We found out today that Brett has passed every section of the ARE! Congratulations are in order. Great job Brett!
We found out today that Brett has passed every section of the ARE! Congratulations are in order. Great job Brett!
I was fortunate to be able to attend a seminar given by the State of Missouri Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on “Evaluating Buildings to Identify Best Possible Refuge Areas”. This was an all day seminar that culminated in breaking into small groups to complete an actual evaluation of a school in Wichita Kansas.
2 structural engineers from the east coast + one individual from SEMA gave the presentation. We began by reviewing damage caused by high winds/tornado’s from several recent storms. The graph of storm related damage from the past 50 years shows a significant upswing in storm related damage and injuries. We also reviewed test data from the labs at Texas Tech showing testing of various assemblies for their ability to stop storm debris (standard testing involves firing a 15 lb 2×4 from an air cannon). Assemblies designed to provide fire resistance, such as a metal stud/drywall 2 hour rated wall provide almost no resistance in this test. As one of our instructors said, “it’s like a hot knife through butter”.
There were several important takeaways from this course. The first would be to evaluate for “continuous load path”. In a high wind storm event, buildings are subjected to loading running counter to what is experienced normally. Where we architects are normally concerned with gravity loads (an wind loading – more on that later), during a tornado parts of the building are pulled upward. High winds moving over a roof cause uplift, tearing the roof off it’s frame. Pressure differentials can cause buildings to explode from the inside out. And that old wives tale about opening the windows to equalize the pressure is just that.
We also learned about FEMA’s guidelines for square footage per person in a refuge area (5SF/person – 10SF for wheelchair users) and briefly went over FEMA guideline 320 for design and construction of Safe Rooms.
This was an excellent presentation. If you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend attending
This is my last chapter – As you may remember or you may not – Back in October I presented my views on - Entrepreneurship in Architecture to a “captivated” young audience at Washington University’s Architectural School. For this blog I elected to divide the recap of the original presentation into thirds, this is the third and final installment in this saga.
Our business was founded in 1978 and this bit focuses on the last twenty-years of our development. I have been prone to use analogies in many of my presentations. And, I cannot stop now – the similarities between the birth, growth and hoped for maturity of a enterprise and that of a human child is striking. Our little organization met with some of the same challenges a young individual faces as they travel through life. Insecurities, fear of failure, lack of confidence and growth through trial and error.
As in ever life, good fortune can play a significant role. As we approached the early nineties we had expelled a senior individual and started fresh with a group of leaders that shared my view of how the firm should be guided and led. Quickly we achieved improved professional balance and our work showed it. The challenge of a better balanced staff remained, but far less than in the late eighties! As we progressed into the current century I felt truly fortunate in have survived all of the hurdles we had navigated.
Then 2008 came along, THE GREAT RECESSION! My /our education continued. We were again faced with some of the same fears that visited me so long ago. However, we weathered that worst of periods, our clients became very active, we added great individuals to our staff and we move ahead.
I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to surround myself with gifted professionals who are committed to making Fox Architects the best it can be. Entrepreneurship in Architecture or anything – I highly recommend it!
Our project for Emerson Regulator Technologies recently received Planning and Zoning approval from the City of McKinney Texas. Like any P&Z process, there are a lot of twists and turns, however the staff at McKinney was very helpful, and the City Council gave the project unanimous approval. Below are some images from the P&Z submission.
Getting to the meeting turned out to be the biggest challenge. Dallas was experiencing significant weather – multiple tornadoes caused quite a bit of damage. But Southwest Airlines was good about finding an alternate flight, and after a diversion to the airport in Austin, I was able to make it on time.
Mike’s recent experience and subsequent blog post in which he read Iggy Peck Architect to his granddaughter’s first grade class has inspired me to begin yet another series, this one centered around children’s books with archtecture and design themes. As a new mom I have come to appreciate the thought and drawings that go into some of the books I’ve come across over the past year or so, and I thought perhaps it would be good to share some of my favorites.
For this first installment I want to send a special thanks to Erica Enright for Arlo’s favorite recent library addition, The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale, by Steven Guarnaccia (professor of design at Parsons The New School for Design).
The story loosely follows the well-known children’s tale, though told through the eyes of three 20th-Century icons, Frank Gehry, Philip Johnson, and Frank Lloyd Wright. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say that this tale will make any admirer of architecture and design consider the age-old dichotomy of visual lightness (modernity) versus historic permanence (tradition). I’m expecting my little one to graduate directly from this to Frampton or Curtis.
In all seriousness, it’s a really sweet take on the modern classic, and definitely will be enjoyed by the young and old alike.
This is my next installment (only one left) on the Entrepreneurship in Architecture presentation I gave at Washington University in St. Louis last Fall. The adjacent graphics helped illustrate the critical issues I (we) were facing back in the mid-eighties. I titled this entry My Education because it really was the period that we would mature or perish. Fortunately we did mature…albeit at a glacier pace.
At this point the firm was six years old, but still crawling. I believed, in error, that after we were hired to renovate Emerson’s World Headquarters we would advance like a rocket. Far from it, we still maintained our “slower growth trajectory”. Much of this was due to our firm’s “split personality”. As you may remember the firm started as an interior planning firm, but with Emerson’s increasing faith in us and their projects becoming progressively more complex and architectural in nature, we had a critical decision to make. Become an Architectural Firm or remain an Interior Planning Firm and forever be subordinated to other architectural firms. For me the decision was easy – we would become an Architectural Firm. The decision was easy, the journey ahead was far from it.
The most obvious impact of this decision was to “recruit” an architect that could provide our firm with the professional experience, leadership qualities and personal chemistry required to make our transformation a reality. Like I have done my whole life, I acted quickly. Too quickly, I grabbed the first person that “appeared” to fill the bill. He was a seasoned professional with extensive experience. But after a few years it became apparent that this Principal’s leadership and chemistry capabilities did not fit our firm.
We wrestled our way along, but a big change was necessary and fast! My stress level was at the breaking point. The Architectural Principal had to go. I made the decision, he was re-leaved of his responsibilities – I gathered our senior people, told them of my decision (believing that once I told them, they could possibly all leave too) and hoped for the best. To my relief and delight, they all felt the move was long overdue! We began a period of reasonable stability and better chemistry. I balance had desired seemed to naturally evolve.
As we continued to mature through this period, we enjoyed stable levels of project activity, but we were not as balanced as I felt we needed to be….more a bit later.
On Thursday March 8th I was lucky enough to “present” to Mrs. Towe’s First Grade Class at Old Bonhomme Elementary School. My granddaughter Liza Brown is a student in the class and I was recruited by Liza’s mother Lauren.
I was invited as part of their Habit 2: Have a Plan Series, and my focus was to talk with the students about architecture as a career and the role it plays in our lives.
My “presentation” included reading the great book “Iggy Peck, Architect” (special thanks to Jessica Senne for introducing me to the book); discussing what architect’s do and reviewing a number of project photos and drawings.
The students gave me full attention, asked great questions and, I think learned about architecture. This was a great experience! Special thanks to Mrs. Towe, Hayley Arnold and Lauren Brown for arranging this opportunity.
This week the faculty, staff, and students at Old Bonhomme thanked us for designing their outdoor classroom with this gracious banner. We had a lot of fun working with everybody at Old Bonhomme and were so delighted to be a part of this project. Thanks to everybody over there who made it a great success!
For the past couple of years, Ian Waldschmidt and I have spent a Saturday afternoon presenting one of our projects to the Alberti Students at Washington University School of Architecture. This year we discussed the structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems of the recently completed Museum of Transportation Education and Visitor Center (phase 1). We spoke to a packed house and the students seemed to enjoy it (probably because we kept it under 15 minutes). The following are some photos from the event.
Each year I’m more impressed with the job Gay and her team do – I wish there had been a program like this when I was in elementary school.
After our presentation the students break out and work on their individual projects. This day they were working on incorporating HVAC, electric and plumbing into treehouses they were designing. Gay has about a dozen grad and undergrad students who act as teaching assistants (and keep things from getting too wild with the hot glue guns).
Ian and I hope to be back next year!
This past weekend I watched the documentary Eames: The Architect and the Painter which documents the body of work of one of my favorite husband & wife design teams, Charles and Ray Eames. I enjoyed the film very much and strongly recommend it.
What fascinates me about Charles (who incidently dropped out of architecture school from Washington University – my alma mater) and Ray is their highly experimental approach to design. He did not merely focus on buildings, and she was never content with painting alone; instead they both explored multiple media, including film-making (Powers of Ten is still a classic and if you haven’t seen this 10-minute film you should watch it today), furniture design (for which they are most famous), and graphic design. One of my favorite moments in the film was when a former colleague of the Eames’ describes a dinner at their home in which the post-meal “dessert” turned out to be an artfully-arrange bouquet of fresh-cut flowers. The interviewee made a comment about how strange he thought his hosts were at the time, and recalls stopping at the Dairy Queen on his way home that evening.
But all joking aside, the kind of rigor that the Eames put into their practice is nothing short of inspiring. When they had an idea about bent plywood furniture they committed to tackling the challenge, and when the military called with the request for the development of bent plywood leg splints, they worked even harder towards a solution. In the film, one former employee recalls the Eames’ studio as “Disneyland” – in reference to the highly-experimental and child-like atmosphere in the office. This kind of constantly-rejuvenated approach to work is what is most inspiring and refreshing about these mid-century design superstars.