By Rachel M. Anderson, Freelance Writer
(Minneapolis) - What is the key to success in business? Michael James Plautz, co-founder of RSP Architects in Minneapolis, says it’s blending your passion with your profession.
Plautz’s ability to incorporate his love for sketching and drawing into the highly complex designs he came up with for clients became his signature trait early on. Not only that, it gave him the edge he needed to bring in the big clients.
“I would always start my presentations by telling clients that 2,000 years ago Vitruvius, a Roman theoretician of design, said something designed well needed three components. In Latin they are utilitas (good function, good use), firmitas (well made, best technology) and venustas (delight, beauty), he says. “I’d then pull out a whimsical sketch I had done to illustrate the point.”
And he didn’t just present to clients – but to the people who would be working in the buildings he was designing. Plautz remembers fondly the reaction he got from the team of Mayo Clinic researchers who would be working in the 20-story Guggenheim Building his firm had been hired to design in Rochester, Minn.
"When I first started working on the Hilton/Guggenheim complex in the mid 70's the Mayo Rochester Campus was a series of buildings on several city blocks connected by (frankly) sterile underground tunnels which were convenient but very disorienting and unpleasant,” said Plautz. “With no connection to the outdoors-a major goal was to make the patient and staff experience more uplifting and memorable, offer a sense of place.
“The solution was to introduce courtyards and skylit underground spaces, especially the main patient specimen draw and waiting area, which has a huge skylight opening vertically to the sky with diagnostic and research labs flanking it. This not only created a memorable patient area at the heart of the campus, but had the added benefit of positioning all the staff as they used the elevators to see the patients below through the glass roof as tangible evidence of who they were serving.”
While at RSP, Plautz brought his love of drawing into the equation dozens of times. After retiring in 2008, drawing moved to the forefront of his life. “I get up in the morning these days,” he says, “grab my sketchbook and begin to draw.” Some days he’ll look out the window and sketch leaves on the trees that are sparkling in the sun. Others, he’ll sketch such things as a letter opener under a pile of papers or a vase filled with flowers on the table.
“For years I had been thinking I’d better do something with all of these drawings and paintings I have lying around. I decided to put them up on a website, and as I was organizing everything for the site realized I had enough material for a book,” says Plautz.
Once he found a publisher interested in the idea, Octane Press of Austin, Texas, Plautz gathered hundreds of sketches to show to company founder Lee Klancher. “We spread them all out on a table and as I started to tell Lee the story behind each of the drawings, the layout just materialized. Lee thought the combination of the drawings plus telling the stories would make a great book.”
Throughout what turned into DRAW: Quotidian Lines (Octane Press, 2011, $40), Plautz shares the inspiration behind his drawings. He considers the book to be a metaphor for his life’s journey.
Currently, that journey has taken a turn Plautz never expected. He has been battling an aggressive form of neuro-endocrine cancer of the liver for more than a year. “All of a sudden this thing appeared out of nowhere. It’s a very aggressive form of cancer that is not curable. The doctor told me I can have a very good quality of life for a while with chemo.”
Despite the uncertainty about his health, or perhaps because of it, Plautz was determined to get his book into print this year. DRAW: Quotidian Lines became available for purchase in time for the 2011 Christmas season.
“My primary motivation was simply to share this passion of mine with the world. Not through a how-to book, but one that celebrates the joy of discovering through a pencil or pen this wonderful world we live in. It is my hope that I can pass on that enthusiasm and passion to the readers. I already have started on the next book.”
DRAW: Quotidian Lines by Artist Michael James Plautz is available for purchase on the Octane Press website, www.octanepress.com/book/draw.
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