Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Dictator of the Worst Kind

I am sure all careers involve tasks that are far from exciting.  Many of those tasks surely involve paper work.  Architecture is no exception.  For me, it is writing meeting minutes.  In 20 years, I have probably written hundreds, maybe even thousands of meeting memos.  These documents record the issues discussed at meetings, obviously.  The goal is to describe what happened, who is on task to follow up, and when.  In the design phase it is usually listening to the Owner describe the program requirements, and recording decisions.  During construction, minutes can be as dry as gypsum board.  Not very glamorous, but I have spent many hours of my life dictating meeting minutes.

Dictating?  Yes.  When I started out, most people used a microcassette dictator to record their voice, essentially reading the minutes.  That’s how I did it too.  This was before your phone was your personal assistant.  A very lucky person in our clerical staff was entitled to listen to my dulcet tones for who knows how long.  We do very large projects.  Sometimes our meetings go for two days, literally.  The tapes are 60 minutes each side.  I’ve filled both sides occasionally.  You thought you had it bad.  Imagine the poor person who had to listen to me drone on for two hours.

The height of 1990's technology.  It's kind of like the thing Star Lord has in Guardians of the Galaxy, only smaller.

I don’t typically still dictate.  I will occasionally, but only if there is a good reason.  I can type reasonably well.  I have also dabbled in voice recognition software for punch listing.  Nonetheless, when someone has to listen to a tape of someone else and type along, there are bound to be hijinks.

I remember one hysterical typo that made it through spell check many years ago.  I was dictating the minutes of a meeting that involved a skilled nursing facility.  These buildings typically have serving pantries for residents’ meals.  What is it called when a word contains other words within it?  Never mind, just drop the ‘R’ from ‘PANTRIES’ and you see where I am going with this.  I caught the ‘panties’ in my proof read, thankfully.

I cannot help but to try and be somewhat creative with word choice.  I mean, you can only say ‘shall’ and ‘follow-up’ and ‘schedule’ so many times.  I blame it on growing up with an English teacher for a mother.  Just a few years ago, I was writing about a project to replace a critical cooling tower for an apartment building.  Obviously, one would endeavor to do this work in cooler weather rather than hot.  I could have said that.  Instead I said, “It was discussed that there would be no air-conditioning shut down in the throes of summer.”  I don’t know from where the term “throes of summer” came.  I was watching a lot of Game of Thrones at the time I suppose.  I thought it fit, but apparently, the person at the other end of the microcassette thought it was hilarious. 

Within a few days of me turning in that tape, I found this in my email:
My Fabio fifteen minutes.
A little while later, I found the photo taped to a bit of foam core and placed on our library shelves in the office, in the Mike’s Pick section.  Mike is our managing partner.  It stayed on the shelf until almost Christmas.  I finally checked out the book permanently before our client party.

The best seller's list...

The lesson learned is, always find passion in even the minute details of your job.

Monday, April 10, 2017


For those who may frequent architect curated blogs, it may be an easy sell that design professionals can bring an inherent value to the process of transforming spaces.  Our business is all about changes, whether we are creating a new building on a bare site, or reimagining an existing shell into a client’s new vision.  

While creating a brand new ‘something’ out of ‘nothing’ is always satisfying, the most drastic and simplistic method of comparing how the world looks without the touch of talented designers may be the ‘before and after’.  That is just the visual juxtaposition of what someone used to have, and how it was changed for the better.  Clients, regardless of their ability to visualize the built environment, can immediately get the ‘before and after’.  The more drastic the change, the easier to grasp the change.

A casual dining option 'Before' 
The same casual dining option 'After'

The above Cafe was renovated in the same footprint to update it.  We were blessed with high ceilings and an abundance of natural light.  Not only were the aesthetics changed, but the options and services were as well.  That takes a commitment from the operator to invest in both buildings and staff.

But what happens when someone's preconceptions must be changed?  Of an entire building type?

In some areas of the country, the idea of a Senior Living Environment may invoke images of rest homes.  The physical environment can reinforce this idea...or it can change your perception. There are about 2,500 Continuing Care Retirement Communities in the U.S.  Depending on where you live, the current level of acceptance of this living option may be drastically different than others.  Where I sit, there are more than a dozen non-profit retirement campuses within 20 miles.  That means that the percentage of retirees that choose this option is extremely high, so the familiarity rate is also high. This is not the case in all areas.  Many have an antiquated view of the facilities and services available to them.

Many people think of this...
...or this.  Sewing must be the activity of the day, right?

Catering to more active residents requires a change in the way services are provided to clients by the community, but may also require updated infrastructure and facilities.

Activities...before.  In the past we designed these suffleboard courts in VCT, yes.

Outdoor livin'...before.  Rocker upon rocker.

Outdoor livin'...after.  Active outdoor amenities.  Bocce, outdoor kitchen...
Roof top living amenities.

This kind of change is unrelenting.  Trends only last so long.  Years ago, all retirement facilities had several shuffleboard courts and sewing centers in their activities centers.  Now there’s bocce, and pickle ball, and water polo.  Many residents in communities still work.  Who knows what Millennials will be in to when they finally get to this stage of their lives?  I have already been involved with my fair share of renovations of my OWN work over the last two decades.  That is okay, because we should always be thinking about who will be living here tomorrow.

And don't think that changes are limited to amenities.  Communities cater to clients like they have never before.  You have dogs?  We have a dog park.  You like to garden?  We have a place for you to do that, too.  You want to customize your kitchen?  Sure!  You like to live in the buff?  We got that, err, covered?  Or is the right term uncovered?

The large glazed area in the photo center is the master shower.
View from the shower.
That's right.  This unit was custom made apartment for folks who wanted virtually no walls or doors within their unit.  The place was decked out with four electric fireplaces and four ceiling fans...and a see-through shower.

I am guessing the next folks to move in here may not like the layout, so certainly, I see change in the future.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series (led by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect ) where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is led by Lora Teagarden and is "The Architecture of Change".  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:
-->Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Architect(ure) of Change

-->Collier Ward - One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Architecture of Change

-->Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
architecture of change: #architalks

-->Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Change -- The Document Evolution

-->brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
The Architecture of Change: R/UDAT

-->Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Architecture = Change

-->Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
My Architecture of Change / Hitting Pause to Redesign My Life

-->Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@architangent)
Architecture of Change: Building a Legacy

-->Samantha R. Markham - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
3 Things I Hope Change in Architecture

-->Nisha Kandiah - ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
The art of Architecture of Change

-->Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
The Architecture of Change

-->Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks : Architecture of Change

-->Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
architecture for change

-->Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
architecture of change

-->Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Imagining the Future of Architecture

-->Rusty Long - Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Architecture of Change