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“I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.” – Charles Barkley

Those that know me personally would probably revise Barkleys’ quote to:

I’m not paid to be an architectural mentor. I’m paid to solve the clients’ design problems, provide clear and concise construction documents, and be profitable while not compromising the client/project goals.” – Keith

Truth is, as an architect I provide mentorship whether or not I consciously choose to or not. If someone seeks me for mentorship, I will assist wholeheartedly. I’m blatant that my ‘style’ of active mentorship is along the lines of ‘tough love;’ I don’t baby sit nor hand hold. That’s a waste of my time and does nothing to truly educate the mentoree. For those that don’t actively want to be mentored, it happens anyway via redlining their work and participation in meetings, site visits, etc. So what is mentorship, mentorship is:

1. Figuring out the best way to achieve a given a task/end goal. It’s not being given a task/end goal and every step/process along the way to achieve such.

2. Looking for, and experimenting with, steps/processes to follow to achieve a particular goal; asking a lot of questions. It’s not being told the steps/processes to follow nor is it looking to ask one specific question in hopes that answer catapults you to the end goal.

3. Presenting various solutions/information for review and discussion. It’s not presenting a single solution and asking “Is this what you wanted?”

4. Reviewing/red-lining your own work prior to having someone else review- if you can find your own mistakes, chances are you won’t make them again. It’s not simply handing your work over for others to find your mistakes/omissions.

5. Learning and learning how to learn. It’s not about being definitively told what to do and most importantly, not being told specifically how to do it.

Keep in mind; this occurs while I (or your mentor) keep a loose ‘tab’ on you. It sounds a bit harsh and even vague, perhaps it is. You’ll be allowed to err, but not in an abysmal manner to the project/client. The end goal of a successful ‘mentorship’ is an individual who can think for themselves and not rely on others to decidedly inform them of all they need to do.

Learning and growth are stagnated when one is sheltered in their comfort zone and need to be instructed on every task and how to achieve. If that’s your belief of being mentored, congratulations you’re on your path to being a draftsperson. If that’s what you want, fine, they will always be needed in the AEC profession. However, if you want to be an architect, you’ll need to be able to think for yourself and not rely on others to explicitly inform you of your tasks/means/methods; the quickest way to achieve such is through mentorship.

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a topic and a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s topic is ‘Mentorship’– to read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
This is NOT Mentorship

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: Mentorship

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Mentors, Millennials and the Boomer Cliff

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Influence

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
ArchiTalks: Mentorship

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Mentorship

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
teach them the way they should go: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Bad Mentor, Good Mentor

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
The Top 3 Benefits for Architects to Mentor and to be Mentored

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I’ve got a lot to learn

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Gurus, Swamis, and Other Architectural Guides

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
The Lonely Mentor

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Advice From My Mentor

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Mentoring with Anecdotes vs. Creating a Culture of Trust

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Why every Aspiring Architect needs SCARs

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Mentorship : mend or end ?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
My Mentor

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
5 Mentors that are in my life

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Mentorship

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood – Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
On Mentorship

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
Mentorship

I’m going to keep this simple, because… well… it’s actually this simple. If you’re anticipating constructing a new house or renovating your existing house, I’m offering some advice. While this is geared towards residential projects, the same holds true for almost any building project. My advice is:

Hire an Architect- An architect’s value is problem solving, addressing your needs/ wishes/ budget/ schedule, and complying with local building and zoning codes- all while designing an aesthetically pleasing efficient house. Architects help you design/discover a house that works for you and fits your individuality and preferences. The value of our services is occasionally related directly to cost savings. However, typically our value is in questioning, planning, clarification, detailing, and ‘solidifying’ numerous moving ‘parts’ into an efficient cohesive design- which ultimately results in cost savings to you.

Actively Participate- When it comes to designing your house, as an architect I will have strong preferences and recommendations. However, ultimately it will be up to you to make decisions. An architect will not force a design on you which you don’t want; if they do try, than you didn’t follow my series about ‘Hiring an Architect.’ We will make recommendations; present differing options, and offer our professional opinion- which is why you hire us. However, if you’ve seen something you like, show it to me… think something can be done a better way, challenge me… keep open dialogue flowing; your project will benefit from such. Ultimately you make the decisions- we work for you.

Be Honest- If you’re not honest with yourself and all involved with your project, you’re setting up for disappointment. Money doesn’t magically appear in a project, if you cannot afford something, don’t need something, don’t like something, or don’t understand something… speak up and have it explained/ clarified. It’s tough, but above all else, you need to be honest with your budget. You’re paying for the project and you want the most value you can get, having honest discussions is crucial to achieving such.

Have Trust- I can’t state this enough, you need to TRUST your architect. You need to be comfortable in talking honestly with them… see previous advice. You should be able to envision having meals with this person and inviting them to a party- architects love parties! You don’t have to be best friends with your architect; you do need to like them though. You need to have confidence in their integrity and skill set as an architect, that they are your advocate, and have your best interests at the forefront.

Actively working with an architect you trust and can be honest with, will allow you to make well informed decisions about your project. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the house you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a house that fits you and your lifestyle.

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a topic and a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s topic is ‘Advice for Clients’– to read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: Advice for Working with an Architect

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Advice for ALL Clients

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
advice to clients

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
ArchiTalks: Advice for Clients

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Trust Your Architect

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Advice List — From K thru Architect

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
advice for clients

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A Few Reminders

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Your Architect is your Advocate

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[tattoos] and [architecture]

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Changing the World

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Advice for Clients

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Questions to Ask an Architect in an Interview: Advice for Clients

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Dear Client,

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Advice for Clients

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Advice for clients

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Advice for Clients

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Advice for Clients

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood – Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
What I wish clients knew

I never had any great desire to become a sole-practitioner architect; it came out of survival instincts. The economy was bad and my daughter likes to eat and have clothes. So a few fees here and a couple of forms there and I had my legal entity to officially practice architecture. I was off and running to secure my own work. ** cue wavy dreamy sequence*** Ah, that was 2009… seems like yesterday… but I digest. I know, I know sounds awesome… well for the most part, it is! So what are my top +10 for being a sole practitioner, here you go:

+1. I get to resolve all the ‘bad’ issues that arise- it’s the best learning experience.

+2. No random principal comes to me at the 11th hour saying “I’m not sure I agree; let’s give this scheme a try.”

+3. I can refuse projects that aren’t a good fit.

+4. I rise and fall… I get credit for both!

+5. I get full authority on creativity… as well as veto power!

+6. I can go mountain biking or mow the lawn whenever I have to clear my head.

+7. When I take pens and trace from the office, no one knows but me… shh.

+8. All my days-off for vacation requests are approved.

+9. I’m in control of where my practice goes… such as my design value menu concept.

And the final, and best reason I enjoy being ‘da man’…

+10. It allows me to be more actively present in my daughter’s life, attend martial arts classes, field trips, volunteer at school, etc.

With all the positives, much like everything in life, there are also negatives to being a sole practitioner. However, the majority of negatives can be resolved relatively easily. Here are my 10 for being a sole practitioner:

1. When I have a lunch and learn I have to buy lunch and be the teacher.

2. No big firm resources- books, software, supplies, etc.

3. No one to bounce ideas off of or offer constructive criticism (Facebook and Instagram comments don’t count).

4. I’m the architect, receptionist,  business development guy, PR department, admin department, good cop, contract writer, AR/P department, educator, bad cop, night cleaning crew, IT guy, intern, model maker, lackey, CAD/BIM manager, CA guy, marketing department, general whipping boy, spec writer, etc.

5. I have to buy trace, scales, and sharpies.

6. No intern to pass grunt work off to mentor.

7. No Friday morning **insert favorite breakfast here** paid for by others.

8. Nobody to foot the bill for the annual holiday party.

9. Firm retreats are extremely lonely.

And the final, and reason I don’t like being a sole practitioner…

10. No room for advancement within the firm unless I take a pay cut and demote myself first.

Much like a battery, in order for things to run well you need both a positive and a negative. As long as the +/- tend to weigh slightly more to the +, it’s most likely worth doing. It’s tough working on your own and it’s not for everyone. There are days I question it. However, if you do go this route it will be extremely rewarding!

 

Design On,

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Your house may be the most expensive project you will ever undertake. As an architect, I take the opportunity to work with you on such an important aspect of your life very seriously. If you are making such an investment, and you want your house to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is a must. I will help you design/discover a house that works for you and fits your individuality and preferences. This house, your house, will be vastly different than one designed for someone else. However, I won’t create a home for you. That’s up to you.

Wait… what… you’re a residential architect and you don’t design homes? Nope. I’ve never designed a home, not one. Houses, I’ve designed lots of houses, but no homes. However, I’ll confess, I’m guilty. I interchange ‘house’ and ‘home’ all the time. I’m sure there are numerous instances in various posts on my blog. However, there is a difference. A house is the physicality of the structure; a home embodies a ‘spirit’ or ‘vibe.’ This can only come from the occupants of the house and their usage of it. My childhood home holds great memories for me. At the time I was unaware of the gift our home gave- it served as the framework for my family and our daily life which in turn became my memories.

It’s been 30+ years since I’ve lived in the house, but my memories are fresh because I have the house as a reference that enhances my memories recollection- textures, sights, sounds, smells, all contained within the house, my childhood home. Architecture and the memories associated with it are what foster a home. A house serves as the frame of reference for daily life, which in turn transcends a house to your home. So please, take the house I designed and make it your home, it’ll be worth it!

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a topic and a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s topic is ‘House or Home?’– to read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
The Designation between House and Home

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: House or Home?

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Emotional Marketing for Architects: House or Home?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
House or Home? It’s in the story.

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
House or Home? A Choice of Terms

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
house or home: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
House or Home — Discover the Difference

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“house” or “home”?

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #24 : House or Home

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
House or Home? – Depends

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
House or Home? Train for One, Design for Another

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
A Rose by Any Other Name…

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
House or Home

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Designing a House into a Home

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Making a House a Home

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Dwelling on a Macro scale

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
House or Home: One’s a Place, the Other a Feeling.

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
#ArchiTalks #24 House or Home? #RefugeeCrisis @GrainneHassett mentioned

Stated over ninety years ago, the quote above still holds true and will most likely always. However- and you know I’ve got nothing but love for you Corbu- my ‘issue’ with the quote is the term ‘style’. There are few stronger words in the English language then the word hate- intense or passionate dislike. I rarely use the word. However, I need to state this… I hate the word ‘‘style’.

Residential architecture and the distinctive ‘styles,’ be it Shingle, Victorian, Craftsman, or Modern, are designed by following a particular set of stylistic rules- massing, elements, materials; each are selected and composed in a particular manner to create a building. These rules produce the type of architecture that makes these ‘style’s so well-loved. However, style’ dictates conforming to conventionality; it’s a representation or composition of set patterns and canon. Is this a bad thing? No. The typical residential ‘‘styles’ make up what most people envision when they imagine a home, and these ‘‘styles’ continue to resonate with the majority of homeowners. ‘Style’ does have its place and there are countless new houses constructed in a particular ‘style’. Reproducing homes that are beautiful constructs and akin to the original ‘style’ can be successful if one adheres to the patterns and rules of the ‘style.’ However, typically these homes lack coherence because the rules of the ‘style’ are not consistently followed.

While ‘style’ does have its place, I’m not overly interested with ‘style’ in architecture. ‘Style’ can be very subjective and plastic in architecture. I choose to not start a design with a set ‘style’ and its inherent dogma. I approach each project by looking to define the inherent design issues- independent of a set ‘style’ to strive for. I consciously attempt to not root my work in a particular ‘style.’ I strive to absorb a client’s beliefs and wishes and respond with an appropriate design. At the commencement of each project, any ‘style’ to strive towards is negated- the resultant design is based upon the inherent design problems, client needs, desires, and context. Starting with a particular ‘style’ as the end goal, limits you to the rules of others from the onset.

I prefer to strive for establishing an aesthetic for the client/ project. The aesthetic arises from arrangement of spaces/ forms, context, materiality, key features, etc. Typical architectural design principles are still adhered to- mass, proportion, scale, etc. However, without the confines of a ‘style’ the process is much more organic and in-tune with the clients personal needs. ‘Style’ is someone else’s and per their rules… aesthetic is yours and per your rules. Strive for your own aesthetic.

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a topic and a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s topic is ‘Style’– to read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/style-do-i-have-any/

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
style…final words

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
The AREsketches Style

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Name That Stile!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“style”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks : Style

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
What Style Do You Build In?

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You do you

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Defining an Architect’s Style

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
What’s Your Style?

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Architectural Style

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Should You Pick Your Architect Based on Style or Service?

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
5 Styles of an Aspiring Architect

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Architects Atelier (@sokokyu)
Loaded With Style

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Regression or Evolution : Style

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
What’s in a Style?

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Architectalks 23 – Style

I deal with homeowners in various stages of projects for their homes. I’m either dealing with a client that is constructing a new home and trying to sell their current home or one who is renovating/adding on to their existing home but thinking towards the future and re-sale value. Inevitably they always ask for advice as to projects they can do to their existing home to increase its chance of selling quickly now or in the future. Keep in mind, home buyers want to see how great a home looks; they don’t want to hear what it could look like with work. Meaning, these projects actually need to be done for them to add any value to your home. Here are my top 5 projects that pay off when selling your home- as well as refreshing the current home you live in:

1. Paint- For the cost, nothing comes close to the dramatic effect a new coat of paint or color change can have on a home’s interior or exterior. My advice, always paint the ceiling a bright white- I’m not a fan of colored ceilings as they tend to ‘compress’ the space. I’m a big fan of having an accent wall in a few spaces- one wall painted a differing color than the rest of the space. For the exterior, I recommend 3-4 colors. A color for the main body of the house, trim color, accent color for the front door (and possibly some other key pieces of the home), and possibly another color for a secondary material that is prominent on the house. Keep in mind, most of this is mute when dealing with modern homes and exterior materials that are left in their natural state. A well designed modern home can have various natural materials that can create a great composition of texture and color.

2. Flooring, Fixtures, Faucets, + Accessories- A rule of thumb, anything you actually touch should be of good quality and in working order- i.e. door knobs, cabinet pulls, toilet handles, etc. This doesn’t mean you can ignore unseen items, it just means a ‘touched’ item adds more to the perceived value of your home. Worn-out flooring surfaces are a turn off. Replace/clean/repair/refinish flooring throughout the home. Replacing old faucets, sinks, and toilets, can significantly increase the perceived overall value of the home. Cabinet pulls can have a dramatic effect on the perception of the quality of cabinetry. Consider replacing, or adding, cabinet pulls. Cheap and dated lighting fixtures should also be replaced.

3. Additions + Renovations- If you’re planning on selling in the future, but need additional space currently, be sure to plan wisely. An addition that appears ‘tacked on’ with no thought, hurts a home’s value and cheapens the overall impression of the home. Working with an architect is of great value when anticipating a major project on your home. An architect will be sure the overall ‘scale’ of the project is in harmony with the existing and not over, or underwhelming. The current ‘style’ of the home will be examined and addressed as appropriate in the new work. The ‘flow’ of spaces will be planned and laid out efficiently- may not seem like a big deal until you walk through a bedroom to get to a bedroom- yup, I’ve seen that… too often. An architect will address these and many other issues that can increase the value of your home.

4. Kitchens + Bathrooms- These rooms historically have had the best return on investment and continue so. The kitchen has long outgrown its place as merely for cooking, it’s now typically the gathering spot for families. Kitchens have become the focal point of many homes and quality materials/appliances have become the norm. However, keep your homes price range in mind and don’t overdo it with high end items that future buyers aren’t willing to pay for. When it comes to adding a bath or remodeling, be sure to include ample storage and quality (doesn’t have to equate to expensive) fixtures. Ceramic tile is still a good choice for flooring and wall surrounds in bathrooms. The addition of a bath or powder room can greatly increase the value of your home.

5. Landscaping- The exterior of your home plays an important role in the overall first impression of your home. Landscaping can have a dramatic impact on the overall look of your home. Consult with a qualified individual who can provide you with an overall plan for your yard.

Keep personal ‘style’ to a minimum. Infuse your personal style with furniture, accessories, artwork, window treatments, etc. These can easily be reworked by another, such that they can make the house their own. When selling your home this may entail removing personal items such that potential buyers can envision themselves living in the home and not feeling that the home is ‘owned’ by you.

So that’s my broad sweeping list of what’s worked for my clients over the years. What has worked for you? What other projects/advice do you have to share?

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted June 18 2013, edited/revised per date above- See what I did there… 5… Value… V… Roman Numeral 5.

1976… 0630 hours… Outpost Sidecut Road… West Redding CT… Christmas morning ……

I’m the first up; my three brothers are still asleep. I make my way to the Dutch-door that guards the descent. Creeping down the stairs, my hand has a tight grasp on the hand hewn oak railing. I must hold firmly and lightly jump-skip the next tread, it’s the one that creaks. Kneeling down to peer below the ceiling I see the glowing fire of orange, blue, red, yellow, and the burning wood logs. The crackling and popping is a comforting sound- someone beat me to it and is already up. I stay frozen in my spot, fighting the heat of the fireplace as it radiates across the room and through my body.

I make my way down to the first floor. Directly ahead of me is a step down to the entry foyer and in sight is the bathroom door- thankfully it’s ajar and I can see via the mirror reflection down the hall that my father’s room door is still shut. I make a U-turn and enter the living room. I look down into the kitchen, lights off. I turn left and look through the glass doors to the dining room, still set from the night before for todays’ dinner. Glancing up and to the right, I confirm no one else is wake upstairs. Looking back to the left is the tree, freshly cut a week prior from the woods. Suddenly a faint rustle is heard, I quickly dash across the living room and into the kitchen. The reddish colored linoleum floor in the kitchen is cold on the feet, I dive under the table. Ten minutes pass, it must have been the cat. Getting up from the floor I look out the bank of windows spanning the rear of the house in the breakfast area. I look out across the back yard towards the horse barn and my father’s woodshop… Yes! The field is pure white, it snowed last night!

Making my way back to the living room to investigate what’s under the tree, another noise! This time I crawl behind the chair that is in the alcove to the left of the fireplace. The mantle clock is ticking as if it’s a bomb about to detonate and it seems to be synced to the beating of my chest. I’ve got good cover, behind the chair and above me low shelf’s displaying my dad’s beer stein collection… I’m one with the darkness. I peak under the chair and I see it, the box that’s about the right size, can it be? I see my name on it and I’m hoping it’s… I begin making my way to the box under the tree.

Half way between the chair and the tree I hear my dad getting up, not good. We were to stay in bed until he was up. Not enough time to make it up the stairs without being spotted. I know what needs to happen next. I run and jump down the step into the foyer. The door to my dad’s room is to the left and starting to open. Maintaining momentum I continue straight into the bathroom, where my dad is headed… I keep going because the door on the other end of the bathroom opens into a small office, taking a left I run into the playroom, my dad’s now shutting the door to the bathroom. I take another left and run towards the entry to the playroom, hang a left, a right, jump up one step and I’m now on the stairs back up to my bedroom, whew made it! Just as I turn into my bedroom, I see my dad in the middle of the room with a big grin on his face asking me why I’m making so much noise creeping around the house… busted on Christmas morning!

My childhood home holds great memories for me. At the time I was unaware of the gift our home gave- it served as a frame of reference for our daily life which in turn became my memories. It’s been 30+ years since I’ve lived in the house, but my memories are fresh because I have the house as a reference that enhances my memories recollection- textures, sights, sounds, smells, all contained within a house, a home… Architecture.

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted December 23 2013, edited/revised per date above- yes, that really is the house I grew up in, it had a few more additions on it prior to my living there.  

It’s always a thrill when meeting a potential client for the first time. Excitement. Nerves. Possibilities. That’s how I feel as the architect. Once I’m in their house I don’t get on the sales pitch soap box. The great thing about the modern ‘online world’ is that clients can do vast amounts of research before calling an architect. They’ve seen my work and know what I can do. I don’t need to sell myself at this point… well, I’m always selling the virtues of an architect, it’s just covert at this point.

We start walking through the house. The clients go on and on- in a good way- talking about their project. I spend most of the time listening shaking the dog off my leg, checking out their medicine cabinets and nodding my head… after all it’s their project that they wish to share with me. I see the glitter in their eye as they discuss wishes and goals for the project. Really good clients have binders full of images they like. The best clients can describe why they like them. Finally they’ve exhausted themselves. Then it happens. They turn to me and ask, “So what’s the answer? What will it look like when it’s done?” They seem to be waiting for me to snap my fingers, toss my cape back over my shoulder (I really should start wearing a cape) and exclaim “A-ha, I’ve got it!” However, my typical response is “Yes. No. Something. I don’t know.” To which I’m greeted with a blank stare for two minutes… than a nervous laugh… then the client says “ No, really, what’s it going to look like?”

Sometimes it’s a bit of a let down to the client that I don’t have an initial grand vision for their project. If I did, it would be my vision and not theirs. I don’t work that way. The bad thing about the modern ‘online world’ is that clients want answers instantly. I explain how I approach each project by striving to define the inherent design issue(s) at hand. I need to figure out how they ‘live’ life on a daily basis and what is or isn’t currently working for them in their house. I don’t approach a project with a preconceived notion of an aesthetic- style if you wish. I strive to absorb a client’s beliefs and wishes and respond with an appropriate design. This doesn’t happen at the first meeting. Occasionally, I have them fill out a questionnaire in an attempt to further solidify their goals and wishes for the project. Then it happens. They look at me and exclaim “A-ha, so we’re going to be involved more than we thought. We have a say in what this will look like, nice. This sounds like a lot of fun!” Trust me, it’s a barrel of monkey’s kind of fun.

My initial meeting with a client involves a vast amount of listening, looking, and investigating the root of the design issue(s) at hand. Good design is listening and investigating, only after doing such can an architect respond appropriately. I suspect a majority of architects would agree.

A client’s project starts as theirs, but if it’s successful it doesn’t end that way. I like the give and take between architect and client, it makes for a rewarding experience and project for both of us. The most successful projects start as a client’s project and end as our project. It never becomes my project. So take on me (see what I did there) as your architect and we’ll come up with a project that’s not yours or mine, but ours.

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted April 16 2014, edited/revised per date above- Come on a-ha and a barrel of monkey’s… in one post… never done before, couldn’t have been..

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It’s that time of year when family and friends gather, eat, and give thanks. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberries, flaky rolls, etc. – indulgence of deliciousness! Food will be enjoyed, conversations will be had, reflections will be made about what each are thankful for and why. I’m no different. I have a lot to be thankful for:

  1. My wife and daughter.
  2. *Clarification* A loving and supporting wife.
  3. The choice I made to become an architect.
  4. Great family and friends.
  5. Being healthy.
  6. Ability to have what I want.
  7. Wise enough to know what I need.
  8. Living in a nice home and community.
  9. My Clients.
  10. Viewing my work not as ‘work.’

As dishes are being cleared and pies consumed, we exclaim- “Wow this is a great day! What a good time we’re having!”

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However, we all know it won’t go smoothly for the entirety of the day. Alcohol will be consumed. At some point a crazy aunt/uncle will have had a few to many drinks and start ranting about how everyone has disappointed them… you don’t call enough, you stopped mowing my lawn, my bunions hurt and you won’t rub them, you did spend that $1.00 in one place, and it was for candy, etc. Well, today Architecture is that crazy aunt/uncle with its own disappointments. As such, Architecture submits a few of the things it’s Thankless for:

  1. Celebrity designers.
  2. HGTV’s -*insert any show here*- spewing of misinformation.
  3. A friend who has a friend that knows someone who took a drafting class at a community college.
  4. ‘Dark Gray’ turtlenecks when ‘Dark Coal’ is available.
  5. Brick and vinyl siding abutting in a ‘J channel.’
  6. McMansions.
  7. Every X-Acto blade sans #11.
  8. Faux anything.
  9. Value Engineering.
  10. ‘White’ paint when ‘Extra White’ is available.
  11. House flippers.
  12. Drafting machines.
  13. EIFS.
  14. Oil rubbed bronze/brass.
  15. Complaining about being an architect.
  16. Life as a House.
  17. Post Modernism.
  18. Man Caves/ Diva Dens.
  19. Fruit cake.
  20. Any industry/person employing the term ‘Architect’ that didn’t pass the ARE.
  21. The…

Wait…”What?… I can’t hear you, I’m typing… hold on.” I’ve got to go, my nephews calling me and I need another drink, Happy Turkey Day!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted November 21 2011, edited/revised per date above- Happy Turkey Day! RIP Zaha.

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As an Architect you proceed with the design of a building you draw, design, detail, model, etc. You go about it with almost no thought whatsoever, its second nature. Contract writing can flow just as easily with these basics in mind:

Purpose of a Contract:

  1. Define the Project Scope
  2. Establish and clarify relationships
  3. Allocate responsibilities and risk
  4. Confirm mutual understanding in writing
  5. Establish compensation for services

Contract Checklist:

  1. Understand the scope of the project
  2. Do not use superlative language – “highest standard, best, complete, most, economical, finest” etc.  The wrong use of language can negate basic legal protections and exceed your insurance coverage, create unreasonable duties, and establish expectation of perfection
  3. Express no warranties or guarantees – expands duty and is generally excluded from professional liability coverage
  4. Do not use language creating unobtainable expectations
  5. Include in contract preparation any and all pertinent members who will be responsible for executing the work
  6. Use historical data as a basis to help establish fees and schedules
  7. Know you can fulfill your obligations as defined by the contract or modify them
  8. Define procedure for project termination or suspension
  9. Review, review, review, and then have someone else review the contract

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Each contract you write will afford you more confidence and another skill set to your experiences. There’s no reason not to be writing your own contracts… actually getting them executed, well that’s another post. 

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted July 27 2010, edited/revised per date above- I’ve been careless on properly referencing the image to its source… meaning I haven’t and just used an image search engine. Inform me if I’ve used a copy written image and I’ll write a contract on the terms of removal of said image.