Category Archives: The Creative Process

The Language of Architecture: Sketch, Model, Draft

How does your architect speak to you?

I see space in my head long before it’s built. I see every surface, how it feels to be there and even how the light is going to fall.

But this vision does me no good unless I am able to communicate it to builders, craftspeople and most especially my client.

There are many ways to communicate visually and like artists, every architect has his or her style. I tap into a variety of methods, none of which are too precious or life-like. I believe that a client’s own imagination used to fill in the gaps of a loose sketch will often render a more compelling story than if I were to present a photo-realistic model.

Testing my own ideas along the way turns out to be the primary reason for drawing and modeling and produces the most interesting results.

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Deconstructing the Sketchbook

Creative people make it a habit to notice things. The best way to process what we notice around us is to write about it, sketch it, doodle it, or make a collage with it. The hope is that by recording the way things are, we might also discover some new connections between things, that is to say…stumble upon a sense of wonder or even a new idea.

Keeping your observations in a sketchbook is different than taking a photograph or a video. The act of sketching or writing slows you down and taps into your intuition; whatever you are drawing enters a mutual relationship with you. While drawing your heartbeat slows down.

Of course the keeping of a sketchbook in and of itself is an enormous and sometimes spiritual undertaking. It requires a suspension of judgment and a confident embrace off the unknown.

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The Second Life of a Red Line Correction Set

What do with all those large prints after they’ve been bleeding red ink?  Most architects will tell you there is not much energy left after a submittal of any kind whether it be a building department submittal, a city council hearing or a client presentation.  Before applications are filled out, power points are presented or checks are written, we architects must be our own best critics and redline our drawings. This is always the most humbling of experiences, because I am always quite sure that I was being more careful.

The most challenging part about my work is that you have to strive to both perfect in a “nat’s ass” kind of way and also a larger than life kind of visionary.  Someone who can see things before they are there and imagine a space, a feeling, a detail even before anyone knows how to build it.

Like a movie director, I imagine something and how it will play it out.   What that shaft of light will do at different times of day, the changes to the life on the sidewalk around this new door, how the employees will actually use that new window sill.

Still as good as these imaginings may be, they are only as good as the set drawings describing in detail how to get there.

There is something beautiful about a set of drawings. In fact each page is a work of art in itself if it is done well.  The line weights differentiate an otherwise flat image, the larger page is divided into graphically pleasing smaller ones and text is introduced into neat columns.  When you squint the page is in harmony and when you take out the eyeglasses every line is perfect.

Well, if only this were always true. Thank goodness we have second chance to make it so after comments are returned to us.  In the meantime, checking in with the larger visionary within, here is what I did with recent redline set of mine.

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The Before and After…and After That

I don’t include before photos in my portfolio because I think it’s just unfair.   First of all, I am not near as talented as my architectural photographer so the before shots are distracting and dark and more importantly no one ever cleans up for them.

Like those face serum advertisements where a tired model working hard to look bad is placed next to a glamorous, touched up, and well lit version of herself; it’s clearly the result of this miraculous product, right?

I’m skeptical.  However, I get requests for these shots all the time and have tried to understand why people like to see them so much.  Is it because they can unravel the vision that the architect had and hopefully apply some of the same strategies to their own space?  Or could it be a twisted form of self-soothing……a way to commiserate with other homeowners who have lived in undone, broken or “uncool” surroundings?

I believe it’s because the middle of the project is completely skipped over in lieu of a simplified snippet of time passing.  It’s instant gratification.  The initial excitement at what your architect presented, the painstaking decisions, the bills, the trips to the tile store, the smell of lumber and sound of nail guns……all are conspicuously missing.  Nobody wants to see a before shot, 20 middle shots and then the after. Continue reading

The Architectural Process, Your Money and Your Time

The Architectural Process: Your Time and Money

I field several calls a week where the first question is, “How do you work? Of course, perfecting the answer to this is a lifelong endeavor. Every time I think I’ve got it, a new type of project or a new way of doing things presents itself.   All architects work differently depending on the size of the firm, the expertise, and the level of service. Unfortunately there is a good deal of mystery regarding business practices even within the industry. I will try to be transparent and helpful, but I can only share what I currently know and what applies to Laraarchitecture.

So here is the “nitty gritty” as it relates to the architectural process, your money and your time.  Continue reading

Women Architects

Women in Architecture: Leaning In Without Falling Over

I often get asked if architecture is a good career choice by young women. Depending on the day of course, I usually answer yes. However, the statistics strongly disagree with me.

In the U.S., more than 45% of students in architecture school are women yet they only make up 23% of the work force. And when it comes to large firms only 17% have a partner that is female.

So where do all the girls go?

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White Crosses Adorn Hillside Memorial Iraq

The Crosses of Lafayette: Toward a Permanent Memorial

This summer I was honored, along with 6 other local architects and landscape architects to moderate a community design workshop to envision the future of the Lafayette Crosses.

This came after a moment of authentic stomach turning sadness.

On a cool day in late spring, I drove by the crosses and realized I wasn’t looking anymore. I drove around the block and stopped in front of the dry and overgrown hill and cried. I must’ve at that moment realized the crosses would inevitably have to change. I besieged the internet looking for ways to reach the founder of the crosses foundation and express my concern and willingness to help.

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