#ArchiTalks: Vacationing with an Architect

Note: This is the tenth post in a group series called #ArchiTalks in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect gives a group of us architects a theme or a set of questions and we all have to post our response… this month’s theme: summer break.

As I’ve mentioned before, us architects are a (lovably) eccentric bunch. Unlike an accountant, for instance, who can step away from the books and focus on the beauty of Switzerland, we can’t really leave the pieces that make us architects behind when we’re not at work, even on vacation. Or at least I can’t. I see design, neighborhoods, cultural influences…in everything. It’s part of what makes me…me. And I’d like to think it’s part of what makes me a good architect, too. But it also makes me the odd duck on vacations.


I mentioned in a previous blog about the AIA’s #ilookup campaign that my need for travel + my life as an architect brings a…non-normal travel scenario into the mix. I happen to think it’s more fun, but I’m not naive enough to think everyone agrees. This month’s #ArchiTalks post will give you insight on what it’s like to vacation with an architect, or at least this one.

In early June during my job transition, I took a vacation to Las Vegas for a girlfriend’s 30th birthday. Her mom works for Southwest and her family likes to gamble, so we were able to get 9 of us there relatively cheaply (3 family members + 6 girls). I’ve never been to Vegas and was intrigued to see what all of the fuss was about. What I found was flashy lights, smoke, and lots of mirrors. Both literally and metaphorically.


I don’t think anyone would disagree with me that Vegas, or at least the strip, is the land of smoke and mirrors. Both in the magician acts on stage and the everyday process of the buildings and service. Walk into one building and you’re in ancient Rome. Another…France. Another…Egypt. Another…Italy. Multitudes of people work around the clock to maintain this front of the theme for each place. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but personally I like finding the sense of the place and the culture. That was really hard to do in Vegas….until I acted like an old person and went to bed early one night instead of staying up and gambling. This allowed me to get up early the next morning to go sight-see in old downtown during the day while the others were sleeping.


This. This is what an architect does on vacation. Or at least this one who can’t reconcile wasting money gambling with a house under construction at home and no present income (during the trip).


I walked around downtown Vegas at 9:30am or so. It was already blisteringly hot, but the business people were out and about…or scurrying from the sun into their offices. I walked down the streets to see the new businesses that were popping up to serve the local workforce that is coming back, thanks in part to Tony Hsieh and his infusion of development in downtown Vegas.


I had my best breakfast of the trip in a little diner/coffee shop/music mill/hangout…for only $7. Note to those less-traveled: local, out of the way places tend to not only be cheaper, but also immensely better. I saw what was to be seen, kept my eye on time, and got back (while making a stop at a liquor store for everyone) just as the group was getting ready to head to the pool. They got their beauty sleep and I got to see some of the town that they wouldn’t have been interested in seeing.



I proceeded to do this once or twice more, trying to find times to see the city while others were resting. Don’t get me wrong, we as a group had fun at the pool and out for dinners and events at night, but those morning excursions were my own little mini-trips in the larger vacation.





Unless you send me to an island where the main goal is to relax, this is my mode of operation in a new place. See what it’s about, what makes it tick, what the locals do, and what influences the architecture (or vice versa). In the past, this has lead me to running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to see ALL THE THINGS before I had to return once again to reality. Now I take it slower, knowing that EXPERIENCING is different that snapping a quick picture and checking another place off the list.


So what does this mean when you travel with an architect, or at least with me? You’ll do more than one thing a day, but you’ll have experiences that are new an local. Chain businesses of any sort will rarely be involved, but great food and local specialty drinks of some sort will be. There will probably be some down time spent sketching, or at least the momentary pause to take pictures and study a space or building. There will be some research of the place, either beforehand or on the fly. And fun will be had. Most definitely, fun will be had.


Travel with an architect. You won’t regret it.



To see the summer breaks from other Architects, follow the links to the others in the #ArchiTalks group who are posting today on the theme:
Bob Borson – Life of an Architect (@bobborson) “Architectural Bucket List”
Jeff Echols – Architect of the Internet (@jeff_echols) Summer Break and Aunt Loretta”
Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM) Summer Break = Extreme Architecture”
Mark LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect) “2 Simple Systems That Will Transform Your Studio”
Lee Calisti – Lee CALISTI architecture+design (@leecalisti) summer break”
Matthew Stanfield – FIELD 9 Architecture (@FIELD9arch) SummerBreak?”
Evan Troxel – Archispeak (@etroxel) 
Cormac Phalen – Archispeak (@archy_type) “Miles and miles of road”
Andrew Hawkins – Hawkins Architecture, Inc (@hawkinsarch) “Summertime”
Jeremiah Russell – Rogue Architecture (@hawkinsarch) 
Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect) Summer Getaway”
Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch) 
Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX) “The Architecture Students Summer Break”
Michele Grace Hottel – Architect (@mghottel) #Architalks 10 – “summer break””
Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA) “Architalks: There, but not there”
Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@Missing32Percent) Architalks 10 – Give me a Break!”
Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC) Architect: Gift or Curse?”
Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz) Summer Vacation”
Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w) summer break [or] summer school”
Cindy Black – Rick & Cindy Black Architects (*) 
Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar) Summer Break”
Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1) A Brilliant Summer Break”
Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge) Summer Break #ArchiTalks”
Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@simplybrinn) Summer Break”
Brady Ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA) The Education of an Agrarian Architect”

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