Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Jeff Venezia, AIA of @DIGroupArch

Who is Jeff Venezia, AIA?

Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Virginia and has practiced in New Brunswick since 1981. He is presently a Principal Owner and President ofDIGroupArchitecture, a 32 person firm specializing in K-12 Education, Higher Ed, Senior Living and Healthcare. He heads the design and marketing efforts of the firm as well as the Academic Studio which includes K-12 and Higher Ed.

About the Firm

DIGroupArchitecture is a process-centric architecture and design firm. We work tirelessly with our clients to understand their priorities, evaluate the physical and budgetary constraints, and communicate potential options. As a result we create distinctive design solutions that help our clients achieve their vision, with unwavering attention to detail at every scale.

It is our unbiased approach to scale that helps us evolve in the changing climate of contemporary architecture. As many of our clients’ priorities have shifted away from ground-up architecture to renovations and adaptive reuse, our interiors studio has flourished and our graphic design studio has developed a diverse portfolio of projects in environmental graphics, signage and wayfinding, and brand identity.

80% of our business comes from repeat clients.They appreciate our “whatever it takes” approach and principal involvement at every level of every project. Our goal is to make every client a “legacy” client doing project after project and improving the experience of those who occupy the facilities we have created together as partners.

         Memorial Elementary School

         Phillipsburg High School

         Remsen Ave. Firehouse

         Jonathan Dayton High School Media Center

 

Click to Follow the DIGroup: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?     

I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was about 12 years old.  I loved model building, drawing and construction and just knew from that time on what I wanted to be.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?

I think the biggest challenge has always been living up to the level of trust your clients place on you to deliver a project that meets or exceeds their expectations.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?  

Most clients are memorable in their own way.  Since a lot of our work is for repeat clients we get to know them extremely well over time, both professionally and personally.  The best highlights of any of our projects is the reaction of the end users as to how we’ve improved the quality of their everyday lives.  That occurs most often in our Healthcare, K-12, Senior Living and Community Rooms projects.  One of our top highlights was having our Memorial Elementary School in East Brunswick receive the 2013 AIA New Jersey Honor Award for Excellence in Design, the first NJ public school to be recognized with that award (see photos above).

How do Architects measure success?     

We measure success by how a project meets the goals established in the very beginning, especially with regard to program, design, budget and schedule.

Good design does not have to cost more – it requires patience and commitment to doing it right.

Grow the business, develop a transition of ownership strategy, continue to focus on improving our architectural, interior and graphic capabilities.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?  

Unquestionably Alvar Aalto.  I love the way his buildings embrace the landscape and often look to him for inspiration.

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

My favorite historic building would be the Pantheon in Rome.  Favorite contemporary – the Kimball Art Museum in Texas by Louis Kahn.

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

We need to reverse the trend of being considered by the public as a commodity.  We need to educate the public and our clients on the value added in what we provide in the services we perform.  We are not copy or toilet paper. 

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?      

The greatest influence on my design work was my 3rd year architecture professor who demanded only the highest quality work from me and forced me out of my comfort zone to continually strive to learn from every project, to grow and become better as an architect.

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

Airport – I love the idea of doing something at that scale.

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

A National Geographic photographer.

 What advice do you have for a future Executive leader?     

Always be true to yourself, treat people fairly and conduct yourself with the highest level of integrity.  Your word should be your bond.

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

Challenges:  the economy, dealing with diversity in the work place and the ever-increasing reliance on technology.  As mentioned above, the competition and lowering of fees continue on a downward spiral.

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

Don’t just adapt to change – embrace it.

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?     

Take risks and have the commitment to see them through.  Be a good listener.  Show a concern and appreciation for your employees.  Be proactive in solving problems.  Never let anything fester.  Once the attorneys get involved no one is happy with the outcome.

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

Gift Ideas from ILMA


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Daniel D’Agostino, AIA of Plan Architecture

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:

ILMA INTERVIEW

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.

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

Gift Ideas from ILMA


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Enoch Sears @BusinessofArch

Enoch Sears is a licensed California architect, and author of the book Social Media for Architects. After struggling to find good business information for small firm architects online, Enoch started the Business of Architecture platform – an online community which has helped hundreds of architects earn a better income and time freedom through good business skills.

He is also the creator and host of the #1 interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show, where guests like M. Arthur Gensler, founder of Gensler, and Thom Mayne, of Morphosis, share tips and strategies for success in architecture.

You can find out more about about Enoch by visiting his LinkedIn profile or by looking him up on Twitter: @BusinessofArch

 

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect? 

I decided to become an Architect my senior year in high school when I realized I loved drawing but actually wanted to earn some money. I mistakenly thought that architects did both.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?  

Getting through architecture school at Cornell University was a challenge. The professors and curriculum were great, but the winters were cold and dark, and I didn’t understand a lot of the theory at the time.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?   

One thing I love about architecture is helping clients achieve their dream. In this way, every project is memorable because I remember the clients we did the work for.

How does your family support what you do?  

They do support what I do! I’ve actually moved out of architecture full time and now I run the Architect Business Institute and Architect Marketing Institute

How do Architects measure success? 

It is different for each person. For me, success is continual growth and contribution.

What matters most to you in design?      

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

I hope to continue to develop Business of Architecture so that every architect is empowered with the business knowledge he or she needs to succeed.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why? 

I love the work of Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier for their use of raw materials and dramatic, honest spaces.

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

My current favorite modern project is the Kimbell Art Museum in Dallas, Texas by Louis Kahn. See my response above about my favorite architect. 

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

Architecture will continue to get more competitive and consolidated – only architects and firms who invest in growing their firms and influence will grow during this time.

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

I hope that through my work on the Business of Architecture, architects can learn to win great projects and make the income of their dreams!

What advice do you have for a future Executive leader? 

The most important advice I can give is to learn how to coach people to their full potential. Give them responsibilities and let them fail (on things that won’t get you sued).

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful? 

Commit yourself to continual growth and improvement, and the future is yours! Always be learning!

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


Exclusive ILMA Interview with Tara Imani, AIA @Parthenon1 (Part 2)

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).

The Parthenon ruins in Athens. "For complex visual and psychological reasons, it's an extremely powerful building."

The Parthenon ruins in Athens. “For complex visual and psychological reasons, it’s an extremely powerful building.”

Architect Q&A:

11)   Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?

This is a very interesting question because I try not to be defined by a certain style- I consider myself eclectic.  In thinking more deeply about this, I have to say it was my formal education at Ohio State that has by far been the greatest influence on me.  Sub-consciously when I sit down to design, I think about how we would go about solving various design studio problems and what would Professors Doug Graf, John Regan, Ben Gianni or Mas Kinoshita say about “that idea!”  It is incredible to think what an indelible imprint our design professors make on our creative thought processes.  Not to mention the influence of seeing how other students handle certain design problems.  We learn from each other.

Aside from my background, I draw inspiration and learn new ways of doing things by reading various architecture magazines.  But each client and project is different and it is important to respond to the immediate context, specific program needs, and design based on those parameters while addressing the required jurisdictional planning, building, and ADA codes (which are baseline requirements and should be exceeded).

“Every new project is essentially a blank canvas.”
~ Tara Imani, AIA

ILMA-001

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

There are so many building types I have not yet worked on.  I would like to take existing programs and improve them such as Student housing at universities, solving urban and suburban decay, revitalizing neighborhoods, redesigning and adapting existing facilities to new uses.  All of these projects excite me.

I would love to be part of a think tank team that tackles big problems.  I like a challenge and to work with people who want to make a difference and aren’t afraid to try something new.

I’m very entrepreneurial and loved being part of my family’s start-up, creating everything from marketing materials, the company logo, branding our image, hiring new people, determining our core services, implementing new software systems and setting up the daily operations.  Every day was an opportunity to wear many hats.

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

I was asked to co-author a book on how to become an architect for emerging architects.  This was in August 2011 and I have yet to complete it.  I was gung-ho about the project and had actually been waiting for an opportunity to write such a book.  However, it has proved more difficult than originally anticipated—due to the rapidly changing A/E/C industry (with Revit, a move to BIM, IPD, and changes to LEED including a new International Green Building Code, etc.).  I was concerned that my lack of certain credentials would impede the book from being read.

The industry has changed so much due to technological advances that “seasoned architects” are in a reverse position of needing to be mentored and re-trained ourselves.

It is impossible to lead others without leading one’s self.”
~ Tara Imani, AIA

I get my inspiration and compass directions from architectural thought leaders such as James Cramer, founder of The Design Futures Council and Design Intelligence whose website and publications offer cutting edge information: www.di.net.  And staying active in social media also helps stay current on what other firms are doing- such as Tweet chats hosted by the AIA or reading posts on www.aia.org ‘s Knowledge Net forum—a place where mostly architects go to ask questions and share hard-won wisdom with one another.

And I look to outside sources in other arenas such Twitter where you can interact with such innovative leaders as Tom Peters, Vala Afshar, Lolly Daskal, and Frank Stephens whose thoughts and ideas can inform architecture in ways our otherwise insular profession has not had in the past.

The Louve Museum in Paris featuring IM Pei's glass pyramid at night

The Louve Museum in Paris featuring IM Pei’s glass pyramid at night

14)   What does Architecture mean to you?

This question reminds me of an ongoing conversation/debate we had on AIA’s Knowledge Net site a few years ago where we all tried to define “What is good design?”  Many of us easily fell back on Vitruvius’s Firmness, Commodity, and Delight (my favorite definition to date) while others said “modern” and still others wanted to focus solely on sustainability which, to me, is an underlying aspect that runs through all areas of design and is a pre-requisite consideration in the earliest stages of the design process.

When I hear the world ‘architecture’, I think of beautiful buildings like the Louvre museum in Paris or the Pantheon in Rome.  Architecture is synonymous with Aesthetics and cannot exist without a parti (French word for concept/diagram); a unifying concept/idea that makes sense of the project’s many parts.  This is what sets mere functional buildings with true architecture—that unspoken feeling of sublime awe when you experience a Gothic Cathedral (or so I’m told… I haven’t been to one- yet).

15)   What is your design process?

My design process is iterative.  It starts with meeting with the client and listening to their needs.  Vetting clients is very important and sometimes (even though as they say “beggars can’t be choosers”) it is best to turn down a project if the client refuses to understand the legal requirements of certain tasks or doesn’t have an adequate budget—unless you can assist with a creative solution to help them find a way to build it for less cost or come up with a way to assist them in raising the necessary funds.

“The client needs to respect the design capabilities and experience of the Architect.”
~ Tara Imani, AIA

Once the project goals, budget, scope of services (what I will do), and the fee (most important) is determined and agreed upon, the next step is to get a signed contract and a retainer fee.  Then, it is appropriate to begin to solve the design problem.

Sometimes, it is not possible to accomplish what I just wrote in the above paragraph as clients might be trying to decide if a particular site or lease space will work—in those cases, I can provide the client with a feasibility study for an agreed upon fee.

A lot of factors come into play that some clients might not be aware of—building codes differ by jurisdiction, fire codes are critical to comply with, occupancy loads are determined by square footages and use, construction budgets will be stretched.  It’s not a matter of merely “drawing up a set of floor plans”.  It’s a matter of orchestrating a confluence of design factors and meeting client expectations.

photo 2

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

This is another intriguing question.  For years I was driven by a need to make others around me happy.  This led to being at everyone else’s beck and caw while ignoring my own needs.  It’s a delicate balance to pursue worthy goals without being selfish.

To answer your question more directly: I would like to be a writer or an actor.  I also enjoy dancing and the performing arts, so being an entertainer or speaker would be fun.

I feel I can do anything I set my mind to.

I’ve already mentioned some of my pursuits in play as a child; some of the other interests I had were creative writing, espionage, and organizing messy rooms/drawers/closets (even if it was someone else’s house).

Funny fact about me: At age 34 or so- when I was having a moment of frustration in the family business- I decided I would pursue my hidden desire to be a spy, so I called the FBI and asked them if they were hiring. LOL!  I really did that.  They said yes, they were but that the maximum age to train a new agent was 36.  I did the math and thought that it was too late to do that.  Naturally, I thought of the next thing: being a private detective.  So I opened the Yellow Pages and called a few (there are only a few listed anyway) and got an interview with one.  He was an older, handsome man much like the TV character Matlock.  Without looking at my resume or discussing anything, he looked directly at me across his big wooden brown desk and simply got right to the point and said, “Miss, you don’t want to want to be a Private Detective.” Insert uncomfortable pause. “Trust me.”

Of course, I was not satisfied with his answer. I needed to know specifically why:  Would I have to carry a gun?  Was he ever shot at? I think I asked him if the job required having to sneak around dark alleys at 3:00 a.m.

Well, he wasn’t specific in his responses other than to shake his head yes to all of the above and more.  I could tell his mind was made up so I took his advice and forsook any notions of suburban espionage.

17)   What is your dream project?

I would love to work on a Hollywood set although I’ve heard the pace is maddening.  My dream project is actually writing a book about Julia Morgan and having it made into a screenplay that I would get to co-direct.  I envision it as an epic period piece along the lines of ‘Titanic’ spanning her whole life- like a series- and showing to the finest detail what life was like for women in 1893 Paris when Julia was accepted on her third attempt into the L’Ecole des Beaux Arts.  I’ve envisioned various actresses playing her role from Julia Roberts to Angelina Jolie.  I think John Goodman or Brad Pitt would make a great William Randolph Hearst (Julia’s lifelong client).  So, it sounds like a match made in Heaven!

Click here to read Part 1 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

The Villa Almerico-Capra (The Rotunda) by Palladio

The Villa Almerico-Capra (The Rotunda) by Palladio

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!

2013 is going to be great ~ Sending you lots of love, hope, peace, health, happiness and prosperity! 

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 NJ, NY, PA, DE, CT.


Exclusive ILMA Interview with Tara Imani, AIA @Parthenon1 (Part 1)

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).

ILMA-Parthenon

Reconstruction of the Acropolis of Athens from NW: The entrance (Propylaia) to the Acropolis is at the bottom right, so that the first side of the Parthenon to be seen is the West side, the rear side.

Architect Q&A:

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.

photo 1Gehry's Disney Concert Hall as captured by Photographer Mathijsvanden Boschhttp://500px.com/MathijsvandenBosch

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.

FLW Guggenheim NYC-Framed-Sml

Photo: Frank Cunha III

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

San Giorgio Maggiore by Palladio

San Giorgio Maggiore by Palladio

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2013 is going to be great ~ Sending you lots of love, hope, peace, health, happiness and prosperity! 

Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

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3 Museums and 2 Libraries

Archaeology Museum of Álava
Architect Francisco “Patxi” Mangado 

Photo © Roland Halbe

Riverside Museum
Zaha Hadid Architects

Photo © Zaha Hadid Architects

City of Culture of Galicia Archive and Library
Architect Eisenman Architects

Photo © Eisenman Architects

The Whitney That Could Have Been
Architect Axis Mundi

Photo © Axis Mundi

Exeter Library by Louis Kahn
Architect Louis Kahn

Photo © Luis Kahn


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Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III 
I Love My Architect – Facebook