Tag Archives: architalks

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

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Architalks: Meet Jane Doe, Citizen Architect

This blog is a part of “Architalks: Citizen Architect”- Architalks led by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect.

AIA says “The Citizen Architect uses his/her insights, talents, training, and experience to contribute meaningfully, beyond self, to the improvement of the community and human condition.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is Jane Doe, and I have taken this name to signify that I am your everyday architect.

I am the mastermind behind designing those buildings that don’t make you stop on your evening runs to watch against the sunset and post on Instagram. I am the keeper of your safety and well being who spent  numerous hours designing that exit staircase- exit lobby- exit discharge to public right of the way – but that Type X wall system I added to the staircase will never interest you enough to touch and feel it on your way up and down the stairs. I am the one sitting at the City office waiting to submit the drawings that if approved will end up generating significant revenue for the City and create employment opportunities in the community- yet you will drive past the construction activity without noticing the building envelope. I am the person who designed your average grocery store, your typical bank, your everyday office, your familiar school and sometimes your library..

I, Jane Doe was your average architect until I decided not to be.
Now I am Jane Doe, the Citizen Architect.

Jane Doe, Citizen Architect, takes responsibilities- your building is more than another avenue to show her design and management prowess and earn revenue. She decided to get her license. She decided that even though she designs regular buildings, if she is designing more than three hundred thousand square feet per year, she should add more to her superpowers to help you make the best decision. Jane Doe will not be one more team member in a group of yes-masters that take orders from a person who stamps and signs the drawings even though they don’t always agree with master’s decisions. Jane Doe is empowered, and makes ethical decisions- decisions that Jane Doe the Project Manager might not always be able to do.

Jane Doe, the Citizen Architect struggles to answer the simplest of all questions: What do you do?

Jane Doe always replied with details about her next project, the location, the client, etc. But it’s hard for Jane Doe, Citizen Architect to explain her job, or rather her profession using a mere two words and three sentences. A project is not just four walls and a roof. No way, not without those interwoven- interconnected social, environmental, and economic characteristics that lay within the walls and roof. From worrying about the environmental impact of choosing that virgin land to stressing about the footprint of the building material sourcing, to pondering over the social impact of having a diverse team of architects/ consultants and contractors, to agonizing over the economic impact of illegal and undocumented labor, Jane Doe, Citizen Architect has a lot of things on her plate.

But through thick and thin, she repeats to herself “volunteer, volunteer, volunteer, and lead. ”

The mantra for all Citizen Architects is to be the change they want to see in their communities. We all have different ways of doing this- some of us engage in activities with AIA, or are on the Board of Planning Commissions. Some of us take the time to go to classrooms to inspire and lead the youth. Some of us fight passionately for what we believe in- be it equality in pay and equality in profession. Some of us take  it upon us to write blogs to educate the public.

But my point is, we all go above and beyond, and do something more to be that Citizen Architect. There is more to Architects that using a Lamy on a Moleskin, with a cup of black coffee and fierce eyeglasses. We have more to share with the world than what our professional outline demands.

Jane Doe knows you care about the origin of that apple you are eating, and you frown when you see titanium oxide listed as an ingredient in your cereal. But what about the building you live in? Have you thought about what makes up the walls and ceilings? What about the site your house was built in? Are you aware of the native vegetation and wild life that thrived before you called it home? These are things that are seldom talked about by your builder, but literally make up the foundation of your life. Given that you spend over 90% of the day in built environment, shouldn’t you be more concerned about the origins, ethics in practice and life cycle analysis of the same?

Jane Doe, Citizen Architect knows miracles can happens.

They might not happen overnight. But Jane Doe and John Doe, Citizen Architects can make it happen. Your neighbor, your neighbor’s neighbor, your best friend, your bartender- what do they know about what surrounds them? They have a stand on LGBTQ issues and women’s reproductive issues- but do they have a stand on VOCs? Are they well informed to make that decision? Surely no one will throw PSAs at prime time the cause. Will that mean they should under-informed or ill-informed? Isn’t it their right to know where they live if they have a right to know the truth about what they eat and what they wear? We assume they know, but they barely know. They know HGTV, and they know Frank Gehry. They need to know Jane Doe and John Doe, Citizen Architects. Time to step up the game beyond that AEC world and involve the general citizens without generalizing them as clients and end users.

Jane Doe and John Doe, the Citizen Architects are the hope of the world. They are the sum total of the character of the Citizens they represent.

Jane Doe
Citizen Architect

Citizenship is a tough occupation which obliges the citizen to make his own informed opinion and stand by it. – Martha Gellhorn

(This post is loosely based on the idea of  the speech in “Meet John Doe”)

To read what other Architalks Architects shared on the same topic, click on the links below:

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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”
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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:

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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

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Architalks: My Three Favorite Words

Note: This is part of the group series called #Architalks led by Bob Borson (www.lifeofanarchitect.com). 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 associated..it 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

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Note: This is part of the group series called #Architalks led by Marica McKeel (http://maricamckeel.com) 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


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
Architects are Crafty

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

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

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

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
panel craft

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

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

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

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect

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

Ghost Lab

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
Underhanded Evil Schemes

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture

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

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

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These are a few of my favorite things!

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

The holidays are over, and so is winter vacation. The mile long checklist of holiday decor, gift tracking, party schedules and travel planning is done with, and that little extra weight gifted with love from my favorite Panettone with coffee with linger for a while, until the trails and new trail running shoes become the voices in my head, calling my name. I work, work-out and find moments that I love in the fine work-life imbalance. I love all the things that I do- even being the designated parent-taxi driver. But what are my favorite things?

No, they are not raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens – I am humming it, but they are not.

Doors, Windows and Corridors

I have spent my childhood and teenage years in a city filled with historic monuments of architectural significance. What many saw as “ruined” I saw as aged with the stories of its time. Within these ruins, there were centuries of lost tales and stories untold. I reminiscence those times where I would sit down for dinner with my parents, inside the walls of these majestic palaces which were now restored to restaurants, talking about the story behind the windows screens with ornate designs, or the doors with layers and layers of religious influence creating a masterpiece that cannot be mimicked by any other. They say these walls can tell stories. I say the windows hold ballads, and the doors hold secrets to a story untold. I have walked through ruined and abandoned palaces, imagining the life that must have been within those brick confinements. I have peeked through the little windows with marble screens, composing a monologue about headstrong princess and their power hungry princes. During the sketching session of my History of Architecture classes, I have filled up pages drawings doors and windows, and the arches of the corridors. Of late, the historic is not centuries old, considering I live in Orange County, but every winter I make a trip within California hunting timeless and historic buildings, photographing their doors, windows and corridor, listening closely to the stories they tell, the secrets they share.

Coffee in Solitude

Two shots espresso and one ounce of milk, steamed. Not Americano, make it an Italiano. Long Black is good enough. That’s my witching hour fix. That’s also my favorite time of the day, coffee in solitude. It’s hard to pinpoint what I love about the afternoon coffee- is it the fresh coffee aroma when I open the lid of the coffee grinder.. or is it the way ground beans swell up my French Press when I pour hot water.. or is it the actual taste of coffee.. Or is it the act of drinking it alone, reflecting on things that are on my mind.. or blanking out..losing myself in thoughts that aren’t a part of the checklist. Self-brew is the best coffee I can have, but outside home, my favorite coffee is Vietnamese Coffee. I have never tried finding and fine tuning the recipe at home- not everything needs to be perfected and personalized. “Just the way you love it” happens to be the tagline of one of my favorite Vietnamese Coffee shops, and I will take their word for that.

Writing instruments

Of all the office stationary I have, I love my writing instruments the most. The sharpened pencils, Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens, Sharpies, Calligraphy set, Rotrings.. and my favorite one among them, the Mont Blanc. I don’t write much other than sign school checks and work contracts. Most of the “writing” just happens to be doodling and note taking during phone calls, and making checklists, or FAR calculation. But I make an effort to use pen and paper every day. Only during winter, if I have time, I can sit down and write neat Calligraphic messages and addresses on the Holiday cards. My office isn’t paper free yet, only because I hang on to my pens and the fine art of writing/ sketching the detail before drawing it on the computer. Speaking of writing, I have a stack of handwritten love letters I wrote when we were in a distant relationship- I don’t know where my twenty thousand emails are, but I know where my handwritten ones are, and I still love the pen I used to write them.


The smell of Sandalwood is woven into every memory of life. I have seen sticks of the heavy yellow wood in my closets, I played with my mother’s old toys still holding that faint sandal smell, sandalwood oil in silver containers with applicators on festivals, and sandalwood pens on my dad’s table. Growing up, sandalwood soap was my favorite. The State Government funded the soap manufacturing and sold it through their signature stores. Quality controlled. But like all good things, eventually the market sneaked up counterfeit  “Made in China” soaps and ruined that memory forever..

I keep a Sandalwood pen in my purse always, neatly tucked with the checkbook. There is an intricately carved sandalwood box on my bedside to hold my jewelry. The beauty of Sandalwood is, it’s never an overpowering smell. It’s faint, and it’s long lasting, and it reminds me of all beautiful things. Recently found “Art of Shaving” kit in Sandalwood- I don’t think my husband will ever know about the unscented version. I just love the way he smells.

Drive to nowhere

I have a dream. It doesn’t involve anyone else, it doesn’t involve any milestones and items on my checklist. I want to drive without a purpose, without a goal and test my red’s all wheel monstrosity in a rough terrain that I am not familiar with, and pull up near a cliff, and just sit there.. without any thoughts at all. That would be my favorite thing to do, but I have never done that. Partly because my lungs aren’t the strongest. I tested them at Pike’s Peak last year. Within thirty minutes, I experienced what it is to surrender yourself to nature when you can feel your lungs breathing in and out, when your stomach feels light and you are slightly dizzy. My bones and lungs at thirty eight have the same capacity as my little eight year old’s. Maybe even less.

If I could, that would be my favorite thing to do – Once in a while, just enjoy solitude in a whole different arena.

I haven’t been anywhere I shouldn’t be, or should be searched by a team if lost- I try to live within the boundaries of reality. On Sunday mornings, we go on family hikes, up the mountains of Orange County, most of which end up with views of the Pacific Ocean.  Crystal Cove hike is my favorite one, where I can stand at the Vista point watching the ocean.. and go home only when hungry and tired, every muscle in the body aching.

 Site Visits

Of all the things I do for a project, (being a project management consultant, I start with FAR research, prepare design packages, then CDs and then take care of RFIs and that ..) my favorite thing is Site visit. I love going to the site, looking at the walls, windows and doors being installed.. the things that I drew on paper coming to life. It’s an overwhelming feeling to walk through the building I designed, remembering the story of behind that fire wall, or that roof slope. I love my job, but I have a favorite among all those things that I love. Wearing caterpillar construction boots and hard hat, and knowing how good or bad the drawings were from the contractor as the critic, and then showing off the building under construction to family..that’s my favorite thing about my work! Putting together a color board used to be my favorite thing for a long time, but after going through a decade worth of vogue and knowing what colors interest and represent the client more, it’s become a routine exercise with little excitement now. It’s a concept to construction journey with every project, and to see it standing, sometimes blending in with its surroundings, and sometimes standing out – that’s my favorite kind of happiness!

There are a thousand other favorite things..

Arabian Jasmine, Dark Chocolate, Mondovi’s Wine, Winter boots and all kinds of shoes, Silk Saris with a back story, cuddling with the kids on a winter morning, finding my shade of nude nail polish, and Toy Story collection..but these are the favorite ones..

And this song that has remained a favorite for a more than a decade..

What are your favorite things?

A list of “favorite thingS” by other architects:
Bob Borson – Life of An Architect

Marica McKeel – Studio MM

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect

Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC

Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom
Nicholas Renard – Cote Renard Architecture

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture

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