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blogpost – mug coffee outdoors

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.

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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
19 W Hargett Street, Suite 700-A | Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 889 6823 | | TWITTER: aoarch

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Osterlund Architects is a full-service architecture and interior design firm, committed to our clients and their work from concept through construction, and through to their next opportunity. Our firm has expertise in all project phases, including programming, pre-design and planning through construction administration and closeout, as well as interior design, including furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) services.

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