Daily Archives: February 21, 2017

demolition obsessed

F is most excited about the prospect of massive demolition at the start of this project. I would chalk that up to the occasional HGTV show binges when we travel and she has access to cable TV and a remote. Every morning she asks me a question about the removal of items. This morning it was the fence. That fence is so bad, we’re just going to push it over and it will come down. That is an accurate statement. I’m pretty sure she thinks she’s going to be swinging a sledgehammer sometime in the near future. I need to remember to get a photo of her attempting to lift said sledgehammer.

Speaking of photos, I plan to take some better “before” pictures of the house this weekend. I love a good “before and after” series, and so I’ll try and take enough photos that I can match them up with the “afters” later. I need to take some more photos of the backyard as well. It’s so bad, it’s almost painful. But that will make the end result that much better.

I know these images I made from the drawing pdf’s aren’t the clearest, but they can give you an overall idea of the project scope – trust me, there’s nothing exciting hiding in those notes! (Click on them to enlarge.)

Site Plan

You’ll see in the first drawing that we have a lot of trees to deal with – and most of them aren’t on our property. We’ll take care of the scraggly trees along the fence line on the west property line, but the big tree on our east neighbor’s property is an issue. Hopefully those negotiations will go well. We have a large magnolia tree in our yard that has to go – it’s such a pretty tree, even after being crushed in two separate ice storms that butchered the top of it. It’s going to be a beast to remove and transplant, but if we can, we’d like to. I’m hoping that one of the neighbor’s might want it and then we can enjoy it still. It might honestly be too large to transplant though – we’ll see what kind of equipment we’ll need on hand!

Those paving bricks have to come up and be stored as well – that’s also slightly (very) painful. That was a very difficult project – hauling and shoveling truckload after truckload of gravel and then sand – we did some major regrading of our yard to address 130+ years of settling and washouts. We spent most of the early summer on it, wrapping up over the hottest, muggiest Fourth of July weekend – my parents were visiting (and helping) for that one. I’m surprised they still invite us for the holidays.

Back Patio and Porch

There’s a lot of utility work in this project. It will be great to no longer have those overhead electrical wires draped across our yard, and having a decent fence will be nice too. The addition will come out to the edge of that flower bed, just beyond the end of those bricks. It’s going to be a drastic change – and a much smaller yard, for sure. I think it’s going to take a bit to get used to it, but I’m excited for the creative ways we’re going to green the new construction – on the roof and hopefully on some of the walls as well. The houses that back up to our alley have teeny, tiny backyards, so we won’t be the odd house out. Most have about 6′ of green space before their garages or parking pads begin. Still, it’s going to look crazy – especially when the framing starts going up! Yikes. It’s starting to feel real.

not as much fun as i thought it would be

I’ve been at this architecture thing for over two decades now. Even earlier, if you consider the fact that most spare moments outside of the classroom were spent in an office somewhere. There are many things that I love and enjoy about this profession, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes the deep dive into the details is invigorating for me; other times I feel like I’m really just mastering the art of multitasking, doing my best to keep a dozen balls in the air at any one time.

There’s work-architecture and non-work-architecture, and I’ve always found the latter to be more fun – maybe because they are smaller projects with more creative freedom, and often I get to be the direct recipient of the final product. We’ve done a dozen smaller projects on our house alone, and each one has involved sacrificing sleep and at least one bout of tears. But they are so good when they are done, so satisfying in the final cleanup.

I will fast-forward to the end of this post and go ahead and say this: I’m very excited about this current project – the largest and most complicated project to date. I know this project so well that it’s not even a visualization anymore. I know how this turns out, and I know how spectacular it will be. I can feel the satisfaction of that final cleanup, I see myself washing produce for dinner, turning on the gas, pulling out a knife, setting to work. I stand in the back window of the kitchen in the sun – we’ve had so much of it lately, more like May than February. I stand there and I close my eyes and I see the light coming in from the skylights and I smell fresh plywood and gypsum and paint. It will be good.

But this is not as much fun as I thought it would be. This part of it. The work of it. Figuring it all out, drawing it, noting it, detailing it, communicating it. It fills in all the gaps of our days, and our gaps were not large to begin with. The bulk of that work is done now, but the intensity of the process still lingers. We’ve been in planning mode and worked through various milestones from an approval standpoint for just over a year, with some serious daydreaming and early sketching / modeling long before that. But the nose down/pencil down work was pretty intense for five months at least. The final drawing set has thirty-two sheets covered in drawings and details and schedules and notes. We worked with a structural engineer on the project, but opted to incorporate his work into our own, which meant we took his notes and calculations and translated them into framing plans and wall sections and countless details. When I look at the amount of work involved I feel proud, but also exhausted. We have squeezed this work into our lives and it’s always been there, sitting on the corner of the table or the desk, calling for us to return to it. We structure our evenings and weekends and holidays around it – sharing one laptop, bouncing other responsibilities around that schedule. I can’t really pull all-nighters anymore, but I’ve pulled my share of three hour nights of sleep. It will be awhile before I feel back to normal. Honestly, it wasn’t that fun.

But spring is coming, and I’m starting to feel like I’m emerging from hibernation once again. I feel like the fog is starting to lift. The trick for me will be to guard those gaps of time as they start to free up; to resist the urge to fill them once again. I can lean that way if I’m not careful, pushing myself again to just this side of breaking because I’ve survived it before, right? It’s time for that seasonal stretch, filling my lungs and my limbs with air, only air. Reclaiming some of those hours from nine o’clock til midnight, those Saturday afternoons and Sunday night races against the new clock of the week. Returning to the garden again, just in time for the daffodils.