Tag Archives: Home Projects

Anyone that reads this blog will know that I am a firm believer in actual physical models. However, I also realize the benefit of virtual models- a chipboard model is tough to attach to an email. I use SketchUp quite a lot. While BIM is the final presentation model, SketchUp is the down and dirty study model. I equate SketchUp to the electronic version of chipboard. In a previous post I covered the basics of SketchUp, you can read that here Sketchup 101.

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Since that post, I’ve had numerous requests to provide more info on using SketchUp. As such, I thought it would be a good idea to go over a few of the basics in a bit more detail. I know some may be saying, “What the heck, this is basic info who needs a post on this?” There are plenty of resources/manuals available for SketchUp, however, I believe my perspective affords insight into real world implementation as an architect (whoa, settle down, those were big words). Keep in mind, there are people learning the software for the first time every day, so if I can make it a bit easier for them than I’ve done my part helping the world visualize in the third dimension!

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With any luck I’ll continually add to my SketchUp resource and hope that others can benefit from it. Note that this post is based upon Trimble SketchUp version 8.0.16846 and may differ slightly from the most current version; it is also not meant as all encompassing, but rather a broad overview of some general tips and information.

With that I bring you SketchUp 102, Groups and Components! When modeling in SketchUp, make use of Groups and Components, they will become your friend. Go back and read that sentence again. SketchUp is inefficient if Groups/Components are not used, especially when trying to select entities. So what is a Group vs. a Component:

Group: a combination of several objects together into one ‘piece.’  For example you can create a window that is comprised of a frame and a piece of glass. You can than make a group out of the two ‘pieces’ which than makes it easier to edit and move it within the model. Groups can be copied and edited.

Component: a type of group that when copied and repeated, if one component is edited all of the other components will change as well. This is useful for windows that are used repeatedly and is very helpful when creating units for multi-family buildings. For instance, you could create a Double Hung window unit and place it 40 times in your model, if you than edit one component to be a casement window, the other 39 update as well- however, there is the option to make any one, or several of the components ‘unique’ such that their editing does not alter the other copies- perhaps a future post on that topic. Components can also be mirrored using the Flip command. The mirrored components retain their definitions, and are updated whenever an un-mirrored version is updated.


1. To create a Group or Component, select all the objects that you want included, right-click the mouse and select Make Component or Make Group, it’s also found under the Edit drop-down menu at the top of the screen. You’ll also have the option of naming the Group/Component.

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2. Groups and Components can be edited by double clicking them. If you have Groups/Components nested within each other, you’ll have to double click the appropriate amount of times to get to the Group/Component you wish to edit.


Window Assembly Example:

Window 1:   I’ve created a window frame and sheet of glass, each of which is composed of separate faces and planes. Notice when you try and select it only one line or plane is highlighted (keep in mind you could hold the shift key to make more than one selection, however that’s not the point of this example).

Window 2:   The window frame and sheet of glass have each been made into separate Components. Notice when you try and select it the entire frame/glass is highlighted.

Window 3:   The window frame and sheet of glass have been composed into a single unit and a Component created out of the two pieces. Notice when you try and select it the entire assembly is highlighted. Materials have also been applied to each of the window assembly Components.

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Group Example: Edit a Group and all copies of that Group remain as they were.

The window Group (the window on the ground) has been copied and placed within a wall. Note that the window Group has also been copied and flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis for one of the windows. This example is comprised of 4 copies of the window Group:

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I’d like to see what it would look like if the windows had a ‘window box’ surround. If I edit the window Group on the ground- for simplicity I’ll just extrude the frame- you’ll notice that only that window Group is updated, none of the Group copies update:

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Component Example: Edit a Component and all copies of that component update, regardless of flipping the copy about the horizontal/vertical axis, or mirroring the copy. Keep in mind, any copy of a Component can be edited and all copies of it will update.

The window Component (the window on the ground) has been copied and placed within a wall. Note that the window Component has also been copied and flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis for one of the windows. This example is comprised of 4 copies of the window Component:

2015-01-12_blog_image_sketchup 102 bI’d like to see what it would look like if the windows had a ‘window box’ surround. If I edit the window component on the ground- for simplicity I’ll just extrude the frame- you’ll notice that all copies of the window component update automatically, even the window that was flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis:

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While this window is a simple example of Groups/Components, it’s evident that this is a powerful feature for modeling in SketchUp. For example, I’ve worked on numerous Multi-Family projects and my method is to create the individual units off to one side and then assemble the building from the units, which are Components. This makes it much easier to work on, units are able to be flipped and mirrored as need be and I only need to create one of each unit type:

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Armed with this information one should feel comfortable using Groups/Components while modeling with SketchUp. For regular users, hopefully this serves as a refresher. Once you start using SketchUp on a consistent basis, you’ll realize that there is a lot more you can do with Groups/Components- i.e. you can nest Groups/Components within each other, you can make Groups/Component unique, etc. However, you’ll also realize how efficient using Groups/Components will make your modeling. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and should be in the ‘toolbox’ of every designer.

So what tips/advice do you have for using Groups/Components in SketchUp? Post them in the comment section, I’d love to learn some new tips and read how others use Groups/Components SketchUp.



Design On,

** go download SketchUp and get your 3d on!

A few weeks ago I dropped blinds off for repair. The ‘ladders’- strings that operate the blinds- had broken on one side and needed to be re-strung. It would have been cheaper to buy new blinds than repair. However, the blinds have a bit of age, are for a French door (odd size), and needed to match adjacent blinds. I thought about repairing them myself, but I didn’t want to deal with the aggravation. So I fired up the old interweb machine and searched for a blind repair company- not as easy to find as one would think, there aren’t many.


*Note to self, apply to be on Shark Tank with a blind repair company… I’m seeking $327.00 for 21% equity- “Yes, that’s correct I value the company at $1,557.14” Mark Cuban would be all up in that biz!

I found a window treatment shop within a few miles of my house. I removed the blinds and went to the shop. I spoke with the owner/salesperson/repair person, after she inspected the blinds she told me they’d be repaired and ready tomorrow- it was Monday. “I’ll call tomorrow morning to inform you when
they’re done and what time to pick them up.” I thought great, that was easy.

Tuesday came and went and I had forgotten about the blinds. Wednesday came. Wednesday afternoon came. Late Wednesday afternoon came. Nothing, no phone call. I called early evening and I’m informed that she was extremely busy and didn’t get to them. “I’ll do it first thing Thursday morning.” I thought, no big deal, things happen.

Thursday afternoon I call, nope didn’t get to it. First thing Friday morning, for sure they’ll be done. Friday afternoon I call, goes straight to voicemail, I leave a message. Late Friday afternoon I get a call, I’m told the blinds are done; I can pick them up anytime… really any time, how about this past Tuesday.

The blinds weren’t as important as it sounds. In fact, I could’ve done without the blinds for a few weeks- although my neighbors may disagree. However, I was given a commitment that wasn’t followed through with.

It’s a simple trait, and one to strive for in both your personal and professional life- do what you say you will do when you say you will do it. It conveys commitment and trust- traits I want to be known for, both personally and professionally. In addition, I want to interact with people who feel and do the same, you should as well.


Design On,

** The initial title of this post was The Blind Side, but Sandra wasn’t having that… So then I changed it to Blind Melon, however, that seemed a disservice to Mr. Hoon.

I use SketchUp quite a lot. While BIM is the final presentation model, SketchUp is the down and dirty study model. I equate SketchUp as the electronic version of chipboard and BIM as electronic basswood. Anyone that reads this blog will know that I am a firm believer in actual physical models. However, I also realize the benefit of virtual models- a chipboard model is tough to attach to an email. Typically I’ll create Schematic Design entirely in SketchUp, except for the floor plans which I’ll hand draw or use 2d CAD. You can create the floor plans in SketchUp, however, I’ve never been satisfied with how long it takes to achieve a decent ‘graphic.’ With the SketchUp model, I’ll generate elevations, roof plans, sections, and various perspective views. It’s a quick and a great tool for visualizing in three dimensions. I’ve been using SketchUp since, well… um… let’s just leave it at beta.

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I’m often asked about how to use SketchUp, or more typical, part of a discussion about the fear of learning SketchUp. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and one of the easiest programs to learn. As such, I’m offering up some tips and general information for those looking to get started in SketchUp or those who want a brief refresher. Note that this post is based upon Google SketchUp version 8.0.14346 and may differ slightly from the most current Trimble version; it is also not meant as all encompassing, but rather a broad overview of some general tips and information.

The Basics

1. Resources:

a. There are numerous resources online to learn SketchUp, Start at the Help Center, here you’ll find numerous tutorials and information:

b. From within SketchUp, Instructor teaches how to use a tool when you select it- Go To: Window>Instructor

c. Click here to download a PDF-> Quick Reference Card for SketchUp

2. Toolbars- these are the basic toolbars that should be in your workspace:

a. Getting Started- Go To: View>Toolbars>Getting Started

b. Large Tool Set- Go To: View>Toolbars>Large Tool Set

c. Styles- Go To: View>Toolbars>Styles

d. Layers- Go To: View>Toolbars>Layers

e. Shadows- Go To: View>Toolbars>Shadows

f.  Standards- Go To: View>Toolbars>Standards

g. Views- Go To: View>Toolbars>Views

3. Large Buttons, makes toolbars easier to read- Go To: View>Toolbars>Large Buttons

4. Axis- each axis has a solid line on one side of the origin and a dotted line on the other, the axis lines orientation is:

a. Solid Blue line extends up from the origin

b. Dotted Blue line extends down from the origin

c. Solid Red line extends East from the origin

d. Dotted Red line extends West from the origin

e. Solid Green line extends North from the origin

f. Dotted Green line extends South from the origin

5. Shortcut keys- when using the drop-down menus at the top, pay attention to commands that have a letter to the right, those are shortcut keys that you can use from the keyboard.

Setting Defaults and Saving Your Own Template

1. Open a new file and set all settings below to your own liking.

a. Setting the location and solar orientation

i. Go to: Window>Model Info>Geo-location * You’ll have the option to geolocate or manually locate the model, geo-locating is more precise. Also note, location should be updated per a specific project location.


b. Styles

i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the first box Edge Settings, confirm the Display Edges box is checked, turn off all other options.


c. Face

i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the second box Face Settings, confirm the Front color and Back color are set to white. Confirm the Enable transparency box is checked and set to ‘Nicer.’


d. Background

 i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the third box Background Settings, set the Sky and Ground colors to your liking.


 2. Saving your own template

a. After selecting the settings above, save the drawing.

b. Go to: Windows >Preferences>Template and Browse to find the file you just saved. Once this is set, whenever you open a new file, your settings will automatically be set in the model!

Modeling Basics

1. Always use the axis to draw Everything. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to lock directions. The up and down arrows will lock the blue axis. The right arrow key locks the red axis and the left arrow key locks the green axis.

2. Make use of Groups and Components.

a. Creating a Group is simply a way to combine several objects together, into one ‘piece.’  For instance you can create a window that is comprised of an upper and lower sash as well as glass. You can than make a group out of the ‘pieces’ which than makes it easier to edit and move it within the model. Groups can be copied and edited.

b. A Component is a type of group that when copied and repeated, if one component is edited all of the other components will change as well. This is useful for windows that are used repeatedly and is very helpful when creating units for multi-family buildings. For instance, you could create a Double Hung window unit and place it 40 times in your model, if you than edit one component to be a casement window, the other 39 update as well. Components can also be mirrored using the Flip command. The mirrored components retain their definitions, and are updated whenever an un-mirrored version is updated.

c. To create a Group or Component, select all the objects that you want included, right-click the mouse and select Make Component or Make Group, it’s also found under the Edit drop-down menu at the top of the screen.

d. Groups and components can be edited by double clicking them.

3. When drawing shapes and lines, you can key in actual dimensions, look at the bottom right of the screen for the dimensions dialogue box.

4. The basics of modeling are to draw shapes, select from the toolbars or Go to: Draw drop-down menu. Than you manipulate the shapes by the Push/Pull tool and various others selected from the toolbars or the drop-down menus.

5. Linear Arrays create multiple copies of entities or geometries (use it for posts at an on-center spacing, siding, beams, etc.) To create an array:

a. Select the entity to be copied

b. Select the Move tool, press and release the CTRL (PC) or Option (MAC) key, the Move tool icon should now have a ‘+’ sign.

c. Click on the selected entities to copy and move your mouse to copy, easiest if you key in dimension spacing, click destination point.

d. Type a multiplier to create additional copies, i.e. typing 4x will create a total of 5 copies, the original entity and the 4 copies.

e. There are several other ways to create linear arrays, as well as radial arrays, search online or use the SketchUp help forums.

6. Use Layers, they make it easier to control the visibility with-in the model and group similar ‘pieces.’ From with-in the Layers dialogue box select the ‘+’ sign to create a new layer and name it as you wish. From this box you can also select which layer is ‘current’ and all modeling is currently being placed in.


7. Use the Tape Measure tool to create drawing guidelines, it can be accessed either from the toolbar button, Go to: Tools>Tape Measure, or by pressing ‘T’ on the keyboard. After a while your model may have a lot of guidelines, you can delete them by, Go to: Edit>Delete Guides

8. You can import files to use as site plan or floor plan references, Go to: File>Import and select the type of file to import. You can scale the imported file by using the measuring tool to measure a known dimension and scale accordingly using the Scale tool.

9. The Follow Me tool is a great time saver for creating moldings. The tool will take any multi-sided plane (e.g., a section through a piece of molding) and extrude it along a line or curve. Draw the shape you want to extrude. Then select the Follow Me tool, click on the shape and drag it along the path you want it to follow.

Draw the shape you wish to extrude:

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Select the Follow Me tool, click on the shape and drag along path of extrusion:

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Complete the paths loop:

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10. A lot of time can be saved by using models/components others have created. Go to: File>3D Warehouse>Get Models and search for what you want. Once imported into your model, they can be edited as you like. You can also share models/components you create, Go to: File>3D Warehouse>Share Model

11. To apply a material, Go to: File>Window>Materials, the Select button should be highlighted,  from this dialogue box numerous standard materials can be applied by selecting a material and then using the paint bucket to select the model pieces to receive the material. Be sure to select the Shaded With Texture button in the Styles toolbar or you won’t see the material.

a. Once a material is placed it can be edited, Go to: File>Window>Materials, the Edit button should be highlighted, from here you can edit the color, scale, and opacity of the material. You can also use your own images to create materials or images from a manufacturer’s website.  

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b. After placing materials, you can edit them in the model by right-clicking on the material and selecting Texture>Position (if you right-click again there are some additional options). Four colored ‘pin’ tools appear that allow you to modify the position and scale of the material. The two most commonly used are the Green ‘pin’ which allows scaling and rotating of the material and Red ‘pin’ which allows moving of the material. Using these ‘pins’ allows scaling of the material to match a known dimension and placing the material at a ‘starting’ point.

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Views and Animations

1. Once you determine vantage points that highlight your model, you’ll want to save the views (called ‘Scenes’) for printing, exporting, or creating animations. To create a scene, Go to: View>Animation>Add Scene, a new tab will be created at the top of the work area. Right clicking the tab allows you to update the scene to the current view. Right clicking a Scene tab also allows you to open the Scene Manager, from here you can rename your Scene and choose which properties are to be saved in the Scene. You also select if the selected Scene is included in an animation or not.

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2. Animations can be created from a selection of Scenes, Go to: View>Animation>Settings to set the Scene Transition and Scene Delay times. To play the Animation, Go to: View>Animation>Play or right-click a Scene tab and select Play Animation. Note, Animations will play the Scenes from Left-to-Right. If need be Scenes can be re-organized by either right-clicking a Scene tab and selecting Move Right or Move Left, or from within the Scene Manager Dialogue Box.

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Plugins and Scripts

1. There are several plugins/scripts that can be downloaded to enhance the use of SketchUp. A few of my favorites are:

a. Windowizer- allows you to create windows from a shape.


b. Stairs- there are several available to quickly create stairs


c. Roof- allows you to create various roof configurations


d. Joists- creates floor or roof joists



1. Styles apply filters to your model to give them various looks, such as a hand-drawn look. To apply a style, Go to: Window>Styles> select the left tab Select, now you can view various styles and apply them to your model. From here you can also create your own Style. With a slight bit of research, you can find numerous Styles to download for your use.

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Original Model:

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Model After Applying Style:

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Armed with this information one should feel comfortable using SketchUp, even if you’ve never used it before. For regular users, hopefully this serves as a refresher of the SketchUp basics. Once you start using SketchUp on a consistent basis, you’ll realize that there is a lot more you can do with SketchUp and a lot more tools/ information to learn. You’ll also realize that there is almost nothing that you can’t model in SketchUp. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and should be in the ‘toolbox’ of every designer.

So what tips/advice do you have for SketchUp? Post them in the comment section, I’d love to learn some new tips and read how others use SketchUp.



Design On,

** go download SketchUp and get your 3d on!

1976… 0630 hours… Outpost Sidecut… Christmas morning………

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I’m the first up, my three brothers are still asleep. I make my way to the Dutch-door that guards the descent. Creeping down the stairs, my hand has a tight grasp on the hand hewn oak railing. I must hold firmly and lightly jump-skip the next tread, it’s the one that creaks. Kneeling down to peer below the ceiling I see the glowing fire of orange, blue, red, yellow, and the suffering wood, crackling and popping is a comforting sound- someone beat me to it and is already up. I stay frozen in my spot, fighting the heat of the fireplace as it radiates across the room and through my body.

I make my way down to the first floor. Directly ahead of me is a step down to the entry foyer and in sight is the bathroom door- thankfully it’s ajar and I can see via the mirror reflection down the hall that my father’s room door is still shut. I make a U-turn and enter the living room. I look down into the kitchen, lights off. I turn left and look through the glass doors to the dining room, still set from the night before for dinner today. Glancing up and to the right, I confirm no one else is wake upstairs yet. Looking back to the left is the tree, freshly cut a week prior from the woods. Suddenly a faint rustle is heard, I quickly dash across the living room and into the kitchen. The reddish colored linoleum floor in the kitchen is cold on the feet, I dive under the table. Ten minutes pass, it must have been the cat. Getting up from the floor I look out the bank of windows spanning the rear of the house in the breakfast area. I look out across the back yard towards the horse barn and my father’s woodshop… Yes! The field is pure white, it snowed last night!

Making my way back to the living room to investigate what’s under the tree, another noise! This time I crawl behind the chair that is in the alcove to the left of the fireplace. The mantle clock is ticking as if it’s a bomb about to detonate and it seems to be synced to the beating of my chest. I’ve got good cover, behind the chair and above me low shelf’s displaying my dad’s stein collection… I’m one with the darkness. I peak under the chair and I see it, the box that’s about the right size, can it be? I see my name on it and I’m hoping it’s… I begin making my way to the box under the tree.

Half way between the chair and the tree I hear my dad getting up, not good. We were to stay in bed until he was up. Not enough  time to make it up the stairs without being spotted, I know what needs to happen next. I run and jump down the step into the foyer. The door to my dad’s room is to the left and starting to open. Maintaining momentum I continue straight into the bathroom, where my dad is headed… I keep going because the door on the other end of the bathroom opens into a small office, taking a left I run into the playroom, my dad’s now shutting the door to the bathroom. I take another left and run towards the entry to the playroom, hang a left, a right, jump up one step and I’m now on the stairs back up to my bedroom, whew made it! Just as I turn into my bedroom, I see my dad in the middle of the room with a big grin on his face asking me why I’m making so much noise creeping around the house, busted on Christmas morning!


My childhood home holds great memories for me. At the time I was unaware of the gift our home gave- it served as a frame of reference for our daily life which in turn became our memories. It’s been 30+ years since I’ve lived in the house, but my memories are fresh because I have the house as a reference that enhances my memories recollection- textures, sights, sounds, smells, all contained within a house, a home… architecture.


Design On,

** yes, that really is the house I grew up in, it had a few more additions on it prior to my living there  

A few weeks ago I posted Crickets; it addressed my frustration with potential clients being unresponsive. However, I just can’t let it rest. As an architect I’m always looking to solve the problem at hand and make my client’s responsibilities as easy and efficient as possible. As such, I’ve created a [un]Response Form that can be left with potential clients to review and choose their response. I’ll even go so far as to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of the [un]Response Form. Hopefully, this will elicit a few more responses. I present the latest in my library of forms:




Download a PDF for your own use ->[un]Response Form


Design On,

** the form is provided free of charge, and you assume all liability and comical consequences- however, at any point in the future I can decide to charge $79.99 for a one time use of the form… enjoy! 

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There are numerous buildings that I find inspiration in and admire. Selecting one and stating that it is my all-time favorite is impossible, there are too many. However, I thought it would be an interesting change of pace here on Architect’s Trace to offer up some architectural history and discuss one of my favorite single-family houses, The Lovell House.

More than half a century after its completion, The Lovell House in Los Angeles CA, 1927, designed by architect Richard Neutra, remains an icon of modern architecture. The Lovell House was without precedent. The historical value of the house resides in its adaptation of industrial materials for non-industrial use. The house was constructed of a steel frame (erected in 40 hours), concrete, glass, and metal panels; a construction system typically reserved for commercial applications. The house was the first American residence that was completely steel-framed. The steel frame of the house  was the house; the house  was  the frame-  both structurally and  aesthetically it gave  the  house  its meaning. The frame became the ‘soul’ of the house. One could make comparisons of the geometric asymmetrical facades of the Lovell House, with contemporary painters Mondrian and van Doesburg.

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The Lovell House marked the beginning of an effort to integrate the innumerable products of American technology into a single frame of reference. This technological achievement was not however at the expense of the quality of the site, Neutra had a unique ability to harmoniously unite both machine construction and nature. The Lovell house proved that the modern house could be very hospitable and not entirely abstract; a great achievement for the proponents of the International Style. Neutra’s use of pre-fabricated materials and extensive incorporation of the outdoors was a novel idea at the time. With the completion of the Lovell House, a new era in the history of American architecture began. The void between architecture and engineering was closing. The house is  a unique hybrid of the International Style of Central Europe, the Organic Style of Frank Lloyd Wright, and Neutra’s and his clients vision of a healthy and natural way of living.

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In 1930 The Architectural Record published an article entitled The Demonstration Health-House, Los Angeles: Richard J. Neutra, Architect.’ The title of the article is worth noting because the house is often referred to as the ‘Health-House’, rather than the Lovell House. This is an important notion because as technologically advanced as it was, the house also promoted healthier living. The client, Dr. Philip Lovell, was a vital figure in the conception of the house. Lovell was an advocate of forward-looking experiments. Lovell wanted to be the man who could see ‘health and future’ prosper within an appropriate architecture. Neutra had total freedom of design as long as he conformed to Dr. Lovell’s programmatic idiosyncrasies; open sleeping porches, private sunbathing areas, and special provisions in the kitchen and bath areas for dietary and therapeutic needs. Dr. Lovell had strong convictions towards healthier living and how the built environment can afford it and in turn these became the catalyst for the house.

Neutra had firm beliefs about modem life and architecture. He was concerned with ‘design’ in general, not just architecture. Neutra’s passion was to re-introduce man to his ‘natural’ existence by using America’s new technology in architecture and design. While during Neutra’s lifetime his beliefs were often viewed as radical and suspicious, today they are the foundation of design centered around its user, embracing nature, and issues of sustainability. The Lovell House was Neutra’s first attempt to alter the way people live through appropriate design in hopes of allowing a better lifestyle. The house appeared alien to a country accustom to traditional housing styles. However, one will find that many of Neutra’s notions about lifestyle and architecture are timeless.

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The key to the success of the Lovell House was due in large part to the architect/client relationship. The Lovell House and Neutra’s beliefs, would have had a difficult time being realized where it not for Dr. Lovell who was willing to construct such a novel ‘modern’ house. Neutra and Lovell were futurists in a sense. In fact Dr. Lovell professed what would later become the Southern California ‘lifestyle’, a lifestyle that stressed fitness and health. Neutra also proclaimed a healthy lifestyle; however he was able to give built form to his beliefs. It’s interesting to note that an  architecture viewed as  radical  and unacceptable during its  time,  is  now  an architecture to strive  for.

The Lovell House was revolutionary for both its proposal of a healthier lifestyle and for its proclamation of a new architecture which coincided with modern life. Not only was the construction method novel it also changed the way in which architects designed. A shift in architectural thought began, spaces conceived of as volumes. Architects no longer had to conceive of buildings as structures of mass and solidity, the Lovell House and its techniques, allowed architects to think in terms of volume- space enclosed by planes and surfaces.

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However, there is a greater lesson to be learned. Neutra’s reputation has often been rooted to stylistic classification and analysis, whereas the overriding philosophical belief of his architecture is often overlooked; humanism focusing on [wo]man in relationship to nature. This belief manifests itself in all of Neutra’s designs. Contemporary architecture would benefit greatly if Neutra’s principles were analyzed and applied with more conviction.

So that’s one of mine, what is one of your favorite buildings?


Design On,

** photo 3 from Penn State University Library’s photostream, photo 4 from The City Project’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License) photo 5 via Wikimedia Commons.  

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While cleaning out some files I came across this gem of prose. Although Annie Choi’s Open Letter to Architects has been ‘out there’ for quite some time now, it still makes me laugh. Anyone who has dealt with an architect or has a sense of humor should read this, it’s pretty damn funny

1 qoute


Dear Architects, I am sick of your shit.
Annie Choi (An Open Letter)

Once, a long time ago in the days of yore, I had a friend who was studying architecture to become, presumably, an architect. This friend introduced me to other friends, who were also studying architecture. Then these friends had other friends who were architects- real architects doing real architecture like designing luxury condos that look a lot like glass dildos. And these real architects knew other real architects and now the only people I know are architects. And they all design glass dildos that I will never work or live in and serve only to obstruct my view of New Jersey.

Do not get me wrong, architects. I like you as a person. I think you are nice, smell good most of the time, and I like your glasses. You have crazy hair, and if you are lucky, most of it is on your head. But I do not care about architecture. It is true. This is what I do care about:

– Burritos

– Hedgehogs

– Coffee

As you can see, architecture is not on the list. I believe that architecture falls somewhere between toenail fungus and invasive colonoscopy in the list of things that interest me.

Perhaps if you didn’t talk about it so much, I would be more interested. When you point  to a glass cylinder and say proudly, hey my office designed that. I giggle and say it looks like a bong. You turn your head in disgust and shame. You think. obviously she does not understand. What does she know? She is just a writer. She is no architect. She respects vowels, not glass cocks. And then you say now I am designing a lifestyle center, and I ask what is that, and you say it is a place that offers goods and services and retail opportunities and I say you mean like a mall and you say no. It is a lifestyle center. I say it sounds like a mall. I am from the Valley, bitch. I know malls.

Architects, I will not lie, you confuse me. You work sixty, eighty hours a week and yet you are always poor. Why aren’t you buying me a drink? Where is your bounty of riches? Maybe you spent it on merlot. Maybe you spent it on hookers and blow. I cannot be sure. It is a mystery. I will leave that to the scientists to figure out.

Architects love to discuss how much sleep they have gotten. One will say how he was at the studio until five in the morning, only to return again two hours later. Then another will say, oh that is nothing, I haven’t slept in a week. And then another will say, guess what, I have never slept ever. My dear architects, the measure of how hard you’ve worked and how much you’ve accomplished is not related to the number of hours you have not slept. Have you heard of Rem Koolhaas? He is a famous architect. I know this because you tell me he is a famous architect. I hear that Rem Koolhaas is always sleeping. He is, I presume, sleeping right now. And I hear he gets shit done. And  I also hear that in a stunning move, he is making a building that looks not like a glass cock, but like a concrete vagina. When you sleep more, you get vagina. You can all take a lesson from Rem Koolhaas.

Life is hard for me, please understand. Architects are an important part of my existence. They call me at eleven at night and say they just got off of work, am I hungry? Listen, it is practically midnight. I ate hours ago. So long ago that, in fact, I am hungry again. So yes, I will go. Then I will go and there will be other architects talking about AutoCAD shortcuts and something about electric panels and can you believe that is all I did today, what a drag. I look around the table at the poor, tired, and hungry, and think to myself, I have but only one bullet left in the gun. Who will I choose?

I have a friend who is a doctor. He gives me drugs. I enjoy them. I have a friend who is a lawyer. He helped me sue my landlord. My architect friends have given me nothing. No drugs,no medical advice, and they don’t know how to spell subpoena. One architect friend figured out that my apartment was one hundred and eighty seven square feet. That was nice. Thanks for that.

I suppose one could ask what  someone like me brings to  architects like yourselves. I bring cheer. I yell at architects when they start talking about architecture. I force them to discuss far more interesting topics, like turkey eggs. Why do we eat chicken eggs, but not turkey eggs? They are bigger. And people really like turkey. See? I am not afraid to ask the tough questions.

So, dear architects, I  will stick around, for only a little while. I hope that one day some of you will become doctors and lawyers or will figure out my taxes. And we will laugh at the days when you spent the entire evening talking about some European you’ve never met who designed a building you will never see because you are too busy working on something that will never get built. But even if that day doesn’t arrive, give me a call anyway, I am free.

Yours truly,
2 qouteAnnie Choi

Annie Choi is a writer living in a 187 square foot apartment in New York City. Her memoir Birthday or Whatever, Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters will be released by Harper Collins in April 2007


Design On,

** photo from Jakob Montrasio’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)  

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Yesterday I was informed of two of things:

1. A residential renovation/addition project I interviewed for was not going to be- the potential client selected another firm.

2. The Schematic Design of a new custom residential house will stay just that, schematic design- the clients will possibly build in the future.

Not the information an architect wants to receive. However, before you start feeling sorry for me and sending pies, mountain dew, and skittles to cheer me up, know this- I’m okay with the news. My clients and potential clients informed me of their decision. While I’m not excited about it, they had the decency to inform me of such. I respect the fact that these clients/ potential clients trusted me and were comfortable having open honest communication. However, that’s not always the case.

As an architect I am constantly marketing and providing information in hopes of securing clients. Several times a week I receive emails like these:


We stumbled across your site on the Internet and hope to speak with you in detail about our farmhouse renovation project. My contact is 123-456-7891 and my husband, ‘Male Potential Client’, can be reached at 123-456-9876.


Thank you,

‘Female Potential Client’

Sent from my iPad”

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 “I sent you a quick note via Houzz earlier today and we are interested in talking to you about our project.

I am looking for an architect to design a ‘garage’ attached or adjacent to our house. This garage will have some features of a ‘man cave’ including an area devoted to a ‘gumball arcade’. We would like to invite you to come to our property and look at the possibilities and discuss your ideas and fees for creating a drawing for us. Home is farmhouse style on 14 acres.  

 ‘Male & Female Potential Client’

Cell:  123-456-1234”


I respond to such inquires with a few questions to get the conversation started. I forward a Residential Design Guidebook that I have developed over the years- it’s a 20 page book outlining the process of working with an architect and the phases involved. I provide project cut sheets that are in sync with the client’s vision for the project. I research property tax records, applicable codes, and zoning requirements. In total this accounts for about 1-2 hours of my time, I consider it due diligence and it affords me the ability to talk realistically about the potential project. I keep the dialogue going via email and/or phone. If all goes well I meet the client, discuss the project, propose a fee/agreement, client is agreeable and we have a new client and new project… * air high fives and pistol gestures* whoo hoo! Sometimes clients say no. For a good read on when clients say no, see Lee Calisti’s post on think | architect when they say no.  However, my issue is when there is no response. What causes a potential client to be unresponsive? Nothing, nada, zip, the sound of chirping at dusk. Calls stop being returned, emails unanswered, no response.

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As a potential client, typically you initiate the conversation and request some sort of information. I am more than happy to respond and provide you with information to help you make an informed decision, but please let me know your decision. I don’t spend an enormous amount of time during the initial conversations or creating the information I provide. However, I do spend enough time that warrants a response. As an architect I deal with bad news regularly, it’s part of the profession and I can handle it. No news, well that just drives me crazy!

Is this just me venting due to losing some projects this week? Possibly. However, I’ve thought about this frequently, it’s an issue of common decency. When you are provided with information the least you can do is respond, even if it’s a no, just say “thanks, but I’m not interested.” I respected you by offering a bit of my time and expertise, afford me the same. Inform me, good or bad, such that I can focus my energies accordingly. As a potential client, you should know that it’s okay to say “no” to an architect- we don’t like it, but we can accept it and move on… on second thought, just say yes to your architect, it’ll make things easier for both of us!


Design On,

** cricket photo from Paul Albertella’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)  

The past decade sat witness to an ever expanding frenzy for ‘green architecture,’ or sustainable design/ building. The ever growing interest in environmental responsibility and sustainability provides us the ability to have a positive impact on the environment. However, sometimes clients get lost in all the jargon employed when discussing ‘green design’ and sustainability and what it all really means.


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Sustainability is comprised of people, the earth, and costs. Sustainability involves evaluating a buildings impact on the environment from a ‘whole building’ point of view, not just specific pieces, and then designing accordingly. At minimum, and regardless of project scale, a design striving to reduce its environmental impact should address the following aspects:

– Site analysis to minimize/maximize solar gain, winds, views, etc.

– Minimize/ control water consumption

– Passive solar and day lighting

– Reduction of waste, during construction and the life-cycle of the building

– Use of recycled materials and finishes

– Maximize floor plan efficiency

– Energy efficient doors and windows

– Renewable energy sources

– Employ high efficiency mechanical systems

– Well-designed insulation systems/methods to reduce the need/use of mechanical systems

– Control or elimination of Volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are typically dangerous to human health or cause harm to the environment.


As architects, we need to safeguard our natural resources for future generations- this is by far one of the, if not THE, primary responsibilities we have as architects. Sustainable design must be flexible to change, reduce consumption of resources, and still possess strong design acumen and contribute positively to the built environment. As an architect, sustainable design should be an extension of our goal to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our clients and those who use our buildings- now and in the future.


Design On,

** For the architects reading this, I tried, The AIA won’t credit any HSW LU credits from reading this post.

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I’ve been involved with client based single family residential design for over nineteen years. I’ve worked on single room additions, five million dollar+ custom houses, and everything in-between. Each house has its own unique set of circumstances that need to be resolved or addressed. No two clients have the same set of circumstances or needs for their house. However, one issue is always prevalent- value. Usually value is associated with a monetary amount, but that’s not always true. Clients talk about wanting to add, increase, and maintain value… but typically they’re not sure what value they’re talking about or how it applies to their house.

So how does one address value in a house? It’s actually pretty simple; value in a house comes down to common sense and avoiding excess frill. Real value comes from things that make sense and enhance ones comfort and enjoyment of living in a house. A valuable house should employ as many of the following as possible:

1. Location/ Orientation house should be located within a reasonable proximity to the client’s daily needs. Ideally, the house should be in a mixed-use community that offers various amenities with-in walking distance. The less dependent on a vehicle the better for the environs and one’s health. A house should be orientated to take advantage of the sun, prevailing winds, and site specific features. In addition, the house interior should have a connection to the outdoors, both visually and physically.

2. Sustainable house should take advantage of both passive and active sustainable building practices. There are numerous exterior and interior strategies/ methods that can be employed to reduce a house’s impact on the environment. However, the best thing is to construct only the spaces necessary.

3. Floor Plan should meet your needs and how you live. Do not design for what you are told is needed to re-sell the home or include whatever the latest trend is, i.e. “man cave.” You don’t want rooms that you never use- not only will you have to furnish them but you will also have to heat and cool them- these monies are better spent elsewhere. Efficiency can be achieved by the minimization of the plan and simple building volumes.

4. Rooms/ Spaces all rooms and spaces should have ample daylight, sufficient applicable storage, and logically accommodate the intended furniture. Dedicated hallways and circulation spaces should be kept to a minimum. (*note entries to the house should be ‘spaces’ not just doors)

5. Kitchens + Bathrooms should be well organized, have efficient layouts, and provide ample storage- all of which can be achieved in a compact or moderately sized space.

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6. Mudroom minimum should include a washable floor, floor drain, and utility sink with a hose attachment. Ideally each occupant of the house would have their own cubby/locker for storage. The mudroom should be located wherever the family foot traffic passes on a daily basis. (* pssst… pssst… it’s usually not the front door)

7. Garage cars are a reality that is not going away any time soon. However, a garage should not be the dominate element on a house. Ideally the garage should be set-back from the main elevation, or even better, if the site allows, the garage should be located on the side and underneath of a house.

8. Roof complicated gables, hips, gambrels, etc. can be very distracting to the overall design of a home- they’re even more difficult to flash, vent, and properly waterproof. A roof should be simple in design and shed water. (** shed water ** hint hint **)

9. Materials use low-maintenance long lasting materials.

10. Quality should take precedence over quantity. This applies to the entire house- overall size, rooms/ spaces, finishes, etc. Employ fewer elements executed to a higher degree of proficiency.

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The most valuable houses are the ones located in mixed-use walkable communities. Ideally the house is close to the owner’s daily needs. Houses that rely on an efficiency of space and are well designed in simple forms and details. Houses designed to meet the needs of the owners, minimize the life-cycle costs of operating and maintaining the house, a house designed for you– these are characteristics of a valuable house.


Design On,

** Notice I used ‘house’ and not ‘home’… a future post on that is in the works.