Sunday, January 13, 2008 Launches

Today I launched

It's a website to make the practice of architecture, engineering and construction just a bit easier.

There's some free Microsoft Excel templates there for commonly used forms as well as links to some of my favorite products and services.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Banana Republic Spreads the Myth

The following is a repost of a an article from It further shows how architects have that mystique in society. The commentary between Gawker and Frankie is great. I really liked the comments about Michael Brady and how he ended up in his second marriage, and the very last line - "Five years in a design program, however, at a sufficiently respectable design school will bleed most of the color out of this person's palette and leave them crushed and vulnerable enough to fully engage the profession". How true is that?


Truth Vs. Advertising: The Banana Republic Architect Ads

The Banana Republic ad with the architects—it's everywhere! And it raised some questions for us. So we asked an architect—we'll call him Frankie Lloyd—who works at "a large firm downtown with an eccentric, megalomaniac starchitect at the helm" how the ad stacked up to his reality. The answers may surprise you!

Gawker: So have you seen those Banana Republic ads?

Frankie: No, I haven't.

Gawker: Okay, pick up a copy of any magazine. Well, any medium to highbrow magazine -- the New Yorker or New York mag will work well.

Frankie: Yeah, OK. I saw the one inside the cover of this week's New Yorker.
Wow, the colors of those shirts are very bright!

So what is it like being surrounded by nubile 23 year olds in khaki coordinates at all times?

I am not really sure, to be honest with you. I think I may be involved
in some different types of architecture than these people.

What do you mean, it's not really like that?

Frankie: Well, firstly, these people look really well-rested and almost obscenely casual. If this were a real meeting, the model on the table would have some stray marks on it. More likely, it would be shattered in a million pieces on the floor.

Also, in my experience no architects dress like that - the Liebeskind eyeglasses and black turtleneck/blazer, German expressionist style is still the bottom line at most nyc offices. Most people are executing variations on this basic Sprockets-y theme.

Well, you guys do spend a lot of time in the airy conference room overlooking the Hudson, staring at little wooden dollhouses and making flirty-eyes at each other, right?

I think this is a myth more dangerous than the "Michael Brady is an architect" myth. The Brady Bunch story is totally feasible if you consider that he was an architect and he got divorced, most likely because he worked too much and cheated on his wife with someone from the office. That part is probably true, but that is where the Brady resemblance to reality ends. Honestly, there is just no way he is at home doing sketches and having Peter and Cindy barge in with their completely pedestrian nonsense and still be able to get any real building done.

Gawker: Which of the ladies in this ad most resembles a lady from your office?

There was only one woman with four or five guys in the ad that I was
looking at in the New Yorker. She did not seem to reflect the disproportionately large number of Asian women in the field, so on this basis alone I won't take a stab at this resemblance question.

That having been said, there is a guy with curly hair sitting at the table who looks like a lighting designer I have worked with. Those guys are total lightweights.

Gawker: Do people wear trench coats indoors a lot at your office?

People do tend to wear trench coats a lot. I think architects probably
are really into outerwear. In our office at least, for most of the year they blast the air conditioning to keep us awake all day and maintain design productivity. I don't know if this is like an industry-wide practice, but it is very effective.

Gawker: How would you describe your cheekbones, compared to those of the
architects in this advertisement?

Frankie: Yeah, I mean, compared to these people my cheekbones are so highly
undistinguished. I have nothing more to say on this question.

Gawker: How often do ladies put their giant hobo bags on the conference table during a meeting? Do you think that's appropriate?

It is somewhat common. One woman in the office rocks one of these when she goes to the construction site. She's kind of homely, but I think the bag helps the general look and it gets her the whistles and catcalls she so desperately craves from construction workers.

Do you think these ads will inspire a lot of youngsters to become architects when they grow up?

If I were a high schooler with architectural aspirations seeing this, it would probably be too seductive to resist. Five years in a design program, however, at a sufficiently respectable design school will bleed most of the color out of this person's palette and leave them crushed and vulnerable enough to fully engage the profession.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

New Camera does New Tricks

Last month I was on the punch out of a project and the camera I was using just died! If you've ever done a punch list, or at least the way I do punch lists, you must have a camera. Well, we were able to use our cell phones to take pictures for the rest of the day, but later I went to Best Buy and got a new camera... the Canon PowerShot SD870 IS.

This camera is fantastic. It has a wide angle (28mm) lens plus a lot of other really interesting features. One that I've been playing around basically takes a specified color and makes everything else go black and white. Here's a few of these to show you what I'm talking about.

This photo keys on the color of the green astro turf around the targets.

This photo keys on the red wall at the top of the stair. I really like this picture. The composition was all by chance but I've named this one "Jesus the Painter".

The camera also has the ability to swap colors. This photo shows taking the color of the red brick and replacing the blue of the sky.

(c)2007 - architects r cool

Photo of the day

South Florida on I-75
(c) 2007 - Architects R Cool

... As Required?

"As Required" and other such phrases have been used by architects and engineers for years. But what do these really mean? Shouldn’t we describe what we’re talking about? Such as:

  • As required so that the building does not leak.
  • As required to hold up this material so that it doesn’t fall down.
  • As recommended by the manufacturer of this product in order to perform as it was intended.

Why don’t we just issue a sketch on a napkin to the contractor and just put a note underneath it that says:

Contractor shall build this project As Required to provide the Owner everything they want and doesn’t cost a penny more. Oh, and try not to call me… I’ll be on the golf course.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Photo of the day

Modernage Sign - Miami
(c)2007 - architect r cool

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Technology Changes in the AEC Industry

Every few years the AEC industry makes a leap in how things are done. Since the time that I've been drawing house plans as a 10 year old to now, being an owner of a mid-size firm, I've witnessed many of these.

  • Parallel Bars aka "p-bars" - Before this everyone used t-squares.
  • Rapidograph Pens - Before these people were using adjustable width ink pens. When I first started drafting I tried my hand with these but the ink kept running underneath the t-square and triangles. Even with all of their hassle of having to be cleaned all the time the rapidograph pens were still a lot better than the old-fashioned ink pens. (I got my first rapidograph pen (a double zero) when I was about 12. At the time it cost around $25. I promised my parents that I would be able to use it for years and years. Little did I know how quickly the tips wore out, then I discovered "jewel tips"... ohh... they were sooo smoooth.)
  • Mylar and Electric Erasers - About the same time of my first rapidograph pen I started to use mylar. I can still remember having to lick white plastic erasers in order to correct mistakes. The speed to erase these mistakes was greatly enhanced when I was given an electric eraser for Christmas. Still you had to lick the eraser before using it.
  • Blueline Machines - aka "blueprint machines" - This was the change from the old white on blue paper to blue on white paper. These machines were now small enough that architectural firms of any size could own a small blueprint machine. This created an excruciating job for young interns like myself of being stuck in some out of the way closet to run print after print... just about to die from the ammonia fumes. It was a right of passage into the architectural profession though.
  • CAD - When CAD first arrived on the scene it was... very expensive to say the least. Firms that had CAD required mainframe computers in special rooms and only had one or two because they were so expensive. Firms had CAD departments and only a few were trained on these machines. In order to get their investment back the staff had to work in shifts. In these days a firm would spend over 100k per "seat" as they were called. At this time the "D" really only stood for "drafting". Time was too expensive for an designing.
  • Personal Computers - In the early 80's the personal computers became part of the firm. At first you found them only in the accounting department or at the project admin's desk and typically they were using WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3. When the Apple Macintosh arrived in 1984 you saw an explosion of personal computer use among architects due to the graphic nature of the user interface and the ability to make documents look good.
  • Fax machines - Previously things were hand delivered or sent via the post office. Now it was possible to send documents over the phone line. Fax machines at this time were extremely slow and you had to use electrostatic paper that curled, but it was a lot better than having to wait for the postman to deliver a letter.
  • UPS and later FedEx - It took days to send documents. If you wanted something to get there fast you had to send things by bus or take it to the airport and put it on a plane. I remember many times where I had to run to the Greyhound station to take rolls of drawings to send to a contractor.
  • CADD - As the price for the hardware dropped and CPU speed increased, the prevalence of CADD grew. The "DD" now stood for "design and drafting". Despite a drop in price from over 100k to around 20k per seat, firms were still hard pressed to spend a lot of money to put a CADD station at every persons desk.
  • Networked Personal Computers - When we were able to start to share files and place commonly used documents on a server by networking personal computers this was a big help. We finally stopped having to use sneakernet with floppies and diskettes.
  • Mobile Phones and Pagers - Originally you would find contractors who had phones in their trucks. When they received a call their horns would honk. During this same time the use of pagers was still very prevalent and if you needed to make an immediate call you would have to seek out a public pay phone.
  • AutoCAD and Microstation - Soon there were two predominant companies making PC based CADD software. These were strictly 2D programs. There were a few software packages out there that were the fore-runners of today's BIM software, such as Arris, but for the most part everyone was using 2D software and this wouldn't start to change for many years.
  • The Internet and eMail - The internet has been a huge help to the AEC industry as it has with all other industries. I don't think much needs to be said about this.
  • 3D Modeling and Rendering Software - Originally it was a basic wire frame tool but eventually as Hollywood pushed the limits some of this software became available to architects. This software was seldom integrated within the CADD software.
  • BIM Software (Building Information and Modeling) - For the last few years we're finally starting to see the realization of what architects have been dreaming about for years. The ability to design and build a virtual model that can also be used as a tool to create a set of construction documents. The most prevalent software today for this is Revit.
  • Project Collaboration Software - For several years now we've started to see the emergence of collaboration software. The first attempts of these were similar to the first attempts at CAD. It required a company to have their own server connected directly to the internet over a high speed connection. Along with this it took a lot of IT administration to manage. Today we're starting to see the web-based project collaboration software at affordable prices. This software allows for announcements, contact lists, online document distribution, calendars, RFI logs, submittal logs, change order and pay application logs, and more. The one that I'm most encouraged by is called Tangentworks 550. (Other products that do similar things are Autodesk' Basecamp and Constructware, iSqFt, 37 Signals' Basecamp and WebOffice.)

I feel a bit like I'm listening to my father tell me about the evolution of automobiles over his lifetime, but it's true to a degree. Over my lifetime I've seen a lot of advancements in the AEC industry with how things are produced. It's changes like these that have given me the desire to increase the productivity of architectural firms and the reason that my partners and I created Tangentworks.