Can a Construction Administration Guy Ever Really Enjoy the Forest and Not Just the Trees?

Date: May 31, 2017 12:08:53 PM

I often wonder what it would be like to work in an environment where when you leave at the end of the day you never have to think about ‘work’ until the next day. As a designer with a specialty in construction observation, I find myself never being able to turn it off.

My visit last year to Barcelona, is a case in point. Not content to simply absorb the power of the Pavelló Mies van der Rohe, my eye was immediately drawn to every detail. Mind you, we all look at the details to admire how the various design elements come together, especially when visiting an iconic structure, but my eye was drawn to things like a dented piece of trim and a missing screw in a window stop and irregular joints in the stone paving slabs. Thoughts of solutions for maintaining the joint alignment started flowing through my head. Certainly the average visitor would likely not notice these things and come away from the site with a totally different experience, the one that Mies originally intended.

I love taking photos and perhaps viewing the world so often through the small frame of a viewfinder all these years has affected me somehow. My daughter recently told me that she also likes to take photos but quickly added “but not of buildings.” We do, however, play the observation game “I Spy” especially while in restaurants waiting for our food. I gave her what I thought was an easy one the other day about three wall sconces. She pointed out several items that were in fact wrong with the installation of the three lights before pointing out the obvious one of a shade with its seam facing out. I don’t know if I should be really proud or if I should pray that she doesn’t lose sight of the bigger picture and turn into me. For now though, I’ll encourage her to keep her eyes wide open even if we do continue to play “I Spy.”

N.B.; from Laura Pirie:

As chief cook and bottle washer at Pirie Associates, part of my job is to draw out the best work from our team members. To me this means recognizing and supporting each person’s natural traits and interests and building a team that combines the best of each to make a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. To achieve this, I use a lot of the skills that we as a firm also use with our clients, including deep listening, clear observation, peeling back layers to separate ideas from solutions, and re-framing goals and objectives. Two of these skills, deep listening and observation, include not only what is said, but what each collaborator does.  Words can describe aspirations, but actions demonstrate innate talents and resources.

I really enjoy Paul’s blog about his natural ability to see even the smallest detail – and the challenges that come along with his gift! Paul’s sensitive and strategic detail-vision, which is an essential part of our work as it is being built, leads to the high-quality design solutions to which we aspire.  Many people think an architect’s work is complete when the documents are done.  This is not the case: the documents architects produce are a road map, in fine detail, of the design intentions of a project.  Many, many solutions must and can only be resolved as a project is being built. This is why it is so important to have the architect on site during construction.
Each project is an opportunity to create a new recipe of talents and circumstances to take what we (and our clients) do to the next level. It’s a magical way to collaborate and make environments that inspire, engage, and invite us all to grow.


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