The End is like the Beginning

So I am participating in my first #ArchiTalks (which this is ArchiTalk #2) blog posting under the idea seed of “This is Exciting” which is such a wide open notion and could be almost anything to anyone, but since I am nearing the end of a long term project, I am in reflection mode and to me “exciting” means only one thing the notion that “the end is like the beginning”.

To most architects once they read through this post they I think they’ll understand what I mean by the title, but for most of the laymen that aren’t quite sure what architects or the profession of architecture really does this may shed but a little bit of light on our a portion of journey through a project with its many ups and downs from the unknown to the known.  For most people it is assumed that architects simply put together a set of drawings of buildings and then turn those drawings over to a contractor and walk away.  This in most cases can’t be further from the truth; most times we are in on the journey from the initial concept in the clients head to the day the keys are turned over to their shiny new completed project.  Currently, I am at the tail end of such a journey and I am beginning to reminisce not just about the journeys end but the journeys beginning.

So back to the idea that “the end is like the beginning” let me start with the end.  I am wrapping up a five year project for the revitalization of the oldest continuously used public school in the state of Maryland, Annapolis Elementary School.  For me this has been a five year process that took me through a feasibility study, all of the everything’s in-between, to where I stand today, which is punching out the building (for the layman that means reviewing the building for compliance to the construction drawings and identifying any deficiencies) which is the final steps before turning over those keys to the shiny new building, or in my case the “better than it was two years ago” building.

Perched atop the parapet of the renovated gymnasium staring over the rear parking lot and kindergarten playground remembering back to the disarray that the school was just a few years back.  With kids being dropped off at the school in some of the most unsafe of conditions to where we are today with a dedicated parent drop off that doesn’t have the children crossing the paths of oncoming cars.  While being in the moment of the end, I am whisked away to the beginning where we the “excitement” began.  On a Friday afternoon I was called into my bosses office telling me about an new project I am being assigned to in downtown Annapolis, for those who haven’t been fortunate enough to have been to the Maryland state capitol it is an enchanting colonial era town focused around the Navy, Politics and the water, that next day I was on site snapping off pictures and snapping up the feeling of the site and the town.  I didn’t know the program yet, but I could see this school needed us and in a way we needed it.

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The view perched atop of the gymnasium watching the evolution to the end

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Conceptual rendering of Annapolis Elementary School

In the beginning those initial times is where we sketch feverously concepts and ideas that reek of excitement, the “what does this place need”, “what does this place want” to the “what is good and what is bad of this place”. Then the how do we fix it and what doesn’t need fixing is rushing through our heads as we put pen to paper.  That initial rush of excitement when the client, teachers, staff and we architects are jammed into a room envisioning those what if’s, or the “this might be a crazy idea but…” that is where the energy flows, where ideas are flung about in a flash…then comes the lull…we move onward into the document phase, the permitting phase, bidding and so on, we feel the drain of the stagnation as we play the hurry up and wait game. All of this is considered the mundane parts that lead us to the second most exciting yet the first more infuriating part the construction phase.  We finally get to see the dirt moved and the sketch begin to come to life.  But as all architects know, especially on long construction projects, the end seems further and further away the closer you get to the end, frustration mounts and anger boils over.  In the construction phase sometimes you feel helpless and at the mercy of others and you tend to lose sight of the end. But then comes that day, tired, most likely hungry and most certainly frustrated when you make the last entry of your punch list.  It may not have sunk in, but the end truly is in sight.  For me as we move teachers into the school, prepare for the final inspections and cross our fingers that we pass that final building inspection did it finally sink in, the end.  I walked the halls as some teaches sob in joy at how wonderful the school is and proclaim how was I able to see beyond the mess of the old building to give them such a wonderful new building while maintaining that spirit of the old.  It is that end when you realize the true excitement of the profession that feeling that keeps you coming back for more and loving every second of it.  So in that aspect the end of a project is as exciting as the beginning.

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Exterior elevation of the renovated school.

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You can also follow along on Twitter by searching the hash tag #ArchiTalks.  

Follow the other #ArchiTalks participants and find out what is exciting to them:

Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL@archispk and @etroxel – This is Exciting…Because it’s Real

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design
@modarchitect – This is Exciting – It All Comes Together

Nicholas Renard – Cote Renard Architecture
@coterenard – This Right Here, This is Exciting

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture
@businessofarch – This Is Exciting: Marketing For Architects That Works

Jeff Echols – Architect of the Internet
@jeff_echols – This is Exciting: 5 “RE’s” to Change the Future of Architecture

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect
@bobborson – This Is Exciting – The Beginning of the End

Matthew Stanfield – Field 9 Architecture
@FIELD9arch – This Is Exciting

Marica McKeel – Studio MM
@ArchitectMM – From Dreams to Reality – THIS is Exciting

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
@Jeff_Echols – This is Exciting: 5 ‘RE’s’ to Change the Future of Architecture

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
@LeeCalisti – This Is Exciting :: Start + Finish

Oscia Wilson – Boiled Architecture
@Oscia_Wilson – This Is Exciting: They’re Fighting It Out

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect
@EntreArchitect – This Is Exciting – Making A Difference At Entrepreneur Architect

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