Monday, April 23, 2012

The Tailored Idea

Build-to-suit or Settling for Low Cost Alternatives. Real estate professionals, architects, engineers, builders and owners can find themselves faced with a dilemma in an environment of economic uncertainly. It has always been true that buying exclusively based on lowest price is a dangerous way to do business. Catering to such clients can be hazardous as well. 

Consider the guy looking to buy a new suit. He enters a clothing store but he doesn’t want to spend too much money. The tailor shows him a designer brand nice suit for $400. “It is too much,” he says. Shown another suit for $200, he says, “It’s still too much money.” After several others, finally he is shown one that only costs $10. “That’s more like it!” the guy says, and tries it on. He looks in the mirror and one sleeve is about two inches shorter than the other.

“No problem,” says the tailor, “Just hunch up your right shoulder.”
So the guy hunches his right shoulder way up, and the sleeves look OK, but the lapels are crooked.
“No problem,” says the tailor, “Just stick out your left arm and cock it like a bird’s wing.”
So the guy sticks out his left arm and the lapels look OK. But then he notices that one pant leg is shorter than the other.
“Well, just keep that leg stiff,” says the tailor, “and no one will notice.”
“I’ll take it!” the guy says.
The guy leaves the tailor shop wearing the suit. Walking with his left leg stiff, one arm stuck out like a bird’s wing, and one shoulder hunched way up. Walking down the street he passes two orthopedic surgeons.”I have never seen anyone in such bad shape in my twenty-five years of practice!” says one of the doctors. “Me neither,” the other doctor says. “Nice suit, though.”

Maybe we all need to remember, even in the face of increased pressure to deliver low-cost solutions, the integrity of our collective professional lives depends on value without compromise, appropriate quality, and sustainable building that will serve well into the future. Ultimately, when someone says “Nice building!” let’s hope it is true for the intended life-cycle of the project.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Huddle Up

I gave my first tour as a docent at the Laumeier Sculpture Park this past week. I’ve been on a crash course of training of weekly meetings, internet searches and online art exploration to prepare. Art is a lifelong passion for me. Now I  am charged with sharing a little with a classroom field trip of Kindergarten kids. Big impressions can be made at such a young age. I am anxious to see if I can share some of my enthusiasm with these youngsters. The Park is 105 acres and has something like 70 major works - some part of the permanent collection, some on lone and others that are “site specific” installations that eventually erode or must be removed due to the effects to the outdoor elements. My plan was to keep is simple and hope to make an impression.  

“Okay kids. I’m Wes Morgan and I am your docent. That means I am here to introduce you to some of the art and teach you a little about this museum. It is a museum too – even though it is outside. All of the work you will see today is created by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists who have produced monumental work.” I know some of this introduction was not going to be retained. I also knew, on a glorious Spring day like this one, it would be hard to leave this place without an impression.

Ten (10) five year olds require a high energy teacher and a few extra adult supervisors to coral so the tour begins with an intro and a bit of a gameplan. “Here’s what we are going to do. I have a playbook – and like a coach or a quarterback I will let you know what we will be doing as we go. So when I ask everyone to bring it in and huddle up - that means I am going to need your attention.” It worked like a charm. Inside an hour and a half I was able to brief this group on ten remarkable works of art. They were engaged and excited.

Nikki de Saint Phalle, Ernest Trova, Judith Shea, Mark de Suvero, Alexander Liberman, Robert Chambers, Charles Ginnever etc. They won’t remember the artists’ names. But they will remember something - colors, shapes, design and how the art made them feel. That’s something.    

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Best of All Possible Worlds

I had the pleasure of joining my daughter, Lindsey, for the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music production of Candide, the opera composed in 1956 by Leonard Bernstein. We made the trip from St. Louis to see her friend in one of the lead roles on Friday Night (a road trip from St. Louis – some 225 miles.) It’s a journey and a chance for quality time. 

Candide is Voltaire’s magnum opus. I read it in college and am now reading it again. (Not in its original French of course.)  Candide is characterized by its sarcastic tone, as well as by its erratic, fantastical and fast-moving plot. Voltaire, through this story, ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, philosophers and optimism in general. The main character, Candide, experiences a slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire is not rejecting optimism outright but advocating an enigmatic precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the mantra of Candide’s mentor Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal after its secretive publication in 1759. Candide, however, with its sharp wit and insightful portrayal of the human condition, inspired many later authors and artists to mimic and adapt it.

All that said and with all due respect to Voltaire. I count myself pretty lucky to be spending this time with my daughter in this, the best of all possible worlds. 

P.S. As a bonus - we got to see that fantastic Alexander Calder Sculpture in front of the Jacobs School of Music (shown in photo above).