Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Tim Witzig of @PKSBArchitects

This week we have a great interview with Tim Witzig.  I had the pleasure of meeting Tim this year and we had a lengthy conversation.  I think you will be impressed with his take on the world of architecture and design.

About Tim Witzig

Tim Witzig, AIA, Principal at PKSB Architects, is known for his breadth of understanding.  He has played an instrumental role in the success of PKSB for almost two decades.

Mr. Witzig has overseen teams for numerous projects. His experience includes, public and private schools, religious spaces, residential interiors, personalized homes, commercial interiors and a history of projects with civic importance. He served as a designer and Project Manager for the interior renovations of the AIA award-winning Franklin, Mansfield and Shoreham Hotels in New York City.

He was responsible for directing fabrication for guest area upgrades, interior elements and furnishings for all three hotels. Mr. Witzig has also participated in the design and construction administration of the Physics Building Addition and Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Research Building at the University of Virginia, refurbishments for the Joseph E. Seagram Company in New York, and customized hotel resort interiors for the Walt Disney World Company. Prior to joining PKSB in 1990, Mr. Witzig was a designer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill with a team developing the first designs for Worldwide Plaza at Columbus Circle. His participation in designing and managing projects with various scales, local code requirements, and unique technical requirements has brought Mr. Witzig a broad understanding of the challenges our client’s face in realizing a project.

About the Firm

PKSB Architects was established in 1964 by Giovanni Pasanella. Celebrating over 50 years in practice, PKSB is recognized as an award-winning full-service firm with a long history of completing projects of every scale and scope. Our practice areas include academic, preservation, institutional, residential, hospitality, public housing, infrastructure, public art, civic memorials, and houses of worship. PKSB’s efforts have been recognized with numerous design awards, including the prestigious P/A Award and AIA honors on the local, state and national levels.

While PKSB’s practice has evolved since its first years as Pasanella + Klein Stolzman + Berg, a commitment to architecture that blends artistry, craft, and pragmatism has always defined its work. The firm has a modernist foundation, but does not rely on a set “PKSB style.” Rather, the needs of the client come first, and PKSB’s strength lies in its ability to create solutions that respond to the unique aspects of each client, program, and location.

“Since its founding in 1964, PKSB has distinguished itself as an innovative practice whose projects combine artistry, craft and pragmatism. A spirit of collaboration and a willingness to explore have been the hallmarks of the firm since its inception.”

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?     

High School age. Seemed to encompass all my interests when I listed them. Before those years I wanted to be a Disney Imagineer.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?  

Math. Undergraduate math, calculus, trig were such failures. Cost of school, lived in a marginal neighborhood in St. Louis to keep my living costs low for a couple of undergraduate years. During grad school working during breaks, working in the library for a little cash in my pocket when I should have been in studio probably. The library that I worked in up at Columbia was the library devoted to library sciences…only… could not have been more boring.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?    

Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945. She made me laugh… not right away. You got the joke on the way home in the re-telling. She wanted a beautiful new modern sculptural stair in her NY apartment renovation. I did not get to design the stair but I watched the process and helped do the drawings for the shell of the apartment. I learned a lot working with her, and helping make presentations and seeing how all talented  people involved worked.

How does your family support what you do?   

They listen to my ranting. Patiently.

How do Architects measure success?  

I think, gladly, that measure is made on very large field. I think if one helps, no matter how small, to make a piece of the world a more beautiful or usable place with our buildings, cities, infrastructure… one is a success. If you enjoy it as well? Huge success.

What matters most to you in design? 

Constructability, utility, timelessness, passing on inspiration to the users in some way.

What do you hope to achieve over the next 2 years? 5 years? 

Focus and allow others to run with the balls.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why? 

I do not really have a favorite, but if pressed on just the Architect part and not the human being part, then Frank Lloyd Wright. He achieved a very warm and approachable transcendence with his own style. If you look up Architect in the dictionary, it would not be wrong to see his picture there I think.

Do you have a coach or mentor? 

A few. The founders of the Architecture firm I am a part of now, Henry Stolzman, and Wayne Berg would go day-by-day explaining the practice and business of Architecture. My current business partner Sherida Paulsen brings reality to my day dreams. Going way back to school days there was William B. Bricken and Leslie Laskey. The latter should me how you could live like a designer and get interested in everything.

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why? 

That’s so hard there are so many on both ends. Villa Malaparte in Capri. and almost anything Louis Kahn did, Yale British Art, currently I keep looking at Tod Williams and Billie Tsien and their Kim & Tritton Residence Hall. Over and over I stare at that simple building. 2 story residential dorm building with no stairs or elevators inside. Genius.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?  

I think it’s very exciting, and I think Architects or folks who know a thing or two about making buildings will be in high demand. I think the firms will get larger and folks within the firms will be specialized a bit more. I think Architecture as a defined terms will blur and blend into other things we use.

What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries? 

The 3D modeling and Building Information Modeling and ability to bring that up zoom in to look at all of the “guts” anytime and anywhere,, well it is already happening now and it should just get better and more fun. I would like to see a dose of A.I. in some of the mundane and complex tasks we do, like crosschecking current rules, zoning, codes, that come into play. I would like a computer programmer take a crack at developing a “ArchAI” program that will compile a basic building envelope and create a set of drawings just off say 10 basic inputs or dimensions you give it.

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design? 

Failure.

Which building or project type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet? 

I would love to work on a large community center or cultural icon like the 92Y (92nd Street Y)

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?  

You sit with them see what they are doing and ask questions? If there is something good there, progress or talent in a particular direction you help develop that and point them to something that they might find helpful or interesting based on the direction they are already heading in. You might point them in a direction where they might get un-stuck (if they share their sticking point). Then they come back and ask again.  Then the mentoring kind of begins.

What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates? 

Just keep swimming. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be afraid to fail.

What does Architecture mean to you? 

Every time I get mad at it and curse it for being hard, or impossible it comes back, I see a beautiful building and I just think it’s great and there are so many talented people to watch and buildings to visit. I guess it’s just ingrained in there and I hope I can enjoy it as long as possible.

What is your design process? 

That is a hard question. It really depends. But Testing and Tossing is such a big part. I used to say do not draw more in the first half of the day that you cannot erase in the second half. Of course we don’t have to spend time erasing anymore, so we have more time for flipping stuff on its head and seeing what can be gained. One tries to list, develop or articulate the restraints, constraints and guiderails first so you can get to the design phase. Then the Testing and Tossing begins. I still believe in the old fashioned pin-up in a room and let the criticism flow.

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be? 

The animation thing I guess. It’s never too late to go to Hollywood. Yes it is I think.

What is your dream project?  

The Museum of the Tour de France. It must have views and a fantastic café. And banks of Zwifting set-up’s with a huge High Def screens floating in front of real glazed views.

What advice do you have for a future Executive leader? 

Help others succeed and then encourage and praise, daily if you can. Sit right across or next to someone at their desk for bit, avoid constant big meetings. Smaller ones. You do the leg work the big meeting might have made easier.

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry? 

Technology costs, Marketing. Managing cash flow. I see a trend in larger firms as an umbrella with smaller brands below     

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years? 

Listen, stay positive, learn how people do what they do.

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?  

Younger people are very creative in the way they work and use software. I think it’s important to “give in” and “give up” the ways one might have done something in the past. Even if those ways worked well before. Be willing to re-prioritize what you thought was important in how projects are realized and mananged.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?   

Keep a sense of humor, laugh and value irony along the way. Take some time to enjoy the journey and not just the finish line. Realize everyone one else is trying to do the same thing, and help whenever you can. Each client is a chance to learn something new.

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!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

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Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Felicia Middleton @UrbanAesthetics

Felicia Middleton is an Architecture Design Professional, an Author, an EPA Certified Renovator and an Entrepreneur. She is the principal of Urban Aesthetics, LLC serving the Philadelphia metropolitan area.  She specializes in Residential and Commercial Architecture and Interior Design – both Renovations and New Construction – as well as Commercial and Residential Kitchens and Baths, Quality Assurance, Interior Material Specifications, Interior Commercial Design including Restaurants and Bars, Salons and Spas, Education and Church Facilities and Corporate Design and Retail Planning. She also provides Construction Administration and Construction Management services.

She can be found on social media by following these links: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?

At the young age of 15, while attending the Carver H.S. of Engineering and Science I took a drafting class and decided what I wanted to do as a career. I told a drafting teacher that I wanted to draw on computers. We had a drafting teacher who was very encouraging, named Mr. Avant. The students loved him so much because he would let us eat lunch with him in his drafting class and he had a genuine interest in each one of us. Sadly, he passed last year. I always wanted to thank him for his help and encouragement.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?

College financing often was a challenge for me. My family had difficulties and paying for college became a struggle. I had to work many jobs while in college but I realize now that those jobs helped lay the framework for my future. Thank God for making it possible for me to overcome so many obstacles and pursue and achieve my dream.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?

Earlier in my career, I designed a Commissary Kitchen Warehouse and several cafeterias for the Vineland School District in Vineland, NJ. I learned so much from that project. I learned a lot about the operations of school food facilities. That learning process really reinforced how important the use of a building is in design and planning.

During that same time, I worked on many well-known food facility projects in casinos throughout the country. I found a design niche that I grew to love and still love over a decade later.

How does your family support what you do?

My immediate family supports me 100%. Especially my mother. She has been my biggest fan. My friends and family will often pass my name to others who may need my services. In addition, they support events and projects sponsored by my company, especially the community projects.

How do Architects measure success?

Many architects measure success via projects and achievements and the impact that they have on others. I would also add that success is measured by the way we are able to make a difference in our communities.

What matters most to you in design?

Safety, is extremely important to me, also function and aesthetics. Buildings are where we spend the majority of our time so they should be safe spaces that add to our well-being.

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 do you hope to achieve over the next 2 years? 5 years?

Over the next two years I will focus on managing Urban Aesthetics projects while developing my own individual brand. Within 5 years I will have my brand developed in Food Facility Design and operate separately from Urban Aesthetics.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?

I feel in our profession mentoring and inspiring is very important. Your life, work and values should inspire your followers. My favorite historical architect, Daniel Burnham’s life story is inspiring, his buildings are beautiful and he has written very inspiring quotes. I have used his quote as a motto for my business.

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency…”

My favorite current architects are my colleagues.

Do you have a coach or mentor?

I have a Business Coach but unfortunately, I do not currently have a mentor. I have been blessed with many mentors throughout my life and career and I have mentored many.

Mentoring relationships are not permanent. They end or change as we grow. I have desired to find a mentor for a couple of years but I have not been able to create the relationship.

The architect that I share an office with is probably the closest person to a mentor that I currently have. He is a senior on the architecture profession and he offers advice and gives advice when I ask. I have a great deal of respect for him.

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why?

My favorite historic project is the Colosseum. The Colosseum is a grand structure located in Rome, Italy. It is beautiful and strong, representing the games that were performed for spectators. Amazingly, it has stood robust and tall for almost 2000 years.

My favorite modern building has changed a many ties over the last 20 years, as innovation, design and the environment surrounding me changes. Most recently, the Cira Center, in Philadelphia, has been a favorite. I love it because it stands a jewel above the surrounding buildings and it represented the expansion of our downtown to the other side of the Schuylkill River. An added bonus is that the building is green, LEED Certified.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?

For a while, it seemed as if there was a decline in the profession but I have noticed a recent resurgence. I do believe there needs to be some liberation in the process involved in becoming an architect and function within the profession. I see the profession opening up to multiple careers, interchanging with architecture.

What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries?

Virtual 3d Modeling is a form of technology that I have seen most recently. Virtual reality in design will help us communicate designs to clients who have difficulty understanding plans. In addition, advances in project management software helps to streamline the planning and construction processes.

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?

The Green Movement has been my greatest influence in design. I became serious about environmental issues while in college and there I decided that it would have a big impact on my work. I worked for an environmental organization for a couple of years while in college and I learned so much. I added a few environment-centered courses while in college and

my senior internship included researching Brownfield’s Redevelopment. When I first entered the design world, eco-friendly design was not a large part of what we did. I was a bit discouraged at first but was reenergized in the early 2000’s when the green movement really started taking shape.

Which building or project type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet?

A LEED project. My current burning desire is to participate on a LEED project.

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?

I will to continue mentoring our young people by explaining to them as many aspects of our work as I can, to help the understand all that is included and let them see that this profession has so much to offer, depending on what direction you wish to go. I will let them see that when you fall in love with your work, it can be very fulfilling. I hope to let them see that you can make a difference in your community and also the world while working in this field but you MUST find your way.

What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates?

Fall in love love with architecture and the profession if you want to succeed and endure the work. You will have to put your time in while working but be sure to learn more than what is expected.

What does Architecture mean to you?

Architecture is art in the form of function and use. We create structures that affect people physically and emotionally. We discover solutions to problems both spatially and creatively. I learned at a young age that I liked seeing how things come together. In architecture, part of your work is to develop the way a building comes together. At times we have to take a building apart to bring the desired project together.

What is your design process?

I follow a basic process:

  • Determining the client’s Gain an understanding of their situation (financial, time constraints and any limitations)
  • Preliminary Research – Code, Zoning, Needs of Use, Property,
  • Pre-Design – Discuss research findings, create
  • Design Development – Develop the concept into a more workable Additional research.
  • Coordinate with project team.
  • Complete

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?

If I could not work in this great profession, I would be a writer. I guess I already am a writer. I have always excelled at writing. Writing is my second love, next to architecture. I have published 2 books, written for magazines and published several blogs. I absolutely love to write.

What is your dream project?

I have a strange desire to design a high-end Starbucks, similar to the project in progress in Chicago.

What advice do you have for a future Executive leader?

Take time to let things develop. Relish in the importance of being guided by others, mentors who can help you and your interests. You must share in your success, look to give to your fellow business colleagues. Develop a relationship with fellow business owners and remember that collaboration produces multiple wins. Work with partnerships, strategically develop partners with whom you can develop lasting business relationships.

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry?

Maintaining Momentum is a challenge that requires constant thought and planning. Moving to the next level while continuing a current pace is very important for success.

Keeping the needs of our community in focus while maintaining momentum is important and also challenging.

One trend I have seen in my industry, especially locally is the explosion of development within the inner city. It is similar to the Mc-Mansion boom we saw years ago.

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years?

Remain relevant to society, business and your community. Offer a unique service that keeps the client as a focus.

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?

I have learned that business is difficult and you have to extract emotion from the process or it will wear you out. I work in a creative profession but often the bottom line drives my work. I’ve read about and followed the lives of innovative leaders in business to inspire me, geniuses such as Steve Jobs. Although they are one-in-a million I you can be one, I can make a difference. I strive to learn as much as you can from these leaders, both good and bad and use their tools in my work.

Shark Tank may be entertaining but you can learn a lot watching that show. Learn where you can. Never stop educating yourself. Follow the rules.

A surprise I have encountered is the number of opportunities that are available for current and future business owners.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?

Read as much as you can. Keep learning. Be honest, thankful and give back as much as possible. Follow the rules. To me, true success, being able to use the resources that you’ve been blessed with to bless someone else. Whether it is with your money, labor, knowledge, time, mentoring, etc.

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

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!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

Christmas Gift Ideas from ILMA


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Jenny Roets @Arch_Girl

Jenny Roets is one of my oldest Twitter Architecture friends – She is extremely passionate about Architecture.  She recently passed the ARE’s and is helping others get motivated to pass.  We were delighted she agreed to answer a few questions:

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?

I was going through a list of majors my junior year in high school. I stopped at Architecture because it just made sense: I really enjoyed my Geometry & Art classes.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?

I have had a lot of challenges. Life got in the way for me while I was in college and again in graduate school. Finding the right fit in employment has also been a challenge, as was the recession where I had to find unrelated employment to survive.

Blueprints

How do you balance design with your family life?

Simple, I don’t have a family yet.

How does your family support what you do?

My parents and brother have been very encouraging throughout the entire process of school, finding work, taking exams. They are happy to be celebrating this accomplishment with me.

What matters most to you in design?

Sustainability. The building should reflect it’s climate, orientation, location, and purpose. When materials fail, design shouldn’t.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?

I think the profession will connect more with engineers / other consultants and contractors to provide a more comprehensive approach. I also feel there will be a shift back towards design with the environment in mind as sustainable design practice becomes more valued by the public.

House Plan

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?

I’m already trying to do this! I encourage Architectural Interns that I know in the real world and in social media as much as I can (especially women).

What does Architecture mean to you?

Architecture both responds to and creates environment.

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?

I have given this a lot of thought, especially since I chose Architecture after the age when everyone asks “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I never came up with anything I felt I would be happy doing, but it would likely be related to math, something like Accounting.

What is your dream project?

I would like to create a building to benefit my hometown of Merrill, WI. I don’t have a type in mind, but I have always wanted to design something great there.

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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!

Have a great weekend!

Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
fax: 973.718.4641
web: http://fc3arch.com
Licensed in CT, DC, DE, FL, MD, NJ, NY, PA, VA.


ILMA Features Aspiring Architect, Ian Siegel

About Ian Siegel

Ian Siegel, a recent graduate of NJIT’s College of Architecture and Design, is featured in an interview on the Student Showcase section of the website for Autodesk, an American multinational corporation that focuses on design software for use in the architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, media and entertainment industries.  Learn more about Ian by clicking here.

Ian Pic

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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!

Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
fax: 973.718.4641
web: http://fc3arch.com
Licensed in CT, DE, FL, NJ, NY, PA.


“From Now To How: Social, Virtual and Cross Generational Leadership” by Exec Coach & Trainer @JustCoachIt

by Guest Blogger, Irene Becker
First woman CEO of a steel company in Canada, Irene Becker has a track record of trailblazing accomplishments in business and in the community at large. Irene is an inspiring executive coach, speaker and writer whose R-E-A-C-H methodology and 3Q focus has helped clients achieve breakthrough results in their careers, communication, leadership and lives. Passionate about the integrity of her work, Irene is dedicated to helping change-makers LEAD forward at the speed of change.

Leadership Balance

You can criticize, condemn and complain or imagine, inspire and innovate. Your choice will determine your destiny. – Deepak Chopra

The need to go from NOW to HOW is critical. Leadership starts with our ability to imagine, inspire, innovate and communicate forward.

Hope lies in not simply playing to strengths, but to seizing every challenge, change, stressor and failure as an opportunity to grow, evolve and expand the power of our minds, the strength of our brains and the capacity of our hearts.

Courage lies in our ability develop a whole new mind set, skill set and heart set that optimizes the unbridled passion, purpose and potential of humans to do better, rather than simply living or working faster than ever before.

Strength lies in finding a common language, a common message that touches the heads, hearts and mind of many. A message that transcends social, ethnic, virtual and cross generational lines because it speaks to the purpose that unites us all.

Leadership starts with our ability to imagine, inspire, innovate and communicate forward.

Leaders must be purpose driven because purpose equals profit on a multiplicity of levels. If your employees, your team, your constituents do not feel that the work they do, the contribution they make, is purposeful they will never optimize or maximize their potential.

If they do not feel that they are an integral part of a bigger picture, a larger goal or a greater team, the engagement, loyalty, transparency of communication and collaboration optimization of engagement and potential will not be achieved.

Similarly, if they do not have access to resources that help them learn new ways of thinking doing and communicating that enable their greatest potential in the face of change, challenges, complexity and opportunities they cannot lead forward.

Leaders must embrace their ability to go from NOW to HOW by not simply playing to strengths but also to using change, challenges, stressors, even failures to optimize all 3Q’s: IQ (intelligence-focus-ability to learn and re-learn faster and better); EQ (emotional intelligence; self awareness, self management, relationship management, social management, communication); and SQ (values, purpose, integrity).

3Q Leadership strengths are not for the faint of heart. They are instead for those who want to negotiate dark corners, build new bridges among diverse groups and develop communities of purpose and practice that survive and thrive by using strengths, changes and challenges to communicate and lead forward.

Leaders must be excellent listeners, learners and communicators who build bridges across diverse groups, internal and external constituencies. They must build and empower Communities of Purpose where shared objectives, values, purpose and language empowers, engages and sustains actual, social/digital/virtual communication and collaboration.

They must have the courage to negotiate dark unknown corners with courage, hope, faith, integrity and humanity knowing that the differences that separate us are inconsequential in relation to the common human bond and purpose that unites us.

They must have the communication skills to find the message, the sound bite that opens the ears, heads, hearts and minds of all, irrespective of race, creed, gender or generational age. They must be leaders who learn, re-learn and fail forward faster and better than ever before by developing real and virtual/social communities of purpose.

Leaders must be excellent listeners, learners and communicators who build bridges across diverse groups, internal and external constituencies.

The need to go from NOW to HOW is critical. Leadership starts with our ability to imagine, inspire, innovate and communicate forward. It means embracing our ability to learn, re-learn, imagine, inspire and innovate by championing the mental, emotional agility and consistency of united purpose and integrity that can help us use what is to create what can be in ourselves, our people, our organizations…our world.

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!

Sincerely,
I.LM.A. Team
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
fax: 973.718.4641
web: http://fc3arch.com
Licensed in NJ, NY, PA, DE, CT.


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with ADA Specialist, Marcela Abadi Rhoads @Abadi_Access

Marcela Abadi Rhoads, AIA RAS, whom I had the pleasure of meeting on Twitter, is the owner of Abadi Accessibility, an accessibility consulting firm that is dedicated to educating the building industry about the laws of accessibility. She  received her Bachelor of Architecture  in 1991 from  the University of Texas in Austin and became a Registered architect in 1999 in Texas and a registered accessibility specialist in 2001.  Marcela  is sought after by owners and architects across the country who look to her for guidance to understand the accessibility standards throughout the design and construction process.  She assists the building industry, in part, by performing plan reviews and inspection for TAS, producing  a monthly newsletter to educate on the best way to apply the standards to their architectural projects,  and wrote The ADA Companion Guide published  John Wiley and Sons which explains the 2004 ADAAG.

Marcela Abadi Rhoads 01

“The ADA Companion Guide: Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA)” by Marcela A. Rhoads

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?

Ever since I was a little girl, about seven years old, I wanted to be an architect.  My uncle was a Civil engineer, my cousin is an architect and my grandmother studied interior design.  I was very influenced by them and what I would see. When I was a teenager, my other uncle went to the University of Texas to study engineering also, and told me that when I became an architect we could work together.  What a great incentive.  So the seed was planted.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?

At the time I attended architecture school, male professors did not respect women.  So I had to work extra hard to be respected.  Another challenge was that I had NO idea how much art and drawing I was going to need.  I thought it would be more mathematical.  So although I loved to draw, I focused on physics and calculus in high school in preparation when I probably should have been taking more art and drawing.  So my colleagues that came from that background did much better than me at first.  But I slowly but surely caught up to them.

Later in life I was also challenged by the fact that I was a woman.  Being a woman living in the South, looking young and being short did not elicit much confidence and respect.  But I worked hard and proved myself.  I am also not a great test taker (I get very nervous) so when I was ready to sit for my boards (ARE) I forgot everything I knew.  It took me a couple of years to pass all my nine exams!  But I did it! yay!

Any memorable clients or project highlights?

My very first solo project was the Dallas headquarters for Univision.  I started out as the intern, but then the project manager quit in the middle and they put me in charge!  Wow!  I loved it.  I became very close to the client (and we are still friends today) and saw the project go from design all the way to CA.  It was amazing!

Another awesome highlight is when I was asked to write a book about the ADA (which is my passion!).  John Wiley and Sons approached me after seeing my group on LinkedIn (Abadi Accessibility News Group) and asking me to write a book explaining the ADA.  We called it “The ADA companion Guide: Understanding the ADA”.  It was the most exciting thing ever!  And then they liked working with me so they asked me for a second book that just came out in March called “Applying the ADA”.  I collaborated with three other architects friends of mine to develop a case study book on the ADA.  I think it came out really nicely.

How do you balance design with your family life?

That is one of my biggest challenges.  I decided to start my own firm when I became pregnant with my first child for that very reason.  I have my work at home, so my kids always see me here (unless I am in meetings). I try to schedule all my meetings and travels during the day while they are at school, so I can be home with them in the evening.  Lucky for me I am an observant Jewish woman who keeps the Sabbath.  That makes me take one day off every week (no matter what).  That day I spend with my family.  But during the week, I may not sleep as much when I have deadlines.  I work after the kids go to bed, or after my husband goes to bed.  I really try to give them my priority.  That is really difficult and I am so busy.

How does your family support what you do?

They are great!  They really never complain.  I do hear them when they say they want me to do something with them.  I make time for them so they allow me time for my work.  They are really awesome!  I remember when I was writing my two books and all the number of hours that I would spend on it, and my family was very supportive and understanding.  It also helps to have my husband also be an architect….but that is a different question

How do Architects measure success?

I think happy clients which then either return or give me referrals are my gauge.  If I have a project, even if it was not perfect, but after I work with my clients they are happy at the end, I think that is success!

What matters most to you in design?

For me if a design is thoughtful to its users that is the most important thing.  We can all design what we want, but if it does not work with what the end user needs it to do, then it is an exercise in ego boosting.  It is very important to me to have a project that is designed so that everyone can use it and is universally thoughtful.

What are the challenges you face realizing your vision?

Time.  There is never enough time in a day to do all I want to do.  So I have to learn how to prioritize and not do everything.

How do you translate the client’s vision to meet your own design expectations?

I try to put my ego aside, but also be a guide for my clients.  I hear what they are ultimately interested in seeing, and then I try to find them solutions that would be good design and also meet their expectations.  Most of the time they are looking for my input anyway, so that is not so hard.  When they have an idea in mind that doesn’t meet mine, I try and listen and adapt my ideas to theirs, but still guide them in a path that I will be happy to see.

Marcela Abadi Rhoads 02

“Applying the ADA: Designing for The 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design in Multiple Building Types” by Marcela A. Rhoads

What do you hope to achieve over the next 20-30 years?

I would love to have more people working for me so I can devote my time to marketing and relationship building.  I would love to be the person who meets the clients, come up with a great design for them and then comes back to the office and delegates the work to my other architects.  I am hoping that will happen by then.  I don’t ever think I will retire, though.  Being an architect is in my DNA.  It is who I am, not what I do.  So in 30 years when I am in retiring age, I still hope to be designing.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?

Our profession is ever evolving.  The involvement that design professionals have on projects is always a big issue.  I would hope that through education and advocacy we can have architects be the leaders we once were.  That is what I’m hoping to contribute.

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?

I hope to instill the passion for architecture to the young architects by attending AIA events, volunteering to lecture and educate about universal design, ADA and how we can design environments that are usable and inclusive for all.  I have a strong passion about that, and I hope to bring that passion to the younger generation and try to teach them about how a great architect influences our profession and our society.

Marcela’s Contact Information 

You can get in touch with Marcela via her website www.abadiaccess.com or email her at marhoads@abadiaccess.com

You can also purchase her books by clicking here.

Marcela Abadi Rhoads

Also Check Out:

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!

Have a great weekend!

Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
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Art And Poetry By My Friend Karen Glosser @kglosserdesigns

We are always pleased when our online friends agree to an interview on our blog.  Our latest Expose features my colleague and friend, Karen Glosser, who creates mixed metal and stone jewelry with a modern edge in Chautauqua NY.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” -Ben Sweetland (Photo by Karen Glosser)

KG Portrait (Artwork by Frank Cunha III)

Seeing your new photo art each day is inspiring.  Can you tell us about your latest artwork?

Thank you so much!  My photographs are something that I use as inspiration in my life and as a tool to help me design and create as a jewelry artist.   I carry my camera with me always, everywhere.  It’s amazing how my perception of everyday life has changed since I’ve started to look through the lens of a camera. There is so much beauty everywhere- all around us!

Can you explain your artistic process?  Which artists/photographers are you influenced by?

Because I always have my camera ready, I take a lot of pictures. I usually don’t go out looking for certain subjects or topics. When I see something that strikes me, I take a few shots. Then, periodically, or when I am designing a new collection, I go back through and I often notice themes running through my photos. I use this as a jumping off point for design inspiration.

Can you explain your artistic process?  Which artists/photographers are you influenced by?

I am greatly influenced by art.  Color is a huge inspiration for me, so I love to spend time in galleries and museums, online, or reading books. My favorite artists are Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. Their use of color is masterful. I also find great design and life inspiration from Simon Alcantara, a genius jewelry designer. As far as photography?

I find great inspiration from the photos of the amazing Frank Cunha III !!!

Have you ever considered publishing an ebook of your work?

As a matter of fact, no.  I never have. Hmmmm….

I am glad we put that thought in your head!

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