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A pretty girl, a model, and an architecture student

In late October 2015 I was working on a small renovation and pulled out my favorite architect’s scale. I realized it’d been years since I last used the scale, so I took a picture and posted it on the Shoegnome facebook page. The photo makes me cringe because it’s architect porn—a staged photo of an anachronistic tool. The photo really has it all: a traditional tool, a simplistic plan, a subtle mix of CAD and hand drawn flare (check out the double underline of Floor Plan), dimensions that get hard to read at the edges as the paper curls, sexy architecture terms like “usable area”, a nice contrast of shiny color and utilitarian black and white… I should probably research how one sells the rights to stock images because seriously, doesn’t it scream architect doing work!

an inaccurate startLooking at the pretty metallic blue reminds me of why I own that scale. It was the second scale I bought during architecture school. I chose this scale because I liked the look and feel of it. The first scale I purchased was cheap plastic. I bought it because we were required to have a scale for Freshman studio. I probably didn’t even know why we needed it. I’m sure I picked out the least expensive one on my first trip to Texas Art Supply on Montrose Boulevard. But the shiny second scale I spent MONEY on. Well, student money. While it seemed ungodly expensive at the time, it probably only cost $15 or $20. A fortune to a college student studying architecture and working twenty or so hours a week for under $10/hour. I have to pause for a moment and reflect on that. For all but my final year of college (Rice’s BARCH is a five year program plus a year of work between years four and five), I worked a part time job. I don’t think of myself as someone who held a steady job throughout school, but I did. I worked at the same job for almost four years, ending up as a manager for the last two years. I worked in the Telefund department, calling alumni to raise money for the school. The survival rate of students doing that job was low. Spending three hours a night on the phone asking strangers for money is no easy task. Sure it was a job at the school but that just meant my commute from work back to studio was easy. And how insane is that. I would spend all day in classes, eat dinner, then work for three or four hours before heading to studio for three or four more hours every night.

At the end of my Junior year I landed the ultimate architecture school gig: building models for a professor. After final reviews, our professor invited the studio over for dinner. As we were all walking back to our cars at the end of the night (this is Houston, we all had cars), the professor asked if any of us knew anyone who wanted to build a model for a client of his over the summer. I’m kind of surprised no one fought me for the opportunity. Their loss. That one model turned into four, and the summer became the rest of the year. For six to eight months I actually worked two jobs in addition to going to school. Over the summer I worked at an urban planning consulting firm and built models at night. Then when I was back in school I built models and worked at Telefund again. I actually think there were a few weeks when I was doing all three. The things we can do in our youth. I need to remember that when I talk to my daughters about college. I can already hear myself in the late 2020s “When I went to college I worked twenty hours a week to pay for everything I needed outside of tuition…which I borrowed tens of thousands of dollars to pay for (and just finished paying off).”Basswood Model In ProcessAnyways, the blue scale. I bought that blue scale as a gift to myself. When I was building the models, I needed a scale at home and one in studio. Since I was flush with cash—models paid MUCH better than anything else I’d ever done—I bought something nice for myself. I also bought something much nicer for someone else.

A little over 15 years ago I asked a girl out because I thought she was pretty, and she seemed to know I exist. She said she couldn’t go out that weekend, that she was busy and had plans. But maybe another weekend. For whatever reason I believed her. A few days later I tried again. She came by the Sophomore architecture studio around 5pm that Friday. We drove to dinner, watched movies in her dorm common room, and I ended up walking back to my room at 7 am.

A year and a half after that first date I was making good money building basswood models for my professor. I spent a little of the money I earned to buy a fancy architect’s scale. I then used almost all the rest of the money from the first model to buy that girl a ring. The day I first showed the client the model was also the day I proposed to Carolyn. We’d picked out the ring together. I knew she was going to say yes. The only surprise I had was that I got the ring a few days early so she wasn’t prepared for the moment I formally proposed. I invited her over to my apartment under the pretense of going out to dinner after the meeting. The model was big and heavy. The client who had hired a Porsche-driving architect to design her multi-million dollar had to come to my crappy student apartment for the meeting. What a different world it was right? The days before slick digital models and iPads. My professor and the client were only at my apartment for maybe fifteen minutes. But in that time I had sweat so much that I had to change my shirt. I bluffed, telling Carolyn I was nervous about the meeting. I wasn’t. For whatever reason, she believed me. After the client left, I changed, we walked one block to the restaurant where we had our first date, and I feebly got mostly down to one knee.Rice and Wilton basswood modelArchitecture is messy and complicated. It takes up so much time and invades our lives. Fortunately Carolyn had some clues about what she was getting into from very early on. And on this upcoming Valentine’s Day, she’s excited to head to an island three hours north of Seattle with our daughters in tow so that I can have a prospective client meeting.

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  • February 12, 2016


    Aww … well this is timely. Nice story 😀

  • February 12, 2016


    Such an awesome blog post. You’re a gifted story teller, Jared. Much of that story resonated with me.

  • February 13, 2016

    Great story! For the architect in me, the extra interesting tidbit though is in the front…I’m surprised you haven’t used a scale for years. I somehow use it at least every other day in the office! I guess everyone has their own processes…I honestly can’t design (well) in the computer. I need to sketch, input, sketch on the printout, input, etc….

  • February 14, 2016

    Great story. We all have our ” presents” we buy for ourselves. After 30 years of practice I bought an expensive fountain pen and felt good about it….

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