My Work is In the Toilet

in: From the President's Desk / 0 Comments

Architects are well seasoned when it comes to the Yin Yang of shaping change.  While we’re used to reminding nervous clients about the positives of fresh patterns and the opportunities for fresh perspectives, when change occurs right under our noses, we can easily be caught up in the challenge of maintaining that high level perspective.

As President of the AIACC I see a dramatic landscape of change ahead.   Early conversations are taking place about a new office for our state component; various strategic alliances brewing, staff shifts afoot as the current Chief Financial Officer transitions into retirement and a new AIACC staff member, Director of Finance and MIS, takes the reigns. Then there is the component and national leadership and infrastructure evolving; and regulatory, tax, design standards, business and legal environments in flux.  Whew!

Change brings opportunities – some obvious, some not so much.  Sometimes just letting go, loosening of the grip on the comfortable and familiar is the crux of challenge.   In a nutshell – tackling that very notion on a personal level is how my work ended up in the toilet.  Let me explain.

When I moved from an office of 20+ years it was both a physical and emotional journey.  Leaving behind well-established patterns and decades of accumulation was fortunately balanced by the thrill of occupying a space that I was able to shape from the ground up.

But all that STUFF!  I found as I picked things up and examined them, there were tugs – from memories and meanings that made it hard to shrug and just turn away.  As the move date got closer, I was surprise by the sheer volume of framed work on the walls.   Each piece had been created with considerable pride (and expense) as projects were published or recognized – an effort almost unnoticed when spread over so many years. But now, as a sea of boxes, these framed memories had become a BIG issue.  Determined to not merely recreate ‘old walls’ at my new digs, I left those pictures languishing for over a year, waiting for an intentional flash as to what role they should play in my new environs.

After moving, every time I ran into these pieces – stashed in an out-of-the-way corner—I grimaced. I couldn’t bring myself to simply throw them away!  While these items may be considered debris to someone else, for me they mapped a huge swath of a life’s work.  Yet … they were so connected to the past as to seem, now, inappropriate as key parts of my new environment. I had grown to enjoy the fresh crispness of blank walls and well-placed, intentional art.   What to do … what to do?

In the interest of environmental sensitivity, could I somehow recycle these elements and assign them to some higher purpose? I wandered the office on occasional evenings, trying to envision them here or there. The result of that thoughtfulness was the surprising decision that seemed to make itself: the rightful place for them was in the toilet.  Really.

They would there be, after all, a textured backdrop for a private space – somehow it seemed like the right thing to do.

I embrace humility and new beginnings. I welcome humor and self-reflection. I strive to reinvent and transform tired assumptions and old presumptions. I push against the inertia and constraints of dusty tradition and context and yearn for bold new paradigms … and yet … I feel and see the incredible values in connections to what was, and those places and things that remind me on occasion of where I was and how I got here. These thoughts … led my work to the toilet.

Change is hard.  Change is good.

In just the last month the winds of change at AIACC are amazing.  At the Leadership Conference in Detroit there were seeds of collaboration planted with colleagues from around the country interested in our soon to be launched metric based AIACC DASHBOARD.  At the California Building Officials Annual Business Meeting in San Diego last week, I was able to bring code officials from around the state up to speed on our PASS permit streamlining program (Prequalified Architectural Submittal System).  I also found there a shared interest in moving toward a more useable energy code – one that can move us in the direction we all want to go with less confusion, angst and chaos.  And also at CALBO : can’t we extend the code cycle to 5 years … hmmm?

A fall AIACC technology conference afoot with a percolating national partner relationship…  and an adhoc group exploring the notion of a new physical office for AIACC that would push forward a new paradigm in collaboration, public engagement and efficiencyfour Pilot Programs that have promise to expand our tent and boost membership … outstanding California candidates to lead the Institute … and I could go on.  Many opportunities both in hand and just around the corner that are exciting, catalyzing and potentially transformative.

As I help the AIACC navigate the many unfolding changes that will be on our plate or in our horizon this year,  I’m looking forward to capitalizing on opportunities both within our tent– and beyond it: new collaborations that help us  effectively reinvent ourselves while keeping an appropriate connection to our rich, successful and inspirational past.  That’s a story line that I’m thrilled to be a part of!

Cheers

Michael F. Malinowski 2015 AIACC President

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Michael Malinowski, AIA

Michael F. Malinowski has been providing adaptive historic re-use, urban infill, residential including affordable housing, and commercial revitalization design solutions for 40 years as principal of Applied Architecture, Sacramento CA. A number of his projects have been ‘city shaping’ and widely recognized, including the Warehouse Artist Lofts 2015, Sacramento historic adaptive mixed use) Galt Place (2011, urban infill wood podium design); Globe Mill (2008, Sacramento, rebirth of an abandoned mill and silo complex) and Hotel Stockton (2006, Stockton, historic adaptive reuse). Michael has also worked with over 1500 families in shaping sustainable, functional and inspiring living environments.

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