Looking for your input!

I’ve had an idea – or part of an idea knocking around in my head for a while now. It’s an idea that hasn’t gone away, so I figure I should write about it. The problem is – I’m not sure how to approach the topic (or multiple topics) this would cover.

Let me explain.

One of the struggles a lot of modern writers face is the dread “day job”. As it turns out, I really like what I do during my day job. I work in the architecture field. I get to draw buildings all day, figure out challenging three dimensional puzzles, resolve health, safety and welfare code conflicts, and a bunch of other stuff that essentially would sound like ‘details’ to most folks outside the industry. It’s creative and challenging work.

I really want to write (and possibly present a talk on ~ say for a convention) a couple of topics relating to the field of architecture, but just saying “architecture” is such a broad statement I don’t know where to start.

Some of the things I’ve thought of digging into (in no particular order) are:


Current building trends (smart building, green building, urban trends… what trend?)

The influence and art of architecture in the movies

The real problem here is even those 3 topics have huge swaths of ground they cover.

Articles like this one on current structures that look like they’re right out of science fiction are cool and inspirational, but do you want more than that? Less than that? Different than that?

So – if you have a thought or opinion on what you might like to hear about from that list leave me a comment (or drop a comment on my Facebook link where this article shows up) I’d really like to hear from you.

Compared to what?

I’ve been a bit busy lately – and most of it has been the “day job”. That’s not a bad thing – being bored or slow at the day job leads to cuts… and we don’t want that.

So, less on the writing and art front – but still making cool things. This is a comparison between a render I made in the computer and what was actually built. I think we got pretty close…

The day job is on a crazy deadline over the next few weeks, but I’ll still attempt to get things out here when I can.

Old or Modern?

Watch out – going to geek out a little on architecture for a minute. This is my day job and I don’t often have the two cross over as there aren’t many folks I know that enjoy talking about the specifics of the built environment the way I do.

Someone I know professionally bemoaned the lack of diversity in architecture these days calling most of what is built “little beige boxes”. While I do not think he was wrong, I also don’t think he was right when he placed the blame on technology.

Is it true that a lot of the art of the drawing has been lost since construction documents moved to more technology based tools? Maybe. I’d say it’s a matter of opinion – and my opinion is that the art doesn’t go away if you’ve got a skilled operator. If you saw a really ugly cabinet, would you blame the hammer or the cabinet maker?

The old / cool architecture that was pointed out as the art we have lost was the Apennine Colossus in Italy. Setting aside all questions of accessibility and other code related issues that are a constant with modern day projects – I would love to work on a building like that. Make a fireplace where the smoke is channeled out the giant’s nose? Awesome.

While it might not be my taste, it’s not that interesting and amazing structures aren’t being built these days. Take Kunsthaus Graz for example. It’s a giant alien blob and has a host of cool modern things going for it. Built in the early 2000s it looks like an alien just dropped in to say hello and decided to stay. I can only imagine the technical difficulties associated with trying to create the working drawings for that building.

The question is – what sort of amazing building would you like to see?

Going Up!


I know there aren’t many folks on my list that geek out over the same kind of stuff I do – but this is one of those times when I’m going to share because the future is creeping up on us. You’re too close, you won’t see it right away but suddenly you’ll look around and think to yourself, “how the hell did we get here?” while staring at all the little things that have added up over time.

Check out the place being built directly over the top of an operational rail yard HERE.

I was fortunate enough to have heard a presentation on this project a couple of years ago. There was a lot of discussion about how the coordination and the software was being handled because of the massive amount of logistics involved. It really is an amazing project that we’re not hearing much about. I find it fascinating that we’re taking our most definite steps so far toward becoming the land of Fifth Element – we’re building up, directly over other places that have already been built.

Jack of all trades…

Master of Architecture?

Thursday was an odd mix of the “throwback” and the forward thinking. I went to a college campus for a tour – as a perspective student. It was a long drive (and would be a rotten commute at 90 minutes) with lots of time to think. The more I think of it, the more it becomes a trippy mix of memory and future plans. I have a college degree, but not the right one to break past a certain ceiling in the architecture industry. I started in design school, but finished in a different program. I spent years in studio and drawing classes, but what got me into the field was my ability to be a CAD monkey – or take all that data and put it “in the box”. I’ve got years of experience and I’m working on the requirements to get my registration stamp here in Pennsylvania, but that’s not easy when you’re not actually working. School might actually help with that – if only I could afford to do that right now. Thursday really tossed my emotions around.

I’m considering trying to go to Morgan State University for the Graduate program in Architecture and get my masters degree. I dropped a line to the program and ended up getting a tour with the head of the program himself. That was both excellent and disconcerting. Excellent in that, how many folks get the personal tour with the director of the program? Disconcerting in that we’re about the same age and were within a just few years of each other when graduating from school last time I did this. The throwback went into overdrive when he said that the first semester of studio all students were required to be on the boards – no computer work for drawings or presentations. It’s been more than 20 years since I was on the drafting board. I’ve got the trace paper, the pencils, the triangles – I’ve even got a drafting board in the attic still. My skills would be rusty to say the least, but I think I would struggle for a while until I got back into the swing of things. The trippy part? I’ve spent the past year and a half as a trainer for the computer programs that architects and engineers use – so there’s actually some small potential that I could get an adjunct professor kind of position there teaching Revit. I could be the teacher and the student… at the same time? It was a confusing and unsettling day, but the trip is one I’m ultimately glad I made.

Now is more of the wait and see part. This is all conjecture. None of it is relevant until I’m once again gainfully employed – money does seem to make the world go around.

Built To Last

This was originally published in the Watch The Skies fanzine for the February 2014 issue:

For some reason building technology tends to get left out of the discussion when people look at science fiction. It’s always there, it’s just never the hot topic. Maybe it’s not active enough. Maybe it doesn’t have the sexy appeal of rocket ships or green alien women. There are exceptions, but even those exceptions tend to be limited in how the place where all the action happens is handled. The part that interests me is just how large a part buildings play in science fiction and fantasy stories, how completely integral they are and how those descriptions seem fade to “mere” background.

Having spent some time working in architecture I’ve struggled with what most folks know about the field. Many of my friends have heard me rant when confronted with somebody going on and on about Frank Lloyd Wright – particularly if that’s the only name in architecture they know. I tend to counter them immediately by saying, “He was a short ego-maniac that made short buildings with leaky roofs…” That rarely goes over well. It is hyperbole to make a point. While the vision and the design are undeniable, the last thing designed by Mr. Wright was in the 1950s. There are decades of design that have come on since then.

Getting to know what modern architects are designing and getting constructed should be an important part of conversations about the future. What technologies are going into the places where we live, work, eat and play every day? How will we interact with those places? Will they make us comfortable or will they be sterile and uninviting? How will those places look and feel to the people that use them every day? How will they look to the people that will see these structures 50, 100 or more years in the future? Will they last that long given the materials that are used?

Once you’ve taken a few moments to consider the technology and other aspects of architecture, consider the deeply visual nature of those designs. I’m going to stay away from the written descriptions and the worlds of fantasy and stick strictly with science fiction that has made it to the big screen.

What would Blade Runner be if you didn’t get to see Los Angeles?

Would The Fifth Element be the same if New York wasn’t so huge you needed to have flying cabs?

Where would Luke be if Bespin wasn’t a city in the clouds?

There are so many amazing structures out there and so much technology that can be added to them that architecture, the built environment, should be a topic of study for the science fiction community. Take some time, look around. Learn who some of the people are that give us the places where the future happens. Next time you’re out someplace try slowing down and looking up at the structures around you. You won’t be the only one, and you might see something that will spark your imagination.

Bonus stuff – there have been some interesting articles lately by people that think something similar. Check these articles out.

Gizmodo: World’s worst architect? http://gizmodo.com/frank-gehry-is-still-the-worlds-worst-living-architect-1523113249

The Onion: http://www.theonion.com/articles/frank-gehry-no-longer-allowed-to-make-sandwiches-f,8716/?ref=auto

iO9: Organic Brooklyn? http://io9.com/will-brooklyn-look-like-this-in-a-century-1523174170

Structures that belong in a science fiction film: http://flavorwire.com/409062/20-works-of-architecture-that-belong-in-a-sci-fi-film/