Thursday, October 06, 2005

I Am A Problem Solver


I am an architect and our firm is working on the restoration/seismic upgrade of the historic Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah. A truly great and unique building.

I have written about it in the past and have made several sketches of it as it takes shape during the construction process. There is something about the construction process a building goes through that is so fascinating to me. Especially on a restoration/remodel type project you get to see many glimpses of how a building looks and appreciate the great skill and ability the craftsman has in putting it all together. I happen to really feed off of the constant problem discovery, research and resolution process that happens when the project hits a snag which is almost every day.

Resolving design problems is such an exhilaration and it is one of the most appreciative talents the Architect possesses when faced with new challenges. If the architect truly understands the building and construction process he is highly valued when new problems arise. Conversely, if the architect doesn't understand the construction process then he is quickly criticized and ineffective in carrying the project forward. Not all architects posses all of the talents to see through the project from inception to completion. Most find their niche. Some are design gurus that only live in the theoretical and are the ones most people are accustomed to seeing in glossy architectural journals and in the media. Some are highly technical and they end up either writing specifications or developing construction documents ("blueprints"). Others are very people oriented and they deal very well with the client and end up as project managers and principal owners of architectural firms. And then there are those who really understand the construction process and excel at putting the project together after the drawings are published- they end up administrating the construction process. I happen to do well on all levels- (my least favorite is putting together the construction documents). But I find in excelling in all areas leaves me relatively flat because I am not a specialist. In our society today we are constantly refining and creating new specialists who end up highly trained in one specific trait- the "widget". I am very fortunate that I am involved heavily from inception to completion- seeing a building project through this way is highly satisfying.

One of the most fascinating parts of my profession is that I can be involved at all levels and stages of the project and can expect to do such different things almost every day. When people ask what it is that I do I tell them I'm a problem solver. From solving the clients building needs at the beginning of a project, to resolving construction issues at the end of the project we are constantly looking at different ways to solve the issues of the built environment. Most people think I draft all day- which sometimes might be the case but not for the most part it is the least of my activities.

Unfortunately, I secretly desire to be a watercolor artist and this blog is my outlet. Drawing and creating art is a very similar process as in creating architecture. Some of it is very esoteric and theoretical, some is technical, some of it is just plain hard work. But going through the entire process and seeing the completed product creates such intense joy and satisfaction. I am convinced that no matter what it is whether it is art, craft, architecture, music composition or even gardening- the act of creating and seeing that creation through completion is a feeling like no other.

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