Thursday, March 26, 2009

Seaside Atmosphere Painting and Knowing When to Stop

In Watercolor, how to show mood or ambiance with minimal strokes or over-working a piece?

One idea I tried while taking a class with Frank Constantino, an architectural rendering and illustration and most of all artist mentor friend of mine, was to think of a mood or poetic, reverie type moment and attempt to convey it. Less is truly more in terms of strokes and a reduction of thinking and working a painting, something I often have trouble with.  

I found more here by strongly of thinking of a memorable image or combination of memories of places I've been to find this one image.   I held the gestalt in my mind while I began laying down initial light blue overall wash wetting the entire paper and then applying all of the successive  layers of color and washes.

While the image matured in the course of an half hour or so I slowed down and began to realize it was nearing completion and eventually stopped.  Working with the wetness of the paper and laying down colors is an unforgettable and engaging process.  When it's done, it's done.  It is very satisfying to know when to stop.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Single Family Home Design Sketch

Here is a simple one level plan residential sketch done a while ago which entailed a spirited sketching process.

Notice the solar electric pv's on the south facing entry roof.  Skylights punctuate interior spaces with dazzling daylight.  An arbor covers a west facing terrace with great views to surrounding hills.  There's a classic progression from open communal areas to quiet spaces such as bedrooms and home office areas.  

A contemplative garden with morning sun directly connects to the master bedroom.  

The approximately 2,000 sf horizontal design could add a loft or story and a half for additional bedroomsand living spaces upstairs.  A detached garage and garden barn would be a short walk away.  Expressed heavy timber framing in the living area and master bedroom bring in a rugged mountain aesthetic.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vermont Building Professionals Day Next Week!

This looks like it could be a very informative event to attend for interested professionals able to make time next Weds.   It'll be week four or so in the stimulus package roll-out with more information available on implementation relevant to our work around the state.  There will likely be more realism about what's happening and how the process is working or not working.

Vermont Building Professionals Day
At The Vermont State House
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Building Industry Professionals are Encouraged to Participate
The day begins at 9:00am in Room 11
In The Vermont State House

Building industry professionals, homebuilders, contractors, engineers, architects and support services will be coming together to meet with the Governor, Legislative Leaders, Legislative Committees and State officials in charge of the Stimulus Program.

We will all meet in Room 11 of The Vermont State House at 9:00 am.. We will be briefed on our day at the State House and hear from State Officials on what to expect with the recently passed “Stimulus Package” and its impact on Vermont.

All participants will be briefed at that time on the agenda for the day that will include a number of meetings with other state officials at the State House. Among some of the important issues to be discussed with legislative leaders will be The Stimulus Plans, Statute of Repose and the Need for a uniform state building code.

Those participating are encouraged to RSVP to Hanne Williams at: or 802-496-3761 by Monday, March 23rd 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Helping Vermonters Get Ahead, Notes from the Stimulus Workshop

Design Cultivation sometimes needs to look at broader issues effecting the health and well being of the Design Professions. For my profession and the building industry in general this is the worst business cycle I have ever seen in my life.   Therefore writing about our current situation and highlighting areas of hope is essential.  I'm looking for information as much as anyone.  Here's a little bit of what I know and where to find it.

One such place to look was last Friday’s 3/6/9 (ARRA) Stimulus workshop at Champlain College in Burlington, VT.  For those of you whom couldn't attend I've included some information for you.  Please read one.  The half day long workshop reinforced how crucial cultivating strong relationships and networks really are.     

700 plus people from all areas of Vermont gathered to hear the latest information about the stimulus package and its implementation. The energy in the room was electric, filled with expectation, hope and confusion.  Senator Leahy, Governor Douglas and the President of Champlain Collage, Dave Finney all spoke.  Go to Leahy's site to see and hear his remarks. Ted Brady from Leahy's Vermont Office introduced everyone and kept the opening ceremony going.  As always, Vermont was out of the gate first in the nation, in true independent Yankee spirit, holding the first in the nation  workshop bringing together stakeholders to learn about the opportunities the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act presents to our beleaguered state.

All three joked in a positive way about the unlikely gathering of democrats, republicans and others together in one place.  They stressed the importance of reaching across the aisle and working together to improve Vermont's economic situation.  Leahy stated this is the worst economic crisis in a generation and possibly since the Great Depression.  He quoted the latest 8.2% US unemployment figures were the lowest in a generation, not seen since the dark days of 1983.  Of course, I was a Junior in High School in 1983.  I don't remember much except Reaganomics, freeing hostages from Iran and something called high inflation.  I think my parents were much more worried about all of that than I.  Now it's my turn!  

Strong state level coordination is absolutely necessary to leverage this short term infusions of funding for the benefit of generations to come.   Governor Douglas has appointed Tom Evslin to coordinate the Office of Economic Recovery for Vermont.  Perhaps he can pull together a talented team of Vermonters to keep all of these efforts on track.  They plus the team of non-partisan professionals heading the Joint Fiscal Committee working on behalf of the State Legislature have produced assessments and information I think very directly helpful to Vermonters.  I've linked their names to the web pages summarizing recently available information.  There's a summary of Vermont Fiscal Impacts which is especially useful.  Peter Welch's office also has some great summary information as well.  The User's Guide to Economic Recovery Resources is another important first step.  He and his staff have produced an interactive site helping Vermonters understand specific benefits of the program in a little bit more detail.  

For those unable to attend, Senator Leahy's Webpage Conference page has a direct links to pdf summary handouts identifying the key effects of the stimulus package (ARRA) both locally and federally.  These handouts also identify the names and phone numbers of the breakout session participants.  Please contact them with your questions.  While they may not have immediate answers. (regulations and procedures in many cases are being written as I write)  They will get back to you.  I've had good luck already with mine.

To see a list of all of the proposed projects on the table from Vermont's Municipalities you can see it at t'wo places which I recommend checking if you're curious.  Go to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns website for their information.  It was updated early last week.  The other location is found on the Office of Economic Stimulus and Recovery site under the Reports and Documents section. 

There are a variety of events listed on the their calendar which some appear to be web based while others are not.

I don't know if my firm will benefit directly and immediately from all of this activity but I am certain over the long term the people I'm meeting and programs I'm learning about will make a difference not only to the architectural office I work in but more importantly Montpelier where I live and the greater community of Central Vermont and beyond.    

I've already started to see evidence of funding happening in the affordable housing area and energy efficiency , Children and Crime sectors.  I am seeking  information about possible oppourtunities to respond to potential requests for proposals and qualitifications generated by Stimulus Funding for Architectural and Planning services where an eye to Green Design and Sustainable Planning are important to project successes.

If you have any questions or need resources please don't hesitate to email me here at DC or at work at  My work phone is 802-496-4004.  Comments and new information are welcome!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stalking and Capture of Clients_Indirect Selling Tips for Design Professionals

I own a little jewel of a book titled This Business of Architecture, written by Royal Barry Willis, published 1941 by the Reinhold Publishing Corp, NY.

A favorite of mine is the part of the book devoted to developing one's business.  Specifically, The Stalking and Capturing of Clients.  ... Here he is writing to the architect business person.

"You want people who are going to build to desire your architectural services.  They may arrive at the desire indirectly, through repeated auditory or visual acquaintance with your name and work, or you may gain their confidence by a direct approach, and a successful sales talk."

Being aware of how and when to use direct or indirect methods of marketing towards prospective clients is crucial to building a business, especially one where repeat clients and referrals comprise a large portion of continuining work.  I will share with you some priceless gems from on Indirect Selling from a 1941 perspective.  Forgive the dated language of the following list.  Much of this is priceless and timeless advice.

  1. Temporary exhibits in architects' exhibit spaces, stores, newspaper office windows, or building report headquarters.
  2. Newspaper and magazine articles on the practical and economic phases of building, or popularized stories about architecture, or on momentarily controversial subjects relating to architecture.
  3. Regular appearance of sketch plans and elevations in newspapers. (or websites, or blogs)
  4. A sequence of printed outlines, covering the nature and value of architectural services and the advantages of supervision, to a selected mailing list.
  5. A folder of sketchplans and elevations, displayed in such places as doctor's, oculists', or dentists' waiting rooms.
  6. Illustrated lectures or talks, before clubs.
  7. Movies, "dramatizing" your previous work.
  8. Architectural competitions.
  9. Exhibition houses.
  10. Civic service in town, city planning, or art commissions.
  11. Real estate broker's recommendations.
  12. Recommendations from friends, or club and fraternal (or maternal) acquaintances.
  13. Spreading good-will by "disinterested" bits of architectural advice, whenever the oppourtunity arises.
  14. Having a wife (or husband or partner) in a club and civic work, who keeps their ear to the ground.
  15. Making the most of your college alumni connections.
  16. Printed appeal through a combination service - financial, land and architectural.
  17. Recommendations of a satisfied client.
  18. Regulated social activity, not wasted in the charming company of your own competitors.  Hard-boiled but effective.
  19. Getting your name in print, a John (or Joanne) Brown Architect, for any worthy reason whatsoever.
  20. Going to church more often than Easter and Christmas.
  21. Never avoiding a friendly conversation with an apparently solvent person, even though he (or she ) may be a stranger.
  22. Giving a "University Extension Course" relating to architecture.
  23. Sending a photostated montage of documents attesting to your successes and satisfied clients, to where it will do the most good."  (p. 37-38)
At the end of the day, perhaps the above won't bring clients knocking down your doors but if you and members of your firm do a majority of these above activities on a reoccuring basis your business chances will likely vastly improve.  For many this is common sense of course, however most architects are woefully untrained in the arts of public relations, marketing and business development.   

Please share with me your comments.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Net Zero Buildings in a Net Zero Economy

Bill Maclay, our visionary leader of our design firm was recently published with a guest editorial in this month's issue of Distributed Energy - The Journal of Energy Efficiency & Reliability. It's an outcome of his and our thinking and practice examining the future of high performance building design and the importance of Net Zero Buildings being part of the solution going forward.

Read on --

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lighting Guiding Daylight Blinds and Skylights

This post is about Light guiding daylight venetian blinds made by Warema from Germany.  Notice the upper window band is covered with venetian blinds and there is light reflected upwards on the ceiling.  The lower vision windows allow clear views to the outside landscape.

Highly reflective blades oriented upside down take sunlight and re-direct it upwards onto the ceiling in the room.  This reduces the need for electric lighting in spaces with relatively low ceilings.

Notice the bright daylighting in the background.  Those are from skylights punctuating deep into the space to bring natural light in normally dark areas.

Kitchen Pattern & Texture Inspirations

Tonight I was fascinated with the textures and patterns of everyday objects and equipment in our kitchen.

A ball of yarn evoking interconnectedness, intertwining.

Patterns on a 1960's era Stove Top

Vestigal Space underneath a collander lit from stove hood lights above.

It's interesting the inspiration laying around. The ability to re-interpret the every day, mundane things into something else entirely.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Building & Landscape Continued

This is dreamy watercolor I painted a few years ago where I was trying to blur the distinction between building and landscape.  The surrounding Vermont landscape with its multitude of barns, fields and tree inspired the imagery.

I used a flat brush to cut in the building shapes and dileneate roof lines and minimalist details.

A simple warm color palette was used with complimentary color highlights intermixing into the warm hues.  Designing building into the land and land into the buildings is no easy feat.  Careful attention to contours, earth work, adjacent vegetation and scale of elements intermixed with one another are critical. A balance of building form, mass, openings against adjacent natural is essential.  

Blog Format changes

DC followers please give me feedback on this changed look to a simpler white background and dark letters.  I'm going to update some of the previous posts to correspond so there is more uniformity.

Keep your comments coming

Monday, March 2, 2009

Building & Landscape Integration

I sketched this a summer or so ago. I cropped the view to show a powerful relationship between the famous covered bridge in Waitsfield and the great rock abutment which forms part of its foundation on the village side of the Mad River.

So much of our practice in Vermont relates to this diagram. We're always building and designing in relation to our landscape. It's inescapable. The river in our valley is a formative element which shapes the linear form of the village where our office is located. The covered bridge springs across it touching both sides of the river in a manner which engages and frames the landscape within the bridge abutments. The wood clapboard, shingle roof and heavy timber trusses speak of the landscape in union with the enormous boulders supporting it's structure.

Like the famous Japanese temple at Edo which is always in a state of building and re-building, this bridge is constantly being touched by craftspeople, timber framers in a continuous cycle of care going back generations. There are elements on the bridge which date back a hundred or more years and others which date back to last fall. The bridge is an example of a living system happening in time.