Friday, June 15, 2018


Being an ArchiDad

Having children changes anyone.  Hopefully it does, anyway.  I know it did change me.  My wife and I were married for five years before we had children, which I think we both are glad we did.  Getting to know your spouse is quite important.  Having that time to work on your relationship before you introduce any rug rats, in our opinion, made it easier later for us.

But how did being a dad change me as an architect?  Before I get into that, it bears mentioning that my wife and I went to architecture school together.  She gets this crazy professional life.  She understands the crushing deadlines.  And even though she no longer is exactly in architecture, this life would be unbearable without a partner who understood it.  Adding children to the equation would have further complicated things.

We do all the mundane, architect-y stuff with our kids.  They had their share of building blocks and Legos growing up.  We yammer on about cool building details when we see them (and they call us nerds).  And our kids have been on more than their fair share of architectural tours.  We told the kids we are going to Niagara Falls, which of course we did.  What we didn't tell them is that we would be stopping in Buffalo for a couple days and, oh yeah, Frank Lloyd Wright has a few buildings to check out.  We went to the Smokey Mountains and, oh yeah, there's this house we need to see called Biltmore.  Now they know better, that there is at least one architecture tour per vacation.  But more so than this kind of stuff, being an architect has a lot of the same challenges to home life as other jobs, and maybe just a few unique challenges.

Just Your Typical Family Summer Vacation.

Like virtually anyone else born since the 1960's, my first encounter with an architect who was also a dad was Mr. Mike Brady.  He was the indelible family man.  Mild mannered and almost always home in that wood paneled den with shag carpet.  In this business, we can't always be home.  But luckily, we found a home that is just 2 miles from the office, so that my time is not further eaten up by a daily commute.
Yes, this is on the way to Niagara Falls, I swear.
As married couples without kids, we often came home from work for dinner "whenever".  Sometimes ate just cereal or Uncle Ben's rice.  Sometimes we ate without the company of each other.  Sometimes we had to stay until it was too late for dinner.  That changed with children.  At first, we both worked and shared cooking duties, but we ate as a family every night that it was possible.  Now, we are lucky enough to be able to live on one salary, and my wife, who is a wonderful cook, will have dinner ready at 5:00 on the dot.  This not only works for me but also for the schedules of our two, now teen aged, children.  If at all possible we eat as a family unit every night.  I am one of the first ones to leave the office in the evening in order for this to happen.  However, I often eat with the family, and return to work, sometimes within about an hour.  After dinner the kids head back to homework or practice or whatever.  But we have that hour together.

This schedule is important to us.  And it doesn't happen everyday, but the key for us is to make it the exception, not the rule, that we don't have dinner together, all four of us.  Our business requires a lot of travel.  Somehow, I got into a habit of writing a little note on a Post-It in each of their rooms the night before I leave for any overnight trips, while they're sleeping.  Now, they are an expected ritual, as if I took over where the Tooth Fairy took off.  If you've ever been overlooked by the Tooth Fairy, you know what I am talking about...

My kids almost always ask me what I did today.  There are days when I don't even want to try to explain to them the things I do in a day, but I figure if they ask, I should tell them.  As a result I don't think either one of them will pursue architecture.  I'm honest.

Having kids made me look at the balance in our lives.  Life can't be 99% work and 1% "the rest".  Before kids, that balance was difficult to strike.  Kids can have a grounding effect.  There is no getting around the fact that this business means some long hours.  So does parenting.
Sometimes it works out for them.  They got to swim in the Montreal Olympic Stadium.
In my career, I also lost my way in taking care of myself.  Over the years, bad eating habits and lack of exercise packed on the weight.  Having kids makes you think about sticking around as long as you can for them.  Last year, I made a commitment to myself (but also still for the family) to take better care of myself.  I started a better eating program and I hold two nights a week sacred for working out.  I can be flexible with the days but not with the number of days per week.  It has paid off, and after losing over fifty pounds, I essentially look at that as more time of better quality that I can spend with the three people I don't want to be without.

Cue the sappy Brady Bunch interlude music.

That is one sweet T-Square.
This post is a special Father's Day Edition of the ArchiTalks series where a group of us (architects who also blog, who are also dads) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This edition was led by Brian Paletz.  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects (and dads) are listed below and are worth checking out:

-->Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
#Archidad - A modern approach

-->Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Happy Fathers Day #archidads

-->Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
The Dad -- The Architect

-->Rusty Long - Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Life as an Archidad

-->Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

-->Larry Lucas - Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
A Daddy Architects Work Life Blur and My Escape

-->Steve Mouzon - The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
Fathers Day for Architects - The Empty Seat

-->Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
ArchiDad on Father's Day

Happy Father's Day everyone!

Sunday, June 3, 2018



Photo Credit:  Photos-Public-Domain.Com

Experience is, in my opinion, the best education of an architect.  Nothing in school can prepare you for the "real world".  That is why one of the cornerstones of our profession is an internship.  Certain experiences must be collected prior to being able to sit for the exams. That's the way it should be; for all the same reasons you don't want any doctor to treat you that hasn't had at least some experience with patients.

Nobody bothers to count the rings of a sapling that is cut down.  There's no history.  Now, an old grow log is another story.  You can tell a lot about the life of a tree by looking at the rings.  You can see the good years and the bad.  Drought or bountiful rainfall, wild fires or blight; wounds of various variety.

Photo Credit:  U.S. Forestry Serivce

Experience is how we learn from our mistakes.  Mistakes don't prevent us from growing, but they may imprint an indelible mark on our journey.

I ran a variety of projects for 20 years for my firm.  I had a good amount of success.  I also made my share of mistakes.  For most of those mistakes, I figured out how to fix them.  I didn't do it all on my own, I had a wealth of other people's experience working for me, both in the form of co-workers as well as consultants or other partners.  I will say this: I rarely made the same mistake twice. 

Now I help others in the office review their plans.  This is a job I never intended to hold, but it is one that I can do only because of the experiences I had as a project manager.  Why do I look for that extra clear space in toilet stalls if the partitions go all the way to the floor?  I had to fix that once.  Why do I double check remoteness of stair towers?  Had to fix that once.  Why do I look at combustible concealed spaces?  You get the picture.

When I first started out, I always thought that architecture was a profession for the grey haired.  There is no substitute for experience.  I am not suggesting in any way that you attempt to cut open your architect and count his or her rings.  Trust me, those trials and tribulations are there if they have the experience.

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 "Experience" and was led by Lora Teagarden.  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
experience comes from experiences

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Gaining Experience As A Young Architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
knowledge is not experience

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
That's Experience -- A Wise Investment

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You need it to get it

Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Channeling Experience: Storytelling in the Spaces We Design

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
The GC Experience

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Leah Alissa Bayer - Stoytelling LAB (@leahalissa)
Four Years In: All Experiences Are Not Created Equal (Nor Should They Be)