I Hate Decks

The freshness of dew signals the endless possibilities of a new day. But your first dew experience – only taught you that your blanket gets wet sitting on the ground.

This month’s #Architalks topic is My First Project. Such a juvenile premise. Everybody’s first project harkens back to a naïve wide-eyed experience. Regardless of the spectrum this topic could cover – it will always result in “What I Learned.” Or more likely “How Dumb I Once Was.”

However, people only grow through their blunders and failures. Without the first step, no higher learning can be achieved. My first blog post was an accident. I had intended to write a blog for several years. Finally, I bought the domain soapboxarchitect.com and simultaneously edited the graphical layout of my site while attempting to produce a backlog of blog posts. I was going to publish my first post in July. Then by October. Then just in time for Christmas. However, after the New Year I opened my website – just to make sure it still looked nice – and there was a post.

January 01, 2015: the day I officially became an accidental blogger. 

Albeit by accident, the one goal of this blog was to produce a broader discourse on the value of architecture.|1| However, very few people fully comprehend the benefit of thoughtful design. Sure, most people still hold architects, and their discipline, in high esteem. But without going through architecture school, or being employed in the profession, the value of architecture is obfuscated between the the oblivious voids of the construction industries and the design industries.

Unfortunately, the appreciation, and desire for, thoughtful design isn’t taught in public schools. We are entrenched in the STEM fields – so we can get high-paying jobs – so we can then build our 5 bedroom split-level house with a 2,000 square foot deck. This is the dream we were taught. Most people still want this dream. If you marry a contractor you will get your 5 bedroom house. But if you marry an architect you will get lengthy discourses on the wastefulness and unaesthetic qualities of decks.

Perhaps architects spend too much time finding ideal solutions to the ills of the world, while Home Depot depletes their inventory of Trex Decking. I do not, and should not, speak for all architects; but yesterday while I spent the majority of the day changing AutoCad polylines to color 15 – my wife constructed built-in storage compartments adjacent to our entry door.

Today, I am writing this blog on a stool in the corner of my Father-In-Law’s shop – while my wife is building a TV stand. While I am slightly embarrassed about this reversal of gender roles, I am also enthusiastic about a new TV stand.


This blog probably is reading more like a defensive excuse letter – apologizing for architects being slow. Sure a contractor can install all of the wood newel posts – with aluminum pyramid caps – on his 2,000sf deck in the same time as it’d take me to finish my cable railing details. But architecture is not a kit-of-parts. Architecture solves problems. No two people are alike. No two locations are alike. Thus no two architectural constructs should be alike.

The 5 bedroom house with the 2,000sf deck (emblematic of many prototypical suburban houses) is a built construct within the environment – and while often defined as architecture – is still not architecture.

Some people may disagree with me, but NOT designing the 5 bedroom split-level house with the 2,000sf deck should be defined more like architecture than the actual construct itself.

Every architecture project solves unique situations. Our new TV stand may not be crafted to the same quality as the 2,000sf deck, but it was designed exactly for us, and enriches our specific lives. Therefore, every architecture project should be your FIRST project. Every project should have unique circumstances or necessitate unique details that you build upon and learn for subsequent projects.

Consumers often want a product. However, architecture is a service – that delivers a unique product. Architecture is the experience of the environment, and a Build-A-Bear business model for designing homes is crappy architecture. If you have a “signature-style” you are akin to the Build-A-Bear mall kiosk. Rearranging details to form a new house does not enrich or add anything exceptional to the built environment.

Architecture is problem-solving of our built environment. Architecture solves the dark wasted space situation beneath the 2,000sf deck on the split-level house. And every Architecture project is my first project.




Click the purple numerals to transport between hyperlinks

1 And to produce boatloads of money – of course! (although it’s rather difficult without advertisements cluttering my graphically clean look)

This post is part of the #ArchiTalks series in which the multi-faceted architect Bob Borson, of Life of an Architect, selects a theme and a group of us other (architectural) bloggers all post on the same day, on the same topic. This month’s theme is My First Project.

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
My First Project: The Best Project Ever Designed That Wasn’t

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
My “First Project”

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
My First Project – Again

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
first project first process

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Our First Architecture Project [#ArchiTalks]

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: My first project

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
my first project: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
The First One — A Tale of Two Projects

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“My First Project”

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
The Early Years of My Architecture Career – My Role

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[first] project [worst] crit

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Project Me

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
Why every project is my “First”

Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist)
Fake it ’til you make it

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Define First

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
my first project

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
My First Project

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Top ten tips when faced with a challenging Architectural project

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Community 101

Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
6 Major Differences between my 1st School Project & my 1st Real Project

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
My First Project – The Contemporary Cottage

Nisha Kandiah – TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
The Question of Beginning

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
My First Project – The First Solar Decathlon #Architalks


  1. michele grace hottel

    Hi Brady, I had a client who was in the male enhancement device business and when he wanted to stiff me for construction observation on his very expensive project, he wrote me a letter explaining why he felt justified in doing so, “I pleaded and pleaded with you to give me a bigger deck”. These are the letters of today that will be never be compete with the correspondence penned between Edgar Kaufmann and Frank LLoyd Wright.

    • brady ernst

      Ha. Your response letter should’ve been, “I pleaded and pleaded with you to design a smaller deck.”
      You’re right, you should’ve channeled your inner Frank Lloyd Wright and directly quoted his correspondence letter:

      Dear Mr. Male Enhancement Device Business Man:

      I don’t know what kind of architect you are familiar with but it apparently isn’t the kind I think I am. You seem not to know how to treat a decent one. I have put so much more into this house than you or any other client has a right to expect that if I haven’t your confidence—to hell with the whole thing.

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