Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


The rudest shock of my education was how little it prepared me for the real world. Actually making a living requires actually doing things, and in the normal sense, that means going to work for an architect and drawing for all you're worth. (The abnormal sense is dropping out and living in a small cabin in the woods.)

And not pretty sketches, either. Actual construction drawings, done as fast as possible, and as free of errors as possible, and as clear as possible. Which was not one of the things they taught down on the Plains. I had a little bit of mechanical drafting experience from UAB, and quite a lot of doing presentation drawings, but construction drafting is its OWN art and science, and bears little relationship to scholastic exercises. This was at the time when computer drafting was still in its infancy, so I had even less experience with that.

Thankfully, I found a job with a medium sized firm here in town--big enough to get some meaty projects, but small enough so that I quickly got some experience other than making coffee and sorting the mail. (I got to do that, too.) After foundering for a few weeks as I picked up the necessary minimum knowledge required to do construction drawings, I was thrown into the middle of the lake and told to swim--big post office over in Atlanta that had been languishing on another guy's desk, and in a fit of pique, the boss fussed and fumed and told me to get it done. Which I did. For a while there, it had the distinction of having the tallest Keystone wall in the Northern Hemisphere. Good experience all the way around, from having to learn to deal with the U.S. gummint and the local revenooers, to how to coordinate the engineers, how to move lackadaisical contractors, and how to draw right.

As one of the oldest firms in town, our basement held a treasure trove of old drawings from the mid- to late '20s, all the way up to the present. These were done mostly by draftsmen, but that is intended as no slight. Each sheet was a work of art in itself, and each man had his own little tweak or twitch that identified his hand. I learned more about setting your ideas to paper in looking over those old drawings than in the entire time I was in school. And I got to where I was a pretty darned fine draftsman--just about the time that computers began replacing old, nearsighted guys hunched over a drafting table.

I still do pretty well, though--like ol' John Henry, I can still work faster than those steam hammers. At least on some things. And the drawings still look awfully pretty.

Anyway, I stayed on and learned a lot, and got to do a lot of things that I would never have otherwise since I had a degree in construction, too. Field observations (architects NEVER inspect anything) and site grading plans and such like helped break up the day and got me out of the office a little. The office wasn't so bad, though--we had a good group of young guys, all smart and fiery and full of venom and fun. Good guys who knew their beans, and who could sit and spout academic fooferall AND browbeat a contractor without missing a beat. Fun times.

And then it got very, VERY bad. I've talked about the stupid, ill-thought-out changes that overtook the place before, and they doesn't bear repeating again, other than to say that just because someone seems to be honest on the surface, doesn’t mean they really are.

But in my time there, I still learned a lot, which I have codified into my RULES OF ARCHITECTURE. I know they're pretty good, because I sent them to James Lileks back before he got a million e-mails a day, and he liked them enough to write back and tell me so. For the rest of you, here they are:

1. If it don't line up, it ain't architecture.

2. Anyone can dress up like a clown, but it ain't funny except at the circus.

3. The fact that the human eye can discern 32,000,000 colors does not mean that there is a requirement to use them all on one project.

4. You only get one "f*** you!" to a client in your lifetime. Use it wisely.

5. Put on a hard hat and carry a clipboard, and you can go anywhere in the world.

6. Never wear your good shoes to a construction site.

7. You are paid to draw, not erase.

8. Why is it that there is never time to do it right, but always time to do it over?

9. "We can fix it by addendum," or "figure it out in the field" never work.

10. Wait about 2,000 years before you tell me how great a building is.

So, there you go--the sum total of my knowledge, free for you to clip out and save on your refrigerator!

That's about all for today, folks--and tomorrow is going to be one those fun regulatory excess days here at the place I went to after I left The Bad Place. (The fact that being a government bureaucrat is preferable to staying in my previous employ should let you in on just HOW bad The Bad Place is.) Anyway, tomorrow morning will be only lightly seasoned with blogginess--but stick around until later and I'll throw some more of this stuff out.

Comments: Post a Comment

al.com - Alabama Weblogs

free hit counter
Visits since 12/20/2001--
so what if they're mostly me!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't
Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com