“If You Build It,…

4 10 2011

…he will come”  Ray Kinsella, Field of Dreams

The quote, above, is one of  the more famous of one of my all-time favorite movies. The movie, Field of Dreams, was released in April, 1989; a month later, I graduated, with my Masters of Architecture, in May, 1989. Being a Kevin Costner fan, I viewed the film, as soon  as it was available, and instantly added it to my favorites list. Because I’m a fan of the movie, I often think of many of the scenes and also many of the lines; lately, the line above, continues to replay in my mind. And, like many connected with the building industry, I’ve also bastardized the line the line to reflect a philosophy of the last twenty years to say:

“If you build it, ‘they’ will come.”

It seems as though everyone got caught up in this philosophy ; I’ve heard the line repeated often, I’ve repeated it often, and it seemed as though (as in the movie) nothing could be more true.

In connecting some of these dots, I have been reflecting, lately, on the last twenty-plus years, and am amazed at the course of events that I have witnessed; sure there was a blip or two that caused a little worry but, it always seemed to be a temporary bump and everything moved along at exponential speed. As I mentioned earlier, I re-entered the building industry in mid-1989 and immediately played into this growth phenomenon; it seemed as though we couldn’t keep up with the design and construction opportunities that were being presented. As I said, there were slow points, but our design firm was inundated with new industrial and commercial projects including office buildings, retail dealerships, shopping centers, schools, medical facilities, apartment and condominium complexes, restaurants, hotels, factories, warehouses, etc.; at the same time, residential developers were  on a similar building binge creating development after development across the American landscape. Thing were great and, to compound this blizzard of activity moreover, the banks and other lenders, seemed to be throwing money at anyone who could put together a semi-plausible deal. And, all along, that famous (bastardized) line, If you build it, ‘they’ will come”, continued to be repeated and, unfortunately, believed. As a matter of fact, this reminds me of another famous exchange in Field of Dreams:

John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
Ray Kinsella: Is there a heaven?
John Kinsella: Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.
Ray Kinsella: Maybe this is heaven.

You can probably imagine the twist but, to assist, it wasn’t Iowa, it was an explosion of expansionism and we all thought it was heaven.

As I said earlier, I too got caught up in the frenzy; repeated the line often, and saw no end to the wave we were all riding. I believed, so strongly, that I started my little firm in 2006, knowing that I would also take the world by storm and, no doubt, get rich in the process. Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid, believed all of those around me,starting churning out a few nice projects, and started planning my empire. Unfortunately, dawn broke on 2007 and, though I couldn’t imagine it at the time, my charging locomotive derailed in such dramatic fashion that I still wince (and shed a few tears) when  I look back on the cataclysm; as quickly as I grew, I fell. Just as unfortunate, many of my contemporaries in the building industry also collapsed into obscurity; as a matter of fact, many throughout corporate America have also faltered and we have found ourselves in a great recession (I still refuse to use the term, depression).

Through this evolution of the last few years, many of us have been humbled and many of us have lost everything (some more than everything). Many of us are still trying to re-build ourselves and, though some have become pessimistic, many of us still believe in the power of positive thinking and are looking at ways to re-invent ourselves. It is not going to be easy, the road back up will be long, rough, and fraught with pitfalls; but, you know what, we are the products and caretakers of the greatest nation on earth, have the power to stare this adversity in the face, and come out on top.

And, while we must learn from these valuable lessons and not repeat our mistakes (or phraseology), I still believe, “If you build it, ‘they’ come.”.  I’m also going to wax a little philosophic and suggest that we can repeat the past, within reason, and will offer one last quote from one of my favorite movies, “Field of Dreams.” (use a little imagination to add or change a word or two):

Terence Mann: Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past[…]And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces[…]America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again[…]it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh[…] people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

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