Dallas not sleeping during a snowstorm - 2001-ish

Dallas not sleeping during a snowstorm – 2001-ish

Overtime has always been kind of a hot topic in the architecture world.  Over my (erch) 17 year career, I have worked three places that paid overtime – two big firms, which just paid straight time; and one which paid time and a half.  That latter one ended up folding.  I did, however, buy my first road bike, a 1999 Cannondale R300, exclusively with overtime money.

It seems from my personal experience that most firms call all of their employees “decision makers,” and therefore pay them a salary.  That is all.  There is some consensus that an employee should be paid overtime as an intern, meaning that once you are registered, you are no longer eligible (however supposedly one would be paid more).

So this article in Entrepreneur Magazine caught my eye this morning.  It talked about how a new move in Washington would force more people to be paid overtime.  This, according to Entrepreneur, would stifle new entrepreneurs, and would in effect make employers restrict employee’s hours.  So, that employee who wants to put forth the extra effort won’t be allowed to… which not only stifles upward mobility, but also innovation.

Because everything stifles innovation.

Anyway, the first thought I had was: wow, this could have serious ramifications on our industry!  On my old bosses, on startups, on me!  Oh no!  And if everyone got paid time and a half as an intern, who on earth would want to become a registered architect?  The marketplace already shows that there is, if any, a negligible bump in compensation once someone becomes a registered architect.  This would, in fact, keep people from progressing in their careers!

Then, I started to think about my experience.  The architecture industry in particular has always reveled in working a ridiculous amount of hours.  It is a badge of honor.  From reading The Fountainhead to overnighters in studio to the workplace, putting in the hours has been what was most important.  I worked for a group who particularly pushed such a mantra: if you’re not here working at 8:00 PM and later every night, you are not working hard enough.

That is where I worked when I decided to start going back to school (they had known this when I signed on).  I had tons of papers to write, and I had definite cutoffs on some days when I had to go to class.  Class was at 6:00PM which means (gasp) I had to leave AT FIVE O’CLOCK.

I still had to get my stuff done.  I was at a (then) startup company, and had already worked many nights into the 2:00AM range.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  There are only 24 hours in each day that we all have, and I had made the commitment to myself that I was going to get a degree.

So something quite odd happened.  After only 6 months or so of this (leaving on time, having to seriously cut back my hours, etc.), I was approached by a partner.  He took me aside and said: “we’ve all been noticing you’ve been stepping it up lately.”  I suppose I had been.  I was figuring out how to do my work much more efficiently because I literally did not have the time to do it, and I was actually getting better in the process.  I was actually making an impression by forcing myself to work less hours.

I hate the cliché work smarter not harder, but there is some truth in it to me: its not the number of hours you put into a job, but simply what your output is.  Sometimes we all have to work late.  However, I like to say that if someone can’t get their work done within a reasonable amount of hours in the day, it is because of either:

  • Poor individual time management (who is writing a blog post at 9:40 this morning?  Yes I will be working late today)
  • Poor management (how long sir, have you been sitting on this, until you finally gave it to me to do?); or
  • unreasonable expectations by a client, or some other outside uncontrollable force.

Everybody makes mistakes, that’s OK and normal, and sometimes you have to work late.  But it shouldn’t be a badge of honor and it should most certainly not be a business model.  If the real response to this new legislation really is to cut back hours, I would challenge business owners and overzealous employees to get more out of the time you have.  And those who want to work long hours to excel?  Do it on your own time if you think it is THAT important.  Hours can be important, especially when starting out – because there are things that will take a young person four hours to do that a senior person can do in twenty minutes (in theory, that is why senior people get paid more.  In theory).  I see that as an investment in yourself, but the rest of your life also needs some time!  For instance, at my last “real job,” I was working alone on the weekends in the office – because I chose to go to the gym in the middle of the day, cutting down my usable hours in the week.  I feel like no one can keep someone from working; however, I don’t think sheer hours of work is what should get you ahead – it is the quality and quantity of your output.


Thanks, Brain – no really, thanks. By that I mean you suck.

Sadly, I know the significance of this image.

Sadly, I know the significance of this image.

I’ve always thought of myself as a lone worker, even when working in an office.  Sometimes, it really has been that way – I usually end up handling multiple projects, typically smaller ones, with small teams and many times no team or support (even if it was promised).  Now, it’s quite literally “Tyler versus the world,” and I’ll admit: its pretty intimidating.

I know eventually I will get used to it.  I’m just tired of waking up at 3:00 AM with random thoughts in my head – mostly about money.  The funny thing is, I actually have the money thing covered for a while.  I’m very lucky to have some great clients who want me to work for them, and my immediate future looks bright and fits in my overall business plan (which has been yet to be refined, but I’ll get there soon enough).

Then there’s all the other stuff – billing, taxes, cash flow… Although I was good with accounting in school and I’m relatively comfortable with it, unfortunately I have to be in the mood to do it well (then again, that’s the way I am with design work, which can be infuriating).  It is, however, just one more thing I have to take on.

Unless one day I just win the lottery, this is the best time for me to do this.  I have a good backlog of work, and more opportunities have suddenly reared their head – I’ve actually been amazed at how the universe has unfolded.  I have probably said it on this blog before, but once I made the decision to actually do this, many things fell into place very unexpectedly.  So I am pleased.

And I wake up at night.  A lot.

Which, really, isn’t very helpful with getting my work done.  I even wake up with thoughts of whom to hire, when, why, and how it fits.  I wake up wanting to run and rerun budgets and projections in Quickbooks (new feature!).  I would imagine that this would be much more helpful to do after a good night’s sleep, a cup of coffee, and a nice paleo breakfast.  But no.  For whatever reason, my body thinks it is a much better idea to wake up at three or four in the morning to do it, so the rest of the day will be completely destroyed.  I’ll admit I came up with a good idea Thursday night Friday morning… but was that really necessary?!

Anyway, things are good!  I don’t know why my mind races so much.

Lets look at the good things:

  1. I have already spent all of the money I will need to for a while on insurance, equipment, software, and all of the irritating expenses (although it’s not a high barrier to entry as, saying buying a factory.  Which I want to do one day).
  2. I have a great backlog.  Current count puts me at (2) signed projects, (2) 99% projects, (1) 80% project (probably 100% if I make myself cheaper, but I can’t), (2) of my own development projects and concepts, and (2) potential game changer meetings (even if my game has barely begun).
  3. I have a spot at a really nice office with good people in it.
  4. I have low overhead (even though the new car wasn’t a great idea, and I just bought an investment property – if anyone wants to rent a place on King’s Highway in Oak Cliff, let me know)

The bad:

  1. Its only me.  I have some admin support through the office and I could use their manpower if required, and I know other people to help me get my work done… Still, as insanely awesome as I might be, discussing decision making with another person with skin in the game is of great benefit.
  2. I don’t have it all figured out yet (does anyone?).
  3. I don’t have a big cushion of money.  I think I accidentally spent that on the investment property above (should be ready October 2013!).  even so, I don’t know how much I would have to have in the bank to make me feel good anyway.
  4. I’m tired.  But, my trip is booked, and in a few weeks, good or bad, I will have contemplation time and all of that other stuff.  I might come back crazy, but hopefully just recharged a bit.

So I made these lists with equal numbers, but the bad just really isn’t nearly as strong as the good.  So while I’m sitting here awake with a nice cup of coffee at 4:00 on Saturday afternoon (oh crap its already 4) all of this makes sense.

Aaand then 3:00AM rolls around again.  Grr.

Side note: I Google Imaged “3:00 AM” for the second image, like I sometimes do when I don’t feel like taking a photo myself.  Note I did not source the meme.  Anyway, the image was from a blog by someone who was caught in the sex trafficking business and has gotten out of it.  Although not a comfortable subject, I suggest the four of you who read this blog have a look: http://9to20.wordpress.com/

So you want to be an architect

I have seen this video countless times over twitter and email over the past two weeks.  There is some strong language in here, so it may Not be Safe For Work.

This is a discussion between a person wanting to be an architect and a “seasoned” professional with a few issues.  It takes every frustration to the extreme, but I think anyone who has worked at a large company would identify with this.

I looked at this on YouTube and found a series of videos also called “so you want to be an architect,” but it is a little more constructive.

Part 1:

Part 2:  What does an architect make (not money)?

Part 3: What does an Architect Learn?

Part 4:  What does an Architect Use?

Part 5: What does an architect ask?

Part 6: What does an architect mean (perhaps the preview sheds some light on something)?

After all of that, maybe this is more approrpiate (and completely different):

Interfaith Peace Chapel

Interfaith Peace Chapel, south lobby window

This is a very dry post today, which may just be a reflection of my mood… Sorry about this, but this appears to be a “facts only” kind of day.

As part of an AIA group, I was able to visit the Interfaith Peace Chapel at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas.  In the mid 1990’s, the church commissioned Philip Johnson to design a master plan for heir expansion.  By about 2001, a bell tower was built, which was designed by Johnson’s office.  The Interfaith Peace Chapel was given the green light after Johnson had passed on, and was picked up by local architect Gary Cunningham.  They built construction documents by using a digitized version of the model originally built for the master plan.  It seems like a rather challenging task, as the interior and exterior skins take different forms.

Belltower separating the existing sactuary from the new chapel. Eventally an outer cloister will tie all of the structures together, including the future sanctuary.

The different forms do allow for massive amounts of insulation, which is required for a chapel which sits directly under the flight path of Love Field.  The roof, which will appear to be monolithic with the rest of the skin when complete, is two layers of concrete sandwiching a layer of insulation.  The only acoustical weak spot will be the skylight, but it is glazed with over an inch (1 11/32, if I remember correctly) of tripled glazed laminated glass.

Skylight and spray applied open cell insulation throughout.

Each stud was premanufactured and numbered for assembly. Since all of the walls have a unique complex curve, each stud was individually crimped to meet specifications.

Individual studs numbered for assembly

The chapel holds about 200 people, but the next phase, a sanctuary, will be designed to hold roughly 2,500 people.  Below is a very nice animation of the project produced by M2 Studio.

Joppa Rodeo Project

This is a project that I am working on with The Real Estate Council.  It has been a little slow to get off of the ground, but we are finally picking up momentum and it looks like it will be a great project.

Form the site:

“Our dream for this center is to provide a rodeo arena, horse trails, community gardens, a neighborhood park, and facilities where the youth can learn resiliency skills to resist negative peer influence.  Please help make this vision a reality and help at-risk youth become “Ready and Forward”. Your contribution can make the difference in the lives to the youth of Dallas County. Through your generosity to the Joppa Rodeo project, you are giving several young people the opportunity to develop character through self empowerment.”

This is my first pass at a rendering. It will get better soon - I promise.


Fallingwater – Lego Version

During my last birthday we made a road trip to Bartlesville, Oklahoma to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s only completed skyscraper, Price Tower.  It has since been converted into a boutique hotel, and as a birthday present to myself I bought a lego version of Wright’s famous Fallingwater.  I ended up completing it some moths later, and it looks like this:

Looks big with a 55mm lens, but still pretty tiny

It is made of all of the smallest lego pieces, and actually took some time to build.  I think I sat through three movies (not in one sitting) building this.  I don’t remember this – or I didn’t appreciate it when I was a kid – but I liked the fact that during assembly everything fit so perfectly together, even though It looked like a bunch of unrelated parts for quite a while.  The little model is built to be disassembled at each floor  so you can see the floor plans (although they are greatly simplified).  The thing cost $100, which I guess is normal for an “adult” lego set, and of course that was full retail price (but it was the Price Tower Art Center’s Gift shop, and yes, I became a member).