Tag Archives: architecture

Final Countdown

One week until the journey begins.  If the travel alone doesn’t cause one to think twice, the 6 month assignment in remote villages of Nepal surely should. The itinerary begins with a bus ride from Madison to Chicago O’Hare Airport.  With an extended layover in Hong Kong, the final flight lands in Kathmandu, Nepal 48 hours later.


The journey actually began a week ago when family and friends helped me move the remains of my belongings into a POD for 6 months of storage.  I am forever grateful to them for their unconditional love and willingness to help.


The weekend was full of bittersweet family reunions.  We said goodbye to our respected Uncle Tom and warm hearted Aunt Gina.  They were laid to rest next to our father.

Time stands still when I’m with my siblings, Ken and Sheri, I am grateful for their support.

Looking toward the next venture, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Though words like “courageous” and “brave” are appreciated, I feel like anything but. Leaving behind the security of a full time job, a home, and family is terrifying as hell.


The real heroes are the members of our Namaste Nepal (NN) team who made the rebuilding projects a reality. Visit the website to learn more about their projects. Note:  English translations for all pages in the works. http://www.namastenepal.cz/en/


Yarda, my NN colleague from Czech Republic, arrived a week ahead  and is currently meeting with our Nepali partners and engineers.  (I hope he doesn’t mind my posting his picture.)  Other invaluable members of our NN team include Sona- a talented architect living in Australia with whom I worked with in Haiti, and Helca & Martina who are working remotely in Czech Republic to help coordinate the travel details and program documents.

Much yet to pack and mounds of paperwork to sort/file. Signing off for now.



Last day in Ahuachapan


Today was the last work day in the Ahuachapan community.  Though we were looking forward to the end of the work week, our hearts were heavy as we prepared to say good bye.  This is the view we saw each day during the bus ride to and from the work site – I took this photo so as never to forget the view and what it represents to each and every one of us.


Those of us who rotated among the hard core “pit diggers” filtered into the hole for a final photo.  My respect for manual labor has grown exponentially, my blistered hands will vouch for this.

We were surprised to learn that it takes the average mason and workers 7 weeks to complete a Habitat El Salvador home.  The workers are paid when the house is complete, not hourly.  Our presence on the site, in digging the septic pits alone, reduced that timeframe by two weeks.  No wonder the masons where so happy to see us arrive!

The HFH El Salvador team threw us a going away party,complete with a barbecue feast and a Mariachi Band, including dancing.  It was a fabulous afternoon with the families, workers, and local HFH team that made our trip possible.

bandband2Members of the Getsemani HFH El Salvador sewing project showed their wares for sale during the celebration.  Many of us purchased local coffee to take home and others purchased quilts, jewelry, and other woven fabrics from the project ladies.  They were so empowered by the work that they were able to sell to us.

Getsemani-sewersAfter the good byes were said and the final hugs were given, our team spent the final hours of our day  exploring another local village called Apaco.  The community is known for it’s high quality fabrics and weaving.  We watched intently as they worked the weaving machines.


who inspires you?


Inspirations come from many different places, usually unexpected and often in hindsight.  Most of my inspiring souls are not architects, but they inspire me none the less.  All have a trait I truly admire, its called “gumption.”  Here are a few for starters…..

brad-kulaThree months ago this Monday Dec.3rd, a friend suffered a spinal cord injury while mountain biking during our Utah trip.  Brad Kula was told that he would never walk again..  Yesterday, he posted this video on Facebook. it!  Click this link for the video:   Brad’s Video -Dec. 3rd Walking  He is so awesome!

“3 months today!!!! Give me 3 more and see what I can do with them! “Never walk again is not going to happen. I will walk, run, ride, and do everything I can to survive again!”.

This man doesn’t take no for an answer – I love it!   

FinbarwebRobWorking as a mate on a topsail schooner in Key West, I met a scurvy old sailor by the name of Captain Finbar. The owner and builder of the Schooner Wolf,  Finbar taught me how to see outside my world and appreciate diversity.  The Wolf’s main gig was daily sunset sails, but when the need was there, she sailed relief trips to bring medical supplies, food, or clothing to nearby regions hit by hurricanes or earthquakes, including Haiti.  Here is the link to the full story: Wolf Departs on Haitian Mission of Mercy


I didn’t know it at the time, but Finbar inspired me to think globally.

GUMPTIONguts, spunk, resourcefulness, initiative, determination, discernment, spirit, boldness of enterprise, spirited resourcefulness, courage, and my favorite… true grit. 

A dear friend once said, ”I know you’ll always be ok, cause you’ve got gumption.”   I think that might have been the best compliment ever.

scottWhile searching for the Port au Prince boarding gate in the Miami airport, I kept a look out for our trip leader Scott Douglas.  This was his second trip to Haiti.  It wasn’t until months after our return, that I became fully aware of how his determination formed the NGO relationships that made it possible for us to reach so many.

12 volunteers 300 buildings 15 days. 

Scott, your spirited resourcefulness and kindness of heart  inspired all of us to stay strong during those long hot days.

Who brings out your inner super hero? 

Who helped you discover your true grit?  

Who inspires you to press on when the odds are against you? 


a few special “Thank Yous”

Thank you for your support of project “architect unseen” and the February work trip to El Salvador.  It is my hope that this is only the beginning of something bigger, a campaign that will bring awareness to the unseen side of architecture where architects are using their skills to build stronger communities.  This project will serve as a resource for architects in search of a way to give back.


We can provide support for those that do not have the resources to build or rebuild.   This is not accomplished by building it for them, but empowering them to do it for themselves.   Lao Tzu said it best:  “Go to the people. Learn from them.  Live with them.  Start with what they know.  Build with what they have.  The best of leaders when the job is done, when the task is accomplished, the people will say we have done it ourselves.”


Seven years ago, El Salvador was hit by earthquakes and today, an organization has created a program that empowers the people of El Salvador to rebuild their communities.  I will be working alongside the mason, the framer, the roofer, the painter from El Salvador and following their lead.  I look forward to witnessing a successful program, one that could somehow happen in the Haitis of this world.

It is difficult to fully express my gratitude to for the many different ways that family, friends, and colleagues have provided support in this project.  Many have offered much needed encouragement, several have pledged a donation for the fundraiser, a few have provided great advice for running training, and others have provided good direction for the blog, challenging me to find focus.   I am grateful to be starting this journey with you by my side.

 A few special Thank Yous:

Family: On Thanksgiving Day, my sister proposed something different for Christmas this year.  “We don’t need more things – what do you say that instead of exchanging gifts this year, we make a contribution to Architect Unseen – project El Salvador?”  Thank you, family, for this generous idea.

Friends:  Without your words of encouragement and generous donations toward the running fundraiser, it would be much more difficult to stay motivated.  It is good to have you to lean on.

Colleagues:   Every challenging question has pushed this project toward a clearer definition of purpose.  Referrals have been proven invaluable. With this, I’d like to thank a few local professionals who have extended services in one form or another:

Catalyst: Thank you Jim for your running analysis and referrals   http://catalystmadison.com/

Mindful Motion:  Thank you Nathan for your exercise therapy suggestions for running http://mindfulmotionphysicaltherapy.com/

PR Chicago: Thank you Toni for your thoughtful questions   http://www.prchicago.com/

Regrets for having missed anyone in this post, we’ll be sure to mention in the next.