Rants and Wisdom
Sometimes it really hurts to be an architect. Most often it is the poor design. Sometimes it is in the construction details.
I recently went on a summer evening walk with my architect husband and we passed a new apartment and retail complex several blocks from our historic home in the city. As we walked by the first floor windows our eyes grazed the nice brick and large windowsills, then…Wait……OUCH! The windowsills and the flashing details were painful. I know that not many passersby would notice but we could both see the shoddy work beneath the pretty veneer, the careless construction that will eventually cause water to drip behind the interior wallboard. The building owner will not suffer the consequences of this train wreck for months or even years. Perhaps the owners of this unit will not even notice as black mold accumulates for years behind their walls. It just—is.
Architects are trained to be very aware of our built environment. We study the skyline and the façade. We search for balance and proportion and the best use of materials. We know a building can either stand alone and say, “Look at me!” or can fill in the block, be a good neighbor, complement the surroundings and make for a lovely composition of streetscape and neighborhood.
We, as architects, are masters of the art of observation. We not only look at buildings, we also look at the “leftover” spaces that create parks or outdoor rooms. We see the perfect, magically crafted landscape architecture that calms your mind and guides your path. We observe details like lighting, beautiful masonry and stone, corners, miters and edges.
Yet, we also suffer the bad in a way that I know others don’t. They just don’t see it. I frequently ask neighbors, friends and family about a questionable new building, city street design or park. What? Where? Huh?
Sigh. Perhaps it is a blessing.
Take, for example, the three-year repaving project going on in our neighborhood to provide new curbs and bike lanes. Gosh, it sounds so, well, delightful. Yet, I study the details on my morning runs and see the terrible concrete work, the bad drainage, the poor planning and installation. These missteps have killed trees and created new hazards and trash and debris catches. Alas, I see it.