I have had a very interesting past few days – the kind of interesting that confirms for me why I do what I do for a living. Every now and then I get a little beaten down from the act of doing my job and I start to feel more than a little weary and mentally exhausted. I’m definitely not complaining, but rather admitting that despite all the evidence to the contrary, sometimes being an architect is not the greatest job in the world.
I am currently in Wisconsin, visiting my cabin project, literally sitting on the dock at the lake, drinking a beer and watching the sunset, and I am being quiet (which is not normal for me), when my client, who is amazingly interesting and considerate, looks over at me and makes her long-running joke about how she has broken her architect. I respond like I always do and tell her that I can’t be broken … I am a mix of Native American Indian and Norwegian and that combination is a genetic super mix of awesome and as a result, we are unbreakable. I do mean it when I say I can’t be broken – in fact, I am quiet because I am basking in the glow of a moment when I think being an architect is the greatest job in the world. I am watching this project come together in an amazing setting and I am almost always struck by how lucky I actually am to work with people on projects where they want to do something special. What an amazing gift to experience – so rather than go to bed, I thought I would pull out my laptop and write this article (which is exactly what blogs were created to do)
So why am I riding this current wave of euphoria? Let me show you –
This is a sketch of the cabin I created during the design phase – in this case, I was considering how I was going to support this cantilevered second story space over the ground floor terrace. I was sketching out columns – but I wanted them to cant and pitch so that they would read as something other than just steel supports.
Since this cabin is literally surrounded by a million trees, I thought that if I added enough steel columns, they might simulate tree trunks but I could have them serve a secondary purpose of providing a covered place to store firewood.
This is a SketchUp model of the cabin where I have shown the cladding – which in this case is metal vertical siding on the second story and painted board and batten siding on the ground floor level. I’ve always like the simplicity of the massing for this cabin and throughout the construction drawings for this project, we have endeavored to maintain the geometric simplicity of the building.
Here is the elevation for the sketches I prepared early on – the building massing is still in place and the material choices support how we intended these simple forms to read. I actually made a change during construction where I changed the color of the metal siding in the bridge connector piece to a much lighter color – with the idea that changing this would make the two major building pieces to read as more intrinsic masses. If you look in the middle of the second floor of the image above, you should be able to spot the very light gray bridge connector piece.
But none of this matters if it doesn’t get built. I have gone back through my construction visit photo records and pulled out a few images that show how this cabin is coming together – focusing on this one specific corner. I was incredibly excited to come visit the job site when the above picture was taken back in March 2016. Not just because I am from Texas and the idea of visiting a job site covered in the snow seemed pretty exciting, but because the vision we had for this cabin was starting to come to life. The idea I had for the massing the forms for the cabin were coming together right before my eyes.
Amazeballs is a good word for these sorts of moments.
A month later I was back in town for routine job site meetings and construction observation duties, but this time, there was a roof on the cabin. Wow – now it really is starting to look like those early sketches!
Another month, and a bit more progress. This trip didn’t see the same level of progress on the exterior as the previous months but windows were starting to get installed and the masonry fireplace on the covered terrace was getting built. Smaller amazeballs, but still, amazeballs.
And that brings us to today – metal siding is going up.
I am not surprised that it looks just like our drawings, my excitement and enthusiasm is that the design is coming to life. I have worked on this project for just over two years – and it hasn’t always been fun or easy – but I have always loved what the house is … the result of dozens of people working together to take a concept that I came up with 2 years ago and make it a reality. The magnitude of something like this, regardless of how many times I’ve been through it, demands that I take a moment and recognize how special something like this actually is.
So let’s go back to the time when I was sitting on the dock feeling a bit retrospective. I realized that it’s been exactly 2 years and 8 days since I meet these clients for the first time and started this project. If things continue to go well, this project will be completed by the end of summer, and my friends will be living in it, hosting parties and gatherings, and loving this house that they helped create. My time on this project is coming to an end, but my time with this house is just about to start.
So whenever you are feeling down about your job, the task you are focusing on is beating you about, try and look at the long game and recognize just how amazing it is to be a part of the creative process where you get to watch your project come to life.
Try and have an amazeballs moment today.