Monday, July 27, 2009

The details make the difference

When we walk into a building, the people we're with all say "ooh, it's so pretty!" while we instantly hone in on small things: "They're gonna get water in that window mullion...they didn't even match the coursing of the new brick to the old...that's just a Berridge panel on some 6-inch studs--brilliant!" We walk outside and notice that the path from the curb to the door isn't straight and the curb cut doesn't have the code-required orange-red truncated domes required for ADA by local authorities. We look at the discolored arcs on the exterior of the building and know that the lawn sprinklers have been spraying on the building, and that never ends well. Myself, I can't stop mentally sizing up toilet rooms to see if they're ADA-compliant and ANSI-compliant. Just because it has grab bars doesn't make it compliant. And just because the goo around a pipe through a wall is red, that doesn't mean that the goo is fire-rated.

We're architects; we notice details. It's our existence. Dozens of pages in a set of construction documents are dedicated to details. Yards of blue painter's tape have given their lives in our punchlists in order to note details that must be fixed. Mies said that God is in the details, and an old saying is that the devil is in the details. We live and breathe details. Our knowledge makes the observation of details so important. And if details weren't important, any run-down schmuck with a copy of Francis Ching's complete works could hang out a shingle as an architect.

And yet, countless interns fly through the redlines they've been given and print out a new copy of the sheet, then throw it on their bosses' desks for them to check. They write up an email asking for some information or explaining a procedure and hit "Send" without a second thought. They show up to work late, take long lunches, email and IM constantly, and dress like the 99-cent bin at the thrift store. And then they wonder why they get laid off, passed over for promotions or cooler jobs or responsibilities, or even barely acknowledged.

It's the details.

We'll discuss some of these details in the next few posts. In the meantime, if you've got a topic you'd like to see discussed or have a question you'd like answered, pop me a line in the comments or via email from this site. Thanks!

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