Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Creating a premiere rowing destination in Aiken, SC

Over the last few years, we've done much to grow in our specialty field of creating environments to support innovation and collaborative work processes. Our current project on the boards offers a refreshing change of pace that is taking us back to some of our analogous architectural roots. In meeting with Aiken County Parks, Recreation, and Tourism we found, with our partners Toole Engineering, a nearly perfect body of water and a local managing authority that aspires to benefit its surrounding community by improving access and creating a design that expressed their aspirations to truly become the world's next great rowing destination.

(Langley Pond Finish Line Tower)

Our conceptual designs are meant to compliment the natural beauty of Langley Pond while evoking both a sense of permanence and forward looking aspiration fitting for the oldest nationally governed sport in America. Drawing on boating sports themselves, the building forms, while still traditional create views that hint strongly at modernism and beyond.

(Langley Pond Boathouse)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Net Neutrality is Capitalism

Considering the wealth created by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Oracle, Cisco, Amazon, Yahoo, Netflix, etc..., claiming #NetNeutrality is socialism is moronic.

Each of these companies succeeded precisely because they did not have to pay to access potential consumers. The internet functions similarly to the real world. You pay for your real estate which is your domain name, your square footage with is your server space, and your internet connection is your driveway. People travel on public roads to get to you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Becoming a better human

"If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it."
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Harvard University Commencement Address, June 7, 1978

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Reflecting on 10 years

This year marks an anniversary a sorts, which more than anything is simply, and quite significantly, a reflection point. 2014 is CONima's 10th year of existence as a business entity, providing architecture and design services to support innovation and collaboration. It certainly existed prior to that. I created conima.com in the late 1990's as my personal portfolio of work. The name created as the best way for me to describe what architecture in its purest form should be, the realization of identity through the built form, a constructed image - CONima.

The last 10 years however are less of a reflection on the meaning of architecture though. This is the mile marker on a different journey, entrepreneurship. It is with tremendous pride that I tell the world that I have lived, supported my family, and in most respects thrived on my own wits with no safety net for a decade now. I have provided good jobs for people I consider friends, helped create industry opportunities for hundreds of people, and supported many philanthropic community efforts to help provide quality educational opportunities in the arts and technology.

The sacrifices have been great at times. The collapse of Lehman Brothers and the Great Recession were particularly gut wrenching. Powerless is the best description I can give to the feelings I had as a business owner with employees when there is no work left. But even those extremes can be survived with honest communication and ethical decision making.

I've learned alot about partnerships as well. I believe that a good partnership is invaluable, but creating a lasting partnership is incredibly difficult. The things that bring people together are often different from the things needed from one another over the life of a company, but once you find the right chemistry you begin to feel unstoppable.

Mostly, I've learned that entrepreneurs are decidedly different from other people. Entrepreneurs are driven, unsatisfied, resilient, obsessively focused, and highly adaptable. They take unbelievable risks because they believe in their willingness to succeed.

Entrepreneurs are people who are willing to quit their job because they believe enough in themselves to find a way to make a living. And once you have that realization, work changes from something that makes a living into something that makes a life.

I quit working for others 10 years ago and began working for myself. My mission has adapted, but the vision is the same. The realization of identity through the built form. 

What is your story?

How can I help you understand it?

How can I help you tell it?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Minecraft Block Storage Cube

This Christmas I really wanted to get my son some Minecraft storage blocks for his room. If your family is like mine, the last year or so has been a running show of your kid playing Minecraft (solo or with friends via Skype), watching videos of people playing Minecraft, and digging holes in your yard to play "Minecraft in Real Life". It can be overwhelming but as they say, sometimes you have to meet the ones you love where they are.

Which brings us back to the Minecraft storage block. We looked all over the web for Minecraft related stuff, but here's the thing, they are expensive! ...and we couldn't actually find what we wanted.

The solution...MAKE ONE!!
(for just $17/cube)

Here's some step by step photos, tips, and lessons learned:

Step 1: Build a wooden box. I used 1/2" MDF. I cut a 4'x8' sheet lengthwise in 16" strips so I could make 3 storage cubes with one sheet. These are slightly under half scale for 'real life' Minecraft (3'x3').

Tip: cut each side 1/2" shorter or they won't fit on the 16" square base.

I assembled using 1" finish nails. 4 at each corner.

Tip: place end nails at least 1" from end to avoid splitting the MDF

Step 2: Prime the outside surface of the cube with a latex primer

Step 3: Map out a rough plan lightly in pencil. Apply base coat.

Tip: this is my biggest lesson learned which cost a day of extra painting. I began with orange because it covered the most area. It was gratifying to paint such a large area, but difficult painting Yellow over it...Start with your lightest color. (It took 8 coats!)

Step 4: Mask your color area and paint (see the yellow over orange issue)

Step 5: Mask your second color area

Tip: I used 1" and 2" masking tape so they could also serve as effective spacers for making pixels

Step 6: Begin to layer in tertiary pixel areas.

Tip: to save money, I mixed my own colors from here on out from the base paint colors
More layers!
Even more layers!
Mixing paints!

Step 7: Admire your work

and the final step...
Last step: Make a kid smile!

Tip: clean your living room before taking photos
Tip 2: deal with it, it's Christmas and you made a Lava Block!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In support of indigenous landscape architecture

In our current economic malaise, should lawns be illegal. They come at a terrible cost to productivity. Assuming $3/gallon in gas, 1 gallon gas/month/lawn, 1 hr/week/lawn, $24/hr average US wage, 1 lawn/3 Americans, 250 gallons water/lawn/week, our annual costs for 100,000,000 lawns are:
$124,800,000,000 in lost productivity
$3,600,000,000 in fuel cost
1,200,000,000 gallons of wasted fuel
1,300,000,000,000 gallons of water wasted

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A.school: educating students architectural thinking

I'm quite fond of saying that Architecture is the design of structures in response to humanist requirements. Those structures are traditionally thought of as buildings, but they could be cities, businesses, societies, or any multitude of other things as well.

To fully apply this methodology, it's structure itself that must be defined. A structure is the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex.

Architecture requires not just understanding the complexity of arrangements and relations, but using those relations to inspire and influence human emotion and behaviors. Therefore to be successful, an architect must be competent in engineering and legal systems, human psychology, project management, geometry, philosophy, and design/composition aesthetic principles.

A.school proposes that common architectural thinking principles are applied across any all fields. To be effective however, the systems that a given structure relies upon must be learned on a case by case basis in order develop maximize the possible solutions available within that system's given constraints.

With this understanding, architectural education can be applied to many fields outside of traditional building construction that rely on human interactions, such as business, technology, education, and politics to improve the societal interactions and outcomes of those fields.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Deciding whether to use Flat Design

As an architect, I'll say flat design, like other modernist movements,  is essential to keep design ornament in check. Left to its own devices, ornament can create delight and texture, but without underlying meaning or intent can quickly become an extraneous taste driven design liability. 

Flat design is a rebellion against the inherent subjectivity in design response. There will be many elegantly beautiful examples of its use, but ultimately, the human need for tactile relationships with their environment, and flat design's stress of logic over emotional response will limit its lasting mass appeal. 

Flat design's underlying ethos of functional clarity will forever distinguish good design from bad in any field. The best examples of it can be considered high art. However, the fashion appeal towards embracing flat design will inherently lead towards a design homogeny and countless designs that lack any appeal towards emotional response.

But let's be honest, every design language ultimately gets corrupted by fashion.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Building a Sustainable Augusta

Should we build local businesses that can finance a downtown revitalization or restore buildings to attract outside companies to move in? As an architect, this may be a surprising answer. Being integrally tied to the construction industry, our profession must develop a deep understanding of boom and bust economic cycles, and in particular recognize that real estate and construction is a support sector of the economy, not an economy unto itself.

It is clear that over the long term, our currently emerging strategy is flawed in that it will perpetuate the outflow of capital from the CSRA. Businesses, for all their flaws, build what they need. Governments build what they think businesses need. If we want to create a sustainable vibrant local economy, we must focus our efforts on supporting local startup businesses that will hire local people and return profits to the local economy. Governments can encourage this development through tax incentives for local investment and grants to support small businesses and research.

If we do this, we will create a lasting prosperity to sustain the long term revitalization of our area and mitigate the extreme cyclical nature of the real estate and construction industries.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Innovation Architect

How do you start a post that is intended to be a summary explanation of a philosophical transformation of your approach to work? Undoubtedly anything you write will seem pompous, and even more so you are sure to be longwinded and a potential bore to your readers. So in short, I think most of what we celebrate in the architectural world is bullshit. We celebrate the ability to spend money, and we celebrate it so much so that people spend inordinate amounts on projects they inherently know are temporary. What makes this absurd is the push over the last decade to celebrate the 'industrial' look. It absolutely pains me to explain to clients that in order to achieve an effective 'warehouse' aesthetic they will need to spend 3 times the amount of money to use rigid spiral ducting so they don't see cheap flex ducts. That instead of just running power and cabling from point a to b, they need to install cable trays and conduit to give it a more orderly appearance. Imagine a client's lack of enthusiasm when told how many thousands they need to spend to spray encapsulate fireproofing so that it doesn't flake off on their desktops over time and can then be painted so that it doesn't look like hideous spray on fireproofing anymore. That industrial stainless look in a kitchen or breakroom...absolutely the most expensive way to go, and most if it isn't even industrial grade. Want to save money and have cubicles in an open office, that's great, but cubicles cost 3-5 times more than a desk. We're talking about millions of dollars wasted here, all because people are sold on a style and the false impression that its cheaper. The simple fact is that you can have a kick ass space and not spend a fortune on it, but you have to accept that raw means just that. $15 can buy all the materials you need for an awesome desk made of dimensional lumber and exposed bolt heads. It's up to you to find someone who will assemble it with thought and care.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Building Dreams

As many of you know, the last two years of my life has been spent pursuing a dream of revitalizing downtown Augusta through the creation of a very broadly encompassing coworking space, inventor’s workshop, education center, and think tank. I have met many talented and generous people in Augusta along the way. Together with the help of a great many contributors from our community, we are making that dream a reality at theClubhou.se
What is the theClubhou.se Member Value Proposition?
Let’s face it, your achievements in life are the product of your talent or skill, your willingness to work, and the people you know. theClubhou.se provides education and fellowship meant to improve yourself. theClubhou.se provides space and equipment to use so that you can work more efficiently and on things that would be difficult to do otherwise. theClubhou.se is full of people who want to know you and help you succeed.
For adults and professionals, $100 per month gains you full membership in theClubhou.se. Become a student of something new, help others learn from your expertise, collaborate and change the world!
If you would like a dedicated space at theClubhou.se just email us at heythere@theClubhou.se
College and High School Students, Seniors, and Veterans can join for $50/month with free day use access, as well as classes, and member events.
How theClubhou.se can help your local community?
Starting with our 15th member, every 5 members we get, we can fund Smartkids.sc to deploy one lighthouse beacon from Hack for Education. That neighborhood will be chosen by the new members who are responsible for that beacon.
This will allow us to self fund our project and promote goodwill in the community. The people on this email list are the first 12 members. We need 3 more and we can do this.
This will also mean that after the initial beacon is installed, each additional beacon will allow both us and our partnering non-profit SmartKids.sc to support another neighborhood, as well as provide an $400 additional per month to fund operations and promising member projects at theClubhou.se.
At theClubhou.se, we don't invest in companies, we invest in the future of our community.
Looking forward to seeing you and your friends at our first /openhouse this December 7th during First Friday at theClubhou.se on 816 Broad St., Augusta, GA, by the Common. Until then, visit online at theClubhou.se

Monday, August 27, 2012

Architecture, why bother?

I often wonder if ancient times had any architects that were not temple builders. We live in a world where virtually nothing is built for the ages, and yet we build so much. We have architects with all types of specialties; residential, commercial, retail, laboratories, stadiums, hotels, hospitals, prisons, schools, interiors, landscapes, urban planning, factories, government, and of course religious buildings. I've personally worked in 11 of those types, though the vast majority of my work has been divided between commercial offices, interiors, and laboratories.

Perhaps it is due to a lack of understanding about ancient society, but I find it hard to believe that there were more than a small handful of architects in Rome at any given time. According to Roman census figures there were approximately 5 million citizens within the empire in first century B.C. If we generously say the were 20 architects, that would have meant one architect for every 250,000 people.

In contrast, I entered architecture school at Georgia Tech with over 100 other young students. Even with attrition, we graduated over 30 new architects from one school in one year. There are currently 154 accredited Architecture programs in the United States. We have roughly 105,000 architects in a country with just under 315,000,000 residents; giving us a ratio of one architect for every 3,000 people. Once minors (20% ~600), unemployed and underemployed (15% ~450), and retirees (12% ~ 360) are removed, that leaves one architect for every 1590 employed adults in America.

These statistics present the obvious dilemma that leave so many architects feeling disgruntled and frustrated. I however choose to look at what opportunities this creates for society. Architects receive a unique education that involves creative technical problem solving, subjective arts and humanities, geometry, history, physics, and philosophy. We are roughly equal parts artist, engineer, and lawyer. We must be proficient in each to succeed, and our career is determined by which one of these roles we gravitate most strongly towards.

This lack of specialization is the fundamental strength of architectural education and allows Architects many options for how best to contribute to society. Among my architect friends I know graphic, web, and video game designers, politicians, inventors, writers, salesmen, public policy advocates, furniture designers, attorneys, construction managers, chefs, professors, and traditional architects. I have lived primarily as an architect and entrepreneur, but mostly I thrive on the enjoyment of the creative process itself. The moment inspiration sparks is a thing of beauty, hope, and joy. Whether you're designing a building, a company, or an urban plan, good design has a way of taking on a life of its own. The proper framework allows the process to become organic and the end product to become self defining. Truly great work challenges you to match wits with it in order to not limit the potential of the design.

Truly great work makes you better...