Some Ideas to Help Aruba Become the Greenest and Happiest Island #Sustainability #Planning #Architect #Island #Eco #Green #ilmaBlogPosted: August 3, 2019
Having recently visited Aruba earlier this year, and have fallen in love with the island, I would like to take this moment to reflect on ways that the little island nation can achieve its sustainability goals over the next several years. Over the past few years it has come a long way but there are still many things left to be addressed if it is to be the greenest happiest little island in the Caribbean as it has set out to do.
One Happy Island
Some background information before we begin — Aruba contains 70 square miles (178.91 square kilometers) of happiness and a population of 116,600 (as of July 2018).
The tiny island gem is nestled in the warm southern Caribbean with nearly 100 different nationalities happily living together. We welcome all visitors with sunny smiles and a warm embrace.
Aruba is an island and a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the southern Caribbean Sea, located about 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) west of the main part of the Lesser Antilles and 18 miles (29 kilometers) north of the coast of Venezuela. It measures 20 miles (32 kilometers) long from its northwestern to its southeastern end and 6 miles (10 kilometers) across at its widest point.
Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, Aruba forms a group referred to as the ABC islands. Collectively, Aruba and the other Dutch islands in the Caribbean are often called the Dutch Caribbean. Aruba is one of the four countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Saint Maarten; the citizens of these countries are all Dutch nationals. Aruba has no administrative subdivisions, but, for census purposes, is divided into eight regions. Its capital is Oranjestad. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. Fortunately, it lies outside Hurricane Alley.
Aruba’s economy is based largely on tourism with nearly 1.5 million visitors per year, which has contributed to Aruba’s high population density.
Despite having one of the world’s smallest populations, Aruba does have a high population density at 1,490 per square mile (575 people per square kilometer), which is more than New York state.
During the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, the island announced it aim to cover its electricity demand by 100% renewable sources by 2020. In the same year, Aruba together with other Caribbean islands became member of the Carbon War Room’s Ten Island Challenge, an initiative launched at the Rio +20 Conference aiming for islands to shift towards 100% renewable energy. The benefits of becoming 100% renewable for Aruba include: reducing its heavy dependency on fossil fuel, thus making it less vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations, drastically reducing CO2 emissions, and preserving its natural environment.
Some of the areas where Aruba seems to be excelling includes their recent ramp up of wind power – capitalizing on the constant wind that keep the tiny island habitable.
Other areas that they can improve on include the following:
A whopping 87 percent of the entire power generation in the Caribbean comes from imported fossil fuels, and because so much of the region’s fuel comes from faraway sources, electricity costs are four times higher than they are in the United States. The economies of these islands are basically at the whim of global oil prices
The Caribbean has some other reasons to be enthusiastic about electric cars powered by a solar electric grid. The islands, on the whole, are small and low in elevation. The vast majority of islands in the Caribbean are smaller than 250 square miles and are fairly flat, with isolated peaks at most.
This combination makes them ideal for electric vehicles in ways that, just for example, the U.S. is not. Most electric vehicles have limited ranges, with some only offering a hundred miles or less per charge. The higher-end vehicles can go further; the Nissan Leaf boasts 151 miles per charge, the Chevy Bolt 238 miles, and the Tesla Model S 315, but with still-long waiting times for a full charge, that’s about all you’re getting in an individual trip. That’s not great for hour-plus-long commutes from American suburbs, but for smaller islands with fewer hills to climb, that sort of range is just fine.
Customers who drive electric experience common benefits.
- Charging up with electricity will cost you less than filling your tank with gas. Clients are experiencing savings of up to 50 percent on fuel costs and very low cost of maintenance.
- Produce no-to-low tailpipe emissions. Even when upstream power plant emissions are considered, electric vehicles are 70 percent cleaner than gas-powered vehicles.
- “Fuel” up with clean, Aruban-produced electricity and help our island achieve more energy diversity.
- Drivers enjoy electric vehicles’ silent motor, powerful torque and smooth acceleration.
Although “solar” vehicles would be even better for this region, the ability for the island to “leap frog” ahead of other counties by building in an electric fueling infrastructure would help set it apart from other island nations.
Although solar has come down over the past decade I was surprised that not more individuals capitalize on the sunny region with solar roof panels.
The recently constructed government building, Cocolishi, is one of the first buildings on Aruba with a solar roof. The solar panels provide 30 kW of renewable energy.
On the rooftops of the Multifunctional Accommodation Offices (MFA) in Noord and Paradera solar panels are installed. The MFA in Noord is an energy neutral building, this means it produces the same amount of energy as it consumes. The surplus during sunny days will be added to the grid.
Previously, solar panels were installed on the Kudawecha elementary school. These panels produce 175.5 kW solar energy.
The largest school solar rooftop project is installed on the Abramham de Veer School elementary school. This rooftop project produces 976 kW renewable energy.
The Caribbean’s first solar park opened in 2015 over the parking lot of the airport in Aruba. This solar park provide 3.5 MW solar energy and is one of the first renewable energy projects making use of the Free Zone of Aruba.
In Juana Morto, a residential area complex, solar panels are installed on the rooftops of different houses. Together the solar panels generate 13 kW of green energy.
Elmar, the electricity provider of Aruba, installed solar panels on the roofs of their offices. These buildings together provide 9.8 kW solar energy.
There are different decentralized solar projects on Aruba. Together they consist of 5 MW solar PV part and 3 MW rooftop schools & public buildings PV systems. Once built per the 2017 plan, the installation will provide an additional 13.5 MW providing power for approximately 3,000 households.
Given the amount of sunshine this island receives, expanding their solar portfolio seems prudent.
Wind Park ‘Vader Piet’ is located on Aruba’s east coast in the Dutch Caribbean, this wind farm consists of 10 turbines with an actual capacity of 30 megawatts (MW). Aruba’s current wind power production represents about 15-20 percent of its total consumption, which places it fourth globally and still some way behind Denmark, the current global leader, which produces 26 percent of its power from wind. But today, with a second wind farm about to be deployed, Aruba is set to double its wind energy output, placing it firmly in first place.
It’s hard to believe that just a few windmills are able to produce an output of 30 megawatts of energy, suppling 126,000 MWh of electricity to the national grid each year, displacing fossil fuel-generated energy and supporting the island’s transition towards renewable energy sources.
Given that the wind is a constant, exploiting this resource seems like a profitable and intelligent thing to do.
I love that the island has embraced off-road vehicles (ORV); it is a great way to experience the beauty around us in a challenging and fun way adding to the experience. However, it would be very wise to develop designated areas for off-road vehicles to eliminate (or at least minimize) the human impact on the beauty of this island. Because it’s greatest commodity is the natural beauty – Sun, ocean, nature and wildlife; Aruba (and other island nations) need to consider how to balance the fun aspect with some regulations that will preserve the beauty of the natural world for future generations.
As you may already know, the use ORV’s on coastal beaches is an activity that attracts considerable controversy amongst beach users.
ORV driving is considered as main contributor to land degradation in arid regions.
The most obvious physical impacts of ORV on vegetation include plant crushing, shearing, and uprooting. Such destruction of vegetation in arid ecosystems can lead to land degradation and desertification. Desert plant species exhibit varying degrees of vulnerability to vehicle use intensity, which results in changes in vegetation composition, height, biomass, reproductive structures, cover and seedbank.
I also notice that many locals and tourists park their vehicles on the shorelines which are inhabited by indigenous plants and animals of all varieties. This too should be lightly regulated through education or ordinances so that leaky old (or new) vehicles do not stain the natural shorelines that not only belong to us but to our grandchildren’s grandchildren as well. We need to educate people to be more responsible and not disrupt the natural world with our cars , especially when it can be easily avoided with very little cost impact to the planning of the island.
Following up on vehicle management along the shorelines, another thing I noticed was stormwater runoff; which is not much but should be managed now to avoid a small accumulation over time. It is still early enough to employ best practices and manage any future problems by building a robust infrastructure now before things get worse. Because the island is so small it looks like much of the run off drains directly into the ocean. Following best practices will ensure that the clear waters stay that way long into the future for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.
Circumstances alone should prompt islanders to manage stormwater runoff:
- Traditional community boundaries often centered on natural drainages (e.g., Hawaiian ahupua’a and Samoan village structure), so residents are aware of how land use changes can affect watershed hydrology.
- Local economies rely on clear waters, healthy reefs, and robust fisheries; thus, BMPs designed to eliminate sediment plumes offer immediate, visible results to resource users.
- In some locations, rainfall is the primary source of freshwater, so using BMPs like cisterns or storage chambers to collect runoff for potable and non-potable reuse makes water supply sense.
- Tropical vegetation is fast-growing and plays a huge part in the water cycle, so stormwater management approaches that take advantage of canopy interception and evapotranspiration to reduce runoff have a high chance of success.
- Island infrastructure is subject to big storms, rising seas, and tsunamis; therefore redundancy within the stormwater system improves resiliency.
Things that should be considered as the island faces increased development includes the engagement of “low impact development” which is an approach to land development that meets the following conditions:
- Avoids disturbance of existing vegetation, valuable soils, and wetlands to the maximum extent possible (e.g., minimizing site disturbance and maintaining vegetated buffers along waterways);
- Reduces the amount of impervious cover and, thus, stormwater runoff generated on a site through careful site planning and design techniques; and
- Manages runoff that is generated through structural and non-structural practices that filter, recharge, reuse, or otherwise reduce runoff from the site.
Tasked with providing water for a population which more than quadruples with tourists throughout the year, the Caribbean island of Aruba is building a new 24,000 m3/day (6,340,130 gallons) desalination facility to process seawater from beach wells. Paul Choules & Ron Sebek discuss technical details of the installation, set to replace older thermal desalination units.
This is so awesome and could become a really great way for Aruba to expand its market into other emerging countries that are facing water issues. Abruba could use its extensive knowledge to help other arid climates deal with lack of drinking water, taking Aruba to the next level as a global leader in this realm.
Cogeneration of Power
Justin Locke is director of the island energy program at the Carbon War Room, an international nonprofit. He said it makes sense for islands to switch to clean power.
“Islands currently pay some of the highest electricity prices in the world. At the same time, they also have some of the best renewable energy resources,” added Locke. Aruba’s plan includes building new solar and wind farms, converting waste to energy, and working to increase energy efficiency.
Aruba has set the ambitious goal of becoming the first green economy by transitioning to 100% renewable energy use. Currently, Aruba is at 20% renewable energy use.
Aruba is known for being sunny all year long and its cooling trade winds. By capitalizing on these natural resources, the island can generate renewable energy. The island is lowering its dependence on heavy fuel oil, lowering CO2 emissions, and reducing environmental pollution.
By steadily continuing its momentum with its green movement and implementing cogeneration of power production it will help the island become sustainable and resilient.
Although Aruba has promised to become green it is not absolutely clear that it will be able to achieve its aggressive 2020 goals. However, the future is bright if Aruba is able to continue on its path and starts to take these issues into greater consideration making it a premier destination for people to enjoy. Becoming the world’s greenest island will ensure that tourism continues to flourish and that the country will continue to thrive in an environmentally-friendly way that will help restore and maintain the attributes that has made it what it has become famous for – a place for people from all over the world to come and enjoy the natural world away from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience the world in a way that seems to be reminiscent of a simpler time and offers us a chance to connect with something much larger than ourselves. As temporary stewards for the environment it is up to us to protect that which does not belong to us so that future generations can also appreciate these valuable experiences.
We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!
Background on Public Private Partnerships (P3’s):
Many institutions of higher education are facing mounting pressure on their mission to deliver high-quality, affordable education to students and perform world-class research. Reductions in public funding support and concerns about overall affordability present substantial near-term and longer-term budget challenges for many institutions.
Public institutions are predominantly affected, having been constrained by suspensions or reductions in state funding. State appropriations across the US grew by just 0.5% annually between 2005 and 2015. State funding has still not recovered to 2008 levels, the last year in which state funding decisions would not have been affected by the Great Recession.
(Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) — state appropriations revenue divided by total fall enrollment, 2005–15)
Public-private partnership models are continuing to proliferate as cash-strapped colleges and universities seek to replace or update aging and outdated infrastructure amid tight finances.
(Source: Proliferating Partnerships)
What is the P3 Delivery Model?
A public-private partnership, or P3, is long-term agreement between a public entity and a private industry team that is tasked with designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining a public facility. The past decade has seen a steady increase in the use of P3 structures, both inside and outside higher education. In 2016, something of a watershed year for P3, multiple high-profile projects came online in response to a variety of public needs, including a $1-billion-plus water infrastructure project servicing San Antonio, and a $300-million-plus renovation of the Denver International Airport’s Great Hall.
“Public” is a non-profit institutional or governmental entity that engages a “private” for-profit entity to pay for a particular project.
The “private” partner provides funding (and often expertise) to deliver (and often operate) the project used by the “public” entity to meet its purposes.
In return for its capital, the “private” entity gets a revenue flow from the asset it has paid for.
The emergence of the P3 option is happening where it matters most: projects that would be otherwise unattainable under the traditional public-improvement delivery models. For instance, 10 years ago, only a handful of higher education P3 projects were up and running; today, we are approaching three dozen such projects.
The biggest challenge is, of course, the financing component, but P3 teams bring much more to the table than money — they give public entities access to expertise and innovation that can add significant value to projects at each phase of development.
Motivations for P3 transactions vary widely, but include:
- Supplementing traditional debt instruments. These include private capital, using off balance sheet or alternative mechanisms.
- Transfer of risk. Historically, universities have born all or most of the risk of facilities-related projects themselves. A P3 is a way to either transfer or at least share the risk.
- Speed and efficiency. A P3 allows for a faster development process, and time to completion is generally shorter and on schedule. The sole focus of the private entity is to complete the project on budget and on time. University infrastructure tends to have competing priorities across all-campus facility needs.
- Outsourcing provision of non-core assets. Outsourcing allows institutions to focus investment of internal resources and capabilities on those functions that are closer to the academic needs of its students.
- Experience. Private partners often have much more experience and skills in a particular development area (e.g., facility architecture and infrastructure, student housing needs) and are able to better accommodate the needs of students, faculty, administrators, etc.
- Planning and budgeting. Private partners offer experience and know-how in long-term maintenance planning and whole life cycle budgeting.
The four types of P3s:
- Operating contract/management agreement. Short- to medium-term contract with private firm for operating services
- Ground lease/facility lease. Long-term lease with private developer who commits to construct, operate and maintain the project
- Availability payment concession. Long-term concession with private developer to construct, operate, maintain and finance the project in exchange for annual payments subject to abatement for nonperformance
- Demand-risk concession. Long-term concession with private developer to construct, operate, maintain and finance the project in exchange for rights to collect revenues related to the project
Pro’s and Con’s of P3’s:
Since their emergence in student housing several years ago, P3s have become important strategies for higher education institutions because of the many benefits they offer, including:
- Lower developer costs
- Developer expertise
- Operational expertise
- Access to capital
- Preservation of debt capacity
- More favorable balance sheets and credit statements
- Risk mitigation
- Faster procurement and project delivery (It can typically take a university about 5 years to get a project built. With a P3, that process can be reduced to just 2 years. Additionally, P3s can save approximately 25% in costs compared to typical projects.)
Beyond the above, the indirect advantages of P3s in student housing are numerous, such as they:
- Provide better housing for students
- Expand campus capacity
- Create high-quality facilities
- Expand the tax base for both a city and county
- Provide an economic boost to surrounding areas, which likely lead to private growth and other improvements
It is important to note that, while there are many benefits of P3s for higher education institutions, these agreements also have disadvantages that need to be considered, including:
- High cost of capital
- Reduced control for the university
- Complexity of deals
- Multi-party roles and responsibilities
- Limitation on future university development
A LOOK AHEAD
Where Are We Heading?
- More political involvement and pressure to consider P3
- Pre-development Risks – Many projects failing to close
- Issues with Construction Pricing & Labor Shortages
- An increasing number of developers are getting in the on-campus business; however, developers are being more strategic on which projects/procurements to respond to
- Exploration of other sources of funds like tax credits, USDA, and opportunity zones
- Shared governance continues to grow
- Larger, more complex P3 projects including long term concessions, availability payment models, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Bundling of Procurements (food, housing (including faculty), academic buildings, hotel, energy, facility maintenance, etc.)
- State of the P3 Higher Education Industry by Brailsford & Dunlavey http://programmanagers.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/P3-State-of-the-Industry-Final_Small.pdf
- Should your University enter into a Public/Private Partnership – the Pro’s and Con’s https://edualliancegroup.blog/2017/06/26/should-your-university-enter-into-a-publicprivate-partnership-the-pros-and-cons
- No Free Lunch: The Pros and Cons of Public-Private Partnerships for Infrastructure Financing https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/02/09/no-free-lunch-the-pros-and-cons-of-public-private-partnerships-for-infrastructure-financing
We would love to hear from you about what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!
Eero Saarinen (August 20, 1910 – September 1, 1961) was a Finnish American Architect and industrial designer of the 20th century famous for varying his style according to the demands of the project: simple, sweeping, arching structural curves or machine-like rationalism.
One of Saarinen’s earliest works to receive international acclaim is the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois (1940). The first major work by Saarinen, in collaboration with his father, was the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. It follows the rationalist design Miesian style: incorporating steel and glass, but with the added accent of panels in two shades of blue. The GM technical center was constructed in 1956, with Saarinen using models. These models allowed him to share his ideas with others, and gather input from other professionals. With the success of the scheme, Saarinen was then invited by other major American corporations to design their new headquarters: these included John Deere, IBM, and CBS. Despite their rationality, however, the interiors usually contained more dramatic sweeping staircases, as well as furniture designed by Saarinen, such as the Pedestal Series. In the 1950s he began to receive more commissions from American universities for campus designs and individual buildings; these include the Noyes dormitory at Vassar, as well as an ice rink, Ingalls Rink, and Ezra Stiles & Morse Colleges at Yale University.
He served on the jury for the Sydney Opera House commission and was crucial in the selection of the now internationally known design by Jørn Utzon. A jury which did not include Saarinen had discarded Utzon’s design in the first round. Saarinen reviewed the discarded designs, recognized a quality in Utzon’s design which had eluded the rest of the jury and ultimately assured the commission of Utzon.
Eero Saarinen and Associates was Saarinen’s architectural firm; he was the principal partner from 1950 until his death in 1961. The firm was initially known as “Saarinen, Swansen and Associates”, headed by Eliel Saarinen and Robert Swansen from the late 1930s until Eliel’s death in 1950. The firm was located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan until 1961 when the practice was moved to Hamden, Connecticut. Under Eero Saarinen, the firm carried out many of its most important works, including the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Gateway Arch) in St. Louis, Missouri, the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport that he worked on with Charles J. Parise, and the main terminal of Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C.. Many of these projects use catenary curves in their structural designs. One of the best-known thin-shell concrete structures in America is the Kresge Auditorium (MIT), which was designed by Saarinen. Another thin-shell structure that he created is the Ingalls Rink (Yale University), which has suspension cables connected to a single concrete backbone and is nicknamed “the whale.” Undoubtedly, his most famous work is the TWA Flight Center, which represents the culmination of his previous designs and demonstrates his expressionism and the technical marvel in concrete shells.
Situated on more than 19 acres, CENTRA is ideally located within the heart of Metropark, offering close proximity to New Jersey Transit, The Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike, I-287 and Routes 1 and 27 and Newark International Airport.
“This is an exciting project for our community,” said Woodbridge Township (N.J.) Mayor John E. McCormac. “Woodbridge is one of the few towns in the state experiencing commercial growth and business expansion. The LEED certification of CENTRA is consistent with our commitment as a township to protect our environment. We support this project as well as Hampshire’s vision to bring America’s newest business park to Woodbridge.”
Hampshire is proud to pioneer a new trend in office development with its 110,000 SF Centra Metropark. A LEED certified building re-designed in a strikingly modern style by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.
CENTRA’s unique structure utilizes an asymmetrical tree-column and truss to support an extended fourth floor, providing a signature element for the project. A rectangular hole is carved in the center of the suspended fourth floor, allowing the sun to shower the ground-level grand entry plaza with light. Surrounding pyramidal landscape forms further distinguish the site“. Glass is the defining element for the design, inspiring openness and dynamics.
As a certified “green building,” CENTRA is a monumental example of sustainable design. Complying with stringent criteria, the building consumes less energy and water than traditional office spaces. As a result, the impact on the environment is significantly lessened. For tenants, however, the benefits are enormous.
The 10 most unusual things we’ve been asked to design so far, What About You? by @WJMArchitect and @FrankCunhaIIIPosted: January 27, 2013
Hope you are enjoying your day,
Every designer has been given some unusual things to design – Here are some of our favorites.
-Bill & Frank
10) “Man –cave” type room for woman called an “Estro-den”. Like a home office room for sewing, knitting, wet bar, 3 DVR mega video storage with disappearing TV in sewing cabinet.
9) Elevator that took you straight up to the attic “man-cave” from the first floor family room.
8) Office with an exterior door to a Japanese garden at the end of an airport runway. So quiet you could hear a plane drop.
7) Powder room with mirrors covering every inch of wall surface including the floor and the ceiling.
6) Complete kitchen inside master suite. Door to master suite could only be opened with a key from either side. Second marriage for man, first marriage for woman, He had custody of his previous kids. Kids were hard on the new wife, thus the locking master suite.
5) Recycling chute to drop recyclables from upstairs bedrooms into the basement.
4) Kids fort in attic space above entrance.
3) Design screened room addition for the family cat, with cat door, grass, window shelves for kitty bird observation activities.
2) Underground tunnel from house to garage
1) Kevlar bulletproof glass at counter with shot-gun slot to shoot “would’be” criminals.
We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments.
If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook
FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
Licensed in NJ, NY, PA, DE, CT.
What better way to ring in the new year than to highlight one of our new designer colleagues discovered on social media?
Tara Imani, AIA, CSI, is a registered architect and owner of Tara Imani Designs, LLC, a solo practice in Texas, focusing on residential renovations, commercial space planning, and architecture. She has been blogging for over a year now, beginning with her debut blog post on AIA KnowledgeNet in October, 2010 where she explored what is now a commonplace question in the field of architecture: “Is the Architecture Profession in Need of a Makeover Despite the Upturn in the Economy?” (<—You can click on the highlighted title to link to the blog and join the conversation).
1) When and why did you decide to become an Architect?
I discovered my love for architecture, interiors, and fine furnishings at a young age. I enjoyed going furniture shopping with my mom and would find myself critiquing the various layouts in the showroom, wondering why the designers did it that way and wanting to try different layouts or do something similar in my own way. Maybe you’ve done this yourself, too, when you were growing up: rearrange the furniture in your parents’ home when they were out of the house for a while. I did that to my mom on a few occasions and it met with much resistance. That started at an early age, too- as soon as I was strong enough to move stuff around or coax my brother into helping. My passion for architecture started with house plans. After cleaning out the lower level hall closet and finding my parents’ stack of builder house plan books, I was hooked. I began drawing my own floor plans and elevations, pinning them up on the wall in my bedroom. My 5th grade bff (as the kids say nowadays) saw them and remarked at how much patience such detailed drawings would take; but to me it was sheer joy. I never noticed the time. It was my dad who first told me I was going to be an architect. And since he was an electrical engineer, he kept me well-supplied with proper drawing tools—sketch pads, quadrille paper, charcoals, pens, and pastels for rendering elevations. So I knew since 5th grade that I was going to be an architect. In 8th grade, I did write in my journal that I wanted to be an interior designer. So, I today, I am both—with a focus on Interior Architecture and space planning.
2) What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?
The biggest challenge has been overcoming fear. The first fear was the looming board exam that I had heard mentioned whenever I told an inquiring adult what I wanted to be when I grew up. So, along with my dream, I had a fear attached to it—of this monster test where I mistakenly believed I would need to bring the equivalent of my dad’s metal trunk full of books and reference materials to pass the exam. The other challenge was time management and the constant tension of wanting to spend time with loved ones (my boyfriend who became my husband) versus cranking out the project. So, self-discipline and deferred gratification are two critical traits any architecture student will need to master early on if they want to be successful.
Left: Tara’s website; Right: Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall as captured by Photographer Mathijsvanden Bosch.
3) Any memorable clients or project highlights?
Every client and project has been a memorable experience and learning opportunity. My most favorite firm to work for was Chris Abel Architects, AIA in Laguna Beach, California where we did high-end custom residential design for both new builds and renovations. It was a beautiful place and location and everything about it was miraculous. I worked for months helping Chris hand-draft a 5,000 sf beach home and additional guest house for a beachfront site in Kauai (using a now-ancient drafting arm- this was circa 1992). The other memorable project I did with Chris was a two-story master bedroom suite and first floor pottery studio addition adjoining to an existing living room via an indoor atrium; it was a very eclectic home overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and the Aliso Viejo Canyon- the style can best be described as modern adobe exterior with an oriental interior motif (Chris designed a huge circle-shaped opening leading into the atrium which contrasted with the sloped adobe fireplace and otherwise rustic décor). The most difficult part was getting the infamously strict Laguna Beach Design Review Board to approve the project and meet the height restrictions while ensuring the uphill next door neighbor’s view would not be blocked. That was my first project to manage. The client was very unique; she liked to wear (what we secretly referred to as) “leopard skinned bowling shoes” and during our morning jobsite meetings she preferred to drink her orange juice only after it’d been warmed in the microwave. She was very astute and noted: “This is your first project, isn’t it?” I didn’t quite know how to respond, so I simply acknowledged and clarified that no, it wasn’t my first one to work on, but yes, it was my first one to manage. I knew I had a lot to learn about everything—especially about how to deal with clients and how to manage the bidding and construction process. The latter point is a story for another day!
4) How does your family support what you do?
Architecture can be an all-consuming business and few people can succeed while being loyal to their family (time-wise, etc.). My father encouraged me to apply to architecture school and my mom enabled me to attend The Ohio State University by securing the necessary loans. Otherwise, I was working as a bank teller for Buckeye Federal bank immediately following high school graduation. The manager was upset when I left to go to school as they had put us new hires through three weeks of intense professional training at their special facility. So, two types of support are necessary—financial and emotional. One without the other will not be sufficient. Over the years, family support has been touch and go. But my dedication to architecture—whether consistent or not—remains my responsibility and no one else’s. In 1992, only five years after graduating from school, my husband and I made a decision to start a home health care and infusion therapy company with his sister, an RN. It required us to move from southern California to Houston, TX. My co-workers at Chris Abel’s firm thought I was crazy to move to the “armpit” of the south. But work had been very slow and I was lucky to be employed at a time when many of my contemporaries were working outside the field. It was a huge time of change, too, with firms transitioning to AutoCAD. I stayed in the healthcare business until 1998 and returned to architecture 6 months later. I was able to find work because of the social connections I had made while studying for the licensing exams—so I always kept one foot in architecture while I was helping run the health care company. And my family supported me by allowing me to take a paid 3-month sabbatical to study and pass the remaining exams. I passed all except one- the design exam which became two computerized exams that I took and passed a few years later after our daughter was born.
5) How do Architects measure success?
I can only speak for myself. When I think of a successful architect, I think of someone who has achieved a solid portfolio of built work spanning many years and whose buildings, designs, and/or residences resonate with their end-users.
6) What matters most to you in design?
Design is a vast subject and covers so much. I value beauty, good proportions, quality materials, and durability.
7) What do you hope to achieve over the next 20-30 years?
That’s a long time. Your question has prompted me to realize I really only think in terms of today and the next year—of course, I envision a great future for my family for many years. Professionally, I would like to continue in the area of tenant build-outs, space planning, and interior design. I have been begging my husband for years to team up with me to renovate houses and I think he’s about ready to do so.
8) Who is your favorite Architect? Why?
I can say that I am not an avid follower/groupie of any particular architect except that I love the designs of Andrea Palladio, the 14th c. Italian architect famous for his beautiful houses, symmetrical designs, and arched windows. While a student, the theories of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto resonated with me— his inclusive programs (as opposed to Mies van der Rohe’s exclusive, stark plans). I also love many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes and especially his Guggenheim Museum and I love Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles—I guess in part because I have been there and experienced it. These days, I’m revisiting various architects’ manifestoes to get fresh ideas and perspectives. There is one architect I admire for her sheer perseverance as much as her work: Julia Morgan who was the first female architect in California who started out as a Civil Engineer and who endured many trials and challenges on her path to becoming a successful Architect. Ironically, her work was absent from the curriculum at OSU.
9) What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why?
My favorite historic project is The Parthenon in Athens, Greece (built between 447 – 438 B.C); I admire it because it is such an iconic image exemplifying all that is beautiful and graceful in architecture. It is the inspiration behind my twitter handle: @Parthenon1. My favorite modern (contemporary) project is the Denver Airport design by Fentress Architects; I love tent structures and am so intrigued at how well-integrated the forms are with the rest of the structure and successfully done despite the harsh climate of wind, snow, and ice. It, too, is a beautiful iconic image with the white peaks of the tents rhythmically rising, echoing the mountains beyond.
10) Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?
This is a particularly challenging question and one that I see many of us in the Architecture/Engineering/Construction industry grappling to answer every day on social media sites- what I call the new agora or Roman forum- such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+. To read many tweets, posts and forum discussion threads is to realize that we’ve all embarked on a mysterious expedition to define the Next architectural manifesto that will solve the world’s problems through innovative, sustainable design. It feels very much like we’re on the precipice of a major breakthrough but we haven’t yet been able to put it into concise words or build with new forms and materials. There are many thought leaders I look to such as Rachel Armstrong from Britain with her Architecture 2.0; and Ed Mazria who conceived and developed Architecture+2030 (a program to train architects to systemically address CO2 emissions from buildings). Definitely sustainable design, adaptive reuse and retrofitting existing buildings to be more “green” (yikes, I can’t believe I’m using that word!) and high technologies are going to govern how architects practice for years to come. I recommend reading “Building (In) The Future- Recasting Labor in Architecture” compiled and edited by Phil Bernstein and Peggy Deamer—according to at least some of the essays, the future of architecture is going to be much more fabricated off-site and mechanized like the car industry. IKEA is one example of this with their new pre-manufactured housing. I personally don’t like this trend but am keeping an open mind toward it. I don’t want to see the loss of art and craft and design in the move toward BIM (Building Information Modeling) – another buzzword among many others such as IPD (Integrated Project Delivery- how a project is funded for risk/reward-sharing in profits).
Click here to read Part 2 of this interview.
Tara’s Contact Info:
Tara Imani Designs 10333 Richmond Avenue, Suite 150 Houston, Texas 77042 Ph: (832) 723-1798 Fax: (832) 300-3230 Email: Tara@TaraImaniDesigns.com
Also Check Out:
- Exclusive Interview: Meet Architect Arnie Untoria of @USA_Architect
- The Blind Design Paradox in Architectural Design by @WJMArchitect
- About @FC3Architecture +Design LLC
- A well documented set of construction drawings NOW decreases additional “hidden” construction costs LATER! by @WJMArchitect
- What would you say to young students thinking about a career in #Architecture? by @WJMArchitect (Part 2)
- What would you say to young students thinking about a career in #Architecture? by @WJMArchitect (Part 1)
- @WJMArchitect Recognized for #GreenDesign #Architecture
- #EcoMonday Interview with Bill Reed (Part 3) hosted by @IMCInteriors and @FrankCunhaIII
- #EcoMonday Interview with Bill Reed (Part 2) hosted by @IMCInteriors and @FrankCunhaIII
- #EcoMonday Interview with Bill Reed (Part 1) hosted by @IMCInteriors and @FrankCunhaIII
- Architecture Shall Live On / Architecture Manifesto
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2013 is going to be great ~ Sending you lots of love, hope, peace, health, happiness and prosperity!
Frank Cunha III
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What I Learned From My Dad
by Luke Russert
“Believe in yourself.”
If there was one phrase my father never liked to hear, it was “I can’t.” His dad—my grandpa—was a garbage man from South Buffalo, N.Y. He never got to finish high school and held down two jobs to provide for his family, but he never complained. Through education and years of hard work, my dad rose from South Buffalo to become the preeminent political journalist of his generation.When I was a freshman in high school, I had a terrible time with geometry. My dad found me a tutor, but I still struggled. So my teacher suggested I meet with him at 7 each morning before school for extra help. I told my dad, “That’s crazy! I can’t do that!” He replied, “You’re doing it. I’ll bring you.” Every morning at 6:45 a.m., we’d leave the house. Despite working 12-hour days, often with a Todayshow appearance between 7 and 8 a.m., my dad never once missed driving me to school.After months of studying, I was facing the final exam. I was so nervous. If I bombed, I was looking at summer school and—worst of all—failure. On the day of the final, my dad took me to school. He got out of the car and walked with me the first 20 yards. Then he hugged me and said, “Luke, believe in yourself. You can do it. Whatever happens, it’ll be okay. I love you, and I know you can do this.” His words made me realize I needed to trust in my ability and in the hours of work I’d put in. I ended up passing, and it’s still one of my proudest achievements. When I got my grade, the first person I called was Dad. He screamed, “Yes! You worked your butt off, buddy! You earned it, and you believed in yourself!”
Even now, whenever I worry that a task is too much for me or have doubts about performing my job as a Capitol Hill correspondent for NBC News, I think back to that geometry exam. No matter how hard something is, if you’re willing to work, you can succeed. I’m forever grateful to Dad for that lesson.
“It’s okay to be scared.”
In 2004, my dad and I were on a South Bend, Ind.–to–D.C. flight that hit very bad turbulence. The plane kept lurching, and it seemed to fall hundreds of feet in a few seconds. I was terrified, and I held on to the armrests for what I thought was literally dear life. But Dad, a veteran flier, didn’t flinch. He put his hand on my back, saying it would be okay, and eventually we reached smoother skies. Still, I walked away from that experience with a fear of flying. Even though I dreaded getting on airplanes, I forced myself to travel. But because I wanted to appear tough, I didn’t mention my fear to anybody.One Sunday night, I was due to fly back to Boston after visiting family and friends in Washington, D.C. The sky looked ominous, and I hoped my flight would be canceled. It wasn’t. Dad drove me to the airport, and he could tell I wasn’t myself. I was curt and furiously tapping the door handle. As we pulled up to the terminal, I really started sweating and I blurted out the truth: I was terrified about flying. He said, “I’m coming in with you.” At the counter, to my astonishment, my dad used his airline miles to get himself a ticket to Boston! I asked, “Don’t you have to be on the Today show in the morning?” He responded, “I do, but I’m going through security and walking you to the plane.” I was mortified—I was 21 and I needed an escort. I told him not to worry. My dad said, “It’s okay to be scared. Let’s talk.” We went through security and had a beer at the airport bar. He told me not to be afraid—that airlines only fly under safe conditions, that pilots are very well trained—and he quoted a statistic about air travel being the safest form of travel. He also said to think of turbulence as “rough waves that hit a boat. It might get choppy, but you know you won’t sink.” When boarding was announced, he said, “I love ya, buddy. Call me when you land,” and I got on the plane. Even though the flight was a bit bumpy, my dad’s boat analogy eased my mind.I learned that night it’s okay for a man to show fear and vulnerability. My dad could have said, “Suck it up. It’s only an hour-and-a-half flight.” Instead he went out of his way to support my weakness. To this day, I don’t believe in a “no fear” attitude. All of us have fears, and they’re real. But if you can acknowledge them and understand them—you might need help, like I did—you can overcome them. I’m still not crazy about flying, but whenever I step onto a plane, I think of Dad’s image of a boat in the ocean and it brings me tranquility.
“Remember the little things.”
People are always coming up to me with a “Tim Russert story”: about politics, sports, Buffalo, or just a chance encounter. Often, it’s about a thoughtful thing my father did. Dad was a big believer in random acts of kindness. It was not uncommon for me to come back to my room in college and find a FedEx box containing magazines, a Twix bar (my favorite), and a note from him. The packages brightened my day. It wasn’t so much what they contained—it was that my dad, the busiest man I knew, took the time to show he was thinking about me.
When I started at NBC News, a coworker sought me out and told me a story I’ll never forget. He was working for my dad when his own father became seriously ill, and he needed to take days off. Whenever he asked my father’s permission, my dad always said yes. But he did much more. My coworker talked about the many emails and phone calls he got from Dad, just checking up on him and his sick parent. When his father passed away, my dad sent flowers and gave him all the time off he needed. The man said, “I hadn’t even been at NBC for that long, so to know Tim Russert cared that much about me and my family meant the world to me.”
I’ve tried to continue my dad’s caring ways, whether it’s by making a quick phone call, giving an unexpected gift to a friend, or helping someone who’s a few dollars short at the grocery store. Take it from me and my dad—the little things do matter.
TWA Terminal Photograph by Ezra Stoller
Ezra Stoller Exhibit at Yossi Milo Gallery
January 6–February 12, 2011
Yossi Milo Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of photographs by Ezra Stoller (American, 1915–2004). The exhibition will open on January 6 and close on February 12, with a reception on Thursday, January 6, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.
Ezra Stoller’s gelatin silver prints include images of architectural interiors and iconic landmarks. Based on his background in architecture and industrial design, Stoller used a large-format camera to photograph monumental 20th century buildings, including the Guggenheim Museum, the TWA terminal at Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International Airport), the Seagram Building, the Salk Institute, Yale Art and Architecture Building and Fallingwater. In addition to well-known photographs of these locations, the exhibition will include lesser-known photographs of small homes and guest houses which provide a fresh look at the masterful eye that established Stoller as the preeminent photographer of modern architecture.
A pioneer in the field of architectural photography, Ezra Stoller was commissioned by architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Rudolph, Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Marcel Breuer and Richard Meier, because of his unique ability to capture the building according to the architect’s vision and to lock it into the architectural canon. His photographs convey a three-dimensional experience of architectural space through a two-dimensional medium, with careful attention to vantage point and lighting conditions, as well as to line, color, form and texture.
Ezra Stoller was born in Chicago in 1915 and graduated from New York University in 1938. He worked briefly with the photographer Paul Strand in the Office for Emergency Management before being drafted in 1942 into the U.S. Army, where he taught photography at the Army Signal Corps Photo Center in Long Island City. During his long career, he also photographed factories and technical facilities as well as residential projects. In 1961, he became the first photographer to be awarded the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal. His photographs have been exhibited internationally and belong to numerous museum collections, including The Whitney Museum of American Art; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Tuesday–Saturday 10 am–6 pm
525 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001
Ezra Stoller Slideshow
City on the Gulf: Koolhaas Lays Out a Grand Urban Experiment in Dubai
It has been 12 years since the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaasunleashed his concept of “the generic city,” a sprawling metropolis of repetitive buildings centered on an airport and inhabited by a tribe of global nomads with few local loyalties. His argument was that in its profound sameness, the generic city was a more accurate reflection of contemporary urban reality than nostalgic visions of New York or Paris.
Now he may get a chance to create his own version.
Designed for one of the biggest developers in the United Arab Emirates, Nakheel, Mr. Koolhaas’s master plan for the proposed 1.5-billion-square-foot Waterfront City in Dubai would simulate the density of Manhattan on an artificial island just off the Persian Gulf. A mix of nondescript towers and occasional bold architectural statements, it would establish Dubai as a center of urban experimentation as well as one of the world’s fastest growing metropolises.
The mixed-use project, startling in scale, is a carefully considered critique not just of the generic city but of a potentially greater evil: the growing use of high-end architecture as a tool for self-promotion. To Mr. Koolhaas this strategy, which many architects refer to as the Bilbao syndrome, reduces cities to theme parks of architectural tchotchkes that mask an underlying homogeneity.
His strategy is not to reject either trend outright but to locate each one’s hidden, untapped potential, or as he puts it, “to find optimism in the inevitable.”
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Copyright © 2010 Frank Cunha III.
Frank Cunha III – Architect & Visual Artist
Registered Architect, NJ, NY, PA, CT, DE
PO Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
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