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.


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.

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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.

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Conceptual Design – Adaptive Re-Use of Existing Cogeneration Plant

Project Information: Re-Use of Decommissioned Cogeneration Plant

My Role: University Facilities, University Architect

Architect of Record: Studio 200 Architecture

Landscape Architect: Melillo and Bauer Associates

Client: Montclair State University, University Facilities

About the Project:

Design collaboration with Landscape Architects, Melillo and Bauer Associates, for an adaptive reuse of a current building on campus overlooking the football stadium to be converted into an Alumni Center with stadium amenities and a Co-generation facility.

Project Status:

There are currently no plans to further develop this conceptual design.

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Architect’s Sketchbook – Portugal & Spain (Sketches by @FrankCunhaIII, July 2017)


ILMA of the Week: Eric Owen Moss


Eric Owen Moss (b. 1943 in Los Angeles, California) practices Architecture with his eponymously named LA-based 25-person firm founded in 1973. Throughout his career Moss has worked to revitalize a once defunct industrial tract in Culver City, California. Moss received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1965, his Masters of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design in 1968 and a second Masters of Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1972. Moss taught at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in 1974 and was appointed director in 2002. He has held chairs at Yale and Harvard universities, and appointments at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.

Moss received a 1998 AIA/LA Medal for his Architectural work as well as the Business Week / Architectural Record Award in 2003 for the design and construction of the Stealth project, Culver City, California. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and received the Distinguished Alumni Award for the University of California at Berkeley in 2003. Moss received the 2007 Arnold Brunner Memorial Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2011, he was awarded the Jencks Award, given each year to an architect who has made a major contribution to theory and practice of architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Currently, there are ten published monographs on the work of Eric O. Moss’ office.

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Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

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.

ABC Museum, Illustration and Design Center by Aranguren + Gallegos Architects

Spanish Architects Arranguren & Gallegos have converted a brewery in Madrid into a museum with an underground gallery and triangular windows.

The Colección ABC gathers the works of more than 1,500 artists of all styles, techniques and tendencies, with nearly 200,000 pieces. Following the collection’s development throughout its history will enable substantiating the consolidation of the most important illustrators, the role played by certain artists of the highest relevance, the diverse changes of taste and the different historical and social events narrated through these media.


This is a stunning project. I love the simplicity of the “plain” base below superimposed by the magnificence of the triangulation forms above. It definitely defines it’s self, like a billboard sign (Read Venturi’s: Learning from Las Vegas)


The juxtaposition of the modern forms placed in the old worn down historical context really turns me on.  Very sexy indeed.


I would love to come around the corner and see this spectacle.


These details are well thought out and planned for a strong unifying design concept.


Simple Elegance


Great way to make a big impact on a tight urban site.  The bright white modern forms really pop within its context.


The simple section is a bit deceiving.  The latice structure empowers the design and informs the overall look of the project.


Love, love, love taking the forms from the facade and applying them to the plaza in a new way.


Roof Plan: The overall uniform design concept comes through in the skylights above.  Very sharp.


This is a great space for chance encounters.


At night, the modern white lattice glows in soft blue, in bitter contrast to the bright red and white lights from the automobiles driving past as if to mark time.

Space and Form!

Again, the strength of this design is in it’s simplicity – an application of the facade, similar to the Italian plazas from long ago.  There is something timeless about how the spaces and forms speak to one another – The facde, the bridge, the plaza.

The Plan: Simple Modern Elegance.

Architects: Aranguren & Gallegos Architects
Location: Madrid, Spain Client: Grupo Vocento

Photos courtesy of Photographer João Pereira de Sousa AND Photographer Jesús Granada

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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!

Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

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.

Fabrikstrasse 15 by Gehry Partners

Completed in 2009, Frank Gehry’s Fabrikstrasse 15 is an icon on the growing Novartis Basel campus. In the evening its brilliant sculptural form is underscored by layers of light — all on the interior — that gently wash the facade, illuminate the workstations, and glow from within its core.

Photo © Thomas Mayer


Basel, Switzerland Breaking the bounds of of Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani’s master plan, Fabrikstrasse 15 by Frank Gehry stands in a surprising juxtaposition to the serene array of rectilinear buildings that dominate the Novartis campus. It is located at the geographic heart of the campus, in full view of the company’s renovated 1939 Forum 1 International Headquarters building, and across the street from a refined stretch of porticoed offices and labs by Adolf Krischanitz, Rafael Moneo, Lampugnani, and Yoshio Taniguchi. The highly visible, independent site gave the architect freedom to exploit his expansive, free-spirited style.

Gehry Partners

Gehry Partners


Novartis Pharma AG

Gehry Partners, LLP
12541 Beatrice Street
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Tel: 310-482-3000
Fax 310-482-3006

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Houston Ballet Center for Dance by Gensler

Photo © Nic Lehoux/Gensler

Program: A six-story, 115,000-square-foot home for the Houston Ballet and its academy, located in the city’s theater district. The project includes nine dance studios, a dance laboratory, dressing rooms, a common room, and offices. An open-air pedestrian sky bridge connects the new steel-structure building to the ballet’s performance space next door, the Wortham Theater Center.

Design Concept and Solution: Imagining the center as a living billboard for dance, Gensler wanted to create a building that would showcase the activity of the dancers within. The architects drew inspiration from the proscenium stage, stacking double-height rehearsal studios atop each other so that passersby below see the studios framed by the center’s black granite facade. The architects continued this framing effect on the inside by surrounding the studios’ interior-facing windows with walnut planking. They kept the fixtures and finishes minimal and neutral-toned to further emphasize the activity of the dancers: long, lean lighting strips and clear glass railings (along with the lines of the walnut planking) provide a static backdrop for the movements of the dancers.

Total construction cost: $46 million

711 Louisiana, Suite 300
Houston, TX 77002
Phone 713.844.0000