Live Through This

Posted: June 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

So, this happened.


Some of you may remember the past couple of years, when I was designing a six-story, 92 unit apartment building in the first-ring Milwaukee suburb, facing much work with the Planning Department, the Design Review Board, and the public input.  We got it through, because I am Magic Zombie Designer and Awesome Public Face, with beard and Good Hair.

However, my current little micro-office, regardless of the advantages of CAD and such, (maybe once we were in the realm of doing the whole project, back in the glory days when we had NINE, count ’em fucking NINE people) nowadays it is out of our reach, if not our grasp.  So the developers engaged what is called an Architect of Record, who is responsible for the construction documents, code issues and permitting and construction administration and suchlike.  And hey!  I have always been a design-oriented architect; I am happy to let someone else do the heavy lifting (although I love doing detail work – Mies Van der Rohe had it right, even if he sucked at it)….and we have done that kind of arrangement successful in the past, so let’s go.

So, we shepherded the design through the whole design approval process, working with the developers in unit mix and numbers and making the building happy-making for as many people involved in the project:


And I got to the end of my involvement, with some design-level details of balconies and windows and such like.

…over the course of the project, I discovered that I had a significant disconnect with the Architect of Record; he was used to much more straightforward projects, he was not nearly as experienced in the use of the International Building Code, he is very excitable and reactionary, and he apparently thinks I am incompetent…

[ADDITIONAL SIDEBAR]  It should also be noted that in the current environment; especially in older communities, design requirements ask for windows to be set back from face of wall.  However, contractors like the ease of installation of what is called flange windows, which are basically flush with the exterior.  To generalize, in urban areas, people expect deeper window recesses which require direct set windows; in suburban areas, they don’t care so much and flange-set windows are OK.  To be even clearer, I am an architect who is experienced in and comfortable working within more urban areas; the Architect of Record is very experienced in suburban work.

I had expected to be able to review the Construction Documents when they were ready, and I expressed to the developers and the AoR that I would be happy to review for compliance with the design requirements whenever they wanted, progress, final, whatever.  At the Grand Opening of the first phase of the project, I directly asked him for a copy.

I never got any of them…

I distributed all of the plans, diagrams and details we had developed in the course of design and approval.  Our CAD plans indicated the extra-deep walls necessary to make the reveals work.  I have much experience with a wide variety of construction conditions in the cases of existing buildings and I had some time with a colleague with extensive experience in analyzing building failures.  Frankly, I know how the fuck to make unusual details work…

Sigh.  Last Friday, I got an email from one of my best clients, a very severe email.  It tasked me and the AoR to address a very serious issue, and that he expected us to step up, fix the problem, and after that, we would talk about liability exposure and claims.  Which is a perfectly acceptable response.  It’s a fucking 9 million dollar project….

So, (and I wonder if Robert didn’t plan it this way, then I remember how good he has been in all previous work, and I know it was not that), but the Long Weekend was me spending much time thinking about my response and unsuccessfully trying to sleep.  On Tuesday we met to resolve the issue.

Oh yeah.  The issue.  As I said, Window recesses.  Modern construction with a brick veneer usually results in a 3″ reveal.  Older communities want to see a reveal of greater than 4″.  As I also said, suburbs usually get flush windows, because this makes this super-easy for carpenters.

The details and the construction in place indicate window recesses MUCH less than I had detailed and that were approved. Fuck it all.

Don’t know where the disconnect happened.  At this point, don’t care.  What we need to do is correct it.  Following through and placing blame?  Later.  But it is likely to hit my E&O insurance.  Which has a 5 grand deductible, so the fact that another architect disrespected me to the point of ignoring everything I ever gave him….

I got the email on Friday before the holiday.  So I got really drunk on Friday night, went to see the Pirates of Penzance on Saturday and got a bit drunk on Sunday.  Monday was crappy, because I couldn’t sleep.

I have had colleagues who work at other firms tell me that the have annual claims on their liability insurance.  That doesn’t bother me, i am here to tell you that we allfuck up.

What I will tell you is that in the 20 years or so I have been practicing on my own, I have had ONE claim on my liability insurance.  Also, I have a $5000 deductible.

So yeah.  I am in the midst of a construction debacle that is weird and maybe-avoidable and may destroy the relationship I have with one of my best and favorite clients.

So, I am having a fucking goddam drink. And maybe another fucking drink after that.  Fuck you blood sugar, fuck you blood pressure.  Fuck you Architect of Record who thinks I am incompetent, and who ignores everything I ever forwarded.

Dammit, I think I would have been much better served by keeping that 57 Les Paul and joining a Milwaukee punk band rather than selling it in order to stay in college….


  1. herr doktor bimler says:

    Oww. I thought I had bad day, after a few hours with a Masters student who was screwing up on her project. But now I will have another sympathy drink for ZRM.
    Pizza is in the oven. Mushrooms on the Frau Doktorin’s side; black pudding and foraged porcini on mine.

  2. reallysmall fish says:

    That shit ain’t right. How can that not squarely land on the shoulders of the AoR? That is a yolk I would make him wear to his fucking grave…

  3. reallysmall fish says:

    LOL, I meant yoke but I like yolk better…

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

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