Why Architects should take time to revisit the places they worked so hard to create / by Sarah Callahan

In our fast paced and hyperfocused profession, we rarely get a chance to slow down and reflect on everything we’ve accomplished. It seems that no sooner do we finish up design and documentation on one project we are moving onto the next one. Design blurs into documents, documents blur into construction, construction blurs back into the next design. I recently had an opportunity to visit a project that I spent almost five years working on when I was invited to speak to a group of colleagues from the Connecticut Chapter of the Green Building Council during their monthly meeting at the Fairchild Wheeler Multi Magnet Campus. When I stepped back into the building that evening, I had no idea I would be taking a remarkable trip down memory lane. The experience in the building that evening elicited the names and personalities of the entire team that worked so diligently to make the building become a reality as well as recalling the rollercoaster of the creative process, regulatory battles and the remarkable outcomes. That evening, students from the school proudly led small groups of visitors on tours of their facility. What resonated with me about the whole experience was the happiness, pride and maturity of the students as they led these tours. As they discussed the various features of the building and how fortunate they felt to have daily access to such sophisticated resources, I realized that the vision of a few forward-thinking educators very early in the process had come to fruition - in a way that nobody could have fully predicted when we started work on the project almost 10 years ago. The smile on each student’s face was an incredible reward for me that evening and reminded me why we are part of this profession and how we can positively affect others through our efforts.

Early in the project, JCJ and the rest of the team identified six guiding principles: to create flow of space, flexible learning environments, a sense of responsibility and to design exhibition spaces, technology and green principles.  As the students led their separate tours I observed that they all unknowingly described each of these principles while guiding us through their daily experience. The flow of space, the connections to learning, the incorporation/monitoring of green elements and the exhibition of student work was clearly evident throughout the building. Most striking to me was my conversation with some of the administrators and the pride they exhibited when describing the incredible sense of responsibility that the students have shown in their work and the building. This sense of responsibility has led to what is anticipated to be a 100% graduation rate for the first graduating class. Remarkable.

Anyone that feels they’ve lived a rewarding life can fondly look back at memories that create special nostalgia and a sense of pride. We, as Architects, need to remember to revisit the places that we have worked so hard to create to remind ourselves why we entered this profession, and more importantly, why we should continue to devote ourselves to every new project we have the opportunity to work on.

If you are interested in learning more about the Fairchild Wheeler Multi Magnet Campus project, please visit our portfolio of work at www.jcj.com/fairchildwheeler.