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  • Writer's pictureJim Leonardo

A Side Job

My apologies in advance to any architects that are reading this. The prompt for his story came from a metaphor that popped into mind when I was thinking about how standards and specifications are all too often written by those who benefit the most from that standard.


The eighteenth iteration of the design goes in the Recycle Bin.

Your run your fingers through your hair, letting thoughts about getting your hair done sneak in between your thoughts about the project. What was it? Three months since you’ve gone to a salon? Four? Where’s the calendar?

No, no. Focus. The client expects to see progress tomorrow. Another design in the bin isn’t progress, it’s running in place. How could it be this hard?

You took the job expecting it to be a side job that got done in one, maybe two evenings. The client’s money was really good and the project was really easy. Add one feature to a standard design, let the computer do all the calculations, generate the blueprints, slap your architect’s stamp on it, and call it a day.

You work for Erissau Construction Solutions designing skyscrapers and apartment buildings by day. Your network of friends and acquaintances bring you freelance jobs for your evenings. Jobs like this one. Those are the fun jobs, but ECS came with health benefits and a steady paycheck. Most of these freelance jobs are designing an addition to a home or customizing home plans that came from a catalog to fit the client’s needs and desires. If fitting a home theater into a small Chicago Bungalow without ruining the character of the home takes a week of evenings, how could such a simple job like this be such a pain?

Pause, deep breath. You love these side jobs, they are the purest form of the work. Meet with the client. Understand their wants. Understand their needs. Marry the wants and needs together into both form and function. The day job doesn’t do that for you. That’s all about doing the grunt work while someone else does the creative work. That’s all about meeting the need of a soulless corporation for profit, not about making spaces that bring souls joy.

You thumb through another old catalog of standard farm building designs. The client said they wanted something that looked normal and wouldn’t stand out. Something anyone would be happy to buy. All you need to do is pick an existing design and add in the requested extra entrance, make sure it still meets building codes, make sure any decent builder can build them by the dozen, and call it day. The contract said you will be paid a cut of every set of plans sold and still get your normal hourly fee for the work from the client.

Is it the building the client asked you to design? It’s a place for poultry to sleep and lay eggs. Are you failing because you think this job is beneath you?

Is it you? Are you tired of the trivial tasks ECS throws at you? Have you been burning that midnight oil on the side jobs too much? Are you just plain burned out?

Is it the client? The adorable red fur and pointy ears make it hard to concentrate when you’re talking to him. Are you failing because you didn’t listen carefully enough to him?

Who thought designing the hen house for the fox would be so hard?


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