Architects may have OCD, I mean CDO

There’s a really good chance that a few architects have a tiny little bit of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Maybe just a tiny bit – just a smidge. Ok, a REALLY big smidge. And, make that most of us. Ok, fine 92% of us. No, make that 92.3% +/- oh screw it… I messed that up a bit, Let me start this over… Is that crooked?

I used to work for a firm in Austin that specialized in historic preservation (Volz and Associates). It was one of my first jobs out of school. The economy was crap, and it took me month’s to find work. I really didn’t have any interest or background in historic preservation, but I needed a job. It turned out to be fantastic. In a “hey, why the hell did I take this job” kind of way. I was there for 4 years and I’ve taken to calling that time my “boot-camp” for architectural detailing. It was a great way to start a career. At Volz and Associates, we were just a little (shall we say) thorough. I have a folder here with the roof details from the restoration of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston. Just the roof details mind you. There are over a hundred of them. At one point, my boss had me change “water-proofing” to “self adhering underlayment” on all the details. I was drawing by hand back then, so that took a couple of days.

I drew an elevation of every stained-glass window in the church. Then, my boss and I went window by window and marked up every broken piece of glass, every loose piece of lead solder, & noted each piece of glass that wasn’t original to the design. I drew a plan and elevation of every pew in the church, so we could note where gouges in the wood needed to be filled, where the loose arm rests were, where the carpet had come loose from the kneelers, where the trim was missing under the part that no one in their right mind had ever looked at. I drew very detailed elevations of the building, so we could note every loose brick, every patch of mold, every part of the mortar that was failing. I drew every crack in the interior plaster walls, (all of the walls in the church, ever crack) so the contractor would know what was stained, what to patch, what to remove, and what to seal, and what to …oh god, kill me now…

Sometimes, that’s what Architecture is like. It can take months and months of tedious, repetition to finalize a complex set of drawings for a project. It helps if you have a meticulous personality. One on my fondest memories from school was drawing the elevation of my project that no one would ever see. It was an urban infill project that had one side up against an existing building. I drew that elevation with as much care as the other 3 – even though it was a blank brick wall. It took 3 days, and I had Mono. 

Yep, I might be well suited for this profession. You need to be patience, persistent, and diligent. It takes a long time to do something right. And a little bit of OCD is a good thing.

And, by the way, that should be CDO, because that’s alphabetical. Just sayin…