Monday, April 2, 2018

What Was I Thinking?

Did you ever have one of those days in your early profession that made you second guess all of the decisions you had ever made up to that point?  I am sure every young architect has questioned his or her career path.  One day in particular comes to mind for me.  

Our office had just completed a very high-profile Seniors apartment that had received lots of awards, had gotten a lot of press in the trades, and was very high end.  It had three stories of apartments, each with a nice sized balcony.  What more could you ask for, right?

On the top level, there were several variations of balconies at that floor for the apartments.  Some were open trellises, others were covered with clear Plexiglas and some had a more traditional (solid) porch roof.  It seems that none of these options was exactly what the Client had in mind.  The residents with the solid roofs didn’t like that their balconies were darker than their neighbors', the residents without any covering didn’t like that their balconies got wet while others stayed dry, and the residents with the Plexiglas covering didn’t like that they could see debris on their roofs.  The Architect was called in to suggest some compromises.

A rendering of the Project.  Note some of the balconies are trellises, some have solid roofs.
One suggestion for the dark balconies was to paint the underside of the roof structure white instead of the dark green of the original design.  So instead of getting a painter to paint one of the balconies, an intern architect was dispatched with a knife, a box of white Foam Core sheets, a ruler, a cutting board and several tubes of Liquid Nails.  So there I was, in temperature and humidity both in the mid-90’s, on a resident's balcony. Standing on a ladder, I fitted squares of Foam Core into the coffers of the porch roof while trying to keep the sweat from burning my eyes.  I was miserable.  Having been part of a meeting prior to this exercise, I had been dressed in a coat and tie, not exactly appropriate for the task at hand.

Not only was the work undesirable, but the gracious gentleman who allowed me to enter his home and walk out on to his balcony had some memory issues.  He was also a retired military officer.  Though he was extremely accommodating when he first met me, in the time it took me to place the white Foam Core under his roof (I am guessing about two hours), he had kind of forgotten who I was.  When I reentered his living room, he didn't take kindly to me barging into his life and interrupting The Price Is Right.  I felt bad, but what could I do?  There was no other way off the third floor balcony!  I just apologized profusely and left his apartment as quickly as possible.

After I finished inserting the panels into the coffers, I was literally drenched.  My boss (and the person that assigned this task to me) was meeting elsewhere in the building, so I just found the nearest restroom and tried to dry out, wishing fiercely I had a change of clothing.  It was maybe the most uncomfortable I had ever been.  Forget hot yoga, try hot architecture.

I am told that the Liquid Nails gave way to the humidity over the summer, dropping the foam panels on the Major’s head every so often.  Days like those really made me question my sanity for entering the profession.  I am sure the Major would agree with that assessment.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series 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 "What Was I Thinking" and was led by Cormac Phalen.  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
What was I thinking?

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
WWIT -- Convenience Kills!
Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
What was I thinking?

Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
What Was I Thinking? (Learning from Your Mistakes When Starting a Business)

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
What was I thinking!

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“what was i thinking?”
Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
what were we thinking: #architalks
Mark R. LePage - EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
What Was I Thinking?
Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
What was I thinking?


  1. great story...recalls memories of early days in my career

    1. Thanks. Lee. I am sure most of us have thought "What was I thinking" at some point.

  2. Loved this post. I can totally picture it too! Thanks for sharing. Best, Merls