Category Archives: Architecture

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…

 

 

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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  _____”.

..Mathematics!

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 (www.lifeofanarchitect.com) 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)
tool

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)
Tools…

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)
http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/the-tools-of-an-architect/

National Architecture Week

“AIA says from April 12th to April 18th, we celebrate architecture as a source of reinvention, recognizing the architect’s profound ability to reinvent an industry through design, a community through a building’s purpose, and the beauty and function of architecture itself through restoration and historic preservation.”

It’s National Architecture week!

Though dictionary defines architecture as a profession of designing buildings and building environments, I believe architecture is much more than the walls and ceiling, and the surroundings. Architecture is the story of an era, it’s a time capsule of a culture. More than anything else, architecture is an enclosure that deeply affects the human behavior. Architecture has  power to evoke emotions. We don’t have to be architects to experience architecture- we transition from one space to another throughout the day, throughout our lives, submitting ourselves to the effects each space has on us never once realizing that we are being influenced by the way those spaces are built.

My favorite building.. Buildings tell stories, but which ones talked to me? There isn’t one to pick from the life spanning a good three decades and plus, and there isn’t only one to talk to when every little detail of a space tells a story. The draft of cold air I felt around my neck and back while visiting a custom built home up the hills might tell me a story of a bad design and poor insulation, or it can tell me a horror story ala Paranormal Activity. The house I live in is not custom, but the architect has designed a masterpiece in fifteen-hundred SF – the walls, windows and sun angles are perfect to make any season, and any time of the day a delightful time. It’s hard to believe, but I have taken pictures and analyzed, this itty-bitty home of mine has drawn a lot of inspiration from the Hearst Castle.

Speaking of Hearst Castle, I didn’t visit Hearst Castle for more than a decade of living in California- but when I did, I was glad I did. The time spent with my daughters talking about Julia Morgan, and that moment when husband picked up a book about Julia Morgan as a Christmas gift.. and then that feeling that Gatsby might have lived like that, and imagining him throwing the piles of shirts on Daisy in one of those rooms, and then dancing with Daisy while that piano player played on a romantic piece under that chandelier. I could see Gatsby shot in the Neptune pool..those little opulent details Julia Morgan worked on, the grandeur.. it’s all reminiscent of a palace of an era not so long ago. My Instagram is filled with images of Hearst Castle..

It’s been a year of spiritual journey for us. Strictly architecturally speaking. I have visited a total of six Missions on California, and every time I visit a Mission, even though I am not religious, I go in a trance mode, and I connect with a force bigger than what encloses me. I believe Architecture induces that feeling. The site selection – In Mission San Antonio De Padua, you can lose yourself sitting in those hallways, listening to nothing but nature and your body. The vaulted ceilings and those double doors, and those corridors- In San Luis Obispo, the vaulted ceilings with that melodious music playing in the church will transport you to another world. I had high expectations about the Carmel Mission after visiting almost all of them to Santa Barbara to Carmel, but it fell short- may be the site is to be blamed? It’s nestled in the city, parking space is a commodity, and the visitors mostly come to get a great picture taken with the Mission backdrop. Sort of Europe, but local.

Last year, the last stop of the year was at the Cathedral of Christ the light. Built by SOM, this is a modern Cathedral, not your European backdrop. We went there right on time for the mass, so we decided to walk around the building, and visit the gift stop a little before exploring the building. The ladies at the shop told us about the Mission of the Church and all the other things except the architecture- I didn’t expect them to. But then, husband found a book with pictures during construction, and an article by the architect Craig Hartman. There was my Christmas gift! We visited the church after the mass, and I sat there trying to imagine the sails -the boat- and the religious story it’s trying to tell behind in that cleverly assembled building of wood and glass. The Seismic details were an interesting read, and I did learn something more than I learned studying for my Structural Systems exam!

Pasadena City Hall is another building I love! I have had ideas of getting married on Santa Monica beach, and then in Las Vegas casino – but this is THE place I want to get married at. I want to wear a flowy white dress and get my picture done at that staircase. I want to take a picture with my husband in the hallways with nothing but darkness as the backdrop. I want to sit down near that fountain and lose myself looking at the moon play hide and seek in the arches. It’s a building that makes me want to be a bride. Not a blushing bride of twenty, but a thoughtful thirty..It might be the colors, it might be the design details, or it might be the sun angle- every building has the capability to invoke a desire in you.

I tell my children that exploring a building with me is payback for all those Disney movies I endured in their early childhood days – The older one tells me it’s not a punishment to join me – she enjoys walking in these buildings, posing for me and sometimes imagining a career in engineering or architecture.. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I have enjoyed singing along Elsa as much as they have done!

Tagged ,

Crafty- in Architecture as a Craft

Note: This is part of the group series called #Architalks led by Bob Borson (www.lifeofanarchitect.com). This month’s theme is “crafty”

“crafty [kraf-tee, krahf-]
skillful in underhand or evil schemes; cunning; deceitful; sly. ”

With the powers vested in me by Google to scour and search the world wide web for all information available on the topic, I started the journey of distraction and digressional reading of other interesting topics before I decided to focus on focusing, and begin the brainstorm about the topics of “craftiness and architecture. If Bob Borson had said “Crafty Realtor” or “Crafty Developer” I would have probably pieced together what would have been know as the world’s fastest non fiction. But alas, we write for ArchiTalks, and trust me, we Architects (the licensed-the wannabe licensed) in architecture are anything but cunning, deceitful, sly, dishonest, any negative connotation you can think of. Crafty for us is simply doing what we do best.

Crafty for us is listening intently to the requirements, wants and needs and ideas, and other subtle hints the client drops – making their vision your combined vision to design and execute the project to their liking- whether it’s a bathroom remodel, or the skyscraper. Crafty is developing a skill to stay attached to the project, and yet be detached. As much as we try, sometimes we get more attached than we intended to. The sort of attachment that transcends the typical attachment with a certain portion of the design – getting a permit – emotional attachment with the client- saving the neighborhood and the world- saving the environment. Sometimes the big picture is bigger than the safety and well being of inhabitants and a planned cultural integration on the facade design. It’s social. It’s political. It’s advocating your vision of a society through your design as an Architect and a Developer – that’s when being crafty is a necessity.

Joseph Eichler.

Recently, Troy Kudlac (Real Estate Broker and Developer in Palm Springs, CA -specializes in Mid-Century Modern homes) built and listed the first “Desert Eichler”- a modernized and code conforming redraw of the traditional Eichler home to suit modern lifestyle. Tongue and groove ceiling – post and beam design – glass atrium – vibrant colors – open floor plan : The five bedroom house listed for a $1,290,000, and news has that it went into contract to sell the same day it was listed. Tract housing is nothing new these days, especially if you live in planned cities like Irvine.

But, when Joseph Eichler built the Eichlers, he built them with a different vision.

It started in 1942 – Joseph Eichler lived in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and developed an admiration and appreciation for Wright’s architecture. The light filled rooms and well planned spaces, the connection between the outdoors and indoors – Eichler was impressed by the creative self expression Wrights’s design brought to spaces. Little did he know that the influence would stay in his mind long enough to launch his own housing business. After second world war, the population in California grew exponentially, and the demand for housing grew more than ever. It was a good time, to be in the business of housing.

Also, after the Second World War, Los Angeles was booming with automobile, rubber and steel industries. The racial violence in South coupled with the job opportunities in California led to what was later termed as “The Second Great Migration”. The ethnic minorities moved in with a dream of new life, but things were done differently then. Real Estate Planning Boards and Developers supported racially restrictive covenants. It was a very different time and era. Deeds of home were written to maintain “Respectability of the Home” , meaning, discrimination was a normal part of real estate transaction. New tracts were never opened to all ethnicities. Supreme court declared in 1948 that restrictive covenants could no longer be enforced, but the discrimination continued.

Joseph Eichler was one of the first Developers with a vision of social integration. His vision of architecture as a craft transcended the general definition of floor and walls, and punched out openings. His ideals were bigger and beyond maximizing the use of natural sunlight with the courtyard floor plans Robert Anshen created for the tract housing. Eichler homes were radical in design, and sophisticated in execution – but Joseph Eichler saw them as a tool to change the warp and weft of the fabric of housing by opening up the tract for everyone, irrespective of their ethnicity or race. During the times of segregated housing, Eichler’s bold step of integrating different ethnicities in one tract was visionary, and the thinking was ahead of the times. Long before the Government identified a social issue, and acted to resolve it, Eichler had the ball rolling in the right direction for equal rights to housing with his non-discrimination policy.

“If you don’t like your neighbors, I will buy the house back from you”

It might be a rumor, or it might be true, but according to the internet, those were the words of Joseph Eichler who had complete faith in his vision, and knew he would succeed in making it reality. In the 1950s, Eichler homes were one of the first new homes in a tract to be sold to Asian Americans. But it was when he built a house for Franklin Williams in 1951, Eichler got crafty. If he sold one of his tract homes to an African American, it would risk FHA financing of the project. Franklin Williams was the Director of the western region of the National Association for teh Advancement of Colored People. Eichler bought a single parcel outside his larger tract, and built a house for Franklin Williams. But a few years down the lane, Eichler himself successful and in a better position in business, maintained a policy to sell 30 to 40 houses to racial and ethnic minorities every year. He didn’t go above that limit, because that would again lead to segregation.

Positively Crafty.

As it is with all the Architects, Joseph Eichler today is known for his Mid-Century Modern homes, but not so much for the idea he had behind the homes – he doesn’t get his due credit by the society for his efforts towards social-economic integration through architecture.  Things have changed today. Extensively racially segregated communities do not exist thanks to the Government policy and awareness of the community, but we still continue to be economically segregated, and sometimes culturally segregated. Architects and Developers, along with Civic authorities continue to craft the art and science of architecture to integrate all members of the society into the greater design – policies are in place to empower all disabilities- social, economic or physical. AIA Advocacy Network has declared 2015 the year of advocacy by promoting and organizing grassroots advocacy network to connect architects with the elected members of Congress.

Hopefully Architecture will get it’s due credit from the society for thinking beyond the four walls and ceilings.

What is your craftiness in the craft?
What social issue is close to you?
Read the links below for different takes on the same topic from other architects:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect
@bobborson
Architects are Crafty

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
@FiELD9arch
On the Craft of Drafting: A Lament

Marica McKeel – Studio MM
@ArchitectMM
Why I Love My Craft: Residential Architecture

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
@Jeff_Echols
Master Your Craft – A Tale of Architecture and Beer

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
@LeeCalisti
panel craft

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

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
@L2DesignLLC
Oh, you crafty!

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project
@miss32percent
Which Craft?

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
@mghottel
krafte

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

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL
@sramos_BAC
Ghost Lab

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
@bpaletz
Underhanded Evil Schemes

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture
@mondo_tiki_man
Crafty

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

Tara Imani, AIA, CSI – Indigo Architec
@Parthenon1
Crafting A twitter Sabbatical

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I look up, I look back, and I look around

Architecture in the Real World.

That is the topic of the month for Architalks, led by Bob Borson. It’s truly a loaded topic. As I completed a schematic design package through the week, thoughts and ideas for the blog cluttered my mind – falling slabs and leaking roofs – phallic skyscrapers and the yonic stadiums – philanthropic small firm practitioner designing affordable housing for nonprofits – everyday buildings that I design for everyday functions of the community – What was it going to be? From Manitou Cliff Dwellings to Transamerica Pyramid to Artic Train Station in Anaheim, there is an architecture of a different style, different purpose wherever I look up- and I look around.Then I remembered my chat with AIA National on Twitter, and my response to them:  @MeghanaIRA @AIANational The ability to capture a culture and time period with a building drew me to architecture #AIAchat. Yes, architecture in real world is nothing but a time capsule that captured the present and vision of the perceived future.

And then there were walls, to protect and limit.

The Theopetra caves in Greece are the oldest known human-made structures, building 23,000 years ago. It was nothing but a stone wall covering 2/3rd on the entrance to a cave, mostly built as a barrier to the cold winds according to the research. Since then, the vision has been the same- devise a solution to the address the problems of the end user, of the community, and capture the significant cultural transitions. Later this year, 432 Park Avenue built in New York will be the tallest residential buildings in the world. From the Paleolithic to the Neolithic to the civilizations to the rise and fall of empires, architecture has captured every single journey of mankind.

The world’s oldest profession.

They say prostitution is the oldest profession- I disagree. Architecture must have been the world’s oldest profession. When that first brick was laid for that first building ever, it also laid foundation for the first communal life, and the first feature of a civilization. As communities developed, so did cities, and when the basic needs of shelter were satisfied, and defenses were built to fight against forces of nature, the desire to rule was born. Leaders were born, societies were formed, and empires were conceived. Then were born public spaces – the buildings to depict the glory of the ruler, the definition of the kingdom, and intricately weave the culture into the walls and ceilings that were otherwise simple enclosures.

Buildings for myth building.

Imhoteph is the first architect we know in the history of monumental architecture- elevating otherwise ordinary human beings to godly status because of their political status. It was all about the making that first column to support the building, and engineering the masonry to its finest detailing for Imhoteph, but the truth is, he was commissioned by the ruler to leave a lasting monument of his grandeur, his ideals and his principles, and his story in life and death- the tomb that glorified his existence. Was there for a moment, or a even fleeting moment a conflict in Imhoteph’s mind about greater moral responsibility he had for providing the people with better facilities  before he completely submitted his creativity and genius to the aspirations of Starchitecture- we will never know.

”For the commission to do a great building, I would have sold my soul like Faust”

After Hitler rose to power, Nuremberg Rally became one of the largest Nazi propaganda events. 130 anti-aircraft search lights, neatly placed at an interval of 12 meters created virtual columns reaching the sky. Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s architect was commissioned to design the Nazi Party Rally grounds- mainly Zeppenfield. Though Albert Speer later in his life said that he knew nothing about the holocaust, he did willingly participate in the expansion of Nazi empire by creating grandiose monuments and structures with “ruin value”- an idea to create a proclamation in stone that lasted a thousand years. From the balcony that Hitler addressed the assembled crowds to the Cathedral of Light, he designed them all- the signs of someone’s beliefs and ideas, even in ruins. He said he was sorry later in his biographies, but they still stand stall, the ruins he planned so well- and still being recreated in every movie about that era.

“It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it”

Zaha Hadid said about the human rights violation investigation by the Qatari construction. Is it really not? The slaves these days aren’t in shackles, neither are their hands cut off after they finished the ruler’s dream project, but modern slavery comes in virtual shackles- passports taken away, and the migrant workers are housed in concrete cells and treated inhumanely. Global collaboration has become a fancy word used by the rich to hire Starchitects from developed nations and construction crew from developing countries. “There are discrepancies all over the world” said Hadid on the same issue, and I agree- There are indeed discrepancies all over the world, especially so in the field of architecture. As an architect, we can turn a blind eye to things that we don’t want to see, but we do have a moral obligation in the real world to look up, and look around- and look beyond our aspirations and the client’s inspirations – look out for the greater service for humanity.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Thousands years later, architecture in real world still revolves around that basic conflict- whether to be that moral enforcer with the power to provide better civic architecture living with the land, commissioned by the people to serve the interests of the people, or be that Starchitect submitting to powers of the novelty of modern metropolis mistreating the powerless- the nature and the labor. In the same world full of discrepancies, for every architect dropping islands on a coral reef without a worry about the ecological changes it will bring to the world, we have another visionary architect designing human systems that are functional and aesthetic, and fully integrated with the ecosystems.

“In order to transform our cities, we need to move from ego-culture to eco-culture”

Architecture in real world is not limited to the arts and sciences- it’s deeply embedded in the moral and cultural fabric of a community it’s built in, of the civilization it represents. It’s not limited to designing functional spaces, and meticulously planning the execution details. It’s about knowing the people it’s built for, it’s about knowing the people building it – and it’s about knowing the purpose and principle it will be based on. Four walls and a ceiling that we design are a mirror to the society – capturing today, and tomorrow. And if that mirror is showing us discrepancies, our actions should lean towards fixing those discrepancies. If we are powerful enough to provide a platform to the most powerful in the world, we have the power within us to be to the voices of change-voices of action.

The things we build will build us, so lets build them right.

– Meghana Joshi

Here is a take on the same topic from other “Architalks” architects:

“Bob Borson – Life of An Architect
@bobborson
Architecture in the Real Wolrd … sorta

“Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
@FiELD9arch
Welcome to the Architecture of the Real

“Marica McKeel – Studio MM
@ArchitectMM
Architecture in the Real World

“Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
@Jeff_Echols
What is the Real World: Architecture in the Real World

“Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
@LeeCalisti
Architecture in the Real World

“Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect
@EntreArchitect
The HGTV Affect

“Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
@L2DesignLLC
Architecture: It’s a human thing

“Nicholas Renard – dig Architecture
@dig-arch
Keep on Architect’n in the Real World

“Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
@hawkinsarch
Here in the Real World

“Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture
@rogue_architect
architecture in the real world: #architalks

“Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
@mghottel
Architecture in the Real World

“Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC
@MeghanaIRA
Architecture in the Real World

“Michael Riscica – Young Architect
@YoungArchitxPDX
Architecture in the Real World

“Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL
@sramos_BAC
Architecture in the Real World

“Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
@bpaletz
Architecture in the Real World

“Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC
@Parthenon1
Architecture in the Real World

“Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture
@mondo_tiki_man
Architecture in the Real World

 

Rotring and other memories

A casual conversation led to a beautiful memory last evening. I remembered my “Rotring”. When I moved out of my parents house that evening to start my life with R, I couldn’t take everything that defined. The suitcase that I packed for that journey was a box of memories that didn’t weigh more than the stipulated limit, and it included all facets of my life until then. The models I made, that huge drafting board, that T-square, the parallel, the set square.. and those thousand things with my name in Silver ink didn’t make it across the Pacific, and over the period of time, when she was sure I won’t come back home to claim my items, my mother donated all my materials and books to those she thought were deserving. But, as a memory of those five years in Architecture school, I took my box of Rotring pens and a Staedtler lead holder. I lost the lead holder somewhere between those six moves in California, but my Rotring set remains.

1994.

When I rejected my father’s ideas of joining electronics and communications and being a programmer… I never found that career exciting. I never found the people in that career exciting. Architecture was always the one and only fascination.. He still called from the admissions office to confirm this was what I wanted to do, given that there was no Developer or Engineer father to guide me into the field. Little did he know at that point that I will move to country where no one even used the metric system I had all my education in! After he got a list of items to buy, he sent my uncle with a wad of money and a jeep to haul everything- oh, the sticker shock when they paid half that wad for a bunch of pens! And everything fit in two little bags.. No jeep needed!

It’s been twenty years already.

The whole first semester went into learning the basics of hand drafting, and using the right pen to create the necessary line weight. Then computers were introduced.. AutoCAD R13 I think. Graduated from one CAD program to another, and settled down with AutoCAD LT with annual subscription now. I never hand drafted at work, and other than redlining (some people have suggested adding notes to the PDF document, but a drawing in front of me helps me more than portions of it on the screen). Any given time, on my desk, there will be a set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, Sharpies, at least one highlighter, couple of pencils, and some red pencils and a good eraser. A good Moleskine to write my meeting notes, and important project notes, and a regular paper pad to scribble the thoughts, ideas and make checklists for the day. I have tried going paper free, set up reminders on Evernote and realized that I need a pink sticky note on my second monitor to push me to get that done right away.

It’s throw back Thursday.

Here is a memory from twenty years ago when I started my first semester. I did a beautiful sheet of construction details, but accidentally spilled something on it. I didn’t know what to do, and called my senior who was in her third semester then. She shared a little secret called “Glass Tracing”. I didn’t have time to get my equipment ready for the glass tracing. Did a little DIY.. My mom’s oversized picture frame lost its backing and picture. The three legged stool lost it’s beautiful top. With a little lamp below it, I was able to build my own Glass Tracing station. I never bought the equipment.. this little station worked well for the five years of my college life.

Mom had one condition though.. no glass tracing one week before wedding- being the typical Indian mom she didn’t want me to sport a glass tracing tan!

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