LEAP Architecture was founded in 2003 by Eric Davenport, and built on his passion for elegant-clean design, green building practices, and creating spaces that serve people. Eric is an Albany, NY Architect, serving the greater Eastern corridor, from NYC to the lower Adirondacks.
Our family just returned from a trip to Madrid and Paris. This trip was awesome! We were enticed by the scale and warmth of inviting, walk-able cities.
We were joyful for the playgrounds we explored and were enlightened by the simplicity of daily market life intertwined with world-class art exhibits and music. Upon returning, Rowe (our 13 yr-old) had an immediate reaction to our home, NYC: “It’s so…gray!”
City of Light – There’s a Reason
Observation noted. Why does Paris seem so colorful? Is it because people are different there? The climate? How come our home, one of the greatest cities in the world, appears drab in comparison to Paris? Culture may have some influence. But I KNOW design matters:
Lower buildings: Paris strictly protects the current height limits of buildings. This means the city feels more “human” than NYC’s towers. Also, sunlight makes its way down into the city streets, markets, shops, cafes and bakeries so people are more infused with warmth and daylight.
Narrower streets: Many Parisian streets are designed for people not cars: stone pavers, narrow passages, bollards to slow or block traffic. People feel more comfortable and have a sense of belonging in these human spaces.
Color: the Parisian palette has soft earth tones, and their sensibilities flaunt bright colors with expressions of “look at me!” or, “There are so many reasons to be happy today!”
Design Informs our Senses
Different city designs inform our perception of that city and the type of energy we feel. Paris is the home of fashion, color, love and whimsy. NYC is fast paced, and business oriented, with the gray exteriors rising up out of the pavement like crisp, tailored suites… Perhaps that’s a reason Paris really appealed to our kids. It tapped into their sense of play and felt more accessible.
Traveling to foreign countries is a great way to gain new perspective on home, and what home means for us. Paris may be more colorful on the outside, but NYC has it where it counts – in its heart.
Almost 20 years ago, I had the pleasure of studying architecture in Copenhagen, Denmark. Some of the lessons learned there have stuck with me to this day, and I am particularly reminded of them on these cold, wintry days.
Danes Know How to Hygge
Copenhagen Denmark. A couple of things that really stick out in my memory are 1) the perpetual rain, cold, and dank terrible weather and 2) the relief of retreating to a warm, cozy inside. Now the relief of shedding wet boots, coat, hat, and gloves inside a warm building is something that most of us in the North East can related to. However, I’m talking about something more. Much more. I’m talking about good food, great drinks, and happy friends, all bundled into a cozy atmosphere. I’m talking about my experience with Hygge.
So, what is
Hygge? Well, it’s a Danish word that has no direct translation in English. It’s been described as “the art of creating intimacy” and “coziness of the soul”. I’m here to say that it’s not just the latest Instagram hashtag. It’s for real. Here’s how I experienced the architecture in Copenhagen: exteriors are pretty simple, clean lines, maybe a splash of color here or there, but fairly unremarkable. It’s the interiors that the Danes pour all their efforts into: selecting furniture, carefully lighting each room, adding pillows, blankets, tables and candles to create a sense of comfort and ease. For lighting, diffuse is the name of the game. Harsh, high contrast light will have everyone squinting in confusion (or more likely annoyance). Much like a southern exposure. Wait, what?
Unlearning Sunlight Lessons
In the US we’re taught to position windows for southern exposure to maximize sunlight. But that’s not what the Danes-who-live-in-perpetual-darkness-most-of-the-year do. They prefer a northern exposure. Here’s why:
Southern exposure lets a lot of light in, but it’s more direct, meaning very high contrast. You end up squinting in your kitchen from the bright light reflecting off your counter-tops, while the sink area is bathed in shadow. On the other hand, windows with a northern exposure cast even lighting over the entire room, especially when the windows are floor to ceiling or placed high up on the wall.
Danish Design Influence
The biggest lesson I took away from Copenhagen and integrated into my design practice is this: exteriors are easy, interiors matter most. Interiors are where people are. At LEAP we spend the majority of our design time on interior spaces, really thinking about the use and feel. When it comes down to it, we humans spend 90% of our time inside, even if the weather here is better than Denmark. So, raise a cup of hot cocoa and light a candle. I hope your day is a little more Hyggelig as we finish out February.
Eric Davenport, Founder of LEAP, takes a moment to reflect on some of the small wins, personal and in business from 2018.
Happy New Year! Taking stock of the past year, I’d like to share one of my small 2018 wins: I PR’d my clean!
What does that mean? It’s a weight lifting thing. And no. If you’ve met me in person, I don’t strike you as an avid gym-goer, and certainly not a weight lifter. I’ll never look like Dwayne Johnson (please send help if I do!), but I show up and do my personal best. Which brings me to the gym lingo:“PR” = Personal Record and “Clean” = lift barbell from the floor to the shoulders, and stand. While my clean PR isn’t going to qualify me for any lifting competitions, this milestone is significant in its own right and relates to things we all work for in our lives.
I couldn’t lift this last year, or even last month. I certainly couldn’t when I didn’t go to the gym. I had to build up strength over time, incrementally adding weight, gaining flexibility, and confidence to get that heavy barbell up on my shoulders and ultimately above my head! I’ve learned that big improvements, whether with weights or business, relationships, or design capabilities, require consistent small efforts to achieve success.
LEAP Architecture is growing. We started with small additions and renovations. Through consistent efforts, we’ve grown our abilities to design and manage sophisticated projects for large organizations and companies. Our next big effort is to extend Passive House design practices to a majority of our projects. A Passive House (or NET-Zero) Certified building is defined as producing as much energy as it consumes in 1 year. My Passive House Certification was a bigger effort than I bargained for. The tests were harder than my architecture registration exams, but well worth it.
We look forward to helping companies be on the cutting edge in sustainable design for 2019 and beyond. We’ll celebrate wins, big and small, that help LEAP Architecture fulfill our mission of social, environmental and economic betterment for all.
This post is all about #ExploreBrooklyn, and guess what we found? A 65,000 ft² rooftop garden, which is the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, habitat restoration, and a LEED Platinum Certified Building…just to mention a few.
Brooklyn NAVY Yard
For 165 years, the Brooklyn Navy Yard built some of America’s most famous fighting ships, from sailing frigates to aircraft carriers. Currently, the Yard is home to hundreds manufacturing, technology, and creative businesses in NYC. All of the sites we explored below are part of the Brooklyn NAVY Yard and their mission to re-purpose and revitalize the buildings in the yard.
Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm
How cool. There is a 65,000 sq. foot garden in the midst of an sprawling, urban city-scape. It produces thousands of pounds of produce a year, and sells it right in the city. They also produce their own honey and eggs. But it not just about farming, it’s about education. The farm hosts both private and public events, including farm dinners, workshops, classes, educational programs, and tours. They are also a national leader in the development of rooftop and urban farming techniques.
Brooklyn Grange is definitely a mission-driven company. We love what they have to say on their About Page regarding growing fresh vegetables, promoting sustainable living, composting, and creating cleaner air and water.
Brooklyn NAVY Yard Building 92
“Built in 1858, BLDG 92 was originally the Marine Commandant’s residence. Today, this fully-restored, LEED Platinum building is the Yard’s exhibition, employment, and visitor center.” It’s worth noting that LEED Platinum is pretty badass, especially when you consider that it is not easy to make an existing building super-energy-efficient. It’s much harder than a new building. So cheers to Building 92 for showing it can be done, and being a showcase for LEED*.
*LEED certification provides independent verification of a building or neighborhood’s green features, allowing for the design, construction, operations and maintenance of resource-efficient, high-performing, healthy, cost-effective buildings. LEED is the triple bottom line in action, benefiting people, planet and profit.
Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
New York City’s newest green space, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative‘s Naval Cemetery Landscape, a meadow designed to restore the natural habitat, provide a space for environmental education, and commemorate the thousands of sailors, Marines, and others once interred at the site. We were really struck by the design of this outdoor space. It’s very enticing and draws you in to meander around.
NEW LAB Brooklyn
So technically we didn’t tour this place, but it was pointed out and mentioned. That prompted a little research at home. Wow. This is a completely drool-worthy, shared-work-space, technology den. We would totally take space there. Maybe they wouldn’t notice architecture isn’t technically an advanced technology discipline? Check them out for yourself: NEWLAB
Have you discovered little pockets of architecture and sustainability in NYC? Comment below so we can check them out!