[Image credit: Anne Hilton]

We talk a lot about what we do at work on this blog. On occasion, we’ll dip a toe into the activities that we engage in outside the office doors. Today, we decided to add a little more insight into what exactly occupies our afterhours time as architects (assuming we have any to spare, of course). At the end of the day, we’re all for balance; it makes us better at what we do and happier while we’re doing it. And while these may not be unique, nor exhaustive, activities to architect, they are an honest sampling. Complete with the logic behind them, of course.

Sources of inspiration in art, science, and history are plentiful in the various museums and galleries dotted around the city. And, as some of us balance parenthood with architecture, these cultural outings give both us and our kids a healthy dose of creative stimulation and education.

[Image credit: Seattle P-I]

The Museum of Flight in Seattle is a fantastic venue for an architect’s cultural inspiration. The airplane exemplifies the virtues of great design: they are everything they need to be and nothing more; there’s no ornament, fashion or whim without consequence. Combine that with a bit of history on a tour through Air Force One from the Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon era, a walk through the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle trainer, and it’s a great time for the adults as well. A personal favorite is the Concorde — such a sleek, elegant aircraft.

A combination of a social activity and a design/build project, cooking hits all the right buttons for an architect. And the reward of sharing a delicious meal you’ve created with friends and family ranks high among life’s simple pleasures.

Cooking is a perfect way for an architect to unwind. Whether it encompasses all the phases of “the project” in just a few hours or is another notch in perfecting and tweaking a particular recipe, it engages the senses and intellect all at once. The architect-chef has total control over all phases: procuring the material, prepping the site, generating the plans, making the meal and, finally, enjoying the delicious results, ideally with a nice bottle of wine. It’s the ultimate pastime for a control-freak architect who has a hankering for good food. Cookbooks with a design-minded bend include Living and Eating by John Pawson/Annie Bell, which does a stellar job with simple food presented beautifully, and Cooks Illustrated, which takes the scientific approach to the precision of cooking. We’re getting hungry just thinking about it.

The creative energy doesn’t necessarily come to a screeching halt when we step out of office-mode. Despite the fact that we spend our days (and sometimes nights) designing and building things, even when we’re not working, we’re often drawn to designing/tinkering/making one thing or another.

Graphic art and design has close ties to architecture. Silk-screen and letterpress printing are easy crossover disciplines for architects to get into. The social component of creating things with others in your own home or connecting with a local studio, coupled with opportunities to mess around with your original design concepts or experimenting with the kit-of-parts of cases of type set the stage for a learning-by-doing creative process with immediate results. And much like cooking, these hands-on projects involve — surprise, surprise — a parallel process to architecture. But we could argue this to be true for almost anything.

After working in the office all day at computer sitting at a desk, a screen break is needed, and often craved. Constructing and fixing objects for fun or for utility engages the ever-satisfying thinking-by-doing process. Materials can be rough, ideas still fleshing out, and at times, a project will reach that beautiful, finished state.

It’s no ancient secret that good, regular exercise correlates with everything else in life working properly — sanity, balance, and all other facets of life becoming more enjoyable.

We’ve noticed in the office most of us are drawn to activities (swimming, running, yoga) that allow you to do two (or more) things at once, staying fit while letting your mind wander and daydream. The most obvious multi-task involves the cycling regiment that overlaps with other commitments like the daily commute or site meetings. Adding a social and contributory component to the mix doesn’t hurt either, which is why we started the S2V Invitational three years ago. (It’s never too early to start training, by the way.) Then there’s the highly mentally engaging sport of soccer: its strategies involve thinking about lines, angles, space. Even our sports have parallels to architecture.

Whether coaching, or offering time and energy toward a favorite organization, giving back to the local community is rewarding, enjoyable, and often intersects with some of our other afterhours activities mentioned above.

We’ve got our share soccer lovers in the office, and therefore we’ve also got youth soccer coaches. Not only is it a privilege to give back by sharing a bit of wisdom and working with local youth on being fit and being good citizens, but it’s amazing what you learn about yourself in the process.

And we can’t mention giving back to the community without plugging some local organizations working hard at bringing the appreciation and understanding of architecture to the masses: Seattle Architecture Foundation and the Seattle Design Festival. There are a number of avenues in which to get involved, but again, we’re drawn to the youth programs. There’s something about seeing kids get excited about design that perpetuates our own enthusiasm for it. Not to mention the high hopes we have for the future citizens, decision-makers, and designers that will shape our city.

That covers what we’re up to while we’re out and about. Hit the comments button and let us know what keeps you engaged, refreshed, and fulfilled in the off hours.

Cheers from Team BUILD