All in the Details

Or lack thereof

Lately I have found myself grousing to other architects, contractors, my husband – well basically anybody – about how much I am missing drawing details.

Many moons ago, when I was but a wee intern, projects never reached a contractor without the detailing worked out. I can remember one of my first tasks was to pick up redlines on a sheet of door details. Door details? People really need those?

But now? Clients seem more interested in getting the price they want than having completed drawings. Perhaps as we’ve moved away more and more from hand drawings and into computer modeling, people do not feel the need. If you’ve drawn it in 3D, how many details do you really need?

I can recall the contractDOOR DTLSor on the very first project I was a part of commenting that he had not seen a set of drawings with that many details. Just the cabinet detailing alone occupied six or seven sheets. However, I cannot recall the last time I drew a cabinet section for a project.

Not that we need to. Instead of detailed shop drawings coming from the millwork shop, we get whatever elevations and plans the shop’s CNC software produces. And somehow, we’re supposed to review and approve what’s being built based on just that.

Maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy. But I did tell one of the contractors I work with that the next set would have everything worked out before he even thought about starting construction. Cabinet section. Door details. Moulding profiles. Everything right there on the sheets for everyone to see.

And hopefully someone will actually look at them.


Trekking South

And not of the sci-fi variety

I think we’re getting old.

For the last five years, we’ve been heading to Key West the week after Christmas to spend some time in the sun, wind down the year, and get ready for the next.

Isn’t that something old people do?

Not that I would call us snowbirds as we’re only there for a week. And this was the first year where it was significantly colder in Texas than in Florida.

But this was the first year we were asked by everyone if our trip was still on. “Is Key West okay?”

After the hurricane, we watched like so many others to see what had happened in the Keys. What you saw of course was the devastation in Marathon.

Not that Key West didn’t have some issues. Trees down. Power out. Minor flooding.

Yet by the time we arrived (and even before), the cruise ships were dropping off hordes of people to wander Duval Street. Which means hearing an amazing array of languages passing you by as people headed to the Southernmost Point.

We did notice some shops and galleries from the past had gone away. And some new ones taking up residence. Another candy shop opened on Duval. Disastrous for those of us with a sweet tooth. (Good news for my dentist!)

And the hurricane certainly didn’t affect Christmas or New Year’s at all. La te da Guest House had the full-on Christmas display going, as did a lot of the houses around the island.

Subtle, isn’t it?

And the big red pump was ready to drop Sushi on New Year’s Eve like clockwork.

So the snowbirds were able to do the usual. Eat, drink, and sleep. Then rinse and repeat.

And of course, make our reservations for next year.

Me or My Ego?

When you’re not sure who’s bruised more

I would like to say I was graceful. Or that I looked like I was carrying out something slapstick from Three Stooges. Except I can’t.

After 20 years on the job and countless site visits, I finally had my first work injury Thanksgiving week. And it was about as ridiculous as you would expect it to be.

Walking across a floor comprised mostly of joists, I stepped off. Not intentionally. As I quickly discovered, the end of the board someone had laid down as a path didn’t quite reach the next joist.



No blood lost or stitches required. No feet dangling through sheetrock ceiling. Only the job super there to see it.


Trying to figure out how to get my foot off the board – now sticking up in the air – without having the end swing back up and hit me in the nether regions. Trying to gracefully extricate myself from the crawlspace. And did I mention that the job super was there to see it?

Mind you, I did end up with quite the bruised shin. Or at least kind of a bruised shin. While I was expecting my lower left leg to be black and blue, all I got was a little discoloration and swelling. Here I was feeling so butch with my work injury and that’s the best I could do?

Not that it didn’t hurt and is only now feeling close to healed. And not that I’m not grateful that it wasn’t something far worse. (On one high rise project we had to take the stairs up while they held the elevator for a framer who shot a nail into his kneecap.)

I just expected to be the one more bruised. Not my ego.

And We’re Back!

So much for regularly scheduled programming..

For anyone who has figured out how to blog weekly, much less daily, then kudos to you! And can you tell me how to do it?

For the past few months I’ve been telling myself I needed to write a post. Write a post. WRITE A POST!

But that didn’t really work. With all the other normal architect things happening (construction , documents for another client, and trying to work out an addition on a site with an angled property line) I found myself pushing off any writing. Besides, I was frantically prepping to speak in Virginia. Wasn’t that enough writing?

Which means here we are in December with me finally taking a breath to think about what to write. And what not to write. I even had an incident the week of Thanksgiving that I thought would make a great post.

So I would say hang on to your hats, but I don’t know many people who wear hats anymore. Hang on to your man-bun perhaps?

The Big Gay Architect is off to the races. And this time he’ll try not to wait so long between posts!

Twenty Years On

For some reason, time and milestones have been on my mind a lot lately. Some would say this is some sort of “mid-life crisis” thing given that I turned 49 a few months ago. But I swear I had my mid-life crisis back when I was 17. Or perhaps that was just a teen angst type of event.

No matter. I have been really cognizant of time, starting with my one-year work anniversary in July. And coming around on January 1st, the ten-year anniversary of the firm I helped start in 2008.

But what I’ve been most aware of lately is today’s date. August 18th. Because today marks 20 years working in architecture. Twenty years.

When I decided a thousand years ago to quit my job and finish my architecture degree, I wasn’t thinking about architecture becoming my career. I just wanted to finish my degree so I could do something I enjoyed; something I was interested in.

Yet here we are. And I have a career.

How did that happen?

I think of my father, who spent 37 years working for Bell Helicopter, and in my time growing up I never thought of him as having a career. He had a job.  Because that’s what his generation did. You found a job, and you stayed with that job until you retired.

And I can count on one hand the number of firms I’ve worked for, including my own.

By contrast, the intern I’ve been mentoring has had two jobs in the last four years. I know that’s becoming the norm, for the younger generation to move jobs every two to three years.

But when their twentieth year rolls around, will they look back and see that time as a career? Or will they simply think of architecture as just another job that they’ll leave again in a few years to go on to the next?

Either way, I hope they enjoy their time as much as I’ve enjoyed mine. And look back and not regret the path they’ve taken.

Of course, by then, they’ll be on their way to 50. And wondering where all that time went.

LEED Platinum My Hiney!

And no, this has nothing to do with my rear end

I currently office (when did that become a verb?) in a building that is LEED Platinum certified.

Well somebody spank me! Not only is the building LEED certified. But it’s Platinum. You want to touch me, right?

While I’m sure that would be just lovely, I will be the first to tell you that in spite of the giant plaque on the wall, this building couldn’t possibly be LEED certified. Or if it was, the certification lasted for about 10 minutes.

Then someone turned the air on.

Swing by here any time of the bIMG_2770usiness day, and you can watch two doors in the main lobby open and almost close on a continual basis. And when I say almost close, I mean just that. The outer door will almost shut, then the inner door pops open and the cycle starts again.

The air conditioning system is so out of balance that the doors only really close on the weekend when the magnetic locks kick in. And even then it’s only the outer door. The inner door still swings open, seemingly sad that his friend on the outside won’t join in the fun.

And I will refrain from discussing the loud whistling sound on the weekend as the air forces itself out between the gaps in the doors.

I wish I could remember when sustainability and certification became a thing. I do remember the firm that shared space with my old firm (I almost said “officed” – again, a verb?) had become one of the top – if not the top – firms in LEED consulting. And that was a big thing.

And I do remember having conversations with clients about sustainability and how we could make their projects “green.” At least until they saw the cost.

Writer Thomas Friedman commented in his keynote at the AIA conference in 2011 that architects need to get away from the idea of green building as a novelty. We’ve become so focused on sustainability and LEED buildings as a promotable concept instead of simply including green design in the normal course of our work.

Instead we encourage the idea of sustainable design as a badge of honor. “Our office? Oh, it’s LEED certified.”

Sort of.

That Was Fast!

Now what?

I remember being told as a kid that the older you get the faster time goes. Like every kid I thought “What a crock!” Especially as we got closer and closer to summer vacation.

But today marks a year since I left my partners at HPD Architecture.

And it’s gone by like that!

For some reason, I’ve been expecting to have some epiphany or reaction to the fact that a year has passed. Yet as I sit here and write, I’m realizing that isn’t coming.

It’s been a year. There have been good moments and bad moments. And everything in between.

Do I feel better? Yes. I’ve stopped stress eating, and I go to the gym. Which means I’ve lost weight. I find that I sleep better as well.

Do I regret leaving? No. Leaving was probably the best thing I could have done from both a mental and physical health perspective. Should I have left sooner? Probably. But woulda shoulda coulda.

Do I regret the 8-1/2 years with HPD? Not at all. The experience was invaluable, not just for what I learned about the business of architecture but what I learned about myself. I can safely say I’m not the person or the architect I was in 2008.

My perspective on architecture has changed. How I deal with clients has changed. I’m involved in my community – both personal and professional. I’m speaking at conferences. I’m involved with AIA National.

Am I doing what I had planned on or expected? No. I hadn’t expected to start another practice as I was planning my departure. However, fate intervened, and I decided the best option was to just go with it. When fate gives you the finger…

People talk about how great it is to be your own boss. And that does have its moments. I think what’s been best (and perhaps here is the epiphany) is feeling I only need to answer to myself. I’m not busy juggling everyone else’s business and/or drama. If something doesn’t get done or doesn’t happen, the buck stops with me. And I have control of that.

So a year has passed.

Now where the hell did the time go?