Sunday, March 27, 2011

Make it work.

During my third year of architecture school, we took several field trips to learn about materials and construction; a pre-cast concrete company, a masonry manufacturer, a steel mill, and carpentry school. We were to learn about the way things go together, get our hands dirty if at all possible. And while laying bricks are still a mystery to me, carpentry school was something of a revelation.

It was a 6 am bus ride, 45 minutes from school to, if you could believe it, and island in the middle of the Ohio river. And, in a giant warehouse, we learned to frame. Basic skills first - hammer a nail, without hitting your hand, saw a 2x4 without an electrical assistant, identify a jack vs. king stud. The several guys brought in to show us the ropes were admirably patient, given our range of aptitude. There were those who had been building sheds with their fathers as kids. And there were those that were not quite sure how hard you really needed to swing a hammer.

I was somewhere in between; I had begrudgingly followed my dad as he did minor repairs to some rental homes, mostly resenting the time it took me away from Saturday morning cartoons. I'd gotten dirty and pretty much hated it. But I knew my basic tools, and, surprising to most of my classmates, could lift heavy objects with more ease than they expected. So, sure, I was out of place; my grungiest clothes were a pair of Abercombie jeans and an Abercrombie jersey shirt. And sure, my friends had a good hearty laugh at my expense - at seeing me getting dirty and dusty. But, as we moved from basic skills towards our task of the day - in groups, frame up 4 walls, with a window or door in each and a basic vaulted roof - I found myself lost in the constant motion, activity and noise.

Maybe it was the material - wood, which I seemed to have an affinity for. Maybe it was the process - that, as a group, we were doing something together, rather than competing with one another. Maybe I just liked the idea that, despite what people thought of me, I could actually do this. Whatever, it was, I knew I liked it. I could see it - someday, I'd take time off from my amazingly successful practice to build myself a home. Be apart of it, day in and day out, so I could do it they way I wanted.

Fast forward to today. For the past three weeks I've dug in on a renovation. It's design-build, and I am putting in a lot of sweat equity. I figured, if work ain't coming to me, I'm gonna make it for myself. Given the course of my professional life, it should be no surprise that this has now come before a successful practice. But, well, we can only take the cards we get and play the best hand we can. I'll make it work.

So, after some finagling, and with the help of many, I now sit at the point of no return, with permits pulled, walls demolished, and large areas of concrete cut. In two weeks, we cleared two 30-yard dumpsters, and for everyday of those two weeks, I've been sore. What can I say? When I renovate, I go all the way.

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Anonymous Vshirazawa said...

I wish the arch program at Texas A&M had it's students go on invaluable trips to material manufacturing plants! O, well... Anyhow, best of luck on the renovation!


1:21 PM  

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