My Genesis – LetsBlogOff

Where do your ideas come from?  Your inspiration for your craft?  Is it a place, a specific pen you like to use, a special kind of paper or canvas that just speaks to you?  For most artists all of these may apply.  But maybe none of them apply. Perhaps you’re just the most amazing artist of all and your inspiration just flows freely un-contained and unrestrained from your mind almost at it’s own will into physical reality.  So, you ask:

What is my Genesis?

Where does my “special something” come from?  How does my process start?  Strictly speaking, I’ve never considered this question and I don’t think I’ve ever been asked either.  So, please excuse me if my answer takes many twists and turns….hell, I may not even end up answering the question at all! You’ll just have to wait and see.

Architecture, being both the art and science of building, requires both an artistic and analytical mind working sometimes in tandem, but also wholly separate as well.  Architects like Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid immediately come to mind as being the ultimate artistic architects.  I like to think I exist somewhere in the middle of this “bridge” between analysis and artistic exploration.

My process is sporadic at best.  Ideas come to me at the strangest moments – cycling to work, walking in the park, pushing my kids on the swing set, brushing my teeth…it really doesn’t matter.  The Genesis of an idea can come anytime because my mind is always trying to process what is around me, what I’ve experienced, where I’ve been and even where I’m going.  It is not linear, regular, symmetrical, predictable nor accountable.  I’ve sketched on post-its, cocktail napkins, business cards, sketch paper, paper plates, the back of my hand….any surface that will hold ink long enough for me to get “it” down and out of my head.

My process, my Genesis, is an obsession, a compulsion, a twitch, a tick, a social faux-pas, an inconvenience and a glorious expression of the chaos and conundrum that exists between my ears that can only be purged through the communication between brain, arm, hand, fingers, pen and paper (or whatever happens to be readily at hand that will hold a mark).  It is never-ending and ever-present, as much a part of me as any physical part or parcel of the me that you see.

And now, what is the genesis of your Genesis, the inspiration in your idea, the impetus of your expression?

shop 160 – home office pod

A while back I did a design called “studio 20”, which was an idea I had for an office/shed in my backyard.  Well, I’ve refined that idea a little and come up with shop 160, which is an office pod for a work-from-home architect or other professional. The space has two work stations, wall storage on either side for product and project binders…or whatever else will fit on a shelf.  It’s assumed that in-house printing would be done on 11×17 and any full size printing would be done via remote server at a printing house, or hopefully your jurisdiction accepts digital plan submissions.  For smaller firms this can be ideal because you don’t have to pay for or maintain the infrastructure of a plotter.

Since this is a “work from home” office pod, there is no plumbing provided in this design, but if you took a second container and arranged the pods in an “L” configuration you could deck between, creating a “work” pod and a “service” pod where you have typical office storage, a restroom and small lounge space.  The deck between could also be used as an indoor/outdoor flex space.

Young entrepreneurs are, by default, disposed to work in small home office spaces as a way to save overhead as well as minimize the space needed to conduct work which lends to a well organized and efficient work environment.  Shop 160 provides exactly that, but OUTSIDE the home where the distractions of children, the “honey-do” list and daytime television are not present; not to mention having a place to take clients that doesn’t involve walking through a private residence or having to order coffee and a bagel to get a seat.  Also, if a business needs to expand, these pods can not only be moved to alternate locations, but can also be combined easily to accommodate multiple work stations and functions.

Please email me for more information about purchasing and fabricating your Shop 160 office pod.

Oh Gawd, you cracked it! (via The Life and Times of a “Renaissance Ronin”)

A great post from my buddy Alex, over at Renaissance Ronin. Check it out.

Oh Gawd, you cracked it! It must be that time of year. The snow is melting, the site is unfrozen and it's time to start setting boxes. I'm getting the same question in my email over and over again right now. I'm also seeing the same questions asked in other places on the web, from "DIY to Specialty" blogs. So, let's address a question about HOW you attach the ISBU to the ground; Dear Ronin, Are you a Ninja? I'm just wondering because… oh, never mind. (Editor's note: No … Read More

via The Life and Times of a "Renaissance Ronin"

competitions, evil?

note: not a real competition banner

A couple of weeks ago I was reading Bob Borson’s animated rant about his distaste for design competitions.  And glass block, we can’t forget that.  I actually peed myself a little bit I laughed so hard.  But more than that it inspired me to write this post.

In this rant he compares design competitions to glass blocks, something we both hate, loathe even, with a passion equal too none on this earth.  In Bob’s own words, “they make my face hurt. I talk to them when no one is looking…”  And I truly believe there are few things on the planet more disgusting, more horrific, more a danger to human taste, good sense and general well-being than glass blocks.  The man who invented them should be publicly flogged and put on display for everyone to ridicule.  Competitions, however, I have a different opinion about.

Claim #1: Design competitions are a waste of time

I actually have to agree with this one, just a little.  Time spent on design competitions is time you could have been spending on some other endeavor.  But then, this supposes that design, or anything architect-y in general, is something that you would rather NOT be doing in your spare time.  I personally am a huge archi-dork.  Just ask my wife.  There are few things I would rather be doing than designing SOMETHING, anything, even just staring off into space THINKING about designing.  Yes, I am that pathetic, but it works for me so it’s ok.

Claim #2: The competition is plentiful

Again, this is very true.  Design competitions, especially well advertised ones, attract dozens, if not hundreds, of submissions that you are only ONE of.  So the odds of you winning a high profile design competition are fairly slim – typically somewhere near zero – so why bother, right?  Wrong.  It’s very simple, if you don’t ENTER you will never WIN.  The competition is what keeps us sharp, keeps us on our toes, keeps us growing as architects.  Without competition we would have no real reason to improve.

Claim #3: The Project will never get built

……Well, ok, yeah….I can’t really argue with this one.  Moving on.

Claim #4: No one will ever know your name if you don’t win

Well, that’s not entirely true.  Thanks to these nifty things called blogs, we can publicize the living hell out of OURSELVES and all our failed competition entries, thus getting our work out there for critique.  Perhaps someone will see your work, something purely design in nature, fall madly in love with it and call you immediately with a contract for that new and exciting project you’ve been waiting for to get you down off that ledge….it’s possible….really.

Claim #5: Architects who enter design competitions diminish the value of all architectural services

Bob puts it that, if you’re giving away services to one group while trying to charge for those same services to another, it’s just bad business.  I see the logic in this point of view, but I still have to disagree.  While the entry for a competition is essentially being done “for free”, in most (if not all) cases there is at least the hope of some level of compensation for that work either in the form of prize monies or a contract.  I also understand the fallacy in my own statement there (see Claim #3).  But one has to have at least some faith in the competition process otherwise we’re all nothing but lowly service providers beholden to one ridiculous needy client after another which I don’t think does any service to our profession either.  Sometimes we need that proverbial feather in our cap, the accolades from our peers, the slap on the back and a “at-a-boy” for good measure.

For me, design competitions are a way to keep my design skills sharp, to have a bit of mostly unrestrained design fun and maybe, just maybe, one day (fingers crossed) win something.  Competitions aren’t for everyone (like those of us lucky enough to be too busy with paying clients to have enough free time to waste on design competitions 😉 ), which is why not everyone enters or has the time to enter.  But for those of us willing to step out and throw our designs into the hat for consideration, I don’t see design competitions as quite the evil doer that some do.  But I still hate glass blocks.  I mean, seriously, there is no use by which they will add any benefit to a building.  Unless maybe you use them as crushed aggregate in concrete, and even then you want to be sure that no one sees them.  :-\

If I could stop the world for one day….

This #LETSBLOGOFF post is brought to you by the awe-inspiring genius of….ME. Enjoy. 🙂

If I were Superman and could fly around the world really really fast and stop the earth from spinning, thus stopping time for just one day I would:

First, obviously I would ditch the girly tights and cape.  I mean, seriously, it’s just not fashionable.  Too bad Batman can’t stop time.  Utility belts are awesome!

Once in a suitably masculine change of clothes, the NEXT thing I would do…..well, quite frankly wouldn’t be terribly different from what I do everyday – which is try to be the best damn architect I can be (no this isn’t an army recruitment ad) solving archi-crimes like a mo’fo and rescuing damsels in distress…wait, that’s the wrong story.  It’s so hard to stay focused after spinning the earth to a complete stand still.

Solving archi-crimes would definitely be on my list of “to do” during my one day.  I don’t have lofty philanthropic goals like “solve world hunger” or “world peace” or “get a date with Mila Jovovich”.  I’m much more humble than that (really).  As I said my day would look much like it does everyday:

Awake at about 530-ish, make some coffee (otherwise known as “go juice”) and crank up the laptop.  I check the news, I check my blog, I check twitter – I gotta stay “in the know”, you know?  Once I’ve had my fill of “news”, I try to spend some time either sketching or working on/refining any designs that I’m currently inspired by.  The list of these projects gets shorter with each passing day, but I keep moving forward crossing my fingers for that “one client”.  He/she is gonna knock on my door any minute now……any minute…..right…..NOW!….hmm. He/she must be running late.  Anyway.

With fingers sufficiently ink stained and smudged, and hopefully fully caffeinated, it’s time to get a shower and get dressed for the day.  “Dressed” is a relative term mostly consisting of whatever black clothes I happen to wrestle from the closet (after performing the requisite smell test, of course) and throw over my white pasty body.  Thus clothed and bespectacled it’s back to the computer to organize the tasks for the day, perhaps make a few phone calls, check twitter again and crank up Autocad, also known as “Hell”, and get started with some “creativity” in solving those aforementioned “archi-crimes”.

There really isn’t much else to the day after this point.  It pretty much continues in the same vein until my phone alarm goes off reminding me that it’s time to eat and take a bathroom break, though not necessarily in that order.  If I’m lucky, somewhere in the Autocad fog I might find some time to write a blog post, or finish an unfinished blog post, check twitter again, but then it’s back to Autocad.  On really good days I get to start up SketchUp which always makes me feel like a little kid on his first trip to Disney World (yes, I really am that pathetic).

At some point, long after the sun has gone down, my phone alarm goes off again reminding me that it’s time to sleep, so I peel off the black, once again revealing the pasty white and climb into bed for a few hours of restless sleep where I have nightmares of all those “archi-criminals” taking over my projects reducing them to strip malls and big box retail stores (I typically wake in a cold sweat frantically tearing at my sheets screaming “NOOOOOOO!!!!”)

So, that’s my one day.  Perhaps you may think it’s wasted, but I say no.  Not wasted.  You see, there isn’t anything I’d rather do than slave away in the pursuit of architectural magnificence, solving archi-crimes and putting away archi-criminals to make the world safe from strip malls and big box retails stores and clients who think sentences that begin with “but the contractor told me” will end happily for them (fyi, they won’t – just trust me on this).

container popularity and internet searches

Aside

Since I started this blog back in late 2009, it’s been somewhat of a creative outlet for me.  Not only am I able to post my designs, sketches and other ideas for consideration and comment, but I’m also able to delve into a good bit of architectural theory in my writing.  For the first year that this blog was up there was almost no traffic – only about 10 hits per month on average for the first 12 months.  That’s pretty bad, and granted I wasn’t keeping up with it much at first.

The shift seems to have come when I began writing more in-depth posts about shipping container design and construction.  And I have noticed a trend in the last couple of months in the character and construction of search terms that hit this blog.  Some can be rather entertaining, like the guy who searched for “porn in container”….i still can’t imagine what he was looking for…not really sure if I want to either. :-\  Some other popular search terms that pop up consistently and in various combinations are:

container homes
container architecture
40′ shipping container house
isbu interiors
container reinforce structure
shipping container house plans
container design
etc etc etc.

This gets me to wondering, if my own very little corner of this “corten craze” generates such interest (upwards of 2-3,000 hits per month and climbing, thank you very much! :-)), why are we still only seeing it trickle into the mainstream media?  I certainly don’t have the answer, so if you were hoping for one, so sorry to disappoint.

But, (there’s always a but) the winds are changing.  If small sites like mine are getting this kind of interest, then others like treehugger and inhabitat are getting even more and this is going to push the cause into the limelight, so to speak.  It’s out there, people are getting interested and soon they’ll start seeing container homes as viable housing options in the mainstream.  Hell, we could even see the first Container Subdivision in the very near future.

If you’re reading this and you’ve got some news on container construction or any other kind of container project, please send it my way.  I’d love to feature it here.  Lets keep the corten craze rolling on down the tracks, baby!

This is what we do?

Item #10 of my buddy’s latest blog post over at Archialternative is the statement that architecture is what architects do.  He suggests this statement as an outright lie perpetrated by architects to their clients.  His retort to this bold faced lie, as he puts it, is:

Fuck, no! This is what we live and die for. This is architecture.

And I completely agree!  Please forgive the vulgar expletive, but honestly, sometimes, the F Bomb needs to be dropped for that little bit of extra emphasis, don’t you think? 😉

And what is the key tenet to this statement?  The notion that an architect simply “does” architecture?  As a pure means to an end?  Or just in order to provide for his/her family?  I say bollocks to that.  Architecture is not merely what we do it is who we are, it’s our DNA, it’s our mitzvah (divine commandment for those not in the know), our calling….architecture just IS for an architect.  Some of us even say we are married to architecture and our wives are simply our mistresses.  This is more true than many of us may want to admit (let’s hope my wife doesn’t read this one).

And what do we get for this obsession, this calling, this mitzvah?  We get 5+ years of schooling where we learn almost nothing that will prepare us for the actual practice of architecture, 3+ years of internship under architects it will take us 15 minutes to figure out we don’t want to turn out like, and 5 years (or less if we’re very very lucky) to complete an ever changing battery of tests that tells very little about an architects’ competency as a designer or construction professional.  In short, we spend what are arguably the best 15 years of our lives struggling in a profession that has almost no respect for the “up and coming” in order to continue in a profession that our clients think is little more than a necessary evil, and we’ll continue to practice at a fraction of our ultimate worth simply because when we wake up in the morning with that shit eating grin on our faces, we know that there isn’t a single other thing on this planet we would want to be doing with our lives and it’s our privileged to practice each and every day sometimes at the expense of our own sanity and better judgment.

image courtesy of treehugger.com

To reiterate, once again:

This is what we live and die for – this is ARCHITECTURE.  Yeah baby.


the pod – prototype

dekalbmarket.com

Dekalb Market, in Brooklyn, has issued Not Just a Container Contest to design an alternate use for a shipping container to be used at the upcoming open air market.  From their website:

“The goal of the competition is to support the growth of Brooklyn’s creative community by helping a local entrepreneur realize his or her dream of opening a bricks and mortar location and to raise awareness of the Dekalb Market.

In the spirit of the Dekalb Market, Contestants will be judged on the following:

KEY CRITERIA. Design Quality, Sustainability, Community Impact, and Entrepreneurship.

SUGGESTIONS. Uses for the space could be, but are not limited to: a farm structure, store, art installation, work-sell space, restaurant, sports and music venue.

PRIZES. Our winner will be awarded with a container license (work/sell space) rent free for six months, $3K design/construction budget and free consultation, select construction materials from Green Depot, one year membership to 3rd Ward, one year membership to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, press exposure and online feature at www.dekalbmarket.com.”

The competition officially closed April 9th and now we’re waiting to see who is the lucky winner.  For my entry, I decided not to so much focus on a specific function, but rather focus on how to modify a container to be the most versatile and adaptable to changing needs within the Market as a whole.

copywrite 2011 r | one studio arch

As I’m sure these containers are not meant to house permanent tenants, but rather rotating vendors who may or may not be conducting all manor of business, it’s important that the container be designed to a minimum and remain flexible, providing a number of potential options.

By taking one long panel out and fabricating two horizontal “doors” we create both an overhang and a small porch that can be used for display or gathering or seating, etc.  The existing doors for the container can function as a default “entrance” or remain closed depending on the intended use.

copywrite 2011 r | one studio arch

The short rear wall of the container is fashioned with a solid surface counter, base cabinet and upper cabinet storage.  A sink and plumbing can be easily added if necessary with water supplied via hose connection at the rear.  The remaining wall is finished with studs and tongue and groove wood and attached are hinged tables, or platforms, at various heights that can be folded down in several combinations to create small work/display areas as needed.  Electricity is supplied by the two solar panels affixed to the top of the container and are hinged so that when closed the panels can fold flat.  The batteries and other electrical panels are stored in the upper cabinets.

copywrite 2011 r | one studio arch

Ultimately The Pod is a very simple design but with nearly unlimited flexibility to be adapted to almost any use: art gallery/studio, small music venue, office, shop, cafe, produce vendor, etc.  If you’d like to talk about designing and fabricating your own Pod, contact us here and lets get started.

the new modern home

Desert House Prototype - Marmol Radzinger

This is something I’ve talked about before and often, but I still think it’s a worthwhile discussion to keep having especially in the face of not just our own economic troubles but also the troubles all across the globe.  The question of “how do we house people affordably and build sustainable communities” is one that will not be answered quickly or easily but we can start very easily with modern single family homes.

Ranch House - Johnsen Schmaling Architects

And so you’re probably asking “so what got this conversation started for you AGAIN?”  I’m happy you asked. 😉  My day job as a lowly intern architect allows me a little time each day to pilfer through the various design magazines throughout the office that mostly just collect dust.  A tag line on one in particular caught my attention the other day.  On the cover of the So Fla Design Book (that’s “South Florida” for those not in the know) there is a tag line that reads “The New Modern Home”.  This immediately made me question (yet again) “what is the new modern home?”  If you asked 50 architects this question you would get 50 very different answers.  This is my answer:

The new modern home is a careful balance of function, form, environment, economy and adaptability.

Man, that sounded really “architecty”.  I’m kinda proud of that. 😛  Anyway, let’s break it down –

Function:

How a home functions begins with a program, or a list of space requirements like 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a study, an office, 12 closets, a kitchen, etc., that, hopefully, you either got from your client or were able to at least glean from your clients starry eyed ruminations about this grand monstrosity of a house they want you to design for no money.  (I’m only partly kidding about that one)  This is where the next two items in the list come into play nearly simultaneously.

Form and Environment:

Once we know the clients program we have to organize that “wish list” of items into a cohesive form that will sit within an environment.  The form should both react to and react with the program and the surrounding environment.  This can happen on several levels.  First, obviously, any architect will want to take advantage of views, the solar path and any significant natural features on site.  Then there is the notion of environmental sustainability – will the home be a drain on the surrounding natural resources or will the home work with and within the environment adding to the natural surroundings?  Hopefully the latter.

This is where the architect’s job gets REALLY fun, because now we need to incorporate our last two items and roll everything into a big ball, swallow it, chew it up and spit it all out onto a piece of paper in the form of a few pretty pictures that will make the clients go “wow, oh my gosh, how amazing….can you do that in blue?”

Economy and Adaptability:

By far the most complex items in our list, but necessary nonetheless.  Economy doesn’t just speak to the client’s budget, though that is important.  It also speaks to the arrangement of the program into a form and the size and shape of the spaces and home as a whole.  Some design questions that get asked are “is there adequate storage for the clients needs”, “are spaces unnecessarily large”, “where have I wasted space that could be used/subtracted in the program”.  These questions lead us to adaptability in which we take a critical eye at the near final design and ask if it could be easily adapted to changes in lifestyle, like the addition of a child/roommate/elder loved one, or even changes in ownership (though we certainly hope clients will live in the masterpiece we’ve created forever).

What does any of this have to do with the new modern home?

I was actually asking myself that very same question a moment ago.  This is what I came up with: our current stock of homes are designed with no real client in mind, built by the lowest bidder with materials of the lowest cost and even lower quality and situated on a site with no real consideration for view, environment or the impact it will have on the site.

The new modern home takes all of the above items into consideration and produces a product that will fit within its surroundings, be respectful of it’s environment, fit within the clients budget, function the way the client needs and be adaptable to changing needs over time.  This is the first, simple, small step that we as designers, homeowners and developers need to take towards building vibrant, successful and sustainable communities for our future.