Architecture

✱ FLW 150 by Evan Troxel

Frank Lloyd Wright would be 150 years old today, and thinking of him immediately took me back to my childhood. At around 8 or 9 years old, I replicated his floor plans on grid paper of my own. I would beg my parents to buy me plan books or find books in the library because they were utterly fascinating, and I remember specifically drawing the Robie house (seen below) and being in awe of the kinds of plans he designed mainly because it didn't look anything like the houses I had lived in. I only thought of them as 'plans' at that time... I didn't even know they were real buildings! But then at one point I remember seeing pictures of the Wingspread house (in the slideshow below) for the first time thinking that it couldn't be real. How could that be a house?

Mind.

Blown.

💥

 Animated floor plan of the Robie house

Animated floor plan of the Robie house

It's amazing to me what a man with such an incredible vision and creativity could do with a pencil.

I've had the opportunity to visit a few FLW buildings—the Hollyhock house in Hollywood, the Ennis house in Hollywood, the Gammage theater at ASU, and Taliesn West in Scottsdale. I've always loved my experiences in them and obviously I have a lot more to see. He designed over 500 built works.

So here's to Frank. His architecture was a piece of what inspired me to become an architect, and his architecture will continue to inspire us for at least another 150 years. What a legacy.

ARE Hacks on the EntreArchitect Podcast by Evan Troxel

I had the pleasure of being on Mark R. LePage's EntreArchitect Podcast to talk about my book ARE Hacks, my origin story, and many other things. Mark is so great to talk to, and I truly appreciate his hospitality and thank him for allowing me to talk to him and his listeners. As usual, Mark was a class-act (and his show notes are amazing).

There was a good discussion about the book itself, why I wrote it, and why hacking your life (and the ARE) to become an architect is worth it. 

You can listen here.

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✱ Dear Future Architects by Evan Troxel

It’s been a long time since I participated in the #ArchiTalks series. It just so happens that the Archispeak Podcast and ArchiTalks are always scheduled to get posted on the same day, and since I am deeply involved in the podcast it always takes precedence. I decided this time to write my blog post in advance… what a concept. I’m a slow learner, what can I say.

Dear Future Architects is our topic for this month’s #ArchiTalks post which comes from Bob Borson of Life of an Architect who is the official cat herder of this whole thing. Be sure to check out all of my colleagues’ blog posts in the linked list at the bottom of this page.

I’m just going to think out loud as I sit here at my computer sipping a cup of coffee. I hope you’ll play along and indulge my thinking. Let me know what you think in the comments.


I can’t help but be excited about the future of architecture. It seems to me that, generally speaking, the young architects-in-training (no, not interns!) of today are hell-bent on making our profession better in ways that most people who have already “arrived” don’t understand. And at the same time, with the speed at which technology is changing our practice, we are all wondering if there’s even going to be something to do once the young blood arrives. I mean, computers have already made our jobs so easy, what will be left to do? 

Of course the last part is a joke, and if you’ve worked in the profession for very long, you know that is an antiquated view and technology has only given us even more fine-grain control over every little aspect of our projects. In other words, technology hasn’t made things easier, it has in fact created more work for us to do. The plan sets that get submitted to code officials are no longer 30 sheets which were enough to create a dialog with the builder. No, not anymore. I mean, the set of drawings for my latest project is over 600 30"x42" sheets deep (and counting). It goes in at the end of April for a 9-month review cycle during which we will undoubtedly produce even more drawings.

There’s no shortage of things to do and technology is not going to be replacing us any time soon. There are many professions that are worried about this probability. While it may make certain decision-making processes easier, the fact is that we are drawing more and more instead of being smart about it. On top of that, the contractor/architect war only exacerbates the process of C.Y.A. mentality. 

Those issues aside, there’s so much for future architects to look forward to! My advice has to do with what you can do to make the profession better instead of blindly accepting what it is.

Care more

You can make this profession better if you choose to, and you have already exhibited this skill. You care more about yourselves and your profession than past generations have. You don’t simply take our answers for granted. You question them (sometimes endlessly). I love this about you. You don’t accept “that’s the way we do things around here” for an answer. It is obvious that you care, but I’m telling you that you’re going to have to care even more. Caring is what is going to change this profession for the better.

The best architects care: They care about the meaning in the work they do, they care about making their communities better, they care about their work/life balance, they care about the shared experience, they care about office culture, they care about solving good problems, and they care about true leadership. 

Technology can’t replace this part of humanity, and humanity is what architecture is all about. While a building may be able to be 3d printed in the future, this isn’t going to make buildings inherently better. It may give us architects more control over the process, but we still need to solve the problems that real people have with space and shelter. We need to listen to what people need and synthesize what we hear, often times from a multitude of inputs, into thoughtful responses. It is this, I believe, which you will be better at than your mentors.

Do everything you can to care for others, and in turn it will serve you and your chosen profession in ways that you probably can, but us in the older generations can’t even imagine. Then let me know how I can help you.


CHECK OUT MY ARCHI-FRIENDS' "Dear Future Architects" BLOG POSTS TOO:

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Dear Future Architects: A Confession

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Dear Future Architects: You Need to Hear This

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Dear Future Architects: 4 Perspectives

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
dear future architects

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Dear Future Architects: 3 letters

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
future architects: #architalks

Jes Stafford - MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Dear Future Architect, Listen Here

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Dear Future Architect -- Remember Then

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Dear Future Architects

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Dear Future Architects..

Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Dear Future Young Architects... Please Quit Screwing Around!?!!

Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Dear Future Architects: Don't makes these 4 Mistakes

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Dear Boy in the Plastic Bubble,

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Dear Future Architects

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Dear Future Architects, Be Authentic

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Dear Future Architects...

Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
Dear Future Anthony

Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Dear Future Architects, Do Your Thing

Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Dear Future Architect

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Dear Future Architects, Don't Forget to Treat Your Clients with Respect

Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Dear Future Architects...

Rusty Long - Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Dear future architects, never lose your optimism

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Dear future architects, are you credible?

Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
Dear Future Architect, a Letter to My Younger Self

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Dear Future Architects...

Ken Saginario - Twelfth Street Studio
Dear Future Architects...

Inside Eero Saarinen's Abandoned TWA Terminal at JFK by Evan Troxel

I've talked about architecture that has affected me before, and this is one of those places I have a feeling would do the same. I've never been to it, but these images are making me want to figure out how I can go spend hours in the 1962 TWA terminal that is soon going to become a hotel, for better or worse. This is timeless design.

✱ Words Architects Use by Evan Troxel

Our words matter. I keep seeing this one thing that is killing our chances of truly connecting with our clients over and over again. It's spreading like a virus through our profession, and it's probably going unnoticed by the people propagating it. It's your vocabulary, and it isn't impressing the right people.

I love a well developed lexicon, so please don't misunderstand me. This is written from the perspective of the people who are trying to decide if they want to work with us (most likely for many years on a project) or not. Many times we just never get that chance because of the words we use when we give our first impressions. The following is based upon my experience. 

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✱ What Architecture Means to Me by Evan Troxel

A friend of mine was beginning to teach a new architecture class at one of the local universities and he wanted to get the new kids thinking about architecture and what it could mean to them. They were new architecture students and were probably the type of people who didn't really know or understand the definition of architecture yet. From my perspective, it's a difficult thing to define if you haven't really thought about it. No, it's not "buildings".

He asked a few of us at the office who are passionate about the profession to give their points-of-view. It's a hard thing to define even for me, and I wonder if I might have given a different answer if it were asked on a different day.

"What does architecture mean to you?"

Architecture is a dichotomy in so many ways. It is where we spend the most personal and private part of our lives, and it is also the framework within which we all live and work in the public part of our lives. It is something we all participate in every day and yet is something many (most?) rarely notice. Architecture lies at the intersection of art and science. It brings together primal needs and high tech. It grounds us on the planet and often defies gravity. It is a huge, intricate, advanced thing that is still mostly built by hand. Perhaps the strangest part of our interaction with the built environment is what can be so evocative and meaningful for one person can mean absolutely nothing to someone else.

The process of architecture is not for the passive. It requires a passionate involvement and commitment to bring out creative solutions to complex issues. Architects are poised to solve many of the world's biggest problems, and we do so willingly. We are problem solvers by definition. Working with others (listening, exploring, creating, struggling, thinking, asking, etc.) and collaborating on solutions to these problems is the biggest workout your brain will ever get. The more I do it, the stronger it gets. It feels good and right, and I probably wouldn't want to do anything else.

When we as architects work on something we always try to reach that extra level… trying to achieve soul or depth. This is part of what separates architecture from buildings. In every project there is this inseparable combination of function and aesthetics; of function and emotion. It should make our lives better. Architecture has the potential to address form, tectonics, craft, color, light, texture, sound, reflection and shadow. It must achieve a provocative relationship between simplicity and complexity. It must access the unconscious... and that is maybe what architecture is all about.

So... I'd like to know: what does architecture mean to you? Write it down and post it for others to read. Leave your thoughts or a link in the comments. 

✱ Architecture is for People by Evan Troxel

I recently took to Twitter and shared a story about a visit to an architectural project I worked on with a photographer who will be shooting the project when it's complete. It was a great experience and I though I'd try a new way of sharing my story on Twitter instead of my blog. I spewed the entire thing out and a few salient tweets were retweeted out by some of my followers and friends. But I think it's better when there's context and seen as a whole, so I took all the pieces and put them into one larger story using Storify.

Here it is presented in its entirety.

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Link: LoaA Annual Playhouse Competition 2015 by Evan Troxel

It's on! My friend Bob over at the Life of an Architect blog is holding his fourth annual playhouse design competition. You can see the winners from last year (and the previous years as well) and read the rules for entry. Here's the short list:

This competition is open to anyone from anywhere – the only entry criteria is the following:

  • You have to be a living member of the human race (or at least be able to fool others into believing that you are).
  • A good attitude should also be a requirement but that’s more of a personal judgement call.
  • Capable of reading and following the instructions that are spelled out very clearly below.

So head over to his blog post and read the full rules, the submittal requirements, the timeline, and how the judging process works. It's one of the most fun competitions around, and the winning playhouses actually get built and go to an absolutely great cause - helping out kids in need.

Go play architect!

Link: My Take on Being a Well-Rounded Designer by Evan Troxel

I was honored to answer a few questions for the Philadelphia University School of Architecture blog which is a great resource for architecture students. There you can read my thoughts about the importance of being a well-rounded designer and architect. You'll also learn quite a bit more about me, my background, and why I do what I do.

I'm so happy they publish this publicly so everyone can read it and get some good information about what it's like going to architecture school and what to expect once working in the profession. More like this please.

We Don't Like Your House Either by Evan Troxel

This documentary is about some of Architect Bruce Goff's work and he talks openly about his relationships with his clients and about the work itself. The label 'genius' comes up a lot, and to be truthful I've never been interested in his work but I took some time to watch this and it's fascinating. I love how much his clients trusted him and loved what they were able to accomplish together. 

For some reason it starts at minute 17. Rewind it back to the beginning before you start watching.

✱ Like a Chef by Evan Troxel

 Chef was a good movie, but it made me want to design a food truck more than become a chef!

Chef was a good movie, but it made me want to design a food truck more than become a chef!

My friend Lee Calisti posted on his blog recently about the stereotype (and reality) of architects wearing black, which then started a great conversation over on LinkedIn. He followed it up today with another insightful post. It's a great thread that led into other tangents about the value and perceptions of an architect, types of work, and more. I truly appreciate everyone's comments who chimed in. It's great because architects should be talking about this stuff a lot more, and revealing ourselves to the public through this kind of discourse. 

Regarding the value and perception of architects, I think (and I've said it before many times on the podcast - archispeakpodcast.com) that we should be like chefs. Who doesn't love to watch a chef cook? How many people in the last decade have dedicated hours of their lives to watching the Food Network? Just about every time I went over to my parent's house over a 5 year period that is what was on the television. 

We should be sharing what we know freely and willingly. That's the allure of the Food Network. It is showing us who we aspire to be. Will we all become famous chefs? No, of course not. But we can all be great chefs in our home kitchens. We can all obsess over this stuff because it enhances our lives in a very personal way.

Architecture could sure use some of that magic.

People always want to know more "behind the scenes" stuff about professions they either know nothing about or at one time (maybe even still) aspired to become. Everyone wants to be a great cook. Many people want/have wanted to be an architect. Many architects actively protest their children's desire to become architects. People love to build. But we actively push them away. This is stupid, and it's up to us to make it better or else our profession will die. If our profession became better at sharing, like Lee does on his blog, we'd have a much better perception in society and we'd be a happier bunch.

I make it a point to share everything I know. Some people have asked me where I find the time. Believe me, I know better than anyone that time is fleeting. But I make it a priority. I hope more architects will too.

How's that for a tangent from Lee's original post? Thanks to him for hosting this discussion on his site and on LinkedIn. 

Link: Architecture and Math by Evan Troxel

abacus.jpg

I have a small cameo appearance over at Life of an Architect where the post is talking about an often-asked question by those thinking about getting into the architectural profession: Does one need to be good at math to become an architect?

Bob Borson:

If you ever thought about being an architect but thought you couldn't handle the math, you aren't alone. At parties across the land, as soon as someone finds out there is an architect in the crowd, there is a story being told about how they wanted to be an architect but since they couldn't draw or weren't very good at math, they decided to do something else.

There are lots of great points and perspectives from Bob and a slew of other architects as well.

Bob also gave us the opportunity to supply a link back to whatever we wanted, so you might want to click on my link there as well for something new...

✱ Neurosciences Institute by Evan Troxel

I don't really know how to express it. This place is amazing. The Neurosciences Institute (NSI) in was completed in 1995 by Tod Williams Billie Tsein Architects (TWBTA) in La Jolla, California. It is described as "a monastery for scientists" and before I had read about it, I felt it when I was there in person. This is capital "A" Architecture, and deserves to be on your list of places you need to experience.

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✱ C34892 by Evan Troxel

Two years ago I made a goal to get my architecture license by the end of 2014 and finish what I started when I went to Cal Poly Pomona to begin my degree in 1992. The nagging in the back of my head had to stop, so I decided to do something about it (finally). It took an immeasurable amount of internal motivation and discipline to get me to where I am today. A tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can say that I truly feel lighter.


Saturday, December 20, 2014 was the day I became a "real" architect; number C-34892 according to the California Architects Board. Or as my friend Drew says, "That's CEE-THREE-FOUR-EIGHT-NINE-TWO. BITCHEZZ." It's true; I am just a number (to the state) who now has much more potential to be on the wrong end of a liability claim because it can be proven that I know the difference between right and wrong according to a rigorous exam process. But I digress. No matter what the future has in store for me, I can't help but be excited and proud. The first thing I did was create my stamp. 

One thing I know for sure is that I could not have achieved this monumental task alone. It has been the most difficult thing I have ever attempted and completed. More on that another time. Thank you to all that have supported me along the way. A very special thanks go out to my wife Jessie and my friends Mark, Brett, Drew, Neal, Cormac, Jacob, Robert, and Doug. 

✱ Requirements for Creative Thinking by Evan Troxel

Isaac Asimov Asks, “How Do People Get New Ideas?”

Read this article first. It takes about 10 minutes, and is completely worth your time if you do any kind of creative work.

This is an insightful article that has an amazing comment section which really adds to the original. It's nice to see an article have so many intelligent and well-written comments that hasn't degraded into a typical internet flame war. Asimov speaks early on in the article about the necessity of working in isolation to be creative. The older I get, the more I appreciate time to myself for thinking. I've been building it into my routine and it's paid off even though I wasn't really aware I had done this. After reading this article I can now see it. This isn’t new thinking, for sure, as you can see the article was written in 1959(!).

Isaac Asimov:

"My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.)

The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display."

We've talked about some of the topics in this article on Archispeak. Some things came to mind while reading the article, so I’ve included my notes here. I read a lot about creating environments that support creativity, so allow me to connect the dots with my thoughts, others’ thoughts, and the referenced article by Asimov:

  1. Conventional wisdom was not always conventional. This came to mind when reading about how things seem obvious (or ‘reasonable' as he says) now, but when originally conceived were considered out-of-the-box thinking (and shunned because of it).
  2. Creativity happens within a set of constraints. Blank pages are overrated and often overwhelming. 
  3. Creativity happens when there is a safe place to practice it. For the best ideas to float to the top above the rest, you need to have a place where it's OK to have bad ideas often and not be shunned for it. I refer back to John Cleese's talk on creativity, which as I’ve said before is probably the best thinking on creativity I've heard.
  4. The people you work with are just as important as the (safe) place where you work. If you can trust those you work with not to belittle your "stupid" ideas, you have a much better shot at saying something stupid that ultimately leads to a breakthrough.
  5. A creative work environment should afford the freedom to play. The burden of constant results-based business that is always looking for more efficiency is killing this necessary aspect of play as a tool for creative thinking. It feels like we're living and working in a world where we need (or be perceived) to have all of the answers, when in reality it's our job to explore and find the answers. This is a maddening paradox to be sure.
  6. Creativity rarely happens on a schedule. It doesn't happen in a particular place or when you need it to happen. My best thoughts appear when I'm in the shower, out for a walk, or in the middle of the night. It's good to take notice of when your best ideas happen so you can be on the lookout for them. You can start expecting them to show up and you can be ready to write them down because you will surely forget them if you don't. I think we can all agree that it sucks when we don't write them down.
  7. Someone may have a good idea and it takes someone else to add to it to make it a great idea. I've witnessed this many, many times. This should be the basis of critique, as we spoke about in the Episode 45 of the podcast.
  8. I often find that the best group creativity happens at the dinner table with a bottle of wine or at the bar after work. The faster you are able to lower your inhibitions, the faster the ideas start flowing. Don't forget to bring a sketchbook... you'll need it if you want to remember all of your seemingly great ideas the next day.

With all of this in mind, some of the companies I know of that have this type of environment are IDEO, Pixar, and the Eames' office. They show that it is possible to run a company that champions this type of work, and the work they produce shows it. I'm sure there are more, and I'd like to know who they are. This goes especially for the architecture industry - who are the firms that exemplify these principles today? 

I’ve included a gallery of architectural studio office environments here. This is what it looks like. The creative process is a messy one as expected; as it should be.

✱ It's Their Story by Evan Troxel

This is my third post in the ArchiTalks series where a bunch of internet friends in the online architecture world write an article and post about the same topic on the same day. We most definitely don’t write about the same things however. We’re given a topic capable of a wide range of interpretation which gives a lot of variation in the posts by all who are participating. Bob Borson over at Life of an Architect started this whole thing and it seems to be going well, so we're continuing to do it. Click through to read the whole article.

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✱ The Salk by Evan Troxel

My wife and I went down to La Jolla a few weeks ago and did a small architecture tour while on our getaway. I brought my camera and made some photos so I thought I'd share (because that's what I do!). We visited four buildings in and around La Jolla, California that I'll be putting here on the blog in separate posts as I get through the images. I posted some of my iPhone shots on my Instagram feed but these are from my main camera and haven't been shown until now, and I'm really happy with how they've turned out.

First up is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies by the master, Louis Kahn, which was built in 1962.

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Link: Create a Realtime Walkthrough of your Revit Project with Autodesk Showcase by Evan Troxel

I recently made a tutorial over on the Novedge blog on how to take your slow, chunky architectural Revit model and get it smooth and beautiful for a realtime presentation in Autodesk Showcase that'll make your client ooh and ahh. What's Showcase? Check out the tutorial to find out. I think you'll like it, and you might already have it on your computer if you have a Revit subscription through Autodesk.

Video: You Are Not A Storyteller by Evan Troxel

I have some issues with this but it's another way to look at the "storytelling" as it pertains to designers and architecture. I think it's undeniable that a lot of our clients want to be part of a story that we can help create about them and their endeavor. While we can facilitate the creation of a story where they become the main players, we are architects first and foremost. Storytelling can become a vehicle for our clients to present their project to future visitors and help make the difference between it being a building and it being architecture. There is a difference, and something as simple as a story can help make it.