February 21, 2010

used my time wisely!

Monday February 15, 2010 Randy was out of the office so we did not have an office meeting. Randy did prepare a list of projects and the weeks’ to do list. I started with the Metropolis Magazine project which is another book but this time it will be made into a PDF instead of being printed. This book will have three images, one drawing, and a short description of each of the projects. The majority of the day was spent searching the network for images, drawing, and the descriptions. I was able to learn about a few more of RBA’s previous projects such as Parasite, Circle, and Hidden Creek.

Thursday started out with some easy no brainer tasks such as finding Justin’s (a past intern) e-mail address and e-mail him his W-2’s. Randy and I discussed where I was at on the list on things to do. He told me he received the Bellows’ Rhino model from the intern who had worked on it previously. I was to play around with model and experiment with pulling it apart. The rest of the work day was spent on Rhino with the 3D model.  Working in Rhino helped me gain knowledge about this program and learn how to use it. Rhino is one of the programs our classes do not teach us. I believe this was a good experience because it has widened my computer skills. When comparing this to the last place I interned, it has many similarities and differences. It is similar because I learned new computer programs, SketchUp and CAD, and at the time I did not know either program efficiently. Working for RBA I know those programs and I am learning a whole new generation of programs which will better me in my career.

Friday, Randy went to Kansas City for a meeting and I worked on Bellows again; making diagrams of the form and interior spaces which are not easily recognized from photographs alone. I went through a series of wireframe diagrams of the entire model and then rendered the spaces created. This became a process of rendering views, bringing them into illustrator, and Photoshop, to create overlays of the rendered elements and the wireframe sections.  The process is very similar to studio because it a learning process and it takes time. Usually a lot more time than expected, but to create something to be proud of, the time will be worth it. Friday became a very stressful day because the time required for this process, and how Randy wanted me to complete Bellows and Metropolis. I defiantly used my time wisely on Friday. While the image was being rendered, I worked on redrawing the section because it too became blurry like the plans.  I stayed late to get a small amount of the Metropolis book in progress, but I defiantly ran out of time on Friday and did not complete as much as Randy was hoping for.

Friday night through Sunday was mainly spent in Manhattan. I went back because it was my roommate’s birthday. The trip was an interesting experience because we did not know what to do Saturday. Normally, weekends are spent in studio and we do not have to think of what to do. So, we drove around town to the parts we haven’t experienced before. We learned the city park has an ice rink so we went skating for a while. This was probably the smallest ice rink I have ever seen before. But, it was still fun.

February 14, 2010

staying sharp

Our Monday morning meeting covered numerous topics and goals for the week. Specifically, to analyze the plotter shelf, help Meg finish up the NYC books, and by the end of the week have some plans drawn up and construction begun for a new desk in Randy’s home.

The plotter shelf (a shelf above the plotter to hold paper, ink, etc.) was a simple project that took a turn for the worse. It started out our first day on the job. Meg, Chris, and I built the original plotter shelf. Done. Next thing we know, water’s dripping through the joists onto the shelf and ruining the expensive paper. I guess the 30 inches of snow on the roof was some kind of Omaha record and roofs were not holding up well to the challenge.   My task was to design and fabricate a watertight box that could hold the paper but most importantly, keep it from getting wet. While I was designing this new shelf/box, I utilized the skills I have learned in my building systems courses of how to keep water out of a building and applied them to the design. The end result of the shelf is a much nicer detail than the original and to date, has kept the paper dry.

With that off the list, it was time to get the NYC publications finished and checked off the list. Randy had given us about a week to have the books finished for the trip and we were already beginning week two of work on the books.  Randy expressed to us that it isn’t so much that the books weren’t finished in a week because he needed them, but he only budgeted a week of work on them. This means that any hours that are worked on the books after that week is up are starting to lose the firm money. That is time that we could be spending on other projects that will bring in revenue. When back at school next year, I will be able to use some of this train of thought in my studio projects. Instead of losing money, I want to stay on schedule with my project or I’ll be short changing the design and end result.

By the end of the week, Randy showed me the spot in his home where this new desk was going to be located. I took a field measure, wrote down a few of the angle degrees (because nothing in his home has “regular” walls) and did a quick plan sketch of the space. Next was to come up with a few schemes for the desk design and discuss them with Randy. After a design was decided upon, I found the exact measurements and calculated the amount of material we would need to complete this task. To be sure all the pieces fit exactly; most of them were field cut to the specific dimension. Randy considers his home a laboratory of experiments. The only way to stay sharp is to attempt new things and see what happens. This is why I learned as much as a did from this project.

As for the weekend, Meg and I decided to take a different approach and embrace the snow. We headed to Mt. Crescent to do a little NE  skiing. Don’t let the name fool you, more appropriately, the name would be Bluff Crescent, but it was still a lot of fun.

February 14, 2010

publisher’s POV

Pushing the books was the objective of Monday. Working back and forth with Photoshop and InDesign throughout the day, I feel, is making me much more efficient with these programs. With school, I use both programs but here I feel as if I am learning from them as well.  These editing programs such as Photoshop and illustrator are rushed during studio, whereas, at RBA there is a greater amount of time spent in these programs. This gives me the ability to become more efficient and knowledgeable of the programs.

We began the Tuesday with a brief office meeting; the key to success. From years of experience, Randy has learned to know and understand the publishers’ point of view. He has been doing these New York trips for many years now, and he believes the best way to get published is by making it easy. If we make it easy for the publishers to publish then the chances are greater. In order to do this we not only have a physical copy of the book by we are also making a CD of the InDesign file and placing all of the images on the CD. This way the publishers do not have to try contacting us later about an image.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday was also the start of one of the last books to be put together. It is for the Kent Bellows Studio and Center for Visual Arts project. Kent Bellows was born in Omaha and was a remarkable artist until his death in 2005. His work has been on display at many galleries in Omaha and around the country. The Kent Bellows Studio and Center for the Visual Arts is a foundation for students who want to learn and practice art of all forms. The foundation in sponsored by donators. The center was where Bellows lived, created many of his backdrops and artwork.  The center, where the students work was designed and built by RBA. Part of the center is in use by students and the other is preserved in memory of Kent Bellows.  Randy wanted this book to tell a story, by explaining who Kent Bellows was. I spent a good portion of the day researching Bellows life, career and generating it into short narrative.  The rest of the day was dedicated to finding the images and drawings of the project and placing them into the spreads.  During studio, the research of a project is less documented then at RBA. I think at studio there is not enough time to put research information into a project. I think I’m going to make more time at school to apply more research into my presentations. I feel like this will strengthen a project.

Friday night after work, Jon and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings with our coworker Chris, his wife Brandy, and his daughter Violet. This Buffalo Wild Wings is comparable to the ones back in St. Peters and is different from the one in Manhattan. It was family friendly like the St. Peters’ locations, because Omaha and St. Peters are both suburban cultures. Whereas, Manhattan is a smaller college town, their restaurants are designed with the college student in mind. They are louder with very few children present.

Saturday we were determined to do something outside. Considering Omaha’s weather conditions of about three feet of snow on the ground and a forecast of snow showers through out the day, skiing sounded like the only outdoor activity possible. About fifteen minutes from Randy’s office, in Crescent Iowa, is a ski resort call Mount Crescent. When we got there, it was packed with people but the slopes were still great and covered with fresh powder.  We skied for about six hours and decided to try snowboarding before leaving. For about an hour and a half I tested my balance, fell a lot, and probably almost broke some bones, but defiantly had an awesome time. I will hopefully be able to go back and try it again.  With the way the weather has been there should be snow around for a while.

February 7, 2010

international practice

Goal for the week: get as many of the New York City books printed and ready for the publishers. This might sound like a simple enough task, but it proved to be much more challenging. It’s not a matter of striking the print button over and over again; instead, it’s fine tooth combing the “G:” drive and placing the appropriate pictures, drawings, etc. in a logical manner. Once the pages are put together and all the images necessary to convey the story of the project are inserted, I begin the printing process. When I say process, it is a process. There are a lot of things that go into making these books look the way they do. The books are an important aspect of RBA. When Randy takes recent projects to the magazine editors and publishers in NYC, they are representing the firm and will hopefully be selected for print in one of their magazines.

While Monday was spent arranging books to be printed, Tuesday took a different approach. GA Houses contacted us from an earlier submission we sent them asking us to send them an interior shot of the optic Residence. This sounded like an easy request; the only problem was there wasn’t an up-to-date interior model to get an interior shot from. The solution was for Meg and I to stop work from the book printing and each try a different medium to get that interior shot. Meg’s approach was fix up the most up to date model in SketchUp and get an interior shot from it that would describe the space in a way the other drawings couldn’t. My idea was to take a section of the home from CAD and make it an section perspective. This is a technique that I used last semester for a project of mine and I new that converting a boring CAD drawing into a perspective makes it much more interesting and descriptive. By the afternoon, we had a few options for Randy and we discussed which ones would be the best to send. Just before leaving that day, we sent a few renderings from Meg’s SketchUp model and the section perspective I worked on.  Did I mention we sent them to Japan……RBA really is an international practice dealing with people all over the world.

The end of the week was a very exciting time. Since I haven’t worked as an intern in a firm before, this was my first experience with a client meeting. The DiNucci’s are clients that RBA is designing a new home for and Meg and I were asked to sit in on the client meeting. Not knowing what to expect, the DiNucci’s surprised me with their stance as the clients. I guess I thought a client went to an architect, told them what they were looking for, the architect designed them something to meet their needs following with the clients jumping on board with the design. Wrong! There were many things about the revamped design they liked, but many more things that needed to be changed. The DiNucci’s were discussing things like, maybe an instant water heater under each sink would be better than the typical large water heater in the basement. Or, if having all the ducts wrapped with insulation would be better solution to reduce unwanted noise. It was a real eye opener realizing how connected the client is to the whole designing process.   At least the RBA process is this close connectedness with the client.

The weekend was filled with downtown Omaha. It was good to get acquainted with the surroundings. Saturday afternoon, Meg and I found ourselves in the Old Market of Omaha and ate at a restaurant called Stokes. The food was really good and the atmosphere of the area reminded me of the older parts Kansas City. Walking by all of the restaurants, bars, and lounges on that street, I got the feeling that this area probably has a pretty active night life, something I would like to go back and see when the weather is a little more accommodating.

February 7, 2010

NYC booksproject

Monday’s concentration was dedicated to the New York Books. A lot of the time was spent finding the images, drawings, and photographs of the projects on the network.  Once the images were found they could be placed into the correct InDesign layout. Each photograph had a set margin to fit within. After all the cropping and editing the book would be ready to print, this would become another time problem. This was a time consuming tasks because there are thousands of file on the network. Also, it took a while to figure out how to get the printers to print the correct margins and colors. Many trial and errors occur before they were printing at a steady hum. This project has taught me more on RBA’s past projects and how they evolved.

Printing began bright and early Tuesday morning. The majority of the morning was spent on this project and communicating back and forth with the director of the Take a Seat project about some questions about the design. Being able to communicate with the director was very interesting.  When I worked at LaTona Architects, I was not given the opportunity to work back and forth with a client. I found it to be a great lesson to what I will be doing after graduation. Jon and I met with Randy and Kim about another office organizational task we will be working on, creating a contact list for the network.  Our goal was to find a program that would allow everyone in the office to access for information on client, consultants, contractors, and anyone else apart of the process.

Before returning to the NYC Books project, G.A. House wanted some more interior images of the Optic House, which we had submitted about two weeks ago. Randy wanted a couple of black and white line SketchUp perspectives to match the theme of the drawings already submitted.  Once finding the correct 3D model we were able to clean the model up, play around with different scenes, and experiment with different shadows to get the most dynamic images. The process did not end there. When the angles and shadows were perfect in SketchUp we exported the drawing into Photoshop, to clean it up some more and really make it pop. I am gaining more knowledge about Photoshop and feel this will strengthen my projects next year.

Monarch Three was the book I began on Wednesday. But, before I could dive too far into the project, G.A. House wanted a board for the Sod House. Once again I was in Photoshop, this time testing some tools to create a remarkable board.  Every time I use Photoshop I learn another way to do something awesome.

Thursday consisted of putting more books together. U.S. Data needed more images, so I searched the network and placed them into InDesign. The process of printing these books takes a lot of patients. Half of the time is spent finding the images, drawings, and descriptions, and the other half is spent on printing. The books are strenuous but I feel like the end result will pay off.

Friday came up before I knew it. It was the day of the DiNucci meeting. We prepared by cleaning up the conference room, having the model on display, a scale, pens, and the job file. I began printing the drawings early to make sure nothing went wrong. While printing the DiNucci drawings, I also had the photo printers printing books as well. The meeting began at 4:30 p.m. I found this meeting very exciting. There was so much information I did not know went into building a house.  Overall the meeting went pretty well. There are a few minor adjustments to be made to the design but that is about it.

Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday, was family filled. My parents came in town so I hung out with them. We were unable to do anything around town because it had snowed all weekend long. The roads were a mess. My mom has nine cousins who live out here and five of the brothers live together in a house close to downtown. Most of the weekend was spent over there socializing. Around dinner time on Saturday we ordered some pizza from a local bakery, Orsi’s. Omaha’s pizza crust is different from St. Peters because we normally eat St. Louis style pizza, which consists of extremely thin crust and square slices. This pizza place we went to was much thicker but still good.  The other unique element of this place was that it is a bakery. The pizzas are not ordered by small, medium, or large; they are ordered by half a sheet or a whole sheet, just like cake. I found that to be very interesting. I would defiantly recommend this place.

February 2, 2010

Production of Works

The value and effect of project types in a design studio;

Making food in comparison to food for the soul;

design is spiritual.

January 31, 2010

crypto craftsmen

“You can be very talented, but it’s the doers who get places in the world,”said Randy Brown at 8:0am Monday morning. In other words don’t lack motivation. During our Monday morning meeting, we sat around the table and discussed how we could become “craftsman” of our own trade. We tossed around ideas on what it takes to be considered a craftsman and how that trait affects the work we produce. This type of mentality is what we focused on during the week with the projects we were working on.

My specific duty was to take the Loren Eiseley Center from its underdeveloped schematic state and revamp it. It is a unique project in that it is an institution for several different things. It houses the Loren Eiseley Society, a laboratory for the Nebraska Small Energy Society, and a lab for studying the Allwine Prairie, on which it is located. One of the most difficult things about this project was finding the commonality between all of these functions for this particular institution. After spending time researching who Loren Eiseley was and what the other organizations were all about, I began to develop design solutions that would tie everything together. After a few days of focused thinking and designing, a more unified solution was determined. The concept was tightened and focused on what was important, the preservation of the Allwine Prairie.

The last half of the week was focused on getting books prepared for printing for Randy’s New York City trip. Every year, Randy travels to NYC and visits various magazine editors to have his work published in their publications. This year, Architectural Record, Contract, Metropolis, and Interior Design were a few of the publishers he would be showing his work to. What that meant was that we had to find the images that were taken of the finished projects, pull together the finished drawings and make touch ups as necessary, and put any renderings or diagrams that convey the “story” of the project into an InDesign file. I can say that helping put these books together enabled me to learn more about RBA and the work that has been done in this firm than any other learning method could have. Seeing the pictures, reading project descriptions, and working with the drawings were what made the difference then someone just describing the project. It has been a hands on experience (and still is as we have the rest of next week to finish putting the books together and printing) and has proved to be an effective way of learning.

With the work week at its end, the weekend proved to be relaxing. I went back to Kansas City Friday night and stayed there for the weekend. It was my father’s birthday so the weekend was all about family, friends, and food. Being the first time home since I left for the internship, it was nice to go back and get a change of scenery for the weekend. Feeling refreshed Sunday afternoon, I traveled back north on I-29 and prepared for the upcoming week of finishing those publication books for New York City.

January 31, 2010

craft based

Monday January 25, 2010 started with an office meeting. The topic of the meeting was Embedded Knowledge.  He went over how he would like the firm to be more craft oriented which is more of an attitude. Being a craft based firm means having the “want to do” attitude and the skills to make and design well.  We also discussed the importance of job hours, keeping track of them, and why we need to do this. I learned there are only so many billable hours for each job and if we exceed those hours the firm will lose money. Randy went over a few more financial matters and then dove into the details about present projects and the projects to come. Pandora and Wingstop are both projects we are waiting to get approval to start working on. Pandora is going to be a jewelry retail shop and Wingstop is a restaurant with an all wing menu. Another project Jon and I are going to be starting is for marketing. We will be organizing and printing photographs, drawings, renderings, and diagrams for certain projects and create books for them. Randy will then take these books to New York City to multiply magazine publishers such as, Dwell, Architectural Record, Interior Design, and Metropolis, in hopes to be published. But, before the books are started my main goal was the Take a Seat Project.

The Take a Seat project is a non-profit design build program sponsored by the city of Omaha. Many of the local design firms were asked to participate in this effort to provide a new bench in the Gene Leany Park in Downtown Omaha. The city of Omaha is giving each firm a choice of 23 different locations in the park and supplying forty square feet of concrete to anchor the bench to. Randy put me in charge of reading through the program and initiate work. After reading through the program I did some research on what a chair is, different names for a chair, and how people use “chairs”. I met with Randy to discuss what I had come up with. He wanted me to question the definition of a chair and what we could do to make this a remarkable bench. Questions he asked me to think about were, do you have to sit in it, can you turn it upside down, what is it, why is it a chair, how is it a chair. Exploring different ideas was the main objective.  Can people kneel or lean against this thing? Can we make this a place of interaction, such as a center for stretching? The rest of Monday was spent researching these ideas and trying to understand how they could become a reality. Researching dimensions of kneeling chairs, stretching stations, and leaning devices were all part of the process as well.

Tuesday was a day of making our ideas a reality. I went through numerous study models. Playing with the different forms and making the forms into usable spaces was a very interesting process. This was very similar to the conceptual phase at studio. There are numerous study models; some work and some don’t.   It was not only fun but I also learned a lot about how good design needs research to help the ideas be valid. To build the structures I used bailing metal wire. This represents the steel re-bar we have decided to use for the end result.

Wednesday was also spent making more study models. Randy came in to look at the different ideas and the one that caught his eye was actually a piece of scrap wire I had thrown to the side. The way it laid created an appealing form with engaging spaces. We bent and molded more structures to generate more free flowing forms. By the end of the day we decided on that first free flowing form.

Thursday became a challenging day, the days goal was to take the free flowing form into CAD. This task was testing for me because I have never designed free flowing structures before, so I have never had a reason to draw a free flowing structure before.  After an hour or so of trying to get this object into CAD, I decided another form of technology may save time and frustration. I turned to Rhino, a 3D computer program, mainly used by Interior Architects at K-state. I never used this program before; it was very similar to CAD and 3Ds Max, both of which I use in great amounts during studio. I realized this program was an excellent choice for this type of project. Also, it was very user friendly so it did not take me long to caught on. With this program I can draw the bench at any and all views; I was drawing it in plan, section, elevations, and perspective, which made the drawing process one hundred times easier.  After drawing the bench to a scale, I went back to the physical element to create a scaled model.

Friday was spent documenting the work. First, I set up the conference room area into a photography room. The process of photography takes time but in the end, it will save time. Once the photographing was completed I went into Photoshop and cleaned up small issues and then worked on placing the model into a scene from the Park.

Over the weekend I went to Warrensburg, Missouri to visit a friend from high school at UCM for the weekend. It was very interesting to learn how she spends her weekends; it is very different from an architecture student. She is an athletic training major and she will be graduating this coming May. Her weekends consist of sleeping in, then watching TV. in her pajamas until about 1:00 p.m., then most weekends she goes to a sporting event to clean up after each game which takes about 30-60 minutes. When she is finished cleaning up, she goes home and hangs out with her roommates until they find some where to go. It is very different from my weekend schedule because I rarely sleep in, I don’t even use my T.V. at my apartment, and most weekends are spent in studio working on designs, other class homework, or preparing for an upcoming test for ridiculous amounts of hours. The learning styles are a lot different. She lives the more “college life” like many people like to say, while architectural students have “no life” like others like to say. But, I do believe we are learning and appreciating a lot more because of it. We are learning how to manage our time and work hard to get what we want. I feel like I defiantly make the most out of my free time and appreciate it more.

January 30, 2010

Get the word out!

Great ideas, great projects, great buildings seem to have huge PR campaigns. Right?  They pop up in design journals, win all the design awards and are in videos on the net.   

Must have a great pr firm who can generate tons of publicity right?

Maybe – but today is not the 1960’s with advertising agencies putting commercials on tv to educate the world. 

If your project is remarkable, truly remarkable, then how can you get the idea out there?  How can people see it and judge for themselves?

The third rule of marketing is to get the word out!   

January 25, 2010

jj sandwich

The third week of working at Randy Brown Architects dealt mostly with the DiNucci project. The drawings were as far as they could go in the schematic design phase until a cost estimator took a look at them to get the estimated cost of building the home. That person estimated the cost with the plans and sections that we gave him and it ended up being much more than the clients were willing to pay (this is common) so our job for the week was to develop a “slim option.” As Randy says eating a Jimmy john sandwich.  The intent was to shave off any extraneous square footage that wouldn’t negatively affect the design.

We studied the current drawings and realized that the master bath was a problem area. It had too much unnecessary space and needed to be reworked to a more economical space. The sketch shows how one possible bathroom layout could work while trimming off square footage and cost. Once the major space revisions were done, the rest of the plan was tweaked so that there was no wasted square footage. With the plans in a more “toned” stage, the elevations and sections needed to be updated and ready for the meeting with the clients. The model also needed to be updated, and base needed to be constructed for the model. The project had a unique site and we decided that the only way to accurately build a base for the site was to actually go make a site visit.

When we weren’t working on the DiNucci drawing set, we were checking off items on the to-do list Randy created at the beginning of the week. Some of the jobs were simple, two second tasks; others were a bit more involved. I found myself figuring out a way to hang the drill bit holders to the wall without them just being placed. By working in a design profession I find myself always deciding new ways to do ordinary jobs. We could have simply stacked the drill bits on the table, but being more creative aids in a better solution. Another task that involved creativity was to run an extension cord from the center of the table to the outlet across the room. Ordinarily, someone might have run the extension cord along the wall to the outlet, but I went ran it under the floor in the basement and concealed the cord in the joists so the cord was undetectable.  The RBA way always takes long- but from what I have experienced the RBA way leads to remarkable.

By the end of week three I was more than ready for the weekend. Saturday was the first day that I can remember since I have been in Omaha that it has been over 32 degrees and sunny. It was a nice change only to be a short memory as Sunday brought back the 20 degree weather and more snow. The weekend was another chance to get out and learn more about the city. So far, Omaha has been a good experience. I hope that when the weather is a little more cooperative, I’ll be able to go back to some of the places I’ve been and learn a little more about certain areas of the city. I’ve found that Omaha has many things to offer, you just have to know where to look.

January 24, 2010

RBA to be organized

Monday January 18 began with an office meeting. This weeks’ office meeting related more towards totaling the projects the firm had and sorting them into which projects were of most importance for the week.

The DiNucci Residence was on the top of my list for the week. It needed a set of drawings sent out for cost estimation, a base for the model to be completed, and pictures of the model for process documentation.

A few other things on my list were to take daytime and nighttime photographs of the Tipp House model, organize code books, and a few other organizational tasks. Randy really wants the firm to be organized to it best so everyone can find what they are looking for. RBA really contrasts with the previous firm I worked at because at LaTona Architects it was the complete opposite. There was very little organization and only the Principal knew where everything was.  I believe Randy’s system will be efficient because when Randy is out of the office someone else will be able to find a document or building tool without his help.

Through out the day I worked on a series of revisions of plans, sections, and elevations of the DiNucci Residence. On Tuesday the base of the model needed to be completed but there was no topography map to show the form of the land, so Jon and I were told to go to the site and do some estimating. Even though the site was covered with three feet of snow we were able to get a better understanding of the land.  The base was built and the drawings were sent to get cost estimation.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent doing a “slim” option, (Yes Randy does like Jimmy Johns) for the DiNucci Residence because the design was over the client’s budget. With this experience I learned that it was hard to make the design work when having to make a lot of changes but also that the design can also develop from changes that needed to be made.

Friday January 22, we started to put together a set of presentation drawings for GA Houses again. The submittal was of the Sod House. It was a conceptual design of a house that is currently on hold.  I worked on photo-shopping a rendering of the house to make a layering affect to it.

On Saturday, we drove around some more going further west and south of where I live. We ended up at 168th Street and Dodge, where Village Pointes, an outdoor shopping center is located. At Village Pointes there are a few buildings and interiors by Randy. Saturday was in the 40’s so walking around was not too brutal. Sunday it snowed so I was unable to go out because the roads are covered.

January 17, 2010

process is everything

After the second week of working at RBA, I recall a specific morning meeting that was held with Randy. This conference was unlike the others that we have had; this one was more philosophical. It wasn’t about, this is what we need to do today, this is what needs to be finished for tomorrow, etc. The topic was more about the ideas and values of the firm. Randy stated that “everything is a process” and that everything that we work on should continue to be “refined and evolved.”

This is extremely important in the design profession. Hearing Randy say “everything is a process” made me think back to school and how all of my designs and schemes that I draw up should always be constantly evolving and pushing toward a more efficient end result. Another topic that Randy discussed with us during that conference was that mistakes are ok. The catch is that you must learn from the mistake and not make the same one twice. He encourages us to think more openly and try new things and if they don’t work, figure out why it didn’t work and learn from it. It is a constant learning process.

After about 45 minutes of taking from the top of his head , Randy realized it was 9:00am so he quickly moved on to work assignments.  I was assigned to work on the DiNucci house project. First thing the next morning, Randy wanted several options of plans, sections, and elevations that could potentially work for this particular project. Thinking of creative schemes for this house was more difficult than I had at first thought it was going to be. One of the reasons being, this house was for clients who already had an images in their minds of what they wanted/didn’t want and how much they were willing to pay. Coming straight out of school where designing with a practical budget in mind is advised, I began to realize that an extra 500 square feet made a huge difference in a house that was going to cost 120 dollars a square foot to build.

A couple of options were laid out and Randy helped us refine one option that would probably be the best bet for the clients. We got the schematic design set finished and ready to be sent out for overall cost estimation the following week.

With a client meeting about the design revisions in the following weeks, a new, updated study model needed to be constructed to show how the new design was altered compared to the last one. Randy said that building models to explain spaces to clients is still the most effective way to make sure they understand everything that is going on.  Randy showed us the seven previous models he had built himself as part of the design process.

The weekend was a bit more relaxed than the last, and we were able to get out into the city and eat dinner at a Mexican restaurant, Roja. It was an interesting building with contrasting elements and numerous tectonic connections on the interior. On Sunday, we made our way to an older district of Omaha called the Old Market. This area reminded me of Westport in Kansas City with the numerous shops and restaurants. The slow paced weekend helped me absorb the city and get a better understanding of everything.

January 17, 2010

refine and document

Monday started out with an office meeting. Randy went over the ideas and history of the studio at Randy Brown Architects. RBA started in 1993 as a small firm where a lot of collaboration between design members took place. It changed a lot over the years and RBA was up to 12 architects at one point and that was when a lot of the collaboration stopped. This caused the firm to lose its focus. Now it’s back down to seven full time members and one part time.  Randy believes this is better because design ideas won’t get lost in translation, and more collaboration can occur. We also talked about making blogs for the firm. Jon and I are going to use material from our journals to posts on a blogging page. Randy thinks it will be a great way to express to people what is accomplished at RBA each week.

Randy also discussed at the meeting his system of design. I learned he has a very appealing system of refinement and documenting the process. The final conversation was about the projects to work on. Jon and I were assigned to the schematic design phase of the DiNucci Residence. It is a house for a family of four located at 78th and State in Omaha. We were to compose a series of sketches and CAD drawings of new floor plans, sections, and elevations.

The rest of the week was spent on refining and revising the drawings. Saturday was a day of driving. We drove all around the suburban area to get a better understanding of what Omaha is like. Omaha is very similar to my home town of St. Charles, which is a suburb about forty minutes from downtown St. Louis. There are a lot of stripe malls and “cookie cutter” neighbor hoods that look very similar. We also drove by a project Randy designed. It is a strip mall located at 120th and Blonde. It was noticeable an architect designed it because of how different it was from everything else around. I also went to Westroads which is an indoor mall off of Dodge Street. It was very similar to the malls in my home town.

Sunday I went down to the Old Market near downtown Omaha and saw some interesting restaurants and shops. Due to the cold temperatures it was not ideal for walking around but when it warms up it seems to be a great place to eat, shop, and spend an afternoon walking around. Also, I drove around the downtown area and saw some interesting buildings.

January 15, 2010

Welcome to RBA

Welcome to RBA! This blog has been established as a means to convey what we are working on, thinking about and what we may revere at the moment -which could be a piece of writing, song lyrics, film, art or a work of architecture; it all has a purpose to design.

A major component of the winning platform for the Obama campaign was in promoting transparency of the inner workings at the White House and government at large (although incredibly large). In the RBA studio, (at a much smaller scale), we are just as eager to invite the public into the inner workings of what we do in an effort to promote a greater awareness and effectiveness of our design. This is a place for the ideas and rigor of our work to engage in a larger discourse about design with other colleagues as well as clients.

Please continue to check in as the site will develop as we move along… it is a process after all and we expect something great from it.

January 15, 2010

First rule of marketing is to be the best!

The first rule of marketing is to be the best!

AIA National Honor Awards for Interior Architecture

1999-2010- most awards won in last 10 years

1)    Randy Brown Architects [RBA]      (6)

2)    Elliott & Associates                              (5)

3)    SOM                                                        (4)

4)    Pugh + Scarpa                                      (4)

5)    Peter Marino Architects                       (4)

6)    Clive Wilkinson Architects                   (3)

7)    Morphosis                                              (3)     

8)    Shelton Mindel and Associates         (3)

9)    Perkins + Will                                         (2)     

10)  Architecture Research Office             (2)      ­

The second rule of marketing is to be the best!

January 12, 2010

Specialization, necessary evil

Does the firm specialize in one or more project types? List the firm’s project types. Have the firm’s project types remained constant or do they change over time? How does the firm make decisions about what project types to seek?

This question was discussed with Randy, Chris, Andy, and Jon as a group during an office meeting on Tuesday January 12, 2010.

The first thing out of the bosses mouth was that Randy wants to do all types of projects, but with the hurdles we face trying to constantly break into new markets, it is better to focus on what we have done best and slowly emerge from that to larger and more complex projects.  The RBA work falls into three main categories, (Randy calls them “buckets”) Cultural, Identity, and Dwelling.

Cultural consist of projects such as Bellows Center for Art and art installations, Identity is work such as offices and retail. The US Data Office is a great example of the image RBA is trying to set with this focus on creating Identity for our clients. The third “bucket” would consist of Custom Modern Residential works such as the Tipp Residence (Optic House) and the DiNucci Residence.

Randy went into detail about when first starting Randy Brown Architects. He wanted everyone to think he did everything from urban design to a chair, but now he has realized he wants RBA to focus in on the work that can have remarkable outcomes.  Even though RBA doesn’t market every field of design does not mean RBA is not interested in new project types it has not done before.  If a client wanted chairs (or a skyscraper) to be designed for a certain project, that task is something RBA will take on and will do the best job possible.

We got into the details about doing great projects and Randy discussed his intention for RBA to be “a highly creative, remarkable, design firm.”

A firm that raises the bar.

A firm that makes noise.

A firm that makes great experiences for people.

A firm that cares about its clients and wants to do everything possible to ensure the client projects design helps the client achieve their business objectives.

Nothing at RBA is thrown together, nothing except Randy’s hair.  Everything is well thought out, looks astonishing, functional, take in consideration of how people feel in the space and it will (damn straight!) bring success to the client.

From this discussion I have learned a great deal about the RBA design intentions. I am in the process of being taught how to make architecture. I look forward to the learning process and how RBA strives to create the most successful projects and achieves RBA architecture and art goals by consistently surpassing the goals and expectations of their clients. As Randy said “RBA can do all types of architecture but we would rather center our attention on the modern clients who have passion for design and want to build great projects for the visual and bodily experience!”

January 10, 2010


Reflecting upon the first week at Randy Brown Architects (RBA) I realized that I learned many things that I will be able to use even after I leave this internship position. The first week was about starting the year off on the right foot and getting the office to an organized state. The flat files were all sorted and all the projects that were either finished in the last year, or on hold, were neatly stacked in the dead files storage. Many things around the office were also arranged and labeled so that they can now be more readily found. For instance, the printer stand and tool wall were constructed to help keep everything in its rightful place. Whenever there is a need for 8.5 X 11 paper, it can be found in its specific paper slot on the printer stand. Staying organized was the lesson learned.

Towards the middle part of the first week, I was assigned my first real architectural task. GA Houses publication asked RBA to submit a residential work that RBA had completed within the last year. At five pm on Friday, we would be sending out the material that GA House would publish in there famous book series  GA houses. My job was to take the elevations for this project and give Randy options of different ways to render the elevations. This was something I found very interesting and rewarding. By Thursday, I had a few options for Randy and he was able to pick the most appropriate one for what he was trying to convey in the design. I learned that because we were able to see numerous possibilities of ways to render the elevations, we were able to pick the most convincing option which happened to be black and white line drawings with black shadows. By Friday, the drawings went out and I was put to another task.

Documentation. This is something that I have learned to do as a student in school, and it was intriguing to learn that it is also done in a professional firm. Everything that goes onto paper gets recorded in one way or another. Whenever a print comes out of the plotter it is recorded on a plot chart. Part of the reason that everything must be documented is to be able to budget for supplies and also to be able to bill a client for the time and money it took to complete the task. I was asked to document the elevations of the GA Houses submission, so that we could go back and look at where we started with the drawing and where we ended with the drawing. It was helpful to document everything, from sketches to printed drawings. This is a technique that I have and will continue to incorporate into my own academic career. Knowing where I started with a project will definitely be helpful in explaining how I ended with what I did in a project.

The weekend wasn’t really a chance to take a break from the first week at work, but it was a chance to see behind-the-scenes making of a movie production. Farshid Assassi came to Omaha to help RBA film a small movie of the US Data project which received an AIA National Honor Award for Interior Architecture. The neat thing about the movie idea is that while everyone else (other firms) is just flipping through slides of their projects, RBA will have a motion picture of this project. Randy said, “It’s about being one step ahead of the competition.” This is something that you will be remembered by. The hours unquestionably went into making this a very good production and I am very interested to see the movie when Farshid is finished editing and putting it all together. Just being there watching and helping set up for each scene helped me realize how important every camera angle is and what you have to go through to be “one step ahead of the competition.”

January 10, 2010

finally meet randy

Monday January 4, 2010 was the start of the internship at Randy Brown Architects. Randy was out of town but I worked with Chris, another design team member. We went through the basics of the office, to get oriented and to know where supplies and information are located. We did some in-house cleaning and organization and then built monitor stands for the office. Monday was a pretty simple day but I was able to learn a lot about some of the projects being worked on or recently completed.

On Tuesday, I finally met Randy, as well as Andy, another intern who comes in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We started the day with a meeting about the Office Life and the projects to start working on. The first assignment was a submittal for GA House magazine on the Tipp Residence (aka Optic House). I searched the computer files for images and drawings of the

Optic House, which was an excellent way to get myself familiar with the project. Once we found the images and drawings we wanted, we started putting them into presentation format.

I worked on the drawings Tuesday, Wednesday, and for a small amount of time on Friday. Thursday, Thursday night, and Friday was dedicated to making a model, which we could take photographs of for this submittal. Working in collaboration with Randy, Chris, and Jon we all went through a series of refinement and changes to the drawings. After the first evaluation, it was decided that the way the drawings were being presented were not actually representing what they needed to be. So Randy had the idea of making everything lines and black shadows, which in the end resulted in a great amount of depth to the drawings. It really made the drawings pop.

During this assignment I really began to understand the firm and how it works. Randy really emphasizes process and documenting the process. This system is a lot different from what we are taught at school. In my educational experience, rarely do professors emphasis documenting your work throughout the process, but the documentation is usually complete after the project is finished.

After finishing up the submittal for GA Houses on Friday we headed over to US Data. It was located at about West Center Road and 168th Street. US Data is an interior renovation project Randy had completed and won an award for. We needed to set up the space for a motion picture film shoot by Farshid Assassi. We cleared off desks, cleaned the floors, and put up lighting in certain areas. Randy is going to use the motion picture film at the award ceremony as a new media way to present a project. On Saturday January 9 and Sunday January 10, 2010 we met up early at the US Data building to begin filming. It took about ten hours each day before the film was completed and ready to be edited. I learned there is a lot involved in a motion picture film shoot. For every scene there is a great amount of lighting factors which must be considered to get a quality scene. Also, making the camera show what needs to be shown in order to express the building in the correct way is another factor taken into consideration during this process. I did many jobs including a gaffer and assistant to the gaffer.  For one scene, I sat on the dolly with farshid and his camera and Randy pushed us while the model and I each held a fluorescent tube.  Hilarious!!!!

This experience showed me the importance of documentation and how it can be more than photography alone. There wasn’t much time to learn about the city this weekend because of the photo shoot but the weather wouldn’t permit us to do too much anyways. It was in the single digits and negatives all week long with about three feet of snow on the ground.

January 4, 2010

Studio work flow

How does your sponsor firm organize people to do work? Is the firm structured in two departments, studios, (stable work groups that function like offices within an office), or teams (flexible work groups that tend to change with each project)? Discuss the firms’ structure. Is the firm compartmentalized, what are the functions of the different departments? If the firm is organized into studios, are the studios specialized by building type? If the firm works in teams, what is the makeup of each team? How effectively does the organization appear to be functioning?

The discussion was held in group format and the contributors were Randy Brown, Chris Turner, Meg O’Mara, and I.

Randy Brown Architects (RBA) is as efficient as it is because of its organization. “Our own space has to be organized to show organized thought” said Randy.   This is vitally important in an office. The first day at Randy Brown Architects, we were preparing for this question. We organized the entire office for the upcoming year.

The firm is structured (organized) as one big studio sharing a warehouse space. Everyone is in the same room together. There aren’t any specific departments or work groups. We work and interact with Randy and then Randy individually works with us. This type of structure works well at RBA because everyone knows what they need to be doing.    Most importantly, Randy has an idea of where everyone is on the specific task all the time. Randy mentioned that in a large firm, a lot of times, the boss of the firm doesn’t have a clue what their employees are doing and will just show up to the client meetings with the drawings their employees produced. This type of disconnect is what RBA has avoided and will continue to avoid. In large firms, you more than likely won’t work with the boss hand in hand like we do at RBA.

While working in one big room, you might think there is some type of hierarchy amongst the employees, but that could not be more false. There isn’t any hierarchy of staff at his office.

At the beginning of each day, Randy communicates to us, through a group meeting, the expectations he has for each of us for the day. Working individually on projects has many advantages. Sometimes more than one person works on the same project, but usually we are all working on different things. Today I might be working on a certain project and the next day I could be working on something totally different. This is effective for me because I am learning more about the practice from working on numerous different projects. Everyone does everything. Another advantage to working on projects individually is that you feel more connected to each of the projects since you get to work on all of them. You don’t get yourself tied up in one project, like in studio; because you jump around from one project to another before they get finished. I thought this was something that was going to be hard for me to do, but so far, I think it has enabled me to work more efficiently. I don’t waste time trying to figure everything out. Each project is similar to an assembly line and everyone gets an opportunity to work on it.  But the RBA assembly line is more like an upside down roller coaster-  hang on each project is a great ride.

Something interesting I noted from the discussion was about responsibilities. It was interesting to hear what our responsibilities are with the way the firm is handled. Because all the staff works on the projects, our responsibilities may be smaller, but because we all do work on each of the projects, we have several smaller responsibilities. These responsibilities to other members of the team are what make RBA so remarkable.

From this discussion, I learned that organization within a studio is necessary for it to be successful and that having more, smaller responsibilities is an effective way to learning new things.