I've been in San Francisco a little over three weeks now.  The nails have been pulled, the boards planed, the wood cut, the planks laminated, and now, at long last, desks and conference tables are taking shape.  It's been a good bit of work; not just the physical transformation of the ceiling joists, but design meetings, structural adjustments, and on-the-fly decisions.  It's also been nice collaborating with the Hattery team and Chris Currie, as they have informed, educated, and shaped the designs with their input. 

Every time I put hand to lumber, something comes together, from finger to brain and back, a long, sincere synaptic journey bridging idea and object.  This has been a true guerilla process, working in a basement, camping out on someone else's floor, living on takeout and sawdust and sketches.  Here's the latest dispatch from the front lines.  

Chris Currie, planetainin'.

Desk legs.

Lacking a jointer big enough to effectively square our longest boards, I hand-planed them.  Old school.


Bertrand Goldberg

Recently, I spent an afternoon at the Art Institute here in Chicago.  Given a long line at the old entrance, on Michigan Avenue, we went around the corner to the modern wing, designed by Renzo Piano.  After checking out some modern art, contemporary photography experiments, and a handful of the classics, we found our way to an exhibit on the designer of the Marina Towers, Bertrand Goldberg.  

He started studying architecture at Harvard, spent some time at the Bauhaus Dessau in the thirties, and ended up briefly working for Mies Van Der Rohe in Chicago.  He came into contact with a laundry list of mid-century masters, from Josef Albers to Frank Lloyd Wright.  He opened his own practice in 1937, but was interrupted by World War II in 1941.  One of his projects from that era, the Clark-Maple service station, was an amazing pre-fabricated, mast-suspended, curtain-wall structure.  

The Clark Maple Service Station, elevation.  Courtesy, as are all these images (unless otherwise noted), of the amazing online archives of the Art Institute.  
Photo of the finished gas station.


Of Air Mattresses and Table Tops

I have now been in San Francisco for ten days.  The weather has been beautiful, the people great, and the food amazing.  I've moved from Mark's couch to an airbed on the floor of Hattery's conference room.  I'm up a little before six every day, awakened by the crew working on the new space underneath me.  A big pot of coffee, a granola bar, an apple, and I'm down to the basement, where a pile of reclaimed ceiling joists await transformation conference tables and desks. 

A lot has happened it the time I've been here: I've de-nailed 75 boards; my boss bought a full suite of wood shop tools from some folks down the street; I've planed one side of all the boards; with the help of an old friend from Alabama who just moved to the Bay Area, Chris Currie, we ripped the edges off all the boards to square them; and we started laminating the joists into table tops.  In between all this, I've been working away on the designs for the bases of the work tables, watching a little playoff football, and checking out some amazing food.  

Despite progress, there is still a long way to go.  I'm grateful for Chris's help, and the support of the folks at Hattery, and looking forward to getting on with it . . . .

The raw joists.  Old growth fir, they are from a building that is around sixty years old, meaning the trees these boards came from possibly began growing around the Civil War.  An privilege to work with such storied stuff. 
Pulling a lot of iron out of the boards.   


The Employment Hustle

Even guerillas need work.

Unemployment is high.  While growing, the economy seems to be hovering in stasis, barely nudging up or down each month.  The news has been mediocre to bad for several years, and, given a deadlocked Congress and crumbling Euro zone, seems unlikely to change any time soon.  Blah, blah, blah-di-blah.  We've heard this for so long, it's become background noise, static, fuzz.  

Architecture, as I've mentioned before, has been a particularly bad industry to be in.  The business of making buildings is based on the real estate market and the ready availability of credit, the two things at the center of the Great Recession.  After the overheated boom of the early aughts, there is a large surplus of available buildings in the face of low demand, which further disincentivizes new construction.  

I've had about a job a year since I graduated college in 2007.  Since August of 2011, I've been embarked upon a new, and uncertain, path as a freelancer.  It hasn't been the easiest.  I moved to a new city in July, knowing only a few folks, and have worked the connections until now, five months later, I have two part-time jobs and a number of side gigs that add up to a decent, hard-earned income.  So, as we roll into a new year, a couple of thoughts on finding work, focused on the design and architecture industries. 

Hard at work at my first job out of college, at Arcosanti.  


Travelin' Man

Happy New Year!  This month, I'm spending a couple of weeks with the folks at Hattery, a start-up in San Francisco.  They've hired me to help fit out their brand-new office, constructing some conference tables, desks, chairs, and brainstorming about how they can use their space.  One of their employees, Mark Wills, is a friend of mine from Alabama.  

In the space of a week, I have crossed the continent.  Seven days ago, I was in Baltimore for the holidays.  I drove back to Chicago, with a layover in Ohio, spent a few days in the Windy City, and then continued on my way.  Yesterday afternoon, I got in a bus and rode to a train station.  I got in a train and rode to the airport.  I got in a plane and flew to Phoenix.  I got in another plane and flew to San Francisco.  I got in a pickup truck and drove to the couch that will be my bed for awhile.

The toolkit.