Lose the mouse, ditch the iPad and shut down your laptop. These cubes aren’t for power pointing, conference calling, or graphing net operating income.
So many outdoor enthusiasts have been coming to the Lebanon Hills Ski and Mountain Bike Trailhead that Locus was asked to design a couple changing rooms (in addition to a few other outdoor facilities) to make the transition onto the trail more pleasant.
The wee wooden gems are simply detailed for a quick switch from daily attire into something a bit more off-road worthy. Gearing-up is made easily accessible with a smooth gliding door and wooden benches (inside). Ipe, a species of highly durable wood, clads the cubes and will keep them in great shape for years to come.
If you are looking for an office-to-trail transformation, you needn’t wait much longer. The trailhead expects to officially open this summer.
Paul, my business partner, once told me, “Architects are their own worst enemies.” By that, I think he meant the way many architects, architectural schools, and even the AIA (the main architects’ professional organization in the U.S.) have worked hard to promote architects and architecture as “Artists” creating “Art”. This has certainly given us some social credibility – how many times have I heard “I always wanted to be an architect (but I wasn’t good in math)” – but the byproduct is an aura of precious elitism which the profession has cultivated. Have we branded ourselves as intelligent, creative, and irrelevant?
Last month, while paging through the February issue of ARCHITECT, this photo inspired a snide bark of a laugh. It’s the architecture jury from the most recent Progressive Architecture (PA) Awards. Eschewing the typical frontal shot, the jurors face the edge of the frame, jaws clenched, as if steeling themselves against some architectural disaster just out of the frame. I imagine my dentist or accountant or any number of friends – realtors, social workers, financial advisors, politicians, bike mechanics, restauranteurs, businesswomen – running across this photo while waiting for a haircut. If the question, “Fun to work with this group?” popped into their head, I’m guessing they’re thinking “Not so much.” Architects, in our serious quest to be taken seriously, sometimes forget the appeal, or approachability, of charisma. Creating can be a rigorous exercise to be sure, but also deeply satisfying and even (gasp!) fun. This photo certainly speaks to me, “don’t trap me in the corner with someone who is going to blab endlessly on aesthetics,” but it doesn’t say ” join us at our end of the table!” I don’t want to be that kind of architect.
Architects almost universally whine about a) losing design market share to realtors, design/build contractors, and controlling owners; and b) being under compensated. Might we learn a lesson from the playbook of residential realtors – who are considered virtually indispensable to home buyers and sellers? Concentrate on quantity to the same degree as quality, and don’t under deliver on customer experience. Not customer service, customer experience. I think Frank Lloyd Wright, a prolific tinkerer, understood that; while Le Corbusier, a crabby perfectionist, probably did not. Both were acclaimed designers with sweeping careers. Bonus points to anyone who can guess which one architects more commonly study in design school. HINT: not the one from Wisconsin.
We like to immerse in a complicated project with a lavish design budget as much as any firm, but many of our clients need less than “full service” – a few inexpensive sketches to solve a space planning issue, preliminary ideas to establish a budget for a project, or schematic designs that will be finalized later by an owner or contractor. They can’t always afford a masterpiece, or just don’t want to pay for one, but they still want creative. This “design lite” model isn’t our ideal project; it has liability implications, and can be challenging if clients expect to receive apples-to-apples competitive construction bids. However, more moderate services are often more in line with what clients expect or are willing to spend. We don’t propose doing the same amount of work for less, we suggest providing a quality service, lesser in scope, commensurate with the fee. The advantages to architecture firms in terms of increased workload might outweigh the headache of reassigning risk and altering established project delivery methods. Who wants to write a spec anyway?
I’m not for belittling the creative, sometimes magical, energy we bring to people and projects, but I think the profession would be economically healthier if we marketed and leveraged our imaginative abilities, rather than broadcasting the aloof persona of stubborn design crusaders hell bent on delivering a legacy.
These guys look like more fun.
SAMini was built earlier this year by Locus in collaboration with Weis. The portable office currently houses a leasing station for Soltvå – a new apartment building in the Warehouse District. Stroll by 701 N 2nd St. for a looksee; word has it the doors are open most afternoons.
-Laura G., Minneapolis
(A true story from the my inbox. If we’d only known Laura then.)
I am not a Locus customer at all. Never was. Therein lies the problem. When it was time to build a second story on my house, I did not hire an architect to design the space. Imagine my delight when I found a draftsman who could complete the blueprints for only $165! I had saved thousands by not using an architect. I felt clever and thrifty.
Fast forward 4 years. My small daughter is now a teen; the household has expanded to include a husband/stepdad, and I can’t find my black pumps or winter sweaters in the only jumbled (now “his and hers”) puny closet in the master bedroom. The walk-in closet of my dreams became a furnace room in the final building moments due to lack of HVAC planning. Upstairs, books fight with homeless laundry for space on the floor because – oops – there are windows where there should be bookshelves. But the windows are all transoms for some reason– too high to see out of ––except the one in my room, which looks out on an expanse of grey asphalt roof shingles. There are also three really big windows on the tiny Northwest corner bedroom my daughter outgrew five minutes after it was completed. These floor-to-ceiling windows make the room bone-chilling cold in the winter and bring maximum exposure of the room and all its contents to every pedestrian on the busy street below. We overcome the lack of modesty by simply never opening the heavy curtains. The poor teen goes to bed and awakes in complete darkness year round, never quite knowing what time or season it is. And every morning profanity fills the air as my husband trips over a vacuum cleaner (did I mention no storage closets?) or stray shoes and falls into the standing garment rack on wheels blocking the bedroom doorway. And the profanity comes from me, not him. I can’t hear what he’s saying above the din.
Don’t be like me. Hire an architect.