Streetlights in Motion

As an architect, I look at the design of almost everything in my daily life. Maybe you do too, to a certain extent.

Today, I was wondering what's going to happen to gas stations once the majority of cars shift to electric. Will they become convenience stores? Will they begin to get replaced by other uses? Will they become battery recharging stations?

Now pivot, and when's the last time you really looked at streetlights? What if streetlights weren't so boring and they became pieces of art? What if streetlights were in motion and became animated by swiveling down at night so that they could provide downlight when dark, but rotated back up and become standing torches during the day so that they would be out of the way?

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Well my friends, such a streetlight exists... existed; and it was designed by Philippe Starck, installed in San Francisco on Howard between Third and Fourth Streets. Like anything else designed by Starck, these curvaceous and organic looking street-lamps aren't cheap at a whopping $22,000 each, but then (circa 1996) San Francisco Mayor, Willie Brown, managed to convince JCDecaux to provide them for free as free advertising for their company, until recently. Check out the Instagram video below of just how they work(ed). 

turning on: #philippestarck street lights on howard and 3rd

A post shared by Brock Keeling (@brockkeeling) on

Curbed San Francisco recently wrote an article that the streetlights will be going out of service, or at least to be serviced,  for an undetermined extended period of time. 

Perhaps you've been by the block that had these streetlights and never noticed them. Or maybe you've only been by during the day and never even realized they were street-lamps. One of the coolest pieces of working public art in City by the Bay, will be replaced with temporary LED lights to aid ongoing construction in the area.

ArchiTalks #31: Every Architect's Agony

This month's ArchiTalks topic is the ARE, otherwise known as the Architectural Registration Exam. Every licensed architect will go through a year or longer, of architectural exam agony. These series of exams are also known as The Architectural Registration Exam, a.k.a. the AREs. Be sure to check out the blogroll at the end of my post to read what others are saying about the exams.

Let me first give everybody NOT in architecture some background. One does not automatically become an Architect after architecture school (nor does one necessarily become an Architect after passing the AREs). Notice how I used that capital A in Architect? In the United States of America, every state is a little different, but you can't technically refer to yourself as an Architect without becoming licensed. In short, the only people I know who really seem to care about this are people in the profession, but it does makes a difference. I'm also half kidding, because as a client, you also don't want to hire to guy/gal off the street to design your house, but in all seriousness, if you've been practicing for some time now, you're probably legit regardless of licensure. So how does one become a licensed Architect? Well, he or she first has to fulfill what's now known as the AXP or internship requirement (used to be called the IDP for Internship Development Program, but the word "intern" in architecture has become derogatory), and pass all the divisions of the Architectural Registration Exam or the AREs. Only then are you able to apply for licensure, and the terms and conditions vary from state to state.

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Even after having passed all of my AREs, they still intimidate me to my core. The exams that I failed continue to give me nightmares, and perhaps the angst of having gone through the process has left me wanting to break from taking the California Supplemental Exam (CSE). When I took and passed the AREs, they were in version 4.0. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), upgraded the 9 tests in version 3.0/3.1 to 7 test in the new version 4.0 right around the time I finished Cal Poly in 2008. By the time I came around to finishing all 7 of my exams, version 5.0 had just been released which has reduced the process down to 5 exams. 

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As much as I hated going through the examination process, it has become a right of passage for every architect. Nearly every single architect you will meet will have his or her own story of trekking through the AREs. Some of the older veterans have their own stories of going through the examination process at a convention hall to take drafting exam with pen, pencil, and paper. The test was only offered once a year! The current versions of the ARE are a combination of multiple choice questions and vignettes which use a proprietary version of computer aided drafting software to solve design problems. You can take them almost anytime you'd like by signing up to take them at a testing center like you would the GRE or GMAT. 

But the true test of an architect in my opinion, will always be left to actual professional practice. There is SO MUCH to architecture and it can't really be measured by standardized exams, although the AREs do a good job of starting the measuring. It's architecture in real life that will weed out the bad ones and reward the good ones. In fact, I know people who passed the AREs and decided to veer in another direction other than becoming an architect. The practice of architecture is complex. No two projects are the same and every project, no matter how big or how small, is a new box of design challenges. 

If you've already passed the AREs, congratulations! If you're in the process of taking them, hang in there, the end will come if you stay dedicated! If you're about to start, just start! Don't wait around and think you'll have studied "enough"  at some point to schedule your first exam. 

All the best,   

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Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Test or Task

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Take the architect registration exam, already

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
What is the Big Deal about the ARE?

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
what A.R.E. you willing to do

Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
What is the Benefit of Becoming a Licensed Architect?

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Passing the Test

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I forget

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
ARE - The Turnstile

The Architect's Mouse

As someone who spends a lot of time every day drafting/3d modeling on the computer, my hardware setup has evolved over time. While in college, I didn't really have a preference for anything other than a responsive enough computer and a large screen/monitor to work on, but as I've worked in several different offices and professional environments, I've come to see just how important one's hardware setup is not just for comfort, but also for efficiency. In today's post, I'm going to focus on my choice of mouse. **I have NOT been paid or reached out to by any of the companies I mention in this blog post to date.**

The computer mouse is a trip. Think about it. You have a device that you hold (most likely than not) in your right hand and navigate your computer through it. I know you're already rolling your eyes thinking laptops use trackpads, and maybe some of you use Apple's Magic Trackpad, but I'm pretty confident that if you're in architecture, you're using a hardware mouse. This is probably going to be super nerdy, but I swear I was looking for information like this and simply couldn't find any. If you are a heavy duty CAD draftsman, you're going to thank me later. 

the basic mouse...

the basic mouse...

There are all kinds of mice (mouses? mouse (plural)?). My original fascination with the mouse once I started realizing my own needs, led me to Logitech. Still a force in the computer accessory market, Logitech makes solid products. The above is a more or less standard mouse that worked well for me in my early drafting days where portability was important. Below is another Logitech mouse that I used in tighter working conditions (geez, did I work in a jail cell or something, right?) where I needed to be able to keep my mouse still, but still work with larger gesture movements. 

...To a trackball mouse that lets your wrist stay static...

...To a trackball mouse that lets your wrist stay static...

When I moved to Korea and began doing more CAD work on a regular basis, I opted for something a little more ergonomic.

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So why is this so much more ergonomically better, you might ask. The diagram below explains...

While the occasional traditional mouse use doesn't do much harm, long term mouse use easily fatigues the forearm and fingers. The vertical mouse reduces tension and prolongs efficient cad work. It's much more like holding a pencil or stylus.

While the occasional traditional mouse use doesn't do much harm, long term mouse use easily fatigues the forearm and fingers. The vertical mouse reduces tension and prolongs efficient cad work. It's much more like holding a pencil or stylus.

Anker is another reputable computer accessory brand that offered a similar standing mouse. The design is very similar to the generic re-brand I bought in Korea, but the matte and sightly soft-touch plastic certainly felt like an upgrade. It also featured an additional thumb button towards the top of the mouse that I never really used, but it seemed like it could be useful for some. 

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I really bought into the Anker ergo mouse. Not only was it built tighter and better than my generic standing mouse version 1.0, but it became so critical to my work that I carried it along with my laptop wherever I went. I eventually even bought an additional identical mouse so that I could leave one at my office, and have one at home. But the more I used the Anker mouse for super heavy CAD work, the more I realized I had some minor complaints. By super heavy CAD use, I mean like 8+ hours a day of 3d modeling, in addition to 2+ hours of other nonchalant computer activity.

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For a long time, I had heard of another ergo mouse company called Evoluent. While I held off mainly because of the difference in price, it did intrigue me that they focused solely on mice. So why the heck were they so much more expensive? At some point, after getting a new project retainer, I indulged myself in ordering one on Amazon. It only took me a half day's use to realize what a difference the Evoluent mouse made. 

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I immediately noticed the weighting of the mouse was different. There's a fine balance between a mouse being too hard to move around, and one that's too light. Also, click and scroll feel is important to someone like me who uses the scroll wheel to zoom in and out. With the Evoluent, you feel the scroll clicks, but they're not so annoying and loud. 

The biggest key difference lies in the part of the mouse that I have circled above in red. I call this 'the pinkie pad'. While after heavy use of a traditional mouse, some users get wrist burn – heavy use of previous standing mice began to give me pinkie burn, along with the whole side end of my hand from pinkie to wrist. The pinkie pad on the Evoluent gave my pinkie a place to rest and this began to make a huge difference. The curvature of the mouse also feels the most natural. Trust me, when I first started looking into standing ergonomically friendly mice, I was quite turned off by the pictures and shape, but it's really not as bad as it looks. For actual users, you get more of a view of that on the right and really, it's crying out to your hand to hold it, and it feels good. An added bonus for Evoluent? They make LEFT HANDED mice too. Give it a shot, especially if you've been on the fence or are already in pain like I was.

Cheers,

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Land Lost and Land-locked in Seoul

I've mentioned in several blog posts already about having spent time working for Byoung Soo Cho in Seoul, Korea. During my stay, I really got to know Seoul for the first time in my life. Amongst all the fantastic memories of urban life and constant metropolitan redevelopment, I was left wondering about a piece of land I would often pass by near the city's center. Having a project site just down the street, I would ask co-workers and even family members why this piece of perfectly well-situated land was being unused surrounded by a tall fence, but no one seemed to really know or have an answer. The best I got was thinking maybe it was sensitive government land or maybe even contaminated land under environmental review (long-term EIR?).

Here's a shot of the TT Towers (photo by my friend Hwang Wooseop) just to the south of the empty site.

Here's a shot of the TT Towers (photo by my friend Hwang Wooseop) just to the south of the empty site.

The red buildings were the site of the Twin Tree Towers that BCHO Architects designed. See that piece of land just to the north and slightly east? An empty void in one of the most expensive parts of Seoul, perfectly well situated between Gyeongbuk Palace, Gwanghwamun Plaza, and Insadong. 

The red buildings were the site of the Twin Tree Towers that BCHO Architects designed. See that piece of land just to the north and slightly east? An empty void in one of the most expensive parts of Seoul, perfectly well situated between Gyeongbuk Palace, Gwanghwamun Plaza, and Insadong. 

So any guesses as to why the land isn't developed? 

The site would make for a pretty awesome studio design project, in my opinion.

The site would make for a pretty awesome studio design project, in my opinion.

Approximately  40,771.50 square meters of land, completely un(der)-developed. 

Approximately  40,771.50 square meters of land, completely un(der)-developed. 

I recently came about reading some news that the land is actually "locked" for any development due to flight restrictions. Being so close to Gyeongbuk Palace and the Blue House (yep, that would be the White House equivalent of South Korea) there are a lot of security vulnerabilities that restrict buildings from being taller. I remember when we worked on the TT Towers, we had to coordinate with government security for some of these items. 

Here's a greener view of the pocket of land that remains undeveloped. There are buildings along the perimeter that are in use and accessed from exterior side streets, such as the two buildings in the foreground to the right. 

Here's a greener view of the pocket of land that remains undeveloped. There are buildings along the perimeter that are in use and accessed from exterior side streets, such as the two buildings in the foreground to the right. 

Upon researching who actually owns the land, I was surprised to see that it isn't the government. In fact, the deed to the land has changed hands several times, mostly through big name Korean companies and corporations but due to government restrictions on the land, each optimistic owner seems to have kept their fingers crossed hoping for some new slack, only to be disappointed in their investment and selling it off to another sanguine developer. After your pick of Hyundai, Samsung, and others, the land most currently belongs to the Korean Air family. 

It's fun to think about what might happen there over time. What if the capital of South Korea were to move to Sejong City, or if Korea were to re-unify down the line. It's a gold-mine piece of land that is waiting to be developed into something new and exciting.

ArchiTalks #30: Ugly

This month's ArchiTalks topic is... "Ugly".

So I have a confession to make. I'm super late to this blog post due to something quite ugly myself. I started having what I thought was simple muscle soreness last weekend, then what turned into patches of skin rashes on the back of my shoulder and increased sensitivity along my shoulder and upper arm. I feared it might be shingles (rashes and nerve pain) and went to the doctor's office on Monday morning. The doctor ordered a skin swab test and it came back Tuesday morning as negative, but my rashes were getting worse. I let the doctor know and he said it's probably a false negative since the rashes weren't blistering yet. In short, I had shingles: rashes along my back shoulder, under arm, and breast – UGLY!

Anyways, I did want to contribute to the blogroll, as a few weeks ago, I saw this image in my twitter feed:

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As I near the last quarter of my 3-year term on the city's architecture review board, I can certainly relate to having seen A LOT of this kind of "architectural style." In horror, I remember we were almost encouraged *gasp* to design like this in an urban design internship I did while in school over ten years ago in a totally different city mind you.

But the real sad truth is the impact of planning and zoning codes in cities. Some of you are saying "womp womp, quit your complaining, be more creative", but it's really worth considering the impact that these zoning regulations that force architects and designers literally into boxes. Whether it has to do with massing and maxing out, or something worse like parking, these planning rules do have a significant impact on architecture, often leaving us with a lot more ugly than we'd like to see. 

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Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Ugly Architecture Details

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
ugly is ugly

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
unsuccessful, not ugly: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Ugly is in The Details

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Ugly

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Ugly, sloppy, and wrong - oh my!

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
[ugly] buildings [ugly] people

Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Is My House Ugly? If You Love It, Maybe Not!

Nisha Kandiah - ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
the ugly truth

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Behold

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
A Little Ugly Never Hurt Anyone

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Ugly or not ugly Belgian houses?

Ilaria Marani - Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
ArchiTalks #30: Ugly

Larry Lucas - Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
Die Hard: 7 Ugly Sins Killing Your Community

COLUMBUS: A Story of Balance Based on Asymmetry

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A couple Fridays ago, we took the office to a movie screening in San Francisco. Of course this means it had to be an architecture movie, and it was, COLUMBUS. 

On a personal note, COLUMBUS was directed by Kogonada, a Korean American, who also cast another Korean American in John Cho to play the lead. I had to let that sink in as a fellow Korean American... Wow. Okay, now back to my review.

Let me start by saying that this probably not the best movie to take your whole family to. In fact, your significant other may not even totally enjoy this movie depending on their preference of genre and attention span. As excited as I was to watch it, I will admit that there were moments where even I wondered if it had to be this slow. It's a very poetic motion picture that is definitely considered "indie" in today's day and age, but it's a beautiful portrayal of a story line hand-in-hand with architecture from Columbus, Indiana. 

As the main characters get to know one another, one of the first memorable lines for me is a description of Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church as an asymmetric design, but one that is still balanced. This line rang through the movie as a whole in its portrayal of parallel lives of father and son. 

You don't have to know or even love architecture to enjoy this movie, but it certainly does make the movie a little more worth watching if you do have some architectural interest. It's obvious from both the script writing and cinematography that the director is an architectural enthusiast himself. Never having been to Columbus, I feel as though his movie did a great job opening my eyes and interest in visiting in the future, and just how important architecture can be a backdrop and even a main character in story telling film. 

ArchiTalks #29: Homecoming

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series (led by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect ) where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme of "Looking Back / Homecoming" is brought you by our fearless leader himself, Bob Borson. A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below this blog post. We strongly encourage you to visit the other blogs that are a part of this themed blog roll.

Homecoming, in 3 parts.

Unless it's at the very end of something, like somebody's life, or before something is seriously no more, IMO homecoming is overrated. That's not to say I don't appreciate them, or that I haven't had any of my own, but I look at my life and can estimate I've lived about 1/3 of it now and think I'm probably being way too dramatic to envelop myself in my homecomings. This is probably why "Looking Back," is a better way to put things. In any case, I've had some homecomings as I look back. 

Part 1: I've already had an (my) architectural homecoming. If you've kept up with my blog posts and know a little bit of my background, you know that I've already had an architectural homecoming. Long story short, I Yellow Page (what's that?) cold-called several architects in my town while in high school and the person that invited me to come observe and learn is the same guy that I'm working with now, and for the past 5 years or so. He's signed off on the majority of my IDP (now known as AXP) hours for experience development and has served as a mentor in areas even outside of architecture. While it was weird and to come back as an architectural adult and work with him, he extended the invite and I'm glad I did it. It's been sort of an unconventional path, but I've been able to reap the benefits as well. 

Part 2: Korea. I perhaps even bigger homecoming was going to live and work in Korea after graduating from college. As a Korean American, I immigrated with my parents to the states in 1988. Up until this point, I had never gone back to Korea to actually live there, though I had visited very briefly a few times for funerals, family gatherings, and what not. I had an opportunity after my last year in architecture school to go back to Korea and work for an architect who had some Americans on his staff. It was an amazing experience and opportunity for me to live in the country I was born in, and also learn a lot about the profession of architecture and approach to design.  

Part 3: Giving back. I look forward to another architectural homecoming of sorts, if and when I am ever to be called back to my alma mater to teach. I have such wonderful memories from architecture school and have many professors to thank for my time there and giving me the strength to push forward and graduate on time ("on time" being 5 years since it's a 5 year program). Almost 10 full years into the profession since graduating from college, I'm very often I find myself saying, 'that would make a great architecture studio project.' In fact, I've gone so far as to even start writing class syllabuses for several of these projects. 

In conclusion, I've done it again. I started out by saying 'homecomings' and 'looking back' is overrated, and yet somehow manage to write about it in 3 parts (2, since the 3rd was more about a future homecoming?). As much as I appreciate the past (architectural history is damn important) and my own past for that matter (not as important), I look forward to the future much more so. Future projects, future opportunities, future clients, and future relationships. Now go check out the other blogs below.


Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Coming home as an architect

Jane Vorbrodt - Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Looking Back Through the Pages

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Coming Home to Architecture

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
looking back i wonder

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
9-11 -- A Look Back

Michael Riscica AIA - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Homecoming & Looking Back

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Letter to a Younger Me

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Is It a Homecoming If You Never Left?

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Homecoming

Architalks #27: Mentorship

This month’s #Architalks theme was suggested by Michael Lavalley, another regular contributor on our blog roll. #Architalks were originally started by Life of an Architect, Bob Borson. Excuse my late posting of this month’s topic. I was celebrating my local NBA team’s winning of the championship series, and it completely slipped my mind that I needed to come back and officially publish this post. If you like this post, be sure to check out the others as a part of the blog roll listed at the bottom.

Mentorship is actually a pretty big deal in the architectural profession. In fact, in order to become an licensed architect, one needs to have a mentor (or mentors) and they often shape the kind of work the mentee may produce in the future whether they know it or not. When coming fresh out of the academic environment, it's a blessing to have mentors that understand the office and business side of architecture. 

As I look back on my career, I have been fortunate enough to have several mentors throughout the different offices I've been able to work at, but I have two mentors that really shaped the way I work and the way I think about architecture as a profession, and as a whole. As an Asian American architectural professional, it's funny how these two mentors have balanced my ethnic identity as well.

My first mentor is someone I can still go to on a daily basis, even at the wee hours of the night or morning if needed. He's the one that gave me my first chance to really see and experience an architectural office, and I continue to consult with him presently. His name is Karl Sherwood-Coombs. Karl has been an architect here in the Bay Area / Silicon Valley for a long long time. He's a part of the older generation that learned to draft by hand on large drafting tables but at the same time, he is computer literate though not to the extent of producing CAD drawings. He attended Stanford's architecture program in addition to his previous degree from Texas, and worked for such local offices as Steinberg Architects and ACS Architects, the latter which he eventually came to own. What I appreciate most about Karl is his belief in me. He's instilled in me confidence as an architectural professional and designer.

My other mentor is an architect I met almost purely by chance in South Korea. The summer before my fifth year in architecture school, I took a month-long trip to Korea to do some soul-(Seoul?)-searching and ran across an office that appeared to be a bit more westernized. The architect's name was Byoung Soo Cho and he studied at the GSD and eventually taught there too, in addition to teaching at MSU. When I got a quick office tour at Byoung's, he casually said I should work there upon graduating and to keep in touch. He said this so casually that I thought for sure he was kidding. 'He probably says that to everybody,' I thought. When it came close to graduating, I kept thinking back on that encounter and sent him an email. He asked when I wanted to come and even paid for my plane ticket! Working for and learning from Byoung was a priceless experience. From his whimsical sketches, he would expect us to turn them into buildings on the computer utilizing 3d CAD software. He had an eye for detail and a desire to carry through a design idea at almost any cost. It was at Byoung's office I really learned the meaning of hard work and it paying off.  

If you want even more on mentorship, go listen to Archispeak Podcast episode #115 on Mentorship here.


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

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
mentor was on the odyssey

Mark R. LePage - EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Influence

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
ArchiTalks: 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 (@BuildingsRCool)
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

Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Bah Humbug!

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 ?

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Mentor5hip is...

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


ArchiTalks -- Advice for Clients

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a theme and a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is Advice for Clients… To read how others interpreted the theme please click the links at the bottom of this post…

Typically, our first meeting with clients is done as an advice session where we can get to know one another and very often the site or building that is at hand. The majority of our professional work is in single family residential design. Here are our top 3 pieces of advice for clients:

1. Trust your architectural professional.

A lot of clients seem to think they know it all, but this can be made worse when they don't fully trust you. Assuming you've hired a competent architectural professional, trust them to do their job! As a client, you will feel much less stressed, and empower the architect to architect [see below].

2. Let your architect, architect.

Frank Gehry had a great line that resonates with a lot of architects:

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There are certain instances where we wonder if our client or potential client really means to hire a draftsman over an architect. It's not uncommon to get inquiries that state they've already figured out the design of their addition or at least where the addition needs to go. If you're a potential client reading this, knowing where your addition needs to go will not save you money. We don't discount our fees after hearing that you've already figured out what you think might be "the hard part." You don't go to the doctor because you already know exactly what's wrong with you and to say "by the way, you really ought to prescribe me such and such." 

Our best project clients are the ones who let us architect. They lay out their wishlist of needs, program, current problems, and then we help solve and resolve them. 

3. It takes time. There are many moving parts. 

One of the priorities a lot of our clients have is with regards to time. They've just bought a place, or are in escrow, and need to be able to move into their remodeled home within a certain period of time. 

While very often we can hit the ground running and begin working on their project, this doesn't always mean we can have permit drawings ready in two weeks. Besides the architect, there are also many other team members and moving parts. You may need a civil engineer's site survey, an arborist report, structural engineering is almost always a part of every project ,

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

Rosa Sheng - EquitybyDesign [EQxD] (@EquityxDesign)

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

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

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,

Nisha Kandiah - ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Advice for clients

Rusty Long - Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Advice 4 Building

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

House or Home – Architalks #24

This month's #architalks focuses on the discussion topic of "House or Home," as suggested by Keith Palma.

We take a lot of pride in our work, and our projects. Seeing that the overwhelming majority of our work is single family residential, we are all about making a house a home. So what's with the lingo? What is the difference between a 'house' and a 'home' anyways? For us,  the term 'house' refers to an empty building, without owners, without life. It's just the structure, bones, and envelope without activity and a sense of time. What makes a 'house' a 'home' is the living and breathing life and users that give spirit to space. On top of that, we also feel a strong obligation to designing and making spaces that truly become a part of the lives of its users. 

There's a level of ownership and 'made to design' that we like to explore in every one of our projects. Whether it's the perfect custom height for door levers, the ideal layout for a shower with bench and shampoo niche, or just that semi-private nook for a mail and throwing your keys, there are special spaces that really make a house a home.

Here in the Silicon Valley, housing prices can be absurd. Very often we have clients where both partners may work full time for tech firms, make six-digit salaries, yet they've spent so much money purchasing a run down house, that they're left with very little money for remodeling. It's also very often the case that their family is growing and a cost-effective addition is desired. We always stress to them that the money they're spending on professional architectural services is also quite just a fraction of construction costs, yet probably the most valuable. This is where we get to roll up our sleeves and try to instill some architectural design magic


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

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

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
House or Home? The Answer to Everything

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
our house is 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

Samantha R. Markham - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
6 Ways to Make your Architecture Studio feel like Home

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

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

Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)

Rusty Long - Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
House or Home

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
I don't design homes

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

Tim Ung - Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
Architalks - A House is not a home

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

Loaded with Style – Architalks #23 Style

This month's Architalk topic is "style." Before reading too far into this post, don't get me wrong, I think the discussion topic of 'style' is great. It needs to be flushed out of my system, and I have nothing against style or a particular style, but it's what the word implies that can get me worked up.

"Style," is a loaded word in my opinion. From a lay person, it's probably one of the first questions I get asked as an architect, "what's style do you design in, what is your favorite style?" 

I'm here today to tell you that I could almost care less about that kind of style. I appreciate most styles of architecture, but I'm much more into the character of architecture and good design, rather than what style a building is. For example, we've designed homes in a craftsmen style, mediterranean style, we've done additions to Eichlers, and even changed the style of a house at the owners request – but what's important to us, is how well the users can use and interact with the building, and in some cases, how well the building works with people that have to pass by it on a day to day basis. Architecture is not underwear. You can't design it just for you and think you're the only one that's important, the only one that's going to see it. Architecture is a public statement in most cases, and you have to keep in mind the public will see and interact with it too.

"Architecture is not underwear. You can't design it just for you and think you're the only one that's important, the only one that's going to see it..."

"Architecture is not underwear. You can't design it just for you and think you're the only one that's important, the only one that's going to see it..."

Style almost implies a sense of temporary inclusion. "That's so 90's style." "That's like the style of Frank Lloyd Wright." These are moments in time, not long-lasting pillars of design. The style of a house can change, but the layout and fundamentals of Architecture will last a building's lifetime.

Even Frank Lloyd Wright designed in several different 'styles' believe it or not. Do yourself a favor and go listen to 99% Invisible's episode on Usonia.

Even Frank Lloyd Wright designed in several different 'styles' believe it or not. Do yourself a favor and go listen to 99% Invisible's episode on Usonia.

When we get asked what style we design in, we say, "we design in all styles, but the style that is best for you, and the style that is best for the building." 


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

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!

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

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

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

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Stylized Hatred

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
What's in a Style?

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

New Year, New Name: J&K Atelier

Not to be redundant (well actually, to be redundant), we're making a little announcement with the New Year (yes, albeit a few days late). For the past two years, Hanna and I have been running a small practice called 'Palo Alto Design Studio'. We live and work in the City of Palo Alto, and we've come to love our town and its inhabitants, along with the clients we've served.

I for one have always been a strong proponent for not using my own name in the name of my practice (look away if you thought the same...). In the past, it's kind of turned me off as someone who's worked for one of these firms. I always felt like I was working for a name, rather than a purpose. I've also found it awkward when firms transition leadership and the name (name of the firm which contains the name of the person or peoples) no longer has any meaning or presence. 

However, as our practice has taken off, we've discovered that there was a possibility of misleading people to a conflict of interest, and underlying innuendos that we wanted to avoid. Hence, after a long struggle, we've decided to rename our practice to J&K Atelier.

The 'J&K' is pretty straightforward. Yes, I've lost my battle to avoid my name and have placed hope in the fact that it will actually benefit our firm. I've also been reminded that the leadership of our practice is highly unlikely to change for the next 25+ years (*fingers crossed*). The J is for Hanna's last name, Joo. The K is for my own last name, Kim. We always work together as a team, J&K. 

'Atelier' is French for 'workshop' or 'studio', especially in the sense of an artist's, artisan's, or designer's workshop. An atelier is a place of creativity, and we feel that word fits us like a glove. We also searched high and low for a name that would stick and roll off your tongue in a way that you could remember it. That was one of the benefits of our previous branding scheme. People here are familiar with the city, the color, the name. With our new name, we really like the way it rolls off your tongue. "Jay and Kay Attel Leeae" kind of rhymes. Say it 5 times fast and your bound to have it memorized. Put it together with the two principles Joo and Kim and you'll forever remember J&K Atelier. At least that's our hope! Happy New Year!

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