Archive for the 'thoughts' Category




Thanks to hurricane Sandy, I am stuck in Manhattan, my office has no power, my apartment is flooded and there is a good chance that my black Honda Civic is floating down the Hudson. For as bad as that sounds its nothing compared to what other people in the area are experiencing. My thoughts are with them.

Hurricane Sandy also gave me the opportunity to wander around Manhattan with nothing to do or places to be today. I’m sure that has never happened before. There are a coupe of things that struck me as interesting.

– People have no idea what tempered glass is and why taping your windows is ridiculous.


– There are a lot if famous buildings that I have never seen the base of. The Hearst Tower for example, I didn’t know that the signature diagrid framing designed by Foster + Partners grows out of a classical cast stone base that was built during the Great Depression.

– There are a lot of famous people wandering the streets during the day. Maybe they are in the same boat as I am with nothing better to do, but more likely is that unlike regular people with regular jobs they occupy the streets Manhattan at opposite hours then most. Two celebrity sightings. Check.


– Chain restaurants and stores are too big to handle storms. Every Starbucks, McDonalds and DuaneReade in the city are basically closed. But every neighborhood coffee shop, bodega, and souvenir shop in the city is open. I am comforted to know if the world is ever about to end again I can get a cup of coffee and a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty before we go.

– Last but not least I learned that it shouldn’t take a natural disaster to bring people together the way I have seen today. Treating each other civilly, waiting their turn and helping those around them. This is what we should look like as a society all the time.

Best of luck to everyone effected by the storm, especially the people in our building. If anyone ends up with our car in their back yard, give me a call.




I used to sit and stare from the outside in,
tearing myself inside out.
Listening to the creative demons inside,
that filled the stomach with self doubt.

The fear of failure for dreams not reached,
staring at the ceiling up at night.
For some it’s not a voice inside,
but a soul searching endless fight.

Not with one giant leap,
but with one step after another.
You find faith in yourself,
and find faith in others.

Shuffling my feet forward,
after the souls who shuffle before me.
Across the painted lines,
on a canvas for all to see.

So now it’s the beat of the train,
sun beating through the plexi on my face.
Staring out to the city,
and joining the aspiring pace.

Not a race for recognition,
or accomplishments to tout.
I’m on this path not to be heard on the outside
But to hear the voice on the inside, out.



I have been doing some moonlighting lately (hence the lack of blog posts). For those of you not in the architectural profession, moonlighting is when for some self loathing sadistic reason, you decide to take on additional work, most likely in the middle of the night (hence the term moonlighting) in addition to your full-time job.

I am not sure whether it’s because it’s bread into you in architecture school that you can always do more, the thrill of stretching your design muscles or the allure of making a little extra cash, but taking on some side work here or there is very tempting.

However, I have always been careful about the type and amount of work I take on for a couple of reasons. One is that my primary job, is just that, primary. It comes first. There is no side project that is worth jeopardizing your career for. And I do mean career. Whether it is a lack of sleep that causes you to not perform your job well or clients and contractors that need your attention during the day that will distract you from your full-time work, both are a good reasons for being fired. So if you are considering it, I offer the following advice:

Negotiate not only the fee but the schedule and your availability up front. I think it’s important that your client understands that you are doing work for them in your ‘spare’ time. More than likely they are getting a lower fee than hiring someone who is working full-time and their access to you needs to reflect that. This is a non-negotiable item for me. If the schedule doesn’t fit a reasonable amount of time that I have to complete it in, then it’s not worth it. I refuse to work on side work at any other time then on the side.

Don’t take on work that you don’t have the experience to complete. I usually only take on graphics work. Mostly because I enjoy doing it but also because it doesn’t require me to know every in and out of construction. I don’t claim to know everything. So in cases where you do need a structural engineer, mechanical engineer or any other type of consultant, make sure you establish that and their fees with the client up front. The answer to the question ‘do we really need a _____ (fill in the blank with any expensive consultant)?’ unless you are one, is yes.

I am not even going to address the issue of liability here because there is a lot of gray area. All I will say is make sure that your primary employer is okay with the type of side work you are taking on. I have heard stories of primary employers being brought into lawsuits for work their employees have done on the side.

Manage the time you do commit to side work. Whether you are being paid hourly or as a lump sum, treat it like a job. Schedule the hours you are going to work and track them diligently. It will make billing for the current project and estimating your time for future projects easier. If you set realistic start and stop times the more likely you are to stick to them.

Lastly, set a fee that makes it worth it. After all how much is your free time worth? If you are not being paid that, then look for another project. Your talent has value but your free time has more. Take projects that will be worth your time and that you will look forward to working on. Not all work is worth while work especially when it means sacrificing time with family and friends.

I will be opting for no work and more sleep in the coming days so keep an eye out for more goofy blog posts. But I’m curious, have you taken on side work? What are your feelings about it? Do you have advice to add?

ps. since I couldn’t post any of the work I have been doing I used this picture I took of cheese instead.  Yes I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I like cheese and it’s my blog so deal with it.



I just wanted to write a quick follow-up on the :INTERNS post I wrote earlier this summer.

I have to say for as miserable as the search was, we ended up with a great group of kids. Each one eager to learn, full of energy and optimism and with great careers ahead of them. There are a few things that I will take away from this summers group that I thought I would share:

Be social. The interns that I think got the most out of the experience are the ones that engaged the most with the rest of the studio. I know it’s intimidating to walk into an environment where you are so much less experienced but everyone there has been though the same thing at some point. The more you get to know them and they get to know you the more comfortable they will be giving you interesting things to do. And more importantly, likely to remember you for positions down the road.

Learn. Asks lots of questions. This is the one time in your career where no one really expects you to know anything about construction. Ask to tag along to job sites. You will learn more in one site visit than you will learn in an entire semester of Advanced Building Systems. Whatever that is. I was happy to take them along. There is nothing that will make you feel smarter than being able to teach someone something on a job site.

Contribute. There are lots of skills that your shiny expensive education has taught you. Skills that your employer or coworkers may not know about or have forgotten that you can do. I try to learn as much from every intern as I try to teach them. I am appreciative of the ones that can teach me too. Don’t be afraid to show off those skills.

Connect. Before you leave make sure that you have connected with everyone there. That they have your email, that you are LinkedIn, that they know how to find you and you know how to find them. Whether it was a great experience or only okay, the contacts you make are just as valuable as the experience.

Thanks again to Nina, Andrew, Jake and Maxim for making Michael and I look like a good judge of talent and for a great summer. Best of luck and keep in touch!



I have just finished a surprisingly lengthy process of interviewing summer interns for my firm. I have a whole new appreciation for the interview process as well as few apologies to write to people who have had to interview me. So to offer some advice (other then the standard advice) to those looking for an architectural internship please, for the love of Corbu, before you apply for your next internship… read this list:

1. Group all of your stuff into one pdf.  300 hundred applicants should = 300 files, not 1000. No one wants to click into and out of your word/ jpeg/ gif or any other combination of files to learn about you. PDF stands for Preferred Document Forgettingthisjob.

2. While it may be tempting to title that file ‘captain awesome’, your last then first name will do. In fact make sure, your name, contact information (is current… believe it or not that needs to be said) is on everything you submit.

3. Cover letters don’t get read. They are a hold over from mail based applications. If you can’t let go of writing one, brevity is key. A short cover letter is more likely to get scanned, it also shows that you have the ability to edit. Architecture is a visual profession, put your time into your sample pages.

4. Sample pages… I don’t need to see every project you have ever done.  In the same respect, the one page sample page is not enough, it’s also a hold over from printed applications.  Document well conceived  projects in as many pages as it takes, WITH DIGESTIBLE PROCESS IMAGES.  A smattering of disconnected images tells me nothing.  Interviewers are trying to quickly get a sense of how you think, make it easy for them to see how you got from A to B.

5. You are not a photographer.  If you are… I am not looking for one and you have applied for the wrong job. Being able to compose, take and edit a photo is an important skill for an architect but not one that I want to see in your sample images.  I made this same mistake with my first portfolio… unless your photos are communicating something (besides this is a good photo I took) they don’t say much about you as a designer.  Apply this skill to things like blog title images (like the one I took above of the Pantheon).

6. Personal contacts will get you much farther than resume bombing.  You know who you are… Stop it.  Put your energy into finding and fostering connections.  The profession is a small one… so search resources like LinkedIn.  You would be surprised how even a distant ‘My Aunts, ex-boyfriends, daughter’s dog walker’ connection is enough to get you in the door.  Consider it a game of 7 degrees to an Internship.  Invite your interviewer to ‘connect’.  Even if you don’t get the job, it’s another connection to mine for future positions.

If you are lucky enough to get an interview:

7.  Be concise.  I am interviewing you for a 2-3 month position, not for a lifetime achievement award. I don’t really care about the awesome thing you designed, I want to know why and how you developed the ideas the way you did. Show me process, technique and the skills that got you to that awesome thing and describe it quickly. Clients will demand the same skill, so learn it now.

8. Don’t chew gum… no seriously, don’t.

9. You’re just out of school, no one expects you to know anything… and you don’t. Show your interviewer that you can think, problem solve, be a good team player and that you have a passion for what you do.  After all, passion and a morbid desire to do nothing else is why we all got into this in the first place.  Architects who have been beaten down by clients who ‘don’t understand’, change orders and building departments world-wide are looking for your youthful energy to remind them of that passion.

10.  Because all good list have 10 items… follow-up.  I prefer both the quick email thank you and the old school hand written thank you.  It will set you apart. It’s professional and you would be surprised how many people don’t follow-up at all.

Keep the faith (it has never been a ‘good time’ to go into this profession) and good luck!



I am generally pretty skeptical of photo filter apps like Instagram. I equate them to the clip art that made everyone a ‘graphic designer’ in the 90’s. That is, until I read this great post on one of my favorite architecture-nerd blogs: written by one of my favorite architecture nerds, Bob Borson. ps. I don’t know Bob personally, but after a few years of reading his blog, I know he would wear that title proudly.

Anyway, inspired by his post, I ran a job site photo that I took yesterday through the Camera+ app on my phone just as he did.  I must admit, I’m pretty happy with the result.

Before                                           After

Camera: iPhone4
App:  Camera+
Filters: Sunset & Magic Hour

Bob also made a great point that hit at the heart of my distaste for easily manipulated images; that a designer must be able to not only recognize that something looks good but also understand why:

‘This ability is what makes you a professional in my opinion because this level of knowledge means you can duplicate your successes without having to recreate them.’

At some point I hope expand on this idea because its been something I have been thinking about a lot lately: What makes ‘good design’ good?

But for now, what do you think of photo filter apps? Do they make producing more compelling images accessible to more people or allow amateurs to clutter photographical landscape with over manipulated (frequently old-timey looking) images?



I snapped this picture with my iPhone this past weekend. There was something about the sight of this tiny girl with so many balloons, bathed in sun and crossing a street named ‘Prospect’ that filled me with joy. It was one of those perfect life moments that is almost impossible to describe in words.

Yesterday, my firm met for an ‘Off-Site’ to discuss the direction of the studio, where we are and where we want to be. We listened to a handful of professionals on the cutting edge of their specialties. We held a design charrette, which for me was the first since college, and discussed the direction of the architectural profession and our role within it. We did this while sitting in the penthouse suite of a building we designed, bathed in sunlight and surrounded by views of the New York City skyline. It was a day of career affirming, inspirational optimism.  It was one of those perfect moments.

In a time where it is so easy to be pessimistic about the economy, our future and our profession, a bit of optimism is all the more powerful. I’m not talking about a wandering the streets with a mental-person like perma-grin kind of optimism, but the kind that inspires us to act, to have confidence in our convictions and lets us see life’s challenges as opportunities. After all it’s that optimism, the kind you feel on your wedding day, that allows us to truly experience life’s perfect moments.

So I would like to ask you, in my much-anticipated return to blogging, what was one of yours?



Ever since the first time I stepped foot into New York City I have known that I have wanted to be here. The people, the pace, the food, the architecture, the smells… I love them all (okay maybe not all of the smells). There is no place in the world that inspires me the way New York does.

The city is both new and old at the same time. It prides itself in both. It represents the collective will of a society to grow, adapt, innovate and evolve while remembering, respecting and honoring the past. As a designer there is so much energy in that optimism, that drive to succeed or just to survive, to be heard and to dream.

Like many other generations, we are living in a time where it is harder to dream. I have read article after article about the demise of the architectural profession including the article ‘Want a Job? Go to College, and Don’t Major in Architecture’ based on the statistics from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Well… Georgetown still sucks.

I am not in denial that the profession is facing harder times then in recent memory, but I also refuse to believe that it is time to give up. We are a profession of dreamers. Like the city, it is the time to adapt, innovate and evolve. If any profession can lead by example, it’s mine.

I have finally found my place in the city. Everyday I get to walk through Grand Central Station on my way to work, a testament to a city that refuses to stop. My place here is the result of hours of effort, lasting impressions, support from my family and friends and a little bit of luck, but most of all, it’s the result of never giving up on a dream.



Have you ever wondered how much email you send/ receive in a given year? How about how often your emails get responses? Or who are the majority of those emails going to and coming from? Well, I came across a site while trolling one of my favorite blogs Lifehacker, called ToutApp, that can tell you just that.

ToutApp will scan your gmail account (sorry hotmail… ‘The official email of foreigners and poor people’) and compile a beautiful infographic describing things like what time of day and who you email the most.

It’s completely free, promises to retain your privacy (although I will be changing my password now that I have gotten my report) and insightful on a years worth of emailing habits.  I have posted a few screen grabs from my report, can you top the total number of email I dealt with this year at 5,349?



Two friends of mine, Jarrett Boor and Daniel Yao of Boor+Yao, asked me, along with two new friends, to sit on the review panel for the Visualization III class they teach at NYIT.

At the midterm, the students were asked to study and diagram a physical set of information acting on an existing structure in New York City. From there, they tested that data set against a series of modules to study how different operations/ manipulations (folding, bending, aperture, opacity, ect.) could influence the diagram. The result was extensive catalog of results, a parametric system, that they could use to inform their design decisions in form making. Their final presentations were a test of those forms against the system of information they had collected and ultimately their ability to render it.

I really enjoyed participating in the panel.  It was great to see how technology is now being taught to students not only as a tool (AutoCAD was an elective when I was in college) for representation but for design justification as well.  It got me thinking a lot about the use of the same methodology in a more traditional architecture office.

(me thinking)

Unfortunately a lot of practicing architects don’t take the potential of parametric design seriously, often laughing it of as a kind of un-buildable, inordinately expensive style of design only suited for paper architecture. But there in lies the problem, it’s not a style. There is a very fragmented, ‘alien’ aesthetic that people associate with designing parametrically, but that is often just a function of the progressive nature of the designers who have embraced the technology. There is a very real world potential to make the things that we make better, better environments for those who inhabit them and buildings that are more responsive to the environment that they inhabit. Ultimately leading to structures that are more sustainable than those built on a system of LEED points will ever be.

What do you think? Is ‘parametricism’ just another architectural theoretical bingo word, or do you think there is real world application?

Photos courtesy of Daniel Yao

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