Hanging around the neighborhood this morning, its amazing how great this neighborhood looks. Obviously a lot of dedication and hard work (not to mention $$$) went into the renovation of the park and surrounding buildings. I think we’ll spend a good portion of the summer sketching this area.
We met this morning before work at Old Post Office Plaza. I had my doubts about this space when it was first constructed: stark white, hot, not a very people friendly space. It’s come along quite a bit since then. I’d give the City of St. Louis an “A” for effort – the addition of chairs with umbrellas goes a long way towards making the space a better place to sit and linger. The trees are large enough now to offer some shade. And the City has numerous free events scheduled – I love the idea of “chess Mondays”.
Another benefit – it’s only a block from Bob’s loft on Washington. This morning we had Albie Mitchell from Confluence, Frank, Bob and myself. Hope to visit this spot several times this summer!
Last week I attended the AIA Convention in New Orleans. The focus of convention this year was sustainability, and the rebuilding of the city after Katrina. I had a great time down there – a big part of any convention is taking in the host city, and you can’t get more interesting architecturally than New Orleans.
The thing that fascinated me more than anything this visit was riding the streetcar. My brother lives in New Orleans, uptown near Audubon Park. It’s easy to catch the St. Charles streetcar from his house and ride downtown or to the French Quarter. I rode it back and forth most days. A couple of things really struck me.
Beyond the historical nature of the cars themselves, mass transit by this streetcar line seems like such a simple thing. No tunnels. No built structures to stop or buy tickets. Just hop on, hop off from the median between the street. Yes, it’s very slow. But it’s also cheap ($1.25 per ride, as opposed to $2.25 for metrolink here). Most importantly, if you are fortunate to live within the line, it runs from a place where a lot of people live and can walk to get to the streetcar, and takes them to where a lot of people work.
I’m not a transit expert, but is seems like pulling out a lane or two of traffic, adding a lane or two for the streetcar, or letting them run in the street like they do in other parts of the world would be both cost effective and a great way to move people through the city of Saint Louis.
More on the rest of convention later, including the new Green Building Code.
In the April 15 – 21 issue of The St. Louis Business Journal the Fox designed regional offices of Stinson, Morrison, Hecker’s are featured.
The “Rooms with a View” article focuses on four major law firms and their recently completed offices. Stinson’s 47,000 SF offices are located in the Centenne Building. Planning for the offices included integrating advanced video conferencing capabilities, “caucus” spaces and several sustainable initiatives. LEED certification is pending.
We are proud that our work has been recognized with other leading St Louis architectural firms.
Fox has worked with Stinson for eighteen years. Another example of our focus on growth through relationships.
The warm weather, sunshine, and blooming dogwoods all mean it’s time for gardening, or what I prefer to think of as “plant experimentation”. The shear unpredictability of throwing some seeds (or maybe some heirloom plants) into the earth, combined with the cultivating that follows and the eventual edible harvest months later are what make gardening the slowest, non-instantly-gratifying hobby for vegetable-lovers like me.
Now, I must confess one thing: I am no expert gardener. In fact, the plants that Aaron (my husband) and I put in the ground this past weekend mark the beginning of only the third season we have every participated in raised-bed gardening. But what I’ve found from the last two years is that gardening does not really require prior expert knowledge, nor is it even about diligent internet research, as it seems most things are these days. It’s really a learn-as-you-go kind of thing…buy 8 tomato plants, squeeze them into one raised bed, find out you don’t get many tomatoes that way, and then buy fewer plants the next year (the lesson was over-crowding in this particular case). Or buy 9 different herbs, squeeze them all into another raised bed, find that this strategy worked beautifully and we saved tons of money on herbs all summer! Repeat! Remember that the tomatoes in pots from the previous year did better than the ones in the ground last year, and give that strategy another try. And then realize that this allows room for plants you’ve never even tried before: maybe cucumbers can go in those beds, squash, broccoli, pumpkins! The possibilities are endless!
I will say that sometimes reading material can be useful: this past Valentine’s Day I found a book Soil Mates that was both holiday-appropriate and vegetable gardening-themed. The book basically offers strategies for pairing plants that work well with one another; i.e. pairing onions with carrots because the stinky onions keep carrot-loving insects away, and likewise carrots offer some obscure benefit for the onions. At any rate occasional literature can offer outside-the-box ideas, which can never really hurt, right?
So far we have onions, garlic, carrots, lettuces, and radishes in the ground…did you know that a radish grows from a tiny seed to a full-blown edible plant in 22 days? Next weekend it’s back to the nursery to see what other plant-experimentation lies ahead! I’ll do my best to photographically document the progress…can’t wait to see what healthy veggies this summer has in store.
Once in a great while I hear or read something that really brings life into focus. I was listening to an interview recently with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love”. I’ll admit, I’m not into the whole EPL thing – I haven’t read the book and based upon the unread books I have lined up in the queue at home, I doubt I ever will. Also, the movie reeks of “chick flick” – I am not a Julia Roberts fan. But she said something in the interview (Radiolab, interview with Robert Krulwich) that makes me think maybe I ought to give her a chance
I think the angels reward people who are at their desk at six o’clock in the morning working…. I always think of it like Henry Ford’s famous line about how creativity is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, which is a very mechanical way to divide it up but also assumes that those two things have equal weight, that they’re the same quality, right? I agree with 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, but its 99% oyster, 1% pearl. You can’t even compare the matter: it’s a BARGAIN to get 1% inspiration. You know, it’s a miracle.
99% oyster, 1% pearl – what a great analogy!
So, I’ve spent a good part of the afternoon today staring at some blank sheets of buff paper, filling them with sketches. I’m hoping that I can make that bargain, to get a pearl from the oyster. Maybe I just need to come in earlier or talk to a few more people. Maybe we need to ask 99 questions, get 99 opinions before we can know which 1 is worth keeping. We’ll see at the end whether a pearl shows up.
I found out today that one of the white papers we produced was integrated as an article on planning in the current issue of Data Center Management Magazine (a publication from AFCOM). The article “Project Planning – an Architect’s Perspective” contains portions of things written in this blog. I met some people at AFCOM last October and gave them the paper: nice to see they thought it was OK to print.
Look at the article. The guy on the left is supposed to be Bob. I’m the one with the five o’clock shadow on the right.
With all this new opportunity for LEED accredited projects in Brazil, I’ve decided to take the plunge and take the exam. Even though being a young architect is overwhelming, like trying to figure out where I’m going to grad school, starting my portfolio, learning Revit etc… the decision of going environmental first came easy. I researched with peers; here are the few of the questions I asked:
How long did you study for?
How difficult is the test?
What materials for studying did you use?
In average the person that studied and passed the exam for LEED AP certification took about 3 to 4 weekend study sessions. They read the provided material from the site, and did your general study routine, flash cards and review questions.
One thing I found extremely helpful, is the amount of study resources you have online. They have websites that although are not sponsored by the USGBC, still are very intelligent tools to help you study.
I particularly signed up with a website that has practice exams and those are extremely helpful, and guess what? There’s also an APP for that. LEED flash cards right on your smart phone.
I thought might as well use my immediate resources, after all isn’t that what being green is about?
Ian and I had the opportunity to talk to the “Alberti Students” at Washington University School of Architecture this past Saturday. The program is an architectural studio experience for students in grades 4 through 9. Here’s an explanation from the program’s blog site:
THE ALBERTI PROGRAM – ARCHITECTURE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE – IS A PROBLEM SOLVING STUDIO WORKSHOP ABOUT ARCHITECTURE, COMMUNITY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT FOR FOURTH THROUGH NINTH GRADE STUDENTS FROM SCHOOLS IN THE ST. LOUIS PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT. THE ALBERTI PROGRAM IS GIVEN BY WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS, SAM FOX SCHOOL OF DESIGN AND VISUAL ARTS, COLLEGE OF ARCHITECTURE , GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE & URBAN DESIGN
Ian and I spoke briefly about our project in St. Charles for McBride and Son Homes. We spent some time discussing “what makes a neighborhood sustainable?”, our focus being Quality of Life, solar orientation, water quality, material selection and energy efficiency. The students asked a lot of great questions. They then broke off to design pavilions, playgrounds and housing of their own.
This is the second time I’ve spoken to the Alberti students. I always come away feeling energized – the kids are so enthusiastic about their work. I wish the school had a program like this in place when I was in elementary school!