Date: April 5, 2019
Location: SmithGroup, 1700 New York Ave NW #100, Washington, DC 20006
Led by: Ashley Grzywa, AIA, WELL AP and Javier Maymi, AIA
Session Sponsors: Synergi, Spartan Surfaces, Mohawk Group
Session Downloads: Session 07 Guide
What could be the definition of architectural practice? Session 7 led by Ashley Grzywa and Javier Maymi, explored how the traditional definition of ‘practice’ is evolving through various modes of research and collaboration with non-traditional design and construction professions. Throughout the afternoon’s session, presenters discussed and shared experiences integrating research, education, public art, poetry and mindfulness into their own architectural practices.
Presentation #1: Research Informing Architectural Practice
The first speaker of the afternoon was Jason Smith, partner at KieranTimberlake. Jason discussed the basis of design research and technology at KieranTimberlake and how the firm’s culture promotes exploration, curiosity, creativity, and collaboration which helps expand their ability to produce transformative work. The way his firm goes about integrating research into architectural practice was illustrated throughout his presentation of several of the firm’s completed projects. The projects discussed included the following:
- An exploration of a facade design of vertical fins and horizontal shading patterns to reduce glare and increase daylight at the Engineering Research Center at Brown University.
- The transformation of a historic brewing manufacturing building to KieranTimberlake’s current office space where they were able to reduce the overall size for the building’s mechanical equipment while maintaining occupant comfort levels.
- A shading comfort analysis that quantified the effects of an exterior shading design on indoor thermal comfort at UCSF.
- Investigations in letter packing at Drexel and the potential random patterns of alphanumeric characters for a facade design graphic.
- Opportunities for staff members to participate in community focused initiatives.
Presentation #2: Just Doodle It
Why do we practice? Why is freehand drawing important? These were some of the questions posed by Eric Jenkins, a professor at Catholic University’s school of Architecture and Planning, during the second presentation of the session. Eric noted that teachers of urban practice strive to answer the question of how to become immersed into urban practice, and ultimately engender a community of practice. Eric related the qualities of a great leader to drawing, specifically citing the best as both leaders and followers.
Eric’s presentation then explored the importance of freehand drawing, not just in architecture, but in a number of other professions, such as medicine. Architectural design is difficult, and the rapid, repetitious exploration of ideas that freehand drawing allows is invaluable in solving complex problems faster by sorting the information. The act of doodling serves as a memory palace, which helps one remember substantially more info while highlighting what’s important at a high level.
After discussing the importance of freehand sketching, scholars were given sketchbooks and tasked with drawing a number of axonometric shapes individually, eventually sharing their illustrations with one another to build off of each other’s sketches in a rapid-fire, freeform manner.
Presentation #3 – Living your definition of Practice
The last presentation of the session consisted of multiple speakers who shared both their personal and professional journeys, with an overarching theme of what practice means to them.
Raj Barr, President of Barr-Kumar Architects and a professor of Architecture and Urban Sustainability at UDC, shared his story of having the courage to take a large risk and develop his own home in Maryland, which he eventually used as a springboard into his role as a developer in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area.
Bill Hutchins, an author, poet, and ‘architectural midwife’, shared the personal events that became the catalyst of a drastic shift in his way of practicing architecture, with his daughter’s insistence on that he ‘play’ again shifting his perspective on the idea of what ‘Home’ was and space as a whole.
Hiroshi Jacobs, an associate principal at Studios Architecture, shared a number of art installations of different scales at a variety of locations that he’s created through HiJAC, a trans-disciplinary art and research practice, founded by Hiroshi.
Andrea Swiatocha, a manager for DC Public Schools (DCPS) facilities team, shared her professional journey of working as a project architect on school modernization projects in Arlington, Virginia, to leveraging that experience and eventually overseeing all DCPS school modernization projects.
At the end of the panel discussion, it became clear that each of the panelists unique interests, between poetry, art, real estate development, and education, helped them to forge their own practice. Scholars were then challenged to define their own definitions of practice. The session wrapped up with happy hour at Blackfinn.