I’ve been writing proposals all week. And, these are good ones. We’ve got work on our desks, and we’re pursuing new work. It takes up time, and in the middle of the day, it all feels mostly like work, watching the clock, trying to get to the permit office in time, trying to get to the printer, trying to stay in communication and keep things moving. I think a symptom of good work is the number of other people who are activated because of the movements we make. Fruits of labor.
And proposals are sort of easy for me to write. I love dreaming, I love using big words to describe what we can do, and I believe all of it. Meanwhile, I’m conscious of the phone calls and details I’m putting off because in some ways the dreaming is more demanding than the detailing.
I’m writing a proposal for a new house. I met the would-be client at his site. We then talked in a conference room about his family. He was trying to figure me out. I was trying to get him to say what he really wanted. We got to a standoff and so we talked about money for a while. He thinks he wants a large house for a little bit of money. He showed me an example of a large house, but he said he didn’t really like it. I then gave what I must say is my best speech to-date on the value of an architect. Cost comes down to square footage: instead of buying a house that is too large, that you don’t like, for too much money, hiring an architect gives you the opportunity to build a smaller house, that you love, that is in your budget. I did a sketch today and I did the math. If he doesn’t hire me, he would spend $483,000, well above his budget. If he hires me, he will spend under his budget at $324,000. You can’t find a groupon for that kind of savings. And if you don’t have the budget, it’s the difference between having the house and living somewhere else.
Neutra – Lovell Health House – 1929
But, he wants examples so he can figure me out. We’ve done a couple additions, a couple new houses now. But I’m headed back to my books and magazines to tell him what I really mean, what I really think he could do.
AOArch – Symphony Addition – 2010
The examples I love are old. They’re the ones we studied in college because they changed the world. I’m showing him examples from Wright, Neutra, maybe not Venturi. These are houses that connected with the land using simple built forms. They translated views and daylight into interior architecture, well before the LEED system wrote the moral credits. Square footage is irrelevant in great architecture, because you’re always experiencing your home within the whole of creation. And, I know this is not historically true, but they sure look like they wouldn’t be expensive to build. Compared to all the gables and ridge lines and cast stone and home entertainment nonsense we put on contemporary construction, a couple steel cantilevers and planes of glass have got to be more cost effective.
I have drawers full of Dwell in the office because that’s what all the kids are reading. Dwell pitches economy and modernism, but the examples still portray purchasing shoeboxes for living space. Most of the music I like now, is still the music I listened to in high school, and I hope it’s not the same situation with architectural taste, but the popular architecture today isn’t quite there, or I’m not looking in the right places, or there’s too much of it to be discerning. And then the big architecture mags push innovation that is very cool, but also credit-default-swap-expensive.
It feels great to look at this stuff, put a number to it, tag it to my optimism, and get ready for another turn at bat.
Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
GREEN | URBAN | SMART ARCHITECTURE
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