"You're going to Atlanta!"
In early May, I was amazed to receive a call that I had won the AIA | Houzz Future of Architecture contest for my entry in the Small Spaces category. As part of the prize, AIA and Houzz sponsored my trip to the American Institute of Architects National Convention 2015, held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The awards would be presented to myself and four other emerging professionals in a ceremony at the convention. My wife Jessica was also able to join me on the trip.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
After a long twelve hour flight leaving Maui late Tuesday night, we arrived in the city of Atlanta. We had just enough time for a brisk walk from our hotel to the Sun Dial Bar at the Westin Atlanta, for the MIT Architecture Alumni Reception. The bar was a dizzying 800 foot ride up in a extremely fast glass elevator, quickly pulling us up over the surrounding high rises. Although the School of Architecture was not able to host the reception, local MIT alum Pamela Tang MArch '83 graciously put together the event for us. I was happy to see a teaching assistant from my studio at MIT, Sheila Colon, who is now practicing in Atlanta. We enjoyed some drinks and pupus in the revolving bar, sharing stories, as the city skyline spun around us below.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
The Great Architectural /Operational Match-Up: LEED NC/EBOM Platinum
Local architects Carmen Evans and Dagmar Epsten gave an early morning presentation on their office project that achieved LEED Platinum level in both the New Construction and Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance categories. I was interested to hear details on their project, as I had recently completed work on a LEED EBOM project, the MEDB Renewable Energy Resource Center. They talked about striping away the excess materials from the structure to make the ceilings higher, and reusing materials where possible to minimize construction waste. The architects also spoke about increasing daylighting in the space with a roof monitor, and while they were not able to achieve every credit it was a good process exploring the various options. The presentation included a series of questions about LEED credits to keep the audience engaged.
Heart of the City Bicycle Tour
Later that morning, we joined a small group of about ten convention attendees for a three-hour bicycle tour through some of Atlanta's historic neighborhoods. We were all a little apprehensive about the three hour ride, it seemed like the group was mostly non-cyclists, and that long of ride sounded tough, especially if hills were involved. A short bus ride brought us to the Atlanta Bicycle Tour company in the Studioplex lofts. The lofts were converted from an old textile factory into a live work space.
The crew at the Atlanta Bicycle Tour was extremely helpful and friendly, giving us a safety introduction to be sure everyone was comfortable with their bike. The tour began with a short ride down a newly constructed two mile section of the Beltline, a multiuse path that was created from an old rail line. Since the path construction, the surrounding area has experienced a revitalization in cafes, retail and housing with the demand to be nearby. In the future, the path will be extended to a full 22 mile loop to connect additional neighborhoods.
From the Beltline, we rode to the Little Five Points neighborhood, an area famous for its alternative culture and unique businesses. We visited the 7 Stages Theater with is amazing murals, and a basketball gym that had been converted to affordable apartments, with the court floor and hoops still intact.
Auburn Park is an old neighborhood of estate homes, originally designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. The large canopy trees, curving roadways and palatial lots truly gives the feeling of being in the country, despite being so close to the downtown. After a decline in the 1960's, it was threatened with demolition with plans for a new highway to downtown Atlanta. The guide explained that group of local appraisers got together to purchase about 40 of the historic homes and were able to block construction of the highway. The neighborhood has adopted a butterfly symbol to represent the revitalization and renewal of the homes, and you can see the butterfly featured on signs and flags throughout the area.
Our group rode through the Krog Tunnel, which is world renowned for its graffiti art and murals. We also visited the neighborhood of Cabbagetown, an area settled by residents from rural areas that came to work in the textile mill. The homes in this area had more of a mountain/country look than the other places we visited.
The Stacks Lofts at Fulton Cotton Mill development was an interesting conversion of the historic textile factory into loft apartments. To keep the historic context, the original machinery, water tower, and stacks were left intact, with the units inserted into the factory buildings. With the increased interest in the area, the units were setting price records for condo units of that size.
Next stop was the Madam CJ Walker Museum, also the original home of W.E.R.D. radio. The radio station was the original location King made his radio addresses. The curator has a large collection of classic Jazz albums and other memorabilia.
The final stop was the Dr. Martin Luther King National Historic site, with a visit to his memorial and the eternal flame.
Energy Modeling for All: 2030 Commitment for Small Firms
Nathan Kipnis presented the steps required for small architectural firms to join the AIA 2030 Commitment, which has generally only been adopted by larger firms. A key concept for the Commitment was to understand the Energy Use Intensity (EUI) for various building types, along with the Lighting Power Density (LPD). He spoke about the various modeling tools available at little to no cost, to bolster the design process early on. He walked us through the energy modeling process with a simple house design, showing how it can be used to optimize the design. I felt very encouraged by this presentation, and plan on pursuing the AIA's 2030 Commitment within our own firm.
Friday, May 15, 2015
Before the Keynote presentation began, the AIA announced that the Auburn University Rural Studio, a community based design-build program for students had won the 2015 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award. The student's efforts have made them a part of the community, it was truly inspiring to hear the story. My thought was this program is great, let's all work to do more as architects!
Welby Altidor is Executive Creative Director for Cirque de Soliel, and he spoke about being courageous with design. And part of the courage is knowing we all have the potential for superpowers - it's about putting your expertise to use in the best way. A barrier to this potential can be fear or individual ego. There can be a fear of failure holding back the heroic design concepts, or worrying about a "dumb idea." Also, the ego can get in the way of collaboration and communication when working in a team.
"It needs an element of punk rock" - Welby Altidor
Storytelling with Julie Dixon
Julie spoke about the challenge of telling a story, to better communicate a concept or connect with clients or the public in general. The interesting part about her presentation was that it used the tools she was discussing, she shared personal stories to better understand the story she was telling us. And it worked, the general concepts she discussed are a little hazy in my memory, but the stories themselves are easy to remember: her personal challenge of interviewing boring bankers for a book she was writing, a banker being held by gunpoint, a couple meeting and falling in love in Paris, and a first grade teacher receiving an unexpected gift for her class. Our brain just does better with stories, and I hope this story works that way for you!
AIA / Houzz Future of Architecture Award Ceremony
Friday afternoon, I joined a group of young architects from around the country to be recognized as the "AIA | Houzz Future of Architecture" award winners. It was a fun group, we shared project stories and had the opportunity to speak with AIA CEO Robert Ivy, and the AIA and Houzz team that made the program possible.
Sketch to BIM: A Design Workflow Philosophy
Stephen Alden, AIA, NCARB presented the inherent challenge in incorporating Building Information Modeling into a design workflow. Although the BIM process is more powerful, it has its share of complexity that can reduce the productivity in the delivery process. Also, it has the potential to constrict the design process if it takes over too early. The challenge is "closing the gap" between the Human Craftsmanship and Machine Craftsmanship.
"Design is to design a design to produce a design" Design: A Very Short Introduction by Heskitt
"Not everything can be accounted for reasonably, I feel that the things which cannot be completely explained, or described in "fact" are valuable to architecture... This irrational quality is important even if it cannot be explained just in functional terms..."
"Design reveals a solution and guides its visualization"
"Nervousness is an essential ingredient in the process of discovery"
Alden kept the information fun and engaging, with a series of videos and design examples that were both critical and insightful. His process diagrams were great starting points to think about my own design workflow.
From Sketch to BIM has challenged me to evaluate my own process in relation to BIM, to ensure it remains both irrational yet efficient for our project goals. I feel it is important to remember that a new tool is not always the best tool, it is up to the designer to select the best tools for their process. A Pentel sign pen can outperform a Mac Pro workstation when selected for the right task.
WHICH IS MORE POWERFUL?
ANSWER: It depends- using the appropriate tools is key for an effective process! Use the tools that best support your workflow.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
AIA Business Meeting
Saturday morning, I served as delegate for my local AIA chapter and attended the annual business meeting. The AIA Board of Directors gave an update on the plans for later this year and beyond. As part of the public awareness efforts, there is a plan to streamline the AIA website into AIA.org for public information and project galleries, and myAIA.org which will contain member services and information. The design of site itself is planned to be much cleaner and easier to navigate, which in my opinion is long overdue. Currently, site looks like it is over 10 years old and is very difficult to navigate or find information. Hopefully the new site will be optimized for mobile use and provide easier access. The AIA is also consolidated and streamlining their communication for members into a single email message, that can be customized for each member's interest.
For the final afternoon of the convention, I took some time to visit the exhibitor booths, filling out a passport for a chance to win a Honda CRZ hybrid. (sadly, I was not the winner!) These are some of the most memorable booths from the expo floor:
FARO- Digital scanning devices that create color-accurate point cloud files of existing buildings, both interior and exterior. The larger unit can scan distances up to 1000' with accuracy to the nearest millimeter. The point clouds can be imported into ArchiCAD, Revit and other 3D modeling programs.
GRAPHISOFT- I saw some familiar faces from the 2015 BIM Conference event held in Las Vegas, and we talked about the possibility of creating a user group meeting for Hawaii's ArchiCAD users. The newest version of ArchiCAD was available to demo on iMacs in their sleek (Apple inspired?) booth. Graphisoft also hosted the AIA Tweetup event, where you could meet your fellow AIA Tweeters in person.
YKK AP- You Tube's most famous architects, Brady and Mosby were in person at the show teaching attendees some new dance moves, and handing out "I AM AN ARCHITECT" shirts. They loved the fact I was wearing the standard architect dress of plastic frame glasses, tan blazer, blue shirt and tie, jeans and black shoes. YKK AP won best large booth award for their innovative setup and fun marketing.
ACCOYA- Specially treated sustainable wood that is rot, termite-resistant, dimensionally stable. Their booth included a custom wood bicycle.
COPPER CRAFT- On Thursday, the booth offered complimentary Moscow Mules in their custom engraved metal cups. The booth also featured custom copper fabrications and metal roofing products.
HOUZZ- A great spot to take a break on the expo floor with white Barcelona chairs outfitted with charging stations, plus complimentary coffee or champagne, depending on the time of day. The Houzz team offered portfolio reviews and tips, plus marketing seminars.
AMERICAN FIBER CEMENT PANELS - Heavy duty fiber cement panels available with color through and special finishes, including a wood grain that closely resembled weathered wood siding. The panels are prefabricated to size with drill holes for installation. AFCP was giving away microfiber cloths, which were great for wiping off your glasses or phone.
STO CORP: The exterior finish company featured an artist painting an Atlanta themed mural at their booth.
VIRGINIA TECH- Students have designed a "FutureHaus" using standardized kitchen modules with the latest technologies incorporated.
BATHTUBS FOR PETS- Professional grade stainless steel dog baths, with step ins and platforms for various size dogs. Also manufacture stainless grooming tables for dogs.
KHL- Cross laminated timber panels manufactured in Europe using locally sourced spruce. Panels can be fabricated in various sizes to fit within a standard container, and can be used for number of building types. Although generally for mid-rise, the industry is looking at ways to construct taller buildings using the system. Bonus- they were giving away a credit card sized USB drive.
BALDWIN- Baldwin Hardware had an extensive display of hardware, and offered mimosas and other refreshments throughout the show. Attendees had a chance to win $2500 in hardware by picking a key from a bowl that would open a Baldwin lock.
A big thank you to the American Institute of Architects and Houzz for making this trip possible - Hope to see you in Philly in 2016!