the only guarantee in life

You’re all thinking “death and taxes” right now, aren’t you? Not this time. The one true guarantee in life is change. Someone really smart said that once. I have no idea who.

Everything in life changes and it changes by the year, the month, the week, the day, the hour and especially minute by minute. We are no more immune to change around here as we are to death and taxes. I know what you’re asking. What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Absolutely nothing. But it does have a lot to do with this blog and some big changes coming in the next couple of weeks.

r | one studio architecture WILL BE NO MORE.

Yep. You read that correctly. This blog has been such a wonderful outlet for me to share my opinions, experiences, frustrations, challenges and triumphs as I have moved through my career as an architect. But times they are a changing, baby. And I’m so excited about the changes that are coming.

In the next few weeks I will be launching a new website and blog. I will also be launching a new company name, a new logo and a new direction for our practice. It hasn’t been easy. r | one studio started as a side project, just a “name” to give some legitimacy to the design work that I was doing prior to achieving my license. It grew quickly into an identity for me and a dream for the future – the idea being that eventually the “one” would turn into a “two” and perhaps a “three” as I continued to grow my practice and build relationships with other architects and designers with the same passion for design and construction as me. But now that I am licensed and have taken more serious and intentional steps towards setting sail on the good ship “Entreprenuer”, I realized that I needed to put more thought into the image, identity and even attitude of our practice. Do we want to be safe and comfortable with a nice corporate type name and identity or do we want to do things differently, go against the grain, buck the system and challenge the status quo? I think you all know the answer. “Yeah baby! Let’s buck this bronco!”

This is how ROGUE architecture was born – a new identity and a new attitude for the practice of architecture in the 21st Century. For years now I’ve talked about collaboration with other architects and having a mobile practiceThese aren’t just buzz words. These ideas are at the core of our practice. ROGUE architecture is a firm that will do things differently, to challenge how we’ve always practiced as architects and to seek out clients who have been led to believe they don’t need an architect. Making life better, one building at a time, is what we will do at ROGUE architecture.

Stay tuned for more.

specifications – why they matter

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Architecture produces a lot of paper. And I mean, a lot. And if you’re working on a LEED project?….Forget about it. You’re going to kill at least a few thousand trees just documenting your points for certification. And all of it, every scrap, is important. There are proposals, contracts, sketches, drawings, specifications, addenda, ASIs, Change Orders, RFIs, RFQs, RFPs, submittals, transmittals, memos and even emails. All of this paper is part of what eventually will dictate what your building looks like. But the two most important, other than the contract, are the drawings and specifications.

There are two things that the architect and contractor are concerned about when properly detailing and then pricing and eventually building a particular project: Quantity and Quality.

The drawings represent the Quantity, or the pictorial representation of the building. The site plan, floor plans, elevations, building sections, details, etc. The drawings give the contractor a visual representation of how the building should go together and how much of each part he’ll need in order to get the job done. Now, to some degree, the drawings also represent a level of quality that the contractor is to adhere to. This is mostly evident in the building sections, wall sections, details and framing plans where the architect will depict particular ways of assembly for various pieces and parts of the project. Some of these will be visible while others won’t. But they are all important.

But when it comes to the true Quality of the project, the specifications are where it’s at. And, to me, the specifications can make or break a project. And specifications, like the contract and drawings, becomes a part of the Contract Documents, which are the legally binding agreements between Owner, Architect and eventually the Contractor. These specifications outline the products to be used, the acceptable manufacturers and/or level of performance to be met, warranty information, procedures for testing and evaluation, mock-up requirements, sizes and installation requirements. So, not only do they need to look good, they need to read good as well. And, yes, I’m aware of the horrible grammar in that last sentence.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to specifications and how they are crafted – book format and sheet format. This means that the specifications are either in the format of a book type document (8.5 x 11) or sheet format in which case they are a part of the drawing set. I’m not partial to either. Each is acceptable depending on the type of project you’re working on. Though, in my office almost every specification, even small residential projects, will have a book specification that accompanies the drawings. It’s not necessarily right or wrong it’s just our preferred way of doing things.

Whatever format your specifications are in they need to be clear, inclusive of the materials and finishes necessary for your project, and they need to be carefully proof-read by more than one set of eyes familiar with the project. Lastly, since the specifications outline the quality expected on your project, they need to be READ BY THE CONTRACTOR. This seems to be a more and more difficult request lately. Unfortunate, but true.

on the boards

As I’m sure you’ve all noticed by now, my posts have become seriously erratic in frequency and maybe even a little erratic in content as well. I’m sorry for that. There really isn’t any excuse other than I’ve been plowing ahead full speed in so many different directions lately that to try and rub two coherent thoughts together may cause a stroke.

BUT, I have stepped out of the fog long enough to write this post and show you some of what I’ve been up to in my freelance world. As you may have guessed by my review post of the last year, my new position has afforded little time for moonlighting and I am completely ok with that. I much prefer to have a fulfilling day job that lets me do the family thing once 5 o’clock hits. The two side projects that I have taken on are quite interesting however and I am proud of how they are shaping up.

The first project is more of a residential complex than a residence. Once complete there will be a total of 4 buildings (Main House, Guest House, Barn with 2 apartments and a work shop) plus horse corral and a huge retaining pond. All of this will sit on 21+ acres of old grove land in South Florida. It’s quite simply an amazing project.

Front Elevation - copyright r | one studio architecture 2013

Front Elevation – copyright r | one studio architecture 2013

Rear Elevation - copyright r | one studio architecture 2013

Rear Elevation – copyright r | one studio architecture 2013

The architecture, as you can see, is fairly traditional. It’s not necessarily a style so much as a simple and honest design. Not a lot of ornament (you’re seeing the Guest House – which is being developed and constructed first), but I have taken an opportunity to show off the rear porch a little. The Dutch Gable roofs are fun and give that Florida feel. Finish colors will be very light with some wood accents. It will fit nicely with the surroundings.

The next project has actually been in development for quite a while. I began the design with the client last year and only now has it come back online and we’re moving forward with construction documents and permitting this month. This will be my first constructed container home. If you’ve followed this blog at all you know I’ve designed many, but haven’t had the opportunity to see any built, though some came close. This is going to be an exciting project.

Floor Plan - copyright r | one studio architecture 2013

Floor Plan – copyright r | one studio architecture 2013

As container homes go, it’s on par with size and scale. Less than 1,000 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, living, dining, kitchen and storage. The rear of the house has a water view, so I’ve also created a roof deck above the master bedroom and the rear wall of the living room is a roll-up garage door. To say we’re “bringing the outside in” would be an understatement. 😉

Side Elevation - copyright r | one studio architecture 2013

Side Elevation – copyright r | one studio architecture 2013

Life and work continue to move at a breakneck pace, but I would much rather have too much work than not enough, no?

AIA Arkansas – Tactical Urbanism

Mike Lydon gave a great presentation this morning on tactical urbanism, which is not really a new idea, but centers around revitalizing urban and even suburban areas through grassroots community actions like parklets, or complete streets initiatives, or pop up streets, or better blocks programs. All of these blurbs will yield incredible results on google.

The gust here is that for years our zoning overlays have created roadblocks to development and better communities through design and planning. By tactically creating smaller initiatives and documenting feedback you can better catalyze change.

More to come in part 2.

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daily post: an architectural fiction

Walking down the street, you encounter a folded piece of paper on the sidewalk. You pick it up and read it and immediately, your life has changed. Describe this experience.

image courtesy of treehugger.com

image courtesy of treehugger.com

Truly exceptional clients do not come along every day. There are challenges to overcome with each new client, with each new project and with each step along the way through construction. What ultimately determines the success of a project is your ability to manage all the players. But every great once in a while you come across a client that is a true pleasure to work with. This is a story about one such client.

Walking down the street, muttering to myself how miserable that last project was, “my God I don’t ever want another client like that – never satisfied, constantly making changes even during construction, and no, it’s not ok to change your mind on the wall color AGAIN once the contractor has finished the punch list and final payment is due…”. I look up and marvel at the beautiful historic buildings in the city. I wonder briefly if those architects had to deal with similar issues….most likely. A carefully folded piece of paper sitting neatly on a storefront window ledge catches my eye. “That’s odd.”

I walk over and pick it up, thinking to myself only after the fact “this could be covered in snot….or worse – whatever, lets see what it is.” I unfold the heavy paper – it feels like a cotton stationary. Written on the inside, in a careful and precise block script are the words:

“Hello. You’re my new architect. I’m across the street at the coffee shop. Come find me and lets talk about the project that will change our lives.”

I think to myself, “this guy/gal is obviously a crack-pot. I must meet them at once.” I head over to the coffee shop. I walk in the door and scan the room with no idea what or who I’m looking for. I’ve still got the paper in my hand as I scan over to a small table halfway down and off to the side. A man is sitting there, about middle aged, a little gray starting to show, but otherwise youthful, in shape and dressed casually in jeans, loafers, a button down and a pair of Ray Bans lying next to his black coffee. I like this man already.

He looks up and sees the paper in my hands. He smiles and waves me over. I smile back and head that way. I reach the table, he stands and offers his hand. We exchange a firm handshake as I say “Good morning. I’m Jeremiah, you’re architect.” He smiles and laughs, “Yes, indeed you are. I’m Alexander. Coffee?”

“Yes, indeed.” I look up at the barista, “black with two sugars, please.”

“You must think this a little strange”, he says. “Oh, more than a little”, I say with a smile. “But I’m in a unique position where a life changing project would be incredibly welcome.”

“That’s good to hear”, he says, “because that’s exactly the kind of project I have in mind.”

He begins to tell me about his project. It sounds too good to be true. It sounds wonderful. I try hard to contain my enthusiasm (I’d really like to hug this man) until he’s finished. I interject a few questions here and there when it’s appropriate, probing mostly to find out if this man escaped from some local nut house (he can’t possibly be playing with a full deck).

Near the end of the conversation we discuss his budget, which is incredibly reasonable for what he’s described. We talk about a percentage fee, which he feels is perfect for his needs and even understands that costs may come in higher which would increase the fee. It’s all still sounding too good to be true, and I’m thinking “at least I got free coffee out of the deal”. Just then he asks about retainer to which I answer my standard (this is usually where the conversations with client’s ends), and he takes out his check book and hands me the retainer right there.

“Lets get started right away” he says “and please send me your contract as soon as you can.” He hands me a card with his contact info and we go on our way. I stand like a statue, stunned, bewildered, wondering if I’m being filmed right now. I look down at the card he handed me. It’s nothing terribly special – white card, black type, clean and simple font. His position and industry aren’t terribly special either. By all accounts this guy is your “Average Joe”, but he GETS IT. He understands the value and the need for an Architect – not just the service but the end product as well, which will be his home.

Over the next few months we collaborate on the design, sometimes effortlessly and sometimes it might seem we’re carving off each other’s flesh with a spoon. But always it comes back to the initial project goals. Early in the process the contractor was brought in to join our little menagerie of collaboration. The final, refined design was bid successfully and construction began. Securing a good relationship between the three of us, Owner, Architect and Contractor, early was key to the ultimate success.

At the end of the project, some 18 months later, I sat down to a glass of wine with Alexander and I asked him “So, did this project change your life?”

He seemed to think about it for a second and a smile came to his face and he said “You know, I can honestly say, my life won’t ever be the same. Thank you for all your help.”

I smiled back, “The feeling is mutual, my friend.”

This story is a complete fiction. I have not had a client like Alexander yet, but I’m still young enough to be hopeful and diligent enough to try and educate my potential clients enough to make them like Alexander – appreciative and aware of the value not only of the services of an Architect, but the value of the final product as well, which is their building – whether that building be a home, a garage, commercial office space, pizzeria, deli, bathroom, outhouse or chicken coop. In the end we all want the same thing – a good and successful building.

Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap

What’s your dream tourist destination — either a place you’ve been and loved, or a place you’d love to visit? What about it speaks to you?

“Place” is an interesting word for Architects. It means so much more than a location, a position or even a destination. “Place” is what we create. My own favorite places are almost always churches. I was never terribly religious growing up, and I’m not religious now, though I do have a strong faith. But churches, especially old well built and well designed churches always fascinated me. Two of my favorites to visit are The Cathedral Basillica of Saint Augustine in St. Augustine, Florida and The Cathedral of Saint John The Baptist in Savannah, Georgia. These two places spring to mind because I spent most of my adult life in both Jacksonville, Florida (very close to St. Augustine) and Savannah, Georgia (attending SCAD).

What is always so striking about buildings like these is the immediate sense of “place”, or the feeling that you have entered not a building but a living, breathing thing that has life to it. Many architects, I’m sure, can attest to buildings feeling “cold” or “impersonal”. These are not “places”, these are merely buildings that serve a function and are usually torn down in less than one generation.

Real Architecture creates “place”. Real Architecture creates a building with purpose, with meaning, with an animus that lasts long after we are gone.

Cathedral Basillica of Saint Augustine, St. Augustine, Florida

Cathedral Basillica of Saint Augustine, St. Augustine, Florida

Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Savannah, Georgia

Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Savannah, Georgia

Daily Prompt: Dulled

You encounter a mysterious man offering you a magic potion that, once sipped, will make one of your senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) super sharp — but dull the others. Will you sip it, and if so, what sense do you choose?

it starts here.

it starts here.

I’ve talked before about the effect architecture has on the senses and how important it is, as an architect, to think about not just how people will use a building but also how they experience it with all their senses. If I had to single out one sense to sharpen in my experience of architecture, above all others, it would be my sense of touch.

Architecture is a tactile profession, much more than visual. The shiny pictures you see in magazines, the high-res websites and big screen shots with over-done lighting and special effects….this doesn’t even begin to do a building justice. As an architect, once I’ve created a basic form for a building, I start thinking about materials, colors, light and shadow. The first of these is the most important – materials. Building materials have a texture, a feel, and they evoke an emotional response. If you take a piece of dimensional lumber from your local hardware store in one hand and a piece of rough sawn lumber from a saw mill in the other you’ll know what I mean. The same material, perhaps even the same tree, but a completely different feel and a completely different response to each. Dimensional lumber is cold and hard; almost sterile. The rough sawn piece is warm, and rough, earthy. The first makes you think of a construction site – lots of sweaty guys hammering and sawing, etc. The second makes you think of old woods, cabins, relaxation and a deeper connection to the past. All of this is gained through your sense of touch first. Sight, smell and taste come later. And, yes, I’ve been known to smell and taste wood…I’m weird. What? O_o

And there are so many other building materials to apply the same comparisons to – brick, stone, concrete, tile, gravel, shakes, shingles, nails, screws, drywall, plaster, stucco, siding…the list goes on. All of these materials can be experienced almost completely through touch. So, the next time you enter a new building, take a minute and touch the walls, the floor, the door trim. Try not to pay attention to the sights and sounds. Get to a more visceral experience of architecture. You may get some strange looks – I know I do – but it’ll be worth it.