The design of buildings, landscapes and streetscapes affect the quality of our lives. Making the built environment useful, safe, comfortable, efficient and as beautiful as possibe is a universal quest. If we can all agree on this premise, why does it seem to be getting increasingly more difficult to create the kind spaces that we actually want to inhabit?
"Every young architect begins his or her journey with some dream of acting on the built environment: a dream of being a shaper. The dream is not just about shaping steel and glass, but of shaping culture, experience, history, urbanity. At some point in the journey, the architect comes to understand that the heroic image he or she has harbored is only a myth. An architect wields little control over the built environment. His or her choices are generally narrow and forced." ~ a passage from Eric Cesal's book, Down Detour Road (MIT Press, 2010)
It took me nearly 12 years to arrive at the understanding that Eric Cesal writes about in his book. Perhaps this is because I was so consumed with the work I was responsible for that I didn't really stop to consider the big picture. It's easy to lose sight of what's really going on around you when you pick up a trade magazine and flip through page after page of inspiring architecture being built around the world. After 12 years, it suddenly occurred to me that unless you are a "Starchitect" (i.e. Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, or Daniel Libeskind), most architects do not wield the type of control over a project that some of our esteemed predecessors did. We have exchanged a bit of our creative license for added protection from the growing threat of litigation. As a result, instead of a small team of consultants, we now have an army of specialists who are experts at various aspects of building technology. In addition to the structural, mechanical and plumbing engineers, we now have acoustical consultants, hardware specification consultants, waterproofing consultants, sustainable design consultants and code consultants (to name a few). With so many people taking a slice of the pie, is it any wonder that the buildings we are producing are less and less attractive? Is there another way?
It was the summer of 2007 that I experienced what I like to refer to as “The Awakening”. That was the summer that my daughter Hannah was born and my perception of the world started to change. I started to question what the future holds and I began to take a fresh look at what other architects are doing. It was at this time that I started to get more familiar with the work of Jonathan Segal, Ted Smith, Kevin deFrietas, Lloyd Russell and Sebastian Mariscal. The thing that makes these local architects unique is that they’ve all successfully developed their own projects and received accolades by their peers for exemplary design. So the Awakening that I'm referring to was the realization that there is a way to become the "shaper" that we aspire to be at the begining of our professional journey.
As an Architect / Developer, perhaps it would be possible to pursue my vision of creating healthy, sustainable and beautiful urban infill projects. The next question that I needed to answer was how do I acquire the necessary knowledge and confidence to to begin my journey on that road far less traveled. When I learned about the Masters of Architecture in Real Estate Development program at Woodbury University, everything started to fall into place. Halfway through the program, I found an investment partner and we purchased the property on 30th and Grape. And so begins my journey, in the heart of beautiful and historic South Park.
I hope you will join me on this adventure and I encourage you to contribute to this blog with your insightful comments. I’m excited to share my passion for the built environment with you, but I’m even more excited about the prospect of starting a meaningful dialogue.
Thank you for spending a few minutes of your day with me!