Tools for the job

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“I don’t know if we’re doing screws or wrenches.”

This past weekend, Little Man and I took half a day to get some things done around the house together.  The first was the leaky / broken shower faucet.  I never installed a shower faucet before, but thanks to the plethora of knowledge on youtube, we were educated in 10 minutes.  My 4 year old was extremely interested that there are more pieces to a faucet than just the handle that you turn to make the water come out (he was interested, I was . . . surprised, at the complexity).  By the way, a 10 minute youtube video translates to about 150 minutes when you drop pieces of the faucet into the wall. . . . ).

When I attended the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, & Planning, we eventually learned to break “design” down into parts and pieces, to the extent of the study of patterns, repetition, hierarchy, context . . . and on and on.  As a novice “designer” at the time, my first inclination was to just try and make it look good (an ultimate result, for sure).  Over time, we learned to understand what makes a design work.  We were taught what tools to use; a design language could be established (and then, of course, that you were allowed to break all of the rules. . . if you wanted to).  Without the proper tools, were we really designing anything, or were we just resolving a portion of the problem with our partial solutions?

When we took apart the faucet, WHO KNEW that there were so many pieces?  I mean, really. . . you turn a handle, it opens a valve, and water comes out, right?  Except that there were turning limiters, pressure clips, temperature controls, and volume regulators to deal with as well (I’m pretty sure I made a lot of those terms up, but I’m not a plumber).  So, we watched the video again to make sure we were making the right decisions.  In the end (and 2 trips to the store later), we had solved the problem and had a fully functional faucet again.  I would not have attempted this fairly easy fix if it hadn’t been for the descriptive video I found online.  Once we understood the parts and pieces, it was much easier to get to our end goal.

In essence, that’s what design is.  Just like you can be a great faucet fixer (like, maybe by maintaining all of your parts instead of sending them into the wall cavity), you can be a great designer. . . if you understand the components correctly.  Some will argue that design is subjective, and to an extent, I agree.  However, there are bad design decisions that can be made during the course of resolving a problem – and you might not even know that these are poor choices without understanding the parts and pieces.  Some people inherently “get it”, and that is what makes a good designer.

In our quest for the right tools for the job, Little Man literally got to try out all of the tools, even if it was just touching them to the general area of the faucet.  I believe we really only needed 3 tools, but we used about 10 or 12, relying on trial and error & explaining to each other what we thought the tool would be best for in the future (“please, please put the hammer down.  I promise you that it will not make our job easier if you slam the faucet with a hammer.).  In so many ways, we were building our toolbox for the future. . . for the next problem that we get to fix together.

I hate our house

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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):

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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?!?!

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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!

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Rear of future residence.

Every day is Father’s Day

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Every Day, I get to be a dad.

Stocks in neckties are up!  “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” sales are rising quickly.  It’s the time of year when we stop for a second to recognize some people who have put in some effort and accomplished something great.  Dads & Grads!

Every day is Father’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that we  have a “special day” to tip the hat to the guys who are doing it right, but to me it’s the same as recognizing, on a yearly basis, that my name is “Tim”.  It’s part of who I am and I don’t necessarily need a special day to point out that I’m a Dad.

Sound ungrateful?  Let me elaborate.  Yesterday, my Little Guy brought me 3 pictures of houses and buildings that he and his Papa made together.  “Daddy, these are for you because you are a Architect, you are my daddy, and because I love you lots and a lot”.  Yesterday was Father’s Day.

Last week, “Dad, I want to watch a show, play with my tablet, have some milk and a snack ANNNND, I reaaaaalllly want to hold your hand (this took a lot of planning and coordination to pull off)”.  Last week was Father’s Day.

This morning, “Dad, my favorite part of yesterday was being with you and my mama”.  Today IS Father’s Day.

Any time I get to explore something new with him, any time he looks at me and says something like “Daddy, I want you to know I love you”, any time I get to fight the pretend bad guys with him on my side… THAT’S Father’s Day.

Every day….

Today was great.  I got to spend time with my Son, my Dad, my Father In Law, and three of the best ladies in the world (Wife, Mom, MIL, of course!).  Spending time together, recognizing each other as great dads doing a great job. . . I think we’ll make tomorrow Father’s Day too!

This is Life

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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

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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?

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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?

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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”

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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

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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

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“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:

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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

Am I a Superhero?!

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Fighting monsters, bad guys, and yucky bugs!

Deep within, a secret identity has been brewing.  It’s something that I’ve been denying. . . but that I’ve always known was there.  Most super heroes get their powers from a significant moment in their lives:  being bitten by a radioactive spider, crash landing on a planet where your regular characteristics are amplified into super strength, or by wearing a green power ring (ok, that one is dumb).  Where did I get my powers, and what exactly are they?

The other day while we were brushing our teeth, Little Guy and I were talking about where different family members were and what they were doing.  “Mom’s at the hospital helping people”, he informed me.  ” I want to help people too.  I want to be a super hero.”

“So, you want to work at a hospital?”, I asked him.  “Maybe you can be a doctor.”

“No, dad.  I want to be an architect like you.”  I slowly looked up at myself in the mirror with “cool guy” squinted eyes, and gave myself a slow, knowing head nod.  I AM pretty much a super hero, providing The People with shelter and design, not letting budgets and gravity stop me from. . . .”I want to be a shark too.”  Well then. . .

Seriously though, some days I do feel like a super hero.  It doesn’t take much.  Sometimes I’m appointed to the role:  “Dad, you be the super hero, good guy and I’ll be the bad guy!”  Sometimes my ‘dad reflexes’ kick in and I somehow manage to leap into action at the right moment and catch my son out of the air (that happens all too often).  But one of the characteristics of a super hero is that they are someone who you might look up to.  Although I am not actively seeking super hero status, I have come to realize that the statement “I want to be an architect like you” carries a TON more responsibility than I initially thought.  Not because he’s actively pursuing a design degree, but because it shows that he’s looking to others as a role model.

He told his teacher that “mom is my best buddy”.  It’s cute.  It makes us smile.  But it also shows us that he’s looking up to us.  He’s putting us in positions that he respects and he’s letting us, and others, know about it.

It’s intimidating.

He’s watching.  He’s listening.  And, like a stereotypical 3 year old, he doesn’t miss a trick.  I guess this is a long winded way of realizing that I need to be a good example, but it makes me wonder what else he is absorbing.  Is it possible that he is learning and appreciating his surroundings and the built environment?  Does he “get it” that the places we inhabit are designed and can be good or bad?  Shouldn’t we be setting a good example there too?  Should our LEGO buildings meet code as well as be aesthetically pleasing?  What’s the design intent of the stretched tensile fabric living room fort?  You better follow the design drawings because you don’t know who’s watching!!

I’m not going to get into the latest edition of the International Building Code with him, and we’re not going to start researching building materials together, but there are things that we can do & learn together that will start to inform his thoughts about his surroundings: “this place feels small”, “I like being here because. . . . “.  Eventually, maybe I can teach him how to leap over tall buildings in a single bound. . . .

Architecture/Design Products:

construction-zone_nb22313_3

Oopsy Daisy Fine Art for Kids has a wide variety of art in different formats (wall decals, framed, etc.).  Some of it can get a bit pricey, but there are a lot of options for reasonable cost.  The print above, “Construction Zone” would be a great addition to any little one building their future.

Check out: Oopsy Daisy:
http://www.oopsydaisy.com/
https://www.facebook.com/oopsydaisyart

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

It’s still here!

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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

Top 10 Reasons my Son is amazing

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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.