a year in review



I’m a firm believer in self-critique and examining your own immediate past in order to better understand where you are, how you got there, where you want to go and how to get there. This is an essential task in life and not taking time to give yourself a review is a great way to ensure you’ll never get where you want to go and most likely just float along aimlessly until something happens to you rather than making things happen. And if you read this blog you know that just 12 months ago I made a huge personal and professional change (i.e. risk) by moving myself and my family from sunny Florida out to woodsy Arkansas. I left a firm I had been with for more than 4 years, a city I had practiced in for 9 years and countless friends I have known even longer. Making a change like this is never easy, either personally or professionally. In both cases I and my wife have had to start our lives over completely. New state, new city, new home, new jobs, new colleagues, new friends. It was…..stressful. But the opportunity to be closer to family and new adventures professionally were too great to ignore. So, we packed up and hauled butt. And now, one year later, this is my Review.

Before we get to the meat of things, I think it’s important I lay out some of the goals I’ve had for myself and some of my professional biography. In 2003 I graduated with my Masters in Architecture and in early 2004 I began my first internship with one of the oldest and most respected firms in Jacksonville, Florida. During my time there I learned a lot about the practice and production of architecture. Between then and now I’ve worked at several other firms in Florida and Virginia, and now Arkansas. I’ve designed projects in multiple other states and countries including Panama, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand and Israel.

So, after nearly 10 years in practice, where did I think I’d be by now? Well, I certainly thought I would be licensed before now. That was probably the single greatest goal that I set for myself. Everything else was pretty fluid. I was never one of those architects that had a particular style of architecture or even market sector as a major focus. I just love what I do and relish in the opportunity to work on any project and do the best I can for my clients.

But, I suppose if I was totally honest I would have to admit that I always considered myself a Modern and/or Contemporary designer. I’ve always had a preference for a simple and honest expression of structure and form without a lot of ornament (as little as possible, if any, in fact). But I also always had an appreciation and a love of old buildings. Living and studying in Savannah, Georgia was certainly good for that. But it wasn’t until this past year that I really began to appreciate, study and truly investigate architecture on a deeper level. This was due 100% to the new position I found myself in Arkansas. My firm does a good bit of Historic Preservation, Rehabilitation and Restoration work all over the state. And once I got more involved in these projects I began to more clearly appreciate how historical styles and movements and traditional building methods got us to where we are today with architects like Frank Gehry and Peter Eisenman and Santiago Calatrava and so many others. And through this deeper investigation I began to see the beauty and the purpose behind a lot of the ornament that I had always spurned as ugly and unnecessary.

Fast forward to today and quite frankly I can’t stand a lot of modern architecture out there because there is an almost complete lack of scale, proportion, sensitivity of material or eve at times GOOD TASTE. So much of the modern work I see is a white box or a black box or a grey box or a wood box. Windows are out of place, out of scale, and simply creating a huge open multi-functional space for people to live in is not good design…I could go on and on and on. And to cut a long story not so short, the last year has been wonderful for my professional growth as an architect, and I am also happy to report that as of this post I have taken my 5th of 7 exams (fingers crossed on a big win for that one). This will also be my third exam since moving here last year. Before that I hadn’t taken an exam since 2009. To say I lacked motivation and encouragement is the understatement of the century. There is thankfully no lack of either since I moved here and, God willing, I will be a fully licensed architect before the new year.

And with that big hurdle accomplished it will be time to set new, higher goals for myself in the next year. I look forward to new challenges, new adventures, new projects and new clients. And, on top of all of that, over the next month or two I will be transitioning this blog to a new blog and social media platform. I’ll be handling all blogging and social media for Ruby Architects, Inc. Nothing will really change other than the name, but it’s another step forward for me in my career and I’m really excited about it!

daily prompt: naked with black socks

Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why?

Finally, a daily prompt question I can relate to. Lately they’ve been more about writing creative stories and….well, this is an architecture blog, not a creative writing blog. BUT today, we’re talking about being naked….wait…no, we’re talking about public speaking. Yeah, we’ll go with that.

When I started college I was shy. No, seriously. 😐 I wasn’t the outgoing, energetic, ever-positive guy I am today. I was a major introvert. Anyone who has ever seen the inside of any architecture department in the WORLD knows introverts have two options:

A) drop out and teach high school art classes

B) become not-introverted REAL quick

I chose option B. It wasn’t easy and it took the first 2, almost 3, years of college before I really came out of my shell and took hold of this whole public speaking thing. And it wasn’t entirely by choice. At SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design for those who don’t know) you gave a presentation in most of your architecture courses at least once a week. Every other class at least once or twice a quarter. It was serious trial by fire, sink or swim, pick a metaphor.

So, I went from being terrified of speaking in public, even small group settings like my studios, to ENJOYING public speaking and presenting my work, or just talking to people in a crowded bar. And this is incredibly important in practice because, as an architect, you have to be able to speak clearly, calmly and confidently about yourself and your work to clients, engineers, consultants, product reps, board members, city officials, review panels, public hearings…the list goes on. You either get good at it, if you’re not already, or you will most likely find yourself behind a desk until you do.

ARE 4.0 – Programming, Planning and Practice

areThis morning I sat down for the 5th of 7 ARE (Architects Registration Exam) sections. The title of this latest gem: Programming, Planning and Practice. What does that mean, you ask? Well, if you have taken the exam, or know someone who has, or follow the ARE Forums you know this exam basically covers most anything under the sun. And I can mostly confirm this. And so, as with other posts on the subject, below is an overview of what and how I studied as well as my thoughts on the exam content – both graphic and multiple choice.

What I studied:

I have found so far, with most of the exams that extensive study beyond what is contained in the Kaplan/Ballast study books, practice software and flash cards is unnecessary and incredibly stressful. The ARE as a whole tests your basic knowledge of principles and design and systems, as well as your general ability to follow the simplest of instructions regardless of what you think is right or wrong. So, getting into the nitty gritty and detail of every aspect of architecture and building engineering….not really necessary. This exam is no different.

The Test – my reaction:

The critiques and reviews of this exam on the ARE Forums are pretty spot on. The Multiple Choice section wasn’t completely all over the place, but there were a fair amount of WTF questions that did not appear in the study materials. There was a very heavy concentration on Programming, Contracts and “most appropriate” or “best practice” kind of questions. The section is 120 minutes long and only 85 questions. I finished with a good 26 minutes left on the clock and that was after reviewing every single question a second time and verifying my answers. The first go around I took about 30 seconds for each question, which was plenty of time to carefully read and understand each word in the question given and understand what exactly they were trying to get at. This is critical for all of the multiple choice sections so far – understand the English language and really READ the questions. I honestly have no clear feeling of how I did on this section. It’s a real 50/50 shot in the dark.

The Graphic Section, however….seriously…it’s kind of a joke. If I failed this section I will appeal the decision because there’s no way in hell. Like most of the graphic exam sections, you have to read the instructions/program and DO WHAT IT SAYS. Nothing more, nothing less, just do EXACTLY what it says. The way I accomplish this is simply by writing it all down and having that program list right in front of my face as I’m working through it on screen. As I complete each requirement I scratch through it and move on to the next. Once finished, I go back through and verify each item on the list, scratch it off again and then check one last time to make sure I didn’t miss something stupid. You’ve got 60 minutes for the Site Zoning Vignette. After I finished, checked, rechecked and then checked one last time I still had 20 minutes left.

All told, for a 4 hour exam, I finished in 2 1/2 hours, including my 15 minute break. And in about 4 weeks I’ll know if what I studied was enough. Good luck to all the candidates out there.

is the code cold?

I probably could have said this better (not really), but I figured I’d repost anyway. As an Architect, understanding the building code and the best ways to interpret it really only comes with experience…and a lot of headaches.

think | architect


I run up against building code interpretations quite often. I think our ancestors who figured out the Rosetta stone had it easier.

Since most of my work has something to do with an existing building, I often find myself in murky waters. All too frequently, building codes can be difficult to confidently interpret and maneuver for new construction so with an existing building it can become even more confusing. The instance where the public (and architects) have difficulty in understanding the restrictions is on matters that are narrowly specific to their circumstances. The code is written to address generalizations; this is the dilemma.


Normally I have situations where I need to convince, coerce or persuade a client to do something that they do not want to do. I recently had a client ask me to research a matter related to a voluntary but simple handicap accessibility upgrade. It wasn’t a…

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