Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Somebody´s own dream castle

A beautiful sand castle. Picture downloaded from

There´s a house like a kitsch castle in a corner of Sunset Beach, a few blocks from our apartment. Every time my husband and me see it, we smile and say ¨somebody´s own dream castle¨. It looks like taken from a kid´s tale, worst of all, it doesn´t have land around, it is compressed in a small lot in front of the beach.
I think all architects in the world have at least once, met a client who brought his own drawings with the family´s ideas on them. Some clients are nice and recognize their limitations and that the architect is a professional. Some of them not, and I also heard ¨I´m paying here, so, it´s my decision¨. Now, would anybody explain to the doctor how he has to be cured? Architecture, interior design, even construction are full of people pretending to show they know about the subject, and it´s pretty annoying. 
I´ve found this story from the book ¨Amazing Stories¨, and the first chapter made me laugh, it reminded me some experiences in our profession:

¨This little guy Stoddard was one of the toughest customers I'd ever done business with. To look at him you'd think he was typical of the mild pleasant little sort of suburban home owner who caught the eight-oh-two six days a week and watered the lawn on the seventh. Physically, his appearance was completely that of the inconspicuous average citizen. Baldish, fortiesh, bespectacled, with the usual behind-the-desk bay window that most office workers get at his age, he looked like nothing more than the amiable citizen you see in comic cartoons on suburban life.
Yet, what I'm getting at is that this Stoddard's appearance was distinctly deceptive. He was the sort of customer that we in the contracting business would label as a combination grouser and eccentric.
When he and his wife came to me with plans for the home they wanted built in Mayfair's second subdivision, they were already full of ideas on exactly what they wanted.
This Stoddard—his name was George B. Stoddard in full—had painstakingly outlined about two dozen sheets of drafting paper with some of the craziest ideas you have ever seen.
"These specifications aren't quite down to the exact inchage, Mr. Kermit," Stoddard had admitted, "for I don't pretend to be a first class architectural draftsman. But my wife and I have had ideas on what sort of a house we want for years, and these plans are the result of our years of decision."
I'd looked at the "plans" a little sickly. The house they'd decided on was a combination of every architectural nightmare known to man. It was the sort of thing a respectable contractor would envision if he ever happened to be dying of malaria fever.
I could feel them watching me as I went over their dream charts. Watching me for the first faint sign of disapproval or amusement or disgust on my face. Watching to snatch the "plans" away from me and walk out of my office if I showed any of those symptoms.
"Ummmhumm," I muttered noncommittally.
"What do you think of them, Kermit?" Stoddard demanded.
I had a hunch that they'd been to contractors other than me. Contractors who'd been tactless enough to offend them into taking their business elsewhere.
"You have something distinctly different in mind here, Mr. Stoddard," I answered evasively.
George B. Stoddard beamed at his wife, then back to me.
"Exactly, sir," he said. "It is our dream castle."
I shuddered at the expression. If you'd mix ice cream with pickles and beer and herring and lie down for a nap, it might result in a dream castle.
"It will be a difficult job, Mr. Stoddard," I said. "This is no ordinary job you've outlined here."
"I know that," said Stoddard proudly. "And I am prepared to pay for the extra special work it will probably require."
That was different. I perked up a little.
"I'll have to turn over these plans to my own draftsman," I told him, "before I can give you an estimate on the construction."
George B. Stoddard turned to his wife.
"I told you, Laura," he said, "that sooner or later we'd find a contractor with brains and imagination."

From Rats in the Belfry. By JOHN YORK CABOT. In Amazing Stories January 1943.

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