Joey Hagan: Behind the Blueprints

In our "Beyond the Bio" blog, we ask MBQ Power Players to write a post of their choosing about their industry. 

I went to architecture school in New Orleans in the early 1980s. Back then, building a model of a design meant spending hundreds of hours (without sleep) hunkered over a pile of balsa wood, chipboard and glue. You inevitably sliced your fingers. You survived for days on junk food.

Today “building a model” means virtually constructing the entire building in three dimensions on a computer screen. You can generate animations, create unlimited views of the project and change materials with the tap of an icon.  Sure, we still sometimes build models the old-fashioned way with sticks and glue, but that’s because it’s part and parcel of architecture. I still think there is no better way to study a work of art in three dimensions than to hold it in your hands.

Lots of other things have changed, too. In one of my first jobs out of college, we meticulously hand-drafted plans on Mylar sheets with rapidographs. These days, that process seems akin to chiseling your concept into a rock. According to Wikipedia, a rapidograph is “a specialized instrument used by an architect or drafter to make lines of constant width for technical drawings.” I found an old set in a drawer the other day and showed it to one of the newer members of our staff.  His natural response was “what is it and what would you ever use it for?”

Back in “the old days,” which was not that long ago, every architect worth his salt had a copy of The Sweets Directory, a multi-volume hardcover-bound collection of catalogs. Before every business had a website, every building products manufacturer had a section in the directory. It took up the better part of five linear feet of shelving and each book weighed about five pounds. You could find everything from elevators to outdoor furniture in The Sweets Directory. A former boss of mine used the catalogs in a particularly creative way – he threw them at people when he got angry!

Technology has made things better, for the most part. We have instant access to a world of information at our fingertips. Advances in building materials and construction techniques have revolutionized our world. The Da Vinci Tower, scheduled to be constructed in Dubai, is quite a marvel. Each floor rotates independently of all the other floors so the form of the building is in constant flux. Try designing that using sticks and a rapidograph!

Something tells me these sorts of tales are not limited to the world of architecture.

Power Player Profile:

Joey Hagan is the princapal and co-founder of Architecture, Incorporated, a Memphis-based firm with experience in commercial, institutional, and residential architecture and planning. He has a masters in architecture from Tulane University, and his clients include University Place, East High School renovation, Legends Park, W.C. Handy Performing Arts Park, Memphis in May headquarters, and 100 N. Main LLC. 

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