Architecture – Work to Live


This post is part of a coalition of architects posting on a single topic, each interpreting it in their own way, known as Architalks. This month the topic is your “Work/Life”

How does work balance with life?  Architecture is the haven of horrific stories about all-nighters and coffee induced caffeine overloads.  It’s typically a tale rife with tragic figures suffering for their art and domineering villains cracking a whip to drive them on.

Well, let’s see:

Typical Day:

This is when I wake up in the morning:


JB’s clock.


When I work overtime I usually do it at home [VPN baby!].   I like mornings when everything is quiet.  This is my office just this morning, I’m working on revised DD elevations for a mixed-use project in Atlanta:


JB’s office.


This is when my wife wakes up:


Wife’s clock.


This gives me a solid hour to work, or if I get up at 5am I can get two.  Once she’s up, I usually make breakfast.  This is pretty typical:




We usually have a good hour or so together before I start getting ready.  This is when I jump in the shower (pic: microwave)


JB’s Microwave


This is when I leave for work (pic: gear watch)  If I were to leave any time before 8:30 it would take 45-60 min to get into the office because of traffic.  At 8:30 I can get get there in 20-30mins.

This is my office. When I’m here, I work.  Hard:


JB’s Office


I like lunch.  I almost always go to lunch unless I’m pressed for time to get something done.  In addition to actually eating lunch, this is what I typically do:

Harry Moss park (a 3 minute drive from my office)

Harry Moss park where I like to walk, especially in the snow! (a 3 minute drive from my office)

B. B. Owen Disc Golf Course (about a 7 minute drive from my office)

B. B. Owen Park where I play disc golf (a 7 minute drive from my office)


When the weather is nice I go here to the park to walk or play disc golf.  I can get in about 5,000 steps or 9 holes plus drive time in my hour lunch.  I think it’s important to get out of the office at lunch.  I enjoy audio books and podcasts when I’m walking or playing as well.  Escaping from thinking about architecture helps me refocus on it in the afternoon.

But sometimes I work through lunch.  This is my favorite coffee shop by the office, Cafe Silva:


Cafe Silva at the corner of Greenville & Royal


When I do work through lunch I often don’t do it in the office.  I’m much more productive if I can avoid distractions and focus on the task at hand.

There is a theme here, when I work overtime I try to do it in environments that are conducive to help highly focus me on the task.  I dislike working overtime, so I’m going to minimize it by making my time devoted to it as productive as possible.

To that point, this is the water cooler at our office. You will never find me here doing anything but getting water.


Official JHP water cooler

That said, it’s important to get up, get the feet moving and jump start the brain from time to time.  This is one of the long corridors in our office building:


Dreadful office corridors


Twice a day I walk through the whole building. I try to tie it in with a trip to the restroom, or when my computer is grinding on a complex rendering, and I use it to think about problems I’m running into with my design. It’s a great way to clear your head and get in about 1,000 steps in just 7 to 10 minutes. #fitbit

This is when I usually leave the office.  Well…that’s the plan at any rate.  I may or may not be done working for the day, but I’m leaving the office nonetheless:


JB’s Computer


This is a typical dinner with my wife.  We cook a lot, and almost always eat dinner together:


Mmmmm…blackened catfish


This is where I do a lot of architectural ‘strategizing’.  I’ll have a cigar and a glass of port or a martini and read books, look at projects, peruse twitter, do research etc.:


JB’s back deck


Most recently I spent about 8 hours of time out here over a few successive days doing background research for a project.  The client was thrilled with the work we presented to her.  It wasn’t time I really ever logged on a project, but it was probably more productive than if I’d just stayed late at the office trying to force creativity.

This is part of the walk the my wife and I try to do every night.


Sunset on our nightly walk


Walking is great.  We get exercise and a chance to talk about the day without any distractions.



Just so I don’t pain too rosy a picture, I’ll admit sometimes I absolutely have to come up to the office on the weekends, but that has only happened 3 times in 2015.  When I do, I bring a friend.

My little buddy comes up to the office

My little buddy comes up to the office on weekends sometimes


I don’t participate in very many professional committees, civic councils, etc.  It’s not my thing.  I don’t try to hit every conference there is, or every mixer the AIA throws at me.  Architects are told this is the way to expand your network, and build your career, and while this can be true, I’m happy to let my work speak for my abilities.  I don’t like to navigate the profession as if it were a big cocktail party.  I try not to commit to more than one committee or board at a time.  I’m currently on the TxA Digicomm committee, and this is a shot of the Rowlett 2020 Form Based Code advisory council I was on:


Rowlett 2020 Form Based Code Advisory Committee


Family is important at our company, and we like to find ways to build camaraderie that is inclusive of everyone so we can strengthen our organization without pulling people away from their families.  This is the annual JHP trip to the Rough Riders:

JHP at the Rough Riders

JHP at the Rough Riders


And the annual JHP family crawfish boil:

JHP Annual Family Crawfish Boil

JHP Annual Family Crawfish Boil


And the annual JHP office retreat:

JHP Annual Retreat

JHP Annual Retreat


Personal Life:

If I manage my time right, I don’t find it difficult to keep from letting life slip by.  This Is the R2-D2 T-shirt I got at the Star Wars Ranger Game a few weekends ago:

Star Wars Texas Rangers Game

Star Wars Texas Rangers Game T-shirt


This is the Woodcreek Brewery grand opening in Rockwall I went to the weekend before (where I actually ran into a superintendent from one of my jobs in McKinney – he knows how to let loose too):

Woodcreek Brewery Grand Opening

Woodcreek Brewery Grand Opening



I’ll have to admit, I’m a little behind on vacation.  I’ve several weeks racked up right now, but I always make the time to use it.  This is our trip to Port Aransas with our nephews this summer:

The Nephews with us in Port Aransas

The Nephews with us in Port Aransas


This is our trip to Colorado to visit my parents a few weeks before that:


Summer in Colorado


This is Christmas with my parents, sister & her family:

Family Christmas

Family Christmas



When this was first proposed as a topic for the Architalks group I was a little hesitant.  A balance between life and work isn’t a problem for me.  I work a lot, probably too much, but I do everything I can not to let it affect our lives.  As managers in JHP, we’re always focused on the notion that we work to live, we do not live to work.  My wife and I don’t have children, and that is a huge complication we don’t deal with, but we do have families we are very involved with, and a broad network of friends we enjoy spending time with.  To say that this profession is easy isn’t true, but it’s also just as true that architects tend to martyr themselves for their work as a cross of the profession.


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Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
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Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
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brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
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Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
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Tara Imani - Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
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Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
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Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
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Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
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Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist)

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09 2015