Architecture Firm Info



Architect’s by nature like to change things, we like to call them revisions. After a few years (I know, they haven’t forced us to leave the internet yet, wow!) it was time to update our professional web site cogitatedesign– seemed like the ideal time to integrate the blog and web site to reside at one domain. The location of Architect’s Trace has moved to here –> Architect’s Trace  Over the next few months I’ll be editing/revising posts from this blog site and posting to the new forum… as well as posting new content.

If you’ve been following Architect’s Trace, thanks and please be sure to note/subscribe to the blogs new address. If you’re new to Architect’s Trace, welcome and I hope you find it of value.

—> New domain for Architect’s Trace <—



Design on,


New house/domain welcoming gifts accepted 😉

No little turn on the cat walk, no sexy shirt, no tush shake, and no Right Said Fred- oh yes I did! However, there are some words of advice. If you’re working with an architect and there are no models in the office, slowly drop your gaze and retreat to the exit. Grab some magazines, markers, trace, whatever you can hold, and get out now! Go, Go, Go! How can you trust someone to craft space for you if they cannot themselves craft a representation of it?

I am not referring to virtual models- these inherently have a disconnect with the client and the process. Virtual modeling does have its space place, and we use it as well. However, I am talking about Real, Physical, smellable, Touchable, MODELS! The importance of physically crafting a model is every bit as important to the design process as the idea itself. An architect needs to be able to craft form to the idea. Modeling is important as, dare I type it, sketching!

Our projects typically begin with loose sketches indicating the distribution of the program as it relates to the site. Once those relationships are established, form is developed via models. Clients often participate in the creation/ re-creation/ destruction of the form. Models don’t need to be museum quality, in fact we rarely do a ‘presentation model.’ Rather, we employ many ‘design models’- models that are built, examined, ripped apart, glued back together- models that are tools in the architects’ arsenal.

So stop reading, go build a model- chipboard, #11 blades, bass wood, cuts, glue, bleeding, etc. Seriously… go… build it…who knows, if you build it maybe Ray Liotta will come!

Design On,

** under 18 please consult an adult prior to using a #11 blade, we assume no responsibility for severed pieces

Would you trust Art Vandelay as your architect? Maybe. After all, he did do the Guggenheim and it didn’t take him that long. However, I doubt you would not trust him as your architect. Why? Credibility.

If you aspire to be a well respected architect and deliver successful projects, your credibility is crucial. Especially knowledge about construction. Early on I had, as the kids would say, ‘mad street cred.’ I was well respected by clients and most importantly, contractors on the job site. Did I have this from being the greatest designer? No. Was it that I sported a goatee? No. Were my CD’s really pretty? No, I mean yes, but No. Was it that I was an expert code guy? No. Was it that I dressed well? No. It wasn’t any of these. What it was can be attributed to three simple things:

1. As a kid, I learned all I could from my dad- he was a master carpenter and cabinetmaker.
2. In high school, I worked at a real lumber yard, not a big-box home improvement store.
3. In college, I was a laborer for a construction company.

How did these foster my credibility?

 1. My dad taught me the basics of construction and materials. Sounds simple, it is, but you need to know the basics. From an early age I knew what a 2×4 was vs. a 2×6, a screw from a nail, etc. It meant I could talk to contractors intelligently.
2. Working at a real lumber yard broadened my knowledge of materials and how/where they were used. In addition, it gave me the basics of material costs.
3. This construction experience underscored the fact that what is on paper gets built, but not necessarily built as it is drawn. I learned how things actually go together and the construction scheduling process.

These three combined afforded me knowledge which instilled to clients and contractors a sense of trust that I knew what I was talking about. It’s hard to get projects built. However, it’s extremely difficult to get projects built the way you want them built. If you’re taken for your word, and are knowledgeable and correct, your project has a better chance of being successful.

Having credibility as an architect is one of your best ‘tools’ and crucial to the success of a project. On the flip-side, having no credibility can ruin the best of all projects. Are you a credible architect? If so, why do you think you are?

Your credibility may be suspect if you…

a. Think a 2×4 is 2” by 4”
b. Think lines on your CD’s are just that, lines
c. Were asked if a beam was upset or not, you felt ignorant, as you had no idea beams had feelings
d. Think those changes won’t cost that much
e. Can’t draw a legible revised detail on site on the back of a ½ torn subway sandwich wrapper using a carpenters’ pencil
f. Think a grease trap is used prior to the taping of the Jersey Shore (I’m a legit Italian, so I can state that)
g. Don’t want to walk the site because it’s muddy
h. Forgo a pre-construction meeting because there is nothing to talk about because nothing is built yet
i. Are asked why there is no cricket indicated on the roof plan, you respond “Cricket? (covers phone and turns to colleague), “I think the contractor has been drinking, cricket, it’s a freaking stupid English sort of baseball game, phhh! He doesn’t know what he is talking about, I knew we should have selected the cheapest guy!”

P.S. This list is not all encompassing, feel free to submit your own in the comment section.

Design On,

I’m contemplating making my latest correspondence a stock form letter:


Ida + Ben Doubtfire
6758 Weeping Willow Place
Youngsville NC 27596

Dear Mr. + Mrs. Doubtfire:

It saddened me to receive news that you had selected the big firm of the month to be your architect. You felt it would be most apt for your project to be handled by a large firm. You feel it will afford your project the attention it deserves. You further alluded to our firms’ lack of experience with your project type. I was surprised and felt a reply was in order.

We can readily come to terms with our clients selecting another architect; everyone makes mistakes and hopefully learns from them. What we cannot overcome is the primary rationale with which you came to your decision- size and experience. Seriously? No, seriously, is Ashton Kutcher going to pop out and start pointing and laughing at us? In my 18+ years experience as an architect I have practiced at extra small, small, medium, and large firms. Suffice to say I can speak with some authority.

Can the large firm handle your project? Yes they can. Will it get the attention you think it will? Maybe, maybe not. Sure they employ over 300 people; do you think they are all working on your project? I would venture to say that you met with one of the twenty six managing principals who’s in charge of your project, you were impressed. Who wouldn’t be, a custom tailored suit sporting elbow patches, I surely would be impressed. Keep in mind, you’ll be paying for the next one. They told you a multi-faceted team of the most apt individuals will be assembled for your project. To be the bearer of bad news, you will have two, maybe three individuals working on your project. Sound familiar? It should, that’s what we proposed.

As far as lack of experience, let’s just say that most of the project types/design you’ve been impressed with, I have done. However, a managing principal came in at the 11th hour signed the drawings and took credit. On the flip side, the projects that went awry, those I do get to take credit for! Experience? Rest assured I have it- just not the high gloss photos to offer credence. Well I have the photos; I just can’t legally use them.

Am I discrediting the abilities of a large firm? No, not at all. However, I am discrediting your rationale. Give the small firms a chance- those running them were the fuel for the large firms. “Huh.” I hear you ask “If the individuals who were the fuel now have their own firms, what’s the engine running on?” I’m not sure, alternative fuel? Maybe you’ll get some LEED points in that category.

I wish you the best and hope that your 10’x14’ deck turns out to be everything you had wished for. Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you and provide a fee estimate, it sure sounds like an exciting project!

Keith A. Palma, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Design On,

** Seriously big firms, you have your place… call me (wink wink)

I’ve committed to becoming a more semi-consistent blogger Poster for 2012. As such, I am pulling back the curtain and formally introducing myself. My intent is to afford readers a glimpse into my professional and personal experiences. Personalizing the ‘voice’ behind the posts should allow for a more open dialogue between us. However, you will not see inside my refrigerator, and there is no Cristal.

Personal Brief: Happily married father of the greatest daughter ever- funny how we all have those. Currently reside in Raleigh NC, formerly lived just outside of Washington DC. I have been ‘practicing’ architecture since 1994 and a licensed architect since 2004 (huh, long internship… perhaps a future post). I tend to have a parched sarcastic sense of humor, hopefully it will come through in my posts!

Professional Brief: By choice, my architectural experiences have been broad and varied. I have been involved with commercial, retail, residential, well you name it I have most likely been involved with it at some point. I have worked on XS, S, M, L, Xl, XLL, sized projects and everything in-between. However, I have always remained involved with residential single family projects. I keep coming back to them and find them extremely rewarding- perhaps a later post as to why. I consider myself a well-rounded architect, who rarely capitalizes the ‘a’ in architect. I take my work seriously, myself, not so much.

My daughter can further add to the introduction per a previous post- “Meet My Dad, Mr. Beard Maybe”

The other day I was throwing out filing old papers/artwork/collections, etc. of my daughter’s (aka reminiscing and weeping slightly) and I came across a piece she did when she was in pre-school. She was four. She was asked to draw a picture of me and then answer some questions. While ‘re-discovering’ this gem I began to smile and laugh… they’re so smart.

His name is “Keith”

He “has dark black/brown hair. I think he has a beard”

He is very handsome “when he wears his work clothes. It’s a tie that he can knot on.”

At work he “use to work at klein design but they were mean to him. He draws buildings.”

For fun, he likes to “watch star wars”

He doesn’t like “to do klein design anymore.”

When we are together we like to “go to the beach and swim and sometimes collect shells.”

Dad, I would like to tell you “Do you want to play golf with me?”

In closing, Hi, I’m Keith, nice to meet you. While the intro was brief, I’m sure more exciting facts about me will surface in future posts- can you really levitate and juggle at the same time? Now that we have met, let’s enjoy the party…where are the free drinks?

Design On,

** I just copied the Wizard of Oz image from Google… let me know if it’s copyrighted and I will send an apology card and some ruby slippers ASAP!

As Architect’s we get so excited about working on projects, researching new materials, designing some detail we have never thought of before, etc. However, we are often oblivious to the tasks we must constantly manage to ensure we have projects to work on. A while back I posted CONTRACTS 101, so it made sense to post MARKETING 101.

Everyone has heard the following:

      “You need a marketing strategy”
      “You need to brand (not in the cattle sense) yourself”
      “You need a 2 minute sales pitch”
      “You need to loose 10lbs… wait, that might just apply to me”
      “blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., hoochie mama, serenity now”

While having such is great, it is not required. Remember the basics and you might be surprised with the results. A few weeks ago a potential client contacted us about designing a new home- we got very excited and for the next few weeks we corresponded, we sent sketches and such, a fee proposal was prepared, and a construction cost estimate was established. And as of writing this post, it still may mature into a real project. Wow! That’s great……hold on, rewind the tape, how did this come about?

Then it hit me- how did the client find out about us? So I did the obvious, I asked. The response:

“It was through the AIA website. And by the way, too many architects registered there don’t have a website, let alone a good one to see what type of work they do–and I am amazed at how many don’t even have an email address or phone number!! So kudos to you for doing so. Good marketing on your part”

So I thought that cannot be, we architects are marketing whores, and I mean this in a Pretty Woman sort of way. So I looked around the AIA’s architect’s directory – Holy Crap fellow AIA colleagues, the client’s correct! Why register your firm (and pay upwards of $1,000 in AIA dues- the magazine doesn’t count for anything) if you’re not going to use membership to your advantage? Posting your firm information and portfolio is great, but useless with no means of contact.

So here it is Einstein, Marketing 101- Provide contact information so a potential client can actually contact you! Remember the basics of marketing as you do the basics when designing a decent structure- if the basics are clear and concise, beautiful things can result!

**Reference to our website was a direct quote, I know it needs work… but the basics are there! I’ve been careless on properly referencing the images and just used an image search engine. Don’t try and use my contact information to get in touch with me- I’m on to you grasshopper!