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You should be able to climb buildings

Sammy, the CCC and a monkey

This past weekend I took my daughters on a trip to Palmetto State Park.  I had done this a few year ago (and even wrote about it for on Lake|Flato's blog) but back then I just had the single daughter which made the logistics of the trip a little easier.  Still, the interpretive trail was the perfect length for a four-year-old (Sammy) on foot and a one-year-old (Darcy) in a stroller.  The swampy landscape and dwarf palm plants - hence the name, "Palmetto" - that define the park's landscape were just as fun then as they were back in 2012.

The architecture was just as fun as well.

The park's main gate, refectory, water tower and various other structures were all built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, in the 1930s.  The architecture of the CCC was the result of a unique circumstance where labor was cheap and in abundance but materials were expensive.  This inverted the usual equation that defines how buildings are built.  In the case of the water tower, large boulders were gathered from around the site to act as a foundation upon which the rest of the stone structure was laboriously piled.  The use of local materials in this way certainly gave the building a rustic appearance, but it also allowed it to be perfectly integrated into its surrounding landscape.  The CCC structures in the park seem to belong there in a way that buildings rarely do.

It should be noted that this type of rugged stone masonry also allows the building to be climbed in a way that Sammy truly appreciated.  All buildings should be this much fun.  All buildings should be this good.

Meet Betsy

image courtesy Mia Frietze

For most of 2013, "HiWorks" was really just me.  Working as a sole proprietor was fun but the plan was always for the firm to be more than just an individual as there is a limit to the scale and ambition that a single architect can execute.  Towards the end of the year things started to get uncomfortably busy and it became more and more apparent that HiWorks would need to grow in order to fulfill its potential.

Betsy Johnson and I first met at Lake|Flato and all of that firm was heartbroken when she moved to Dallas a few years ago.  It has always been my hope that we could find a way for the two of us to work together again.  We have set up a remote working framework that will now allow that to happen.  The expertise required to design a building is broad and Betsy's skill set represents an excellent complement to mine.  Like me, she is also trying to engineer a way to balance the opportunities and challenges of a career with the opportunities and challenges of being a parent of two young girls.  Raising two daughters, for the record, appears to be much harder than designing a building.

At any rate, the above photo was taken back in November of last year and you can see Betsy's family including her husband, Luke (who is a Vice President of Corporate Development at CHRISTUS Health and who provided invaluable assistance in developing the business plan for HiWorks), and her second daughter (who was but a few weeks old at the time).  Her first daughter, seated to the right of me, referred to me throughout the visit as "the man".  Based on that observation, Betsy recently pointed out that she is now officially "working for the man".

Although I would like to think she is working with the man, I realize the difference is mainly semantic.