I was just on my weekly call with a small group of architects from all over the country, a group organized through the EntreArchitect network. We have been meeting every Wednesday via Zoom for years, and I am so lucky to call this talented, thoughtful, funny, smart and devoted group of people colleagues, and more importantly, friends. (As a side note, anyone who believes that remote communication is always a poor substitute for in-person community building, this group’s success proves the opposite.) On our Wednesday call, one of our members said something that struck me: “Last week, everything changed.” And that’s true across the board. Everything has changed for our country, for our families, for our systems, and for our health. It’s changed for our habits, our social patterns, our work and our homes.
Inspiration and Ideas
I recently attended a roundtable luncheon attended by women from different professional backgrounds and business endeavors. Our speaker for the luncheon, Kim Davis from Synovus Bank, gave an inspiring talk about our “one thing,” and distributed a lovely illustration by Ellie Tew of the Japanese concept, Ikigai. The Ikigai lies at the heart of the intersection of some objective “whats” and some subjective “whys.” It takes into account not only what we want, but what the world, our community, and our families need. It’s a beautiful expression of the necessity of interdependence, and I loved the chance to think about my purple dot at the center of all of those overlapping circles. Each of us at the table had the opportunity to speak a little about what their “one thing” might be, or what they saw as their Ikigai. It was a powerful conversation, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to participate.
We were in NYC for a quick trip to celebrate our twentieth anniversary and our oldest child’s first parents’ weekend at Princeton. While my husband worked at his firm’s NY office, I did what I love to do in the city, and headed to the Met with the express goal of visiting three galleries I had never seen before. Unencumbered by kids or husband, this was to be a much easier task.
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.
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.
My first years in a firm consisted of working on master plans for large scale institutions, commercial buildings, historic preservation and boutique retail. I loved working on these types of projects: I found them challenging and fulfilling. I started doing residential design after my first child was born, and, at that point, considered the shift something of a professional demotion. Houses could not possibly be as difficult as a nineteen-story building. This was going to be easy.
I am fairly certain that these are the questions I am asked most frequently in casual conversation. “We’ve been talking about this for a while . . .” “We’ve been looking at houses but haven’t found what we wanted . . .” “We love our street and don’t want to leave it.” Honestly, as an architect, I have the same questions and discussions with my husband. “Should we buy that house? We need to work on the master bath. What about a second story?”