As much as we assume architecture is about things, big things that are shelved on a piece of land; and we assume buildings are diminished by the fact that they don’t come with wheels or cupholders or a jack for your ipod unless so-specified, I think I found the a-ha moment today that proves that it’s something else.
Back in college, I had a fleeting moment of conscience about entering into a profession that I feared was inherently about really expensive consumerism, about inventing more things for people who usually already had a lot of things. By fourth year, I figured I’d grow out of it that state of the heart, and focused more on preparing to do my job. I still hadn’t fully rationalized my goals, but I think today I finally have. So, that’s a big step, for what it’s worth.
This is what did it. Several months ago, I bought an eco-friendly corn-plastic travel-mug from Morning Times. They gave me free coffee, promised a discount on returns. It was expensive. That mug has sat in our home kitchen ever since. I didn’t wash it at the office, and I didn’t want to carry it back and forth from home. Instead, I kept getting daily coffee in paper cups with plastic lids and throwing them away. HOWEVER, today, the barista agreed to let me take a ceramic cup back to my office on the promise that I bring it back.
I walked back with a warm mug in hand, on a cool day, sipping along the sidewalk, up the elevator, to the office. It was wonderful. I wonder if they’ll do refills – that may be pushing the privilege.
For a desk job, I do spend a lot of time outdoors – meetings, site visits, permit submittals, parking the car. With Raleigh being so efficiently walkable, and my office being small, the outdoors has become a foyer to me. The streets and sidewalks are corridors. All these elements that we recreate in large suburban offices: the water cooler, the break room, the impromptu-creative-meeting-space, the departmental office wings, the wellness center, the copy room – these all exist in a city environment.
There’s a rumor that when FL Wright visited Johnson’s Glass House, he said he didn’t know whether to take his hat off or keep it on – he didn’t know if he was inside or outside. And, Wright and all these early modernists were experts at blending interiors with the land and the views. A small house can be as enormous as your backyard if you open the doors in the right way.
We recently looked at adding a commercial version of Nanawall to a new restaurant storefront. With the right doors and the right floor plan, a small restaurant becomes as big as the city.
This post is probably just about coffee, and I am ready for that refill. It may be about the habits of the profession, or why I like an office downtown. But it’s also a reminder about letting architecture be bigger than the footprint, and using doors really well.
Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
GREEN | URBAN | SMART ARCHITECTURE
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