In Random Stuff: The Big Why
In Real Life Survival Guide: The Umbilical Dilemma
In Not (As) Fat: Method Versus Motivation
In The Rules: Money & Building
The outdoor chapel at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT
In New Haven Magazine: Lawyers In Love
In New Haven Magazine: A House of Homes
In The Source: Duo Dickinson, Architect at Large
In River & Shore’s Coastal Homes: On the Indian River
In The New Haven Register: Aesthetically inconvenient Mudd Library faces death sentence
In Connecticut Magazine: Elements of Surprise
In The New Haven Register: Real Icons Aplenty in New Haven
In The Mercurial: Erosion Revelation
In Architecture Boston: Post-Modernism and Intelligent Design
In Design Bureau: Steve & Frank
On HGTV: Mercedes Home Diaries Password: mercedes
On A Miniature World, Binnie Klein & I discuss springtime striving, mislaid spirituality & the folly of architectural terms. Listen here!
This is the second set of construction photos for the house on Oak Hill Road in Livingston, NY.The concrete walls and floors are complete, and the house has been backfilled. The roof structural system, made up of a complex steel reinforcing grid on top of the insulating concrete forms I described last month, can be seen in the photos just before we poured 200 cubic yards of concrete on November 22. It was necessary to build 800 temporary wood columns on a 2’ x 2’ grid inside the house to support the wet cement, which weighed approximately 300,000 pounds as it was poured. A large pumping truck placed the concrete with a long boom to reach 150 feet from the truck. A normal residential roof with standard roof shingles is designed for a roof load of 40 pounds per square foot. This roof is designed for a roof load of approximately 400 pounds per square foot to support the weight of the earth and snow that will be on top of the house when it is finished.We will be working on completing the exterior of the house during the next couple of months. The walls will be receiving plywood sheathing, followed by a waterproof membrane, followed by copper sheathing. The glass doors and windows will be installed in about a month and we will share more construction pictures towards the end of January.Until then, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!Allan
-there is never enough and there is no upper limit
In every website, coffee table book, magazine or HGTV show the cost of doing construction is either dumbed down to sound bite superficiality, or its the huge rotting dead moose on the table that goes unaddressed.
Builders want to make a profit, designers want to make a vision – and you are left with the bill. Unlike your car, whatever you build – renovation, addition, new – has never been done before so there are no “list” prices.
Every builder assumes risk, every designer wants to express him or herself. Both protect themselves with contracts that call for the client to pay when things “change”. Just like law, medicine and academics the dirty big truth about construction is that the less your clientele knows the more you can charge, no matter how much you, your services or your work product is worth.
There are exceptions to the common practice of trading on exclusivity, but some doctors patronize patients with half-truths, many lawyers obscure inside-baseball proprietary processes with intentional ambiguity, and academics use obtuse language wrapped in convoluted arcania to generate ignorant awe and validate grant proposals. Unfortunately builders, designers, real estate brokers and bankers have traditionally kept consumers at arm’s length to keep the nuts and bolts of their value in a hidden place of mysterious worth.
An open book method of accountability – for process, products, means and methods – is messy, sometimes embarrassing, but always takes more time. But transparency creates trust, and where there is trust, real value is created in building.
Homeowners are bombarded with information designed to sell services, products and designs. But what every housing consumer has to know is that construction is not a product, and it’s not just a service. If it were psychotherapy, then the results could be explained away. If custom construction were a product you could buy it at Home Depot, or simply take it to the Returns Desk if you end up disliking the result.
Building, and all of the design and option-giving that goes into it is a uniquely human hybrid – not as essential as finding a way to eat enough to live, but not as unecessarily elaborated as haute cuisine. Fast food quells hunger, it’s cheap, its served off a sign as a number, but it seldom satisfies. Creating your own place to live may not be as essential and free as breathing, but it should not be as costly and rarified as $600 perfume.
Everyone needs to get out of the weather and find shelter, but you also want to love where you live. Building anything involves mystery we do not tolerate well, and money and patience we have a limited supply of. We can learn about the risks and realities of construction to diffuse the fear of the unknown. We can man-up and get braced for a long haul. But most of us do not have a color xerox that prints $100 bills.
Money is usually the most fixed asset we have. Creativity and elbow grease and dogged shop-till-you-drop focus can expand how much you can build with the money you have, but only added time can expand the actual money you have to spend, absent a winning Lotto number.
There is a floor to costs, but no ceiling. Every step up the ladder of escalating cost is a choice once you have determined that floor. This is not an express elevator that you either go up to the penthouse in or stay in the lobby – building and design should be a path to getting what you want, knowing what the costs are as you go along that path so you can stop or change course.
But to gain control, you need to have professionals who let you into the process of designing and building – and those step-by-step costs. They are out there, and the internet’s infinite blogs, websites and video streams can get you acquainted with the terms of engagement.
You are reading one of those right now.
“Why?” is the 3 year old’s response to any declarative sentence. ”Let’s go for a walk!” “Why?” “It’s raining outside!” “Why?” “Let’s get dressed!” – you get it.
As the house is to architecture, “Why?” is to questioning. Because humans uniquely need answers as much as food and shelter, “Why” is as central to our mindset as staying warm. Without its answer not much else matters. But “Why?” is the often the silent, unspoken inquisition after the age of 3. Like most people, I live in “What?” and “How?”. Bills, weather, resumes, possessions, hobbies all demand answers. It’s only my scientist and shrink friends who dwell more in “Why?” on a daily basis, but they are the exception.
You would think clerics would live in the realm of “Why”, but too often religion ceases spirituality when the “What’s” and ”How’s” of ritual and canon drown out the “Why” of faith. The religion of many of my atheist friends, politics, falls prey to the unheard “Why” as well. This particular screeching political season is aflame in “What” and “How” outrage, with the essential “Why” a silent irrelevancy in the jackass chorus of angry certitude. The older I get, the louder “Why?” becomes. This is somewhat by default as health, marriage and career have answered many of the “What/How/Where/Who” queries – but it’s also because there is more in my rear view mirror than in front of my windshield.
But for most of us “Why” is an afterthought. Something wonderful or terrible happens and we want to know why we deserved that outcome. Getting cancer if you smoke, or getting divorced if you cheat are obvious outcomes, but imponderables are more common than easy answers. A child falls prey to drugs. A happy marriage just becomes unhappy. Success becomes ashes. Things happen that no one wants to happen, and happen despite answering all the “What’s” and “How’s”. Absent control, all we can do is work harder, or give up.
But unquestioned drive also begs the “Why” question. One son becoming an All Conference football player and another graduating with a performance degree in horn seems to make sense given the unending work each result necessitated, but why did those intense desires exist, given neither son will perform either obsession to earn a living?
The unconsidered life may not be worth living, but it is where most of us spend most every hour. We do “What” we are incoherently called to do, “How” the effort will get the most results, and rationalize the obsession later, if ever. To my knowledge my parents did not have the luxury of “Why” in the generation formed in Depression and War – when survival is in question, asking “Why” is absurd. You gotta do what you gotta do.
And yet humans continuously ask “Why?” even when there are ironclad reasons to do what you gotta do. Friends have ceased living “correct” answers to the “How” and “What” questions: doctors have ceased the practice of curing disease, clerics stop preaching, huge earners give up the paycheck. All rejected the defendable answers in their lives because the “Why” became deafening. In today’s atmosphere of fundamental uncertainty, where there is a lack of any perceived ultimate social, technical or cultural direction, we relentlessly seek “what” works and “how” to make it happen, but we still ask “why” things are so, well, uncomfortable.
Precious little insight follows fortune. Tales of disastrous Lotto winners and celebrity self-destruction give solace to the unfortunate – but also amp up the question of why we are deaf to the obvious answers to how best to live and what the right thing to do is. Having children uniquely deflected the “Why” question in my life. Parenting pre-empted all other options. Children are, for me, The Prime Directive, bending all judgments to their needs. But they grow up.
While some spawn are in perpetual need due to health, bad choices or our suffocating over parenting, the majority grow beyond needing us. So the “Why’s” become the ever-increasing drumbeat of preoccupation, whether we like it or not. Golf, MSNBC/Fox News, fashion, book groups, opera, Dancing With The Stars or Sports Center can only drown out the “Why” for so long. A broken body part, marriage or career can sabotage the most elaborate construction of distractions.
For we of the “Me”‘/”Why Not?” generation living long, living hard, living well does not, finally open the Answer Book to the Big Why. All the essential preoccupations with “How” and “What”, once settled, for good or ill, only get us to a place where no grade, job description or possession can answer the “Why”.
As many of us have learned, the “Perfect School” does not make our children happy, a job is seldom a career, our bodies are not machines, and our perceptions are anything but objective. For me, I rely on exhaustion for validation. Physical exertion to the point of incapacity has been how I have avoided the “Why” – until in bed, in a car, or otherwise trapped inanimate in my mind. But effort, however fruitful, makes more lactic acid and caffeine addiction than the clarity of purpose being a parent afforded. I thank God every day for a marriage and healthy sons, wife and body, but acknowledgement of blessings is not the answer for the Big Why.
No matter how much I feel Grace every day, I find no rest in it. I find no soundbite cliche to staunch the gaping void of Why.
Back to work.
If you want to lose weight, there are thousands of “miracle” methods. Governor Christie is “half way” to his “goal” because a rubber band has reduced his stomach to the size of a walnut, but more importantly, he wants to be President.
The method is far less important that the motivation. I tried dozens of methods but wanted to gloss over the reason I was fatter than I am now: I was overloaded (by necessity) and overfed (by default). I was unthinking, so unseeing and had kids and career pre-empt both vanity and common sense.
Motivation is definitionally subjective. Some people are motivated by greed, some loath it. Some are motivated by “faith in a higher power”, others want to “live in the moment.”
I wanted to get the fat monkey off my back. And thighs. And belly. And ass.
That motivation had, and has these meager methods:
1. Keep your belly full, but with things that won’t make you fat.
2. Move your body.
3. Don’t think high calorie foods can be limited to small quantities.
4. Take the damn vitamin.
5. It really is all about you. If you base dramatic and protracted change on getting a better verdict from some perceived judge of who you are, their approval will never be enough.
6. The delivery system is as important as the food. Burgers, deep fat fried chicken strips, candy bars, potato chips, and peanuts are fabulously successful as dietary saboteurs. They’re just so damn easy to eat. Their bite-sized, grab-friendly nature allows for instant gratification without any thought or preparation.
All the diets, surgeries and supplements fail if you have the wrong motivation. (Oprah has proven that). Find the reason being fat happened and why it should not be part of who you are. Or don’t. It really is all about you.