I’m a builder’s son. My father was a Northern California ski bum in the 70’s. There was a building boom going on. Construction jobs were easy to get, and they suited his lifestyle. Later, the construction industry got much more professionalized and licensed. A generation of lucky tradesmen got to keep licenses that were much easier to get than those that their apprentices were earning. My dad wasn’t particularly good at any one trade, but his ability to nose out a loophole was the best in the business. He recognized that the door was not going to be open forever. He paid the testing fees and ended up with full Electrician, Plumber, HVAC, and General Contractor licenses.

Now, as when I was a kid, getting a conversation going with my dad takes a lot of work. We have two safe topics always available to us: “I heard this piece of classical music recently,” and “I wonder how they built that?”

As a side effect of trying to connect with my dad, I learned a lot about building and architectural designs.

I developed an appreciation for well-constructed buildings. Buildings that suit their purpose. Buildings that were designed with integrity. Buildings that are solid enough to be repurposed.

Things that look expensive can be cheap. Things that are actually expensive can have no integrity in their design. Buildings are designed for someone, ideally the people that will use it. Often not. These are some of the things you think about when you notice the quality of construction around you.

A well designed, beautiful space can fill you with a sense of tranquility and abundance. Good design makes the activities that will take place in the space easier. Bad design adds friction.

There’s both delight and sadness when I am surprised by the beauty of an old building or public space. Beauty delights me. The bittersweet surprise is that this group, in this place, at one time, were worth spending enough money on to build something nice.

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