Dwelling on… Correct Politicalness – the dedication to personal views and convictions balanced with fervent respect for other’s views and values.


Antonin Scalia, via www.washingtontimes.com

Antonin Scalia, via www.washingtontimes.com

First things first, could we take a moment to reflect on the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016).


I aim to post content that is mostly client consumable, while being in one of many categories. If you are reading MODwelling, then you are interested in architecture, me personally, my company, or perhaps just arbitrary web traffic. While the last Laterals post was more for the solid to the core “architectophile” readers, this one will be more relatable to most, while still incorporating architecture and continuting the Master Builder as out Big Time Small Firm theme of discussion.

A Rare One

Some called him the Happy Warrior. The fact that Justice Scalia was such close friends with Ruth Bader Ginsburg shows that a little bit of rare balance died on February 13, 2016. It is a balance of political ferocity with underlying civility that is embodied in his respect for Justice Ginsburg, and perhaps many others with opinions different than his.  The late Justice Scalia understood that no matter how passionate he was about any given subject, there was someone as passionate about the opposite of his view. The difference was that he was a Supreme Court Justice, “so, so THERE!” He was a fierce opponent in Constitutional Interpretation of supreme court cases, gave no quarter in his dissents, and did it all with a sense of humor that would come out just in time to remind everyone what really mattered.

Objection, Your Honor

Opposing Council rises and says, “The blogger’s remembrance of justice Scalia does not have any bearing on the architectural theme of the blog post.”

The Blogger rebuts, “The Justice showed characteristics that will help architects, or anyone working in a group, negotiate with people of opposing views while upholding their own values.”

It Just Works

This post has been in the works since I heard the lateral inspiration, in the form the podcast referenced below. The untimely passing of Antonin Scalia is included to lend another real world example of one practicing and conveying respect, while in positions of power, in order to wield that power without fostering resentment in others.

Garry Cooper as Howard Roark in the 1949 film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s book, The Fountainhead

Garry Cooper as Howard Roark in the 1949 film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s book, The Fountainhead

Law and Health

Architects have a contractual obligation to ensure that a project is being built true to the intent of their design and in compliance with applicable building codes. They can advise the owner to stop construction if they observe any conditions on site that are contrary to the health, safety and welfare of the crews working on site, or the end users of the project.  They can also advise stoppage if the work being done is not in compliance with the contract documents. When a contractor wants to install or build something other than what is depicted in the contract documents, there is a formal process (if the owner is agreeable to entertaining changes) to make sure that change will meet code, be safe, and be in line with the owner’s requirements. The process also serves to balance the cost, or credit to the owner, of the change against the cost of what is scheduled in the contract documents.  Architects are in a position of power to serve the owner in that contractual obligation. They can make or break a project’s spirit of progress and team work by using or abusing that priviledge.

BTSF Laterals ->

Thoughts on Architecture Inspired by Daily Impressions

Today – Being a Change Agent Architect through Respect and Humility


Inspired by This American Life hosted by Ira Glass

Episode #561 NUMMI 2015


The Impression: 18:28 “Really we wanted to give [the American Autoworkers] an opportunity to try something different…” speaking of the different roles of managers in United Auto Workers (UAW) General Motors (GM) plants. The managers in the traditional American auto factory line where brash authority figures that enforced quantity-over-quality work ethic. When something was going wrong, they would make the line keep rolling and park the mistakes outside the factory. The Japanese mangers from Toyota were more interested in working with the mechanics on the line to get problems solved and would work with and talk to workers about issues – “…they literally wanted to know about the problem. And when I’d tell them, they’d listen. And suddenly they’d disappear and somebody comes back with the tool that I’d described, and it’s built, and they’d say ‘Try THIS.’ “

The Lateral: The Modern Master Builder will need to embrace change as well as be a willing participant and assist in the building process.



The current roles differ from the historic nature of the title “Master Builder”. The past Master Builder was the ultimate authority and was in total charge of a building site. The current Master Builder will be working with a team that includes various levels of authority coming from different directions and interest on the project. The architect should always practice with respect and humility to maintain their contractual obligations but never waiver from the letter of the contract documents requirements.

The Inspiration

The podcast is summarized at the This American Life website. A car plant in Fremont California closed, then reopened under a new management style in line with Toyota manufacturing principals. In 1984, General Motors and Toyota opened NUMMI as a joint venture. Toyota send workers and UAW management to Japan and showed GM the secrets of its production system: How it made cars of much higher quality and much lower cost than GM achieved. However, GM met resistance from the very same Union or UAW mentality when they went to spread that work ethic from NUMMI to other plants in the US. Frank Langfitt investigates why GM didn’t learn the lessons—until it was too late. LISTEN to the podcast for more.



I worked my first construction job in 1991. There was a lot of joking about how architects and contractors were always at odds. The theme continued in each construction job after that. Architects should continue to dispel the myth of the adversarial relationship between the architect and the builder. They should exemplify the respectful and inquisitive team player, rather than the closed minded or aloof designer, similar to the stubborn UAW faction that lead to the bankruptcy of General Motors.


Introducing The Client to the Super at the topping off ceremonies of Fletcher Town Hall

Introducing The Client to the Super at the topping off ceremonies of Fletcher Town Hall


The Master Builder continues another month as the theme for exploration on MODwelling and over at Big Time Small Firm. There is the Twitter posts for Big Time Small Firm. Also you can see the latest video of the #BTSF Profile with Evan Troxel. Follow these links to see the current state of the Master Builders Union (not affiliated, pun intended) and start discussions about how YOUR role on site has been successful. I look forward to your input.


Until next time – live nicely! !Jes