Last weekend was my 25th college reunion (#legendary), and the whole family attended. A 15-hour car ride left me with some time to catch up on social media, and there’s nothing better for Facebook/Instagram surfing than I-81 in Virginia. Summer is peak renovation season it seems. Owners want to have renovation projects completed by the holidays. I saw lots of good questions out there about how to complete renovations and new construction in a way that solves problems and fits budgets. Like any other question posed on the internet, everyone has an opinion, and there is a good deal of confusion about how architects fit into this process. The issue of cost frequently surfaces: owners want value for their construction investment, and architect’s fees can appear to be just additional cost. To the contrary, however, a good architect works with you as a steward of your investment, potentially saving you money on your construction project.
This year, I have been meeting with a group of amazing women at our Birmingham American Institute of Architects chapter in an effort to engage women in the profession. Specifically, we are working on mentoring programs to help women in all stages of their careers, as studies show that professionals with mentors have demonstrably greater satisfaction in their jobs. As a part of this effort, AIA Birmingham is presenting the #WIAWednesdayBham series which highlights Alabama women in the profession and showcases their work. Nice to be included.
When we were in Italy this past summer, we worked with Context Travel for our day at the Vatican Museums. Being vaguely familiar with the crowds made me a little nervous about negotiating the vast museum complex with the kids, and I wanted to make sure they saw the things they needed to see, as well as some of the more obscure things that might pique their interest. Our guide, Valeria, met us at the entrance, and once past security and ticketing, air-kissed and waved us on to little used elevators and through roped off passageways at a quick clip, offering glorious tidbits of information along the way. Theoretically, if we had done our research, we might have managed the crowd aspect of the visit, but Valeria offered something we couldn’t have come up with on our own: an alternate route discerned through experience and ingenuity. We started with the Papal Carriages, a less visited and air-conditioned exhibit that served as a framework for understanding what we were about to see, a quiet place away from the crowds where we could ask questions and listen to the answers, and a starting point that was not overwhelming for the kids. In short order, it was clear we were in the hands of an expert guide, and I was so grateful for her experience and wisdom.
This Sunday, we will celebrate my youngest child’s birthday, and he has requested that we recreate the meal we learned to cook in Venice with Anna, a very talented chef. (http://bit.ly/2wb1nBF) The experience, of course, will be impossible to replicate entirely. Certainly the ingredients will come from a supermarket rather than the fruttivendolo and markets of the Rialto, but the other primary difference will be the kitchen we will prepare the meal in. To be clear, we cooked a multi-course meal and dessert with Anna: octopus, pasta, braised artichokes, and tiramisu. We made pesto by hand, without a Cuisinart or even a mortar and pestle. Eggs and sugar were whisked without a mixer, and we used a sturdy dining room table to prep potatoes and peaches. The kitchen in this apartment was not large, although there was room for a gas range with a clever fold out hood, a water heater, sink, dishwasher, washing machine, and refrigerator. No space was underutilized, and the efficiency was a little magical. I watched as four people stood and cleaned the octopus, chopped parsley and washed beans in that kitchen and wondered at the prevailing assumption that more kitchen equals better food.
While walking in Rome one evening, I asked my kids about what they noticed was different about life in Italy and their life here. Aside from “I can’t get stracciatella gelato every night,” they actually picked up on some of the principles that had been part of my architectural history and urban design classes, although in a less jargon filled way. We talked about the street life in Rome and how the squares are kind of like theaters, dining rooms, and playgrounds all rolled into one. They noticed that people come outside to walk at night, to get ice cream for sure, but also just to stroll and be a part of whatever was happening in the square or the street below. We talked about where you live affects how you live – how big family rooms feel right in a suburban house, but tiny apartments are geared more towards being part of the square and street outside.
So excited to see this great collaboration in Birmingham Home and Garden July/August edition. Working together with a talented friend made this project such a pleasure!
We recently returned from a long planned family vacation to Italy, specifically Rome and Venice. I spent a semester in Venice in graduate school and traveled fairly extensively in Italy during that time, and my husband and I had also spent our honeymoon there 18 years ago. Those long ago trips were recorded not only in photographs but also in leisurely sketches, quick diagrams and journal entries capturing the youthful musings of a twenty-something architecture student.