Thursday, July 30, 2009

TSA Announces Honor Awards

The Texas Society of Architects has announced this year’s Honor Award recipients. The awards recognize significant contributions to the architectural profession and the quality of the built environment and will be presented during the 70th Annual TSA Convention, Oct. 22-24, in Houston. Click here for a list of the honorees.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guest Blog: Extreme Collaboration

We Have Been Living in a Paper World
by Christof Spieler
Director of Technology and Innovation
Morris Architects, Houston

This is the first installment in a biweekly feature on the TSA blog on how technology is changing the process of architecture – and how we can drive that change to everyone’s benefit. We want to begin a discussion, and we want you to join in.

We are at the cusp of an epic change in our business and our profession.

The way we deliver architecture projects today dates back around a century. That was when consulting engineering established itself as a separate profession, when general contractors started bidding on projects, and when sole practitioners evolved into architecture firms. Thus began a structure of practice that we now take for granted.

This structure was based on the specialization of technological skills, on the integrity of the hard bid, on a military command-and-control model, and, above all, on paper.

Consider how a structural steel beam was designed, fabricated, and erected: an architect designed a building and drew architectural drawings to document it. Those drawings went to the structural engineer, who pulled out relevant information and assembled a set of paper calculations to size members. Those member sizes, along with the geometry of the building, were then transcribed onto the structural drawings. These went to a steel detailer, who mentally assembled them into a 3-dimensional framework and produced a detailed set of erecting drawings. These then went to the steel fabricator, who looked up the dimensions and transcribed them once again, in crayon, onto the steel.

The same piece of information – a gridline dimension – was transferred from paper to mind to paper again at least four times (and that doesn’t even count the transfer from conceptual design to construction documents.) Every one of these transfers cost time and money. Every one of these transfers was an opportunity for error.

The advent of CAD didn’t really change the picture. The structural engineer might be able to use that architect’s file as a background. But the process was still dominated by paper, by transcription, and by possible error.

But all that changes fundamentally with Building Information Modeling (BIM). 2-D CAD was just a different tool for the same process. BIM is a whole new process: a three-dimensional, information-rich, digital prototype of a building that’s shared among the entire design and construction team.

We are in the early stages of BIM adoption right now. We have the architect and the engineer working in the same model, sharing the same data, coordinating as they work. And the engineer’s analysis model comes from the same data. This saves multiple transcriptions and avoids multiple opportunities for error.

That’s what some are calling “lonely BIM.” It’s only the first step. The steel detailer is already working with 3-D models; why should we send him paper drawings? And the saws and drills on the floor of the fabrication shop are driven by a computer; why not feed them digital data? Already, on a few projects here and there, architects, engineers, contractors, detailers, and fabricators are working in the same model. Data is entered once and used many times by multiple disciplines, but never transcribed. That’s “social BIM,” and it will be the norm soon.

BIM alone would be a significant change. But BIM doesn’t come alone. Fundamentally, BIM isn’t a production tool; it’s a communications tool. And when we change how we communicate we change how we work.

The relationships we’ve gotten used to – the cyclical coordination between the architect and the consultants, the RFI blame game between the engineer and the contractor, even the hard bid itself – were based on a paper world. The more readily we can share information, the more we can rethink how we work. We can build truly integrated teams, collaborations between owners, end users, architects, engineers, contractors, and fabricators. We can simulate environmental performance, structural behavior, operations, even emergencies. And, as relationships change, so will legal contracts.

Buildings, too, reflect the old process. That ceiling cavity above your head, the empty space between architecture and structure that gets handed over to the MEP engineer, is a physical coping mechanism to deal with a lack of coordination. It’s full of empty voids that exist only because architects and engineers can’t really figure out how their work interacts and because we’re designing much of our buildings in the field as they get built. If you look at products from industries that have been building digital prototypes for a while – a BMW motorcycle, a Boeing jetliner – you will see very little wasted space. This is not a zero-sum game: we can build better buildings for less.

We are all figuring out the shape of this new world. This will be a biweekly look, from the perspective of the staff of one architecture firm, at how BIM, and everything that goes with it, is reshaping how we make buildings. How is it changing your practice? Tell us in the comments, and ask questions, too – we’ll do our best to respond.

Monday, July 27, 2009

TSA 2009 Cornerstone Award: John and Dominique de Menil

Dominique and John de Menil, 1967. Photo courtesy of The Menil Collection.

In 1973, Dominique de Menil directed the architect Renzo Piano to design a museum for Houston that was “small on the outside, but big as possible inside,” where the visitor “would never know museum fatigue.” The result is The Menil Collection, a world-renowned building and art collection that is a legacy from Dominique and John de Menil’s lifetime of dedication and patronage to architecture and the arts. 

For their distinguished commitment to promoting art, architecture, education, and community, the de Menils will posthumously receive the 2009 Texas Society of Architects Cornerstone Award and will be honored during TSA’s 70th Annual Convention in Houston. TSA President Bill Reeves will present the couple’s son, Francois de Menil, AIA, with a specially engraved commemorative gift during the Presidents’ Gala, Fri., Oct. 22. In addition, the Society will make a donation to a charitable organization in their name.

Established in 1999, the Cornerstone Award is presented in recognition of outstanding contributions that enhance the quality of life by elevating architecture and the arts, promoting the value of community, or preserving the natural environment.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Studio Awards Recognize Eight Projects

Eight unbuilt projects were selected for recognition in the 2009 TSA Studio Awards program after this year's jury reviewed the 109 entries. The jury met July 22 in New York City in the offices of Hariri and Hariri Architecture. Jurors were Gisue Hariri, a partner in the host firm, and Marc Tsurumaki, a partner in Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis Architects.

The projects recognized with Studio Awards are:

• Sorensen Bridge by Fernando Brave, AIA, of Brave/Architecture in Houston

• Extreme Birding, Costa Rica & Alaska by Chris Hudson, AIA, of Morris Architects in Houston

• Flow City/Valencia by Hernan Molina, a student at Texas A&M University

• Kurdistan Transformational School by Christian Owens of SHW Group in Austin

• Lift: Home by Bart Shaw, AIA, in Bedford

• Light Modulation by Nicholas Richardson, a student at UT Arlington

• Museo Nacional de Textiles del Peru by Jeremy Olbrys in Austin

• Yarauvi: A Necropolis in the Dead Sea by Miguel Rivera, AIA, of MirĂ³ Rivera Architects in Austin

The awarded projects will be featured in Texas Architect later this year and celebrated at the TSA Convention in October.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Membership Spotlight: Michael Morton, AIA

Michael Morton, AIA, is principal of m ARCHITECTS, an award-winning Houston architecture firm that focuses on projects where people heal, learn, work, and gather.  A graduate of the University of Houston College of Architecture (1994), he recently served on the Boards for both AIA Houston and TSA. Currently, he is chair of the 2009 TSA Convention Committee.  

Michael is a past recipient of the AIA Houston Young Architect Award (2006) and the TSA Award for Young Professional Achievement in Honor of William W. Caudell FAIA (2007).

TSA recently caught up with him, and he graciously agreed to answer the questions below and share a few images of his firm's work. 

St. John’s School – Scotty Caven Field Press Box by m ARCHITECTS.

Houston Public Library - HPL Express by m ARCHITECTS.

Q & A with Michael Morton, AIA:

1. Who or what inspired you to become an architect?

My older brother took a design studio at UH, and I was fascinated by his drawings and models. I signed up a couple of years later and never looked back.

2. What single work of  Texas architecture inspires you?

The Menil Collection by Renzo Piano, who accomplished so many of the objectives architects strive for on a project (i.e., innovation, functionality, context, natural lighting, and detail) without ending up with a building that looks like the result of a checklist.

3. What project have you most enjoyed working on and why?

We have recently completed the first in a series of projects for the Houston Public Library called HPL Express. These facilities provide visitors access to email, Internet, and computer training, as well as books. It is very rewarding to work on a project that empowers people without a computer by giving them access to information that many of us take for granted.

4. What's your dream project?

Any project that is not low-bid and does not have a project manager. I’m serious.

5. What is the biggest challenge that architects face, and how do you think the profession can overcome it?

The biggest challenge we face is teaching future generations to be leaders, to take responsibility, and to work hard. Firms must develop a “no-slacker” policy and insist that interns get licensed and accept that being an architect means being a leader and taking responsibility for their work.

6. What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing an architecture career?

I would advise them to spend a day at a firm and see what people are actually doing.

7. What's the best place you've ever visited and why?

I love Italy’s architecture, landscape, food, and wine.

8. What new skill do you want to learn?

I want to learn a martial art.

9. What product or service can you not live without?

I cannot live without the calendar on my PDA. It tells me when to get up, what to wear, and where to go; just like my mother used to do.

Visit the TSA blog Mon., Aug. 3, for the next Membership Spotlight.  

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two for Texas

Cinco Camp by Rhotenberry Wellen Architects

In the past two days, The New York Times has featured two very different Texas-based design projects: Arlington’s new three million square foot Cowboys Stadium, designed by Bryan Trubey of Dallas-based HKS Architects (Click here to read the article.), and an adaptive reuse project, designed by Mark Wellen of Rhotenberry Wellen Architects in Midland, which features five steel shipping containers as a weekend getaway in a remote West Texas spot. (Click here to read the article.) 

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Membership Spotlight

A new series on the TSA blog, Membership Spotlight, will showcase TSA members from around the state every month. Check back next Monday to read about Michael Morton of m ARCHITECTS in Houston. 

Friday, July 10, 2009

Web Site Features 3 Texas Winners of AIA's 2009 Small Project Awards

(Image above of Cup City; courtesy of Legge Lewis Legge/AIA).

Three projects by Texas architects are currently featured in two slide shows on Architectural Record's Web site. The online version of AR's July edition expands the magazine's printed coverage of the 20 recipients of the AIA's 2009 Small Project Awards.

The slide shows highlight projects awarded in the two categories – "objects" and "structures" – of the annual design competition. The three Texas projects, all located in Austin, are:
Cup City by Legge Lewis Legge of Austin
Chapin Studio by Clayton Levy & Little Architects of Austin
Trail Restroom by MirĂ³ Rivera Architects of Austin

Click here, to view the slide shows.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

TA Editor Tours River Walk's New Extension

On May 30 the latest improvements to the famed San Antonio River Walk officially opened. Known as the "Museum Reach Urban Segment," the project extends the River Walk 1.3 miles north of downtown and includes new public accesses to the San Antonio Museum of Art and the new mixed-use development at the old Pearl Brewery.

Texas Architect Editor Stephen Sharpe recently toured the project with Boone Powell, FAIA, principal of Ford Powell & Carson Architects and Planners. Powell was the firm's principal in charge of the project. 

In the photo, Powell (center) explains some of the details of the project to Sharpe (far left). At the far right is Steven Schauer, manager of external communications for the San Antonio River Authority. The trio walked the length of the extension on the morning of July 6. In the background is the new turning basin where tourist barges and water taxis will turn around for the journey back toward downtown. The turning basin also features an outdoor stage for concerts and other events, similar to the historic Arneson River Theatre along the downtown stretch of the River Walk in La Villita.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Residential Design Featured in Texas Architect

Check out the July/August issue of Texas Architect, which features residential design ranging from the construction of an 1800-sf house plus studio in Houston's Southampton neighborhood (cover photo) to the adaptive reuse of five metal shipping containers into a remote respite in West Texas.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

International Green Construction Code Now in the Works

Bruce Buckley, Architectural Record, June 30, 2009 -

Code officials could see a new universal regulatory framework to guide the design and construction of green commercial buildings by the end of next year.

On June 29, the American Institute of Architects, along with the International Code Council (ICC) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), announced their intent to create an International Green Construction Code (IGCC).

The new code aims to cover all aspects of sustainability in the built environment, from roofing to ventilation strategies, drawing from existing codes and standards to create one universal code. The code will apply to new construction and renovations. “We hope this will bring all of the separate efforts together and put them under one umbrella to make it easier for jurisdictions to know what they are adopting,” says Adolf Zubia, ICC board president. Read more here.