Friday, January 29, 2010


Design should not be something that looks good for long enough, it should long to look good. Temporary and false facades and details will show poor craftsman ship quickly, architecture should yearn to be for future generations to enjoy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Facebook might be one of the best ways to connect with distant and near friends and relatives. I do not fault the great idea of being able to catch up with old friends. I am disheartened when some people post questions or comments that are obvious attempts to find constant companionship, but are missing due to the haphazard nature of web browsing. We look for connectivity for our computers and on-line relationships with passion in our homes wirelessly or while at work or play updating our lives virtually to the web. In relation to architecture and what can be done to create real physical communities, we are ignoring our physically close neighbors due to the convenience of the web and the fear of losing old friends and the fear of having to meet and learn about new people. Developers and architects have helped us become more insular, telling us what we should like in the style of a house and spending money on the size of the dwelling unit, not the intangible price of a front porch and sidewalk to interact with our neighbors. We are connected and not connected. Walking around your neighborhood, interacting with others is vital to our sense of community. A group of houses is not a community just because a developer places those words on a sign. A community can arise from any physical or web-based connection, but our vehicle driven society is submerging the physical communities that exist in more active and well planned neighborhoods and cities. I believe that taking a hike is the best way to be connected, to our selves, our neighbors, our community, our planet.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Networking II

Someone asked what is the best way to get work for me. Well, really, just one project can launch three more, then those three can launch six or nine. Honestly, just get me to one new client that will spend time and appreciate architecture and the process can become downhill instead of an uphill battle. Geometrically would be nice, but more to the point, getting a marketing campaign organized and a uniform presence is my next step. That step continues tonight with more graphic design, then hopefully more evening networking events next week with the under 40 crowd in West Chester.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Where we live

Both of the books I have recently read have a quote from Winston Churchill; "There is no doubt whatever about the influence of architecture and structure upon human character and action. We make our buildings and afterwards they make us. They regulate the course of our lives." These words are so true and can be attributed to our lifestyle in America. We are consumers through and through, with developers breeding us to accept poor grade architecture as sufficient living quarters. Let's have more fun about architecture, not just the dollar signs, but how we interact and use our spaces, both public and private.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

End of and Era

Watching the last Conan O'Brien show was difficult and awesome! I'm with Coco! His parting words were candid and inspirational. To have Tom Hanks, Neil Young, and Will Farrell say goodbye in that manner was just amazing. I have yearned to do the best in my life, and with his last statement, I apologize to anyone that has ever thought of me as cynical, (Mr. Lutz, my high school teacher), with a goal of building my own house and being involved locally, cynicism is the last thing on my list to enjoy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


There are so many architects, but I fear that many of them do not do it for the art, just a job. This belief is evident in the architecture that surrounds us. If you are not passionate about your job, let alone the art of architecture, please leave the field.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Done with one book

Finally, done with "House Thinking." Very good book, more people should read it to understand how and why we live the way we do. I slightly disagree with the last chapter about some of the benefits of sprawl-burbia, being able to get away from noise and neighbors, but poor construction and location doesn't help my situation. Porches are so necessary and the New Urbanists, I think I am one, agree that they help neighborhoods. Next is "Why Architecture Matters." It will be as thought provoking, I am sure.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nothing new

Nothing new...just getting work done and meeting with clients for some new designs. Thinking of a big, and at the same time small farmhouse, looking like it was added to over time. Almost ready to get into "Why Architecture Matters." It will be a great read. Sorry to hear many people at my old firm in Pittsburgh were laid off. Evidence of how much Pittsburgh and the architecture field in general lag the remainder of the economy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Suburban Diary

Working on more proposals and work. Can't wait to get back to the grind with a new logo and branding idea with Stu. Really into the historical farmhouse look and designing around the vernacular of Chester County/south-eastern Pa. Not much else. Painting the stairs also!

Monday, January 18, 2010

What houses do for us!

One of the most important facets of our houses should be the ability to improve our relationships. Personal, interpersonal, social, natural, physical, and psychological relationships have been suffering from the building patterns of the last 50 years. We as architects are charged with improving our relationships. Being in touch with the land surrounding our homes by farming or gardening, communicating with neighbors on our porches, connecting to children, parents, and spouses with out modern distractions, personal time to read or enjoy a sunset. These and many other relationships have suffered, we can improve life and lifestyles by focusing more on these interactions than the size or cost of our homes. We must, for the health of our society begin to interact with each other. Unplug your television and tune into the seasons, your pets, neighbors and family.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Driving home today I noticed, not that I didn't know this before, the scale and size of roofs being plopped on a development around the corner from my house. These "town houses" are, of course, not in a town, and if anything, more like apartments. The height and scale of the roof trusses being placed on these buildings affords no additional usable space for the owners and are choppy and out of scale with the "details" of the buildings being constructed below. The enormous scale of these trussed roofs and lack of utility is astounding to clients who should be getting more bang for their buck in this economy. Such lack of attention to construction detail or scale is still astounding to me. Some "architect" designed and signed off on these drawings. I know there is no "Hippocratic Oath" of architecture, but to ignore the built environment and only focus on the dollars to be made is irresponsible, to say the least. These other designers went to school and were our classmates, how do we ignore these serious design gaffes? As architecture students, were were all under the same roof, so how did we let them stray from under our tent? Let's reign back the waste and focus on design.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Back to School

After talking about my new logo, website, etc. A topic of models came up! I will be able to get all my slides scanned and shown on the site, I hope. Nonetheless, I will be making more models.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Logo and Branding

I met with my visual communicator last night, Stu, and the ball has really started to roll about the process of branding my concept of architecture. How exciting! The possibilities for any aspect of literature and marketing are becoming more refined and focused. I believe that once this process is nearing completion, so many options will be available for me to get material out to builders, contractors, and more potential clients that will speak a more exacting language.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I have begun a new year, still working "full time," which is really one day down from a full week, and wonder when the fat will be trimmed from the firm. Doing more or the same amount of work with fewer employees is what seems to be happening across the country, except at my "full time" job. Perhaps my 20% of pay is the fat, I opine otherwise. I have to pick up the slack with side jobs which are starting to filter into me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Job Security

I think that the easiest job to keep would be an economist. Since this recession began two years ago, every project has been the opposite of what "economists" have said. I haven't been reading every report, but when media sources state "economists" predicted up, indicators have gone down, and vice versa. I am just a bit baffled by the opportunity to have a job based on predictions and being consistently wrong. Makes weather forecasters look good. The possibility for further destabilizing the weak economy is dangerous, and hurts the building trades when people are uncertain of the job market.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Leads and work are starting to filter in this year. Very busy around the house with little fix-ups, keeping me on my toes about what I am forgetting to do right now, or in the near future. Networking, new work, re-designing my logo/website, soccer games, painting, kids birthday parties, woo. Leaves less time for blogging, but that is not a bad thing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Listening to NPR just gives me ideas all the time. The latest was a discussion about gnocchi, the light, fluffy, potato delight that my grandmother used to make. Not knowing how they were made, the guest on the radio show explained that there are only four ingredients. The simplicity of the recipe means that the technique of mixing and making the gnocchi the most important items. There is a parallel to architecture. So many houses have way to much stuff glommed onto each other, creating a over detailed whole. Using a small amount of elements in the correct portions yields a more successful product. Everybody has the four ingredients to gnocchi, but the process is what is lost on many cooks. The same goes for architecture, use simple elements to compose an elegant and simple house.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

This emotional Life

I missed all of the program "This Emotional Life" last night on PBS, but the connections to relationships and the book I have been reading "House Thinking" are amazingly close. There is so much in our lives that we want or say about our daily lives and houses, but we need to listen to what we need and our environments say about us and influence us. Reading this book is hard for me, no pictures, but for ease of digestion, watch the show and think about your daily life and those around you, including your house!

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Development

What COULD an entirely new development look like? If the opportunity arose to design a development, preferably a gridded, sidewalk oriented area with mixed use areas, maybe a corner store, some offices; What could an early 21st century house in this look like? Sidewalks in front with rear detached garages and alleys? Garage forward, lacking windows on the sides towards your neighbors? Could it reject past historical precedents in design? Modern, ultra-modern? Contemporary craftsman? Vernacular? Porches?

Would the houses need dining rooms, living rooms? Can these spaces be ceded to a more utilitarian, yet comfortable design? Can or should one architect or only several plans be allowed? If not, then does each house have to be unique? Is it possible to exclude "plan sales"? Maybe only a hand full of firms are attached, similar to gated communities, where an architect must be vetted!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Past Houses

As I continue to tweak the plans for a house which I can not possibly afford at this time, I think of why I want such a simple, light filled house. The reason must be that my parents' continued to collect trinkets, antiques, and otherwise useless objects, balking spending time with us or money for our post-secondary educations. The book "House Thinking" has helped me vocalize what I felt and knew inside, but struggled to pinpoint. Now with two separate households full of dusty antiques, my parents still seem to not understand that that stuff was a direct competition for our attention as children. Spending houses driving places, walking through stuffy and musty attics and shops let me have an appreciation for the past, but not for what that time and money could have been better spent on. The "stuff" I have is books, Cd's, DVDs, and a comparatively small few items that have actual connection to my past. My father has made several wood based objects recently. My mother made several plaster pieces decades ago for family that has since died. I see these few items as a connection to the dead family members more than my mom, even though she made them. Even though I am not Catholic, there is a simple statue of the Virgin Mary, a whiskey container in the fashion of a southern gentlemen, complete with hat (the stopper), pocket watch, and cigar. These two items were in my paternal grandparents' house. Another is a Christmas tree with a light in it that was at my maternal grandmothers' apartment. The connection to my childhood is now my son's, the Lego bricks. I have very few trinkets from college, some t-shirts that my wife lovingly framed. The focus on time spent at a football game, a walk in the park, throwing the Frisbee, a good glass of bourbon or wine is invaluable to the physical objects that can clutter a home. I understand that some things are needed for living, but make them select, high quality, high emotional items. I prefer a mind full of old memories than a house full of old stuff. I want to provide my children with a great single house as soon as possible.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kitchen Dining

I shall continue to connect the kitchen to the dining space in designing houses. I shall eliminate the Dining Room (formally) from almost any plan. Living in a town-house for 7 of the last 8 years has had a profound affect on how I see family social time. Another aspect driving me to design in this manner is the fact that my in-laws are from a country where family dining occurs on a daily basis. Considering my parents were in the process of separating for most of my high school life, home dining with my parents and siblings was non-existent. The joined kitchen-dining space in most town houses is a great way to try to keep the family closer knit. If town houses were still designed with small kitchens and dark dining rooms, certainly there would be more alienation between spouses, children, and even the neighbors. The combined effort to gather, eat, commune, and discuss on a daily basis is difficult for families. The party atmosphere of having friends over and everyone interacting with the preparation, serving, and enjoyment of food and spirit is best when the kitchen is not a compartmentalized square in the house, but when it is joined with a dining space to easily entertain twenty or more people. Our previous two apartments had galley style kitchens in a separate room. The connection to the dining or living space was only through a two-foot six-inch opening, not very conducive to entertaining in our less formal society. As busy as we are during the week, the more people that can help at anytime in the kitchen helps the communal nature of eating and enjoying the fruits of our combined labor.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Home is more than a place for my stuff

I desire to have a home that is more than just a place for my stuff. That mean, I don't want that much stuff. I want it to be an open unencumbered space to gather with friends and family, enjoy good food and wine, and good times. The accumulation of stuff is antithetical to having a single house. The house should be a base to explore the world and a respite from work and play. I strive for a minimal, yet well appointed residence. The house has places and spaces for everything and everybody, but wants to be seen as an organism in daily life, changing and growing with the family. It is a place to be, enjoy the space and the simple element of time in a great space.

Monday, January 4, 2010

House Thinking

The book "House Thinking" by Winifred Gallagher is a great book that scientifically and systematically examine how and why we choose the spaces where we live. Give it a read or give the book to someone that thinks about where they live. This book has constructed many of the arguments that I list on this blog in a suscint manner. I ascribe to these discussions and enjoy the fact that the book doesn't push one style!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


The reason I chose architecture as a profession is because it is not inherently repetitive. I still see hundreds of houses and other buildings exactly the same. Customization is the right thing to do to create a house that is just for you. Letting a builder let you choose "options" or "customizations" is not custom. Help the built environment by challenging builders to use more than one or two plans per development. Choose bold colors, appropriately sized and detailed dormers, shutters, roof lines, etc. Let's not be so repetitive, it will enrich all of our lives.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Top 10 Music

Music is very important to me, but recently, I have no connection to people that help me weed out music selections and learn about new bands. Considering I listen to music at work during the day, that is the primary way for me to get into new music. The local radio stations have been doing a poor job and rotating in new music, so I try to use's recommendations along with itunes when I purchase music. Even when using these services, I miss stuff. I also can't list other great albums, because I haven't heard them! Nonetheless, here is my list of great music from 2009, not necessarily from 1-7, but the best 7.

Morrissey-Years of Refusal-only one (1) song that doesn't totally rule!

Depeche Mode-Sounds of the Universe-Great summer pool music

Air-Love 2-Another great chill electro-jazz disc

Flaming Lips-Embryonic-compliments to the unknown nature of our world, examining the rules we make for ourselves and how they can rule us

Stardeath and White Dwarfs-The Birth-an excellent debut from the nephew of head Lip Wayne Coyne

Phoenix-Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix-another great French electro rock outfit party disc

Jarvis Cocker-Further Complications-further Pulp! thankfully more from the former Pulp frontman