This might be my last blog. That’s right. My last blog. My turn to cook and blog this last session happens to come during our final week of construction. Our to-do list is long and we are bustling around trying our hardest to complete our project on time. The team stayed extra late at the site on Monday to ensure that we could pour some of the concrete counter tops. Before the concrete could be poured however a team was busy securing the built-in cabinets in the kitchen and ensuring that things were level and in the right place. The bathroom is nearing completion and features some amazing tile work done by our resident expert, Fausto. Additionally, once the concrete team was at work a group of floaters began completing some electrical work. The can lights got installed as well as the outlets in the living room area. Indeed, things are taking shape around the work site.
This morning, after the team left for another day construction, I found myself in a contemplative mood. We went for a nice hike near campus and explored some of the endless canyons. We even found an amazing cave. Relaxing in nature always seems to put my mind at ease. As we strolled through the dry desert landscape I began reflecting on our time spent down here in Bluff, Utah. Eventually, I came to a few conclusions. First and foremost, I would not take this experience back for anything. This has been far and away the most important, impactful and amazing experience of my life. It continues to boggle my mind that the program is not more popular and that there is a studio back in Salt Lake City full of students willing to pass on this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Secondly, this is a learning experience. It can often get lost in the heat of the moment, but we are all novice builders with varying degrees of experience. In short, we have had no clue what we are doing and we have achieved something incredible. We strive for perfection in an effort to provide the very best for our clients. In doing so, when mistakes are made things can get contentious quickly. Additionally, we have found that although someone in the group might have some level of expertise it remains important to allow for everyone with interest to participate in any given task. For instance, our natural plaster work would look amazing if just Hiroko completed the task. Instead, all have participated at least some in the plaster work, even volunteers that found themselves lucky enough to be on site during a plaster day.
Most importantly, the experience of designing and constructing a small residential project has made me more realistic. In architecture, we live in a digitized world where our details are drawn to 1/256” precision and our lines are exactly parallel. In the real world, lumber is not milled perfectly, wood dries out and warps, tape measurers wear out or the wind changes the grading on the site. My boss has always told me when I am stressing about exactness in our drawings, “I’d be shocked if the contractor builds this to within half an inch.” I have never more fully understood that statement. Mistakes will occur and a major aspect of this experience is the process of making a mistake, acknowledging it and figuring out a way to fix it. There is a reason everything gets finished with a piece of trim.
One of the hardest lessons to learn is one of preparation. Atsushi is constantly stressing to us how important it is to prepare. We have a rule that there should be, “No designing on the site.” And there is a reason for that. We have wasted so much time over the course of this semester because of a lack of preparation. One needs only to watch Atsushi complete a task to learn this lesson. The other day we had some scrap lumber and a need for a new box to store plaster tools in. Atsushi knew exactly what pieces he needed to cut and how to assemble them. The task was subsequently completed in no time. If future students find themselves reading this. Please, know exactly what tasks you are trying to complete each day and exactly what is required in order to complete the task. This cannot be understated. If you don’t know, ask.
Weird as it may seem, our group generally tends to get along quite well. I think in some regards this has to do with dumb luck. However, one aspect that I would like to recognize is the ability to pitch a fit. I think that everyone has people here that they can confide in. However, that is not what I want to talk about. I have found that after a round of good venting, I exhaust myself. I begin to feel stupid for being so upset. I start feeling ashamed for not being tolerant and respectful. Most importantly, an appreciation for what the other person might be going through sets in.
Today, DesignBuildBLUFF and our efforts with the Dennehotso Sweat Equity project were officially recognized by the Navajo council. When I look in the mirror, I like what I see.
By: Jason Robb and Fausto Guerrero