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.