Tools for the job

wrenches.jpg

“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.

Advertisements

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.

Every day is Father’s Day

2016-05-30 10.56.15-1d.jpg

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

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…