Daily Prompt: Idyllic

What does your ideal community look like? How is it organized, and how is community life structured? What values does the community share?

Well, this one is right up my alley. The idea of community, what it takes, how it’s organized and who inhabits it is essentially what I do every day, all day, for the last 10 years and will continue to do until I’m taken from this earth. I might even design communities in heaven. We’ll see. But first, let’s define “community”.

According to my good friend Webster, community is:

  • the people with common interests living in a particular area
  • an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location
  • a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society
  • a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests

Now, what all of these definitions have in common is people being grouped together in common interest. Without people, there is no community, just a collection of well-designed and organized (hopefully) buildings. And on the flip side of this is, without this collection of well-designed and organized buildings the people are just standing around in wide open space wondering what to do.

One of my favorite authors on urbanism is Jane Jacobs. In her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities she describes small neighborhoods in successful cities like Boston, Chicago and other urban centers as not being planned from the beginning, but as having grown over time in such a way as determined by need. She speaks out against the New Urbanism movement quite passionately. I tend to agree with her.

So, what does my ideal community look like? How is it organized and who lives there? My ideal community is one that already exists in thousands of cities all over the world. Communities where people care enough to invest in their own backyard are the communities that I love. It doesn’t have to be a big community or a dense urban center that never sleeps. No, even a sleepy little town with one blinking light on Main Street can be a vibrant and alive community of people all working together to make life better. This, to me, is ideal.

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Daily Prompt: Toot Your Horn

“Most of us are excellent at being self-deprecating, and are not so good at the opposite. Tell us your favorite thing about yourself.”

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This is completely true. We’re all incredibly capable of telling anyone who will listen where we tend to fail or simply come up short the most. But when it comes to talking ourselves up, to “tooting our own horn” we tend to downplay our strengths. I myself even tend to throw in a few flaws while trying to “sell myself” as a vain attempt at humility. But today, thanks to the Daily Prompt, it’s time to take the gloves off and tell you all just how wonderful I am. Because, lets face it, I’m awesome and you need to know why. How’s that for humble? 😉

So, how does one go about tooting their own horn? I suppose since this blog is centered around architecture, design and all things funktastic, I should start there and see where we end up.

I suppose I see my greatest strengths in three areas that affect my practice. These three areas are not necessarily exclusive to architecture, but then just about everything in my life leads back to it at some point. So here we go.

1. Design, sketching and communicating “it” to people.

This is technically three things in one, but as an architect we don’t just communicate with language. We have to be able to effectively communicate ideas through words, sketches, drawings and even rapid hand movements and guttural slurs. It’s a talent that can certainly be learned, but most often is an innate gift that we just have. Growing up I was never good at public speaking (see, throwing in that self-deprecation for humility’s sake), but when I got to college I was forced to regularly and repeatedly get up in front of my studio mates and present my work. From day one. It was complete trial by fire, but, as it turned out, I have a real talent for public speaking. And as I gained confidence in that, I was more comfortable, more relaxed and have often been praised for my presentations, my communication and my ability to use multiple sources to adequately convey designs and abstract ideas to my audience. Gold Star #1.

2. Political Maneuvering.

To be honest this is one area where I wish I was not so skillful. Politics and pandering to the emotions and reactions of others is, quite frankly, mind-numbing. BUT we live in a world where managing the emotional and often times irrational responses of our peers, employers, clients and that guy on the sidewalk that keeps screaming at you every time you walk by that garbage can is a survival trait. Now this is not to say that I am a nice person, nor am I necessarily a push over either. In fact, I’m most often described as being rather arrogant, headstrong, opinionated and even, God forbid, rude. But, I simply know how to manage my own emotional responses to situations and therefore am more able to keep my cool when someone else loses their mind. Because they almost always do. Gold Star #2.

3. Performance under stress.

Going back as far as high school I have always performed well under pressure. The closer the deadline the more focused and determined to meet my goals I become. This has been incredibly valuable in practice because, as we all know, clients want everything yesterday and can’t fathom why it’s taking more than 3 days for you to design and detail that 10,000 sf warehouse addition. :-\ Where this does sometimes get me into trouble is, knowing how well I perform under pressure and tight deadlines, I tend to procrastinate thus creating situations of high stress. I imagine this may kill me one day, but for now I’m young enough to handle the wild swings in my blood pressure. 😛 Gold Star #3.

So, there you have it. A little horn tooting, self-aggrandizing and ego-fluffing from little old me. You now know, as I mentioned before, I’m awesome, obviously. 😉