Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why I love my job: Designing a Timber Frame House in Haines, Alaska

One of the great joys of my chosen profession is the opportunity to work in new places with new people.  Each project is an adventure with a story that goes beyond the technicalities of the job.  I meet some very interesting people.

I recently got a call from a young family in Haines, Alaska, who called to talk to me about designing a house for their family on a rugged coastal site there in Haines, Alaska.  I love Alaska, and have designed houses in Homer, Soldotna, Kenai, Chicaloon, Palmer, Fairbanks and Kodiak. But I had not been to Haines, or any part of Southeast Alaska.  So when they asked whether I was willing to come all the way up there for a site visit, I was already packing.

This was March, with three feet of snow on the ground, so I threw together my pac boots, jacket, hat and gloves, and flew off to Haines, population small enough that everyone knows each other, sometimes too well.

Sensing adventure, I was on a plane from Denver to Seattle……and then Juneau…..and then to Haines in a little propellor plane, surrounded by extreme skiers, who go there to ski extremely from helicopters. Since discovering Google Earth as a great tool for remote jobs, I had already seen the property from space, so it was easy for me to identify the rocky beachfront site from the small plane as we cruised down the inland passage at low enough altitude to see lounging seals on craggy rocks, glaciers out the windows, and my clients as they drove up the road paralleling the plane to pick me up at the small air strip. 

As is typical with my remote house projects, the moment I get there, they make me work. Frank and Kristin tossed me and my bags in the truck and off we headed to the rugged property I had just flown over.  We pulled over and parked, donned boots, jackets, hats and gloves, and headed by foot down the new snow covered road to the building site.  Steep, forested, rocky and snow covered, the site is spectacular, as you look across the bay to the 7,000 foot mountains on the other side, riddled with glaciers and imposing snow covered peaks. The sun was out and the sky was blue.

And that’s just the prelude to the work.  Next blog: the Haines Brewery

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