A million choices

It’s December, the holidays are everywhere, and the deadlines are relentless in their quest for completion.  It seems as though every project I am working on has someone consistently asking for an answer to the most question the world has ever seen and could cause the entire project to collapse.  Or at least until tomorrow’s question comes along.

This is the 33rd installment of #ArchiTalks.  A monthly post about a random subject in architecture told from the viewpoint of different architects from all different backgrounds and locations.  This month’s subject is “Choices”.  Now, where to start?

It’s what we do

Throughout a typical project there are going to be thousands if not millions of choices made that help get it completed.  Some made by the owner, some made by the architect, some by the consultants, and then there are those that are just decided on by circumstance.  Those are always the most fun to deal with.  Part of our job is to not only make those choices, but to help the owner and consultants filter down the overwhelming quantity that could consume your every waking moment.  I know this one first hand.  My office is currently working on a project where we are going to have to basically re-skin an entire 12 story building.  There is no reason to go into all the reasons why, but the owner wants the new skin to be almost identical to the existing one, we can’t use the exact same for weather proofing reasons, but that doesn’t mean we get to stray to far away looks wise.  What is too far?  Anything beyond about a shade lighter or darker than the existing red brick is too far.  I think we have looked at every brick color that every major brick manufacturer in Texas carries.  That’s a lot of brick!  If we hadn’t filtered out the colors we knew would be out of the question anyway, we would have wasted an enormous amount of time.  Now just imagine that amount of choice for every single object in an entire building.  Yeah…. my head is spinning too.

The cool thing about this profession though, that’s what we do.  We get to filter through all of that stuff and present what we think is best suited for the project.  What is the owner going to go for?  What is going to push the owner to the edge of what they are comfortable with, while still making them love it?  What do we need to just do without bothering the owner with the minutia?  So many choices that somehow transforms themselves into a piece of architecture.

Obvious, not so obvious

The choices we make for projects are probably the most public decisions we have to make.  For the most part, they are going to be visible to anyone that inhabits that building.  For better or worse, they stand proud, front and center for critique or compliment.  Then there are all of those choices that no one knows about, no one sees, no one even knows were a part of the project.  Materials, layouts, ratios… no none of that.  I’m talking about those lunches that were skipped because you were in the middle of figuring something out and the break would only mess you up.  Showing up to work early just to have that hour of total peace and quiet to get more done than you will the rest of the day.  That night when you were the last one to leave the office because you were so focused on your work when you finally looked up no one else was left.  Those are the choices that never get talked about, but always make the impossible possible.

Sometimes those choices seem impossible to make.  Choosing between them only leaves you with the feeling that you made the wrong choice.  Or was it the right choice?

This time of year can be one of the hardest of times to know which decision was the right one.  Office gatherings, project deadlines, family time, holidays; they all seem to be competing for your attention.  I know that these are always present, but the end of the year seems to magnify and intensify the pressure.  Earlier in my career, I would always sacrifice any type of personal time to make sure the project got done.  Now that I am a little older, just a little, I’ve realized you have to be honest with the people you work with and for and let them know that more time is needed.  I’m not going to try and predict how this choice will play out down the path of the rest of my career, I just know that I had to make it.

Get out there, work hard, play hard, and like I tell my two daughters… Make good choices.

Ok, if you choose to (see what I did there), and I really think you should, check out the rest of the #ArchiTalks posts in the links below.

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Limit Their Stress By Limiting Their Choices

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Choices — It’s Everything!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How Do You Deal with Choices During the Design Process?

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Life is a Gamble that depends upon your choices

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Slow… merge… stop

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Choose Your Battles

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
ArchiTalks Choices


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