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03 04 06 08

flatirons incompletion intuition immersion

09 thru 43 School Projects 09 mondrian museum 10 poetic retreat 11 10 spaces 12 child development center 14 row house 15 oklahoma vietnam veterans memorial 18 oklahoma aquarium 20 transit station 22 portland building 26 madison arboretum 30 l.a. elementary school 34 dunedin 38 bug 44 thru 57 professional work 44 practice 49 guard shack 50 elementary school 53 harding university 56 lawrence group 58 conclusion 59 outtakes 67 bibliography



The flATIrons tower over Boulder, Colorado and we marvel at their rugged beauty. The mountain is broken, and that brokenness is what gives it a unique quality. A few miles south of Boulder the jagged rhythm of the Front range is broken by Eldorado Canyon. We stare at the Canyon in awe. Its brokenness and incompletion invites us to contribute to its aesthetic. We repair the rift in our minds and become creators, loving our creature

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incompletion Between the conception And the creation Between the emotion And the response Falls the Shadow - T.S. Eliot




Immersion is the essence of great architecture and immersion comes from ownership. We own a space when we modify it to our needs, have exclusive use of it, or have a geographic and participatory claim (my shop, my office, my park). A welder owns his shop when he customizes it as required, an executive owns his corner office by exclusive use of it, and we own our neighborhood park when we walk to it while others drive. There’s another kind of ownership though; one that doesn’t require exclusive access or physical modification. It’s similar to a jigsaw puzzle. We buy pictures that are cut into thousands of unique pieces and work for hours sorting and combining the pieces. Some of us even frame the picture and hang it on the wall. Though we didn’t paint the scene we have ownership of it through participation. Architecture that is incomplete invites the user to participate in its completion. Open-ended architecture, like a puzzle, allows the user to own the space. I’m in a procession, I’m incomplete. This monograph is a glimpse at some highlights of the process being used to shape me

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intuition ThrouGhouT my career, both as a student and professional, decisions were made and unmade, direction taken and then doubled back, concepts were explored and rejected, and experience was gained. Design became vocabulary, reflective, and automatic. Some might define intuition as knowing without exterior input, but intuition is better described by Donald Schön as “reflection in action” or “knowing in action” where prior knowledge and experience allows for responses that appear automatic; much like a language. knowledge and experience creates a vocabulary. If someone were to ask me, “What is the first thing you do when you start a project?” I might say, “I sketch out concepts on paper.” But that’s really not true. I started working on those sketches before I ever picked up a pencil by absorbing architecture on the internet, from books, and in person, constantly creating a mental library. Also, before I put one line on paper I’m imagining the people who use the building and what their experience will be. I’m considering the physical and sociological context, and innumerable other processes are unconsciously taking place and informing my sketch. What I’m doing may look like intuition, but it’s actually reflection in action



Left: Eldorado Canyon sketch from memory. I saw this canyon everyday while riding the bus from Denver to Boulder . Below: Terra Nova, Lebbeus Woods proposal for the DMZ, Korea. My gesture for completing the canyon was most likely drawn from memory of Woods’ drawing.


2011 Doodle of a skyscraper during a dull meeting.

2001 Dynoplexus. Sketch project from 3rd year architecture school.

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immersion Donald Schön, in Educating the Reflective Practitioner, wrote that the key to success in architecture school is the student’s “willing suspension of disbelief.” The professor can’t verbalize what makes good design, the student has to trust and believe him. Do what he does and you’ll discover it. Early on my professors guided me toward infusing anticipation, participation, and immersion in my designs. I accepted their premise, watched what they did, and worked accordingly, quickly apprehending their teaching. The initial movement of any design process, whether architecture, painting, or music, is to find the imperative: what the project needs to be. For me, this starts by deciding between what may seem like many divergences but can be summarized into just two. What will influence the idea and what will be excluded? I start with a moral decision, what has value and what doesn’t? How can I do that? There is no divine revelation for choosing contextual determinants, and architectural theorists offer little for making such determinations. Dr. Tom Spector, in his book The Ethical Architect, wrote, “The revolutionary ideal of solving societal problems through design that was so vehemently proclaimed by modernism’s proponents in the heroic age of the 1930’s was exposed as hollow, and the architecture profession fell into a state of ethical disarray.” If there is any moral imperative in architecture, it’s elusive, at best, leaving little to guide what “needs to be.” I’ve often wrestled with this conundrum. While studio crits often told me what had value and what didn’t, I often wondered how they were so sure. The urban



corridor creates a comforting enclosure, but why is it bad to disturb that corridor with intermittent parking lots? Contextualism in architecture, when carried to its logical conclusion, presents a problem: If a situation is bad, a bad response is good, if the architecture’s context is bad, then bad architecture is good. What if your site is a sea of parking lots, do you insert a main street type downtown building, or do you design a bad building for a bad site? I worked with an architect who actually chose the latter. He used to say, “If your site is a ‘C’, you don’t build an ‘A’ building.” He admittedly adhered to a philosophy of maintaining the context’s level of quality, bad or good. My point is not that parking lots are good and main street type buildings are bad, but that each have spatial quality. Excluding one for consideration while choosing the other leads to conflict and hypocritical architecture. For example, your project site is a vacant lot between a 1935 art deco building and a 1977 building with a corrugated metal façade. The existing site is already in conflict. You seemingly have four choices that each lead to more conflict: (1) match the 1935 building so they can gang up on the 1977 building, (2) match the 1977 building so they can gang up on the 1935 building, (3) match neither and create a third party to the conflict, (4) match both and your building becomes the battleground. I learned that there is a fifth choice: (5) match neither but create a building that’s open ended

mondrian museum|design studio one A FICTITIOUS Mondrian Museum in nice, France needed some architecture for its courtyard. I created immersion through water, shadows, and views. The walking path parallels a stream in scale and orientation. Shadows


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draw you in for refuge from the intense Mediterranean sun. Views are cropped and directed until you reach the upper level where you’re rewarded with a complete view of the composition

poetic retreat|design studio two



my proposAl for a pavilion overlooking the Gulf of California utilizes a fabric structure allowing the ocean breeze to move the architecture. The brick and concrete would reflect the land with color and texture. I oriented the space to take advantage of the panoramic view of the Sea

This was a one week sketch project which had the goal of teaching perspective and shadows.

10 spaces|design studio three


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pErCHED on a bluff overlooking the Cimarron river in Oklahoma, an art collector’s retreat is a study in procession. The views are cropped and framed until you are rewarded with a full panoramic view at the deck

Anticipation and reward: The entry is inviting only by its intrigue. The parameters dictated that only 10 square feet of structure could touch the ground which led to stacking the program.

child development center|design studio three WHIlE showing an early study model to my professor, and explaining some of the site forces and program requirements shaping my concept, he said, “It looks like a train wreck.” I thanked him. I really don’t try to be an iconoclast I just believed the idea was strong. I wasn’t trying to be contrarian, or prove I knew more than him, but I saw an imperative. This goes back to my thoughts on context. What do you choose and what do you forsake? Formal complexity, such that we find when we open a computer, suggests programmatic complexity. Each doohickey and whatchamacallit in the CpU has a job to do. Architecture is the same way, and formal regularity conflicts with the inherit complexities of program and site. I didn’t think I could force the symmetry he was leading me to onto the site. I needed separation between the age groups, I needed observation rooms, I needed outdoor play areas, I wanted to relate the building to its context within a college campus, and I wanted recognize the urban corridor



Scale is critical to any project but becomes an interesting constraint in architecture intended for children. Creating low walls and openings just for them gives them ownership.

The site for the Oklahoma State University Child Development Center was located in a remote part of campus. The architecture is oriented to visually and spiritually connect to the core of campus by aligning one edge on axis to Edmon Low library and aligning a second edge to the street.


ownership: the act, state, or right of possessing something

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row house|design studio four We’re used to hearing about the rain in Seattle as something loathsome. I can’t really say, having never been there, but it can’t be worse than hot and humid.


Nonetheless, this project celebrates the rain by creating a room for it. I tried to capture a distinctly Seattle aesthetic with steep sloped roofs and large expanses of glazing

Towers are glazed on the south side allowing maximize sunlight for passive heating.

Shifted geometry allows for the houses to face the street and Mt Rainier. Each unit could only be 25 feet wide. The atrium, depicted in blue, allows the weather to occupy the heart of the house


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oklahoma vietnam veterans memorial|design studio four Brian Winterscheidt and I hoped for an apolitical experience in our Oklahoma Vietnam Veterans Memorial competition submission. The idea was to give the visitor a glimpse of the experience of war by being separated from normality and placed into a situation with looming absolutes. From the parking lot you would immediately realize you’re being directed toward the towers. The entry is indirect to distance you from the parking lot and put you in another world, far away from Oklahoma. There’s nothing comforting about this first space, where you’re watched by two towers as you read the names of all the Oklahomans who served in Vietnam. Another indirect portal leads you to a field with 1000 metal rods standing 6 feet tall, the height of a man, swaying in the wind. There were 999 Oklahomans who died in Vietnam, the 1000th rod represents the MIA’s. Behind you is a reflecting wall creating an infinite composition. The final point in this procession is a reflecting pool where you can look back, absorb it all, and make up your mind on how you’ll remember the war. We received an honorable mention

Left: Concept sketch of the entry. Above: Sketch showing the juxtaposition of a visitor and the rods, representing the presence of the fallen. Bottom: Bird’s eye from the parking lot.



oklahoma vietnam veterans memorial|design studio four

Left: Watchtower, indirect entry, and courtyard with the eternal flame. For this memorial, it became apparent that removing the viewer from the context, and placing them in another context was very appropriate Below: Reflection.


Skewed, open ended, incomplete architecture reflects the physical and spiritual characteristics of a building’s site and place in time more than derivative and diluted odes to favored historical styles

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oklahoma aquarium|design studio five The city of Tulsa endeavored to provide its citizens with an aquarium in the River Parks area of the Southside. Tulsa has several distinct neighborhoods, but the two with the most contrast are the “Southside” and the “Northside”. In general, the south is primarily rich whites, and the north is primarily poor blacks. Uproar was made at city hall over the plans to further improve the economy of South Tulsa while North Tulsa was being neglected. Council members from North neighborhoods objected to the use of tax dollars to build a renowned aquarium in an already viable economic zone. After typical city hall bickering the project was finally axed. The developers didn’t give up, but approached the suburb of Jenks who jumped at the plan. Not only was a source of economic improvement lost, but the original design was also lost. In place of Tulsa’s more regionally sensitive design the city of Jenks demanded a “Vernacular Victorian” building with a “Cape Cod” flare. To say that Victorian architecture has anything to do with Jenks is a stretch, but adding Cape Cod to the mix throws the whole idea into absurdity. My proposal uses the river as the context. From the Arkansas River to the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico each distinct ecosystem is experienced in a seamless way; above and below the water. The river itself is engaged as part of the architecture with piers that bring you far into the river’s course



An early sketch of the pier element engaging the river. I was reminded by a friend of mine who grew up in Jenks that the river typically smells.


This was our first time using the computer for design and presentation, and I thoroughly loved it. The amount of layering and graphic

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complexity, as well as ability to see ideas in 3d, won me over to that medium.

transit station|design studio six




pOInT, line, and plane were concepts we learned in first year, but I seldom thought about them until assigned a transit station project. The point being the terminal, the line being the tracks, and the plain being the platform. I opened up the architecture to make disconnections and to indicate movement which is exemplary of participatory architecture.

Previous Page: View from street level approaching the platform. Above: Early sketch. Right: Final board. I was starting to experiment with computer presentations and how the board itself, instead of just the images, could communicate the design.

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The location is at a convergence of urban and suburban where the density starts to disintegrate. Instead of deciding between urban and suburban, I proposed a gradation. One of my educational goals was to utilize the computer’s strengths as a tool for modeling and presentation. However, because of its complexities, I don’t think I could have conceived this design without the computer

portland building|design studio six


Sustainable architecture was a challenge to me. I was excited when I first discovered it, but after researching what necessitates a sustainable, it seemed weak as an architectural statement. Modern architecture, post-modern architecture, and deconstructionist architecture are manifestations of philosophies, but sustainability is a bunch of techniques. There is no such thing as sustainable architecture if sustainability doesn’t have a distinct form. There is only architecture that is sustainable. If this is true, if sustainable architecture is a misnomer, it does not spell the end of green building, but it means we haven’t found the savior of our profession that sustainability is promoted to be. Therefore, I wanted to explore the possibility of a distinctly green aesthetic. Our studio visited Portland to survey possible building locations. After choosing, we defended our choice to a jury of professors. The site I chose was a surface parking lot adjacent to the downtown “Park Blocks,” close to Portland State and several cultural buildings. However, I kept bringing up Michael Graves’ Portland Building as the antithesis of sustainability. Directed by my professors, I decided to remodel that iconic building.

Portland Building. Photo by someone else.



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Much of my concept emerged from a simple parti. I knew I wanted to open the building up, add and subtract, and capture wind and rain, but there also needed to be immersion and participation. During a crit, professor Matthew Kruntorad held up a pen between his thumb and index finger (see photos). First his fingers were perpendicular to pen as he said, “This isn’t very interesting, it’s balanced and complete.” Then he held it such that his fingers were at an angle to the pen as he said, “This is interesting, it has movement and direction.” The essence of what he was saying was the second composition allowed input from the viewer. From there, I butchered the Portland Building and gave form to the wind

static and dynamic


portland building|design studio six


Opening up

New purpose

A gesture



Sheer walls





Floor plates



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madison arboretum|design studio seven The purpose of an arboretum, to preserve an ecosystem, is in conflict with architecture. Architecture shouldn’t even be there. I studied figure ground as a means of justifying the building’s presence. I allowed Conceptual collage showing my intent.



the trees to manipulate the architecture. I am starting a pattern in each project where I’m treating the earth and the architecture as pieces in one composition. However, most of the manipulations are sculptural and not really


spatial, and the earth architecture stops short of my conceptual goals. Though I think the architecture is compelling and immersive and the presentation shows further development in my use of the media, I failed

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at creating an invisible building that pushes and pulls, giving and receiving from the site. It should have been like fingers closing into each other, or just before they interlock but program and aesthetics distracted me

The interlocking, weaving, and feathering shows up a little but doesn’t go far enough.

madison arboretum|design studio seven




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l.a. elementary school|design studio seven If only I could present the process for this project. Brian Hunter, Seung Ra, and I each have strong design vision individually, but how could we make it collective? We knew our process would have to be well designed. This was my favorite project in school, not because the architecture was immersive, incomplete, and intuitive, it was all of those things, but because collaboration to manifest our collective vision was successful. The program was an Art Elementary School where the arts play a weightier role in education. Because of the unique program, a typical big box with little boxes in it was impossible from the beginning. We thought the site should belong to the neighborhood as well as the students and teachers, but still be secure and used exclusively by the students and teachers. We folded ground plains to visually bridge distances, opened up the architecture to frame forms across the site, and used sculptural growths to compose the neighborhood. This was a sustainability competition and I think one of the jurors said the forms were “overdone and silly.” As Thom Mayne would say, “They’re central to the idea.” We were designing a board, not a building, we knew the building would never be built. Communicating the idea was the only goal.

Integration, collaboration, interchange of ideas, flexibility, and convergence were all critical ideas we needed to convey so we used all of these concepts to structure our design process. Most corporate schools are the antithesis of those ideas, and are more about isolation for the purpose of indoctrination. Programmatically, the “school” as a building type contains an



objectified meaning opposed to the philosophy of the Art Elementary School where learning is not restricted by containment but is encouraged through discovery. This philosophy determines the architectural character to be diverse and adaptable through the layering of space and meaning. The humanities, arts, and sciences are programmatically and spatially integrated

Early concept model showing the school reaching out and synthesizing the neighborhood.


Plans and sections

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l.a. elementary school|design studio seven




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dunedin|design studio nine New Zealand is isolated by the physical barriers of oceans and distance yet remains connected to the world by a progressive spirit. The beauty of the country is only surpassed by its consistent advancement. Dunedin is a compact, dense city on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. With a population of 120.000 it is the largest city in the far southern province of Otago. The density of the city allows the green surrounding countryside to remain a prevalent part of the urban experience. The Octagon is the center of the city, and is the focus of activity. Many government and cultural buildings face the centre where a green space boasts a statue of Scottish poet and songwriter Robert Burns. However, this public space is wounded by George Street and disconnected by visual barriers. This space is where the major axes of Stuart Street and George Street intersect. Stuart Street ends at The Octagon’s center and continues after creating what could have been a sanctuary from the energetic district, but George Street cuts it in half. In addition to this unfortunate physical barrier there are also visual barriers such as tall trees that align themselves along George street; obstructing views from one side of The Octagon to the other. The outer edge of The Octagon is defined by a dense urban corridor with the exception of one surface parking lot which breaks the form, creating an anticlimactic void. We proposed a pedestrian bridge along the axis of Stuart to connect the two halves. It would then shift to the axis that begins at Robert Burns, continue between St. Paul’s and the Dunedin Centre, and end at the car park. Where this axis ends, we proposed a bank to complete



the outer edge of the geometry and enclose a plaza and observation tower as another gathering space, not to replace The Octagon but to compliment it. The dynamic character of glass gives us a conforming and open building, expressive of the functions taking place inside and creating a landmark of light and imagery. The transparency of light is juxtaposed against the bank’s need for security and the stark opaqueness of this Victorian city. Reflection, transparency, and receptive form adjacent to the completeness of the context creates a satisfactory void where the downtown civic area converges with the retail district and residential neighborhoods. Each city condition is brought into the site, giving the city’s citizens a sense of ownership and participation with the bank. The plaza, as a compliment to The Octagon and a continuation of the city’s lush greenness, includes water features, trees, terraces, and an observation tower. The tower gives formalization to the new plaza by being a gesture visible from The Octagon centre. During the day the tower is a landmark and an observation point from which the beautiful city can be appreciated, while at night it will become an illuminated beacon drawing people to the site. New retail space is introduced along the western edge to create activity in the plaza and to draw people through the site, linking the larger retail district with the residential area. A 550-seat theater/auditorium space is integrated at the eastern edge of the site, designed to house cultural and civic events, as well as providing another venue to the convention and conference facilities available in Dunedin Centre


Site Plan

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dunedin centre



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st. paul’s roby burns stua

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dunedin|design studio nine This presentation was not about showing vignettes or snap shots of what the building would look like in a moment in time. While exploring the possibilities of computer presentation, we presented the whole experience in context showing the influence of memory in spatial recognition. Each piece of the architecture was determined by the city, so a bird’s eye view from the southwest, or a street level view from the northeast couldn’t tell you anything about our decision making. Since this was a school project and the building will never be built, whether we succeeded in our contextual considerations will never be known unless we somehow blurred it together in its final form (this board)




1) 1935 2) 1977 3) neither 4) Both 5) open ended

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bug|design studio nine We use arbitrary forms, and justify them by verbally relating them to the context without actually doing so. If the architecture did actually relate to the context it wouldn’t be any better (or worse) because the context is already arbitrary. This site and the function of this building are in agreement. They both have an entertainment focus with the context having a void, and the theater filling the void. This is not arbitrary but deliberate. What is arbitrary is the context of the context. Why is the entertainment district here and not somewhere else? Why does a building need to conform to an arbitrary decision made years ago? What is so important about the smokestack? The essence of the site is the manufacturing facilities that once lined the riverfront. The essence of the site is the entertainment facilities that now line the riverfront. The

The challenge for this steel competition was to design a theater in Chattanooga, Tn. The program put an arbitrary emphasis on the history of the neighborhood, which was long gone, and incorporating a smoke stack left standing from the razing of the industrial past. A theater should be free from its context, transitional. I conceived of something that looks like it would transport you to China or Nepal, and I showed contempt for the smokestack by encasing it in chain link. The bug is staring it down. When it starts moving, it’ll crush it.



essence of the site is the river. The essence of the site is the people. The essence of the site is the civil war. The essence of the site is the world. I can’t make a value judgment on which is more important and I can’t design for all of them. Context changes over time so to respond to one thing leaves out future things. The function of a building changes as well as the building’s context. Can there be a form that represents the function inside for all time? Can there be a form that can exist in any context? This is an object that doesn’t adhere to the context or building type, nor reject it


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The bug needed to have the illusion of mechanical mobility so the users could feel like they’re being carried away.

bug|design studio nine




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bug|design studio nine




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this procession that started in school has continued in practice, though stunted by my own diffidence. Recently, I’ve started seeing what the problem is.

or disconnecting you to its context, is the gauge of whether you have a mere building, or you have a work of Architecture.

In 1979 Francis Ching published his famous book Architecture: Form, Space, and Order. This classic and celebrated work illustrates the fundamentals of architecture in an elemental way. It’s required reading for most students of architecture and vitally influences the character of our education. While Vitruvius’ De Architectura similarly describes architecture as any building having “firmness, commodity, and delight,” Ching put these concepts into pictures, prose, and examples while leaving out superfluous and outdated information which Vitruvius dwells on. Compared to Vitruvius’ useful yet archaic work Form, Space, and Order is concise and as relevant today as in its inception.

There’s a disparity of focus, in many firms, between the act of putting buildings together and the art of architectural design and conceptualization: They major on production and minor on ideas. Instead of Form, Space, and Order, architecture for them is Deadlines, Production, and Utilization. It may be true that creativity is 1/10 inspiration and 9/10 drudgery (however the saying goes) but the 1/10 inspiration should inform and subjugate the 9/10 drudgery, not the other way around. It’s my observation that many office environments, both physical and practical, encourage the technical and conventional approach to architecture. While many architects have much to offer as technicians whose craft is detailing buildings, others are managers whose craft is managing the building’s design team, many others are of a different mold having distinct contributions. Their craft is exploring ideas, essence, and creating compelling forms and space. Though every type, or mold, of architect is correct in seeing their contribution to architecture as their calling, artistic, conceptual architects view their contribution as separate from the technician’s, which drives them to passionate exploration of aesthetic, spatial, and programmatic possibilities.

Form, space, and order, when considered the essential components of architecture, are accomplished by balancing the aesthetic, functional, and structural needs of a particular building. The result of this balance is what architects might call “Architecture with a capital A.” However, it’s not enough to put an equal 1/3 emphasis on each component; Architecture must have, in each of its three components, a consideration for the building’s look and feel. For a building to be Architecture with a capital A, its functional and structural components must serve the building’s emotional effect. If we desire to create works of Architecture, the functional and structural needs cannot blandly dictate the experience while emotion is relegated to an afterthought or merely ornamentation. The building’s manner of moving you through it, its manner of presenting itself, its manner of connecting

I’d like to see the architectural profession emphasize Architecture with a capital A, encourage the input of architects who have a passion for Architecture with a capital A, and, in general, promote all aspects of Architecture.


The question then becomes: What is Architecture and why should we pursue Architecture with a capital A? Pritzker Prize winning architect Jean Nouvel said, “Architecture is like music; it is made to move and delight us”. Many potential clients only want obligatory “architects” who can read codes and make deadlines. There’s nothing significantly wrong with the lens through which they view architects, but there are many (high paying) clients who want music. When requests for proposals come in from some of these clients do you offer them music, or do you offer them a service? I believe many offices are overlooked for projects because the client wanted to be patrons of Architecture and not purchasers of a service. They were legally bound to hire an architect for their building, any firm can do buildings, but they wanted more than just a building. Success comes when architects go beyond buildings and services and return to viewing Architecture as something greater and more imperative than an income. I once watched an inspiring interview on the popular Architecture blog Archdaily. Steven Holl, principal of the award winning Steven Holl Architects with offices in New York and Beijing, was the interviewee. As well as leading a design firm he also teaches, lectures, and writes about Architecture with an emphasis on overall spatial experiences (phenomenology). When asked in the interview what was the most important thing to know about running an architecture office, he said with a grin, “Remain idealistic. That’s the most important thing. Make every single thing you do a work of Architecture. Not to work with a double standard, not to work with some projects, bringing in

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money and other projects you say are going to be Architecture. Being idealistic was the key to the success of our office. With a double standard your whole value system starts to collapse.” Use this link to watch the video: “Make every single thing you do a work of architecture.” I used to pass an interesting building on my way to work each day. It’s a pre-engineered metal building, but the designer used glossy metal and overlaid the façade with floating weathered steel panels which conceal LED lights. The affect is much more interesting than a typical metal building. The project could have been treated like a simple metal building and designed accordingly but the designer’s vision propelled exploration in light, texture, and layering.

When we approach Architecture as idealistic opportunities to advance the human experience we can only help our clients, even clients who don’t want Architecture. I may be naïve, but not so naïve that I don’t realize many clients are exclusively motivated by the legal constraint of an architect’s stamp. They “don’t want anything fancy.” I may be tempted to condescendingly dismiss such paradigms as myopic, as the bane of good Architecture, but that thinking would also be myopic: There’s no need to choose between designing good buildings and putting the wishes of the client first. We can and should do both simultaneously. Architects, like everyone else, are governed by convictions and preferences. If we live according to the conviction that good design has intrinsic value, do we risk committing suicide on that principal? Is adherence to good design economic suicide? No. One might say, “These buildings make money and these buildings win awards.” If we practice that way we will eventually become mediocre at both because our “value system breaks down.” As architects and designers we sometimes suspend our training, passion, and expertise to make money. We make our convictions into preferences. I don’t believe that’s EVER necessary. Are there examples where you suspended your role as an expert in architecture - forcing your client to act as a designer? This abdication of your role for the sake of “client focus” may or may not have caused monetary loss but it definitely caused artistic loss. You looked good to the client in the short term but lost potential clients in the long term. You created a conflict between owner and Architecture when you doubted the importance of your convictions and turned them into preferences. Because you value what you do so little, they value what you do so little. This is the result of being “client focused” instead of Architecture focused. Being client focused might sound great, it’s their money, but it’s

processions 46 a trap because clients don’t know nearly as much about Architecture as they think, and you don’t know clients nearly as well as you think. You’re trying to please someone based on superficial knowledge of them. Your primary motivation to please the client was in conflict with your secondary motivation to do good work, but those two drives need not be in conflict. In an attempt to be client focused you end up not really focusing on what the client really wants but end up trying to give them what you think they want. If this view seems elitist, consider changing the subject from Architecture to law or medicine. You’re an expert in creating compelling spaces that work, and not an expert in human relations, and you’re an expert by training, hard work, and calling, not by taste.

Nobody really thinks the client and (A)rchitecture should be in conflict and nobody thinks we should neglect the client so (A)rchitecture can abound. But there are a lot of clients who are very pleased with (A)rchitecture created by architects when architects are allowed to be creative. The client was motivated and inspired by ideas, and when the ideas were accepted the (A)rchitecture’s form followed. The architect listened to the client and responded to their stated needs while also educating the client beyond their stated needs. As experts by education and experience, architects are uniquely qualified to imagine what a building should be, but when we present ourselves as technical servants, we limit THEM and us. All architects know this intuitively, but we should quantify that intuition with the many examples we’ve seen where a project suffered when given over to owners and committees. If we are architects first, pushing boundaries and advancing spatial and material experiences, then our less poetic projects will not suffer. If we carry the same energy, passion, and paradigm with which we approach (A)rchitecture projects into our (a)rchitecture projects,

those (a)rchitecture projects will become (A)rchitecture without us even knowing it. Incidentally, (A)rchitecture that doesn’t know it’s (A)rchitecture is the best kind (humble, unpretentious). We lose nothing but gain a lot. I’ve heard it said that the owner lacked the budget for Architecture, but budget has no influence on whether or not we have Architecture because Architecture is born of robust discussion and collaboration between designers and not born of money. Money is a useful tool not a source of inspiration. Architectural Record has an award called “Good Design is Good Business” which “recognizes projects with innovative architectural strategies that help businesses achieve specific goals.” Though this award shows how we might help our clients by being innovative designers it does not recognize the profitability of the firms producing these buildings. However, Architect Magazine has recently started publishing a list of the top 50 most profitable architects. A quick review of these firms’ websites reveals that nearly all of them focus on innovative design. It’s not just a clever slogan, empirical evidence reveals that good design really is good business. If you really want to be successful as a design firm, you need to develop thoughtful designers. Eric Jackson wrote an article in Forbes entitled “Top Ten Reasons Why Large Companies Fail To Keep Their Best Talent.” If we replace the word “top talent” with the word “designers” reasons number 2, 7, 8, and 9 will be worth noting: 2. Failing to Find a Project for the Talent that Ignites Their Passion. Big companies have many moving parts — by definition. Therefore, they usually don’t have people going around to their best and brightest asking them if they’re enjoying

barry ballinger 47 their current projects or if they want to work on something new that they’re really interested in which would help the company. HR people are usually too busy keeping up with other things to get into this. The bosses are also usually tapped out on time and this becomes a “nice to have” rather than “must have” conversation. However, unless you see it as a “must have,” say adios to some of your best people. Top talent isn’t driven by money and power, but by the opportunity to be a part of something huge, that will change the world, and for which they are really passionate. Big companies usually never spend the time to figure this out with those people. 7. Top Talent likes other Top Talent. What are the rest of the people around your top talent like? Many organizations keep some people on the payroll that rationally shouldn’t be there. You’ll get a litany of rationales explaining why when you ask. “It’s too hard to find a replacement for him/her….” “Now’s not the time….” However, doing exit interviews with the best people leaving big companies you often hear how they were turned off by some of their former “team mates.” If you want to keep your best people, make sure they’re surrounded by other great people. 8. The Missing Vision Thing. This might sound obvious, but is the future of your organization exciting? What strategy are you executing? What is the vision you want this talented person to fulfill? Did they have a say/input into this vision? If the answer is no, there’s work to do — and fast. 9. Lack of Open-Mindedness. The best people want to share their ideas and have them listened to. However, a lot of companies have a vision/ strategy which they are trying to execute against

— and, often find opposing voices to this strategy as an annoyance and a sign that someone’s not a “team player.” If all the best people are leaving and disagreeing with the strategy, you’re left with a bunch of “yes” people saying the same things to each other. You’ve got to be able to listen to others’ points of view — always incorporating the best parts of these new suggestions. You need to encourage designers’ passion, you need to surround them with other designers, allow them to influence their work environment (physical and spiritual), and you need to allow them to speak up without derision. How do you do that? You can start to design a process that will produce good design by speaking the designer’s language. How often is there passionate debate (arguing) about sheet numbering systems, the type of metal deck you’re using, and R-values in your firm? How often, if ever, are there passionate discussions about a building’s look or feel? Designers see those other things as having passing relevance. Their language is form, space, color, and light not vapor barriers and flashing. When every sandwich

processions 48 seminar, every staff lunch, every staff meeting, the website, and every aspect of your company focuses on the technical, managerial, and clerical issues of architecture, you’re not speaking the designers’ language. Designers need pin-ups, architecture books, presentations about design, and need to participate in design. Most of all, they need collaboration.

It’s not my intention to promote radical changes, but encourage and appeal to an emotional connection to your calling. Whether you recognize it or not, architecture is a calling and your firm is the nuts and bolts allowing you the privilege of pursuing your calling. You could be more successful selling more lucrative products than architecture, but you wouldn’t be as fruitful or fulfilled. Is architecture and aesthetic tastes moving on without you leaving your future in peril? If you have resources in place, your future is bright. Those resources cannot remain untapped

guard shack|2010 after 7 years of working in the profession I finally had the opportunity to see something I designed actually come to fruition. Though it’s only a little over 200 sf, the aesthetics of the guard shack at the Port of Catoosa in Tulsa, Ok, reflects the innovative technology used to secure the port from terrorist attacks. It was important that the roof floated above the exterior wall. That detail, though less than straight forward in terms of constructability, created the incompletion and open interpretation I strive for in all my designs

Below: Early sketchup model. Above: Photos of the completed project.


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public elementary school|2011 WHEn I was at a previous firm, a suburb of Tulsa awarded us the addition and remodel of six elementary schools. It was decided that the workload required for designing these schools was more than one person could handle. previously, the company gave exclusive design responsibility to the “design director” who worked closely with the same two people, while everyone else was considered “production”. It was refreshing, liberating, and a little intimidating to earn the privilege to finally design a significant building. In just a few hours, four of us “interns” each designed two or more schemes. We labored over giving the school system and the children occupying the schools the best spatial and visual experience they could afford. I think we were all surprised by the response from the senior architects in our office. The process didn’t go well from a designer’s standpoint, and the projects suffered for it. There’s an emotional dimension to architecture which we’re morally obligated to discover, and it transcends taste. If that emotional, moral dimension is lost or abdicated, the architect’s mandate is lost, and everyone’s whims are in play. Whims are based on what side of the bed you got up on, morality is based on conviction. Whims lead to lax decision making, morality leads to passion. passion should drive the whole project, from collaborating to find an appropriate concept, to presenting the concept in an inspiring way. passion is what separates Architecture from buildings and architects from builders. passion will lead you to defend and explain design decisions. The site and the program begged for an out of the box



solution. A steep slope adjacent to one of the school’s wings offered the opportunity to create an intriguing statement on sustainability by creating a distinctly sustainable form. In addition to its visual power, the solution would create a large outdoor play area which had been unusable because of the slope. Also, the solution would save several windows that the teachers didn’t want to lose. That solution was abandoned because of perceived difficulty of implementation. The solution that replaced it, though less elegant, would still utilize the concepts of ownership and participation by manipulating scale. Eventually the dispassionate process yielded a building that was nice, but not inspiring. Though I realized it too late, working as a designer on this school galvanized my philosophy on the practice of architecture and gave me a desire and purpose I hadn’t known before. I now have a burden to flesh out a moral imperative. Architects have to pursue innovation, present their work with passion and belief, and fight for good design


Previous page: The steep slope allowed for a functional, elegant solution to some opportune constraints. The teachers didn’t want to block windows on the existing building, and I wanted to create a green space adjacent to the pre-k wing. Above Left: Early rendering

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showing how the slope of the site could create a dynamic experience. Above Right: A scheme showing how the new architecture could match the existing school’s lines. Below: Design Development rendering showing immersive color, scale, and layering.

public elementary school|2011 Right: The idea was to have a stacked bond, split faced cmu with metal or cementitous panels above to some of the lines of the existing building. Below: The final building, though not as inspiring and immersive as the concepts, still have appropriate scale and massing.



harding university baseball|2012 I can’t help but do Architecture. Space planning is for space planners. I’m interested in how the building is experienced. When a building becomes Architecture, shelter becomes music, esoteric manifestation becomes yours, a pre-manufactured building becomes a jewel. The following is a concept statement I wrote in order to encourage a client to pursue Architecture for a baseball training facility. Architecture Architecture has to come from somewhere, have an intended function, or it’s not Architecture, it’s art. There’s nothing wrong with art, in fact, architecture’s reliance on function sinks it several rungs lower than the highest art form which is music, but it gains some steps when the form is not a leftover surface treatment applied to a function. What architects do is design space starting with how the space will feel given the context of its function. In this way function doesn’t become a dictator shaping the whole building, but is a partner with form. The essence of Architecture includes light, views, opacity, texture, compression, anticipation, and release. These are experienced emotionally and can be guided by the function, but never dictated by it. Beauty in architecture is usually associated with expense. However, the essence of architecture (thoughtful design) costs nothing. Baseball The essence of architecture is an emotive experience independent of the function of baseball. You can have baseball without architecture and you can have architecture without baseball but they’re related by sight.


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Sight: Viewing baseball as a player and spectator is the embodiment of baseball’s value. If no one sees the game it loses its value, and; likewise, if the players can’t see the game unfolding there is no game. In its essence, baseball is purely aesthetic. The function is subservient to its form. How often have you heard it said, “That was an ugly game”? Why do the players wear uniforms? If the game’s total value is in its beauty, its architecture should also be beautiful. To build a merely functional building contradicts baseball and detracts from the baseball experience. Batting and pitching practice can be done in a metal building, unaffected by rain, wind, and changes in daylight. It could be done in a prison or large sewer. Baseball can be played without uniforms in fields with no backstops. What does baseball look like? Given the weight aesthetics have on baseball we wouldn’t want to ignore this fact when conceiving buildings that serve the game. Neither would we want to ignore particular aesthetics which are specific to baseball. This brings up an important divergence. Do we attempt to replicate the game itself in the architecture? For a dance studio one might try to infuse elegance and diaphanous beauty while utilizing a machine aesthetic for the Volkswagen factory in Dresden. The question then becomes what is the character of baseball? Is it elegant? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. It’s also mechanically precise, haphazard, fast, slow, beautiful, and ugly. It’s a sport for great athletes and a game for children. It’s a contradiction. Architecture can materialize as visibly interesting contradictions but how can it be specific to baseball? It is possible to manifest Architecture form from the specific forms of baseball.

harding university baseball|2012 I grew up near endless acres of woods where my brothers and I spent much of our childhood searching under rocks for snakes, lizards, centipedes and scorpions. There was a clearing in those woods with a chain link backstop. There were many clearings where baseball could have been played, but the backstop made this one distinct in its purpose. Throughout our communities we see fields where backstops are the only indication that baseball can be played there. The mesh backstop, whether cloth or chain link, is the essential form of baseball. On the field, the backstop is purely functional, but if we use its identifying character, mesh, as an aesthetic, we celebrate its importance as baseball’s defining form: We’ve discovered an aesthetic that’s specifically baseball. Function Above and below: Visions of what I wanted to see. Now we have an 800 lb gorilla to deal with. This facility has to be big in order to serve its function but it can’t cost too much. When I see pre-manufactured buildings I think first of how unexceptional they are and secondly of how monolithic and huge they are. This isn’t a problem for a warehouse or manufacturing facility but is inappropriate for baseball. The fans will have their aesthetic experience of watching baseball weakened by the presence of a bland metal building. The players will have their training for excellence weakened by the banality of a metal building. Yet, the benefit of a pre-manufactured building cannot be ignored. So instead of an opaque, bland, bulky metal building we can have a translucent, vibrant, light metal building



barry ballinger 55 Left: Concept rendering based on my initial sketch. The Harding University Baseball field is quite nice so instead of downgrading it with an ugly building, I wanted to upgrade it with light. Cellular Polycarbonate has aesthetic and functional benefits as a cladding for a prefabricated metal structure. Its translucency and reflectivity helps it blend with its surroundings while still having an ethereal presence. It has a warm glow at night, transforming itself. Below: Chain link encapsulates the building as a reference to mesh’s ubiquitous presence in baseball. It’s also functional, protecting the polycarb from errant throws and hits. The graphics create the building’s facade, and recognize the school and team. This building becomes completely theirs.

lawrence group|2005-2006 While at Lawrence Group in Denver I was able to do a little conceptual design work. It was fun, but I was too immature to fully take advantage of it or appreciate it



Mixed use building in Grand Junction Colorado: One of the early schemes imitated the “pop top� construction prevalent in many cities. The consistent concept was that of modification and addition over time. Instead of one huge building, it would give the appearance of multiple buildings.


Canopy for al fresco dining in St. Louis, Mo.

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conclusion EACH prOBlEM, each project in my career has been part of an overall procession toward defining my philosophy for creating good architecture. Intuition, immersion, participation, ownership, these are all tools for creating good architecture. There’s something beyond these tools; a motivating thrust, a belief, a conviction, an imperative. From the Mondrian Courtyard to the Harding Baseball practice facility, I’ve always started with what I thought the architecture should be, based on my understanding. It’s important to note that we all have



our own understandings we base things on, we all have differing convictions about “should(s),” but that doesn’t mean my individual convictions should be abandoned because yours are different. Our approach to architecture should be the same. As architects we’re keepers of skill, training, and experience exclusive to our art. Our architecture is an outgrowth of these three things. We should all own our responsibility by approaching it with conviction

Here we go round the prickly pear


These projects don’t necessarily fit nicely within this narrative. They’re either school projects which didn’t involve designing architecture, or they were necessary distractions I did on my own to feed my creative yearnings


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urban usa travel program|2003

A few students and a couple of professors enjoyed seven days of sketches and graphic-journaling in Washington D.C. and New York City. Our final product was our sketchbook and this 20x20 board composed of our sketches. This was my first time in D.C. and NYC. While DC was great, I remember being “intoxicated” by the energy and wonder of New York. After just four days, I didn’t want to be anywhere else and it took all summer to get over that feeling



splitting mediums|2005 WHIlE AT 4240 Architecture in Denver we secured a local gallery to show some of the team’s individual art work. I had been working on a nerdy 3d model of a post-apocalyptic city where the rich, influential, and connected would be separated from the general population. They would live in a new city suspended in a great gulf within sight of the old city but far away in terms of quality of life

This board shows the processional entry to the city from left to right. The privileged few would enter under the supervision of one of the looming guard towers surrounding the gulf. Then cross over a drawbridge to a fortress for processing. They’d then be flown to a transit station where they’d have freedom to travel between the office tower, communications tower, and suburbs. Isaiah 53 contrasts the future revealed to us in scripture vs what a decaying humanity has to offer.


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house in tulsa|2011 MY BrOTHErS and I own a lot in a pre-gentrified portion of Tulsa close to downtown. The lot could support more than one dwelling unit which would intensify the density.



The contemporary aesthetic (which I’m inclined to anyway) would energize a blighted, but potentially vibrant neighborhood

science building one|2011 science is all about discovery and innovation so its buildings should reflect that. When a small college in Oklahoma put out an RFP for a new math and science building I started working on something. I never presented it to anyone nor was I ever asked to design


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anything. I just did it because I wanted to see something that would reflect the discipline of science. We did win the commission but ended up allowing the president of the university to design the building. The result was an EIFS box with an attempted Georgian aesthetic

science building two|2011 a boring meeting can yield unintended fruit. I liked a doodle I produced during such a meeting and wondered if I could turn it into a Revit model. This is another project with no program, or mandate, and no reward other than my own satisfaction. I called it science building and put it in Beijing




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some other things|2011



Just a few little things I did that I believe help me grow as an architect and designer

Left: It’s been two decades since a skyscraper was built in Tulsa, and I’ve never designed one (other than a sci-fi project in school). So I modeled one in Sketchup and put it in a photo I found. Above: Forced into peeling potatoes while my wife was out somewhere, I found one that wanted to be a head. Next Page: I practiced some immersive art during the intense drought/ heat wave of 2011. Oil on canvas.


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Schön, Donald A. Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987. Spector, Tom. The Ethical Architect: the Dilemma of Contemporary Practice. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001. “Thom Mayne Lecture.” Southern California Institute of Architecture Lecture Series. http://www. html?vid=http://www.sciarclive. com/Lectures/2012_03_14_ ThomMayne.flv&title=Thom%20 Mayne Nouvel, Jean. “Concert House Danish Radio Copenhagen.” Europaconcorsi. http:// projects/85877-Concert-HouseDanish-Radio-Copenhagen/print Jackson, Eric. “Top Ten Reasons Why Large Companies Fail to Keep Their Best Talent.” Forbes Online. ericjackson/2011/12/14/top-tenreasons-why-large-companies-failto-keep-their-best-talent/ “AD Interviews: Steven Holl.” Arch Daily. http://www.archdaily. com/174211/ad-interviews-stevenholl/

thank you|have a nice day

Barry Ballinger  

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