Under Streetlight Glow

Posted: June 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

OK excuse me for a bit of professional pimping, even though I know pretty much none of you will ever be in a position to hire me to practice the profession that I had the misfortune to fall in love with.

This year, one of my projects was honored to be awarded a Mayor’s Design Award.  No, there was no cash award.  Also, it was pretty much the only project I had going.  But hey, one takes what one gets….

Although I am very appreciative of the honor, for me one of the most important aspects of this building is that it is an urban infill project, in a predominantly African-American neighborhood that has been inordinately impacted by the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, and that it is a public/private financing arrangement that provides high quality residential units at a moderate rent.  Yes, it was financed by federal CDBG block grants, administered through tax credits; it also was partially financed by the ARRA.

Any conservative assholes who want to stop by and tell me that the stimulus made no difference, stop on by.  I will put my boot on your head and then explain that not only did I retain my job, but that it resulted in a fine, handsome building that people will be living in for decades.

I posted this picture at the crappy old blog, but it is still valid:

sorry about the lack of large copy

The project in the photo is shown in blue on that aerial.  The green and red are prior projects, and the yellow is part of the next phase.

view from the northAlthough the building (as well as its predecessors) are designed in a modern idiom, this photo demonstrates how it has been integrated into the existing streetscape.  It is a 21st century building that comfortably fits within a neighborhood populated by buildings from the 19th and 20th century. It is a pedestrian friendly building that expresses a confidence in the future.  A city is a continuum of buildings, and as a designer you have the choice to design an object building, or a contextual building;  my inclination is for the latter.  Obviously.

fish thinks there is no sun in WisconsinAt the dedication ceremony for this building, held in one of the prior phases, a woman who had moved into one of the townhouses was part of the presentation. i don’t think the organizers were prepared for how movingly she talked about the difference that an affordable, safe, clean and attractive living space made to her and her children.  I think there were few dry eyes when she was done, and the Mayor, who spoke next, found it an impossible act to follow.

And that is what makes this awful career I wound up pursuing bearable, after all the aggravation and privation and meetings.  I have managed a positive impact on my community and people’s lives.  It is not making me rich, or these days even affording a livable wage let alone becoming a ‘starchitect’; but if tomorrow is the last day I have, I have improved humanity’s lot on this beleaguered planet, best I can; using my limited skills and talents in service of people, providing a better standard of living, with at least a little grace and style.  It is bearable, it is enough. It has to be enough.

people LIVE here.

It is satisfying to receive the recognition of the Mayor’s Design Award, and it is not the first time I have received it.  But I can look at the award hanging on my wall, and I can drive down this street and see a building that has become a home for working people struggling to make their way in this world; which one do you think matters more to me?


At the old joint, I made some effort to separate my online lunatic blogging persona from my professional life; the fact that at least a couple of people penetrated the Cloak Of Zombie Secrecy indicates that it was pretty much ineffectual.  So it seems a little bit pointless to me, besides, what is somebody going to try and get my boss to fire me?  That guy’s such an asshole anyway.  So you know, fuck it anyway; it’s not like my professional life could be going much worse.


  1. it’s not like my professional life could be going much worse.

    Oh tell me about it! But congrats, about the only thing I can take from my 5+ years of being an underwriter (what a crap job that is!): in a couple of places, the financing may have made life better for some low income families/seniors.

    But mostly, it’s just helping the rich get richer and being a brick low down on the corporate pyramid.

  2. oh, I am also helping the rich get richer, thunder. although the owner on this one is a non-profit, most of my other clients are much more moneybags.

    I see my job as explaining to them how spending money on an architect and higher quality design will help them make MORE money…. occasionally, it results in a better built environment, and sometimes, smaller parking lots!

  3. I just wanted to do a bit of self-congratulating here. Back to the agony and pain tomorrow!

  4. wtf, me? 5 posts in one day? I remember entire MONTHS when I didn’t do five posts.

  5. I thought you were going for 24, ala BBBB.

    I almost thought about putting up another post (I took a couple pics of some neighborhood kittes that probably came out nice…still got to download them), but I’ve got the energy to brush my teeth and that it.


  6. B^4 says:

    “I thought you were going for 24, ala BBBB.”

    Heh, good times!

    You’re leaving your mark on the city, old chum. It’s a rough patch right now, but your works will endure.

  7. Dusty says:

    How wonderful to have a job where you can see what a difference you make. I remember those dayz…sigh. Now I just bitch online and post numerous bitchfests, ala BBBB, in one day..thanks to blowing out three discs in my back.

  8. fish says:

    Clearly the awnings designed to keep the snow off the ground are FAILING! Otherwise, any open apts?

  9. Whale Chowder says:

    Pretty good work for a Zombie-American. You should be proud.

Go ahead, tell me how I fucked up this time.

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