Shot Glass


Pony.  Party.  Balloon. Curtain. 

Block. Stem. Elasto.

Any guess where I’m going with this? I’ll give you a hint: these words have one thing in common—and it’s not a cocktail bar or a nail salon. 

Give up?

Each of the above, plus another half dozen or so I won’t bother to list, are various types of walls identified for me by my construction engineer husband, John, this afternoon on his way out the door.

“It could be a drinking game,” John said when he’d exhausted the category.  

John’s personal favorite wall?

“Door walls,” he said, introducing yet another swill-worthy contender. Capable of being retracted, John pointed out, door walls allow for mobility that “blurs the line between the indoors and outdoors. Very cool.”

A variation on a theme, physical walls such as those identified by John are categorized one of several ways: load bearing, non-load bearing, cavity, shear, partition, faced, veneered, and panel. 

As a structural element, walls have many uses. In addition to separating people and spaces, walls hold up roofs and provide a hiding place for electrical equipment and the occasional mouse. 

“A wall is a wall but a wall could be anything,” my architect sister, Hilary tells me when I call her this evening. Hilary—and her husband/business partner, Tyson—have their own architecture firm, Hubbard Godfrey Architects in San Francisco. SF Giants fans lucky enough to hang out in Oracle Park’s McCovey Loft or visit its members-only Gotham Club can see Hil and Tyson’s handiwork.

“Architects don’t like walls,” Hil tells me when I ask for her thoughts about my current obsession. “We’re always trying to find ways to deconstruct and redefine walls to create a different experience within a space.”

I text her the picture of the student recreation center at the University of Colorado Boulder that kicks off this post. “Is that what’s going on here?”

“Like I said, architects are constantly coming up with new versions of walls,” Hil told me. “Transparent walls, sound walls—“

“Wait? Sound walls?” I want to know more.

“Later,” Hil tells me. “I’m at the grocery store.”

I hang up with my sister and turn my attention back to the darkened silhouettes of my daughter and husband playing basketball against the mountains of Colorado’s Front Range. 

I try to imagine how different the picture would be if CannonDesign and Davis Partnership, the architectural firms responsible for the current Rec Center design, had opted for a solid rather than glass wall to buttress the basketball court. 

I’d have a photo of two people I love playing a game of one-on-one in a space that could be anywhere.

Instead, I have a beautiful study of two figures near to my heart, standing in graceful opposition to the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains.

Just like that, a game and a wall become something else entirely different, entirely unexpected.