Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Found this letter on the web, thought you would all enjoy it....

Dear Mr. Architect:

Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have somewhere between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted. When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of what I want. Also, bring me the cost breakdown for each configuration so that I can arbitrarily pick one.

Keep in mind that the house I ultimately choose must cost less than the one I am currently living in. Make sure, however, that you correct all the deficiencies that exist in my current house (the floor of my kitchen vibrates when I walk across it, and the walls don't have nearly enough insulation in them).

As you design, also keep in mind that I want to keep yearly maintenance costs as low as possible. This should mean the incorporation of extra-cost features like aluminum, vinyl, or composite siding. (If you choose not to specify aluminum, be prepared to explain your decision in detail.)

Please take care that modern design practices and the latest materials are used in construction of the house, as I want it to be a showplace for the most up-to-date ideas and methods. Be alerted, however, that kitchen should be designed to accommodate, among other things, my 1952 Gibson refrigerator.

To insure that you are building the correct house for our entire family, make certain that you contact each of our children, and also our in-laws. My mother-in-law will have very strong feelings about how the house should be designed, since she visits us at least once a year. Make sure that you weigh all of these options carefully and come to the right decision. I, however, retain the right to overrule any choices that you make.

Please don't bother me with small details right now. Your job is to develop the overall plans for the house: get the big picture. At this time, for example, it is not appropriate to be choosing the color of the carpet.

However, keep in mind that my wife likes blue.

Also, do not worry at this time about acquiring the resources to build the house itself. Your first priority is to develop detailed plans and specifications. Once I approve these plans, however, I would expect the house to be under roof within 48 hours.

While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind that sooner or later I will have to sell it to someone else. It therefore should have appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers. Please make sure before you finalize the plans that there is a consensus of the population in my area that they like the features this house has. I advise you to run up and look at my neighbor's house he constructed last year. We like it a great deal. It has many features that we would also like in our new home, particularly the 75-foot swimming pool. With careful engineering, I believe that you can design this into our new house without impacting the final cost.

Please prepare a complete set of blueprints. It is not necessary at this time to do the real design, since they will be used only for construction bids. Be advised, however, that you will be held accountable for any increase of construction costs as a result of later design changes.

You must be thrilled to be working on as an interesting project as this! To be able to use the latest techniques and materials and to be given such freedom in your designs is something that can't happen very often. Contact me as soon as possible with your complete ideas and plans.

PS: My wife has just told me that she disagrees with many of the instructions I've given you in this letter. As architect, it is your responsibility to resolve these differences. I have tried in the past and have been unable to accomplish this. If you can't handle this responsibility, I will have to find another architect.

PPS: Perhaps what I need is not a house at all, but a travel trailer. Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case..

Saturday, February 9, 2008

"Why couldn't you make me an architect? You know I always wanted to pretend that I was an architect!" -George Costanza

Thirty minutes? * Creating a playlist of songs in iTunes as my timer.....Vodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix? Heck I'll just play the original version twice and my thirty minutes is up!*

I know after leaving the week long intensive many of us left feeling as if we wanted to "change the world." However when we got back to our offices and the "real world" (working drawings, sections, town meetings, building officials, building codes, cranky clients, broken plotters, stale coffee) we simply didnt feel as if we were doing much to move forward in that direction. Many of us may have felt resentful towards our work. How is this 5000 sf house on the ocean really making a difference in the world, aside from reducing the number of mahogany trees in South America? I know from my own personal experience that I have felt this long before I went to Boston, but that afterwards my notions were confirmed - and now I am motivated to actually do something. So lets start with a research paper to get things going....

First, lets start off with a game.
Which one of these things is not like the other:
A. Doctor
B. Lawyer
C. Architect

Now you might say to yourself, "well all of these professions are well respected, well paying jobs. Aside from the type of work that each profession is associated with, there is really not much of a difference between these three choices. But considering this is a class on ARCHITECTURAL theory, I will have to go with the obvious answer of C."

CORRECT! But why does the architect stand out as the odd man out?

It is true that these professions, for the most part, are looked upon as well respected, well paying (I am waiting for this to prove true in my own life) and that the people involved in these professions are highly educated and concerned for overall public welfare. But is that a correct stereotype? When we look at these professions in terms of charitable work (ie. public welfare) we tend to romanticize about the doctors and the lawyers. The doctor traveling to africa to help deliver babies in an area plagued with famine and disease. The lawyer, perhaps a public defender, helping defend the poor and helpless defendants who could not afford legal advice on their own behalf. But what of the architect? It is not often that we hear of the "charitable architect." Why is that? Why are architects not looked upon as people who can change the world for the better? Perhaps it is because we as architects do not take enough time to help others who need it? We are too busy with building our careers (and our clients houses) to worry about the homeless, the poor, the underprivileged. But we as architects have the POWER and the ABILITY to help these people. We can change the face of planet, help improve peoples lives and do something positive for our communities, all while doing something that makes us feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

As architects we have the power to change how people live and the power to improve the lives of people around us. Why must this always be based on the bottom line and making money, rather than the self satisfaction and pride we receive when we do something charitable, from our hearts? Architects such as Samuel "Sambo" Mockbee, creator of the rural studio; Sinclair/Stohr, the founders of Architecture for Humanity are great examples of people/organizations that have made a conscious effort to make a change. And what is their reward? Personal satisfaction that they have done something to make a difference. Not a paycheck but rather and sense of pride that they made a difference.

I believe the internal resentment of architecture stems from the lack of satisfaction knowing that I have helped someone who actually needs my service, rather a client who acquires my service because they can afford it. I think that resentment (my own perceived) of the profession (creating for one group of people while another group is completely lacking) could be counter-balanced if time was devoted (out of charity, not forcibly) to those who can not afford our services.

I believe that through humanitarian efforts (on a local or global scale) that we as architects can make a difference in our communities. Not only will this be beneficial for the people around us, but also it will make a difference in our own lives. With "burnout" of the profession being a prevalent concern in our day-to-day lives, we must find a way to overcome the hurdle of the doldrums and perhaps doing something for others is the way to do that.

Monday, February 4, 2008

My new topic....now featuring "resentment!"

After some *cough* persuasion by Herb and a wonderful book I have been reading "Design Like You Give a Damn" I have decided to change the topic of my research paper.

As a designer I struggle with designing homes for the wealthy. I feel as if my work does not contribute anything to "the greater good." What have I done for people in need? I have only created luxury items for people who can afford it, rather than creating something for people who need it. How have I contributed to society in a positive way?

These are the issues I will be addressing in the "new and improved" research paper. Any thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

One Week Out...

I cant believe its been one week since we've all seen each other! It seems like yesterday I was overlooking the city from my desk on the 5th floor.....looking longingly across Hereford Street to the Pour House, looking forward to enjoying my frosty Sam Adams.

I hope all of you have had a nice week back at your respective homes....I cant wait to see you all in August!

Happy Saturday night!


Monday, January 21, 2008

Where am I going now?

I sit here in my kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee, my head still reeling from the week behind me. Words can not express the thoughts and feelings I have regarding last week - too many exciting, happy emotions - a fresh new look on my career, and quite frankly, my life. It was truly a life changing experience and I am looking forward to implementing all of the tools and knowledge I have gained into an actual and practical experience in the future.

Our first assignment this week was to post a blog about my thoughts and directions regarding the research paper. As many of you heard me say in class, I would like to do some research on building a "movable" house with recyclable materials (trash, things found in a landfill, etc.). The coast (on the ocean side of the cape) is eroding away - anywhere between 3.5 feet and 5.8 feet per year. Essentially the cape is getting smaller year by year.

Photo: (from boston.com)
Chatham Break - Comparison from July to August 2007 - Erosion after major storm is evident.

Photo: (from wickedlocal.com)
Houses on the outer beach are in danger of being demolished by the sea.

My concern is that houses are being built along the coastline, then years later, fall into the ocean. Is there a way to build a house that can be moved back from the coastline as it erodes away? Can this house be constructed of materials that we deem as trash - instead of filling our landfills, lets use those unwanted materials to build something new. Perhaps these houses could be constructed at a lower cost (because the materials are inexpensive) so that a person in any income bracket could afford to purchase one, not just the elite, upper class community.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Delving into Duncan....

After reading Susan Bickfords article, this article by James Duncan was a breath of fresh air! I found this article to be extremely interesting - and it made me think of the towns that I have lived in, and how this situation not only occurs in Bedford Village, but also in other small and large towns across the country.

The amount of research that was put into this article (ie. the number of "rustic" mailboxes) was fascinating to read about - and a very interesting social commentary. Seeing the statistics of alphas vs. betas in the Social Clubs or Garden Clubs was a fascinating finding. It is truely amazing how these people, although living in the same town (and are of the same socioeconomic status, race and culture) want to keep themselves separated by one another.

It was interstig to see the distaste for one another - the alphas find the betas as (for lack of a better terms) "posers." They see the betas as attempting to force upon everyone else their status - making it obvious that they have a foothold on the upper-middle class. But the alphas find this as an "imitation" of class, "easily bought into." The betas on the other hand see the alphas as "snobs" - the rich who attempt to underplay their status.

The comment that struck me was when Duncan talked about the alpha boy who did not know of anyone his age from the beta community! For such a small town, that notion, to me, is amazing! No wonder why the segregation is still occurring! The parents of the alphas and betas seem to reinforce those ideas in their children.

Overall, I thought this was an interesting article - one comment, though. I found it interesting that Duncan used "alpha" and "beta" as labels for the two main groups. It was almost as if he was subconsciously implying that the alpha group was superior to that of the beta group - simply by labeling them. I think the article might have read differently if he had used directional labels (easterners, westerners). But I suppose it is up to the reader to sift through the labels and to take the information for what it is.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Maybe Bickford was right!?

If any of you read my last blog, talking about "fear" and practically chastising my neighbor who wouldn't let her kids out to play in our *cough* troubled neighborhood - then you'll get a kick out of this....
Once again, let me remind you that we live in a quiet neighborhood (cranberry bog in back yard, wooded park with bike trail across street). Nothing ever happens in this town. Ever. The most exciting news that hit our town lately was that the PTA voted to increase school lunches by 25 cents - seriously.
I have always lived in towns like this, suburban/rurual areas in the woods - in the same type of town where nothing happens. I am completely naive as to what city life is like. I have never lived in a city (I worked in Toledo, OH for a few months, buts thats about it) I get my "understanding" of what its like living in cities and urban areas from rap songs...I have no clue what it is like to live in "fear."
Until last night.....
I had spent about 10 hours working on the Studio project and was exhausted, and I went to bed around 11:30pm (yes, I know, "lame" for a Saturday night). But at 2am I woke up to the sound of shots being fired IN MY FRONT YARD! I woke up, scared out of my mind, my husband beside me "saying what the hell?!" over the sounds of (what I thought) bullets hitting our bedroom window. Our three dogs (one of whom can hear a pin drop in China and will howl when she does) were barking and freaking out downstairs. So place yourself in my position - waking up out of a dead sleep, to the sound of gun fire, dogs barking, my hubby yelling...needless to say I was pretty scared!
After the shots were fired, and the house quieted down...Mike and I peeked out the window to see what all the commotion was about. You should have seen the two of, in our pjs, hiding behind the curtains trying to look out over the darkness....and there was nothing. Not one person. Not a car. Nothing.
We stayed at the window for about 15 minutes. I could literally hear my heart beating through my chest. "Is that a person over there in the woods?" "What the hell was that sound?" "Are the neighbors home?" When we finally tired of waiting for our assassin to emerge from the woods, we went back to bed.
We literally climbed back into bed, when suddenly we heard MORE SHOTS being aimed directly at our house! "What the hell is that?!" "What do they want from us?" My super-hero hubby sprang from the bed, rushed over to the window, and peered out into the street. "Oh damn! Its just a bunch of kids in a car shooting paintballs at our house!" And he was right. A car that had been driving up and down our street that night had taken the liberty to repaint the front of our house.
When we got up this morning we took a drive down the street - and all the houses had been hit. And we laughed together when we thought of how scary it was to wake up like that in the middle of the night! But then we thought, wow, imagine living in an area (perhaps in a city) where actual REAL bullets were fired at your home and waking up to THAT? I cant imagine the fear that some people live with. Not knowing if you're going to make it through the night in your own bed?
It makes me grateful to live in the area I do, even if we do get an occasional "drive by shooting." It also makes me consider moving to that gated community down the street...dont those speed bumps prevent drive-bys from occurring? I'd like to see those kids make a speedy getaway over those things....