Thursday 2.4.10

Ouch My Head!

Wisely, I’d left my boat on the south shores of Lake Union last night, and so I took a ride into work. I was still feeling a little sick, but today was The Poetry Charette, my Poetry Charette, so I had to be there. I arrived mid-morning and spent some time looking at some possible locations for a final installation. Scheming, I am. Those who saw me near my poetry columns asked, Are you editing your work? No, no, just looking. I’d have to do this at night, late at night. Too many eyes in the day. I’m planning to leave a little magic behind, but I want to do it right, do it in secret.

The Poetry Charette

I scheduled a conference room, pinned my questions to the walls, set out some snacks and waited. The entire firm was invited to drop by between the hours of 12–5pm, for any amount of time, from 5 mins to 5 hours. Perhaps those I hadn’t met would see this as an opportunity to stop by and say hello? I didn’t know if it’d be a welcome opportunity or a disruption. Either way, it’d be a learning experience. Alas, I had only 4 guests all day, but each one opened the world in a new way. I do not see it as a failure, but rather as a tool to better understanding this firm. I learned something I already knew and something I didn't. These are bright, busy people, on tight deadlines, in the middle of an inter-office move and they have an inherent fear of poetry,

Charette Questions

I prepared a set of exercises and questions, hoping to get to the heart and soul of NBBJ. I asked those who came to remember and dream. If they wanted to talk, we talked. If they wanted to write, they wrote. In the evening, I sent the same questions by e-mail. One person responded to that e-mail. Those who responded were all people I'd made a personal connection with. Connections are important when it comes to collaboration.

Here are the questions I posed.

Draw, very carefully, using a precise instrument, an outline of the NBBJ project you’re working on.
Draw the same project again, on a different page, as quickly as you can, using a fatter tool, such as a piece of charcoal.

* Create an annually recurring ritual to renew the heart & soul of NBBJ. Explain who is involved, in what season it occurs and the elements and words necessary to carry it out.
* Imagine the great floods have come. The building floats off like a ship. Where is the prow? Where is the engine room? What is the anchor? Where does the ship go?
* The heart and soul of NBBJ were transferred from Pioneer Square to South Lake Union in 2006. Describe how these items were transported and what the trip was like.
* Imagine for a moment that NBBJ, from the front door to the 3rd floor, is the extent of the known world. You have just arrived from a distant galaxy and go about surveying the territory. This is where you will live now full time. In what place do you settle and why?
* Buildings have safety mechanisms and procedures for dealing with fire, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Imagine the safety mechanisms and procedures for dealing with the renewal of a building’s spirit. Describe the mechanisms and write out the procedure.

List the date you arrived at NBBJ. Describe yourself, as you were then, in one sentence.
List the date you arrived at NBBJ. Recall something, an object or a sensation, that made an impression on you the day your entered.

Complete the following
NBBJ (the building and practice) is an affirmation of…
NBBJ (the building and practice) is a rejection of or a protest against…

The Heart & Soul of NBBJ

Grant is an architect’s architect and a very gentle soul. He drew me a picture of the project he’s working on and talked about the site NBBJ was built on. He pointed to the site of a building as its heart and suggested how a strong and lasting memory might attest to a building’s soul. He was talking about the World Trade Center – an interesting looking back, like rowing a boat. We talked about the ways in which NBBJ lives in the projects it designs and how a soul might be scattered through many projects. Then came Christian, who offered much in the way of himself and left a comet blazing in me. Christian is an architect and a fine artist. I suspect his heart is split among many places. I imagine him in a pear tree, among grape vines in southern France, as an old man, working on his art. I imagine all of these people out on their patios, walking into the fields, the sun and wind in their hair, with their families, in the landscape. You can see their sources in their smiles. Duane arrived next, excited about the project he’s working on, the firm’s most energy efficient project to date. He offered a glimpse of the firm at its former location and the shock of the sudden change on his psyche from old to new space. And Maggie was last. She fleshed out the experience of finding this warm and wonderful family. She shared her delight at the firm’s sense of humor and play.

A Frog Box

Stacks of green plastic crates on carts, ready to pack and shuffle a studio off to a new floor,flank the copier rooms. In the early evening, I too moved my things. I went from a window desk on an inside corner to a flex area on the aisle. Things!? What things could I possibly have to move? Oh, I have a mishmash of items for projects I’d hoped to pursue. Under my desk, I have four bags of rice, 8 boxes of rock candy, an overhead projector, a old record player, four jazz albums, a hammock, a stack of notes from all the meetings I’ve attended, drawings on trace paper, a library of poetry books and an art box with watercolors, pencils and charcoals. Some of these items will be used, some won’t be. I’ve been working long hours and weekends too, but a month still feels too short. Perhaps I want too much?

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