Session 7: Expanding the Definition of Practice

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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

Overview
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 #1 Photo

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 #2 Photos

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.

Presentation #3 Photo

Session 6: Industry Trends

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Date: March 1, 2019
Location: WeWork 777 6th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20001
Led by: Gina Volpicelli, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Devon Hogan, RA, LEED AP BD+C
Session Sponsors: WeWork, Quinn Evans Architects, Colliers International, The Living, HITT Construction, Adaptive Studio, Graphisoft
Session Downloads: Session 06 Guide

Overview
March’s session on Industry Trends was fittingly located at WeWork, a nationally trending hot spot for collaborative workshare spaces.  Presentations focused on Industry Trends with a heavy emphasis on technology, sustainability, and research.  The session comprised of multiple presentations by industry professionals including architects, BIM consultants, and contractors, as well as an interactive activity where scholars grouped together to experience “Building Overtime”.

Presentation #1: Virtual Reality and Augmented reality Technologies in Real Estate
The afternoon’s first presentation was given by Karen Whitt, of Colliers International. Karen oversees property management assignments in the United States for Colliers International.  She, along with a third-party consultant, The Layer Group, are educating landowners on current and future risks and potential revenue opportunities of Augmented Reality in the built environment.

Buildings are currently being used as a gateway for commerce experience. This integration is set to explode with the forthcoming implementation of the 5G network.  Courts and landowners are looking to understand who owns the rights to Augmented Reality on buildings and public spaces.  Risks include unintentional and unwanted AR activity on any given property. The potential revenue opportunities include advertising, rent, and data collection for the owner.  AR integration into the built environment also has many implications for Architects including the aesthetic alterations of buildings, the impact on Historic preservation, and zoning regulations.
Presentation #1: Virtual Reality and Augmented reality Technologies in Real Estate

Presentation #2: Round Table & Scholar Image Discussion
The second part of the afternoon began with the individual images, “visual disruptors” impacting the future of the industry, selected and explained by each scholar.  The images targeted many topics including generative design, prescriptive programming, robotics, global population growth, AR/VR, and wealth inequality.

A round table discussion followed with a group of diverse industry representatives. Julie Siple, who oversees Quinn Evans Architects’ sustainability practice, spoke about climate hazards and climate change impacts. She shared case studies of ways Architects are living up to the challenge of making more sustainable buildings.  David Stone, Director of Virtual Construction at HITT Contractors, spoke about the challenges the AEC industry faces with implementation of virtual workflows.  He showed how HITT is using VR technologies to review and coordinate issues in the field.  John Skippers, a BIM consultant with Adaptive Studio, shared the current state of Revit implementation among firms, including examples of Dynamo and Data standards.

A lively discussion followed the presentations, during which scholars actively engaged the panel in conversation about the risk and reward of the industry, the ability to track success and failures through data systems, and the role of regulation in successful sustainability efforts.
Presentation #2: Round Table & Scholar Image Discussion

Group Activity: Building Over Time
During this group activity, scholars were split into 4 groups of 4 and given a vague task of creating an object by folding paper.  Initially, scholars were given a set of written directions, representing specifications. Next, scholars were given a set of 2-D diagrams, representing construction documents. Finally, scholars were given a set of 3-D diagrams, that could also be used in a virtual environment.  A conversation followed regarding the Architects’ role and deliverables of instruments of services.

Marcus Monroe, a BIM Consultant with Graphisoft shared information about Virtual Reality (VR) implementation into the architectural office workflow.  Marcus explained the BIMX mobile tools and integration with ArchiCAD, which offers friendly user interface for navigating construction documents and presentation drawings.
Group Activity: Building Over Time

Presentation #3: Projects from Autodesk Research Studio
The final presentation of the afternoon was given by Lorenzo Villaggi, a research scientist associate with The Living, an Autodesk Research Studio. Lorenzo presented three concepts and case studies including Bio Computing, Bio Sensing and Bio Manufacturing.  Each case study utilizes information derived from biological sciences, research, computer programming, and fabrication.  For the Bio Computing project, the studio created an algorithm to develop geometry based on the growth of Slime Mold.  The Bio Sensing project combined natural intelligence with artificial intelligence by using living organisms in the water to retrieve information and data on the health of the water. The Living studio developed a “Bio Manufacturing” process using living organisms as tiny factories to create building blocks for an installation at MOMA’s PS3.  Lorenzo shared that he sees generative design as one part of the process, as architects are responsible for curating outcomes.  Ultimately, he said, AI will not replace design knowledge, but will be an integral part of the way we work and design buildings.
Presentation #3: Projects from Autodesk Research Studio

Session 5: Closing The Deal

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Date: February 1, 2019
Location: AIA National 1735 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006
Led by: Ruben Quesada  Amy Daniels
Session Sponsors: Stanley Stevens and Gilbane
Session Downloads: Session 05 Guide

Overview

Ruben Quesada and Amy Daniels organized Session 5, Closing The Deal, at the AIA National Headquarters in the AIA Boardroom. With such a dignified backdrop to the session, the content couldn’t help but be educational and meaningful.

After Ruben and Amy gave the group a warm welcome to the session, they introduced the first speaker – Lauren Ewan – the Director of Marketing and Communications at Hickok Cole. Lauren’s presentation titled “Brand and Beyond: The New World of AEC Marketing” focused on the tools that firms need to win and sustain clients in the new world of social media and growing competition. As an icebreaker, Laura asked scholars to form and defend a position on whether architecture was a profession or a business.

Throughout the presentation, scholars learned about the makeup of a great marketing team and how each person’s interests and talents can be translated into a firm’s marketing strategy. Scholars learned that architects only recently began to legally be able to advertise their services in 1977, and there is still a culture that “the work should speak for itself” that permeates our profession. This mentally has allowed architects to believe that marketing is not necessary when the stakes are higher than ever to win both projects and talent.

In today’s market, customer relationships are the key to continued success. Every interaction with a firm is an opportunity to strengthen a client’s association with a firm’s brand. Not only does brand include the mission of a firm, it also should include its culture, projects, and people. This brand should always be cognizant of a firm’s strategic plan with 1, 3, and 5 year goals that align with the overall marketing strategy.

The remainder of the session was centered around preparing for a mock interview in response to an RFP that Ruben and Amy had created. At the previous session, scholars had been presented with the task of repurposing RFK Stadium and were required to create a firm with teams of four. Each team would take a different approach to building a firm and proposal.

In preparation for the interviews, Melanie Varcas from Cakewalk Strategies led the second presentation to provide some last-minute inspiration and education on how to approach any RFP. Scholars learned how to prepare and present for an interview relating to the RFP they had been tasked with. Scholars also learned the importance of passion and a clear message to the. The interview should be a team effort, allowing every participating member to shine and show their enthusiasm. Including consultants in the interview allows a team to answer technical questions and create a clear and holistic vision. Project leads who will be directly involved in the day to day with the clients should be highlighted as well. Melanie’s presentation was followed by a short break for final interview adjustments and then the room settled in for the interviews.

George Hayward from JBG Smith, Tim Williams from ZGF, Stephen Kitterman from the Architect of the Capitol, and Melanie Varcas all acted as selection team members for the RFP that had been created. Each team presented their proposal within their 20-minute allotted time and the jurors provided comments specific to the proposal and the presentation style. Their helpful feedback, a combination of comments on scholars’ styles and “firm” strategy, benefitted each presenting team as well as the remaining teams in the audience.  As audience members, scholars could experience how important enthusiasm partnered with a clear and client specific vision can set a team a part in a row of interviewees.

 

Following the close of all the interviews, the jurors turned back to the room for a panel discussion on the interview process to share personal insight and experiences they had individually faced in similar situations. Many of the questions had to do with the interview that just took place as well as what everyone can bring back to their firms. Scholars learned how to win clients through the SPIN model: Situation, Problem, Implication, Needs-Based Solutions. The SPIN model encourages asking questions and listening rather than pitching ideas or solutions with no context.

At the end of a very intense but wildly interactive session, scholars and presenters traveled to Hive Bar for conversation and comradery. We’re all looking forward to Session 6 in a week! 

Session 4: Community Engagement

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Date: January 11, 2019
Location: Ayers Saint Gross, 1100 First St NE #800, Washington, DC 20002
Led by: Desiree Hollar and Sarah Wahlgren Wingo
Session Sponsors: Ayers Saint Gross, Ernest Maier, Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors
Session Downloads: Session 04 Guide

Overview
During our first meeting of 2019, Desiree Hollar and Sarah Wahlgren Wingo organized our session around the various ways architects can get involved in community engagement. Hosted in Ayers Saint Gross’ office, the afternoon kicked off with an introduction to strategies the firm uses to engage in pro bono and higher education projects. ASG detailed the ways individuals at the firm are involved in their communities. Presentations throughout the session focused on how an architect’s unique set of tools can be used to benefit other people and places

Act #1: Architect as Community Collaborator
The first act of the afternoon was presented by Rick Schneider, Dan Snook, and Marisa Brown of ISTUDIO Architects in partnership with Mike Hill of the US Forest Service. ISTUDIO has done several projects with local agencies in DC as well as with agencies across the world. They described two types of communities involved in any project: community of place, affected because of their proximity to the project, who often have limited concerns and have an increased chance of long-term reliance to the project; and the community of interest, who are often visitors to a place because of its historical/cultural/activity-based significance. ISTUDIO exhibited several projects to allow scholars to better understand necessary tactics they utilize to understand how to engage with different communities of interest.

To understand the complex relationships that each project must consider, scholars then worked through a design charette for an Arboretum Recreation Center. During the exercise, each scholar was assigned a community member type (senior citizen, parent with children, single adult, and arboretum representative) and tasked with designing the program while analyzing adjacencies of a neighborhood recreation center located next to the National Arboretum. This charette was a great reminder that there are many stakeholders affected by our work, and one of the most important things we can do as architects is to listen.

Act #2: Architect as Community Leader
The second act was presented by Mayor Jacob Day of Salisbury Maryland. Day originally studied architecture and was the national AIAS chapter president. He went on to continue his studies and eventually landing back in his hometown of Salisbury, Maryland. After several years of involvement in his local government, Jacob ran for mayor and was able to combine his understanding of space planning and problem solving to create a strong platform to run on. Since his election, Salisbury has seen improving trends in many areas:

  • Created new local branding strategy to give identity to city.
  • Created local TEDx talks for community members to share ideas and meet each other.
  • City saw a 6% increase in budget after increase in new business and housing.
  • Lowest crime rate in 31 years after several initiatives looked at the root problems many residents faced.
  • Average citizen’s age has dropped after many young families have moved to the area.
  • Created housing for 1/3 of the chronically homeless population by working with community groups.

Created housing for 1/3 of the chronically homeless population by working with community groups.

Act #3: Architect as Community Activist
Our final act of the session was an opportunity to actually give back to the community by serving meals at Central Union Mission. Central Union Mission is a faith-based nonprofit organization, which serves as an emergency men’s shelter and operates a transformation program. As we walked to the Mission, we discussed with fellow scholars strategies we would like to employ to engage with the local community. Once at the Mission we were given a brief history of the organization and were assigned our roles for the dinner service. Scholars plated food, delivered dinner to guest, and cleared plates to close out an inspiring and self-reflective session.