Favorite Design and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of Dec. 17, 2012

  • blog dec 17

Cultural workplace differences in Korea. Being adaptable in an uncertain world. Opportunities for architects and designers. Public housing transformed. 

Workplace culture in Korea. Leigh Stringer of HOK discusses the differences in culture and workplace in Korea as the firm helps to design gas company Samchully’s  new headquarters.

Observations with the culture:

  • The streets are spotless in Seoul, yet this is a city of 10 million people. I can tell you that New York City, which is roughly 8 million people, is significantly less pristine.
  • People on the streets are very well-dressed and well-spoken. They have a great fashion sense and few are overweight.
  • Women are a minority when it comes to senior positions in many organizations. Yet Korea is about to elect its first female president.
  • Though the sense of hierarchy is strong, collaboration and agreement of the whole is essential for decision making

Observations in the Korean workplace:

  • The chairman makes all the decisions. There is a clear leader, though he takes advice from many people.
  • Impromptu space is not necessary – it was value engineered out on day one! Collaboration occurs more formally and in conference rooms.
  • Work at home is not officially supported. Mobile work is supported and the technology is excellent. Yet because people are often working in groups, the office is the most convenient place to be. Also, being in front of the boss is important. If you’re away from the office, you’re probably on a trip with your boss.

Via HOK Life blog

Success in an uncertain world. Philip Dilley, chairman of the Arup Group, blogs about uncertainty and how the best way to deal with it -- and risk -- is to ensure that you remain adaptable and resilient.

“People can try to prepare for any number of risks if they are smart enough to think of them (although Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s ‘Black Swans’ suggest they are not). Yet the best strategy for long-term survival and growth remains having the resilience to adapt.

That is why those concepts feature so highly in our approach to both our business and our work.” – Philip Dilley

Via Arup blog

Video on the design profession. Cannon Design Gary Miller, Co-chair and chief executive officer of Cannon Design, talks about the opportunities for architects and designers as globalization continues to grow, especially in China and India, and now South America and Africa.

There are huge opportunities in the commercial sector, education and healthcare. Architects need to reinvent themselves, thinking how they can be innovative and what they can bring to the client. Architects need to create opportunities and take them to the market, and be part of the push economy and create their own future.

Via Cannon Design blog

The rebirth of public housing. Scott Doyo, Principal at PlaceMakers, blogs about the redevelopment of South Front in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The site was once public subsidized housing, but has become a private rental property that embraced several interesting elements, such as keeping the historic structure. The site is green, LEED Silver and has brought new life to a downtrodden area.

Via PlaceMakers


Favorite Architecture and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of Dec. 3, 2012

120312 Luckett and Farley on the importance of office design. Lake|Flato reflects history in custom lighting. Geoff Manaugh on pop-up forestry. Kaid Benfield on making cities more walkable.

Importance of office design. William J. (Billy) Hallisky blogs about the art of designing a modern office and why design still matters.

The well-designed adaptive re-use of a corporate interior can play a pivotal role in a business’ success. The right design, for example, might require a large capital investment, but is easily offset when spectacular reductions are made in revenue wasted on space that no longer fits a company’s business model (or more often than not, re-designing a poorly designed space).

Via Luckett and Farley blog

Custom lights are remnants of history.  Phil Zimmerman, intern at Lake Flato, blogs about the installation of custom light fixtures at the nearly completed Pearl Parkway Buildings of the Pearl Brewery Redevelopment in San Antonio, Texas.

The light fixtures were designed to use existing materials and remnants from the historical brewery. The “Beakerlier” was created for a lobby space within one of the Parkway buildings called the Lab.  The fixture is composed of materials originally used for beer quality and recipe testing in the Brewery’s lab.  The chandelier’s design uses found objects and also references an obscure yet important historical function within the Brewery’s beer making process.

Via The Dogrun

Pop-up forests. Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG discusses an article in the New York Times on Christmas tree research labs, scrutinizing the program’s extreme steps that include “the largest and most sophisticated of operations," where scientists "harvest almost a million trees a year from an 8,500-acre plantation and remove them by helicopter" for analysis elsewhere.

While the goal of the tree labs is to develop new and improved tree species for both indoor and outdoor display during the holiday season and to create a tree that can last weeks without shedding its needles, Manaugh says the vision of this kind of pop-up forest brings to mind a different kind of pop-up forest, one of "insurgent shrublands," disturbed landscapes, and other "fast-emerging but short-lived ecosystems in an era of nonlinear climate change."


Related: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/garden/building-a-better-christmas-tree.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Making cities more walkable. Kaid Benfield discusses the 10 keys to creating walkability in a city from Jeff Speck’s new book Walkable City.

Speck’s ten steps of walkability:

  1. Put cars in their place. ("Traffic studies are bullshit.")
  2. Mix the uses. ("Cities were created to bring things together.”)
  3. Get the parking right.  ("Ample parking encourages driving that would not otherwise occur without it.")
  4. Let transit work.  (“While walkability benefits from good transit, good transit relies absolutely on walkability.")
  5. Protect the pedestrian. ("The safest roads are those that feel the least safe.")
  6. Welcome bikes. ("In Amsterdam, a city of 783,000, about 400,000 people are out riding their bikes on any given day."
  1. Shape the spaces. ("Get the design right and people will walk in almost any climate.")
  1. Plant trees. ("It’s best not to pick favorites in the walkability discussion— every individual point counts— but the humble American street tree might win my vote.")
  1. Make friendly and unique [building] faces. ("Pedestrians need to feel safe and comfortable, but they also need to be entertained.")

10. Pick your winners. ("Where can spending the least money make the most difference?")

Via The Atlantic Cities

Favorite Architecture and Urbanism Posts for Week of Nov. 19

Architectural influencers. Teamwork at the concept stage of healthcare design. The growth of Amish communities. Interview with Dan D'Oca of Interboro Partners.

Giving thanks to architectural influencers. Build blogs about how most people think a truly great architect comes up with design ideas all on their own, entirely independent of anyone else’s work. This, however, is not the case.

Build gives thanks to its all the individuals and firms who are inspiring and influential to the profession of architecture. These are people and groups whose hard work has stirred thinking, motivated design and encouraged building.

Build’s top 10 favorite influencers:

  1. E. Cobb Architects
  2. Gordon Walker
  3. Claesson Koivisto Rune
  4. Claus en Kaan
  5. Studio 804
  6. Mathias Klotz
  7. Hufft Projects
  8. AVRO|KO
  9. Dietrich | Untertrifaller
  10. Jonathan Segal

Via Build Blog

Start team effort early in healthcare design. George Vangelatos, design principal at HMC Architects, writes about the value of shifting the investment of time and resources at the concept stage of the design project as the healthcare industry is constantly under scrutiny for its lack of efficiency and effective use of resources.

“The design process of a medical facility involves the review of thousands of factors. Though many of these are consistent from project to project, what may not be consistent is the timing of their consideration and the team members involved in the evaluation process. Early team integration and expanded decision making involving a range of disciplines can lead to lower life cycle costs and significant design and construction cost savings.” – George Vangelatos

Via HMC Architects Blog

Amish communities growing. A recent census reports that a new Amish community is founded every 3 1/2 weeks in the United States. Known for their idyllic and sustainable lifestyle that rejects modern technology, the Amish are found in 30 states across the United States, and in the province of Ontario, Canada.

Researchers at Ohio State University predict that at current rates, the Amish could exceed 1 million people and 1,000 settlements by 2050. As the Amish communities grow and expand it becomes more difficult to continue farming lifestyles because of limited land availability near existing communities. The Amish have transitioned into new jobs such as woodworking and construction, or left their homes in search of affordable farmland which has led to the creation of new communities.

Via Congress for the New Urbanism Blog

Playing well with others. Sasaki Design's collaborative design approach is strengthened by its ongoing exploration and exchange of ideas. To expand its knowledge base, the firm is hosting an ongoing lecture series featuring guest speakers, most recently Dan D’Oca, cofounder and principal of Interboro Partners.

A specialist in the politics of the contemporary built environment in America, D’Oca shared some insight into his practice and collaborative approach to design.

Architecture for architecture's sake is a phantom: when architecture gets out of the studio and into the world, it inevitably influences—and is influenced by—non-architectural things. To believe otherwise is to doom architecture to irrelevance. Ours is an architecture that plays well with others. We try to understand how architecture influences "non-architectural" problems to identify opportunities in which architectural interventions can influence outcomes for the better. – Dan D’Oca

Via Sasaki Design Blog

Favorite Design and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of Oct. 22

HDR considers design in business. A practitioner's POV on research. Perkins+Will farms a rooftop. Pinteresting preservation ideas. 

Design as a business. Chad Narburgh blogs on how at any truly innovative company you will find that design is at its core and is used to drive business.

“Design as a business” places managers on the opposite side of designers, partially due to the fact that managers are typecast as profit-driven pragmatists while designers are stereotypically seen as time-hungry idealists. I noticed that the stereotypes tend to come out when a project reaches critical mass, by either going over budget or not meeting the client’s design expectations. – Chad Narburgh

Via Blink – Perspectives on Design Blog

Research in today’s world. Deepika Padam an architect in San Francisco, blogs on what she learned about the role of research in today’s world of excessive information at the AIA Research Summit this past summer.

Padam said the experience was unique because research is not spoken in the same vocabulary or at the same level at her practice as was done at the summit. She learned that academicians and practitioners see research with very different perspectives: academic and applied research.

Via Metropolis Magazine POV Blog

Urban agriculture. Gisela Garrett blogs on how the Perkins + Will New York office set up gardening and maintenance for a rooftop farm in Queens, which included tidying up the chickens’ coop and yard.

The environmental impact of rooftop farming in urban areas is extremely positive, with contributions ranging from stormwater management to decreasing the demand on buildings’ HVAC systems. A recent study says that New York City has vast potential for urban agriculture as it “can play a critical role as productive green urban infrastructure.”

Via Perkins + Will Blog

Pinterest for preservation. For those preservationists who aren’t familiar with Pinterest, Sarah Heffern of the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides 10 tips on how to use Pinterest for historic places and beyond.

Some of the tips for preservationists include cross-promoting other service on your Pinterest page, using the search function and expanding your online store.

Via National Trust for Historic Preservation Blog

Note: Follow AEC Idea Exchange on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/aecideax/


Weekly Roundup for the Week of July 2

Transformation of vacant Wal-Mart. Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle converted an abandoned Wal-Mart in McAllen, Texas, into a functional and contemporary library. The firm, which was recently named winner of the International Interior Design Association’s 2012 Library Interior Design Competition, installed a strip of laser-cut wood into the ceiling plane to visually divide the library, placing the computer lab on the left and meeting rooms on the right. The designers also used several hanging graphic elements to help break up the space visually.

Via Inhabitat

Architecture and Affordable Care Act. HOK healthcare experts share their thoughts on how the Supreme Court’s ruling on ACA will affect healthcare architecture and opportunities to bring value to clients.

“When we think of health care architecture, we are looking at a tool in the larger social context of healthcare delivery. When delivery of care is inefficient and expensive, with insufficiently good outcomes, or doesn’t cover all citizens, we are looking at problems that we as architects can help solve.” -- Chuck Siconolfi, a senior principal and director of healthcare innovations, planning and design at HOK

Via HOK Life

Race to be green. Mayor Vincent Grey of Washingon, D.C., has initiated an ambitious new plancalled SustainableDC, that seeks to make the nation’s capital No.1 in sustainability in a generation.

Seven bills are being considered by the City Council, which include boosting energy efficiency, spurring renewable energy production, promoting electrical vehicles, protecting rivers, promoting urban agriculture and reducing toxic exposure among children.

Via The Dirt

Permanent play street in Queens. Jackson Heights residents and City Council Member Daniel Dromm won a hard-fought battle to close 78th Street to traffic for two summer months. Now, 78th Street is being turned over to the community and is on track to receive a bottom-up redesign that will make the new space more than just asphalt.

The Department of Transportation has two designs underway. One is to enable the street closure to function year-round while letting parents at the adjacent Garden School drive and drop off their children on 78th. The second is a longer-term vision of how the street can be remade as a space that works for people, integrated with Travers Park on one side and the Garden School park on the other.

Via Streets Blog

Balancing Act

This article was originally published in Architect's Newspaper

Field Paoli sponsors employee events put on by the firm's 'Fun Committee.'
Courtesy Field Paoli

Last year, LA-based CO Architects had nine babies born among their 75 employees. According to Associate Principal Frances Moore, their moms work the same amount of time as their male colleagues. “Some of the women having babies are the most driven women we’ve ever had at the firm,” she said.

According to the Family Work Institute (FWI), a non-profit center that researches the changing workplace, this is the new norm. Their 2008 “National Study of the Changing Workforce” found for the first time that men and women—with children or not—of the Millennial Generation express an equal desire to hold jobs with increased responsibility. Moore notes that CO’s new moms are married to professionals with equally demanding careers, meaning that somewhere along the line there’s less time to focus on parenting and, inevitably more tension in balancing work and life.

So with 70 percent of couples now dual earners, families are dividing responsibilities at home and at work in less traditional ways. Meanwhile small and large firms across the country and organizations like the AIA are taking steps to mitigate the issues that invariably result when parenting butts up against a notoriously hard-working culture.

“You can’t do both and do a good job at either,” comments Linda Taalman of Taalman Koch Architecture of work and life responsibilities.

Taalman spends most of her professional day at Woodbury School of Architecture, where she leads studios on building technology. Her husband, Alan Koch, who is also her business partner, takes the role of caregiver in the evening because it’s not unusual for her to teach until 9:00 p.m. on some nights. “But I do the mornings. At home, it’s divide and conquer. We divide our efforts to maximize our time,” she said.

For another husband-wife architecture partnership, Tim Durfee & Iris Anna Regn, an at-home studio allows them to not have to choose between their young daughter and work life—even allowing her to participate in some aspects of the design process.

Yet despite these novel efforts the pressure on architects can often be too much, and firms have had to step up to help architects with families survive.

A drawing by architect Yann Taylor's son, Finn.

“Parents are critical to any profession or organization because they represent the mid-gap and the future leadership,” said AIA Director of Diversity and Inclusion Sherry Snipes.

Through the Diversity and Inclusion program, the AIA promotes policies like medical benefits for domestic partners, paid or partially paid maternity/paternity leave, telecommuting, and flexible hours to support and retain parents. The organization also tries to set an example through its own policies, allowing its staff to work flexible hours and telecommute.

“The upside for the firm is employee engagement, which drives productivity, lack of absenteeism, staff retention and overall business success,” added Snipes.

At Field Paoli Architects in San Francisco, there is little in the way of these formal policies, but “promoting family and personal lives, makes our employees happier and more efficient—and more valuable to us,” said Principal Mark Schatz. “We like working with interesting people, and interesting people like more than just architecture.” The firm accommodates new parents by adjusting schedules to get them re-engaged. Even though project managers can be frustrated when people aren’t there full-time, Schatz added, “We always find a way to work around it.”

The firm has one program that any parent would particularly appreciate: a paid sabbatical, which is available to every associate and principal after ten years of service. Principal Yann Taylor, with an entrepreneur wife and two children aged five and seven, will be taking his three-month sabbatical in 2013. He has postponed it for a couple of years so that his youngest can better appreciate and remember the experience.

Architects Durfee and Regn's Growth Table is designed for both kids and adults.
Durfee Regn

“This is an opportunity to connect more deeply—not just to my family, but to the world around us. We want our children to experience different cultural viewpoints—and if we happen to come across some great architecture along the way, then so much the better,” said Taylor.

Four of TaalmanKoch’s five architects are parents, and Linda Taalman sees that as a plus not a minus. “People who have kids value time. They don’t waste it and are usually very efficient.” The office operates on a loose schedule allowing staff to arrive and leave at times that work for their day. The firm averages eight-hour days, five days a week with exceptions when deadlines require it.

“A lot of architects abuse people who work for them,” said Taalman. Her firm pays on an hourly model. “We try to be efficient in our process of working projects. Any time someone has put in, they should be paid for it.”

New York-based Goshow Architects’ HR Manager, Joel Peterson, described his firm’s Work/ Life Choices program in which most of the employees participate. Features include benefits for part-time staff working at least 30 hours per week, and creative weekly time splits: four ten-hour days (which are standard office hours during summers), and nine-hour days with a day off every other week. At its core, the program allows employees to offset choices like going to the gym or leaving early for their daughter’s soccer game by putting in the hours missed on another day. Goshow also offers job sharing where two part-time employees share the responsibilities of a single project role.

“To make this work,” Peterson explained, “we include one or two overlapping hours each day, so that the employee taking the next shift is up to date on the little details that transpired. “ While only 13 percent of Goshow employees are parents, the firm finds the flexible approach equally effective at engaging and retaining its under-40 Millennial staff.

“Employees are increasingly expecting the freedom to have both a successful career and personal life.”

Technology can play a supporting role for parents as well. CO Architects—where of its billable staff, 68 percent of men are fathers, and 44 percent of women are mothers—finds flex hours “very challenging because our work is so team based,” said Moore.

CO supplies staff with smart phones and VPN access, which makes it easy for project teams to communicate and share information with their colleagues working from home.  The firm also uses video conferencing and Webex to reduce travel demands by working remotely with clients and construction teams on site.

Regn, of Tim Durfee & Iris Anna Regn, sees a shift happening within creative professions, where family is more than ever a part of the thought process. Her interest in parenting’s influence on the creative professional led her to start an initiative called Broodwork, along with artist Rebecca Niederlander, to explore the reactions of those who found an unexpected change in perspective after becoming parents. Broodwork has been presenting the work of creative parents through exhibits and events since 2009, with their latest, Broodwork: It’s About Time, to open on April 30 at OTIS College of Art and Design's Ben Maltz Gallery in Los Angeles.

Regn is optimistic, “When I first began practicing, architecture offices were run like a grad school model—everyone was single and expected to work all night.  There was little talk about balancing work and life.” She continued, “But now, flexibility is more possible than ever.” The current generation of parents has made this choice consciously. They’ve become parents a little later and have decided that they want to spend time with their kids. “Because men are now also voicing concerns, it’s no longer just a women’s issue. After all, the way life outside affects design is the core of work itself,” she said.