07 Sep 2015

Work/Life — A Merger

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Imagine you’re driving along a two-lane, one-way highway. You’re comfortably cruising at a pace marginally higher than the speed limit because your travel music, Flight of the Bumblebee, commandeers your cruise control. Traffic is light and life is good because all is in order, but ahead you spot the inevitable “MERGE” sign.

Merge Sign

courtesy: roadtrafficsigns.com

Your good day turns cloudy, your harmonic music plays flat and your smooth pace becomes erratic! You’ve been forced to merge before and you know this sign indicates squeezing two lanes into one. You don’t want to merge but you must because failure to merge successfully means collision! You glance furtively between the vehicle in the adjoining lane and the merge apex. You must choose to accelerate or decelerate and execute the merge. Hold your breath…You DID IT!

You successfully merged two independent elements without conflict. That was easy! At first Merging feels a little uncomfortable but awareness and responsiveness make it possible. Incidentally, being aware and responsive is also the secret to a work/life merger.

A work/life merge may not be as easy to detect as a traffic merge, but this condition exhibits indicators to diagnose whether you suffer/enjoy a work/life merge.

How do you know when it’s happened to you and what do you do about it?


I present the anecdotes for living a work/life merger:

Day Disorientation:

Symptoms: No distinction between weekdays. The work/lifer views days as a continuum and weeks as time blocks and may commonly ask, “what day is it?” or may interchangeably use the term “work day” and “play day“. In severe instances, the work/lifer does not distinguish between weekdays and weekends.

Merge Week

Recovery: For recovering work/lifers Friday earns distinction because the local coffee shop your friend owns promotes architects-drink-free-Friday as an incentive for architects to exit the office. For architects who don’t drink java, consider days-of-the-week-underpants and a high-fiber diet.

Perpetual Shifts:

Symptoms: Work tasks punctuated with Life events. Task completion (results) takes priority over hours worked (quantity). A work/lifer often schedules leisure activities between work meetings. In severe instances, the work/lifer inadvertently invites non-architect friends to design Charrettes out of confusion about what others consider “fun“.

Merge Event

Recovery: Add Life-appointments to the architect’s shared gantt chart to remind your lifer to shower, buy groceries, take pet to the vet and go to church. Always remember to BYOB to the design Charrette.

Midnight Runs:

Symptoms: Frequent sprints from the bed to the studio (often from a deep sleep) to sketch an idea or record a thought. Sketch duration varies but may randomly repeat throughout the night and morning. This behavior is often confused with Perpetual Shifts. In severe instances the work/lifer has a bed IN the studio.

Merge Sprints

Recovery: Keep a LED flashlight, sketchbook and pen on the bedside table. Alternatively, install motion-activated running-lights in the hall between the sleeping space and studio. If all else fails, keep a bed in the studio.

Frantic Doodle:

Symptoms: Panic attack when unable to locate sketching substrate. Jittery fingers unless occupied with a properly-weighted pen. Feverish sketching on any available media including the skin. In severe instances, the work/lifer may sketch on unprotected bald heads during a subway work commute.

Merge Doodle

Recovery: Supply the work/lifer with a palm-sized sketchbook and trendy pen. Ideally the sketchbook integrates into must-have clothing like days-of-the-week-underpants. A tablet and stylus may satisfy the electronically-inclined providing it is equipped with a sweet sketching app. Maintain an active supply of hand sanitizer to remove Sharpie residue from the skin.

Tourette Diction:

Symptoms: Intense gaze or tightly-shut eyes coupled with passionate talking-to-oneself. The afflicted’s voice-activated phone app responds to the phrase, “the architect says” to record spontaneous ideas and specifications when in traffic, meetings or during intimate moments. In severe instances, the work/lifer blurts architecture vocabulary such as “adytum” when the appropriate response is “amen“.

Recovery: Engaging the afflicted in dialog is a fruitless venture. Just nod and smile.

Disjointed Photography:

Symptoms: Blurry photos, partial photos or photos of ceilings, floors and wall perspectives. In severe instances, the work/lifer invites strangers to pose in photos to provide entourage scale.

Merge Photo

Recovery: Secretly borrow your work/lifer’s camera to photograph whole buildings, interiors and landscapes. The whole images may subconsciously alter your architect’s part-whole perception (but probably not). Encourage your work/lifer to take MORE pictures. Eventually enough photos of a single subject may reveal a recognizable object. Agreeably BE the entourage and smile for the camera. The smile won’t matter because the architect only uses your profile, but you’ll “look” happy.

Symbolic Spew:

Symptoms: Abbreviated communication using secret symbols to communicate ideas and thoughts. Includes the use of standard and non-standard symbols. In severe instances, the work/lifer sets the emoticon keyboard as the default to create the annual family Christmas letter but excludes a legend. Tis the season!

Merge Symbol

Recovery: Agree to play Pictionary as often as your work/lifer asks. Eventually he/she will divulge enough architect-hieroglyphics during game play that you will learn the symbocabulary. Take photos of the symbols to show friends at parties so they can mock the architect in your life too.


Symptoms: you love what you do and do what you love!

Recovery: There is no recovery. Work/Lifers never work a day in their life.

If this hasn’t happened to you, it has happened to an enlightened architect in your life. Here’s a few tips for how to live with your work/lifer.

  • Don’t try to change them — The work/life blend is a natural biorhythm. It’s innate. Changing your architect is like teaching a dog to dance. It will frustrate you and anger the dog.
  • Watch for mood swings — Creativity is a type of mania. Your work/lifer oscillates between jubilant and despondent. Mood is like the weather. If you don’t like it, wait, it will change.
  • They won’t grow out of it — This isn’t a phase, a fad or an aberration. Your architect eats, sleeps, breathes and works / lives!

Danger and hooray, there’s work and life ahead! Proceed with caution and enthusiasm.


Architalks Credits

This is another entry in Bob Borson’s blogging brain-child titled, “ArchiTalks”.

The #ArchiTalks goal is to inspire blogging architects with similar educational and professional requirements to opine on the same topic and simulpost their response so other architects and a broader audience can enjoy the rampant thought-diversity within the architecture profession

Select the links in “Architalks Entries” below to read how architects responded to the “Work-Life” topic.

Architalks Entries

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Work Life

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Work | Life – Different Letters, Same Word

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Work / Life : Life / Work

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Work/Life…What an Architect Does

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The One Secret to Work – Life Balance

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
work | life :: dance

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Living an Integrated Life as a Small Firm Architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: Work/life…attempts

Collier Ward – Thousand Story Studio (@collier1960)

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
what makes you giggle? #architalks

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Turning Work Off

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Work/Life — A Merger

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project (@miss32percent)
Work Life Fit: A New Focus for Blurred Lines

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Work Life

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks: Imbalanced and uninterrupted

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
ArchiTalks #12: Balance is a Verb.

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
I Just Can’t Do This Anymore

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
An Architect’s House

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Brady Ernst – Family Man Since 08/01/2015

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Father, Husband, Architect – typically in that order

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
On Work: Life Balance – Cattywampus is as Good as it Gets

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Architecture: Work to Live

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
midnight in the garden of [life] and [work]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Work = 1/3 Life 

Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist)
Work Life Balance: Architecture and Babies – 5 Hints for Expecting Parents

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Work is Life

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
studio / life

Lindsey Rhoden – SPARC Design (@sparcdesignpc)
Work Life Balance: A Photo Essay

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Work / Life


About the Author

Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 29 years experience in design, construction observation and life.