Of Mice and Measuring Tapes

I love to build things. Always have. As a child Legos were a favorite toy. I always felt a sense of accomplishment completing each challenge that had originally seemed so insurmountable. This love went from toys to sculpture to furniture and ultimately led me to the world of architecture. My family has been involved in the design and construction of buildings my whole life and it seemed a logical next step to move into a role with the family firm.

When I asked Dad for an internship I was an enthusiastic young man just embarking on the adventure of a life in architecture. When the only question I was asked was what exactly I was going to bring to the team, I didn’t really have a great response. I was offered the advice of “go work in the field for some time and then we’ll talk”. I left the office feeling a bit put out; but in retrospect that was perhaps the best bit of advice given to me as an aspiring architect. So I spent the next three years working various trades in the construction industry.

I like to joke with friends that I have no problem moving large steel beams all day long… on the computer. But those years spent “in the field” taught me the sobering reality of actually lugging a W12x24 around a complicated construction site. Suddenly you need to pay attention to things like staging areas, hoisting equipment, and other minor details like spaces for your fingers to fits as you set the thing in place. The M. Arch degree is an obvious and necessary part of becoming an architect, but honestly it was the years spent on the smart end of a measuring tape that I feel truly prepared me for the authorship of a computer’s mouse.

I believe architects are natural builders, or should be. It would be close to impossible to be in architecture without some amount of creativity, and what better way to express creative energies than to build something? It’s all well and good to create amazing computer imagery, inspiring hand drawings, or even the most intricate physical models, but to actually walk through something your sweat brought into existence is, I think, at the very essence of architecture.

Ok so maybe I wasn’t building installations at PS1, but even if it was simply free reign on someone’s custom fireplace setting, or a cool deck with a great view, these formative years on the crew have proven to be my most tactile experience of physically bringing architecture into this world to date. I feel this is an invaluable experience for all young architects, and one that is often the most difficult to accomplish.

Our schedules are stretched thin, our energies sapped by other responsibilities. Finding the time to invest in smashing your finger or falling off of eight foot wall plates is understandably lower on the priority list. I urge you to push it up that list. As we continue to push innovation with our technology based wizardry, let us also embrace the means and methods by which our creations are actually put together. May we all become better architects for it.

2 thoughts on “Of Mice and Measuring Tapes

  1. Mr. Hillhouse is correct in his analysis. As a builder I can assure you my hammer doesn’t have an eraser on the other end of it.

  2. Pingback: The Oldish Man and the Sea of Legos « AIA Colorado EP Blog

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