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The Fun Show

Life of an Architect Podcast

The Fun Show

By Bob Borson, FAIA | April 18, 2019

Sometimes bad things happen, and it impacts you in a way that you weren’t anticipating – takes you out of your normal head space. Since I don’t like feeling bad, we’re going to do something about it. Welcome to “The Fun Show.”

Just like the occasional blog post, the podcast (and blog post) today will be a “life” day because we are talking about, well, whatever we want to a certain extent. As of this writing, Notre Dame Cathedral suffered a tragic fire this last week and it put Andrew and me in a somber mood … but I’m ready to have some fun so today is a bit of a course correction and we are going to have a good time. For almost a year now I have wanted to record a podcast episode that was centered around a more “life” centric theme. I don’t know if you are a regular visitor on the site or not but the last few podcast topics have been:

Episode 19 – Architectural Fees
• Architectural Fees are a mystery to most people and there is no shortage of methods that architects charge for their services. How do you make sense of which method works best for you and your clients?

Episode 20 – The Construction Bid Process
• Every client wants to know what their project is going to cost and who’s going to build it. That means sending the drawings out and getting contractors involved.

Episode 21 – Making an Architect
• Becoming an architect is the dream of many people, but it is rare that these individuals learn enough about themselves and what it means to be an architect prior to finding themselves in a position to have to make the decision to actually become an architect.

Episode 22 – Residential Construction Costs
• Architects and General Contractors typically use certain rules of thumb to determine residential construction costs at various stages of development. Here is a guide of approximately what you get per square foot when building a new home.

While I think all of these are important topics to cover, they are really focused on some very technical aspects of the profession and according to some of the feedback we received, pretty technical in nature. Andrew and I did not take this feedback as critical, we actually appreciate when people take the time to give us feedback on the show, we did take as the opportunity I’ve been looking for to do a “life” episode. Well, that and the whole Notre Dame Cathedral burning thing I mentioned earlier.

To get our heads right, this episode is really Andrew and I sitting around the proverbial campfire (otherwise known as my bedroom) and telling adventure stories from some of the trips we’ve taken in our life. As in the image above [11:02-minute mark] when Mike Buesing, one of my friends from architecture school, and I decided to take a trip through the great Southwest visiting destinations like Chaco Canyon and Monument Valley which is where this picture was taken. This was 1992 and there aren’t many pictures from this time in my life. I captured the image above by balancing my 35mm Nikon SLR on a boulder with some smaller rocks in my attempt to level the image. I set the timer and depressed the photo button and ran like mad to try to get back to this spot before the photo was taken.

While I almost fell off a Mesa taking this picture, I almost died climbing up to this spot with lawn furniture around my neck. This entire trip was amazing for me since I had never visited this part of the country before but as I think back to this trip, just about all of the memories I have, start with the moment when things start to go sideways on us.


Even when I scheduled trips that I believed were basically architectural vacations, just with my family in tow, turned out to be something completely different. The now infamous “Borson-Paris” trip of 2010 was the moment when I realized that while vacations and trips are great for opening your mind to different cultures and experiences, it’s really all the “side” adventures that happen that make these sorts of trips memorable. The picture above was taken by my wife just moments after I had stopped pushing my daughter through a Paris park. Having realized that we couldn’t follow my schedule of visiting 4 architectural destinations each day, we modified our schedule to include one family activity and one architectural activity for each half of the day. Since Kate was still 5-years-old at the time, this typically meant go to some park and chasing pigeons, pushing her around in carts, or sailing wooden boats in water features BEFORE heading off to walk through a museum or church for my own benefit.

While I am quite sure other parents figured out long before me that kids get bored in museums and churches, this was a new thing for me and it caused me to completely reset my way of thinking, and the result is that my vacations now – which still include a fair amount of museums and churches – are actually a lot better. I have been resisting the urge to say that this was a quality over quantity issue, but I do think there is some truth to it. These days I save my 100% architectural trips for AIA conventions and balance those out with family trips that include a lot more cafes and conversations.

[41:23 mark]
For this episode, we have a new hypothetical to consider. Here is the situation:

"You wake up one morning to find that you have been secretly whisked away and deposited on a remote and hot yet lushly vegetated deserted island. Pinned to your shirt is a note that tells you that you will be picked up in 5 years and that you can have 3 things to aid you during your island vacation. What three things will you ask for?"

Andrew and I are in agreement on the first two things that a person should ask for … but the wheels fly off when it comes to item number three. I should also add that I have never heard Andrew laugh as hard as he did when we recorded this segment. Have you ever heard someone laughing so hard that you start laughing even though you don’t know why they’re laughing? If you can actually listen to this entire hypothetical segment without laughing (especially at the 52:00 mark) I’ll send you an invitation to attend the next BBQ and beer party at my office.

As I’ve aged, I’ve come to realize that as much fun as it is to go visit somewhere amazing, it doesn’t really matter unless you are with people who can help you make memories. These trips I’ve taken, and the memories I’ve made as a result of taking those trips, are only really cataloged in my mind because of the ancillary memories that were created almost as by-products of the point for going to wherever it was we were going.


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