Hello World

Hi Mom.

I’d like to say “hello world,” but I’ve been told you have to identify and speak to your audience.

I was hoping that if I visualized having a blog site, and told people it was in existence, that it would magically manifest itself without my actually having to write anything. I guess it doesn’t work that way.

I’m imagining that I’m writing to my mother, because she will probably be the only one reading this, despite the fact that my profile has appeared in Alaska magazine this month, where I promised the legions of fans-in-waiting that they could peruse my literary ramblings on a blog. I even thought up a pithy name.

“Architypes” is what an architect might write when she has something to say.

In brief, I’m an architect working in the state of Alaska. My job is sometimes interesting, often tedious, occasionally creative and almost always difficult. Most of the time I work on schools in the rural native communities. These villages are inaccessible by road; if you want to go there, or deliver materials, transport is by boat or plane.

Architects have been typecast as Howard Roark knock-offs since Ayn Rand penned The Fountainhead (read the book, don’t watch the movie). In reality, we are professional cat-herders hired to supervise the engineers and make sure the building conforms to the code requirements.

No disillusionment here….

I do have job satisfaction—there’s nothing quite like seeing a structure rise out of the mud, looking something like the drawings. It’s an amazing process, considering that construction (a human activity, after all) is generally fraught with error and argument.

Structural steel for a school gymnasium in the village of Chefornak, Alaska.

Think about it. A group of workers, many of whom don’t know each other and have never worked together before, is trying to assemble a building based on a flawed instruction manual composed of hundreds of pages and a set of specifications, which may or may not accurately describe the parts and pieces to be used. Mistakes and contradictions are rife, not because the design team is incompetent but because it’s like writing a book on do-it-yourself brain surgery. You can’t always imagine everything that might go wrong and the actual job site is always more complex in reality than can possibly be described in a set of two-dimensional drawings. And if the project is a remodel, all bets are off. Until the walls are opened up and the roof pulled off and the floor exposed, you have no idea what you’re getting into, even if you have access to the original blueprints.

In addition, there’s the whole factor of remoteness. I can’t just drive out to the jobsite, I’ve got to get in a plane. The airports in the communities I work for are narrow gravel runways without lights or computers, only big enough for a six- or eight-seater Cessna. It’s a long haul, hundreds of miles into the Alaska bush, with the added complications of wind and weather.

So I guess I’ll have some stories to tell after all.