we take turns being amazed while the other is thinking “Yes, that’s great, now could you please figure out how to feed him without it looking like a food explosion just occurred. . . and change his diaper while you’re thinking!”.  I didn’t know that is what they meant when they said “The only thing that’s constant is change!”

 

Architecture/Design Products:

Image

A good friend of mine recently gave my son these cool foam blocks by Edushape for his birthday.  (Side note: this morning he was actually sorting the blocks by color – which I thought was a fluke until I messed them all up and he did it again!).  He has been all over these blocks (my son, not my friend) since he got them and absolutely loves knocking over the architectural masterpieces that I create for him.  Perfect gift for an Architect’s son.  Edushape – My Soft World-City 

Where to begin – a search for work

With the new company up and running, the conversation quickly turns to “Now what?”  Up until now, I have been operating under a direct cause and effect mode of operation.

I should have a business plan or some goals – done.
I need to form an LLC – hire a lawyer.
I need a website – build a website (www.studioM-ad.com).
Business cards, bank accounts, software – check, check, check.
I need some work. . . . . . . hmmmm. . . . .

You can absolutely make the case that this last item does have its own cause and effect relationship.  Marketing, word of mouth, donating time:  all of these things will, no doubt either directly or indirectly, lead to work, but aren’t necessarily energizing those new bank accounts that were so easy to open up.  Some days I already question whether or not I should have taken “the leap” – not in defeat – I think that’s just the way it goes.  It takes time to get things moving.

In the DesignAdad spirit, I have found some design projects to keep me busy!  Last week, Little Guy and I broke ground and immediately cut the ribbon on the LRCC project (that’s the Living Room Chair Castle in case you were not aware).  The completed project captures the constant draw to venture under the dining room table with the safety of a tensile fabric roof to alleviate potential head trauma on the previously referenced table.  Unfortunately, plans to demolish the structure were immediately carried out as dinner was being served.

20131111_121540a

But what am I really looking for?  Although LRCC may be a bit on the “smaller side” of projects, it is the definitely the case that I am more able to handle the smaller now that I have my own firm.  I hear it often that ” I can’t afford an Architect”.  It’s all relative, but the chances are that I can take a look at your home renovation or maybe have some advice for your small modification.  I’m also willing to expand the job!  Just because I own my own firm doesn’t mean I’m looking to create the next architectural monument.  Architectural consulting (to other firms), drafting, shop drawings, peer review – all viable sources of work.  Ego aside, I’m here to work and spend time with my family.  The big projects are out there.  I welcome them.  But I realize that there are a lot of people out there who just need some help.

About Studio m Architecture + Design

Of course I am looking for larger projects as well.  I am fortunate enough to have worked in all aspects of many different project types over the years and that gives me the advantage of being to handle larger projects on my own.  It’s unfortunate that some professionals get categorized within a very narrow realm of responsibility while working for a firm.  Luckily I was able to gather a wide array of experience.

So, the “Now what?” is here!  Let me know how I can help you.  In the meantime, I will be exploring the qualities of the various fortbuilding materials that Little Guy and I find around the house.  Maybe we’ll venture into cardboard next….

Architecture/Design Products:

fort

I have not purchased this product yet, but if you’re looking to step up your fort making, this may be the way to go.  I’m sure there is an ongoing global Architectural debate about maintaining the integrity and the spirit of the home fort and utilizing local materials from the living room may be the way to go.  However, the only thing that is constant is change.  I support both the old school way of thinking and the new wave kit of parts.  www.crazyforts.com

Visit:
www.studioM-ad.com
www.facebook.com/designadad

First Steps

Things have been quiet for a while. . . . in terms of blog posts anyway.

In order to get anywhere, you need to take the first step.  It could be absolutely terrifying when you realize there is not anyone there to hold you up anymore.  Sometimes, just that realization makes you fall.

Take Little Guy, for example.  He recently took his first steps. . . 4 in a row to be exact, and the sudden realization that nobody was holding on anymore squashed all hopes of step 5 (although it was probably his mother’s shreek of excitement that knocked him over!).

And like I often do, I’m following in his “footsteps” and taking some first steps of my own.  In September, I left my position of Associate at the firm and I have been working on getting things up and running with my own practice.  Every bit as terrifying when you see that nobody is holding on.  And where are we going?  “Taking steps” implies that you are going somewhere, right?  There’s got to be a goal, of course, or what’s the point?

I don’t think Little Guy has a goal other than to just keep going.  He was fine when he was rolling over.  Even better when he started crawling (a whole new world opened up!).  And now, with this new, quicker mode of transportation, there’s sure to be a ton of more things to get into.  How fun (and how terrifying in itself. . . )!

My “goals” related to this new business are quite. . . unique. . . for a business.  The catalyst for the whole thing was actually my son!  Now, I know that starting and running a business will take some time – probably more time than I was spending at the firm I left. . . but it will be my time on my terms.  There were increasing days when I missed my son – leaving the house before he woke and getting back when he was asleep – and it killed me.  So, the business goals:

1:  See my family more (already a success.  I’ve seen my son every day so far).
2:  Keep doing what I love to do.
3:  Get paid for it.

I’m still working on #3. . . . .

Honestly, that’s it.  Of course with each project I will have goals and milestones that are related to bettering the Client’s business, growth, etc., but I love what I do for a living and I love my family. . . and as a true Libra. . . I demand balance.

And we keep on walking!  Little Guy is finding his own balance (ha!) and starting to get confident.  I’ve been getting a good response from starting the company and hopefully things continue to move the right way!

Away we go!

For more information about Studio m Architecture + Design, visit www.studiom-ad.com.

m-logo-sm

Technologically Classical

Image

As Little Guy continues to grow, I find myself in a constant mental struggle related to the type of interaction we impress upon him.  I’m drawn to the “Traditional” toys like blocks and other wooden toys.  I think of the stereotypical toys like the bubble lawn mower and the wooden puzzle and the rubber mallet work bench, and I imagine that he NEEDS these things in order to facilitate a proper childhood.  Who DOESN’T have green army men as they move past the beginning stages of school-age?

On the other hand, there is the constant beckoning of the modern toys:  The USB fed stuffed puppy dog, the baby friendly apps for my smartphone, and the endless array of computer screen based learning tools that would no doubt propel my non-walking child into the realm of tech-savvy computer genius by the age of 2.

The same “dilemma” exists in the Architectural profession.  There is a desirable image of “The Architect”, pencil in hand, roughing out a quick sketch/masterpiece that results in a frameable piece of art that can be hung on the wall after the project is finished.  On the other hand, as a profession, we’ve come to rely on the digital representation of space more and more.  There are less models and more computer rendered images; less freehand sketches and more hardline CAD drawings.  For good reason too:  it’s so much easier to update a 3D model than to rebuild a wooden one.

As with most of our lives. . . it’s all about balance.  I believe in the traditional/classic aspects of both the items in my child’s life as well as in Architectural representation (although I will admit that I don’t utilize these methods enough in my day to day).  I also cannot imagine turning away from the “new way” of doing things.  I feel as if I would be cheating Little Guy out of experience and knowledge of how the “new things” work.  He bangs on the keyboard and sees results.  He taps on my phone and sees it light up.  There’s no doubt that there is a new kind of learning happening here.  And the computer is absolutely the way to go with what I do day to day with design.  No doubt there are hours, no. . . days, saved with using these modern tools. . . but I crave the classic touch as well.

So, I imagine that as time passes, I’ll continue to attempt to blend these two worlds.  It may be the case that Little Guy is talking about how “they used to still make things out of wood when I was a kid”, or “I can’t believe that you used to have to plug things in”.  Until then, I’ll keep trying to be retro cool while also portraying my Mr. Tech persona.

Try, Try again. . .

ref_07

It’s true that most endeavors are not successful on the first attempt.  I’m currently enjoying (a.k.a. “downing”) my 3rd cup of Starbucks coffee this morning due to the fact that Little Guy decided that last night would be the best time to explore what 3:00 AM to 5:30 AM looked like. . . and by “explore” I mean “scream at”.

My wife and I took turns heading into the battlefield, kind of giving each other a nod to say “good luck in there” as we sleepily passed each other in the hallway outside his door.  “Don’t pick him up”, the Doctor warned us.  “Comfort him, let him know he’s not alone, but do not pick him up.”  That lasts about an hour.  Maybe I should give the Doc’s house a call at 4:00 AM and see what he thinks then. . .

Rocking, humming, patting, comforting, changing, checking the room temperature. . . endless attempts to make it right, and 2 hours into it, the simple statement, “Maybe he’s hungry” changed everything.  1 bottle, 20 minutes later and the universe had righted itself.

How could we be so ignorant?  JUST THIS WEEK we had visited the Doctor and relayed to him the increasing instances of interrupted sleep.  “Maybe he’s hungry”, he said.  Maybe we should have written that down.

The whole process is not too dissimilar from solving a design problem (including the coffee requirements and, sometimes, the time on the clock).  It’s great to claim to have all of the answers to every question, the solutions to every problem, and the perfect design for every project.  There’s this stereotypical image of an Architect (bow tie optional) that involves a controlled process of very smartly applying lines to paper in a perfect manner in order to solve an overly complicated problem.  “I think this will work for you”, is muttered as the sheet is handed over to the client.  Light pours off the page and illuminates the face of the bewildered and amazed recipient of the drawing. . . . it’s perfect.

Not the case.

In fact, more often than not, the design process is a chaotic and haphazard one.  What about this?  No, maybe THIS!?  Wait a second. . . try this.  In most cases, the sketch that “works” ends up causing all sorts of havoc when you actually try to make it work.  Move this.  Slide that.  Make that bigger.  No, too big.  It all sometimes ends in frustration.  You’ve just spent all of this time working this out and you’re at the same place that you started.  Not true.  You now know what doesn’t work. . . and that can be the most important information you can have.

“Maybe he’s hungry”.  New direction.  Fresh start.  Successful results.  But everything before that didn’t work gets mentally filed away for next time. . . . maybe for 3:00 AM.

 

Find Designadad on Facebook!

 

Architecture/Design products:

Item1129.jpg_large

 

I recently purchased these blocks made by Elegant Baby.   So far they’re a success.  I’m always looking for something for Little Guy to build with or stack. . . or bang together.  These work well and have a classic feel mixed with a modern touch of graphics.

Milestones – inch by inch

Little Guy and I have been making some significant strides in our lives – and not in one fell swoop either (We both celebrated with some bottles too!).  We’ve decided that it’s time to start moving, and for him that meant literally. . . moving.  For me it meant really focusing in on my Architect Registration Exam (ARE) that I mentioned in a previous post.

It took every second of screaming into the floor for him to realize that it’s actually ok to exist on your belly.  Likewise, I had been screaming into the “Structural Systems” study guides that have forever been my arch-nemesis.  But we both discovered that you have to take that first little step to get it all started (or in my case: to get started – again). 

Once he realized that you can go places on your belly, everything clicked into place.  Why reach for something when you can crawl there?  Why not roll there??  Why not sit up once you get there??!  It’s been amazing to see the little moves and the intricate coordination that has been developing over the past few weeks.  This Little Guy who at one point needed his mom and dad to hold his head up is now barrel rolling across the floor, laughing, drooling, and grunting the whole way.  Every day he’s one inch closer to finding his legs and running out the front door!

Little by little I’ve been studying for my last exam.  There are 7 of them and I had six down.  The last one is arguably the most difficult depending on an individual’s strengths.  It was very frustrating sometimes – looking at formulas to calculate bolt strengths and stresses within steel beams – knowing full well that I will never actually calculate these things in the “real world” (that’s why an entire profession called “Structural Engineering” exists)!  So, I took it like I knew I could handle it.  One little portion at a time I studied and perfected a piece of this puzzle until I felt comfortable enough to take the exam.

The day that he first crawled, we weren’t entirely sure that it actually happened.  I mean, he DID move in a direction, it WAS kind of a crawl, and he COULD actually repeat it.  After a while though it sunk in that this was really happening and that his efforts had paid off.  He was officially a “crawler” (something that I have since learned that some babies skip altogether). 

After I sat for my last exam, I walked out a little defeated.  “If I failed this exam”, I thought, “I don’t know what I will do.”  This wasn’t a moment of despair, it was just a realization that I had studied so much and so hard that – if I did fail – I literally didn’t know what else I would do to prepare.  About a billion weeks later, I heard from my wife who had just opened some interesting mail from the State Licensing Board.  Just like Little Guy, my efforts had paid off, and I am now an official Licensed Architect (well, once even MORE paperwork goes thru. . . . . ).

Little steps. . . big results.

 

Architecture/design products:

Image

When he started grasping items and lifting them, I immediately started thinking about buying him blocks to stack.  First of all, you would assume that finding blocks in the infinite array of stores available would be easy (ha).  When I did find blocks, they were wooden and painted – something that I originally thought was ideal.  I wanted a nice, classic, iconic set of blocks.

But not for a baby who has two new teeth.  After reading reviews on blocks (yes. . . . I actually read reviews on wooden blocks. . . . ), I ended up buying the “Squeeze & Stack Block Set” from Infantino.  I really like that he won’t end up with wood shards in his mouth and they are extremely easy to clean – soft, squeezable, and BPA free.  He absolutely loves them (and especially likes knocking down the towers that I try to construct in front of him. . . a true design critic at heart!).