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reading tiger

Class Rage and Architecture

I was not expecting to have to wrestle with class rage while writing this dinky little article whose specific subject matter I will not discuss so that I don't have to put this under lock.

But, well, let's just say that the old family story I tell about Pick Hall on the University of Chicago campus is ringing in my ears today. For those of you who haven't heard it before:

I was strolling with a classmate along the University of Chicago campus and pointed to Pick Hall, the chic little modern building anchoring the southeast block of the Quads.

"My great-uncle built that building," I said.

Classmate replied with a hint of breathless excitement, "Your uncle designed that building?"

"No," I said. "My uncle built that building."

Because goddamnit, if someone else has to figure out how to make your design structurally feasible in the real world, it's not a design. It's a sketch. And that "someone else" (all the someones) deserves to be the famous one at least as much as you. And at this point in the process we haven't even gotten to the level of folks like my great-uncle yet.

And now you know why I have a tendency to unconsciously snarl when I hear the word "architecture." (Sorry, architects.)


I said: "So, when you hear the word "architecture" you reach for your tape measure?"

pantryslut replied "I think that's "When I hear the world "architecture" I reach for my crowbar."

We have buildings all over the Bay Area we point to and say my father-in-law built them.
"we haven't even gotten to the level of folks like my great-uncle yet"

Yup... I have a great-uncle who was a master woodworker, helped rebuild San Francisco after the Great Earthquake. i'd love to be able to look at a building and know he had a hand in it, but there's no documentation on that level...
Uh, not taking it personally. The vast majority of architects are not the famous ones. I won't ever be. I spend a lot of my time making sure things are ADA and California Building Code compliant. It's not glamorous, and it's not always fun. but I think it's a productive way to spend my time.
In my workplace, we collect the designers of the built environment--not usually the famous people. For example, I have the plans/design drawings for every Safeway in the Bay Area. However, we do stick to architects, landscape architects, etc.

If it makes you feel better, I get a lot of reference calls for people looking for builders' documents. Sometimes they exist at SFPL or other places. Sometimes we even have mechanical drawings, plumbing plans, etc. It's just not a guarantee.
'S why I tend to say "My grandfather's construction company built that," because while I know he HAD a lot of hands-on skills, and taught them to my dad, I never know exactly how much he had his hands on any particular building.

When my dad went to MIT, he was supposed to become a civil engineer and come back and be part of the business. It was a great disappointment to them that he wound up a computer programmer instead.