Design Build Bluff is an incredibly special program. I have truly grown as a person and as an architect in the last six months, and believe that I am now much better prepared to enter the workforce. When I began DBB, I thought I would learn about construction methods and power tools. I thought I knew how to work in a group, and exactly what to expect from my peers and myself. Many of my preconceptions were proved wrong throughout the semester. I did gain valuable practical architectural knowledge, however, the intangibles that I’ve acquired through this experience are worth so much more.
Patience is a Virtue:
If I had a dime for every time I heard the phrase: “It’s easy, no big deal. It’ll go quickly.” in the last 4 months, I’d be a much wealthier person than I am now. If ever someone says that phrase to you in construction, or really in any point in the architectural design process, they are lying. Approaching any situation with the mindset that it will be simple will get you into trouble. It is important to understand the complexities of the project, as much as possible before you begin. That is difficult, but I found that if I thought something would be simple, and it wasn’t, I would get frustrated much more quickly. Trying to do things hastily often leads to mistakes, which only prolong the project.
2 Heads are Better Than 1 (and 4 hands are better than 2):
I am a person who likes to work alone. I fully believe in the motto: “If you want it done right, do it yourself”. I know that in the field of architecture, I will never create something on my own. It is simply not possible. Bluff has taught me a lot about working with other people, in anticipation of doing so for the rest of my career. Using your peers as a soundboard for ideas, or as a checkpoint to make sure your plan is not completely off track is very helpful. So many times, I thought I had it all figured out and someone would catch a major mistake in my calculations, or have a much better way to solve a problem. Genuinely seeing the benefits of having many solutions, not just one, was a huge part of DBB. Twenty-two students filled with ideas proved to be crucial to our process. True, not all ideas are good, and sorting through them can be difficult, but in the end it produced a better home than any single one of us could have imagined on our own.
Change is for the Better: Relinquish Control
Looking back at the drawings of the Rain House from 4 months ago, I am surprised by the changes that were made, but also at how similar it still is. We had a very specific plan of action, myself included. I thought that I had it all figured out, in terms of window placement, and as it turns out, I did not. Some of the glass we thought we could used, ended up to be cracked before I even got to it. The sizes of openings were altered at the last minute and we had to make adjustments accordingly. In the end, I believe whole-heartedly that all the changes made are for the better. At the time, however, I did not think so. The first change that happened sent me into a tizzy for a couple days, trying to problem solve my way out of it. By the end of our time in Bluff, a broken piece of glass, a modified dimension, or an altered design, was something I could handle (not always easily or gracefully, but handled nonetheless). The ability to disconnect from the design in an emotional sense was a struggle for me. The capacity to be flexible and to think on your feet is a valuable one though, and something that I will take with me throughout the rest of my career.
Transparency is your Friend:
One of the obvious qualities of glass is its transparency. It is also an important aspect of teamwork. Being open about one’s plans and intentions allows for healthy discussion. Keeping decisions secret, only leads to division and anger within the group. We were all guilty of having opinions and ideas that were only shared behind closed doors, myself included. However, I learned just how important it is to keep everyone in the know, so that no one is shocked or dismayed later. Transparency is the simplest way to prevent any “drama” from happening.
Don’t Bend till you Break:
I was truly terrified of how fragile glass is when I appeared in Bluff at the end of the summer. What I should have been more concerned with, perhaps, is the fragility of my peers and myself. We all learned to be flexible, whether we wanted to or not, but there is a breaking point, so matter how flexible you are. Acknowledging your own limitations as well as others is as important as pushing the envelope. Part of working with a team, is being able to read your teammates and know when to let up or push harder. It is a tough task since every person is different in this respect, but listening to the unspoken signals from those around you is a valuable skill to have.
– Halle Hagenau