August 13, 2010

Things to know

  1. RBA enjoys traveling to new places, meeting new people and using our farmer’s perspective as a lens in which to observe and understand new cultures, places and client challenges.
  2. RBA has taught studios and seminars at both undergraduate and graduate levels and we will always consider opportunities to teach.
  3. RBA speaks to universities, AIA chapters, conventions and trade shows and we will rarely turn down a speaking gig.
  4. RBA architecture and art projects have been exhibited in museums, architecture schools, galleries and included in numerous traveling shows and we just can’t say no to exhibits.
  5. RBA has provided free design services to charities, not for profits and worthy organizations that can not afford design services for the last 15 years and our goal is to do at least one pro bono project every year.
  6. RBA has been a juror for architecture and art competitions numerous times each year and we continue to jury whenever our schedule allows.
  7. Design is not a product you buy from us.  Design is process.  A back and forth dialogue with our clients.  Words, drawings, models and renderings are the instruments to communicate.   Clients that have experience with our process, keep coming back for more.  The design quest is addictive.  When the goals of client and designer are the same, it is a tight team of collaborators all searching for the remarkable solution.   When the client’s and architects are on the same page looking for the same result, the project budget is adequate for the goals, and the site matches the project intentions –  magic can happen!

June 5, 2010

autograph anyone?

Can I get your autograph? This was the last thing I thought I would hear as an intern at Randy Brown Architects.

A few months ago we began work on the Take a Seat project for the City of Omaha. It was a non profit project but I realized these projects may be the most fun and creative.

We spent multiple weeks fabricating REBAR and last week it was finally installed. (There are multiple blogs that go into greater detail about the design process and fabrication – here, here and here).

Thursday was the day of the Take a Seat dedication. As an intern this was a great experience to see how people reacted and interacted with the bench. The most frequently asked questions during the installation process were “what is this” and “is it comfortable?” The same questions were asked at the dedication but this time people were able to test it out. It was interesting to see how they approached it. Many were shy about where to sit at first because they did not think it would be a comfortable experience. But the unanimous response was, “This is surprisingly comfortable.”

Since we were able to fabricate REBAR ourselves we constantly tested the angles and spacing to make sure it was suitable to sit on. This is one of the benefits of self fabrication because the designed looks sweet conceptually but without actually testing it as we were building it the outcome could have been undesirable.

Overall, I think the design turned out pretty awesome. I know we have at least two fans. While everyone was walking around all the benches a couple came up to the bench in awe. They were so pleased with the design they asked us for our autographs.

June 2, 2010

Design and Hendrix’s Foxy Lady


You know you’re a cute little heartbreaker

(We’re working on some seduction over here. We want everyone to know how sweet and “cute” it can be.)

You know you’re a sweet little lovemaker

(Can architecture and design be seductive? Has marketing and mass media become more and more seductive; “upping the ante” in an effort to attract more of the masses?)

I wanna take you home

(how often do we think we think we want something? That little model in the window? We have to have it! We have to take it home!)

I won’t do you no harm, no
You’ve got to be all mine, all mine
Ooh, foxy lady

I see you, heh, on down on the scene
You make me wanna get up and uh scream
Ah, baby listen now
I’ve made up my mind yeah
I’m tired of wasting all my precious time
You’ve got to be all mine, all mine
Foxy lady

Here I come

I’m gonna take you home
I won’t do you no harm, no
You’ve got to be all mine, all mine

Here I come baby
I’m comin’ to get ya
Ow foxy lady
You look so good
Yeah, foxy
Yeah, give us some
Yeah, get it, babe
You make me feel like
Feel like sayin’ foxy
Oh lady
Foxy lady

May 21, 2010

How do you win awards?

Do just for the STAR architecture firms win?  Is it all about luck?

What I have learned is that winning awards requires a small amount of good fortune and a tremendous amount of work.  Yes the same firms seem to win all the awards each year for one reason- they put the effort into remarkable design and they put that same effort into winning awards.

The firms that win the most awards have a system to presenting their projects.

Having been a juror for most of the major awards programs, I have been privileged to see hundreds of winning projects.  These winning firms have all developed secrets to winning the awards.

The secrets are going to be revealed………….one at a time!

May 21, 2010

Photo Essay

“Excerts from: Marnie
by Marion Marsh Brown

………..THE BARN WAS UP. It stood bright and proud in its unpainted nudity. Coming from school, Marnie said, “Look how far you can see it!”
“Wait till it’s painted. Red’ll show for miles, “ Twist said.
Marnie sighed. “It’s so pretty the way it is. I hate to see them paint it. It looks so—so pure!”

……….She was on the verge of a thought that wouldn’t quite come. Wasn’t it the same with people? “I’ll bet grown-ups don’t act the way they really are underneath the surface.

p. 148
………”Where are we going? What’s on the other side?” Twist asked excitedly. “We’re still explorers, aren’t we?”
“Of course. And nobody’s ever been this way before.”

……….No one had ever come just this way before. Life opened out to her as a tremendous adventure. Her heart swelled.

All of a sudden the whole project was out of the realm of dreams. It was a thing of flesh and blood, not of the nebulus future but of the very real present. He couldn’t work fast enough to get his building completed. MMB frontier becon

Frontier Beacon – it will point the way. MMB

May 21, 2010

Design Awards List of Top 10 Tips

TOP 10 list- Ball State University – David Letterman’s alma mater
Presented to the student body – March 3, 2003

  1. You are important, you can change the world
  2. Everyday counts, make the most of the opportunities
  3. Be an artist, see the world as your clay to be sculpted
  4. Question your assumptions
  5. Respond to the context – physical/social/cultural
  6. Make connections and continuities with history/people/places/memories
  7. Be multi-disciplinary- it’s all design
  8. Heal the environment- make positive impacts
  9. Build! Architecture/relationships/Processes/Philosophy
  10. CARE + SHARE – tell the world

May 21, 2010

120 & Blondo

Subject: 120th and Blondo
Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 15:11:44 -0700
From: “Dan Avsec”
Organization: HotBot Mail (

Mr. Brown:

I see that your building on 120th and Blondo is being remodeled. Wouldn’t it be logical to simply tear down that eyesore and build a structure that will not rust and have the appearance of a shed that has seen it’s last days. I know you said that you have won an award for this “piece of art” but judging by the number of awards given out by the AIA, the individual who developed the tee-pees seen at every KOA campground received one as well.

Just to give you a hint, a building should be appealing to look at as well as functional. Send your “art” to the art museum downtown. Your arrogant personality preceeds you and I already know that you will see this as an attack on your ego. Believe me it’s not, this is just my opinion. I have talked to many people about this building and I have yet to hear anything positive.

I have an offer for you. Demolish the building and I’ll send you an merit certificate (signed by myself) from the Avsec Institute for helping to make Omaha beautiful. Or you can tell me how much it would cost to buy that lot so I can have it leveled and sell the lot to another gas station.

Thank you

Dan Avsec

P.S. You may want to have your web site developed by a professional as well.

HotBot – Search smarter.

May 16, 2010

use it as a bike rack?

Monday started with the hum of the scanner working to put the last few magazine articles into the computer. It was intended that I would spend Monday making the last few adjustments to the bench project but that was altered at the last minute.

With the deadline for the website approaching in the coming weeks, Randy decided that it would be better to have me scan in the last of the articles. The only problem with that the only articles left to scan were the ones I couldn’t find. Randy disappeared for about twenty minutes and came back with a pile of magazines. After sorting through the magazines about half of the stack were articles I had already scanned, the other half were the missing ones. Just as soon as I started scanning the articles, our computer tech, Sean, showed up to do some tuning on Randy’s machine.

Doesn’t sound like a problem, right? Wrong. Randy’s computer is the only computer that has the scanner software on it so I was out of luck until Sean finished his work on Randy’s computer. This situation gave me the possibility to show Randy that I can think quickly on my feet and am always looking for ways to be more efficient. Since scanning articles wasn’t going to be an option at that time, I put on my coat and headed to the shop.

I know I’ve stated before reasons why RBA is as successful as it is, but another reason is because of the determination everyone exhibits. At other firms, the employees lack the willpower to want to excel with their firm. For instance, one of my friends who works for another architectural firm said that he knows employees who hardly work from eight to five. And during that time, they’re either on the internet or off task. At RBA, we are a firm of seven and the projects we do encourage everyone to work 110 percent the entire time we are there, even if the clock takes us past 5 o’clock, past 6 o’clock, sometimes past 9 o’clock.

While in the shop, I swiftly went to work on the bench. With the installation of the bench approaching on May 18th, getting the finals bends and prep work finished was vital. It was very helpful that Randy and I took the bench to the site this past Tuesday to do some field verifications. We marked out the exact location the bench would be located on the site, and made some field measurements that would help me finish the final few bends to the rebar. While we were taking the measurements and marking the location, Katherine Leo (Take-A-Seat coordinator), asked us, “Do you think someone will use it as a bike rack?” Her question caught me off guard, but Randy’s response was even more surprising. He said, “I hope so. We want this to be an urban installation with many uses.” I know if this bench was located on campus in Manhattan, I could see it used as a bike rack and a bench.

As this internship is entering its final stages, I can say that everything I’ve worked on, been apart of, or witnessed while working for RBA has only strengthened my knowledge in this field. For instance, a lot of graduates and professors often times say, “a lot of what you learn won’t be in the classroom, it’ll be learned in the field.” After thinking about that statement, I’ve found that it’s really true. Just in the months that I’ve worked at the firm I have acquired new skills and sharpened the others. For example when a project is finished in studio, that’s it, it doesn’t go into the construction phase. But at RBA, when the drawings are complete, they go into the construction process. The construction process is what we don’t learn in school. We receive knowledge of what goes on in this process from school but you really understand how everything goes together when working at RBA and being so involved in the construction.

By the end of the week, the magazine articles were finished and sent to the web programmer so they could take things to the next level in the completion stage. The bench had also been tweaked, rust polished off, and several clear coats added to ensure durability when installed. I’m very proud of the Take-A-Seat bench project and am excited to see the bench when it’s installed at the site.

The weekend was spent enjoying the sun on Saturday and getting out in the downtown area. We biked around the downtown area and went and looked at the construction of the new baseball stadium for the Omaha Royals. I also got signed up for the Bike-to-Work week program established by Mayor Jim Suttle. On Friday, he declared that from May 17th -21st Omaha would participate in becoming a greener city by biking to work. Last year, the Bike-to-Work week had over 700 members and a total of 170,000 miles on bikes rather than in cars. It’s just something I can do for the city.

May 16, 2010

design in cd’s

Monday and Tuesday I spent editing sheet and drawing files. Since we made multiple changes to the design, I needed to update the files. First I did the plan redrafts and then I went into the sheet files to change notes and dimensions.

Many of the techniques used during the revision process were comparable to the fall semester of our fourth year were we first created construction documents. My experience in school and RBA has made me realize the design process continues to evolve throughout the construction document phase. Before, I the assumed the design phase was complete before work started on the construction documents.

Kobe is an excellent example of how construction documents continue the design process. I joined the project after the schematic design was already completed. But as you can see from the previous images of Kobe it has come a long way. Many people believe design development is the only phase where the project advances but Randy encourages us to continue to design while working on the construction documents.

For instance, Randy said “I don’t like it when designers want to hold off on construction documents because they don’t think the design work is finished. This is the phase where we begin to dig into the design details that evolve the project.”  I agree with this statement because during the construction document phase problems are discovered and solutions are found.

Wednesday afternoon we reviewed the Kobe drawings with Randy. We discussed details that needed to be resolved and used previous projects to find solutions to the detail issues. Chris and I decided to make a list of goals that would help us stay on schedule. From working in school and other offices, I found making a list is the best way for me to stay on track. It keeps me organized and gives me an idea of what needs to be accomplished before the end of each day.

Friday night Jon and I tried a Stokes Mexican restaurant in the Old Market.  It had a great menu of authentic Mexican food. Since the weather was much warmer than last week we were able to walk around the Old Market after dinner. Saturday and Sunday we rode our bikes around the area. It is great being able to ride around Omaha.

May 16, 2010

Flexible engineers ROCK!

Why is working with engineers important? What is the purpose of forming solid relationships with the engineers? Why is it important to create a history with an engineer?

Randy, Jon, and I sat around the conference table and talked about Randy’s experience with engineers.

In the process of design, there is a time to discuss issues such as; mechanical, electrical, structural, and civil. Throughout Randy’s architectural career, he has worked with many engineers that were way too rigid and set in there ways-  they have one way of doing things – my way or the highway.  Finding a consultant who is open minded and is willing to compromise is difficult.  Visionary and creative……….priceless.   So when Randy found an engineer who would make joint decisions, he develops solid relationships with them.

While working with engineers, it is important to develop strong relationships.  Good relationships between the architect and engineer are significant for multiple reasons. The first reason is learning to work together.  In Randy’s case, he developed a great relationship with Infrastructure structural engineers, who we are using on the Kobe project. Because of this understanding, the consultants will seek solutions that please everyone. They work with us to create the architecture and solve the problems in ways that improve the architecture.  This leads to a better design.

Another reason it is important to develop a solid relationship with the engineer is to create a history. Randy can ask the consultant to figure out a detail similar to a previous project they have both worked on.   This history allows the consultant to have a better understanding of what Randy is trying to accomplish. Having this history helps communication.

Engineers and Architects think in different ways and from different perspectives. Architects like to design and think in an artistic way, whereas engineers think in a functional and logical way. Continuing to work with the same engineers builds a working dialogue. An example of this happened this week. We have been working with a civil engineer on a site plan and came upon a few issues. The civil consultant wanted to reorient the dumpster because it made sense in his mind. But, if the dumpster moves in orientation it would affect the building design, the spatial idea from the street and the signage area. After explaining the purpose of how we had detailed the dumpster, the civil engineer considered our idea and made it work with his grading and concrete pavement water movement.

History can created a greater understanding of what is wanted in future projects. If you have worked with an engineer on many projects it will become easier for the engineer to understand the ideas described to them. Communication between the architect and engineer strengthen with each project.

May 12, 2010

Lawsuits SUCK!

What are the lessons learned from a lawsuit?  Why is this so important?  How can Randy Brown Architects prevent a lawsuit from occurring again?

The question was discussed in a relaxed meeting format in the studio. Randy, Jon, and I were all involved in the conversation.

On Wednesday April 14, 2010 Randy sat in court for numerous hours because of a lawsuit. RBA was suing his former client because they refused to pay the architecture fees.  Randy was suing them for only $17,000 of their $40,000 contract. They claimed the original (conceptual) design that was done as a feasibility study for $1,500 fee was perfect!!!! but the construction documents were not the same as the concept drawings from the feasibility study. Also, they stated that Randy had told them the costs in the beginning of the project and by the end, the costs was much more expensive. The client’s also argued they never received any drawings.

The number one lesson learned from this unpleasant incident was to communicate to the clients better. The former client’s tried to argue that the feasibility concept drawings RBA showed to them were not the same as the construction documents. RBA needs to make sure the client understands the difference between a feasibility study and construction documents.  We should have clarified feasibility and concept drawings as simply an idea or concept in the contract and Randy did a good job on the contract to clarify that construction documents the reality of the concept.

RBA also needs to communicate to the client a cost estimate is not the same as the hard bid construction cost based on construction drawings. The former client tried to say RBA said “the cost estimate of the feasibility concept design is the final cost of the project.”   RBA can only estimate a cost from historic information at the beginning of a project.   Most information comes from the cost of similar structures. Randy wants to stress the difference of a cost estimate and the hard bids construction cost to future clients, as a way to prevent this from happening.

The second lesson we have learned was to save all documentation. The Friday before court Randy, Jon, and I spent hours searching the network and dead files for the former clients files. The day became very stressful because without those documents to defend Randy’s argument, the case may have been thrown out. Fortunately, Randy was able to find the files on the external hard drive before the court date. One example that RBA communicated to the Hrdlicka’s was through e-mail. He was able to save these documents to the hard drive. When he found the e-mails on the hard drive he was able to use them as a way to justify his case.

The third lesson is to make sure to send and save transmittals to the clients about drawings and meeting notes.  RBA is a small firm and we do not have much time dedicated to re-typing meeting notes. Instead of re-typing the notes we can send an e-mail to the client that sums up the meeting.  After we send the e-mail we should print in and place it into the job file, as well as, save an electronic copy of it in the network job file.  RBA should also use the same technique for the reply from the client.  Fortunately Randy is the keeper of the office files so all of the hand written meeting notes, emails and office schedule were admitted into evidence.

Placing dates on every document is the forth lesson. RBA always  dates  every document, whether it is a sketch or a note from a phone call, is very important. Randy says having dates on the document is direct evidence of when the work takes place.

The next lesson is to make sure to keep a paper trail. We want to make sure there is evidence of drawings being approved to move forward.  The former client’s stated to the jury that they did not want to move forward with the project. But from paper trails, it clearly explains the former client was an active participant in the design and construction drawings and bidding process.   E-mails that are saved on the external hard drive proved this point.

From this discussion I have learned documenting work and saving information in a well organized manner will help prevent legal problems.  Also, making sure your client understands the process of design is essential to avoid confusion.

Listening to Randy, I could tell he wasn’t just explaining to us the lessons he learned by this; he was explaining to himself how he was going to improve his firm’s organizational skills even more. I have learned a great amount about office organization while working at RBA. The lawsuit was a prime example of why it was so important to be organized, physically and electronically. Randy would have been less stressed if he knew exactly where all the electronic and physical files were located. But he would have been more stressed if he did not have the documents from this project.

May 9, 2010

sensory integration

The priority for this week was to go through the biography page for the new website and find the rest of the articles that Randy requested. Over the weekend, Randy went over the biography page and the folder with the articles I had already scanned in and circled the ones that were still missing.

I took that page, went to the magazine shelf and pulled the remaining articles. It took a majority of the week to get the articles into the computer and touched up in Photoshop. In between working on the scanning process I was doing research for the Boys Club exterior play space. After the meeting Randy had with them a few weeks ago, he was able to get some better direction of what type of play structures they were looking for.

Roger, the Boys Club director, asked us to develop a better understanding of what a playground that incorporates sensory integration looks like. After much research online and through the packet of information he gave us, I typed up a response as to what we would be doing to the design of the playground. After clearly understanding what we were trying to achieve, I went back to 3ds Viz and AutoCAD. In those programs, I worked on the files I had already begun and started to make this even more of a sensory integrated playground than it already was. I added areas and structures  for kids to spin on various types of equipment. An overhead canvas shading device was incorporated to provide shade but also add to the “ship” like theme.

After working on the Boys Club playground design for part of the week, Randy wanted me to focus my attention on finishing up the magazine articles. I set the Boys Club project aside for awhile to completely zone in on the task at hand. Within in an hour, I was making steady progress and could see that I would have this finished by the end of the week. By the time Friday came, I had finished the scanning process and was back to work on the Boys Club project.

The weekend promised to be a fun one. Meg’s two sisters and cousin flew in town from St. Louis Friday night and stayed through part of Sunday.   We showed them the Old Market District and ate dinner at Stokes. The food was great (as expected) and atmosphere even better. We stayed so long, we “closed” the restaurant. On Saturday, we showed them around the parts of Omaha we were familiar with. One of the points of interest was the pedestrian bridge. By the end of the weekend, I was pretty worn out and got myself prepared for another week of work.

May 9, 2010

roof design, really?!?

Once again the focus of the week is the Kobe project. We are starting to resolve the design more and more. Along with that comes drawing revisions. Monday’s time was used on updating the design and drawings. Chris was in charge of the 3D Rhino model while I took over the Auto CAD drawings.

Tuesday I started cleaning up the drawings with all of the changes to the design. I want to be sure the plan, roof plan, and site plan lined up with each other.

Wednesday Randy and Chris met with the mechanical engineers about Kobe in order to further the design process. We were given the mechanical units sizes which helped us determine the location of the units. Also one of the developers request was to hide the mechanical units so it gave us a better understanding of parapet heights and ceiling heights.

Friday I spent most of the day researching and updating roof plan drawings. I did research to figure the number of and size of the roof drains.  Last semester in studio we did a building code study and my professor showed us how to find codes. This background knowledge helped me find what I was looking for faster.

Friday night, I picked up my two sisters and cousin from the airport. The last time they were in Omaha was about twenty years ago so they didn’t remember anything about Omaha. That night we headed to the Old Market for dinner. We ate at Stokes, a western food restaurant. The food was great and quite different from the ordinary chain restaurant.  I would consider this area to be similar to the Landing in St. Louis because of the original restaurants, cobble stone roads and the atmosphere.

Saturday morning we headed back to the Old Market because they wanted to check out the farmers market. By the time we made it the market was closing; so I decided to show them the Pedestrian Bridge. Since the weather was only in the low 50s, nobody was on the bridge. After nearly being blown away on the bridge we returned to the Old Market and went through the shops. Until Saturday, I did not notice the small clothing stores. We did some window shopping for a while. Later that night we went back to the Old Market for dinner. We ate at Rock Bottom Tap. I would recommend this place to anyone that visits Omaha. The food was amazing, the atmosphere was awesome, and the service was great. Overall this was a great weekend and I was able to try some new restaurants in the downtown area.

May 2, 2010

embedded knowledge

With the Boys Club play structure on hold for about a week or so, Randy put me back on the website project for this week. The deadline for the website to be up and running is June 1st, so it’s getting down to crunch time. All of the projects that will be listed on the new website have a maximum of seven photos per project. Along with the photos is a description about the specific project and a list of magazines if it has been published before.

A neat feature about the new website is that if you mouse over the magazine title, you can select it and it will take you to the full article. Here’s where I come in. You only get to read those articles because I manually scanned in each individual page that contained information on the project. Once the pages were scanned into the computer, I took them into Photoshop and touched them up. Because a lot of the work Randy does is favored by many different magazine editors, a lot of the projects get published.

Going through the shelves of magazines, thumbing through pages to find the appropriate article is okay for about two days, but after that, it gets monotonous. I definitely didn’t picture last fall when I knew I was going to be working here this semester that I would spend days scanning in magazine articles, but here I am. In one sense, it’s very encouraging to think that I had a very important role in contributing to the website. The other upside to scanning articles all day was that I used that time to my advantage. By entering all the articles into the website, I was able to learn even more about RBA. Some of the information from projects I already knew, but other bits of information were foreign to me.

While working at RBA, I have been focusing on being a “sponge” in the office and everywhere we go. The more I can learn from this firm, the better off I’ll be later on. Randy has learned much of the knowledge he has through real life experiences. Often times, we experience similar real life situations in the office and because Randy has dealt with an issue like it before he knows how to solve it. For instance, when I was working on the Bisson bathroom renovation, the client asked for more storage space in the shower. Because Randy has worked on a bathroom that had a built in shampoo and soap holder, he knew some specific details that would work for that application. This is the type of knowledge base I have begun to develop at RBA.

I know my embedded knowledge has already begun to develop because there have been times in the office that a particular detail would have stumped me a year ago, but now I was able to sail through smoothly. I didn’t expect to gain as much knowledge as I have at RBA. Looking back, I really didn’t know what to expect. This is the first firm that I have worked for and definitely one I have learned tons of information from.

The weekend came with warm weather. With Saturday starting out warm and sunny, Meg and I decided to give the farmers market downtown a try. We ended up spending about an hour walking around looking at all of the fresh produce and eventually found ourselves walking around the downtown area. It is good to see that Omaha is taking the initiative to revitalize the downtown area. There is a lot of construction in new and old buildings and they’re doing things that are going to bring more people to the downtown area. One “big ticket” item is the new baseball stadium they are building across from the Quest Center. Not only will the Omaha Royals and College World Series be played there when it opens, but it will bring people and money to the downtown area. I also recently heard that Omaha is going to be the home of a new arena football team. Since the Nebraska Cornhuskers are the only football team (if you can call them that) this state supports, it will be good to give the city some diversity and a chance for citizens of Omaha to watch football right in their hometown.

May 2, 2010

comparable to a professor

Monday morning we discussed the design changes. It was decided the design did not meet the project’s concept so we took a step back to figure out what was not working. We each put forth ideas about what we liked and what was not working for the design.

This is the exact process used in studio. A student will come up with a concept and discuss it with the professor. The professor will give feedback about the design and help the student create a presentable design.  Randy is comparable to the professor, giving us ideas that steer us back on track. When a student is caught up in a detail that doesn’t work, the professor will assist them with finding the solution.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I updated all the drawings to match the new design.  Changing drawings is a common task used in studio and the other offices I worked at. Since I only used AutoCad for drawings, I must go into every drawing sheet and change dimensions, materials, and details myself.  This may be one of the most time consuming assignments.

Randy received the US Data video from Assassi on Friday.   My job was to find out where and who was in charge of publishing videos on different websites.   After that was completed, Randy asked me to write a marketing page for RBA. I was not sure where to start because we never discussed writing marketing pages in studio.

The weekend kicked off with a bike ride. Jon and I only rode twelve miles on Friday. Jon was having some bike issues so we decided to ride to the Bike Rack to have it looked at.  The one problem with riding to the Bike Rack is the hills. It felt like uphill both ways. It was a good ride none the less.

On Saturday May 1st, Jon and I went to the Old Market farmers market. The Old Market farmer’s market started this Saturday and is held every Saturday until October. It was a fun experience and packed with people. This was the first farmer’s market I have been to in years. Downtown St. Louis has a huge market in the Soulard area. Although Omaha’s was much smaller it was similar to the St. Louis market.

Saturday afternoon and Sunday Jon and I rode the Big Papio trial to Keystone. On Saturday we rode about twenty two miles. Sunday we decided to ride further on the Keystone trail for about twenty six miles.

May 1, 2010

Websites for tomorrow

Why is it important for RBA to have a projective website? What possible advantages / disadvantages does having a firm website possess? Keeping an up-to-date website is crucial to a success, how does RBA stay ahead?

The question was held as an open discussion between Chris, Meg, Jon and myself.

Randy decided that this practice topic would be a good one to talk about and would pertain to what we were learning in the office at the moment.  The first questions: why is it important for RBA to have a projective website?

He gave us a brief run down on the history of the current RBA website. The firm introduced the first website 13 years ago. It was considered more as an “paper brochure” on the screen than an actual website. It was interesting that Randy thought of the fist website as something similar to a television set. You just sit back and watch. There wasn’t any involvement or ways to engage what was on the screen. Comparing that to the way most websites are today, they are night and day difference. Full interaction is achievable on any recent website. For example, the ability to leave your mark on a website in the form of a blog is something that couldn’t be done when websites were first introduced.

Since I started working at RBA, we have been gearing for the change of abandoning the current website and creating a new identity through a new logo, new letterhead and cards and a new website.   The future website promises to be completely hands on and illustrates to everyone who visits the site what we are about. The way Randy is constructing the new website will keep any first time and returning visitor always coming back for more. If the site is exciting, visitors will tend to be more interested in the work that is done and become a fan, similar to be a fan of a sports team. It might sound strange to think of it this way, but if you are a fan of Richard Neutra or any other architect, you probably have all of their books and are inspired by their work. Same goes for a great architectural website. You become a “fan” of the firm, you follow their work and receive inspiration from the work they do. For instance, while I was researching potential firms for internship I went to their websites and unintentionally decided by the first impression if I was fan. I didn’t realize until this discussion that I had subconsciously done this. The website was the first impression. If it was boring, too complicated, or just plain unappealing, it didn’t make the second glance. Comparing this to school, they teach us to design everything. If an architectural firm doesn’t design a functional website, it tends to show a lot about the work they do there.

The new website for RBA will be sure to give everyone a positive experience. It is going to be a fully interactive website that is constantly evolving. By this, it will have areas to blog your ideas/thoughts about all the projects shown. Since the first week, Randy has been talking about all of us in the firm writing blogs to upload to the new website. I think this would be a great opportunity for outside visitors to learn more about RBA through what we write. The website will also have a client portal. This will be an ideal way for a client to see the most up to date status on their specific project. For instance, drawings, pictures, proposals, etc. will all be loaded daily to this portal so questions from the client can be answered right on the website. This won’t single handedly rid the need for in person, client meetings, but it should help to answer quick questions where a meeting wouldn’t be as necessary. The new website will have areas to watch behind-the-scenes footage of projects through phases of construction. Referring back to the first weekend working for RBA, Assassi produced a short video of the award winning Data project. This film along with many more, such as the HGTV Extreme Homes video will all be available for viewing on the new website.

With the website well on its way to completion and most of the kinks worked out of it, I predict that this will be a very appealing website. I know from going to school that when you put as much hard work into something like RBA has with this website, only good things are to come from it.

April 25, 2010

experiment or die

Randy started the week with a discussion of what was on the agenda for the week and the goals to meet by Friday. My work on the Kobe Steakhouse project was going to be put on hold for awhile. Instead, I would be working to finish the Bisson bathroom renovation and develop a working plan and 3d Viz models for the Boys Club playground renovation.

The Bisson bathroom was an opportunity to sharpen my AutoCAD skills. Most of Monday was spent researching different details for shower curbs and the way the glass wall in the shower was fastened to the wall. After searching the web and not finding an exact detail, I decided to try and detail the shower curb and wall detail myself. Once the detail drawings were constructed to the best of my knowledge, Randy reviewed them and made some changes. Being able to be creative with details and developing different ways to meet the needs of a requirement is something RBA encourages. It all comes back to the laboratory idea. Experimenting and trying new things is one of the best ways to learn. When it comes to other firms, a lot of them are too stuck in their ruts of doing the same thing for every little detail. They lack creativity which translates to mediocre projects.  At RBA I see a direct correlation between experimenting as a design philosophy of Randy’s and remarkable projects.

After the details were drawn in CAD, I printed a test set for Randy to review. Next, he red lined the final changes, I fixed all of the issues, printed a final set, and delivered them to the client. This was a fun, new experience for me. I asked a friend of mine if the firm he works for trusts him as an intern to interact with the client. He said, “They’ve (the firm) never given me the opportunity.” With the Bisson drawings finished and delivered, I began my next task; the playground renovation for the Boys Club.

If you don’t know much about the Boys Club playground requirements, here’s a brief rundown. The operators of the Club ask that the play area be a sensory integrated playground. Sensory integration is the process of the brain being fully synced with the rest of the body. For example, if it’s hot outside and you touch a metal pole, your hand knows the surface of the pole is hot and relays that information to your brain so you can react. A lot of the boys have trouble with sensory integration so by designing a playground that can help them to develop these vital skills will only be beneficial. The play structure I’ve been designing incorporates the use of water features, equipment that spins, etc., to help develop the boys sensory skills.

Once the drawings and 3d Viz model were completed, I printed out a few of the documents and gave them to Randy for his meeting with the Boys Club later that week. By the end of the week, the Bisson clients had reviewed their drawing set I delivered and asked Randy about a few design changes. Having discussed the drawings and both deciding the changes would be appropriate, I made the alterations to the construction documents, printed out the set, and redelivered them to the client again.

After a full week of AutoCAD and 3d Viz, I was ready for the weekend. This time, the weekend brought me back to Manhattan (just can’t get enough of the place)! Actually, I went back to Manhattan to visit friends and resign my apartment lease for the upcoming year. While back at KSU for a weekend, it hit me how much I really do like working in the professional field. It’s going to be very hard for me to get adjusted back to the “studio” atmosphere next fall. Although at RBA we work in a similar studio environment, it’s not the same.  RBA is just so real. Fresh. Exciting.

After catching up with friends and taking care of the lease signing appointment, I was ready to head back to Omaha. Somehow, even though it’s been months, I still haven’t lost the excitement of living and working in Omaha. I know it’s no Chicago, but it’s nice, easily navigated, and not too far from anything. Definitely a city I will be looking to come back to after I graduate from school and if I’m lucky, with Randy Brown Architects.

April 25, 2010

AND grease traps!

The week began with an office meeting. Randy discussed our progress on the various projects and the website.  Jon will begin conceptual designs for the Boys Club Play Structure as well as work on other small tasks.  I am still on the Kobe project with Chris. The design work of Kobe is still in process. We are at the point between design development and construction documents.

For the first part of the day I completed some of the busy work such as adding notes, details, and dimensions to the drawings. Later that afternoon Randy reviewed the drawings with us. We discussed the site plan and the changes.

The next few days I worked on the site plan. Drawing a site plan at RBA was very different from a site plan at school. There were issues such as drainage, dumpsters and grease traps. These small issues seemed to be overlooked during studio. I did not think they were very significant before, but now I know if these issues are not properly resolved major problems will occur.

Thursday and Friday I worked on elevation studies. The elevations are still unresolved. Randy, Chris, and myself were not pleased with the design. There was nothing remarkable about the design so I started to explore other options.  This practice was extremely similar to studio.  Many times during studio I would create multiple options of elevations and concepts until it fit the design.

Over the weekend I went to Manhattan to gather up my summer clothes.  While in town, Jon and I decided to explore Manhattan’s bike trails with friends. We started the trail behind the Wal-Mart and rode for about sixteen miles. During my two years at K-State I never realized there were bike trails. I hope to use trails regularly next year.

April 18, 2010

no protection used

Monday, Randy began the process of sorting through all of the projects that he wanted to put on the new website and made a new folder for each project with the images that would go with it. While he was going through all of the files, he realized some of the images he wanted to use were missing so Meg and I went to the CD archive to retrieve missing images. I know I stated it before, but having everything backed up in multiple locations has been advantageous more than once since I’ve been at RBA.

Since the courtroom and the missing files, I have made my own equipment and files a little more secure. I went through my computer and backed everything up to my external hard drive and then isolated them from each other in case some tragedy occurred.

After missing files were replaced, the web engineer requested that all the images be a certain size and DPI to be sure it would look right on the website.  Randy told us while we were pulling all of the project images together that, “You are in a very unique situation. Unlike all of the other interns, you will know every significant project that we (RBA) has been involved in.” When I thought about this, I couldn’t agree more. The experience we have had so far at RBA is unlike any of our classmates who are also doing the 6 month internship. In most firms, the new guy (me) doesn’t get to interact with the boss (randy). Starting my architecture career at RBA was a blessing before I even knew it.

With temperatures rising into the middle 70’s on Tuesday, we decided it was the right time to do some long, over-due spring cleaning. We organized our paper file system and filed away all idle projects. Next we did something that most offices wouldn’t do.  Meg and I were sent to the shop to retrieve a number of box fans. Next, we removed the protective covers from the front and back sides of the fan frame so the blade was exposed and mounted them throughout the office. With the help of the fans drawing cooler air up from the basement and pushing the warmer air out of the office, we can leave the  windows open and the AC unit off.  No complaint here.  Randy said we can were shorts on days no clients are coming by. 

By the middle of the week, we finished odds and ends around the office and took on a new project called Kobe Steakhouse. Randy had been in contact with the clients for about a year now and finally gave us the go ahead to start the design process. Before we began designing, we took a lot of the same steps we do in school. By this I mean, we studied other Kobe Steakhouses and what about their design we wanted to improve upon, wrote a list of items the client said they needed, and studied what would work, design wise, based on the proposed location. After a few iterations, Randy reviewed our progress and began to steer us into a direction that could really be something special.

Thursday night, Meg and I heard that a Pecha Kucha was going to be held in the Old Market area. It was good to see this culture change. After being in an office environment for three months, the atmosphere and age distribution was more like being back in Manhattan or studio. We sat at a table with other University of Nebraska Lincoln architecture students and learned a little bit about their architecture program.

Intrigued by the Pecha Kucha session held by UNL students, Meg and I decided to take a 45 minute drive to Lincoln and see what was going on in Lincoln. It turned out it was the Spring Game for UNL so about 80,000 other people came to Lincoln as well. All in all, the day turned out very well. We were able to see Lincoln at full speed with lots of people and entertainment.

April 18, 2010

I vacuumed !!!

Monday’s target was finishing work on the website. Over the weekend, Randy went through what Jon and I completed the week before. He placed the images he wanted into a final folder. I had to crop and resize images to fit the web requirements .

Working at RBA has given me a completely different understanding and appreciation for websites and website creation. The time spent searching for images, descriptions, and drawings was unbelievable.  There were so many files in so many locations. Some of the files were on the network, some on CD’s, and others on the external hard drives.

I gained knowledge about organization and documentation that I never learned anywhere else. At Latona Architects, I worked on projects but never on a website or publications. International Architects was a fairly small firm with around ten architects. I printed multiple publication projects but was never involved in the process. I was always intrigued by the publications but never valued the time and effort it required.

Tuesday was spring cleaning day, something which has been put off for too long.  I’ve been waiting for this day since I started work here. The studio was dirty because the winter snow brought in salt, sand, and mud. Everyone had to pitch in because there were only four of us working in the office. Chris and Randy took care of the random papers around the office, while Jon and I vacuumed, dusted, and organized. My duty was the vacuum, which happens to be my favorite cleaning tool. I have to admit I am a messy person but do not like dirt. Vacuuming the studio space, conference room, and lower level took up most of the day.

The rest of the day was used to document all the RBA studio computers, tools and electrical equipment. Randy realized, since it was so easy for someone to steal tools from the shop, he better document all the studio equipment.

The remainder of the week was spent on Kobe. Revising drawings and making changes to the elevations was essential.  The Kobe project has two phases, the shell phase and the interior phase. The schematic design is complete and we begun design development along with construction documents. With the Kobe project I have learned the importance of design development. Design development was used last semester in studio but I never fully understand the reasoning for it until this week. The design was mediocre and nothing stood out so we used design development to reevaluate and brain storm solutions to improve the project.

Saturday had the perfect weather for the outdoor activities at the Lincoln Spring. When we arrived, we headed for the downtown area. We did not stay long because it was so crowded. Since I had never been to Lincoln, I did some research on the area. I found a website for a Nebraska Nature Center about fifteen minutes from downtown. As we were driving to the Nature Center we found a Nature Park. There were people having picnics, throwing the ball, and walking. After walking about four miles to the other side of the park we found the Nature Center and trail but it was already closed. I hope to return to Lincoln and walk the nature trail.