Friday, July 29, 2011

Green Beans

Maintaining direction during a meeting may be one of the most challenging tasks we as architects have, especially during presentations to the residents of the community whose lives our work will affect.

The most dramatic “left turn” I can remember occurred during a presentation to residents of a community for a proposed aquatic and fitness center.  All the normal issues about number of lanes, water temperature, fitness equipment and the like came up, and as usual, no one agreed completely on any of them.  One man in particular was an avid swimmer and was the most vocal during the meeting.  Then, out of the blue, this man begins to talk about food service, which was not part of the program of this fitness center.  It only got worse.

I will never forget the next words out of his mouth, “what are you going to do about my green beans, because they are always mushy!”  Had it not been for his sensible wife and her pointy elbow, I don’t know if we ever would have gotten out of there.  “They’re architects, not cooks!” she scolded him.

People are such an unpredictable species.  To try and steer them in the right direction is not always easy, because a pointy elbow is not always handy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ella's Laundry

I received a round of applause the other day.  It was just out of the blue.  Ella, who runs the laundry at Landis Homes and has been there for 23 years, wanted to show me her new facilities since they have moved into them.  It’s nothing fancy at all:  they have painted block walls, exposed plank ceilings, and painted concrete floors.  The floor to ceiling height is about 8’-0”, so all of the piping and ductwork is exposed as well. 

What she and her staff were so excited about were the nine windows they got.  Their previous location was in a basement with no windows.  They so desperately wanted daylight, that they had me put in two small windows into an areaway that gets just minimal indirect light.  But since she and her staff once went five years without any of them taking a single sick day, they were to get what they wanted.  And most of the ladies who work in the laundry ride their bikes to work, even in the snow!

So Ella introduced me to the staff as the person responsible for giving them their windows.  Ella explained to me that the first shift starts at 3 AM, and the highlight of their day is to watch the sunrise though their windows that look across the pond and the farmland in the background.

As we preach to our other clients the importance of daylight and connections to nature, we can all take a lesson from Ella at the Landis Homes laundry.  She gets it.

(Photo Credit - Gregg Scott)