Monthly Archives: April 2012

State of the Union. Six shortlisted teams unveil vision boards for LA’s Union Station.

Architecture teams developed concepts for the 42-acre area, presenting “vision boards” containing conceptual renderings—with no specified limitations— for the neighborhood as it might look in the year 2050.

Shortlisted teams:

  1. EE&K a Perkins Eastman Company/UNStudio
  2. Gruen Associates/Grimshaw Architects
  3. IBI Group/Foster+Partners
  4. Moore Ruble Yudell Architect and Planners/Ten Aquitectos/West 8
  5. NBBJ/ingenhoven Architects/SWA Group
  6. Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)/ Parsons Transportation Group

Via Architects Newspaper

New eZine. has launched an eMagazine that features a broad spectrum of architectural culture and trends.

The eMagazine articles include Insight, which highlights interviews with clients and discussions with academics and curators, news headlines, Building Review, Film and Product Spotlight.

Via A Daily Dose of Architecture


Flood of Funding. Residents of Houston passed a ground-breaking measure to fund a water and wastewater infrastructure with a pay-as-you-go plan.

This innovative funding tool for a large-scale drainage project is virtually unprecedented, and is a monumental step for Houstonians that offers a roadmap for other cities.


related links:

Space Exploration. AECOM’s NASA Sustainability Base at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, may be one of the most forward-thinking building projects in existence.

The LEED Platinum facility blends highly technological green design with innovations originally devised for use in space exploration to form a working office that also showcases the intelligent technology developed by NASA.






Not everyone is comfortable being generous with their knowledge. Many choose to hold it close to their chest hoping that their exclusive ownership of it will somehow be a competitive advantage. But people won’t know you have this knowledge if you don’t talk about it … and talk is cheap.

In order to convince people that you know your subject thoroughly, you have to show it. What better way to do this than to give it away?

Firms like HMC Architects and SWA Group are putting their knowledge to work in the form of educating the general public. (Full disclosure: Walter Communications has worked with both firms on these projects.) In both of these cases, young people are the knowledge-sharing conduit. SWA’s Matt Baumgarten notes, “Kids can spread information very effectively. Once they understand the concepts, they go home and teach it to their families.”

HMC’s godfather of sustainability Pablo La Roche recently led a workshop series on sustainability at a local elementary school. This initiative was made possible by a grant from the firm’s Designing Futures Foundation in an effort to contribute to the next generation of environmental stewards.

SWA is organizing two events in Houston, Texas for this fall that aim to open the public’s eyes to the real danger of living in a floodplain by calling their attention to the 100-year floodline and the natural infrastructure of the City’s bayous. The first is an art installation and the other is a series of presentations to public schools and an organized two-mile student walk along the 100-year floodline. These initiatives effectively build stronger connections with their communities and garner kudos from the press, but they also reinforce their reputation as experts – and as an added bonus, they keep employees happy and engaged.

Another firm that has impressed me by their know-how generosity I learned about at KA Connect –the single event where all the AEC industry innovators hang out. Through their strict focus, client list, research and services, Ayers Saint Gross has built a solid reputation and positioned itself as a resource for anything related to campus planning. The firm and its website is the single place a university need look to compare their campus with other schools, to access an image resource library, to find research and whitepapers on the latest trends and to hire top tier planning and design services.

Yes, this could be seen as a risky move since the competitors of Ayers Saint Gross can also access this resource, but the gamble pays well. According  to Principal Jim Wheeler, the firm’s policy is “give it away” and even goes so far as to require all employees to demonstrate knowledge through research, speaking and publishing. When firms set an expectation like this internally, it raises the bar and challenges staff to clear it. It may not be the right environment for every professional, but for those who want to take part in shaping their profession it is the place where they will thrive. What firm doesn’t want this type of person working for them and representing them to the public?

Ayers Saint Gross has it right.  They are creating a culture of learning, thinking and testing. Through this culture, they have created a reputation for stellar services and a continuous cycle of encouraging staff to exceed expectations, communicating findings and winning new challenging projects where they can put their research to the test.

You don’t always have to be the originator of an idea to have a reputation of being knowledgeable about a topic. I ran into Anthony Flint at the American Planning Association conference last week and learned about a new resource that his organization has created. In this case, The Lincoln Institute for Land Policy isn’t sharing its own knowledge (although they do frequently publish their own research and findings), but instead it has aggregated and organized all the scenario planning tools that are currently available in order to help planners learn which tool is right for them, how to use the tools, and to support further development and refinement of scenario planning tools. The Institute’s report “Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools” and corresponding website establishes The Lincoln Institute as an authority on the technology that is pushing the industry in new direction without building a tool of their own.

If all of this sounds good and you are thinking that you’d like to start spreading your firm’s knowledge, make sure you look inside first. If centers of knowledge and leading experts can’t be easily found and accessed internally, then start with addressing this problem. If your firm already has a strong process for knowledge management, then what are you waiting for? This is the stuff of marketers’ and communicators’ dreams.

We’d love to hear how your firm is using its knowledge, leave us a comment.


Design Competition for LA Bridge. Engineers and architects from across the globe are invited to submit designs to replace the Sixth Street Bridge across the Los Angeles River east of downtown.

Engineers believe the 80-year-old bridge has a 70 percent chance of collapsing in the next 50 years and a very good chance of falling during a major earthquake. “The Sixth Street Bridge design competition will make sure the new bridge reflects our city’s spirit and style,” L. A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says.

Architects Aid Tsunami Efforts. A new community center that serves to help with tsunami rehabilitation and support program has been completed in Thalalla Mathra, Sri Lanka.

The community center was built in a Buddhist temple’s land as a token of gratitude to the Chief Monk of the temple who helped the tsunami-affected village by providing food, accommodation and sanitary facilities during the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami.

Architecture Billings Show Slight Uptick. The commercial sector continues to lead the Architecture Billings Index (ABI), which has remained in positive territory for the fifth consecutive month.

The American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index has shown a slight increase in so-called billings for the past five months. The billings index is viewed as an early indicator for future development work, given that developers need designs before they build.

After the Architecture Meltdown. With the heyday of architecture long gone, what do architects do after the recession?

‘So what needs to change? Our conception of what Architecture is. We need to accept that Architecture isn’t just designing – but building, creating, doing. We need to train architects who are the agents of their own creative process, who can make their visions come to life, not 50 years down the road, but now. Today.’

It wasn’t that long ago when the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries looked down on the idea of marketing and self-promotion. For the most part that has changed today, but in many firms the role of marketing is still dominated by proposal generation leaving little time remaining for analytical thinking about markets and audiences. The industry continues to be behind the curve as compared to other professional service fields.

The role of the web in AEC marketing is no exception. Having a presence online is the norm. Every firm has a website, because everyone expects to find your firm online. While each day, more AEC firms are adding social media tools into their online mix, many more are still reluctant to commit, clinging to the myths about social media’s relevance and purpose.

But even the firms that have embraced social media wholeheartedly tend to be using it as a soft sell compared to the online marketing machines that are bringing in new leads daily for other professional service industries. According to Hinge Marketing’s recent report “Online Marketing for Professional Services Firms,” purchasing decisions are influenced by social media – videos, testimonials, photos, stories. These are the elements that distinguish one firm from another. If a prospective client searches for you online, and you’re not there, they will find your competitor.

The report focuses on five professional services groups – marketing/communications, technology services, management consulting and accounting finance and AEC – and suggests that there is a connection between online lead generation and the growth and profitability of a company. Of the professional services firms they surveyed, those that generate a higher percentage of leads online grow faster and are more profitable. Unfortunately, they also found that very few AEC firms generate online leads at the benchmark rate of 40% or more and that AEC has the lowest growth rate out of all the surveyed professional service industries.

 Could this be because of its low level of online lead generation?

 The AEC firms that were more active online, developed a community and showcased unique assets such as a video saw an increase in new clients and more positive mentions about them online. One featured case study that supports the connection between online lead generation and company growth is the architectural firm Modative. About 90% of Modative’s leads come through the website. The firm receives about four warm online leads a week and its web traffic has increased from 10 visits a week to 400 per day in a short time by using search engine data available through tools like Google Adwords to find good keywords that increased search engine traffic. Modative wrote several pieces of educational content on the topic of “small lot subdivisions” and uploaded to their website in their Resources section and requiring an email address to download each piece. This contact info is added to the firm’s list of leads and becomes part of their sales pipeline.

One fascinating twist in their findings is that the AEC industry uses social media for recruiting more than any of the other industries. Perhaps there are lessons AEC marketers can learn from colleagues in the recruiting department.

If architects and engineers follow the online marketing trends of other professional services groups, could the industry see exponential growth, profitability and a new way to do business?

What do you think? Is online marketing the future for your firm?

I spent two days this week immersed in ideas with progressive firms and professionals who are investing in research + development for their work and testing how new technology can shift their practice. I’m still buzzing with new thoughts and eager to build on the connections I made. Stay tuned next week for what I took away from KA Connect.

Architecture and Design Film Festival. The second annual Architecture and Design Film Festival brings 30-plus features, short films and events to the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.

ADFF 2012 includes Pruitt-Igoe Myth, a documentary about Pruitt-Igoe, a St. Louis housing project that became a symbol of modernism’s and public housing’s perceived failures. In the Eames documentary, architect and painter James Franco narrates Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey’s look at Charles and Ray Eames, the king and queen of midcentury modernism.

Eating in Nature. Bamboo Wing restaurant in Vietnam exemplifies the merits of steel-free design.

World Architecture News highlights a slideshow of images that showcase a breath-taking restaurant and event venue by Vo Trong Nghia Co., Ltd at Flamingo Dai Lai Resort in Vinh Phuc province, Vietnam. Constructed entirely using bamboo as a structural and finishing material, the rustic interior is the perfect backdrop for romantic dinners, celebratory drinks and events such as weddings or official ceremonies.

Interview with Frank Gehry.  The 83-year-old architect talks to the Wall Street Journal about his 12-story Opus Hong Kong, the most expensive piece of residential real estate ever built in the city.

“It’s an honor to be called to do a building, especially on a site like this, on the Peak in Hong Kong. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I accepted it that way, and I wanted it to be special. I didn’t want it to be a sore thumb, because you can see it from Central. So I didn’t paint it red.” –Frank Gehry

related: Bloomberg Businessweek

Design Competition. Designs by finalists in competitions aimed at re-imaging three sections of the National Mall are on display and open for public comment. Which is your favorite?

According to Architectural Record, the 12 schemes are available for viewing April 9-15 at the Smithsonian Castle, the National Museum of American History. The concepts seek to restore and improve Constitution Gardens at the Mall’s west end; the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theater, near the center; and Union Square at the east end, near the Capitol. Some aspects call for the construction and/or renovation of structures.

We are starting a new series where we highlight some of our favorite news and online finds for the week. Please share!

Social Media Buzz: Mashable presents 9 key ways to add LinkedIn to your company’s website.

LinkedIn is not only the most useful social network for recruiting, but it’s also 277% more effective at generating leads than Facebook and Twitter. This article shows you how to make it easier for your website visitors to share information with their links, stay connected with your company and to get to know you better as well.

Rising Waters: The Washington Post writes about Architects exploring the design of floating homes as sea levels continue to rise in coastal cities.

“Climate change will require a radical shift within design practice from the solid-state view of landscape urbanism to the more dynamic, liquid-state view of waterscape urbanism.” – Danai Thaitakoo, landscape architect


100 Years Contest: AIA Florida celebrates its 100-year anniversary by finding out the public’s favorite Florida architecture.

Vote for your favorite building among 100 candidates.

related: AIA Florida

Reuse Renaissance: Downtown Los Angeles’ retro-chic makeovers show how retail and restaurants can transform a neighborhood. By @Gluck in the Architect’s Newspaper

“With an abundance of largely intact historical buildings, architects and designers have paid homage to the past by restoring or re-creating many of classic features while adding a modern sensibility.”

related: Kelly Architects, Killefer Flammang Architects, SO/DA

Urban Debate: The New York Times asks, Should Los Angeles New Yorkify? A panel of urban designers, Angelenos and writers weigh in on the topic. By @RoomForDebate

“Millennials are embracing the urban lifestyle by the tens of thousands, especially along the Red Line subway between downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood (two neighborhoods that are every bit as urban as most of Manhattan and, in fact, often stand in for Manhattan in the movies).” – Bill Fulton, Smart Growth America

Sustainability Education: Eco-Structure features an architect’s story how he took parent participation to a new level by hosting a series of sustainability workshops at his son’s school.

“I have taught undergraduate and graduate students in many parts of the world, but few occasions have been as rewarding as this one for elementary school students. The children were excited to learn about ways in which they can protect the planet and build a better future.” – Pablo La Roche, HMC Architects

related: HMC Architects, HMC ArchLab