When I try to build things, it usually involves a lot of trial and error. If you are a fellow amateur do-it-yourselfer, you probably know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s lack of skills, or planning, or patience, there is always some piece I put on backwards, or something that doesn’t quite fit, requiring me to backtrack and do over (usually accompanied by yet another trip to the local home improvement store).
That is why I’m in awe of the skills it takes to accomplish a construction project on the scale of our current renovation. From the outside, it’s nearly impossible to tell what has been going on, aside from those occasions when they have used cranes to lift large, heavy pieces into the building. But inside, amazing things have been happening. They have cut a huge hole through three floors up to the roof for the new skylight. Another enormous hole was cut between the first and second floors for a new grand staircase. Top-to-bottom shafts have been carved out for new elevators and other equipment.
How do you spend months cutting and hacking and chopping and carting away debris, and in the end all the holes line up perfectly, and all the new surfaces are straight and smooth? I know people do this every day for a living, but still I’m impressed. And maybe just a bit envious of their know-how.
My only consolation is that many people think what I do (creating Web sites and other digital products) is “magic.” Like any job, it’s mostly about knowing how to use the tools at my disposal, together with a little creativity and a lot of persistence. But still, when I make a mistake, usually I can fix it by hitting the delete key on my computer. No such easy fix when you have just cut a hole through a building! So my hat is off to our construction team, and maybe when they’re done they can come over and help me with a few projects around the house.
Matthew MacArthur is the museum’s Director of New Media. He sits at a computer all day and is rarely allowed to play with power tools.