Ask the Architect
An Exclusive Interview with Architect Frank Cunha III
Frank Cunha III, AIA, NCARB is a Registered Architect licensed in CT, DC, DE, FL, MD, NJ, NY, PA and is currently seeking reciprocity in VA as well. Mr. Cunha is the founder of FC3 Architecture + Design, established in 2005 to serve its clients in various markets, including commercial and residential projects. He writes / blogs for I Love My Architect and Just Architecture.
You can find him online at:
What was it about Architecture that helped you decide it was the field for you?
I always loved to draw as a child and I always loved to build. Give me scraps of cardboards and leftover bricks and sticks in the backyard and my imagination would take over. I was always fascinated with churches and castles. They have a very obvious Archetype, and from a very early age I always imagined that I too would be able to one day shape the design of our cities and how people inhabit them. Even when I travel, it is the Architecture that defines the people and the place (unless you are in the wilderness, where nature rules supreme). In the city, man (men and women) are able to shape the world we live in. With this ability comes great responsibility not just freedom to do whatever we want. The industrial and post-industrial eras have taught us that!
How long have you been in the profession?
After 5 years of Architecture school and after 3 years of internship and after passing my NCARB IDP Architecture Exam I “officially” became a Registered Architect in January 2004. It was not easy but it was worth it. Going through the arduous process allowed me to learn the different aspects of being an Architect.
It appears that Architecture incorporates many fields of study, for example; astronomy, meteorology, geography and I am sure there is much more. Could you explain?
Throughout history, especially before technology and social media distractions, civilizations, would honor the heavens by building monuments. Examples of this can be seen all over the world and there are plenty of interesting websites that address this.
Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences so it is no wonder that early civilizations would use the mathematics from the heavens to orient their buildings and monuments. Many pre-historic cultures left behind astronomical artifacts such as the Egyptian and Nubian monuments, and early civilizations such as Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, Indians, and Maya performed methodical observations of the night sky. Climatology, the study of atmospheric science, is another extension coming out from Astronomy. In Architecture both the disciplines that is astrology and climatology, leads to a concept known as Vastu.
If you want to learn more about these interdisciplinary studies, you can click here or click here.
Today, Architects still consider orientation when placing a building and the building components on the site. The building’s orientation can even help Architects obtain LEED credits from the US Green Building Council, an organization that promotes sustainable design and construction around the world.
Is there a deciding factor for you when agreeing to take part in projects?
One thing I have learned over the past 15 years in the field of Architecture is that there are many components to accepting and working on a project. While we all need to make money to eat and survive, here are a few things that should be considered before agreeing to take on a project:
- Is there a chemistry between the client and the designer, i.e., do you like each other? Can you work well together?
- Is the project exciting and challenging?
- Can I assemble the right team to complete the project effectively? And do we have the right fee to allow our design team to perform the project effectively?
If the answer to any of these is “no” then I keep looking for another opportunity. Every time an opportunity passes, two or more new ones appear. Don’t be hasty just for the sake of getting a project!
The projects you are sharing today are they based on specific concepts?
As a young Architect my aesthetic and design concepts are still evolving.
Although we do not force my designs on my clients, we do have some underlying principals we like to maintain on our projects whenever feasible.
FC3 Architecture takes a Holistic approach to each individual project to meet the client’s specific needs. We work with our team of expert consultants to bring the most value to the client through rigorous, integrated design practices. It is our mission to explore and develop the “Architectural Design Aesthetics” & “Building Tectonics Systems” to engage the following issues on a project-by-project basis, where applicable, to discover and address the project requirements established by the client and the Architect during the Pre-Design phase:
- Program / Livability / Functional
- Provide efficient space planning to maximize client’s programmatic needs (don’t over build)
- Determination of most effective use of a given site
- Optimize access to the site
- Maximize land, views, lighting, wind, water elements, other natural features, etc.
- Provide guidance for best use of materials, structure, and form
- Properly integrate new design into existing contextual surroundings
- Sustainable / Environmental
- Coordinate with client’s abatement team when required
- Coordinate with client’s commissioning team when required
- Provide guidance and integration on current sustainable trends
- Sustainable Design
- Energy Use & Conservation
- Waste Management
- Selection of Materials – Reuse, Recycling, Renewable sources, etc.
- Water Use & Conservation
- Structural / Tectonic
- Coordinate with structural team to develop integrated structural design
- Coordinate with MEP team to develop integrated MEP design
- Coordinate with other industry experts as needed to meet project goals
- Historic / Preservation
- When required, document and research preservation of historic elements
- Provide design details that are sensitive to preexisting building/site elements
- Engage our expert consultant team as may be required
- Economic / Legalization
- Provide assistance in developing a feasibility study
- Assist client’s legal counsel with Planning/Zoning Board approvals
- Constructability / Management
- Assist client with project schedules and budgets throughout the project
- Engage our expert construction/project management team as may be required
Click here to see some of Frank’s recent featured projects.
Click here to read more “Ask the Architect” articles.
by Frank Cunha III
It seems like when you finally get it right in Architecture, Art, Music, Fashion, etc, you become a “sellout.” So what is Right? How can we get it right? Will anyone know the difference? In the music industry, record companies spend millions studying what kind of music we enjoy. Recently I heard that they have developed a formula for what makes great music whether we consciously agree or not (they call it “musically satisfying”). Is it any wonder we get those cheesy songs stuck in our head? This comes as no surprise in a technologically advanced and transformative world. Could the same be true for Architecture (Architecturally satisfying)?
Like many other Architects, I subscribe to hard copies and digital copies of various Art & Architecture magazines. It’s fun to see all the new and exciting international projects that have been commissioned. It’s also frustrating to see that many of the projects follow some sort of formula – It is easy/difficult to put a finger on it but given an opportunity – Budget, Client, Program, couldn’t we too fudge, I mean design something similar? I remember an old college professor telling us how in his day he had to study / copy the Masters of his day for Architecture School.
I am pretty sure I did not miss class the day they taught the secret formula to creating great Architecture – Which leads me to ask, What is great? I mean, we all have our opinions on the Masters of our day – Good or Bad. What I mean to ask is something that delves deeper. Besides the ability to obtain intellectual clients with extremely high budgets looking for “meaningful” design, how do these high profile Architects / Architecture firms land these clients? Once they figure out this formula is it a matter of fine-tuning it and repeating it?
Although Architecture is filled with Order & Rules (figuratively and literally) should there be a Formula to producing great works of Architecture?
I would think that a world without figurative Order & Rules of today’s contemporary Architecture (that results in the “Same” different Architecture, the same way someone dyes their hair pink or blue to be different, to be like their friends) would result in a more meaningful, natural world of Architecture filled with unique projects emulating real emotion and artfulness. When Architecture (or Music for that matter) begins to repeat these figurative patterns it also eliminates the artfulness of the unknown. The mystery of Architecture is not in the mathematics or science of Architecture but in it’s naïve soulfulness. That is where I believe the true spirit of Architecture resides.
Waiting for the Rain
Frank Cunha III
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