What was I thinking?

V = ╥ r² h

Remember that one from early geometry?  I do, it’s one I will never forget.  I guess it was sometime around the end of elementary school, beginning of middle school time frame when I learned how to figure out the volume of a cylinder.  I’m definitely not a math genius or anything, but I did pretty well in it throughout school.  It comes in handy every once in a while in this profession.  Anyway… I remember I was out with my parents shopping for who knows what at the local mall back when I was a kid.  Walking around this store and that one, seeing tons of stuff that I had absolutely no interest in.  That is until we come upon this table with a big glass mason jar on top sitting in the middle of an aisle.  This thing is filled to the brim with bright and colorful M&M’s and has a sign in front of it that says “WIN ME!”  Ok, so I’m somewhere around 10-11 years old, I’m slightly addicted to sugar (that is one of the basic food groups, right?), and I want this thing.  The only thing you have to do is guess the number of M&M’s in the jar, and the person with the closest guess wins.  Hey now, I’ve got an idea!  If I count the number of pieces that go half way across the top… What was the value for pi again? How many are pieces tall is in here?  Do a little quick multiplication, and…  Tada!  The answer is, oh I have no idea any more what I wrote, at least a few hundred, but I do know that about a week later we get a phone call from the store saying that I have won myself a big ol’ jar full of M&M’s!


So what does a 10-11 year old do with a jar full of M&M’s?  He takes about 1 weekend to eat the entire jar.  Talk about M&M overload.  So fast forward to today, and I’m definitely not a 10-11 year old anymore.  Anyone want to take a guess as to how many M7M’s I have had since.  Ding, ding, ding, I heard it in the back… Zero, Nada, Zip, Zilch, any more synonyms I can come up with?  I can’t even stand the smell of them anymore.  Apparently it was a lifetime supply of M&M’s, because I have definitely had my fill.  Looking back, what the heck was I thinking doing that?  Was I even thinking, probably not.

This is the 37th installment of #ArchiTalks, a monthly blog posting about all sorts of issues in and around architecture, by architects, for architects and well… anyone else that wants to read about it too.  This month’s subject, you guessed it “What was I thinking?”

Right or Wrong?

I’m gonna go out on a limb here, don’t worry that it is the biggest branch on the tree, that on just about every project every architect works on, there is that moment when you think to yourself “WWIT!”  Ok, ok, I shortened it, writing that out every time was starting to get my typing fingers tired.  I currently have two projects in construction, one that has just recently gone out the door, and one that is in the midst of full fledged construction documentation get after it-ness.  That is the most technical term I think I have ever written.  With the two projects in construction we have been receiving RFI’s (requests for information) and product submittals on a very regular basis.  Reading through them has you going through every single drawing, detail, note, and specification that was created for that project over and over again.  Your constantly going back into your head thinking, what was the intention here, what were we trying to convey, how did we want this to be done?  Second guessing all of your decisions, you’ll find some that were the right choice, some, maybe not so much.

One recent RFI we received was asking about an existing window, the project is an addition between two buildings, we lovingly refer to it as ‘The Bridge’.  We had a issue where a new wall was getting built in front of a window of the existing building and there was nothing noted for the contractor to do anything about the situation.  Oops!  We had to go back and look at a whole bunch of decisions that we had made early on to figure out why a wall was placed there and why nothing was noted about the window.  We just had this feeling that the owner was going to come back to us and ask why we placed it there, couldn’t we have just moved it a couple inches to avoid the window in the first place.  After looking at the building connection points, the logistics of the site and the requested square footage of the building in the first place, there really wasn’t any other place this wall could go.  Funny thing is, on a lower level, we actually called out for a window directly below the one in question to be removed.  Luckily, the problem was just that about 6″ of parapet was into the window.  We came up with a quick fix to lower the parapet by 18″ and the problem was solved.  Easy enough, but for quite a while there, a lot of WWIT thoughts were running through my head.  This one was quick, painless, didn’t slow the project down, and had very little impact to the project as a whole, a definite win for everyone involved.

I think recently I have been having these thoughts about a stair design, the curtain wall bracing, expansion joints, door hardware, oh my gosh, you name it.  You just hope you got the decision right in the first place, or if you didn’t there is as easy a fix.


In recent months, maybe years, I think the time frame has been a bit fluid; there has been a swelling of voices that have come out and basically said, enough is enough.  The subject matters vary wildly, but the sentiment is the same, something isn’t right, and things need to change.  now don’t worry, I’m not going to get into the politics of all these different subjects, I’m probably not very qualified to do so.  What I can talk about with a fair amount of authority is my experiences.


A few years ago, I found myself right in the middle of a conversation, that from my point of view, had turned quite a bit demeaning and pretty much unacceptable from people that belong to a profession like ours.  It was full of stereotypical insults that were played off as innocent jokes.  It was the type of statements that make sane people think there is something seriously wrong going on there.  The oddest part of the conversation, besides being caught right in the middle of it, was that unbeknownst to the two people sharing these “jokes” was that they were actually insulting me.  I didn’t say anything, at the time I’m not sure I knew how to respond, or even if I should.  What was I thinking, what should I have been thinking, what should I have been doing?  These were people I had respected and had confided in.  Looking back, especially with all that has happened recently, I can now look at the situation and know that if something similar happened today, I could speak up, say something, make those who are being so demeaning aware that those kinds of comments and behavior are no longer ok and will not be tolerated.  I’ll know better than to eat all the M&M’s

If you’re curious, and the bigger question is why wouldn’t you be, as to what others have written about the subject ‘What was I thinking’, check out the links below.

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
What was I thinking?

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
what were we thinking: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
WWIT — Convenience Kills!

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
What Was I Thinking? (Learning from Your Mistakes When Starting a Business)

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
What was I thinking?

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
What was I thinking!



4 Replies to “What was I thinking?”

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