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Small Practice

  • 1.  Small Practice

    Posted 08-13-2018 17:59
    I don't know how to post this, but here is an offering that reflects the true nature of many small practitioners. It is fictional but based on my own 47 years as a small practitioner. 
    Art Rogers
    Dallas, Texas


                 By Art Rogers  A.I.A.

     The commission would put him back on track, keep his office going, so Jack Taylor waited for the mail to come as he never had before. When at last it did come, he quickly found the envelope from the City Procurement Office, then hesitated before opening it. Maybe if he waited and came back later and pretended it was a surprise to get a letter from the City, and just casually opened it, it would be unexpected good news. That is the way good news usually came, unexpectedly. But he didn't wait. He tore open the envelope and knew from the first line that he didn't get the job. "Yours was one of the many well qualified architectural firms considered for the Riverfront Cultural Center project. ...."   He hardly needed to continue reading, but did. "Unfortunately, only one firm could be....." 
    Then he stopped. He didn't really need to know who got the job, just that he didn't. As he dropped the letter to the desk, he noticed something else was in the envelope. He shook it and a handwritten note fell out.

            "Hey Jack," it said, "Sorry you didn't make the cut. I told you to give that donation to the Chairwoman's favorite charity, but you wouldn't listen, you poor, dumb, honest, son-of –a-bitch. Bribe or no bribe, it would have gotten you the job. You and your friggin' so-called integrity. See where it got you.  Now, of course you could contact the newspaper if you want to shed a little light, a sprinkle of truth, on the whole procurement mess. You probably won't do it, but just in case you get the urge, their number is 363-412-6758. Not that someone of your moral standing would ever blow a whistle. Still, that recording you have of the "donation request" phone call might make interesting reading in the paper, to say nothing of the evening news on TV."

               The note had no signature, but Jack knew who wrote it. It was someone he had worked with at the City on previous small City projects, and who had helped him navigate the bureaucracy in getting his projects accepted. He was an ally of Jack's, if not exactly a loyal friend, and savvy enough not to sign the note.
                     He took a deep sigh. His first reaction was to ignore the note and just accept the situation. It wasn't the first rejection letter he had ever received, and wouldn't be the last, he thought. Then it came to him that it probably was the last. Without the fees from this commission, he was through. There were no other proposals out there, no more letters to wait for.
               Out of habit, he checked the rest of the mail and found, not to his surprise, a final termination of service notice from A.T.&T. for failure to pay the phone bill and a letter from the company that managed the building stating that he had to either renew his lease or vacate the office space by the first of the month, which was Monday.  Today was Wednesday. With a bitter smile, he tossed the notices into the waste basket. He thought about the unsigned note for a moment and then folded it and put it in his wallet.
               "I don't know. I just don't know", he said aloud.
                The weekend came and went without incident, and Monday morning Jack, as much from habit as anything, or maybe with some faint hope that by some miracle all would be as it once was, returned to his office. As he passed through it for the final time, he felt his worth expire in his wake. He paused and looked around, studying, thinking hard. The emptiness was tangible, a random heap of spent time. He could taste the silence. It was the silence after the last skyrocket on the Fourth of July, it was the paper flecked quiet of a football stadium fifteen minutes after the last echo of the game. It was the feeling of battlefields the day after, empty and drained. He scanned the studio, pivoting his head as if it were a video camera, making a final tape for the record, a file for future reference, just in case. He had to have a little something in his memory to come back to, just a glimpse of the good times. Then he saw the drafting tables without drawings, the file cabinets with empty multicolored file folders, an adding machine with nothing to total, and a disconnected phone system. And he heard the quiet.
         He halfway expected a far away trumpet to sound, to make him feel like Patton did at Thermopolis in the movie, contemplating the battles of the past. The wreckage was there all right, and while not broken tanks and burning armored cars like the movie, the hundreds of ideas and schemes, the unused plans for beautiful buildings, so cleverly made with all of his talent and drive and inner dedication and cunning lay about him. This was the trash of his battlefield. People were not dead, but dreams were. Dismembered, scavenged, scattered on the floor, hanging in shards from drafting tape on the walls. The reek of dead thoughts penetrated the space. But he heard no distant fanfare. No muted trumpets. Only the silence one hears when waiting so very hard for some sound, any sound to break that silence. 
    Finally he said, in a soft, barely audible voice, "Well, it is time to go, I guess."  Memory moistened his eyes as he passed by the large circular window he designed and had installed as his signature piece at the very beginning of his practice, back when all was new and promising here. His architectural spring. Slowly, trying to make some gesture with meaning, he reached up to roll down the old fashioned window blind on which had been placed a small Helvitica sign..."THE ARCHITECT IS OUT"...,  positioned to be neatly centered in the window when the shade was down. He wanted to pull it down and close off the world, to put an end to the day, an end to all of this. He reached up and released the cord, unrolling the shade in a final gesture to the world that had been his. After less than three revolutions, the shade came loose at one end and fell with a clatter crookedly across the window, continuing to unroll as it fell.
        There he stood, numb. He was broke, had no clients, no prospects, and had nothing much left to say to anyone. He realized his drama, his little play of life, had no script, no lighting, no sound, and probably worst and best of all, no audience. Even the damn window shade didn't work anymore.
        So Jackson "Jack" Taylor, A.I.A., Architect, for thirty five years designer of schools and churches and houses and museums and theatres, locked up the empty office, walked down the stairs and out into the parking lot, fingering the cell phone in his pocket for the call he was about to make.



    Open: Call for submissions at - Financial support for non-profits working with architects

  • 2.  RE: Small Practice

    Posted 08-14-2018 17:31
    Interesting - Start  of Jack Taylor AIA  novel?   Or posing a question about Ethics and how the system works?


    David DeFilippo AIA
    Tsoi/Kobus & Associates, Inc.
    Boston MA

    Open: Call for submissions at - Financial support for non-profits working with architects

  • 3.  RE: Small Practice

    Posted 10-31-2018 10:37
    So glad that I read this link while catching up on old emails.
    Jack Taylor's experience (and feelings) are similar to mine...especially during this past decade ...but the motto is to never, ever, give up.
    It was a treat! Thank you Art Rogers AIA

    Nancy Perez Miller, AIA
    AR 17002 AA 3376
    Florida Keys

    Open: Call for submissions at - Financial support for non-profits working with architects

  • 4.  RE: Small Practice

    Posted 11-01-2018 18:43
    Not far from the truth for many ...  most small practitioners, myself included can add a multitude of chapters well fitting before and after this story to create that novel spoken about ...i for one was informed by a government official to have my office swept for listening devices as a competitor had recordings from within my office ... we all have crazy stories of practice ... sadly, many end like Jack Taylor at least the counting on that next commission to make or break ...  but then .. perhaps one thing can spring board into the next

    Jeffrey Flemming AIA
    Tempe AZ

    Open: Call for submissions at - Financial support for non-profits working with architects

  • 5.  RE: Small Practice

    Posted 11-01-2018 18:58

    DON'T QUIT - An Inspirational Poem
    author unknown

    When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
    when the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
    when the funds are low and the debts are high,
    and you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
    when care is pressing you down a bit,
    rest if you must - but don't you quit!

    Life is erratic with its twists and turns,
    as everyone of us sometimes learns,
    and many a failure turns about
    when he might have won had he stuck it out;
    Don't give up, though the pace seems slow -
    you might succeed with another blow.

    Often the goal is nearer than
    it seems to a faint and faltering man,
    often the struggler has given up
    when he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
    how close he was to the golden crown.

    Success is failure turned inside out -
    the silver tint of the clouds of doubt -
    and you never can tell how close you are,
    it may be near when it seems afar;
    so stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
    It's when things seem worst that you musn't quit.

    Robert Larsen AIA
    Robert R. Larsen, A.I.A.
    Denver CO

    Open: Call for submissions at - Financial support for non-profits working with architects