FAT: Flexible, Adaptable, and Teachable // Cory Meyer

5/19/2014

As construction in the studio advances and shop drawings generate some tangibility, recently the studio took some time to step back and assess the work already completed. This informal yet illuminating conversation brought forth a series of issues, considerations and thought provoking initiatives to be addressed. Of the many topics mulled through and probed, there seemed to be a reoccurring concern among the collective; unforeseen problems. For one reason or another, nearly every task completed at that juncture had experienced a set back of some fashion. We began to discuss each of the issues, trying to best understand where the root of the problem was arising. Each issue introduced seemed to have its own source, different from its neighbor. From inadequate shop facilities to unexpected scheduling conflicts, from missing or improper tools to a lack of group coordination; every obstacle and its related cause were discussed. Looking at the bigger picture, we seemed to always get past these hurdles rather unscathed, but we began to ask ourselves how can we best prevent these unforeseen problems? Or at least manage them in an appropriate manner.

These unforeseen issues reminded me of a saying an old mentor of mine used to always say before we started any undertaking, “we must remain FAT.” The word FAT being an acronym for Flexible, Adaptable, and Teachable. The premise being, knowing how to take a punch and get knocked down, yet having the resiliency to get back up. By understanding what knocked you down you can begin to learn from these teachable moments and react properly. These same principles apply to the issues generated in the aforementioned shop struggles. Sure, our shipment of steel won’t be ready until next week, but what else can we be working on in the meantime?

 

There have been two major fronts being tackled in the shop at the present, steel work and pallet remediation. The steel work being primarily designated for the major structural frames in each piece and the pallet remediation to act as either screening elements, storage entities, or table top surfaces. Each workflow providing its own conflicts, requiring its own counter.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” As design students implicated in providing the highest quality level of work possible at any expense, it’s important for us to remember and understand that we aren’t professional welders, master artisans or a professional of any sort in the construction field. We are, however, students motivated in pursuing excellence; this thinking must remain at the helm. As a studio, moving forward will be more about assessing the issues dealt, accommodating and finding an alternative, and ultimately learning from the process. By working as a collective on each task, pooling our individual talents and skills together, we have discovered methods and processes that have allowed us to overcome the inevitable struggles and create beautiful, meaningful architecture. Rather than seeking excuses for inadequacies, the outlook is to solve the problem, efficiently, no matter the obstacle. Our collective objective is to question the thinking of “doing the best with what you have” and instead initiate a pursuit of design excellence, regardless of the inevitable unforeseen obstacles.

Written by Cory Meyer