Something to Call Your Own

“Ownership” is an important concept in a design-oriented profession.  Ownership over something helps us to feel a sense of responsibility over it, which in turn makes us care about it… and helps us to succeed.  Especially when you find yourself working on a large project, following the redlined direction given by others, it can be difficult to feel as if you’re making your mark.  It’s important to try and find a piece of it, no matter how small, that you can take some ownership over, something that you can truly call your own.

Take, for example, a recent addition to Pittsburgh’s skyline, a complex mixed-use building on a triangular site, the first skyscraper to be added downtown in 20 (if not 30) years, and one of the largest projects to take place in the city in over ten.  The office that I worked for at the time had partnered with a large, San Francisco-based firm (not naming names, but it rhymes with “Mensler”) for the design and documentation of the project.

I had absolutely nothing to do with the planning, design, construction administration, or coordination of the building… nor would I ever even suggest that I did, or try and take any credit for the finished product.  But during a difficult week leading up to a pretty significant deadline, I was asked to step in and help detail the canopies at the pedestrian entries.  All four of them — at the entrances to the hotel component, the condominium component, the office tower, and the streetfront retail.  This involved the required depth of the structural framing, the geometry of the architectural cladding (your typical metal panel system, but with a custom aluminum extrusion as a “nose cone”), and the integration of the LED fixtures.  Oh, did I mention that all four of those canopies, while similar, were completely different from one another?

The building is 23 stories tall and extraordinarily complex in pretty much every regard, and the end result is a stunner.  I have an enormous amount of respect for the architects (in both offices) that brought it to life.  And, again, I would never even suggest that I had anything involvement in that effort.

But, anytime I walk past over my lunch hour, or stop by for a drink after work, when those canopies are (architecturally) allowing the building to be engaging at a pedestrian scale, and (functionally) shielding patrons from the rain, I think back to that week that I spent detailing and coordinating them.  No one else might know about it, but I had a hand in their creation.  And that’s something that I can call my own.

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