Time for Coffee
Michael and I have an obsession for coffee. There’s a certain beauty in grinding, levelling and polishing the coffee into the group head, the suspense in the shot coming out with just the right amount of crema, and nailing the texturing of the milk so that it’s not frothy, but thick, even and creamy, pouring it into the cup to blur the distinction between the shot and the milk so that they become one. All of the parts of a project coming together beautifully. The process appeals to our obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
Coffee is a system in our office, it happens at about 10:00am (morning tea) and just after lunch. Like our projects it’s undertaken with care, consideration and skill. It’s not uncommon for us to arrange meetings at those times where our clients, consultants, collaborators get drawn into the ritual. It’s also effective time management. You need a break from your desk. You know the time, you don’t need to wait for “just wait… one minute!”. You don’t wait for coffee, and you shouldn’t wait for a meeting, you make time for it. You pause from work.
A lot can happen in that pause though. It’s an opportunity for informal discussion; A time when you don’t need to be at your desk, where you might exchange what you did last weekend, where you might incidentally talk about something interesting you saw, heard, read or vent a frustration with a project. But, some of our greatest “Ah-ha!” moments have occurred in that pause. One that particularly comes to mind was during the design stage of our Yagoona Apartment Building project. We were there, coffee in hand looking at a screen (our virtual drawing boards) and Michael was talking about an issue with a cantilever on a particular face of the building. The client, as with their previous projects, was intending to use precast concrete as the structural system. I said something like, “You know, the builders had issues with cantilevering the precast on that other job because the precast doesn’t logically span that way”.
I wasn’t thinking particularly intently when I said it. I was sipping on my coffee, literally, but clearly something had struck a chord with Michael. The building was almost completely reorganised following that discussion. It occurred to Michael that if we took an approach that eliminated all cantilevered precast elements, the buildings could be conceived as simple prisms, where the verandahs and other openings could be cut out of them like this:
Michael realised that:
• With the balconies inboard, they could function like courtyards or loggias, where multiple (up to four rooms in this case) could benefit from a single balcony, and where the balconies look and feel more like rooms than promontories.
• The openings in the building’s faces could be more regular, generous and of a scale that was appropriate to the bigger scale of the building and the street, while allowing the more incidental windows of the apartments to be pushed into the shadows, where they were not only protected from direct sunlight but could take on whatever size and shape they needed to for the various rooms they served.
• Within these larger openings multiple windows were possible in different orientations for light, view, ventilation, or any combinations that were necessary or appropriate.
• This approach would provide a simple and cost effective construction system that made the most of the precast concrete as not only a structural system, but as the visibly predominant cladding material facilitating more economical construction to the balconies and other protected areas.
The approach transformed the proposal and provided real benefits to the client and the future inhabitants of the building which were far removed from the incidental problem that we were talking about over our cup of coffee. The irony is that we don’t put this time down to any particular project, but all our clients get the benefit of those, at times illuminating insights that come from refection with a coffee in hand and a momentary pause from the direct pressure of the job at hand.
So, next time you call and we’re in the middle of making coffee, please don’t be offended if we don’t hurry back to the phone, it may well be your project we’re talking about.
Hey Michael…… are you ready for coffee?