Tuesday, February 14, 2006

An Architectural Valentine

Yeah, I'm an old softie. And there's nothing as romantic as the annual wheeling out on Valentine's Day of the photograph of The Famous Architect's New Mexico Heart Clinic. For you see, waaaaaay back before The Famous Architect was waaaaaay famous -- he in fact received the 2006 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal four short days ago -- one of his earliest projects was to design a heart clinic alongside Interstate 25 in south central Albuquerque in the American state of New Mexico. Didn't know that New Mexico was an American state? You thought it was part of Mexico... one of the newer parts? Well now you know.

So how did The Famous Architect, who wasn't quite so famous at the time, use his hearty courage when designing one of his earliest projects? He designed a mountainous wall of CMU (short for "concrete masonry units", also known as concrete blocks) that faced towards and buffered noise from the ribbon of four-lane concrete speedway not fifty yards away. Only a handful of windows pierced the mountain of CMU... and a glass block heart-shaped feature near the CMU mountain's peak graphically telegraphed the function and purpose of the CMU mountain to speeders wizzing by. On the far side of the CMU mountain there resided a simply stacked group of New Mexico Heart Clinic offices and exam rooms and reception areas and water fountains and all the necessary spaces required by doctors busily treating their patients.

Bear in mind, this all happened well over 20 years ago when architectural guts were few and far between. And while the New Mexico Heart Clinic is still there, The Famous Architect has moved on to even bigger and better things.

Still, I can say I shook The Famous Architect's hand, as did my friend, who was a fellow future architect-to-be. And what did we say to The Famous Architect when we met him in his Early Years, as his fame at that time was a miniscule dollop of the Future Fame to come? My fellow future architect friend marshalled his own set of undergraduate guts and said, "I think you're great!" to which The Famous Architect grinned and replied with equal enthusiasm, "I think you're great too!"

My brush with greatness. And to all [architecture] lovers out there: Happy Valentine's Day... with a heart-felt twist!


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