Morning on the Serengeti

Just Part of the Herd

For the last 5 months, I’ve been dragging myself out of bed at 5:00 so I can be at the gym by 5:30. (Okay. Not every day. But most days. And certainly not during our cruise.) Never in a million years did I think I’d be doing that. My last trainer would be astounded since I refused to do cardio when we worked together!

However, after two years of stress eating, something had to be done. I looked like I’d been stung by the world’s largest bee.

Now every (most) morning(s) I hop on the treadmill and walk for 30 minutes. That’s right. I walk. I don’t run. I don’t ever see myself running unless being chased by a clown with an ax. And even then I’d have to think about it.

But I do walk. Yet inevitably, I find myself surrounded by people who run. Most of whom don’t even warm up. They just hop on the treadmill at that god-awful hour and crank it up.

And I start getting that feeling.

You know the feeling. Like you’re the wounded zebra in one of those nature specials that everyone knows is going to be picked clean, and all around you are gazelles. The only thing missing is the lion chasing you and that annoying British announcer.

My favorite gazelles are the ones who hop on the treadmill and don’t really make noise. Like they’re kind of floating above the treadmill somehow just lightly tapping the surface with their feet.

Unlike me, who when I run do in fact sound like that wounded zebra. Clopping along. Desperate to keep up. Like I’m about to pound my way through the treadmill.  Wheezing like an asthmatic freight train.

Nevertheless, there I am. Almost every morning. Joining the rest of the herd. Looking out across the Serengeti.

And keeping my ears open for a British accent.

Farewell to the Land of Hot Engineers

I’m not kidding.

When I left my practice nearly a year ago – and holy crap! where did the time go? – another architect offered me a home in the office he was sharing with friends.

Now here I am getting ready to head to a new office with a new group of people. And I’m realizing that the people who were his friends have now become my friends, and that I’m going to miss many things.

Miss watching the two accountants running around during tax season, trying to get everything filed and telling some pretty catty stories in the process. Miss being able to pop my head into the therapist’s office for the occasional mental health check.

And miss having the accountants’ assistant make me laugh by asking me to feel her leg. I guarantee you I’m not getting that at the new office. And if I do, the leg is bound to be a lot hairier.

However, there’s something I think I’ll miss even more:

Working in the land of hot engineers.

You heard that correctly.

Hot. Engineers. Two words I’d never in my life think of putting together.

When I think of engineers, I don’t picture hot. I picture ill-fitting pants. Glasses. Pocket protectors. I picture the structural engineer I met one year with enough hair in his ears to make me wonder if he was part werewolf.

Yet within the large engineering firm that shares our floor, I keep bumping into unexpected treats that no one ever told me about.

Did I miss something in college? The engineering building was right next door to the architecture school. Were these guys wandering around and I just never noticed? Is this what I missed by spending late nights hunched over a drafting table? And why have I never been asked to feel one of their legs?

So as I get settled into the new digs, perhaps I’ll find an excuse to pop over once in a while. Say hi to everyone. Get caught up on the latest gossip. Feel a leg.

And if luck is with me, catch a fleeting glimpse of a hot engineer.

Just Me?

Not really but…

I’m the only gay architect in Dallas.

For years, I’ve made that comment even though I know it’s not true. Just based on the law of averages. But also because I do know one or two others.

However, after 20 years in the industry, it still feels that way, primarily because we are not recognized within the architecture community. You have groups like Women in Architecture and Latinos in Architecture. Emerging professionals and young professionals.

And nationally the AIA is really focused on diversity and inclusion. But often that conversation ends before anyone gets to the LGBT community, unless you count the annual LGBT reception at our national convention.

As if that doesn’t make me feel a little isolated…

I received a call in 2014 from a gay couple who needed someone to look at their house. They were having foundation issues and the latest recommendation was to add 22 piers to the existing pier and beam foundation. However, in just looking at the house you could tell that wasn’t going to do anything except flush money down the drain. Ultimately, we designed a new house on the existing lot.

As we were talking in that initial meeting, they expressed how important working with a gay architect was for them, for no other reason than their own personal comfort level. And like a good business owner I asked them how they had located me.

After looking in several guides, one of them had finally turned to Google and typed in: gay dallas architect.

The first name to pop up on the list was Philip Johnson. Pritzker-prize winner. Designed the Beck House in Dallas. Certainly not likely to take on something as simple as this couple’s home.

Plus Philip was also dead.

The second item on Google referenced a blog post my firm had done in 2010 as a follow-up to The Architecture Happy Hour podcast about gays in architecture. And there was my name.

And lucky for me, I was still alive.

So perhaps being the only gay architect in Dallas, or at least the only visibly gay architect in Dallas, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But really…just me?

Finally Gay Enough

Although it wasn’t that big of a stretch

Never in my life did I ever think – “I’m just not gay enough.” – until my former partners and I became a member business of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. In the 6-1/2 years we were members, we were approached multiple times about becoming a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. After all, we were woman-owned. Why not LGBT-owned?

Because as fate would have it, we weren’t gay enough. Which is the response I would give every time I was asked – feeling a little like Dr. Evil telling Scotty he was the Diet Coke of Evil. Just one calorie. Not gay enough!

And before you say: “But Larry, you’re more gay before 9 am than most people are all day” (and a special thanks to Will & Grace for getting that little nugget stuck in my head) – I would like to go on record as saying I had nothing to do with not being certified. I was plenty gay. It was getting my other two partners to switch teams that was the problem – especially the married one with two kids.

But now it’s official.

I’m certifiably gay.

Last month, Spotted Dog Architecture was recognized by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce as a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. Which makes me one of only ten certified architecture firms. 1 of 10.

Where did everyone else go?

Of the estimated 90,000 members in the American Institute of Architecture, there are how many hundreds of firms represented? Yet there are only ten of us certified.

Not that I’m going to make too much noise about that. I’m fine being one of ten firms available to the NGLCC’s 140+ corporate partners looking to fulfill supplier diversity needs. And I’m fine being recognized this year in front of 1000+ attendees at the NGLCC business and leadership conference.

But I know I’m not the only one this gay. So feel free to join me.

Assuming you’re gay enough.

A little bit about the Q&A

First Impressions

So what does the intersection of queer and architecture mean?

For starters – I’m an architect. Have been for nearly 20 years. I’ve been an employee and a business owner. At the moment, I’m working for myself after over 8 years with two partners. I have to say I’m enjoying the change. Sure, my boss is kind of a dick sometimes, but he let’s me leave early or come in late if I feel like it.

For seconds – I’m gay. That I’ve been doing for a lot longer than I’ve been doing architecture. But I think that’s a given. I’m married to a very patient husband. It’s been a little over 3 years, and it only took 18 years together before we were finally hitched. So if you’re doing the math, that’s a little over 21 years. As I like to say – longer than some of my parents’ marriages.

I’ve always been out at work. Even at school. And I don’t know that I’ve seen that as an issue. However, as I became more involved in the LGBT community, I realized how isolated I’ve been in the profession. I often joke that I’m the only gay architect in Dallas. (Not true, but we’ll get to that in another post.) At least it feels that way.

The Big Gay Architect Blog will talk about queer influence in architecture. I’ve heard people say that they’re architects first and gay second, but I think you can’t be gay and pretend that has no influence on you as an architect.

Some of the posts will just be about architecture. Some will just be about LGBT issues. Others are going to intersect. I won’t always get everything right so don’t expect me to. And I’ll probably be on the wrong side of opinion from time to time. But come on the journey with me, and let’s see where we end up.

Larry – The Big Gay Architect