Friday, October 11, 2013

Architect on the Go

Packed Bag
I recently put my briefcase on a diet.  It had to be done.  It was too big to travel well.  So this is my new one.  I'm not doing an advertisement here but it is the 15.6" Samsonite Classic Toploader computer bag. My main criteria were that it fit under the seat in front of me on the plane (I like to sit on the aisle so this space is sometimes cramped under that seat), and it had to be able to carry all my stuff.  I need my stuff when I go to meetings, whether they be cross town or cross country.  Okay, I may not need all the stuff all the time, but the Boy Scout in me likes to be prepared.  I have been gearing up for a series of trips to Oregon recently, so making sure I have everything has been on my mind.  So here it is above, in the packed position.  Never mind that it is on a soapbox.  I've used this bag a couple of times already on long trips and I have been happy with it so far.  When not air traveling, it is also working well.

Unpacked Bag
And here it is unpacked.  The following is a list of all my stuff, and believe me, it all fits.  This is not trick photography.

A.    Samsonite Classic Two Gusset 15.6 Briefcase.  Holds my laptop and all my stuff.
B.    Trace Paper.  I look for a used up roll, it fits better.
C.    Mini Optical Mouse
D.    Halo portable battery.  I haven't used it yet, but having been stranded in an airport before, I may.
E.    LED flashlight.  For looking above ceilings for fireproofing and smoke barriers.
F.    Dental floss.  Yeah, I do.
G.    Catch-all zip top bag of stuff.  Advil, Stain Stick, Band-Aid, sleeping pills (for red eyes), lens cleaner, and alcohol swaps (because you can't carry hand sanitizer on planes), and zip-ties (just because).
H.    Disposable toothbrush.
J.     Black pen.
K.    Red pens.
L.    10 foot tape measure.  I have a 25-footer in my car.  This one travels.
M.   Binder clips.  Always can hang a drawing up.
N.   Post-It Notes.  
P.    Three extra AAA batteries.
Q.   64 GB thumb drive.  I have all my music and books on tape on this thing.
R.    Business Cards in a real silver Frank Lloyd Wright holder.  Graduation gift.
S.    Leather Pencil Case.  My latest acquisition.  Holds a few valuable implements to always have.  Includes a lead holder, 0.7 mm mechanical pencil, green Sharpie pen, highlighter, lead tube with red, blue and HB leads, drafting dots and a mini-lead pointer.  This is like an architect's Swiss Army knife.
T.    6 inch architect's and engineer's scale.  They travel better, sometimes in the trace paper tube.
U.    iPhone.  With sweet Han Solo in Carbonite case.  Replaced a camera at version 4.  Missing is my charger chord...I will need that.  I think my son stole it.
V.    Leather Coach folio.  Pretty awesome gift from my mentor.
W.   Laptop.  I don't think they come any bigger.
X.    Earbuds.  Cheap because I lose them.
Y.    My wallet.  From my last trip (11 years ago) to Florence.  Holds everything.
Z.    Prescription sunglasses.  Because I have to drive the rental car when I get there.  In microfiber sack.
AA. Powerbrick.  I sometimes throw this into my roller bag (that is another episode).

So there we have it.  My portable office.  If I can, I mail sets of drawings to the site before I leave.  Way cheaper than extra baggage fees at the airport.  Full disclosure, I got the idea to do this post from a much more popular (and very good) blog "Life of an Architect" by Bob Borson.  But I thought my bag was special.  There are many like it but this one is mine.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Actor's Studio

I am not sure what it was that really bugged me when I learned of Brad Pitt’s increasing involvement in the architectural community. For some reason I was irked that he has become the face of a major redevelopment competition for the non-profit organization Make it Right. Perhaps it was because I still blamed him for dumping America’s sweetheart, Jennifer Aniston, or maybe it was for the 2 plus hours of my life he wasted when I sat through Legends of the Fall, or maybe because he has absolutely no training in design and more people listen to him than me. It likely it is the latter, and because someone like Mr. Pitt gets to use his money and influence to determine the new face of New Orleans.

It shouldn’t bother me. After all, he plunked down 5 million of his own money into the project (a good 20% of his 2007 revenue, I am told). As far back as the 1990’s I was told that Mr. Pitt liked to travel around Europe with a sketch book. This was of course was relayed to me by a young woman who really wanted to meet Mr. Pitt sketching in a piazza while we were in Rome for a semester. Later I learned that he had Frank Gehry redesign his wine cellar (titanium casks anyone?), and subsequent to that, he worked in Gehry’s office for some sort of weird, celebrity internship.

But then I started to think hard about the client-architect relationship. What would have become of Filippo Brunelleschi had he not had the Medici Family? Michelangelo had Pope Julius II. Schinkel had Adolf Hitler. Julia Morgan had William Randolph Horst. Wright had Edgar Kaufmann and Solomon Guggenheim. Gehry had the Guggenheim Foundation and Mickey Mouse. With very few exceptions (perhaps Philip Johnson is one) architects can not realize their treatise on their own dime. The early work of an architect usually only provides a glimpse into the deeper and more complex thoughts to be more prevalent later in their career. Think of the modest renovations in Oak Park for Wright or the Santa Monica Place shopping Mall for Gehry.

For whatever reason, I did not have a twinge of disdain for the above mentioned patrons of the arts (with the noticeable exception of Hitler, of course) and I am unsure of why that is. It may be my perception of the celebrities in general. Rarely do I think of celebrities, especially those in recent times, as being all that well educated, which may be unfair. While the media often picks up on the ridiculous quotes and theories of celebrities, I did discover that Mr. Pitt did start college and studied journalism, but did not graduate. The reason for his failure to complete his studies, I do not know. I do know for a fact though that the above mentioned patrons of the arts were all very opinionated and most certainly shaped the design of their commissions which meant compromises to the ideals and ideas of their architects. The designs we are left with would have been significantly different in some cases were it not for the influence of their patrons.

I guess I need to cut Mr. Pitt some slack. He is trying to do a good thing. More people should take an interest in the built environment, so why not him? I guess celebrities can be useful too, I mean, it’s not like one could ever be President of the United States or anything.