My Genesis – LetsBlogOff

Where do your ideas come from?  Your inspiration for your craft?  Is it a place, a specific pen you like to use, a special kind of paper or canvas that just speaks to you?  For most artists all of these may apply.  But maybe none of them apply. Perhaps you’re just the most amazing artist of all and your inspiration just flows freely un-contained and unrestrained from your mind almost at it’s own will into physical reality.  So, you ask:

What is my Genesis?

Where does my “special something” come from?  How does my process start?  Strictly speaking, I’ve never considered this question and I don’t think I’ve ever been asked either.  So, please excuse me if my answer takes many twists and turns….hell, I may not even end up answering the question at all! You’ll just have to wait and see.

Architecture, being both the art and science of building, requires both an artistic and analytical mind working sometimes in tandem, but also wholly separate as well.  Architects like Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid immediately come to mind as being the ultimate artistic architects.  I like to think I exist somewhere in the middle of this “bridge” between analysis and artistic exploration.

My process is sporadic at best.  Ideas come to me at the strangest moments – cycling to work, walking in the park, pushing my kids on the swing set, brushing my teeth…it really doesn’t matter.  The Genesis of an idea can come anytime because my mind is always trying to process what is around me, what I’ve experienced, where I’ve been and even where I’m going.  It is not linear, regular, symmetrical, predictable nor accountable.  I’ve sketched on post-its, cocktail napkins, business cards, sketch paper, paper plates, the back of my hand….any surface that will hold ink long enough for me to get “it” down and out of my head.

My process, my Genesis, is an obsession, a compulsion, a twitch, a tick, a social faux-pas, an inconvenience and a glorious expression of the chaos and conundrum that exists between my ears that can only be purged through the communication between brain, arm, hand, fingers, pen and paper (or whatever happens to be readily at hand that will hold a mark).  It is never-ending and ever-present, as much a part of me as any physical part or parcel of the me that you see.

And now, what is the genesis of your Genesis, the inspiration in your idea, the impetus of your expression?

shop 160 – home office pod

A while back I did a design called “studio 20”, which was an idea I had for an office/shed in my backyard.  Well, I’ve refined that idea a little and come up with shop 160, which is an office pod for a work-from-home architect or other professional. The space has two work stations, wall storage on either side for product and project binders…or whatever else will fit on a shelf.  It’s assumed that in-house printing would be done on 11×17 and any full size printing would be done via remote server at a printing house, or hopefully your jurisdiction accepts digital plan submissions.  For smaller firms this can be ideal because you don’t have to pay for or maintain the infrastructure of a plotter.

Since this is a “work from home” office pod, there is no plumbing provided in this design, but if you took a second container and arranged the pods in an “L” configuration you could deck between, creating a “work” pod and a “service” pod where you have typical office storage, a restroom and small lounge space.  The deck between could also be used as an indoor/outdoor flex space.

Young entrepreneurs are, by default, disposed to work in small home office spaces as a way to save overhead as well as minimize the space needed to conduct work which lends to a well organized and efficient work environment.  Shop 160 provides exactly that, but OUTSIDE the home where the distractions of children, the “honey-do” list and daytime television are not present; not to mention having a place to take clients that doesn’t involve walking through a private residence or having to order coffee and a bagel to get a seat.  Also, if a business needs to expand, these pods can not only be moved to alternate locations, but can also be combined easily to accommodate multiple work stations and functions.

Please email me for more information about purchasing and fabricating your Shop 160 office pod.

Oh Gawd, you cracked it! (via The Life and Times of a “Renaissance Ronin”)

A great post from my buddy Alex, over at Renaissance Ronin. Check it out.

Oh Gawd, you cracked it! It must be that time of year. The snow is melting, the site is unfrozen and it's time to start setting boxes. I'm getting the same question in my email over and over again right now. I'm also seeing the same questions asked in other places on the web, from "DIY to Specialty" blogs. So, let's address a question about HOW you attach the ISBU to the ground; Dear Ronin, Are you a Ninja? I'm just wondering because… oh, never mind. (Editor's note: No … Read More

via The Life and Times of a "Renaissance Ronin"

competitions, evil?

note: not a real competition banner

A couple of weeks ago I was reading Bob Borson’s animated rant about his distaste for design competitions.  And glass block, we can’t forget that.  I actually peed myself a little bit I laughed so hard.  But more than that it inspired me to write this post.

In this rant he compares design competitions to glass blocks, something we both hate, loathe even, with a passion equal too none on this earth.  In Bob’s own words, “they make my face hurt. I talk to them when no one is looking…”  And I truly believe there are few things on the planet more disgusting, more horrific, more a danger to human taste, good sense and general well-being than glass blocks.  The man who invented them should be publicly flogged and put on display for everyone to ridicule.  Competitions, however, I have a different opinion about.

Claim #1: Design competitions are a waste of time

I actually have to agree with this one, just a little.  Time spent on design competitions is time you could have been spending on some other endeavor.  But then, this supposes that design, or anything architect-y in general, is something that you would rather NOT be doing in your spare time.  I personally am a huge archi-dork.  Just ask my wife.  There are few things I would rather be doing than designing SOMETHING, anything, even just staring off into space THINKING about designing.  Yes, I am that pathetic, but it works for me so it’s ok.

Claim #2: The competition is plentiful

Again, this is very true.  Design competitions, especially well advertised ones, attract dozens, if not hundreds, of submissions that you are only ONE of.  So the odds of you winning a high profile design competition are fairly slim – typically somewhere near zero – so why bother, right?  Wrong.  It’s very simple, if you don’t ENTER you will never WIN.  The competition is what keeps us sharp, keeps us on our toes, keeps us growing as architects.  Without competition we would have no real reason to improve.

Claim #3: The Project will never get built

……Well, ok, yeah….I can’t really argue with this one.  Moving on.

Claim #4: No one will ever know your name if you don’t win

Well, that’s not entirely true.  Thanks to these nifty things called blogs, we can publicize the living hell out of OURSELVES and all our failed competition entries, thus getting our work out there for critique.  Perhaps someone will see your work, something purely design in nature, fall madly in love with it and call you immediately with a contract for that new and exciting project you’ve been waiting for to get you down off that ledge….it’s possible….really.

Claim #5: Architects who enter design competitions diminish the value of all architectural services

Bob puts it that, if you’re giving away services to one group while trying to charge for those same services to another, it’s just bad business.  I see the logic in this point of view, but I still have to disagree.  While the entry for a competition is essentially being done “for free”, in most (if not all) cases there is at least the hope of some level of compensation for that work either in the form of prize monies or a contract.  I also understand the fallacy in my own statement there (see Claim #3).  But one has to have at least some faith in the competition process otherwise we’re all nothing but lowly service providers beholden to one ridiculous needy client after another which I don’t think does any service to our profession either.  Sometimes we need that proverbial feather in our cap, the accolades from our peers, the slap on the back and a “at-a-boy” for good measure.

For me, design competitions are a way to keep my design skills sharp, to have a bit of mostly unrestrained design fun and maybe, just maybe, one day (fingers crossed) win something.  Competitions aren’t for everyone (like those of us lucky enough to be too busy with paying clients to have enough free time to waste on design competitions 😉 ), which is why not everyone enters or has the time to enter.  But for those of us willing to step out and throw our designs into the hat for consideration, I don’t see design competitions as quite the evil doer that some do.  But I still hate glass blocks.  I mean, seriously, there is no use by which they will add any benefit to a building.  Unless maybe you use them as crushed aggregate in concrete, and even then you want to be sure that no one sees them.  :-\

If I could stop the world for one day….

This #LETSBLOGOFF post is brought to you by the awe-inspiring genius of….ME. Enjoy. 🙂

If I were Superman and could fly around the world really really fast and stop the earth from spinning, thus stopping time for just one day I would:

First, obviously I would ditch the girly tights and cape.  I mean, seriously, it’s just not fashionable.  Too bad Batman can’t stop time.  Utility belts are awesome!

Once in a suitably masculine change of clothes, the NEXT thing I would do…..well, quite frankly wouldn’t be terribly different from what I do everyday – which is try to be the best damn architect I can be (no this isn’t an army recruitment ad) solving archi-crimes like a mo’fo and rescuing damsels in distress…wait, that’s the wrong story.  It’s so hard to stay focused after spinning the earth to a complete stand still.

Solving archi-crimes would definitely be on my list of “to do” during my one day.  I don’t have lofty philanthropic goals like “solve world hunger” or “world peace” or “get a date with Mila Jovovich”.  I’m much more humble than that (really).  As I said my day would look much like it does everyday:

Awake at about 530-ish, make some coffee (otherwise known as “go juice”) and crank up the laptop.  I check the news, I check my blog, I check twitter – I gotta stay “in the know”, you know?  Once I’ve had my fill of “news”, I try to spend some time either sketching or working on/refining any designs that I’m currently inspired by.  The list of these projects gets shorter with each passing day, but I keep moving forward crossing my fingers for that “one client”.  He/she is gonna knock on my door any minute now……any minute…..right…..NOW!….hmm. He/she must be running late.  Anyway.

With fingers sufficiently ink stained and smudged, and hopefully fully caffeinated, it’s time to get a shower and get dressed for the day.  “Dressed” is a relative term mostly consisting of whatever black clothes I happen to wrestle from the closet (after performing the requisite smell test, of course) and throw over my white pasty body.  Thus clothed and bespectacled it’s back to the computer to organize the tasks for the day, perhaps make a few phone calls, check twitter again and crank up Autocad, also known as “Hell”, and get started with some “creativity” in solving those aforementioned “archi-crimes”.

There really isn’t much else to the day after this point.  It pretty much continues in the same vein until my phone alarm goes off reminding me that it’s time to eat and take a bathroom break, though not necessarily in that order.  If I’m lucky, somewhere in the Autocad fog I might find some time to write a blog post, or finish an unfinished blog post, check twitter again, but then it’s back to Autocad.  On really good days I get to start up SketchUp which always makes me feel like a little kid on his first trip to Disney World (yes, I really am that pathetic).

At some point, long after the sun has gone down, my phone alarm goes off again reminding me that it’s time to sleep, so I peel off the black, once again revealing the pasty white and climb into bed for a few hours of restless sleep where I have nightmares of all those “archi-criminals” taking over my projects reducing them to strip malls and big box retail stores (I typically wake in a cold sweat frantically tearing at my sheets screaming “NOOOOOOO!!!!”)

So, that’s my one day.  Perhaps you may think it’s wasted, but I say no.  Not wasted.  You see, there isn’t anything I’d rather do than slave away in the pursuit of architectural magnificence, solving archi-crimes and putting away archi-criminals to make the world safe from strip malls and big box retails stores and clients who think sentences that begin with “but the contractor told me” will end happily for them (fyi, they won’t – just trust me on this).

container popularity and internet searches

Aside

Since I started this blog back in late 2009, it’s been somewhat of a creative outlet for me.  Not only am I able to post my designs, sketches and other ideas for consideration and comment, but I’m also able to delve into a good bit of architectural theory in my writing.  For the first year that this blog was up there was almost no traffic – only about 10 hits per month on average for the first 12 months.  That’s pretty bad, and granted I wasn’t keeping up with it much at first.

The shift seems to have come when I began writing more in-depth posts about shipping container design and construction.  And I have noticed a trend in the last couple of months in the character and construction of search terms that hit this blog.  Some can be rather entertaining, like the guy who searched for “porn in container”….i still can’t imagine what he was looking for…not really sure if I want to either. :-\  Some other popular search terms that pop up consistently and in various combinations are:

container homes
container architecture
40′ shipping container house
isbu interiors
container reinforce structure
shipping container house plans
container design
etc etc etc.

This gets me to wondering, if my own very little corner of this “corten craze” generates such interest (upwards of 2-3,000 hits per month and climbing, thank you very much! :-)), why are we still only seeing it trickle into the mainstream media?  I certainly don’t have the answer, so if you were hoping for one, so sorry to disappoint.

But, (there’s always a but) the winds are changing.  If small sites like mine are getting this kind of interest, then others like treehugger and inhabitat are getting even more and this is going to push the cause into the limelight, so to speak.  It’s out there, people are getting interested and soon they’ll start seeing container homes as viable housing options in the mainstream.  Hell, we could even see the first Container Subdivision in the very near future.

If you’re reading this and you’ve got some news on container construction or any other kind of container project, please send it my way.  I’d love to feature it here.  Lets keep the corten craze rolling on down the tracks, baby!

This is what we do?

Item #10 of my buddy’s latest blog post over at Archialternative is the statement that architecture is what architects do.  He suggests this statement as an outright lie perpetrated by architects to their clients.  His retort to this bold faced lie, as he puts it, is:

Fuck, no! This is what we live and die for. This is architecture.

And I completely agree!  Please forgive the vulgar expletive, but honestly, sometimes, the F Bomb needs to be dropped for that little bit of extra emphasis, don’t you think? 😉

And what is the key tenet to this statement?  The notion that an architect simply “does” architecture?  As a pure means to an end?  Or just in order to provide for his/her family?  I say bollocks to that.  Architecture is not merely what we do it is who we are, it’s our DNA, it’s our mitzvah (divine commandment for those not in the know), our calling….architecture just IS for an architect.  Some of us even say we are married to architecture and our wives are simply our mistresses.  This is more true than many of us may want to admit (let’s hope my wife doesn’t read this one).

And what do we get for this obsession, this calling, this mitzvah?  We get 5+ years of schooling where we learn almost nothing that will prepare us for the actual practice of architecture, 3+ years of internship under architects it will take us 15 minutes to figure out we don’t want to turn out like, and 5 years (or less if we’re very very lucky) to complete an ever changing battery of tests that tells very little about an architects’ competency as a designer or construction professional.  In short, we spend what are arguably the best 15 years of our lives struggling in a profession that has almost no respect for the “up and coming” in order to continue in a profession that our clients think is little more than a necessary evil, and we’ll continue to practice at a fraction of our ultimate worth simply because when we wake up in the morning with that shit eating grin on our faces, we know that there isn’t a single other thing on this planet we would want to be doing with our lives and it’s our privileged to practice each and every day sometimes at the expense of our own sanity and better judgment.

image courtesy of treehugger.com

To reiterate, once again:

This is what we live and die for – this is ARCHITECTURE.  Yeah baby.