Daily Prompt: Idyllic

What does your ideal community look like? How is it organized, and how is community life structured? What values does the community share?

Well, this one is right up my alley. The idea of community, what it takes, how it’s organized and who inhabits it is essentially what I do every day, all day, for the last 10 years and will continue to do until I’m taken from this earth. I might even design communities in heaven. We’ll see. But first, let’s define “community”.

According to my good friend Webster, community is:

  • the people with common interests living in a particular area
  • an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location
  • a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society
  • a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests

Now, what all of these definitions have in common is people being grouped together in common interest. Without people, there is no community, just a collection of well-designed and organized (hopefully) buildings. And on the flip side of this is, without this collection of well-designed and organized buildings the people are just standing around in wide open space wondering what to do.

One of my favorite authors on urbanism is Jane Jacobs. In her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities she describes small neighborhoods in successful cities like Boston, Chicago and other urban centers as not being planned from the beginning, but as having grown over time in such a way as determined by need. She speaks out against the New Urbanism movement quite passionately. I tend to agree with her.

So, what does my ideal community look like? How is it organized and who lives there? My ideal community is one that already exists in thousands of cities all over the world. Communities where people care enough to invest in their own backyard are the communities that I love. It doesn’t have to be a big community or a dense urban center that never sleeps. No, even a sleepy little town with one blinking light on Main Street can be a vibrant and alive community of people all working together to make life better. This, to me, is ideal.

Daily Prompt: Impossible Things

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – the White Queen, Alice in Wonderland.

The White Queen - Alice in Wonderland

The White Queen – Alice in Wonderland

Come down the Rabbit hole with me, won’t you?

1. Clients will never negotiate your fees because they believe in the value of your work and the expertise you bring to a project.

2. Clients will always tell you to set your own schedule and take as much time as is needed to put together a well thought out and complete set of construction documents.

3. It’s ok to be a little over budget. The client will still build it the way you designed it. Refer back to #1.

4. The contractor will never try to substitute cheaper, inferior products for the ones you specified because, like the client, the contractor values your work and the expertise you bring to a project.

5. The contractor will read your drawings and specifications and build the project as designed.

6. Architectural practice is exactly like studio.

Feel free to add your own to the list.

Daily Prompt: Comfort Zone


What are you more comfortable with — routine and planning, or laissez-faire spontaneity?

I don’t always adhere to the “letter of the law” when it comes to these daily prompt posts….and today is no different. 😉

As architects and design professionals it is easy to get comfortable, to stick with what you know, to take the road often traveled. By this I mean it’s easy to stick ourselves in a category and never venture beyond our self-imposed bounds. And in years past, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you got a few similar projects, you quickly became very good at a select market sector. And if you did good work for those clients, word spread and suddenly you’re the “strip mall guy” or the “urgent care guy” or the “hospital guy” or the “residential addition guy”, so on and so forth ad nauseum. But if history teaches us anything it is that a good thing can not last forever.

Businesses, any business, that do not position themselves to adapt and grow or change with the times will fail. It is no longer a matter of “if” but rather “when”. Architects, design professionals and architecture in general are no different. I even venture to state that Architects are not meant to be pigeon-holed into any specialty. We are Master Builders, and this is our calling. It is not our calling to be hospital designers, or home designers, or mini-mart designers. An Architect can do all of these things once the right team has been assembled. And that is the way it should be.

So, I challenge all my fellow architects and designers out there, stop pigeon-holing yourself. Get out of whatever comfort zone you’ve put yourself in, or been put in by others, and get out there. Design something different, design it well and more clients will come. Our specialty should be architecture. Period.

Daily Prompt: 180 Degrees

Tell us about a time you did a 180 — changed your views on something, reversed a decision, or acted in a way you ordinarily don’t.

In the field of architecture, you lead two lives. These lives are not simultaneous, nor do they overlap. There is an order to them – one must come before the other. And the former will not prepare you adequately for the latter. These two lives that we lead in architecture are education and practice.

Eichberg Hall - Architecture Studio - Savannah College of Art and Design

Eichberg Hall – Architecture Studio – Savannah College of Art and Design

In education we are taught how to design, how to craft space and light, solid and void. We are taught the precedents of history and then taught to ignore them. We are taught that anything is possible, though leaving out the two most important factors to that statement – Time and Money. We’re taught that anything can be built with a miraculous material called Anti-gravitonium, glass in a universal building material with magical structural properties, and polished cast in place concrete is the only acceptable opaque material that can be formed in ANY shape conceivable…again, irregardless of Time and Money.

In education we explore the sometimes completely unrealistic limits of architectural design and theory. Our imaginations are stretched beyond their limits and sometimes beyond the limits even of Hollywood. We come to think, after years of this experimentation, that life beyond academia will be “just like studio”.

That life abruptly ends day one, minute one of our first internship. Our life takes a 180 and we crash headlong into the face of practice. The practice of architecture is not even really a 180. It’s more like you used to live on Mars. Now you’ve come back to earth where things actually have to make sense, fit within budgets and schedules, be buildable, and most importantly they have to stand up. Because in the real world where cyanoacrylate is not your major joining compound, buildings really do have to work, to stand up. Otherwise they will, and do, fall down. Usually with people in them. And that’s bad.

an architects office - life of an architect (looks way too clean)

an architects office – life of an architect (looks way too clean)

Our life in architecture begins with education. This life quickly dies upon graduation and is reborn in practice. This, for me, is real life, real education, real architecture. These two lives are not simultaneous, nor do they overlap. There is an order to them – one must come before the other. But in practice, this is where the real fun begins.

“yes, we do that.”
If I could count the number of times I’ve uttered these exact words in my career…well, even if I could count that high, I wouldn’t want to.
This post expands nicely on another post by Lee titled “I just need a drawing”. Architects are about much more than just putting lines on a page and “getting it through permitting”. There’s a “something” that we bring to the table that isn’t tangible, but it’s no less important and valuable to your project. As your architect what that “something” is that he/she brings to your project. You’ll be glad you did.

think | architect

2013-03-12 19.15.34

I suppose I cannot speak for anyone other than myself on this issue, but I find it extremely relevant to our profession. Last week I had two meetings with potential clients. At one point in the meeting each person said “you do that” with a look of being surprised but impressed. What they were referring to was “design” – their term not mine. In other words they didn’t realize architects can choose features other than the structure and wall placement, in other words the fixtures and finishes. Choosing finishes and fixtures (paint colors, wood finishes, lighting fixtures, countertops, flooring, furniture, accessories, etc.) is extremely important to me as it completes the overall vision for the project. I don’t approach it in a FLW-over-the-top-control-freak way, but I think it is important to carry a design theme through from the big idea to the details and finishes. This is architecture.

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Daily Prompt: Erasure

You have the choice to erase one incident from your past, as though it never happened. What would you erase and why?

The answer for this is easy:


My life is a cumulative achievement made up of all the choices that I have made throughout my life. The good, the bad and the ugly. If I was able to change an incident or a choice that I made I would fundamentally be a different person today. Perhaps I would be a person who wouldn’t care about the Daily Prompt, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Perhaps if I could change my life I would make the wrong choice and I would be worse off for it.

The bottom line is you can not change the past. Nor should you want to. Do we all do things that are unfortunate, mean, illegal or just wrong? Sure. The point of life is to move beyond those mistakes and missteps, learn the lessons that are offered in those moments and make better choices down the road.

You are who you are for a reason. Rather than focusing on what you could change, accept who are you, love who you are and make choices that will hopefully make your life and the lives around you better.

Daily Prompt: Seven Days

You wake up tomorrow morning to find all your plans have been cancelled for the next seven days and $10,000 on your dresser. Tell us about your week.

Only one thing comes to mind – 7 Days, 7 Cities.

For years I’ve had a list of the top ten places in the US I want to visit. This list includes cities that I’ve never been to but have always wanted to visit, and if I had a week off and $10k in the bank I’d make each day count like a mo’fo. So here’s my list in order starting with Saturday and ending with Saturday.

1. Seattle, Washington (with a brief trip to Victoria and Vancouver)


2. San Fransisco, California


3. Denver, Colorado

Denver Skyline, summer

4. Coby, Wyoming ( closest town to Shoshone National Forest)


5. Bellvue, Idaho (closest town to Craters of the Moon)


6. Chicago

© 1999 EyeWire, Inc.

7.Alamogordo, New Mexico (outside Lincoln National Forest)


In case you can’t tell, I REALLY like the outdoors. I could easily spend 7 days in EACH of these places and not get my fill, but hey. So, what would be your dream week with $10k to burn?