Architecture

Architecture, Inspiration, People, Projects /

Challenge Accepted at Habitat for Humanity

THE BEGINNING

Have you ever made an offer to someone thinking that they wouldn’t take it…then they do? That’s exactly what happened in the case of the new Habitat for Humanity Restore location. In this instance, I’m glad our team accepted the challenge and volunteered their time to create nothing short of a piece of art.

   

When Linda Loewenstein approached Lawrence Group to come up with signage schemes for the new Restore location, the scope was vaguely defined. They wanted something that differentiated their merchandise space from their office space and that was more than just vinyl graphics for wayfinding. They wanted something that would activate their space and give life to their new home. As a not-for-profit, cost was important, and it was anticipated that a lot of the time, labor and materials would be donated. Lastly, the timeline was aggressive — a little over a month from start to finish. All of these seemingly impossible factors helped shape the beautiful product and made for a great experience.

THE TEAM

The team started with Alex Duenwald and Galen Vassar. Rawan Abusaid and I were brought on soon after the first meetings. We came up with a few possible schemes, or kit of parts, that could be repeated throughout the space. Restore was instantly drawn to one in particular for the office lobby. After a few modifications, the concept was finalized and documented. By this point, we only had two weeks to acquire materials and build it. I consulted with Scott Zola, our director of construction services, to make sure we weren’t crazy by thinking we could build this in basically five lunch hours! The construction team was comprised of several people over the course of the week; Galen Vassar, Alex Duenwald, Rawan Abusaid, Andy McAllister, Melinda Starkey, Mary Sue Sutton, Dean Sutton, Julie Spengler, Olivia Welby, Jenny Brcic, Adam Brcic, Erin Hoffmann, Alicia Luthy, Sue Noce, John Smith, and Linda and John Loewenstein.

HAPPY ACCIDENTS : AN ANECDOTE

We designed and documented the bench and wall-piece around 2’x4’ units that were cut at 1”, 1.5” and 2”. However, when Linda sent me a progress update on how many pieces her husband had cut (500+), she mentioned she had him cutting 4×4’s. In a state of panic, I called her to see if John could halt that operation and cut 500+ 2’x4’s so that we wouldn’t have to alter the design and measurements. Much to their chagrin, they obliged. When they dropped the materials off, it was clear that the bare 4’x4’s had a lot more charm and character than bare 2’x4’s. The team took a vote and decided that using the 4’x4’ would not only look better, but we would have significantly fewer units to work with. This meant I had to call Linda back and beg for her to beg her husband to cut 500+ MORE 4’x4’s! This was a lesson of recognizing when to stick to the original design and when to entertain something new, even when it means altering a PERFECT set of drawings.

 

CONSTRUCTION : A CLICHE OR TWO

Pictures are worth 1,000 words…

   

    

    

With the change from a 2’x4’ unit to a 4’x4’ unit, many details had to be figured out during the construction process. It was extremely beneficial having a variety of volunteers on the team, each with different skillsets. One lesson we learned was that even if you have many people helping, it’s only efficient if you have enough of the right tools. The cliché “too many cooks in the kitchen” held true. My rebuttal, there can be infinite cooks in the kitchen if you have enough space and equipment. Here are some stats:

  • 500+ 4’x4’ blocks glued down
  • 130 linear feet of 2’x4’ used
  • 1 person cutting 1,000+ blocks = 8 hours
  • 67 total man hours of construction

All of the wood for the project was reclaimed from Habitat for Humanity build sites around town.

 

CONCLUSION

Not only were people excited and willing to give their time to create something beautiful, but the product truly transformed the space. Volunteering can be so much more than just giving up time if everybody involved can be excited about something tangible. I hope that other organizations and institutions see this project as a testament to the diligence of design, commitment to our community and willingness to give more than just time to any given project.

   

Check out this article in Town & Style’s June 6, 2018 issue.

 

Architecture /

Fake Architects / Real News

I came across a news article about a fake architect named Paul J. Newman who went to prison for posing as a licensed architect. Apparently he “had rendered fraudulent architectural services” for seven years in upstate New York and was charged with six felonies including grand larceny, forgery, unauthorized practice of a profession and fraud. He was not licensed as an architect in any state or jurisdiction and was practicing architecture in New York state using a fake New York stamp. He got caught because he started to do work in Florida and neglected to make a fake Florida stamp for himself. Someone reported him to the Florida state board, which informed the New York state board about the infraction, and when the New York board looked into disciplining him they discovered that he was a complete fraud.

Some people are unaware that it’s illegal to call yourself an “architect” unless you are licensed in one of the states or jurisdictions. In addition, if you’re licensed as an architect in one state, it’s illegal to perform architectural services in another state (or even offer to do so) without a license in that other state. Usually, violators of these laws are fined by the state board and/or are placed on probation or have their license suspended. Sometimes the offenders are truly unaware of the law, and sometimes they are aware but try to get away with it and only stop if they are caught. The case of Paul J. Newman is the first time I heard of someone going that far to fool people into thinking he was a real architect (and therefore going to prison for it).

Is licensing of architects really so important that someone pretending to be an architect should go to jail? They say that the purpose of licensing architects is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. People spend a lot of time indoors, i.e. inside buildings, and the fact is that buildings have the potential to kill or harm lots of people. You may have heard the news stories last year about the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in west London, UK. While the responsibility for the disaster is still to be determined, it demonstrates the importance of life safety and building codes.

You may wonder, if the purpose of licensing is to ensure that those who design buildings protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, then why do designs need to be reviewed by the building department? I think the reason is that we are all human and are vulnerable to making mistakes. The Grenfell Tower renovation project was designed by licensed architects and reviewed and approved by building officials, yet the consensus seems to be that the design was flawed and caused the death of 71 people. Building department review is a belts and suspenders approach to make sure buildings are safe. Although clearly some mistakes still slip through the cracks. We are only human, but I believe the risk of mistakes is decreased when the individuals providing architectural services are real licensed architects, who by definition have undergone the education, experience and examination required to call themselves “Architects”.

Architecture, General /

Drones and Architecture: Becoming Certified to Fly

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or more commonly referred to as “drones,” are a somewhat new and emerging technology, especially in the field of architecture. As prices of this technology fall while its features and capabilities increase, we are starting to see the benefit of being able to utilize UAS’s in house. As with most emerging technology, the rules and regulations surrounding drones are relatively new, especially when you are dealing with something as controversial as a flying camera. Part of dealing with some of the red tape surrounding commercial drone use is gaining your Part 107 certification.

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Architecture, Interior Design /

Healthcare Looks to Provide Great Guest Experience Through Design

Hospitality environments continue to influence trends in architectural and interior design projects within the healthcare market. What was once designed with a sterile, institutional feel now includes visual elements to increase patient satisfaction and enhance the overall patient, visitor and staff experience. The challenge is no longer just to design a space where patients are treated, but to provide environments where patients can heal and recover with their family members by their side, and where staff can provide the optimum care-giver experience.

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Architecture /

If Our Walls Could Talk

Full-time working professionals spend much of their lives at the office, and it just so happens that our “work home” at Lawrence Group comes with a quite the history beyond its architectural framework.

Daniel Catlin, a wealthy tobacco magnate and largest holder of downtown business realty, bought the parcel at 319 N. 4th Street in the 1880s and formed a syndicate of important downtown figures to commission a grand office building for the site. They viewed their undertaking as a personal monument expressive of their wealth, status, taste and civic spirit. Named the Security Building, it was constructed in the 1890s by the design of renowned Architects Peabody, Stearns and Furber. It was one of 30 tall office buildings in St. Louis of late 19th Century design, of which few remain today. It survived massive urban renewal programs which removed almost all of the historic 4th Street financial district and remains one of the finest example of office interiors from that era.

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Architecture, Projects /

City Foundry St. Louis: The Backstory

The City Foundry St. Louis project is prominently located within the central corridor in the former Century Electric Foundry complex. The redevelopment will bring new life to the old foundry; a striking industrial building that features a butterfly monitor pond truss roof structure, giant sand hoppers, cupola melting furnaces, pipes, cranes, soaring factory spaces, massive divided-lite windows, mezzanines, catwalks and offices. Plans by previous owners called for the foundry’s demolition as recently as 2014, which would have forever severed St. Louis’s primary remaining connection to a homegrown and locally significant company, Century Electric.

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Architecture, General /

A Week Down South

I have always loved being from St. Louis and have always had a lot of civic pride in the city I live in. I have been fortunate enough to live in Kansas City, Missouri and Manhattan, Kansas for school, and travel various places throughout the country, but rarely have I ever made it “down South.” That all changed when I got asked to visit and work in Lawrence Group’s Charlotte office for a week.

The office had a deadline for a new recreation complex and needed some help. I was happy to make the trip and get some valuable experience at another Lawrence Group office. It was easy to sense that southern charm in the small town of Davidson, about 20 miles outside of Charlotte, immediately upon arrival. Shortly thereafter, I got oriented on the project, and we got to work. Over the next week, I worked closely with Dave Malushizky, principal, and Jackie Paulsmeyer, designer, on the project as we hashed out things from reflected ceiling plans to window and door details to interior and exterior elevations. (more…)

Architecture, Inspiration, Projects /

Security Building Mural

It has been nearly 15 years since Lawrence Group acquired the Security Building in downtown St. Louis and renovated it as our corporate headquarters. Being a native St. Louisan (and one to never turn down the opportunity to hear a good story), I’ve enjoyed learning about the role the Security Building played in St. Louis history. Some of the stories are verifiable, but some of the best ones are not:  Charles Lindbergh signed the financing deal for his historic transatlantic flight in the bar of the Noonday Club on the tenth floor (or did he?); the Security Building actually bests the Wainwright Building as being the first steel frame high rise in St. Louis (or are the dates on the Security Building construction drawings somehow misleading?).

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Architecture /

Designing Forgiveness

Design perfection requires intentional forgiveness. I am going to let you in on little secret in our profession. We are not perfect!  Okay, well maybe that’s not a secret! We are a peculiar bunch of people with an O.C.D. like complex for perfection. If we had it our way: buildings would always be the right shape and size! Drawings would be the most perfectly clear, complete set of instructions, and contractors would ask ZERO questions, finishing with perfect execution. The end result would be a magnificently crafted building with perfectly plumb and straight walls, all gaps perfect, parallel and pointed.

But unfortunately, that won’t happen. It can’t happen, at least while humans are still involved in construction (remember we aren’t perfect). Here is how I propose we solve that problem so that things turn out “perfectly.” We design in forgiveness. Examples of this idea are evident in almost every product and every design solution. Materials are always imperfect, substrates bowed, corners not square, walls not plumb, and lines untrue. The idea is to accept these imperfections, even embrace them, and provide construction detailing with forgiveness in the design so that when constructed it looks perfectly intentional.

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Architecture /

Parking Beautifully

Can parking garages be considered beautiful? Is there a way to design parking garages that positively impact the built environment of a city? Every day, I find myself walking past Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis, which is in the middle of construction as part of City Arch River. One garage in particular will be a main backdrop for the new design. With Kiener Plaza getting some much needed attention, it struck me that the parking garages surrounding the plaza are in need of some love as well. It doesn’t have to mean redesigning the whole garage, but instead potentially focusing on the façade and exploring different ways to liven up the design and the spaces it impacts.

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