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In order for social media to have an impact, you first have to decide on what you want to achieve and from there, you actually have to put yourself out there as an individual because social media only functions when you are social - which means there has to be a 1st person narrative. I should point out that this doesn't necessarily mean talking about yourself, it means talking about things from your perspective.

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If you are an architect, it's a pretty safe bet that at some point in your career you've had to go on site and collect some existing dimensions for a project. My career is now almost 30 years in the making and not only have I done this possibly hundreds of time, I did it just last week. As far a site measures go, I've done some pretty horrific site measures before and let me tell you, this one doesn't even crack my top 50. In fact, you'd have to wear an actual hazmat suit to get into my top 5. 

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How much time have you spent thinking about the legal side of architecture?  If you are like most architects, you probably haven't spent enough time thinking about it. While it may not be the sexiest part of the architectural profession,  it is something that every licensed architect must consider on every single project.

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Every project goes through these phases - small, big, really small, and then just right - and letting people know what to expect is something that I do on every project.

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Life of an Architect by Bob Borson - 1M ago

“Your first architectural job is important.” I’m not talking about summer jobs or internships … those don’t really count because they have a known shelf-life associated with them. I’m talking about the first job a person takes once they’ve graduated from college – the job that signals the beginning of their professional career.

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Life of an Architect by Bob Borson - 1M ago

The Life of an Architect Podcast is going to hit the road and attend the 2019 AIA National Convention in Las Vegas. As an Architect, I have to say that I am not the biggest fan of Las Vegas. I am not a prude and the seemingly endless amount of vices available to visitors does not offend me - I just don't indulge in many of the things that make Las Vegas a fun place to visit.
However, it doesn't mean we aren't going to have a party.

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Today we are talking about Architectural Bucket lists. Everyone knows what a bucket list is – things you want to do or achieve in your life. For an architect, this could be visiting Therme Vals in Switzerland by Peter Zumthor, or if this was prior to 1969, maybe it would be smoking cigars with Mies van der Rohe.

[Note: If you are reading this via email, you will have to click here to access the on-site audio player] 

Items that an architect would put on their Architectural Bucket list could cover a lot of ground, but that’s what we are going to be talking about today. Preparing for this show was actually agony for me because I tend to not identify with favorites. There is an ebb and flow to my interests and while I might really like something today, chances are better than good that I will replace this current object of my fascination with something else before too long.

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Few people love putting together stair drawings, but I think you’ll agree that some stairs are more fun to detail than others. Such is the case for the monumental stairwell we’ve been working on for our Oak Grove shared coworking space. The front of the building was previously a generic spec developer office building complete with ribbon windows and ground level parking deck under the building. From the very beginning, we knew that there were going to have to be some serious changes.

Enter STAIRAPOOLOZA

[click to enlarge]So many stairs! This is actually a much more complicated story but the short version for our purposes today is to say that the original monumental stairwell was not very monumental. Building code mandates that you can’t have a 3-story open stairwell that shares a discharge space with the elevator cab. The original lobby to this building was barely larger than a phone booth and you had to move from the first floor to the second floor in a dark and unpleasant fire stairwell and only then would the monumental stairwell open up between the 2nd and the 3rd floor.

We didn’t think that was a very pleasant way to enter a building so we decided to go about solving this problem a different way. By adding an exterior stairwell outside the building, we could shift our required egress stair from inside the building to this new set of stairs and create a proper monumental stair that would allow a continuous and uninterrupted procession from the now enlarged entry lobby all the way up to the top floor. If you are going to go to all that trouble, seems like a good idea to have those stairs make a statement – which is what we have done.

The new interior stairwell is intended to be an object within the building and as such, we reduced the impact of all the “stair parts” by wrapping the entire stair in a 3/8″ steel plate guardrail that would effectively make this element an object rather than an assembly of parts. The interior stair is in direct contrast to the exterior stair – both in its orientation and with how we have articulated the individual pieces of the separate stairwells. The image above does a fairly nice job how highlighting the differences between the two sets of stairs.

[click to enlarge]Because I think sharing technical drawings has some value to many of the people who read this site, I’ve included a few pages of the interior stairwell here. The drawing sheet above includes the enlarged floor plans as well as the section elevations of the interior stair. I wrote a post a few months ago (Stairs Are Complicated) that highlighted the exterior stairs if you would like to see the difference between these two elements.

[click to enlarge]One of the items we are still working through is the detailing associated with the steel plates that will act as the guardrails as well as making these stairs their own sculptural element. I know enough about steel fabrication to get really close and ask the right sort of questions to help make sure that we can get the execution close to our design intent. I have met with the steel fabricator and expressed some concern about how the steel plates could warp as they were welded along the bottom edge and as a result, twist minimally but perceivably out of alignment with one another. The fabricators suggested that we take a metal cap and run it along the top – which would do the job of holding these plates in alignment with one another but aesthetically, that solution “make my face hurt”. Since I don’t sleep all that much, I believe that I have figured out a better solution – sometime around 3:00 am – and I will detail a steel angle, held down off the top so that the individual steel plates will continue to read as individual plates, whose visible purpose will be to hold the wooden handrail … but it’s secretive purpose will be  to keep everything lined up.

Stairs are a complete pain to design and detail but as a design element, it doesn’t get much better – particularly if you like putting together technical details. I have been really fortunate with the people I have been able to work with on this project in my office. If it weren’t for the passion and enthusiasm of people like Travis Schneider, Danielle Anderson, and Nick Thorn, elements like this would probably not reach their full potential.

As these elements come together on the site, I’ll be sure to keep you updated on their progress. You can always follow my Instagram account for quicker updates – these are exactly the sorts of things worth sharing with others.

Cheers,

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Unlike most professions, architects are fairly accustomed to standing up in front of a group of people and speaking … but that doesn’t mean they like it (or even worse)  – that they are any good at doing it. The concern going through almost everyone’s head before they get up in front of a group is that they will look stupid, sound stupid, or generally come across as someone who shouldn’t be talking about whatever it is they are talking about. If that’s you, the good news is that you are not alone.

[Note: If you are reading this via email, you will have to click here to access the on-site audio player] 

I consider myself many things, most of which I should be medicated and seeing a licensed therapist about, but public speaking isn’t something that I struggle with. There are a few tips and techniques I have picked up along the way that have made the process a lot easier for me and I thought I would share them with you today. Regardless of the number of people you need to address, knowing just a few things can virtually guarantee that you will look like you should be there.

Stage Presence
  • Try and be comfortable in your own body. If you aren’t a suit and tie person, don’t pick the presentation day to change.
  • Movement is important. Too often a prop (like a lectern) is available and the impulse to stand behind it and lock your hands down with a Klingon death grip on the sides. You must resist!! At the very least, stand to the side a bit so that you can take advantage of our natural impulse to gesticulate with our hands.
Motivation
  • Identify to yourself the objective of your presentation – what’s your big idea? Figuring this out can help guide you when trying to determine if you are on the right track.
  • Tell a story. This is really important because if you want people to listen (and that’s sort of the point) give them something to connect with. This might be difficult for some people but since I am already prone to hyperbole, I try to make this a strength. Telling a story personalizes the information and connects people to your big idea … at least that’s the intention.
Know Your Topic
  • Sincerity is key when presenting, the more you know about your topic, the more believable you will be to your audience. This can be achieved by actually knowing everything there is to know but that’s a little unlikely for most people. The next best thing is to speak with conviction … you must know enough to be sincere.
  • Keep your presentation focused on the areas that you are most comfortable speaking. This simply means that instead of trying to learn all 100 things about “x”, learn 10 things exceedingly well about “x” and stick to those items.

How to Present
  • Which method is the best? From worst to best, I’d go with:
    1. Manuscript (worst)
    2. Memorization
    3. Outline (PowerPoint)
    4. Extemporaneous, and then
    5. Improvisation (best)

Nobody wants to sit in on a presentation where someone is simply reading their lines, at least I know I don’t. When you know your material so well that you can see a word and know what information you are supposed to cover, that sort of spontaneity makes for the best presentations because they have the most energy.

Choosing a presentation format is really a function of audience size – but try to make it as interactive as possible. I normally try to ask some sort of question in the very beginning that everyone can answer. It should be a question that you can tie into your topic – before I presented at the Texas Society of Architects Convention on the Purpose of Social Media for Architects, I asked, “How many people have ever been to my site before?”. Afterward, I realized I should have asked people something far less specific like “How many people use the internet during business hours?”. Getting people to engage, even at the smallest level, really makes a difference.

Project Yourself
  • Make yourself heard – but don’t yell. Project your voice towards the back row unless you are in a huge room and you have to use a mic.
  • Find the light … and then stand in that light. Pay just a little attention to how the space is going to be lit and make sure that you are standing in the light. If people can’t see you, they can’t hear you. It really is that simple.

So despite all these straightforward tips and techniques, most people only follow a few. My biggest fear when speaking in front of a group of people falls in line with what everyone fears – sounding like an idiot (looking like an idiot I have little control over). I have come to accept that my obvious shortcomings are simply aspects of my personality and those traits don’t always find a receptive audience. I don’t want to change who I am or how I act because it wouldn’t be me and my sincerity would be lost. My personality actually trends towards public speaking pretty well because I like to tell stories and subsequently use those stories to get my point across. This manner of presenting is far more entertaining than reading facts and figures verbatim from a PowerPoint slide presentation. I do have one glaring problem or issue that I struggle with – talking too much and knowing when to get off the stage. That’s why I’ve saved this pointer for last:

Adios Muchachos (goodbye my friends)
  • If you have 20 minutes allocated for your presentation, plan to fill 15 minutes. That extra 5 minutes will sometimes (unfortunately) get filled with ah’s and um’s, but since you should be working without a script, you will embellish parts and add some flourish along the way. It always happens.
  • Nobody ever cares if you run short but everybody hates when you run long. Don’t. Run. Long. If it looks like that’s what’s going to happen, instead of speeding up and running through the presentation material like a jacked up Ewok, skip ahead in your material and reset so that you can maintain the conversational tone to your speaking.

In My Spare Time [37:05 mark]

Andrew’s Spare Time 
Most of my spare time in the spring months is spent traveling with my oldest daughter and her club volleyball team. This has been ongoing for the last several years as my daughter loves playing volleyball and as a good parent, I support her interests. So this involves many early mornings on Saturdays or Sundays or full weekends. This past weekend it was a full weekend of volleyball at one of the largest events in the region: a very large qualifier tournament in Dallas. This event is held at the Dallas convention center and is a sight to behold. It is a 3-day event in which there are about 135 courts of volleyball going on at any given moment of that 3 day weekend. I mean to say it is so much volleyball you cannot even wrap your brain around it until you are in the environment. The very first time I went several years ago, I was in awe of such a thing. Now it has become old hat and I can navigate the environment like a pro, but your initial induction is very overwhelming. So the schedule is to get up early and play several matches in one day; 3 to 5 per day. And then start again the next day for the same. Although on some days it is get up very early and drive for a few hours to be somewhere by 8:00 am to play for just one day. And then drive home after a few matches are completed.

So as you may see, these are typically long days full of volleyball, excitement, stress, and sometimes heartache. But it is also wonderful to watch your child grow as a person and I can and will look back at these times an see the clear evolution of my daughter, not only as a player but as a human from a little girl into a young lady.

Bob’s Spare Time
For the umpteenth time, I am talking about making barbeque … but this time it’s different because I’ve never talked about pork belly burnt ends. These things have become my latest favorite thing and for the foreseeable future, I can’t imagine having a party where I don’t put these things on the menu. At some point, I should probably write a blog post on how these things are made because every time I put something like this on my Instagram feed, most of the questions are asking me to explain what  I did to make them. The short version is that  you start with a slab of pork belly (which  is essentially unsliced bacon) and then you cut it up into cubes, smoke it, spice it up, smoke it some more, then cook it some more, and then get out of the way of the people you are serving.

While I don’t maintain a large circle of friends, I have been expanding it a bit of late because as I practice my BBQ game, I need willing participants to come and eat the product I make. So far, the word on the street is that this is a pretty good gig to get. Let me know if you’re interested because summer is coming …

Cheers,

Outro [47:03 mark] …
Today we are talking about talking
Turn on the clock
Hey Secret
Terrible segue
Hello, I’m Mr. Tide
Project Yourself

Thanks again to Petersen Aluminum Corporation for sponsoring today’s episode – to learn more about their products and services, please visit https://www.pac-clad.com/

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I’m currently in Chicago celebrating the 50th birthday of a good friend of mine. In fact, there are four of us here and we all know each other from our time together from the University of Texas School of Architecture. Evidence presented this weekend would suggest that we are all still about 24 years old despite the realities that we are all considerably older. This has been a fairly architecturally intensive themed weekend and sprinkled throughout our reminiscing has been some interesting conversations about how things are done now compared to how things were done “back in the good old days.” I am many things but a Luddite wouldn’t probably be one of them, but I do like doing some things a certain way even though there is technology out there that could possibly do a task more efficiently.  Primarily among these activities is that I like to sketch out my ideas rather than relegating it to a computer program.

For grins, I thought I would use the following example … laying out tile patterns. I posted the following picture to Instagram a few weeks ago and a fairly interesting conversation occurred in the comment section.

For the most part, this is a pretty straightforward photo, but I received the following comment:

“Looks like a perfect use of computation to look at the variations. A quick script in Dynamo could generate what you hand is doing a whole lot faster and effectively”

For those of you that don’t know, Dynamo is a program that runs within the drafting software my company uses (Revit) to create scripts that automate repetitive tasks, explore complex design problems, and streamline BIM workflows in a Revit model. The person who left me this comment was pointing out that instead of trying to determine the tile layout by hand, I could simply write a quick script and Dynamo could do it for me.

While he is absolutely correct, from my standpoint there are a few considerations to his argument, at least where I am concerned,  that doesn’t favor using this piece of software – the main one being that I don’t really draft in my office anymore and don’t know Revit or Dynamo. Beyond those, I don’t want the computer doing my tile layout for me.

Saving time is one of the main arguments for allowing the computer to generate a mix of tiles in your layout – you can easily change the percentages of the mix to quickly determine if an 80/20 mix is right or if an 83/17 mix delivers the results you want. For me, I definitely went old school on this process … I did it by hand.

[GASP]

This is the elevation in question – quickly printed out from our drawing set.

  • Step 1: Count the number of tiles
    For this, I actually counted the horizontal rows across the top (there are 24) and multiplied that times 3 columns * 4 tiles per column + 4 tiles for that little sliver on the far left-hand side. This gave me a grand total of = 292 tiles
  • Step 2: Do some really easy math
    I was interested in an 85/15 split so I multiplied 292 * .85 which equals 248.2 tiles … I rounded down to 248
  • Step 3: Do some more easy math
    I subtracted 248 from 292 which gave me my 15% balance of 44

Pretty easy so far as I have 248 tiles of one color and 44 tiles of an accent color. Here’s where being a designer kicks in … I  wanted to lay out the tiles myself so that  I could make sure that I liked their distribution. So far I have invested about 23 seconds of my time, which is about 12x less time then it took for me to actually type these steps up.

So here is the layout using my 23 seconds of math. It’s a little sloppy but easily got the point across. I won’t presume to know what you’re thinking [yes I will] but I’m going to guess what you’re thinking:

You: Bob, look at all the tile, it must have taken you quite a lot of time to draw up that pattern, at least as long as it took you to write up that paragraph explaining the math. I know that you’re trying to say that it’s sloppy but c’mon … it’s amazing!!  

Me: Thanks, but it really didn’t take me very long. If you must know, I would say this took me at maybe 30 or 45 seconds.

You: LIAR!!! There’s no way …

I am not a liar and here’s how I did it … I simply overlaid a piece of trace paper on top of the printed out elevation. Whomp!

There was one step that I did prior to this one, but it made more sense to move the images around. I actually made a few versions of these tile layout studies and during the photoshop assembly of getting them ready for today’s post, I cleaned up the perimeter’s edge (that’s the black line defining the outline of the elevation). You can see it more clearly in the next image …

Okay  – I tried to make things a bit more obvious in this image and if you look at the very bottom, you can see that there are three little tick marks. Instead of writing out all the step-by-step instructions, I’ll just blurt it out. I basically divided the entire wall of tile up into quarters with some more quick and easy math and I put a tick mark at the bottom so that I would know the boundary area. From there, I just needed to put 11 accent tiles into each quarter (44 tiles divided by 4 = 11). When I was drawing it up, I put the brownish accent tile mark down first and then came back afterward and just filled in the field tile.

And for your eagle-eyes out there who will do the math, you’ll notice that there are actually 12 tiles in the quadrant to the far left.  For my own special amusement, I added 1 additional tile just because I can.

So how did all this take me? Maybe 90 seconds total. I probably did all four of my studies in a 5-minute window and I was happy with the results and settled on the 85/15 split.

These are the mix of tiles we will be using from Heath Ceramics

There is a lot more to this bathroom than just the single wall of tile that I showed above. This is a commercial project I’ve been working on and there are 2 pairs of Men’s and Women’s toilet rooms (4 total). We didn’t want to match the tile used in each space so we have selected 4 complete sets of tile to personalize each space.

Nice, right?

There are times when I am acutely aware that there is technology out there that could potentially make my job go a bit faster. I would also imagine that the scale of the tasks I am working on would be impacted by my decision to do this by hand or write a short algorithm that would allow my drafting software to make these sorts of decisions for me. If this was a professional football arena and I was working through the layout of 60 bathrooms and 145,612 tiles (instead of 292) I would be the first in line to take advantage of some technology. But it’s not, so I’m not, and therefore I didn’t … it’s that straightforward for me. I also tend to think that the end result is impacted when we put “technology” into the actual design process in an automated manner.

When challenged with: If I design the tool to create the pattern have I not also created and designed the pattern? No, I don’t think so. My counter for such arguments is If I build a piano, it does not make me a musician. I am aware that this is a simplified response to what is actually a much longer and (at least to architects) possibly more interesting conversation. This is a fairly mundane task and if I could take that algorithm and simply run it over and over again until I get a pattern I like, I could then have a seamless transition to my construction documents. In my hand-drawn version, I would have to hand this sketch to the installer … which I could actually do and it still wouldn’t take that much time, but it is a matter of scale. If the space I was working on was much larger than this, I would assuredly be wasting some time on a process that could be expedited. It could be relegated to the computer and I could then turn my attention to problems that the computer can’t solve for me.

But where’s the fun in that?

Cheers,

ps –

I mentioned at the start of this post that I was in Chicago celebrating the 50th birthday of a friend of mine. The picture above was taken by placing my phone on the ledge of a window at the Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright. The four of us all graduated from architecture school together but have since scattered to all corners of the US (this was the first time we have all been all together in the same place since 1992).

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