Monday, March 30, 2015

arts and [crafty]

architects are, and should be, crafty.

crafty in the sense that they should be clever in achieving their aims by indirect, or possibly even deceitful, methods.  now, deceitful might be going a bit far, but i love the idea of accomplishing goals indirectly.

the world needs architects, and not just in a stamped a set of drawings in get a permit kind of way.  the world needs architects so buildings are more than just four walls and a ceiling, but rather they start to take on a sense of space and become something more. a quality, which turns locations into places and boring into beautiful.  however with budgets, code requirements, zoning restrictions, short time lines and crazy deadlines sometimes beauty can be hard to achieve.  thankfully, as i mentioned, architects are crafty.  in my limited experience, i feel there are three main ways in which architects can be crafty and achieve the goal of beauty.  below are examples of craftiness in my personal life as well as professional.

using simple materials in creative ways

at my desk i would accumulate various sizes and shapes of scratch paper. hating to toss them into the recycle bin, i started practicing origami. weirdly enough, the few simple pieces i had made, inspired our office-cleaning guy to get into the game as well. soon after, i started finding better examples of origami on my desk, which i gladly kept.  i love the idea of how paper, which could have easily been tossed aside becomes something beautiful. i keep them at my desk to remind me of this.

similarly, the eames house by ray and charles eames used this idea. they used off the shelf steel parts for the structure of their house and created an icon of modern architecture. an extremely creative use of simple materials to create beauty.


growing up, my mom would save the uneaten heels of bread in our freezer.  when enough of these frozen bags had accumulated, she would take the heels and make amazing bread pudding. not only that, but the unused bags would then become my lunch bags.  as a punk 12-year-old kid i hated this, as i had to constantly answer questions from classmates on why i had brought bread for lunch. luckily as an adult i realize my mom was simply reusing the bags because it was easy, simple and saved money. oddly enough i still find myself saving these bags and heels even though i don’t make bread pudding nor take my lunch in the bags.

the house of dance of feathers was a project i worked on after college.  we rebuilt a backyard museum in the lower ninth ward, which had been destroyed by hurricane katrina.  we had a tiny budget and had to scavenge for nearly every material we used. we gathered donations from companies, salvaged old parts and equipment and reused building scrapes. we saved and used everything. we were desperate, without the luxury of a budget. we had no choice but to be crafty.


i was told as an architecture student that good proportions don’t cost any money. when you factor in the cost of materials this might not be entirely true, but it’s close. getting the height and width of a building right is priceless.  there’s a feeling you get when you walk into a well-proportioned space that just feels right.  in my young experience i’m not sure i’ve ever designed a beautifully proportioned space, but it’s always a goal. it’s a crafty way to achieve beauty in the face of restrictions.

i also use good proportions in my personal life. at 5’-10” and 200lbs i’m a stocky guy. however i’ve discovered if i wear my redwing boots, i add just a bit more height, evening out my proportions. not only do they give they give me height, but the seem to be the hipster shoe of choice, keeping me fashionable as well. arguably not spending any more money than a good pair of dress shoes and great for the job site. using craftiness to achieve beauty….

well… maybe not beauty…but at least another inch.

simple materials in creative ways, reusing materials and good proportions.

stay crafty my friends.

other architects talking about being crafty.

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect
Architects are Crafty

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture
On the Craft of Drafting: A Lament

Marica McKeel - Studio MM
Why I Love My Craft: Residential Architecture

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet
Master Your Craft - A Tale of Architecture and Beer

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect
panel craft

Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect
How to Craft an Effective Blog Post in 90 Minutes or Less

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC
Oh, you crafty!

Rosa Sheng - Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project
Which Craft?

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC
Crafty-in Architecture as a Craft

Ghost Lab

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect
Underhanded Evil Schemes

Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture

Cindy Black - Rick & Cindy Black Architects
merging architecture and craftiness

Tara Imani, AIA, CSI - Indigo Architec
 Crafting A twitter Sabbatical

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

architects and dating - a pain in the butt[tress]

lately, there have been several articles written on how "sexy it is to be an architect", or "why you should date an architect."  that’s all fine and dandy, but there are a few issues that make us an absolute pain in the ass to date.  

i’ve narrowed it down to three main factors.


we’re always looking at options.  i don’t mean in the sense we’re looking for other people to be with, although frank and lou didn’t help our reputation on that issue.  rather our head is constantly looking at realistic possibilities to various situations. last weekend, my girlfriend and i, who i’ve been dating for a year and a half, had a very serious talk about the future.  during that discussion i may have said something to the effect of,

“well if we stay together, so and so will happen and if we break up, this could happen.”

to which she rightfully asked, “ you think about us breaking up?"

naturally, i don’t, but i told her it is an option to consider.

*this did little to get me out of the hole i was digging myself

through a little more conversation and another glass of wine, i was able to explain to her why i constantly look at options.  my whole job as an architect is to look at options.  nearly everything we do is looking at different possibilities and how we might deal with them. situations like, what if code won’t allow it?  what if the project needs to expand in the future?  what if the project is over budget?  what if the material specified is unavailable?  our whole day consists of looking at different options. unfortunately, i feel this trait follows me into my personal life.  i always have the overall goal of creating a great building, or in this case a long, healthy and beautiful relationship, but you have to be prepared for the worse, even the possibility of the project getting canceled.


a trait that quickly follows looking at lots of options is the stubbornness we have when we've come to a conclusion.  i’ve been told by multiple ex-girlfriends and several close friends i get very defensive when discussing ideas.

“you state everything as though it's the only right answer!” has been said to me more times than i’d like to admit.

i blame this on the profession as well, or more specifically our schooling.  most of architecture school is preparing projects for critiques, a situation where you must defend your thinking, rationalization and design against a barrage of questions. you prepare for every angle of attack, think of every possible detail they could discuss, and most importantly, you answer those questions confidently, even if you’re unsure.  it’s not hard to imagine how this training can make you appear like a jerk when involved with anyone who starts to question why you did something.  i know personally in arguments i’ll think to myself, 

“do you honestly think i didn’t think of that already! i've already looked at all the options!” 

not the best thought to have during a discussion but one i'm sure most designers have.  this can be a bad trait to have when things get heated with anyone, but ten times worse with a fellow architect.  if you ever happen to be in a situation where two architects are in a heated argument, get yourself some popcorn and a comfortable chair because it’s going to be a show.


i’m not sure how anyone, who isn’t an architect, vacations with us. honestly, my idea of a perfect vacation is simply walking around looking at buildings, going on building tours, admiring qualities of space, or sitting in a plaza sketching.  all incredibly wonderful to me; completely boring to most everyone else.  i once forced my parents to drive an hour out of our way to see a jewel box bank designed by louis sullivan in the middle of nowhere iowa.  i was enthralled, they sat in the car, waiting for me to stop taking pictures so we could drive the hour back to the interstate and continue on our way.  thankfully they’ve now figured out my vacation agenda and let me wonder around by myself all day long eventually meeting up to enjoy dinner with them.  i would like to tell you this was a single occurrence, but i’ve recently had my girlfriends parents drive me to various buildings around boston in the dead of a new england winter so i could take pictures.  i walked around admiring the architecture in the freezing cold, while they waited in the warmth of the car and, i’m assuming, wondered who in the hell their daughter was dating.

there are various other problems such as; late nights, lack of color in wardrobe, expensive furniture taste and impossible to shop for, but in my opinion the items discussed are the top three.

that being said, it really isn't all bad to date an architect. if someone is willing to accept these qualities, or rather, if we’re able to keep them in check, we really do make great partners. for the most part, you’ll have an individual who craves culture, can be a professional while still having an artistic side, will always to try find creative ways to show their love to you and will always be down to sit and enjoy a great cup of coffee with you.

or you could simply do what our clients have figured out; pay us to listen ad be civil.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

my own [fountainhead]

it's coming up on my ten year anniversary of blogging. to honor that digital milestone i thought i'd take a look back at the beginning....the very beginning.

ten years ago i started an eight month internship which was part of my architectural education. in order to validate my time and receive a grade, every week found me keeping track and writing about what i was learning and experiencing, and sending it to my professors. doing this week after week seem to train my brain to keep mental notes and seek out the "interesting" in the everyday, sometimes mundane routine.  without a doubt, this quality was eventually put towards my blog, which i started near the end of this experience

not only is this a look back for me to see where my "blogging" started, it's very entertaining to read what i was doing as a 23 year old intern and relate that to the slightly more i know now as a licensed architect.  below are excerpts from my internship journal ten years ago.  the inspiration for this blog as well as the start of my architectural career.

week 1 - organizing the product library. to this day the reason i know my division numbers.

week 2 - building models, still one of the best ways to communicate with a client.

week 3 - the inevitable start of cad drawings

week 4 - weeks like this is why i went into architecture

Monday, February 09, 2015

legos, architecture and the [martial] arts

last saturday i was thrilled to be a judge for the "national association of women in construction" block kids competition.  about 40 kids ranging from 1st to 6th grade had one hour to build a project with 100 lego blocks, tin foil, string and a rock.  afterwards judges would grade the kids on the use of the objects, why they built what they did, how they explained what they did, who would use it, if they would change anything about it and their enthusiasm for their project. basically a very fun and simple form of critiques in architectural school.

i judged two kids and thoroughly enjoyed both their stories. one built a combination fork lift and driller, the other a 1,000 foot monster built to protect a fictional city and all it's treasures.  one question we were supposed to ask is if they wanted to go into architecture or construction when they grew up. one kid wanted to be a space scientist and the other an mma champion, occupations, which in my mind, are way harder than architecture, mentally and physically. however, once again, i was amazed at the imagination and creativity legos are able to stir up in kids with many different interests.

it was an incredibly rewarding day and i had a wonderful time looking at the projects created in just an hour.  below, a few photos from the event.

Monday, January 12, 2015

the year in pictures [2014]

year ten for the [year in pictures] post.

without a doubt this was a year of traveling, and the pictures at the top of my list represent that. not only did i travel a lot this year but it was to new and exciting places i had never seen. it can't be denied traveling always gives you a unique perspective on your own little world. new sights, sounds and smells open your mind just that much more.  a favorite quote of mine is from st.a augustine who said, " the world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page."

i hope you enjoy a few of the [pages] i added to my book this year.


in march, i was lucky enough to travel to washington d.c for an aia conference. the city was nothing like i imagined.  it was actually beautiful.  they layout, the scale and the buildings worked in perfect harmony and i found myself walking up and down the mall in total awe. my favorite spot, one that can be found on many [pages] of history, was the lincoln memorial. such an iconic place that is incredibly built and and beautifully designed.


as i walked up the steps of the lincoln memorial i saw this group of people taking a group selfie, and i had to snap a quick picture. a place that's been the backdrop to amazing moments in history provided one more for an activity so definitive of my generation.


my friends bachelor party weekend at the lake. three days of fishing, meat, beer, world cup soccer, beer, corn on the cob, beer and a group of guys being guys.  it was amazing. i was glad to share this [page] with so many good friends.


my girlfriend is without a doubt a [city girl]. she knows more about chanel than sheep. so when she was offered a chance to be in a goat milking contest i told her she had to do it.  i of course was manly interested more in the photo possibilities than any competition. she did not disappoint. like the trooper she is she handled it with stride, especially after the goats handler helped out.


this summer i attended a wedding in long island with my girlfriend. being from kansas i find lighthouses fascinating, so the day after the wedding we traveled two hours to the montauk point lighthouse. it was more of a pain to get  there than we had planned but it really was worth it. this photo reminds me of the whole, fabulous trip.  a whole chapter of [pages].


this summer also found my girlfriend and i traveling to local kansas winery's. not only did we enjoy the wine, but the traveling and tasting allowed us to spend quality time together during our all too short weekends. this shot was taken while enjoying a bottle on the patio of grace hill winery. it turns out [pages] are much better with wine.


one of my best friends got married in brooklyn. it was beautiful.  everything about the wedding and reception reflected the couple and their love for each other, and i was so thankful to be a part of their [page].


it's getting harder and harder to find unique pictures of the austin city limits festival, but this photo taken the last day seems to capture the care free atmosphere that keeps bringing me back year after year.

savannah is a hauntingly beautiful city and i was smitten with this city seconds after strolling through its spanish moss cover squares. as many tourists do i found myself at the gates of one of the cities cemeteries.  walking through the beautiful grounds i discovered tombstones tacked to the wall.  after help from my tour guide siri, i learned any tombstone which had been damaged, broken or misplaced over the years was placed on the wall; a wonderful way to honor the [pages] of past lives. this haunting but beautiful scene seems to perfectly capture my feelings on the city.


i started this year with a picture of the lincoln memorial and oddly enough end on [lincoln’s gift]. during the last stages of the civil war, savannah was in the path of general sherman’s destructive “march to the sea”, but upon reaching the city, found it so incredibly beautiful, he decided not to destroy it.  the city was saved and presented as a christmas gift to president lincoln in 1864, adding to the city’s history and charm. i found savannah beautiful as well, and was happy to have it, along with the many other places i saw this year, become a [page] in my book.