Architalks: My Three Favorite Words

Note: This is part of the group series called #Architalks led by Bob Borson ( This month’s theme is “My Favorite Words”

The Architalk topic of the month is “My Three Favorite Words”. I believe in simplicity and minimalism. Repurpose-recycle-reuse are the rules for life, but not my favorite words. Brutalism has magnetic attraction. Fenestration is part of my job, not a favorite word. It’s not a chair- it’s Arne Jacobsen. It’s a Peacock. It’s Eames. It’s not piano music, it’s Bach-it’s Baroque- it’s Goldberg Variations- it’s not Aria- it’s Aria De Capo. It’s never a car- It’s a Cadillac, if not-then a transportation of your choice. In short, I love using specific terms, not generic words. To call attention to detail a favorite would be to too much attention to detail. Less-is-more is hearts to the eyes, but I-love-you is heart filled with joy.


Post recession -post two children in need of day care, it made sense to work flex hours and work from home as a consultant- IRA Consultants was born.

I started as a consultant, but I took ownership of the projects I worked on, by habit, without worrying about “what my contract said” and “what I promised to do”. No matter who stamps the drawings, I went above and beyond to ensure there were no errors, and if it was being built- it was built right. There were many a late nighters, dark circles under the eyes, and missed celebrations with friends. At that point, it mattered that recession was over. At that point, it really mattered to finish a project on time, and finish it well so that we got repeat clients – the “we” part being a blurred line. Entire summer was spent in setting up the office, involving my family in the process. But after a client decided to end a contract it unraveled, and unraveled faster than a cable knit sweater. After operating on trust and mutual respect for the longest time- for the first time opened my contract to see “what my contract said”. My contract did say the right things, and I refused to accept an insulting payment and demanded to be paid for my efforts. Things resolved over the period of time, and I continued to work, mostly because I didn’t think I should give up all the hard work I put into developing a system, developing the standards. It was finally a well oiled machine that would lock profits, but it wasn’t meant to be so.

It wasn’t rewarding anymore, and even as I continued to work, invoicing added stress. Money matters. They say money cannot buy happiness, but money can bring unhappiness. Road block after road block, I had to rework numbers, I had to explain the work I had done (thankfully Google email means searching them with one keyword), and I was spending more time asking to be paid, asking to be paid on time than focusing on work. Finally tired of writing reminders after reminders, I realized that resilience was not an option, and had stopped being an option long before I noticed. It was beyond deformation, and I was in denial. Resilience is the ability to spring back to the best of your best abilities when you planned everything, but faced a hardship. When things are beyond your control, your resilience becomes your stupidity. There is no point losing your sleep, your peace and your love for architecture over someone else’s lack of planning and lack of organization.

Lesson learned. Moving on, moving forward.

A few months ago, I decided to start taking my ARE exams, finish my IDP and work towards my licensure. Two exams down, and 80%   of the hours into the system, that’s where my focus should be, where my resilience should be. A decade from now, the time I spent in building someone else’s business will be just unaccounted time on my part, but those solid hours of studying will amount to something. Resiliency is all fancy-shmancy, that home standing against the brutality of nature in Galveston is a positive example- being the last of the six consultants to quit is not. It’s been almost two months that I started with another Architect- I started cautious, probably guarding myself against any possible non-payment, but we are in a field where we are all in- or we are not. I love taking ownership, I love being the leader and solving problems – and I will never be content taking instructions and reporting to stipulated work. Back to doing what I love, doing it with much love. (those invoices being cleared without any reminders are helping too!)

Resilience should be for things that matter – your passion, and your beliefs, and for positivity.


Most of my day at work goes in saying “according to the Code” and “ADA says”. Between Code (CBC) and ADA, ADA is my favorite. Section 504 is the next favored word. ADA might not be Civil rights, but it has changed the lives of many a disabled, and helped them perform their daily activities with ease. I am sure the Group E and Group I occupancies appreciate it more than others, but trust me, being a M-B-S person, the best part of my design doesn’t occur when I draw squiggly lines on trace deciding fenestration (that’s important too!)- to incorporate accessibility in the best possible way brings me satisfaction. Most of the clients say that what’s on the inside matters most than what’s on the outside to them, I will go ahead and say for a user what’s on the outside- how you get inside-what’s on the inside -how you can maneuver between the space- all of it matters, and it matters more to the ones that are not blessed with what’s termed as “normal”.

A few months ago, my parents were traveling in India, and my mother slipped and fell on the train tracks- hurt herself. It was not life threatening, but it makes me appreciate every little ADA feature in the local Amtrak station. The same week that my mother met with accident, I was at the ARTIC. An elderly couple came up me at the entrance and asked me directions to the ticket counter. I was already exiting the building, but I gave them directions and stood there for a minute to see if they can make it on their own. It took them time, but they crossed the platforms safely, and went to the ticket counter using all visual and auditory access features. Details matter, and they matter more when they help everyone enjoy the space equally.

Accessibility is not limited to the people on the wheel chair- many people mistake ADA with wheel chair accessibility. Disability could be blindness, deafness, age could be a thousand things that we are not aware of. Next time you design, please provide equal opportunity for all users to access the building- it’s a law, but it’s also your responsibility to incorporate the law such that it can be utilized best.


It’s Rosa Sheng and Amy Kalar’s word, but I love it!

Working mom just doesn’t define us Archimoms- we are beyond that. We will want to play Legos with you, we will play Zenga with you, we will buy you toys that “build” irrespective of your gender, we will help you fine tune your school projects, and we will talk to you about History, Science and Math. We have an all black wardrobe you can borrow when you are teenager and funky pieces of jewelry- you will never have a problem looking different, or making a statement. And the best thing ever, our job never bores us, so you will always find us energetic and enthusiastic. Oh, the thousand and one stories we share with you.. I can’t even list the awesomeness that comes with an Archimom!

Bottom line, you will never be able to say Mom, you won’t understand..Archimoms always will.


What are your favorite words?

Read the links below for different takes on the same topic from other architects:

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture
3 Words To Get Started

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect
3 Words: Are. Blogs. Important.

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
3 Words

Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Never Give Up

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
What’s Your Story – My Three (or Four) Favorite Words

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
i make art

Michael Riscica – Young Architect
How’s it going… Finishing The Architect Exam?!??

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
#ArchiTalks: I love it!

Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
Three Favorite Architectural Words

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design
I Am Listening

Cindy Black – Rick & Cindy Black Architects
Spirit of Optimism (my three favorite words)

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
architalk#9: my three favorite words

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC
My Three Favorite Words

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom
My Three Favorite Words (Architalks #9)

My Three Favorite Words

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
I am in

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture
The Big Idea

Eric Wittman – intern[life]
my three favorite [hardest] words

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture
three little words: #architalks


  1. Pingback: 3 Words
  2. I really like the wide range you covered with 3 words. I feel like this blog is a good description of you. Even though I don’t know you…but I kinda feel like I do! I guess thats the power in a blog. Someone who enjoys reading ADA code….I thought I had heard everything! Keep on keepin on Archimom(s)! -Steve

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. I especially appreciated your embrace of the code in general and ADA specifically. It can be hard not to view the code as our adversary rather than our ally, especially when the clients continually ask “do i really have to do that?”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, most of the times clients do want to know “how to work around” – and the answer always is “we don’t” and it’s always hard to give that answer. I wish they understood it’s more for their own safety and convenience than for a permit. Thank you 🙂


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