Category Archives: Architalks

Architalks #24 : House or Home

This is the twenty-fourth post in a group series called #ArchiTalks in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect gives a group of us architects a theme or a set of questions and we all have to post our response… this month’s theme: “House or Home”

House or Home?

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

― Maya Angelou

As architects and designers, we want to design a space that our clients can build memories in. But, what happens when our client is a builder or developer, and the person who will occupy the house and call it home is merely represented by a statistical data on the demographic study we base our design off of? How do we connect the dots and provide a viable solution that appeases multigenerational and multicultural occupants?

Realtors bake cookies when they hold open houses to create a friendly and inviting atmosphere. The only trick up our sleeve to make a person feel at home is good design.

What makes good design?

A casual homeowner poll about “what makes good design” came back with responses like “I really love the retreat in the master suite. It helps me wind down at the end of the day” “My house is like a stair master. It has worked wonders on my memory though- I never forget my keys or glasses in our third floor bedroom” “Our backyard. Even though it’s limited in space, the blooming jasmines transport me to a different world”. “The kitchen island is the soul of our house – it’s the center of all action. I love how our family stays connected throughout the evening” The list goes on.

Everyone responds emotionally to a unique space within their house. If you ask anyone what makes a house a home, they will come up with responses like “scribbling on the wall with a sharpie by the resident artist” “familiarity of items they have owned and used” “emotional connection to people and spaces”, and above all “sense of safety and belonging”.

According to the research conducted by Tom Albright, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, “Architectural design and environments are capable of eliciting an array of emotions, thus the physical, social, and aesthetic qualities of our surroundings can have a deep effect on people”. Tom Albright cites an example of a project in Holland that utilizes recognizable interior design and simple floor plans to mitigate anxiety and discomfort in dementia patients.

Humans respond to built environments.

What they don’t realize is, when they fall in love with a unique space in their house, it is their response to the design elements provided by the architect for human comfort, safety and well being. Your architect worries, so you don’t have to worry. The demographics study does not give us insights into the particular and personal interests of the future home owner to customize a product for them. But, by providing ambient light, careful connection of spaces and planned privacy areas, we can provide a backdrop and blank space for them to make memories.

What makes my house a home?

I live in a California Pacific detached condominium product that wasn’t designed for me, or for my family. This is the house I have lived the longest in my adult life. May be the design elements give a feeling of comfort inside the house. May be the well planned community spaces around the house, and access to amenities make it convenient to live.  Home for me where my family is, where my dog is, and where my friends visit me – and where I belong. But the house enhances that experience by putting our comfort and safety before everything.

Pic : The sunlight filtering through the windows..

Read what other architects say about “House or Home”

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

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
I don’t design homes



Architalks #23 : Style

This is the twenty-third post in a group series called #ArchiTalks in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect gives a group of us architects a theme or a set of questions and we all have to post our response… this month’s theme: “Style”

“Your decorating style is Modern, with a hint of Contemporary and a dash of Rustic” said Houzz, and I agree. What’s on my desk right now is Irving Gill inspired with a hint of Le Corbusier and a dash of Spanish, and where I live is Spanish with a hint of Irving Gill and a dash of The Irvine Company’s genius. Which style should I elaborate on? Or should I just push all this aside and share the stylish black-white and grey wardrobe with the geometric patterns under the title “My Style”. Bob wants us to post all at the same time so that we let our creativity run wild and don’t get influenced by each other’s interpretation of the keyword for Architalks. What if I don’t conform to a style.. am I still adhering to Bohemian?

My reading style.

That’s what I want to elaborate on. Not my studying style, even though I want to run in that direction considering I still have an ARE test to take, and still have to figure out how I will fit studying into work-life-parent-volunteer-caregiver life. It’s boring to talk about studying unless you are talking to people who are studying. I will stick to general reading, architectural reading, and of course how I read.

I love paper.

I have a kindle, I have several tablets with kindle app, and I have bought books on kindle. But I love reading books on real paper. They have to stay on my counter, and haunt me to read them, or they have to grace my book case bringing me the happy reading memories. It cannot be virtual, it has to be real, this relationship. My kindle is filled with books I haven’t finished reading. Although, I have to admit, when I read on kindle no one interrupts me to ask how is book, or whether I have read the author’s other book that they have read. Kindle is the introvert’s defense number one.

With coffee, or with Scotch.

Bring on the coffee, and hold the scotch. Drunk reading is as dangerous as drunk driving. If you have the slightest of dyslexia, you know what I mean. You skip a word, you skip a sentence, or sometimes you mix things up. I have had a reading session where I read the same sentence again and again, and wondered what was so important about the sentence that the author felt strong enough to repeat. With coffee, it’s a different story. Bring on the Eames Beautiful Details, and a cup of well made coffee, you have defined heaven to me. I will watch those pictures until they come to life.

Never used, never vintage.

I own Neutra, Eames and a stack of Building Construction books. Frank Lloyd Wright is always welcome. The recent addition to the group is Taliesin Dairies, still in it’s original wrapping. That means no one has touched the book to browse through the pages, and I am the first one. My Eames Beautiful Details came home like that, but I didn’t expect Taliesin Dairies to be packaged so. Owning architecture books makes me happy, and I love books in their original packaging. I have taken over a bookcase in the house to put my collection on display, and if I could, I would take both of our bookcases.

Companion reading.

I promised I won’t bring up the AREs. Here, I break that promise. Thing about AREs is that even if you put your test taking on “hold” to attend to other priorities in life that moment, they are in the back of your mind. They are like that little dot they use to test your peripheral vision. There is no escaping. With only structures remaining, I have cleaned out my desk and just kept a couple of books I use for Structures. But Structures being Structures, I feel the need to have for my companion dog to calm me down..

So, that’s my style. My style of reading.

What’s your style?

Other Architalks “Style” walk here:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

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)

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

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Stylized Hatred

Tagged ,

Architalks #19 : Dear Future Architects

Note: This is the nineteenth post in a group series called #ArchiTalks in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect gives a group of us architects a theme or a set of questions and we all have to post our response. This month’s theme: “Dear Future Architect”

Dear Future Architect,

Welcome to the brave new world.

You have made a choice- a complicated choice. Architecture is never a job, rarely it’s limited to a career, and almost always a lifestyle. Education will teach you that sleep is for losers, work-life will forever be a fine balance between the brown of the coffee and amber of the Whiskey.  Within the choice are a hundred hurdles- lack of diversity, generalized gender roles, pay and equity discrimination. Thousand rewards await as well -. you are appreciated, you are honored, and you are needed to create a community. Built environment is after all a necessity, not a novelty.

Architecture is all about buildings – but, architecture will never be only about buildings.

A license to sign and stamp the drawings, a good understanding of Building Codes and accessibility requirements to uphold the safety of the occupant, and coordination with the consultants and contractors to ensure that your building will be strong and efficient – this will be a very basic outline of your responsibilities. Sometimes voluntary, and sometimes mandatory will be a step towards sustainability.

You still haven’t noticed, but Architecture has another side also – the ethical side.

There is a Code of Ethics that you will adhere to when you design. It’s your northern light, guiding you while you guide a community with your design. You will adhere to it, but if you make a little effort, you will uphold it, you will support it and you will promote it. You might think it’s something only for the Architect of record to worry about, or for the company you work for to adhere to – I will tell you otherwise. You – the intern, the designer, the project manager.. all of you have the power to propagate it. Just like equity and equality are not issues limited to certain gender, code of ethics is not limited to only people liable for the design.

Read them, understand them, know them and be them.

“Rule 1.401 : Members shall not discriminate in their professional activities on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, or sexual orientation.”

This one in particular, I want to elaborate on.

Architects are people too- we have our own religious and political affiliations, and cultural influences. But, on a broader and much bigger scale, we have a responsibility that transcends our personal opinions – small informed decisions that we make have the ability to influence a generation’s acceptance of societal changes. It’s activism when led by people – it’s an accepted change when it finds a place in your building. Be that change, bring that change.

Restrooms are a mirror to the social and societal conditions of a community.

Third world is struggling to design safe restrooms for women and children. Developed countries have provided access to public restrooms as a right- in fact plumbing code is a law of the particular jurisdiction that adopts it under the building codes. As we stabilize on a magical formula to decide the perfect number of restrooms needed for a buildings, we realize that there is more to restrooms than what we intended to provide. Gender is no longer limited to male and female, and sexual orientations have evolved. But the restrooms we provide are still male, female and sometimes family depending on the plumbing calculations and code requirements. We, as a society aren’t completely ready and open towards the idea of gender neutral restrooms yet. We are still evolving, and so are our ideas and ideals.

So, dear future architect, realize that future of architecture is not only about video game inspired futuristic design ideas and blending technological advances into built environment. Future of architecture is more than how we draw and how we build – it has been, and will always be about how we design, and how we live- help live. Future will be helping the community blur “separate but equal” treatment of citizens through intelligent and ethical design.  Yesterday it was about erasing “colored only” restrooms and segregated drinking fountains. Today it is about inclusive design for LGBTQIA+ and saving the polar ice cap . Tomorrow is open to your imagination.

Educate ourselves with the physical, mental and emotional requirements of the occupants, identify the areas that need change -some of you will lead, some of you will follow and some of you will abide reluctantly when it becomes a “code”- and some of your ideas will remain ideas forever. So, future architects, educate yourselves- educate yourselves about people, about what people want, about what people need – today, tomorrow and in the future.

Recently I was on the UCLA campus. Restroom signage never brought so much happiness before- this one was special.  A “Unisex” bathroom was rechristened as an “All Gender Restroom”, Braille ADA requirements incorporated. As much as we hate labels, there are labels that help than harm. Unisex is gender neutral, but All-gender is gender inclusive. Little things like this are not something your client will ask for, or your building official will look for, and you probably won’t even get a pat on the back for that extra effort. But, in the long run, your contribution in not only appreciated and valued, it has also helped ease the acceptance of the changes.

In short, eat the whale – by choice.

Building design will be an on-going process where life will imitate architecture sometimes, and architecture will imitate life sometimes. The key is to continue the efforts towards a greater cause – be it within the industry, or within the society, or anywhere in the world that we can hear a cry and respond to. You, the future architect are not limited by walls and ceilings, or building systems – Think beyond what your scope of work is.

Be a catalyst in integration, not isolation.

With love,

Your ever-evolving community

Read what my friends have to share with the future architects:

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Dear Boy in the Plastic Bubble,

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Dear Future Architects: A Confession

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Dear Future Architects: You Need to Hear This

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Dear Future Architects: 4 Perspectives

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
dear future architects

Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Dear Future Architects

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Dear Future Architects: 3 letters

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
future architects: #architalks

Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Dear Future Architect, Listen Here

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Dear Future Architect — Remember Then

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“Dear Future Architects,”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Dear Future Architects..

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Dear Future Young Architects… Please Quit Screwing Around!?!!

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Dear Future Architects: Don’t makes these 4 Mistakes

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Dear Future Architects

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Dear Future Architects, Be Authentic

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
Dear Future Anthony

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Dear Future Architect,

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Dear Future Architects…

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Dear future architects, never lose your optimism

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Dear future architects, are you credible?

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
Dear Future Architect, a Letter to My Younger Self

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Dear Future Architects…

Ken Saginario – Twelfth Street Studio ()
Dear Future Architects…



Architecture and Mathematics – Architalks #18

Note: This is the eighteenth post in a group series called #ArchiTalks in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect gives a group of us architects a theme or a set of questions and we all have to post our response. This month’s theme: “Architecture and  _____”.


Geography and culture influence the architectural expression of every civilization, and in turn, the design intent of any building becomes an extension of the beliefs of the culture they represent. If not for this diversity of beliefs and ideas, all buildings in the world would look the same. But, in spite of the diverse materials and methods, there is a force that unifies all architecture in the world under one universal language – Mathematics.

India, the land of diversity – the land of mathematics and architecture. Languages, religions, subcultures dictate Architecture.

Nowhere else in the world will you see temples, mosques and churches along with Buddhist monasteries coexisting peacefully in the same community along with new construction. Growing up an adamant agnostic, I visited these religious edifices with family and friends, but to me the God was in the Architecture-God was in the details of these structures, not in a idol in front of me.  Every religious monument that has survived the brunt of nature and lived to tell the story of a culture has always offered much more insight into the level of their mathematical advancement than the God they chose to believe in.

South Indian Hindu temples have followed the principles of fractals in design, and Trigonometry. Education later explained Fractals as “infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales”, but fractals were explained to me through architecture much before that. Prime knots and Borromean Triangles adored temple pillars as carvings. The walls and ceilings had elaborate geometrical motifs. It makes you wonder, was there a Design Guideline for Temples on how to incorporate Advanced Mathematics in Architecture to educate the community?

Tessellating polygons were used in motifs along the expanses of the walls of a mosque. Advanced concepts in Geometry were used to form innovative dome shapes like the eight-point star instead of rotating ribs. The monuments also combined acoustics with geometry, incorporating elements like whispering galleries and echo chambers. Were they given algorithms to use in design and construction? What was the intent of mathematical extravaganza at a mausoleum?  Were art and mathematics integral components of Architecture much before the push to make STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) STEAM (STEM +Art and Design)?

The Golden Ratio. Fibonacci Sequences. Symmetry. Alignment. Hyperbolic Paraboloids. Hyperboloids. Arches. Domes. Tetrahedrons. They are not all parts of a Mathematics book, they are design principles and components used in Church Architecture. Construction methods advanced heavily using the mathematical principles. Did mathematics evolve to help execute design ideas? Did design evolve based on mathematical discoveries? Were the pioneer architects mathematicians, architects and masons with extensive work experience?

Architecture is, is a three-dimensional mathematical model that is abstract and absolute at the same time. The proportion and massing of buildings is an abstract idea, but every building detail is an absolute solution to that idea. Under the banner of Architecture, every building is a time capsule to showcase the philosophical, mathematical and artistic developments of that era. All you need to do is look up, and look around to see the relation.

Architecture and Mathematics turned into Religious Architecture and Mathematics. Alright. I will leave you with a smile on your face. Did you know that the Chinese Architects used the “Theory of Geometric Progression” to design Harems so that the Emperor didn’t have scheduling issues for his nightly pleasure?

Want to read what my Architect friends thought about when Bob Borson said “Architecture and ________?” Visit the links, share them on Twitter, and like them on Facebook if you can – According to the Theories and Principles of Statistical Data mining, Architects can benefit from that kind of love:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Life of an Architect

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Architecture and a Future Without Architects

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
architecture and __

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Architecture and Travel

Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Architecture and Gaming

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
architecture and m&ms

Rosa Sheng – EquitybyDesign [EQxD] (@EquityxDesign)
Architecture And the Era of Connection

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#ArchiTalks 18: architecture and… the bigger picture

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks 18: Architecture and Mathematics

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Architalks 18: Architecture and … Parenting

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Architecture and Yoga

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Architecture and Ego

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Architecture and Ego / The Architect’s Unique Struggle with ‘Good’ Design

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Architecture and Kids

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Architecture and More

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Architecture and the Myth of the Master Builder

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Architecture and Interior Design

Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Architecture and Wrestling

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Architecture + Memories

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
[#ArchiTalks 18] Architecture and Strange Travel Etiquette

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Architecture and…my Generation.

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Architecture and Photography


Tools of an Architect – Architalks #17

Today’s post is the 17th entry in the #ArchiTalks series, a monthly writing event that Bob Borson of Life of an Architect ( created back in July of 2014. The idea behind this series is to take a singular word of phrase and distribute it to a group of architectural bloggers, and let them take it in whatever direction they interpret.

I don’t need much. I am a happy camper as long as I have my ….Canary Trace + Ultra-fine Sharpie + Prismacolor Red Carmine Pencils + 2B Pencils + Staedtler Mars erasers + a good computer with two monitors + a comfortable chair + latest software +++ and the list goes on and on and on about a few very basic tools of survival. A minimalist when it comes to everything else in life (Almost trying the capsule wardrobe), I am a hoarder of sorts with an array of writing, drawing and measuring tools, and a stack of reference books that vary from Building Codes to a ten year old Architecture magazine with something that I found inspiring. I store enough drafting supplies to last an apocalypse. Hard to pick one.

So what is my “tool”?

I spend the day glued to a screen even though I love my drafting supplies. “Proficient in AutoCAD”- that’s a line from my resume, and that line has kept me employed. The fact that I know my pencils has only translated into expressing my line-weights architecturally. I still sketch my ideas- whether I am revising a floor plan, or working on a construction detail. But mostly, it’s a CAD day. It’s been so for the past sixteen years.

Is AutoCAD my “tool”?

Probably not anymore. Recently I went from being a consultant to being a full-time employee. And it happens so, this is the last project we will do in CAD. I will be trained in Revit soon, and we will using Revit for most of our future projects though CAD will still be available for incidental use. Will Revit be my tool ultimately? Time will tell. Ultimately whatever it is will only be a program to convey my ideas. Pencil, AutoCAD or Revit – if it’s a 2-HR wall, it’s still a 2-HR wall irrespective of the color of the pencil or line weight.

So, is the “ability to draw” my tool?

To draw is to convey our idea to the client.
To draw is to represent our intent to build.
To draw is to communicate to the contractor.
To draw is to convince the Bank that this project is feasible.
To draw is to create something that engages generations to come.
To draw is to uphold life and safety over all other things, and be approved by the authorities that are in-charge of life and safety.
To draw is a responsibility.

And thus kicked off a Saturday. #architecture #siteplan

A post shared by Meghana Joshi (@meghanaira) on

On a lighter note, tools an Architect always needs, but rarely talks about: A good stapler, an excellent staple remover, and an efficient carrier to shuttle the drawings to the City for submittals. We have all hurt a finger trying to use a screw driver in lieu of a good staple remover (OK, maybe not you, just me and others). Just a few months ago, I went to “slip sheet” at the City Office, and ruined my own stapler, and jammed the City’s stapler. They don’t deliver what they promise usually- so if you find a perfect one, hold on to it.  Then there are hand trucks- always buy the one double the capacity of what you might need. They tilt, they go out of balance..Not funny when that happens.

Super Bowl 50 ended. No more food and drink service for the day – and now comes the moment of clarity.  Basic tool for my survival, my CHAIR!

A couple of years ago, I became a Consultant, and started working from home. Without much thought to what I really wanted, I walked into Costco and picked up a chair that promised comfort, support and fit my budget. Thanks to the two year old who constantly stood on the base while I was sitting on the chair to keep her engaged with my hair, the chair broke in less than a year. Same story next year. After breaking three chairs in three years, now the daughter in school for the most of the day, and more money in the pocket thanks to the economy, I looked up for inspiration to “do” my home office.

Almost all the posts I scanned, and the images I looked up had very uncomfortable looking chairs. I don’t know how anyone could sit on an ” Eames Molded Wood Side Chair ” no matter how beautiful it looked. Another favorite among the bloggers was the wire chair. I know the wire chair- someone I know has wire chairs as dining rooms chairs. Without cushions. It’s a torture throne of sorts. Or maybe that was the intent to keep calorie intake low. I don’t know. But I couldn’t imagine sitting down for ten hours a day on such chairs, and not being able to move around my “L” desk comfortably.

I bought Herman Miller’s SAYL chair. At $649, it was not affordable as the website suggests, but it was “within” reach. It’s been almost three years now, not a single creak and nothing broke.

I rambled on. I know I did.

But when you start a blog this late in the day, and try to catch up with every Super Bowl ad, and Half-time performances, it’s hard not to ramble. Next time, I will plan better. The “break” ends soon (tonight), and I will hit the books from tomorrow to get on path to Licensure. Hopefully with full time employment, kids and the puppy I will stay on track- thankfully I am surrounded by friends and family that do their best to keep me motivated. After all resilience is the biggest tool in anyone’s toolkit right next to ambition. It’s time, and it’s high time. Three fails in a line have broken my confidence, and I did want to forget the answers to all practice questions before hitting the books again. A fresh start can add better on previous knowledge than opening a book and groaning that I know all this and I don’t know how I failed..

Want to know what other Architects have in their tool kits? Check out the links below..

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Why An Architect’s Voice Is Their Most Important Tool

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
3 Tools to Get Our Clients Engaged and Involved

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The Best Tool In Your Toolbox

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
The Tools That Help Make #AREsketches

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
tools #architalks

Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
One Essential Tool

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Architools – Mind Over Matter

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
10 Power Tools to Kickstart Equity

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#ArchiTalks 17 “Tool”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Tools of an Architect #Architalks 17

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
ArchiTalks #17: Three Tools for Change

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Can we talk?

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
it’s ok, i have a [pen]

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@simplybrinn)
Synergy: The Value of Architects

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Tools for Learning

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Something Old and Something New

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Helpful tools found within an Architecture blog

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Sharpen Your Tools

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Super Tool

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Construction: An Architect’s Learning Tool

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
(CTRL A) (Command-A)- Edit

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Architalks: Work-life, imbalanced and uninterrupted

Note: This is the twelfth post in a group series called #ArchiTalks in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect gives a group of us architects a theme or a set of questions and we all have to post our response… this month’s theme: work/life

A couple of months ago, I wrote these words probably under the influence of work-life circumstances pertaining to that period:

“I have completely given up on work-life balance. There is no such thing. There should be no such thing.

My children are nowhere near their milk guzzling diaper dirtying days when responsibilities didn’t become thoughts that looped endlessly in my overactive brain imagining potentially dangerous situations they could be in.

My work is not dictated by redlines or a chunk of work to be finished in the next two days. It’s overwhelming scope from schematic design to construction administration is not something that can be shut down with that computer, or rolled away from my mind like I roll them up on my desk.

It stays on my mind. Everything around me stays on my mind, throughout the day, and yet I go through everything I want to do with a little mental checklist. Integrated work and life, and hobbies. There are no compartments. Even if there are, they are all headed in the same direction, interconnected.”

Post summer, nothing has changed. Paycheck comes in, pay check disappears. Twenty four hours of the day begin and vaporize. Year is almost nine months down and I may not be nine items down on my checklist. So, when Bob said it’s going to be about Work-life, I had no idea what I would share that I hadn’t already shared on my personal blog in the past several years. So, do I want to write another blog about the great imbalance of my integrated work-life?

Probably not.

Life is beautiful. When you do things that you love to do, even though at times it might be challenging and overwhelming, there is a certain content in that exhaustion. My work-life blog will highlight exactly those little things that make work and life- beautiful.Sort of life this picture – Stretch comfortably to claim a little bit of everything, with a smile!


Archi-License-so that I can be sued.

How can it be about Architecture and not about licensure? You can have a Doctorate, but if you don’t have a license from the State Board, you cannot practice the profession legally.

I am done with my IDP requirements – NCARB reduced the required hours this summer! Finally after consulting with two different firms, I have gathered up the experience to finish the IDP (or whatever it will be called after the board agrees on a name and title). It took me two years and seven months to finish. It’s done. It feels good to be done.But it was not easy to finish- even though I was working more than ten hours a day and weekends at one point in time, I could only report so many hours. Being in the field for almost fifteen years now, I didn’t really have much to learn from the “intern” hours, but the experience taught me a valuable lesson of prioritizing what’s important to me in work, or in life. There were times when I couldn’t make it to Site Visit because “life schedule” clashed with “work schedule”- then there was the balancing act of egos and communication. And then there was a point where I worked with only one goal of “staying at work”. IDP was all about work-life balance to me, and ARE will continue to test the resolve further- only difference is, the only ego that can be broken or will need to be stoked is my own.



My job is simple: I work- You pay- I say thank you and rinse-repeat the process for the next project.

Architecture is multi-faceted. I don’t want to wake up and go to work- said no Architect ever on a Monday morning. I will detach from the profession this weekend- said no Architect as they clinked glasses with friends on a Friday evening. A part of us is always at work- always trying to find inspiration in the weirdest places, always trying to understand a building component. It takes some time for your family to understand and adjust to your needs – it’s not a disability, in fact it’s a super power. I have stared at my Burberry scarf long enough to find inspiration for the color palette of a Storage center – and I have made mental notes about interior details when I watch movies- Vogue is not at all about skinny models and negative body image to me, because I am busy looking at colors working together. Sometimes this super power has adverse effects- when you mentally rearrange your friend’s furniture, or remodel their entire house in your mind while you enjoy their hospitality.

Rain or shine, your Architect is always caffeinated and thinking!


So what happens when I am not busy earning to pay for the exorbitant fees for the personal lessons for piano, chess and Taekwondo, or not driving my taxi from one place to another transporting my children?

I actually enjoy my time with my children!

If one is in a class, I enjoy ice-cream with the other, or I just sit down in the waiting lounge listening to her thoughts flow like dissertation. I know the assignment in her AP English class, I know how she missed her parenthesis and got an error in her AP Computers class, and I also know how she didn’t finish last on her two mile run in her NJROTC class. Oh, I know about boys and the boy troubles too. The younger one has educated me enough about the endangered animals – that happens during the twenty-five minute drive to Fullerton to pick up her sister. She tells me about animals, boys that pick their nose, what dad made for breakfast, what her teacher’s husband said that morning to the teacher.. everything about everything.


This, keeps me going. Since he is not a reader of my ARE blog, I can safely say that whatever I do in life, I can put my energy into it, because man is behind me one hundred percent in whatever my ambitions are except when I want to third baby, or a husky- my either-or condition doesn’t stand a chance. What does the Archi-wife do in return? She adores this man, and makes him feel like the luckiest man in the world.

Married life is all about balance too, especially if you need work-life balance.


I have always been a part of support systems for my friends, and been that four a.m. friend for a few. I have been to soup kitchens, I have written checks to causes I believe in. But this year, after fifteen years from my last membership, I paid out of pocket to be a member of AIA. I always thought volunteering long term with AIA would be for youngsters without family, or empty nesters- because how can anyone with a family find time for anything other than work-feed-rinse-repeat. I was wrong. You find time once you know what you want to do- David inspired me (Thanks David!), when I met him for a study session, and I joined the Communications Committee- I disappear once in a while when life overwhelms, but AIA on Instagram has gone from a 12 followers to 200+ and we are talking Architecture via pictures – Very soon we will find a structure to our postings, but I am glad we continue our efforts!


Architects love their extracurricular activities. You wouldn’t find a single one of us who doesn’t have a passion besides architecture. It’s amazing, how we find time and energy to devote to our little side interests even as we greatly suffer from the work-life imbalances.

I guess that’s how we nurture the artist within us.

So, what’s the Archi-work life?

Archi-life is calling the City office in a car full of carpool children who quiet down when your phone connects and checking on the permit status – because you care.

Archi-life is waking up at the darkest hour of the morning, and dressing up the T to show up at work so that you can finish early and find time to do other things on your priority list.

Archi-life is taking your entire family to the newly opened commercial project of yours, and let them identify what the challenges were, and how you overcame them.

Archi-life is living an integrated life, never compartmentalizing it unless it overwhelms.

Archi-life is having several interests in one job, and taking care of all while you do the job.

Archi-life is all about being happy while you make everyone around you happy, and most importantly those that use your expertise to build..your client and your end users.

So, the next when an Architect says I am trying to seek work-life balance, know that their work has one hundred things trying to find a balance, and their life is overwhelming with relationships, interests and causes they believe in. Our lives aren’t as easy as others- we don’t leave work for life, or life for work – we don’t take it easy.

Smile and sparkle, and keep marching to the beat that makes you happy- everything eventually balances out if hasn’t already. If it doesn’t, it becomes the baseline of the new balance of your life.

Read the views of my Architalks friends about Work-life here:

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC) #ArchiTalks: Work/life…attempts

Bob Borson – Life of an Architect (@bobborson) “Work | Life – Different Letters, Same Word“
Jeff Echols – Architect of the Internet (@jeff_echols) “The One Secret to Work – Life Balance”
Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect) “Living an Integrated Life as a Small Firm Architect”
Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM) “Work/Life…What an Architect Does”
Lee Calisti – Lee CALISTI architecture+design (@leecalisti) “work | life :: dance“
Matthew Stanfield – FIELD 9 Architecture (@FIELD9arch) “Work / Life : Life / Work”
Evan Troxel – Archispeak (@etroxel) 
Cormac Phalen – Archispeak (@archy_type) 
Andrew Hawkins – Hawkins Architecture, Inc (@hawkinsarch) 
Jeremiah Russell – Rogue Architecture (@hawkinsarch) “what makes you giggle? #architalks”
Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect) “Turning Work Off”
Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch) 
Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX) “I Just Can’t Do This Anymore“
Michele Grace Hottel – Architect (@mghottel) “work/life”
Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA) “Architalks: Imbalanced and uninterrupted“
Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar) “ArchiTalks #12: Balance is a Verb”
Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@Missing32Percent) “Work Life Fit: A New Focus for Blurred Lines”
Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC) “An Architect’s House“
Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz) “I am what I am…”
Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs (@Parthenon1) “On Work: Life Balance – Cattywampus is as Good as it Gets”
Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w) “midnight in the garden of [life] and [work]”
Brady Ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA) “Brady Ernst – Family Man Since 08/01/2015“
Sharon George –Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge) “Work = 1/3 Life “
Emily Grandstaff-Rice – (@egraia) 
Collier Ward – Thousand Story Studio (@collier1960) “Work/Life“
Eric T Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome) “Work/Life — A Merger“
Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist) “Work Life Balance: Architecture and Babies – 5 Hints for Expecting Parents“
Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept) “Work is Life“
Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent) “studio / life“
Lindsey Rhoden – SPARC Design (@sparcdesignpc) “Work Life Balance: A Photo Essay“
Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell) ” Work/Life”
Tagged , , ,

Architalks: Why I am an Architect

This month, when Bob Borson (Life of an Architect) sent the Architalks topic, the seemingly simple question had me stumped for answers.

“Why am I am Architect” – to be a Starchitect and be an award winning queen of curves.  

If I were to answer this question just stepping out of teenage, in Architecture school, that would have been my answer. But, twenty years in education and in the industry, my life as an architect is that of a melting pot. Instead of being that Starchitect that my education prepared me for (or spend my life drawing toilet partitions for a Starchitect), I have become a jack of many trades, hacker of many tools- from lifting weights so that I don’t shy away from dragging 150 lbs of drawings to the City office, to finding the best coffee that doesn’t give me acne while stay up the night- architecture thankfully hasn’t merely been a means to pay mortgage. The point being, you don’t be an architect because you love to draw or you love buildings. Those are precisely why I wanted to be an Architect according to my college essay, but frankly no, that shouldn’t be the reason- architects draw to convey a readable idea to the contractor, much like a doctor scribbles code to the pharmacist. Ours look beautiful and presentable, that’s all. So twenty years after that college essay, how do I answer the same question in another continent?

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who want change, and those who want to be the change. Those who want change identify what needs to be changed, and convey it to the world standing on a podium, driving the idea into the minds and hearts of their audience – they stage protests- they create awareness. Then there are others, who put efforts into understanding what’s wrong, and then dedicate every little step of theirs thereafter towards the change they want to bring. I am the second type of activist. The participant activist. In the past twenty years, the focus of my attention in a building has shifted from “Oh, pretty” to “Oh, Sustainable!” But, that doesn’t mean I have a list of net zero projects under my kitty, or I have patents of sustainable building systems.

Sustainability can’t be like some sort of a moral sacrifice or political dilemma or a philanthropical cause. It has to be a design challenge – Bjarke Ingels

Buildings. From the moment you were born to that moment they hold your wake, your life is boxed in buildings yet you don’t realize how much thought and how many efforts go behind the planning and execution of these buildings so that you, the user, are comfortable. Buildings also contribute to 39% of the carbon emissions, and 72% of the total electricity consumptions. If I am designing four buildings a year, each one roughly a hundred thousand square feet, I will be responsible for two hundred buildings, and a total of at least twenty million square feet of changed space in my career. If I don’t care about the ways that project can be executed, and if I don’t talk to my client about being environmentally friendly and ethically responsible while building what he wants to build, no one else will. “Business as usual” will always be the client’s motto, and “business as usual in a safe and healthy environment” is mine.

I am an Architect (NotLY) to save the world, one building system at a time.

Saving the world is a doctor’s job, or a politicians. Not an Architect’s – right? At least as shown in media we are quirky-romantic-beautiful-slightly smitten by the dark side superheroes always working on a sky scraper and alternating between death wish coffee and something on the rocks. Selfless doctors save the third world. Ethical lawyers take on conniving corporations. Teachers bring a change in the world. What about us Architects? According to the media, our profession is not about saving the world- it’s about romance, grandeur. It’s about Ted Mosby in How I met your Mother. Unless it’s a Ted talk, or documentary, no one talks about how an Architect saves the world – or for that matter that polar ice cap from melting or the seasons from changing- or designs your buildings to be resilient against the changing seasons.

So, when I say that I want to change the world through my design, it comes as an overstatement when it’s truly not.

Architecture perhaps is the only profession that brings a positive change to the world while it takes care of life and safety- so next time you walk in a bar and have a gala time, thank an architect when you reach home safely.. without the roof collapsing on your head. Next time you have a productive day, know that your architect has designed your light, your HVAC and your surrounding spaces so well that you could focus on your job. Next time when your child comes home sharing stories of what happened in school, know that we contributed by designing a space conducive for learning. And most importantly, when you come home and relax, don’t forget to thank us- even if you bought a cookie cutter, there is someone who designed it, and signed on that design owning the idea. Media hasn’t shown you our cape yet, but we do have one – and that exactly is the reason why I am an Architect. Architecture really is more about your life and safety, and your well being than the pantone color board for your interiors.

Not every green revolution will be about minimalist off the grid shipping container and no architect will ever leave this world without being the change or bringing the change.

-Meghana Joshi

Why am I am Architect- here is a list of other Architalks blogs. Each one of our responses are unique like our practices. Please visit them to know why people become Architects:

Tagged , ,

Architalks: There, but not there

“The Journey is the Reward” – Steve Jobs

In the past fifteen years, I have taken at least one International trip a year involving boarding-transit-landing through two continents and three countries. Home is ten thousand miles away, and to love that journey, I have to love my transit hubs, and my entry points and exit points. It’s a simple process- show your passport, show your boarding pass, take off the shoes, walk through the scanners, smile and board the plane, smile and exit the plane. But still, when I enter, the glass and steel vast expanses of spaces with littered art-retail-dining and bright lights, I either feel secure and safe, or completely overwhelmed and lost. In fact, the mood of the journey is sometimes the reflection of the architecture of the airport.

Spaces influence you- airports and hospitals control you.

Summer of 2015 will be different. It will not have me hop on a plane and take a vacation. Beginning of the year when I made a resolution to focus on taking my architectural registration exams, I didn’t think of all the things I will be trading off for study time. I took it easy with CDS hoping that I will be able to catch up, but I couldn’t. When I returned from a ten day vacation, I was tired. Work took over, and I ended up losing focus while writing the test and failed. So, I made a decision not to take long vacations until I am done testing. But, I will be visiting LAX every month for the next four months, picking up and dropping off people near and dear to me. Parents are visiting us, and while they are here to help me, husband will take time off from parenting duties for a four week business trip.

LAX is probably the most disliked airport on my list though my fourteen to seventeen hour journey begins there. Always under construction. Always something broken – even basic amenities. Always rerouted on the way out, luggage misplaced, customs delayed- but again, it’s home. There is nothing interesting about the architecture, in fact there are places in between that are so dull and uninspiring, you want to run back into the cramped plane. On my last month’s visit, with four oversized suitcases and two senior citizens, I had to deal with two broken elevators in the parking garage. We had no option but to drag the luggage up the stairs one by one. Sometimes there is a last minute change in the landing terminal confusing the passengers. Compared to Singapore and any airport in the Asia transit hub, the passenger treatment leaves a lot to be desired. No one offers help, and no one really helps. It’s always busy, and it’s always push and make your way through. I miss San Francisco International Airport.. even when it was under renovation, it was better than LAX.

Speaking of airports, Hong Kong airport and any mention of Cathay Pacific sends shivers down my spine almost eight years after my trip. It started as a beautiful trip, and we finished the longer leg of the journey with a six year old, and as we prepared to land the fog changed it all. The pilot couldn’t coordinate his landing with the base, and when he feared that we would run out of fuel waiting, he landed at the nearby Guangzhou airport. Sunday morning, a flight full of people from all over the world landed not just at a different airport, but at a different country. No food, no clean restrooms, no clearance to get out of the plane – diabetics, senior citizens and little children. It was not pretty. They finally got us back to Hong Kong after ten hours and a sandwich. Once at the airport, we were given accommodations for the night until we were rerouted to our destinations, but the experience is etched in my mind. To tell you the truth, we didn’t know if we landed wrong, or we were made to land wrong. Politics and management aside, it’s a beautiful airport. The morning after, we walked around the airport, experiencing the Normal Foster delight. Steel and glass, vaults and more vaults, there is a very transparent and airy feeling when you watch the planes sitting in the lounges- I had to push myself to forget the traumatic experience and appreciate the airport.

Sparing the rhetoric about the world’s best Changi airport or the LEED Gold certified “home” Bangalore airport, here is the weirdest attraction of Narita airport. No, I haven’t seen the running tracks yet, but no matter what time I land in Japan, and how little time I have left before my connecting flight departs, I always make time to experience their restrooms. The oatmeal airport- with the walls and ceilings that I don’t remember at all, not even the faintest impression- but the restrooms, I don’t forget. My front load washer/dryer have lesser controls and options than a regular toilet in Japan! One of these days the idea is to stay in Japan and continue the journey, but every time the tickets get booked to go home, there are only two weeks, and there is so much to do. Signage is another excellent feature of Narita airport, as well as Singapore airport- I have never lost my way there. The other small and nice airport I loved was the Denver airport, even when it was partially under construction!

Does great architecture and the glitz and glamour and grandeur equate good design? Dubai and I never got along. I understand and appreciate the elements in the details of the airport, but together, they are an overload for a mind in transit. It doesn’t stay on your mind, it doesn’t hold you captive, and it doesn’t disappear in the background. Thankfully like LAX, it doesn’t make it hard for you to navigate a few gates and board a plane. I don’t like shopping or eating at Dubai airport. I put my head down, drag my suitcase and go from one lounge to another, and wait patiently for my connecting flight. The people are nice, and the service is good, but.. there is a distinct forced ambience.

So, I skipped the travel part of the summer break. What next?

Three exams done, fourth one rescheduled twice, and I refuse to reschedule again. I failed CDS because I failed work-life or work-test balance. I failed SS in spite of the best of the preparations. In fact, the SS fail (I failed two portions and did well on others) hurt so much, I didn’t have confidence to take any exam after that. If I didn’t have a pass letter already, I would have quit probably. It helped to pass SPD and SD after that. BS is next. Four weeks out and I haven’t started studying yet. I have changed my employment, and cut down the hours to seven a day. I no longer work weekends or late evenings. But somehow that has translated into more time to catch reruns of Friends on Netflix than really sit down and study. One of these days I will have to look at myself in the mirror and give a motivational speech. Six months out before the end of the year is plenty of time to get back on track and focus on focusing, again.

IDP is 305 hours short for California State requirements. But I have completed a total of 4,682 hours. For now, I won’t worry about the Construction Cost/ Bidding and Contract Negotiation and Construction Observation hours. I will come back to that part once I finish the exams. Till then, I will report the experiences that I am accumulating just in case I move to another state. I have zero hours in Construction Cost- the magnitude of the projects I do are such that we don’t calculate construction costs. Maybe later I should get employment with a contractor for a couple of weeks to get necessary experience? Time will tell.

Work-life balance, and ARE tests are hard. I have to check my own calendar, then my spouse-children-employer before scheduling a test. Weekends are hard to get. I had to wait a good six weeks to schedule Schematic Design test over a weekend because it requires me to block six hours. Even with the best planning, something always comes up and we scramble to make alternate arrangements. Sick children, husband in special meetings, kick-off meeting rescheduled miraculously to the test date. Life has become a tight rope walk. I am there, but not there.

One day I hope it will all be worth it.

What are other Architalks Architects doing this summer? Click on the links below and find out!

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Architectural Bucket List

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Summer Break = Extreme Architecture

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Summer Break and Aunt Loretta

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
summer break

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
2 Simple Systems That Will Transform Your Studio

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Vacationing with an Architect

Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)

Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc. (@hawkinsarch)

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Summer Getaway

Cindy Black – Rick & Cindy Black Architects (@ddd)
summer Getaway

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project (@miss32percent)
#Architalks 10 – Give me a Break!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#Architalks 10 – “summer break”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks: There, but not there

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Summer Break

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
The Architecture Students Summer Break

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Architect: Gift or Curse?

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
The Education of an Architect

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Summer Vacation

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
A Brilliant Summer Break

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
summer break [or] summer school

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Summer Break #ArchiTalks

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@simplybrinn)
Summer Break

Tagged , , , ,

Architalks: My Three Favorite Words

Note: This is part of the group series called #Architalks led by Bob Borson ( This month’s theme is “My Favorite Words”

The Architalk topic of the month is “My Three Favorite Words”. I believe in simplicity and minimalism. Repurpose-recycle-reuse are the rules for life, but not my favorite words. Brutalism has magnetic attraction. Fenestration is part of my job, not a favorite word. It’s not a chair- it’s Arne Jacobsen. It’s a Peacock. It’s Eames. It’s not piano music, it’s Bach-it’s Baroque- it’s Goldberg Variations- it’s not Aria- it’s Aria De Capo. It’s never a car- It’s a Cadillac, if not-then a transportation of your choice. In short, I love using specific terms, not generic words. To call attention to detail a favorite would be to too much attention to detail. Less-is-more is hearts to the eyes, but I-love-you is heart filled with joy.


Post recession -post two children in need of day care, it made sense to work flex hours and work from home as a consultant- IRA Consultants was born.

I started as a consultant, but I took ownership of the projects I worked on, by habit, without worrying about “what my contract said” and “what I promised to do”. No matter who stamps the drawings, I went above and beyond to ensure there were no errors, and if it was being built- it was built right. There were many a late nighters, dark circles under the eyes, and missed celebrations with friends. At that point, it mattered that recession was over. At that point, it really mattered to finish a project on time, and finish it well so that we got repeat clients – the “we” part being a blurred line. Entire summer was spent in setting up the office, involving my family in the process. But after a client decided to end a contract it unraveled, and unraveled faster than a cable knit sweater. After operating on trust and mutual respect for the longest time- for the first time opened my contract to see “what my contract said”. My contract did say the right things, and I refused to accept an insulting payment and demanded to be paid for my efforts. Things resolved over the period of time, and I continued to work, mostly because I didn’t think I should give up all the hard work I put into developing a system, developing the standards. It was finally a well oiled machine that would lock profits, but it wasn’t meant to be so.

It wasn’t rewarding anymore, and even as I continued to work, invoicing added stress. Money matters. They say money cannot buy happiness, but money can bring unhappiness. Road block after road block, I had to rework numbers, I had to explain the work I had done (thankfully Google email means searching them with one keyword), and I was spending more time asking to be paid, asking to be paid on time than focusing on work. Finally tired of writing reminders after reminders, I realized that resilience was not an option, and had stopped being an option long before I noticed. It was beyond deformation, and I was in denial. Resilience is the ability to spring back to the best of your best abilities when you planned everything, but faced a hardship. When things are beyond your control, your resilience becomes your stupidity. There is no point losing your sleep, your peace and your love for architecture over someone else’s lack of planning and lack of organization.

Lesson learned. Moving on, moving forward.

A few months ago, I decided to start taking my ARE exams, finish my IDP and work towards my licensure. Two exams down, and 80%   of the hours into the system, that’s where my focus should be, where my resilience should be. A decade from now, the time I spent in building someone else’s business will be just unaccounted time on my part, but those solid hours of studying will amount to something. Resiliency is all fancy-shmancy, that home standing against the brutality of nature in Galveston is a positive example- being the last of the six consultants to quit is not. It’s been almost two months that I started with another Architect- I started cautious, probably guarding myself against any possible non-payment, but we are in a field where we are all in- or we are not. I love taking ownership, I love being the leader and solving problems – and I will never be content taking instructions and reporting to stipulated work. Back to doing what I love, doing it with much love. (those invoices being cleared without any reminders are helping too!)

Resilience should be for things that matter – your passion, and your beliefs, and for positivity.


Most of my day at work goes in saying “according to the Code” and “ADA says”. Between Code (CBC) and ADA, ADA is my favorite. Section 504 is the next favored word. ADA might not be Civil rights, but it has changed the lives of many a disabled, and helped them perform their daily activities with ease. I am sure the Group E and Group I occupancies appreciate it more than others, but trust me, being a M-B-S person, the best part of my design doesn’t occur when I draw squiggly lines on trace deciding fenestration (that’s important too!)- to incorporate accessibility in the best possible way brings me satisfaction. Most of the clients say that what’s on the inside matters most than what’s on the outside to them, I will go ahead and say for a user what’s on the outside- how you get inside-what’s on the inside -how you can maneuver between the space- all of it matters, and it matters more to the ones that are not blessed with what’s termed as “normal”.

A few months ago, my parents were traveling in India, and my mother slipped and fell on the train tracks- hurt herself. It was not life threatening, but it makes me appreciate every little ADA feature in the local Amtrak station. The same week that my mother met with accident, I was at the ARTIC. An elderly couple came up me at the entrance and asked me directions to the ticket counter. I was already exiting the building, but I gave them directions and stood there for a minute to see if they can make it on their own. It took them time, but they crossed the platforms safely, and went to the ticket counter using all visual and auditory access features. Details matter, and they matter more when they help everyone enjoy the space equally.

Accessibility is not limited to the people on the wheel chair- many people mistake ADA with wheel chair accessibility. Disability could be blindness, deafness, age could be a thousand things that we are not aware of. Next time you design, please provide equal opportunity for all users to access the building- it’s a law, but it’s also your responsibility to incorporate the law such that it can be utilized best.


It’s Rosa Sheng and Amy Kalar’s word, but I love it!

Working mom just doesn’t define us Archimoms- we are beyond that. We will want to play Legos with you, we will play Zenga with you, we will buy you toys that “build” irrespective of your gender, we will help you fine tune your school projects, and we will talk to you about History, Science and Math. We have an all black wardrobe you can borrow when you are teenager and funky pieces of jewelry- you will never have a problem looking different, or making a statement. And the best thing ever, our job never bores us, so you will always find us energetic and enthusiastic. Oh, the thousand and one stories we share with you.. I can’t even list the awesomeness that comes with an Archimom!

Bottom line, you will never be able to say Mom, you won’t understand..Archimoms always will.


What are your favorite words?

Read the links below for different takes on the same topic from other architects:

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture
3 Words To Get Started

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect
3 Words: Are. Blogs. Important.

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
3 Words

Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Never Give Up

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
What’s Your Story – My Three (or Four) Favorite Words

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
i make art

Michael Riscica – Young Architect
How’s it going… Finishing The Architect Exam?!??

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
#ArchiTalks: I love it!

Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
Three Favorite Architectural Words

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design
I Am Listening

Cindy Black – Rick & Cindy Black Architects
Spirit of Optimism (my three favorite words)

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
architalk#9: my three favorite words

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC
My Three Favorite Words

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom
My Three Favorite Words (Architalks #9)

My Three Favorite Words

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
I am in

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture
The Big Idea

Eric Wittman – intern[life]
my three favorite [hardest] words

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture
three little words: #architalks

Tagged , , , ,

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Note: This is part of the group series called #Architalks led by Marica McKeel ( for the month of April- the theme is “My Favorite Place”

“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

A favorite place is a hard thing to choose when you have covered half the world, and you have a trail of memories – some that want you to come back, and some that you want to go back to. It’s only four walls with a roof and a floor – the memories of childhood in that home with dark gray stone floor and dark wood ceiling, painting those walls with my grandmother, running up the terrace to close the skylights when it rained, and staring at the stars in the sky through the same skylight at night, sharing absurd dreams of adolescence. And then there was a series of white walls that I couldn’t drive nails into, that beige carpet always looking like it needed to be ripped off, and that bright white ceiling that white washed all the dreams sometimes, and sometimes just gave a blank space to paint colorful dreams on. I don’t know what’s my favorite, there is not one place that’s dearer than the other. Life right now is very close to the 2 a.m. moments at Singapore Airport every February – it’s beautiful, and it’s the world’s best, but I am too distracted to notice and appreciate it’s beauty because I am focused on the country I just left behind and the country I am traveling to.

That time of the year when the Jasmines bloom and the weather is warm enough to leave the door the backyard open.. and then slowly let the jasmines fill the house with their sweet fragrance. It’s a small backyard, makes more sense to keep smaller backyards with water-wise plants in California at this point, but when we bought it, everyone was still buying the square feet they could afford, not the square feet they needed to live comfortably. Our backyard is a little space, good enough for our family, with dwarf fruit trees that survive on once a week watering, and almost no other flower to compete with the jasmines. There are bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds, and a hummingbird feeder that the hummingbird gives second preference once the lemons and oranges fill up the trees. It’s calm, it’s serene and it’s a place where I can sit down and reorganize my thoughts.

That place that no one talks about probably knows the best of you- your bathroom. A place where I can be myself- be true to my emotions-and be with myself. Wherever I have lived, bathroom has been that special place in the house that I take refuge in times of confusion, and of despair.  The first love letter I ever received was opened and torn to pieces and flushed down a toilet. There are no specific reasons, or justifications for the actions we do at that time in our life when everything is a confusing mess of hormones- if I had known there would be only one first love letter, I would have saved it! The first time I discovered I would become a mother was in a toilet, like million other women, and in my case, a proud prolife moment that I don’t regret. That time I failed my Structure test, the stomach sank and the weird feeling of failure took over, I took a little break in the bathroom to regroup my thoughts and plan the next course of action. I still haven’t forgotten those times of parenting when the children were little, and working from home wasn’t mastered, and taking ten in the bathroom helped me more than a cup of coffee. All my life altering decisions have happened in the privacy of my bathroom, and so have many moments of peace and quiet. Sorry, no picture, but just know that it’s ultra clean and has white towels.

And then there is a place where there is no roof. Under the blue sky, walking in the sand, when the blue water hits my feet with a froth. Sometimes calm, and sometimes angry at something, like a hormonal teenager, the ocean has something new every time I visit. I love California beaches – especially during winter when we stop mandatorily while driving to the Northern part of the state. It’s that time of the year when the car parked on the street in Paso Robles will have ice set on it, but still Pismo Beach is inviting with it’s cold water. We walk, we collect sand dollars, we walk into the water and run to the sand when the cold water freezes the feet, but it’s something we like to repeat every year. I am not a fan of piers with amusement park style rides and eateries at every step, and selling pearl necklaces, but I love every beach that has stayed true to its environment.

1606379_643130142408027_538762418_oA glassful of Robert Mondavi’s red in the comfort of my own living room while surfing through my Netflix list is the most relaxing, but once in a while I love to go this special place where only those with certain number on their ID can enter – it’s not an easy task, juggling four calendars, but we manage to, mostly because we want to, and once a month meet at Yard House for lunch. I don’t drink beer- but the Yard House love started in Pasadena. Their location in Pasadena is through a series of steps, and then a waiting area with fire places. There is a certain romance to the interiors, as well as the location. That Yard House is too far for a lunch date now, but it’s the thought that counts, and we continue the thought at the local Yard House..

1506994_613488488705526_1708139407_n Not all days are the same. Not all moments happy. Not everyone is worth the trust you place, or the love you share. Moments like that you want to hold on to innocence, and wait for that innocence to heal you. I hold her and sleep next to her on her little bed sometimes, and that special emotion that I experience when there are no other thoughts than just that moment, whether we read a book together, or we talk about her dream of driving a white jeep into a jungle chasing a black jaguar filming it in its habitat, it’s a different world beginning at the door of that little room with pearl lavender walls. She is my wings of color to go to that magical place where I can be child forever.

665213_430606390327071_1222905578_oI have traveled half of the globe, and I have visited many places pre-selfie stick days – but no matter where I go, I crave to come back to the comfort of the four walls I call my own.

Home is where the heart lives, and hence the favorite?

Here is a take on the same subject from other “Architalk” architects:

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture

Matthew Stanfield – FIELD9:Architecture

Marica McKeel – Studio MM

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect

Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast/TRXL

Lora Teagarden – L2 Design LLC

Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen

Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design

Michelle Grace Hottel – Michelle Grace Hottel, Architect

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, Inc.

Michael Riscica – Young Architect

Stephen Ramos – Buildings Are Cool

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture

Eric Wittman – Intern Life

%d bloggers like this: