Get Outside with the West Virginia Botanic Garden

The West Virginia Botanic Garden is offering a Visual Arts Workshop Series titled Arts in the Garden. It begins this Saturday. You must sign-up to make sure a spot is saved for you.

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Download the flyer and spread it around town:  WVBG.CAGFlyer.2019

Explore: The Motivation to be Myself

I am fortunate to have been offered a teaching position at Fairmont State University last fall.

Live the life you want to be living, and this will become your life. As I wanted to become a better architect, draw more, and allow creativity into my daily practice, I found this opportunity to grow through academia. This semester I am teaching both freshman and seniors, who in four years have different expectations of their work. They approach the work of creativity by different means. Freshmen are getting comfortable starting a process, of drawing for example, without knowing what the end result may be. Seniors may be expecting something of their project result, and may want to reach the end too quickly to be able to present a final project during critique.

It makes me wonder about the profession as a whole, teaching students of architecture to work in a profession that doesn’t lend itself to much exploration through the process. The idea of architectural service is becoming more engaged in the voice of a large community. Architects are more collaborator than singular practitioners. Where does this taught ability of exploration find itself in the professional world? As an architect who has been managing large projects for the last few years, my role in the office has become one of a coordinator, and not a person who produces the work directly by drawing. I engage others to draw, explore, and build the set we will use to bid and construct the project. Collaboration means that a lot of time is spent emailing to remind consultants, calling the owner to keep the lines of communication clear, organizing and hosting 5-hour long phone calls so that all of the designers (interior, graphic, landscape, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, energy consultants, etc.) may be listening to one another in order to work together. It is not the work I was doing to get my degree. In a communities’ mind, the value of an architect has shifted. While we have an understanding of code compliancy and structural limits, the value of providing a built aesthetic is waining.

As my position of being an architect changes, new opportunities present themselves. Instead of only offering a service as an architect, my perceived abilities now include teaching architecture. How lucky am I to get back to the source of my interest? My research process includes reading, writing, and drawing. To share this with people of different perspectives is a joy. In the next week I will be discussing Smart Cities with the senior students of Fairmont State University. This is in response to Architect magazine’s article here. What is a Smart City to you? Does it include more or less of the available technology we have today?

The process of finding that architecture school teaches a student is a valuable life lesson.

How to be More Me

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As an architect creative work can be challenging in both big and small jobs when working on a deadline and within unknown expectations. The only way to continue being more me is by recognizing opportunities and reinforcing my hopes while being open to growth.

Life is a web connecting all experiences. Memories of hiking blend with writing and sketching while sitting in the shade of my back porch watching the flowers birds and bees. Encouraged to create the life I want to make for myself has made me feel lighter in everything I do. With positive thoughts all parts of life will begin to point toward the central meaning of life.

In my professional life everything goes into the process of architecture. The key is finding the spark in doing the work. Architecture school teaches how to push work to its best by researching, collaborating and asking questions. Whether trying to sell work to new clients or the motivation to finish a project well, keeping the sense of excitement in work is important. Getting lost in the enjoyment of work is the best feeling.

Thinking these thoughts this week while walking to work the simple T-shirt statement OBEY clicked with me. Created by Shepard Fairey, the shirt has a political connotation to it as does most of his art. What OBEY meant to me that day was out of context. I read it on my morning commute and that day, more than usual, there were more business people with backpacks, students going to class on skateboards, and hotel-goers out for a morning stroll. I felt a kindred spirit with them all. We were enjoying exercise and the outdoors, on our way through the day. ‘Obey’ meant obey myself, obey my desire, be more me, and I liked it.

When I open my mind to be perceptive I see clues all over the world. Nike’s iconic statement ‘Just Do It’ and the film that still brings me to tears, ‘Move’ are other advertising examples. These messages are about pushing yourself, believing in yourself, knowing yourself. It’s what I love about getting up early before work to take a run, knowing that this time is mine and I am achieving a goal.

The meditation series ‘Getting Unstuck: Creating a Limitless Life’ by Deepak and Oprah is about allowing creativity for yourself while promoting others creativity. We are all motivated when engaged in something we personally enjoy. Reflecting on work then, how do I make these moments an open place for growing? All parts of work aren’t enjoyable. By finding creativity in different tasks, we can feel lighter and more encouraged. After all, this is where most weekly energy is spent.

The book Bossypants by Tina Fey offers some great co-creator* thoughts. Fey’s number one advice is agree and then offer yes, and solutions. The yes, and approach means building on ideas. That is, building on their ideas instead of saying no. Make positive statements when addressing co-workers. For example, statements that recognize accomplishments and task items are better than beginning a meeting with ‘where are we?’ Share empowered feelings while acknowledging everyone’s role in the product. This is easier said than done, as not everyone you work with may be so cheerful. ‘In any situation when faced with unsolicited advice ask yourself “Is this person between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used during your work and outpacing people that way… If yes, use the Sesame Street strategy of “Over! Under! Through!” to be yourself. Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.’ Fey encourages.

Twelve years an architect and I realize doing the best kind of architecture comes from within and from collaboration. At this point in my career I can attract the kind of work I want because I have had the experience of doing it. Living within a six-hour drive from New York City, DC, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, all megacities of art and architecture, my life is relatively easy-going and continues to grow in my profession. I am an architect in a community setting. I want to work. I garden, know my neighbors, have time to run, practice yoga and meditation. These are a part of my practice. I have time to hike and upkeep an old house with my husband, money to travel and money to save. I have a great quality of life that influences my work.

I want to be me more in my architecture by promoting the work I enjoy doing. This week I was pushed by being open to noticing the ways in which the world gives opportunities. Being my best person and architect is done by thinking and acting on what I love to do. I encourage you to do the same.

 

*Common saying by Deepak Chopra