Okay, I fell short. Very short. My plan didn't come together as I suspected. After a few months, I stopped. I ended up watching the process day in and day out. Snapping a few photos periodically. No where near as detailed as I had originally thought. Nevertheless, this was the premise to the connection between an architect and construction. Having no construction experience entering school, I knew I'd like to spend time experiencing the trenches to the rooftops on construction sites like this one.
As I began working in a real firm as an in-college intern, I was fortunate to have several opportunities to survey & visit construction sites. This isn't always the case especially as a entry level intern (or architect-in-training). This is understandably sometimes reserved for more experienced staff. This is invaluable for an intern as well as a seasoned architect. Initially I was able to gain experience in the following:
- I visited a NYC transit station stair which was being replaced. (One of my first assignments as an intern during college.) It was part of a larger project to revitalize the subway station. I was tasked with getting basic dimensions and photos of certain areas. The designers needed these to generate details of the transition from new to the existing elements that would remain. I had a very small role but I felt involved. This learning tool taught me the importance of verifying the existing conditions especially when the design doesn't call for demolishing all components on site. (Project Details: 2 Court Square Subway Station connection, Queens/Long Island City, NY. See more on the project here: Gothamist.com and TurnerConstruction.com
- Later in my interning experience toward the end of college, I was fortunate to be put on a team set to renovate an existing landmarks building for the parks department. After a removal of all the existing interior finishes down to the structure, phase one included the core and shell rehabilitation. Phase two included fitting out the interior spaces for facility use. I had more job responsibilities including helping with construction documents, surveying and even compiling information for the LEED submission. One experience that stood out most was visiting the site to "sound" the concrete floor slabs. My task was to check these large bare areas for any problematic / weak areas. I used a large heavy chain. I learned that the idea was the chain was to be waved along the floor allowing the reverberations from the metal hitting /sliding on the concrete be noted. It was quite easy to notice when a part of the slab had an underlying issue with a hollow sound. I'd document the areas and keep going. (Little did I know but I would utilize this same principle with a wooden mallet and terra cotta cornice stones.) Not the most glamorous experience but I gladly took it on. (Project Details: Power House Renovation, Mill Pond Park at Bronx Terminal Market, Bronx NY. See more on the project here: NYCGovParks.Org, Inhabitat.com & some building history on LibraryOfCongress.Gov
After completing my degree, I was ready to enter the work force and be fully engage. My first task was securing a position at a firm. Being 2008 in a recession, this was daunting. I was fortunate to gain a position at a local firm which specialized in restoration. I'd like to think my construction experience was a positive in being hired.
My new position took me out of the office regularly to basements, cellars, roof and various types of scaffolding including hanging platforms up as high as 20 stories. I was able to see first hand what I had drawn and how it worked.. and sometimes how it did not. I learned many detailing principles based on seeing it built onsite. I also benefited by seeing and traveling the great city in which I lived and worked in.
A small secondary benefit of being onsite, likely for a more seasoned architect, is becoming knowledgeable on dealings with contractors, construction managers and owner's reps. This in itself can be a a big challenge when budgets and schedules come into play.
Overall, architects are trained to deign for real world situations. Spending some time on projects under construction should be a prerequisite. Drawing a detail doesn't automatically make it properly shed water. Sketching a diagram for insulate an interior space doesn't automatically ensure efficiency. Construction is a learning tool which is just as important as the intense design and construction documents phase. The applicability to the surrounding construction and site conditions are part of the reason a detail WORKS.
Thinking of construction as a tool, What lessons have you learned onsite recently?
BASE COVER IMAGE FROM PIXABAY.COM