Who is Daniel D’Agostino, AIA?
Dan D’Agostino is an architect with over 15 years of experience as an architectural designer and project manager.
Mr. D’Agostino has extensive experience working on projects of varying scales. His portfolio of work ranges from new and renovations to single-family dwellings to high-rise mixed-use buildings in dense urban areas. Mr. D’Agostino’s work has been recognized for achievement on multiple levels. Winning an AIA Gold Medal for a mixed-use structure designed for Lower Manhattan, recurring appearances on NBC’s George to the Rescue and achieving the coveted “Best Of” award on Houzz.
Daniel received his Bachelor of Architecture Degree from the New Jersey School of Architecture at NJIT where he continues to serve as a visiting critic. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, the Little Falls Planning and Zoning Board and Little Falls Economic Development Committee. He is a licensed Architect practicing in Northern New Jersey. In his free time he enjoys being the best father and husband he can be, golfing and playing music.
About Daniel’s firm:
planarchitecturellc is a full-service design firm which specializes in producing innovative client-driven program-based architectural design and budget appropriate problem solving.
Founded by Daniel D’Agostino, AIA, planarchitecture’s mission is to arrive at client and site specific architectural solutions to unique client demands. The firm produces work for public, commercial and residential clients.
You can find Daniel Online by clicking on the following links:
When and why did you decide to become an Architect?
I found drawing to be a great pastime as a kid. I also enjoyed building with my father. Inspired by curiosity, I always wanted to find ways to make things better. Design happens to be a way of making things better. Architecture seemed like a natural fit for me.
What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?
Becoming an architect in general is a challenging process. While I’m patient with people, I’m not always so patient when it comes to progress. I like to see things getting done, movement and motion. Five years of schooling, 3 years of internship, 7 months of licensing, in the middle of a recession was challenging.
Any memorable clients or project highlights?
Each project has a stand out moment. The best moments occur when we are a part of the building process and able to walk a project with a client and discuss additional opportunities.
How does your family support what you do?
I am lucky to have a very supportive family. Architecture is a big part of our lives. We just had the amazing opportunity to design and build our own home so design is very much a part of our daily conversation. Prior to that, we would travel to see buildings, stop on a walk to discuss a building material. Dining experiences are typically accompanied by a short analysis of how things might have been better.
How do Architects measure success?
I think Architects are an odd bunch if I may say so myself. As such, it’s hard to generalize. For me, if I’m happy – I am successful. Some of the things that make me happy related to the profession are having the time to do something creative or inventive. Having a staff meeting where everything gels. Client meetings that end in laughter, hugs and an optimistic plan for advancing a project. Discussion with a contractor where we walk away saying – this is going to be amazing!
What matters most to you in design?
Function, daylight and views. Each of our projects start and end with how the plan works, how we experience daylight and what we see both internally and externally along a view corridor.
What do you hope to achieve over the next 2 years? 5 years?
I enjoy single family design and construction. Over the last two or three years, we have designed a number of medium density residential developments. I discovered that we were able to bring a neat little twist to this market that isn’t commonly found in these developments. Our attention to detail and space making is needed in these larger projects. I hope that in 5 years, we are doing a lot more of this.
Who is your favorite Architect? Why?
It’s a toss up – Frank Lloyd Wright or Louis Kahn.
As an architect, saying you like FLW is like saying you like the Beatles. I mean, the Beatles are mainstream, have a ton of hits, and reinvented themselves multiple times over the years. FLW did the same thing. His work is accessible and always delivers. If you dig deep and learn about why his buildings look the way they do (sustainability, economics, desire to build cheaply, wartime rationing, etc.) they are amazing.
Louis Kahn, on the other hand, not so mainstream and certainly not so accessible. His buildings manage to be incredibly complex yet simple. Having traveled the world looking at architecture, the Salk Institute was my greatest experience. When you walk that plaza, it’s an actual experience.
Do you have a coach or mentor?
Not really. I’m a pretty good listener and observer. If you keep your antennas up, you are going to learn a lot.
What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why?
The Pantheon in Rome is my favorite historic work. It is structurally significant. The sun is used as a light fixture in the building charting messages. It’s all encompassing. The Salk Institute is my favorite contemporary project due to its connection to site. A strong axis of symmetry and orientation with the horizon. It’s breathtaking.
Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?
I see the profession going more toward design-build. There’s a lot of waste in the profession. It’s impossible to get every single detail included in a set of plans if you are trying to adhere to an architectural budget and short timeline. In New Jersey, the cost of land and taxes are so high, there is hardly ever an opportunity to draw every single detail and review it with your client. The industry has therefore come to accept (through demanding) a set of plans for base building, and finer elements being decided by the builder. As this process has evolved, we have come to see many features lost because original design intent isn’t considered. It will also help to minimize the number of projects that come in “over budget”.
What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries?
I think modular still has a chance. When I was leaving college, modular was the new thing because it was faster and cheaper. Over time, it turned out, modular wasn’t exactly faster, or cheaper. We should pay attention to modular building with an emphasis on trying to work aesthetic into it.
Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?
Walt Disney. We need to make sure our buildings work functionally but we also want to be entertained while being part of an experience. Disney was great at this.
Which building or project type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet?
I’d like to do a New York City high rise on the West Side. Growing up in Hudson County, New Jersey, the New York skyline was a big part of my childhood. I drive down a street and see projects I designed going up or completed and you feel a sense of pride and permanence. I’d like to have that feeling looking at the skyline.
How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?
Our office consists of 10 people, 9 of which are designers. I constantly put forward that our job is to help our clients and serve them. Listen to them and find the best way to deliver that which they are requesting.
What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates?
I started working as a Sophomore in High School at an architecture firm. I would recommend it. It gives you an opportunity through college to understand “how” you might use what you are learning. I would recommend college students get involved in outreach. Get involved in your local community and start planting seeds for future networking opportunities. Can you join the planning board? Is there a historical society you can join?
For Graduates, it’s going to sound funny but go work at a restaurant as a server. You are going to learn how to interact with people, understand how a person asks for something they need either verbally or with body language. You’ll learn how people feel comfortable by studying where they ask to sit, the way they face, how they talk to one another. You’ll learn about working in a tight space in the Kitchen and the importance of efficiency and flow.
I was lucky – I learned how to speak Spanish working a restaurant while working with the Kitchen staff. This has proven to be invaluable as the two predominate languages spoken on a job site are Spanish and English. I am able to converse in both languages. While sad, it’s worth noting that when I graduated from college, I made more money as a weekend waiter than I did as a full time draftsman. It helps to have money.
What does Architecture mean to you?
Simple, a place to be comfortably protected from natural elements.
What is your design process?
My design process starts with the site. From there, I sit with my clients and I start designing with them. I’m not the type that comes to my single family residential clients with plans for how they should live. With my larger development work, we analyze the site to maximize efficiency and density.
If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?
I couldn’t imagine myself being anything else.
What is your dream project?
I’d love to work on a stage set. Loose some of the parameters of gravity, building code, weather resistance to create an environment.
What advice do you have for a future Executive leader?
Surround yourself with great people in all aspects of your life and consistently invest in yourself.
What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry?
As a business leader, I find staffing challenging because we are a service industry – not just design and construction so personnel is the most important. You can get anyone that meet’s your qualifications. You can also get anyone with a good personality. Getting them both isn’t always the easiest. When you do you, do everything you can to keep them. Balancing the administrative elements of the business while maintaining your service qualities is a challenge. I was only able to find success here after hiring administrative personnel. When I started the business five years ago at 29, fresh out of a recession, no portfolio of work and competing against other architects more than double my age was a challenge. We’ve now developed an impressive resume to support my interview process, however being the “young” architect seems to rear its head. I try to convince people, it’s not the number of years you’ve been doing it, rather the number of years you’ve been doing it right. The trend now is the integration of internet design.
What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years?
Develop patience and resilience which has no regard for timeline. Patience, as I stated earlier, wasn’t one of my virtues. Everything takes time. Resilience is important because the highs are way up there and the lows – we don’t talk about them.
What are some executive insights you have gained since you have been sitting in the executive leadership seat – or what is one surprise you have encountered as the world of business continues to morph as we speak?
As the world of business continues to morph, our industry has stayed the same in principal. We have to be flexible in how we deliver information. A BIM model isn’t always the answer, sometimes a sketch to be texted out in 20 minutes is more important. We also have to remember, architecture is a business. The more successful firms know this.
Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?
Surround yourself with great people. It starts with family and follows through staff, clients, contractors. Work as hard as possible. While it’s important to get your sleep and rest, you still have to write that extra email or do that extra sketch. Go that extra mile, especially when it may not be needed or no one may be watching.
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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!
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
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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!
2013 is going to be great ~ Sending you lots of love, hope, peace, health, happiness and prosperity!
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook
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The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (often referred to as “The Guggenheim”) is a well-known museum located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City, United States. It is the permanent home to a renowned collection ofImpressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it is one of the 20th century’s most important architectural landmarks.
The museum opened on October 21, 1959, and was the second museum opened by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; from 2005 to 2008 it underwent an extensive renovation.
The building has become a cultural icon and can be seen widely throughout popular culture. It is featured in Matthew Barney‘s The Cremaster Cycle, Bye Bye Birdie, Men in Black,When in Rome, Downtown 81,Ugly Betty and prominently in The International, where a major shootout occurs in the museum. (In fact, a life-size replica of the museum was built for this scene.)
In the film, Manhattan, Woody Allen meets Diane Keaton at the museum. In Someone to Watch Over Me there’s a scene in the museum where the killer confronts the woman who witnessed him murdering her friend. Mr. Popper’s Penguins has a scene where the penguins surf on ice water spilled on the floor, during a social event being held in the museum. The New Yorker has included the museum multiple times on its cover and cartoons.