Architalks #35: Starting a Design

This is the thirty-fifth post in a group series called #ArchiTalks in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect gives a group of us architects a theme or a set of questions and we all have to post our response… this month’s theme: “Starting a Design”(Topic by Jon Brown)

I am not a Designer.

I do Design Development, Constructions Documents for someone else’s Schematic Design, and sometimes, I provide Construction Administration  for projects that I didn’t do Construction Documents for. Point being, I am not the corner office architect playing with sketch up and photoshop bursting with ideas in perspective views. Not that I haven’t tried. Been there, done that, and haven’t had sustained interest to continue the process. I would rather extensively detail that fire-resistance rated Porte Cochere constructibility and assembly details than vary my line weights in perspective design to showcase my average-brilliant idea. Design is great, but design details matter greatly in saving the design intent.

This Friday, before leaving work, I backed up all RFIs, Submittal reviews, Bulletins and the as-builts for client records and on Saturday “drove by” the now declared complete and ready for occupancy multifamily housing project. It was all about Irving Gill arches on a paper white building rendered with Bougainvilleas – 157 apartments laid out in two buildings facing each other in a horse-shoe shape with a fin. It was supposed to be a fairly easy project (as always). Throw in the wall details while drinking a latte – Window and door details while downing cappuccino, roof and ceiling details while sipping Americano – Cry a river working on Storefront and Door Schedule and Window Schedule double checking each item for fire-resistance rating and down half a bottle of scotch as soon as you are out of the door – When you are back to sanity, in the company of a Macchiato create project specific balcony and special construction details – Get a permit, you are all done until the framer hits you up with questions…

But, the scope changed a little, requirements were revised a little, and as it happens with all the projects, the white building with Bougainvilleas ended up being a Stucco beige building with Le Corbusier inspired openings at one of the entries, and a grand gazebo for Tai Chi and two roof decks modeled after the character traits of Grace and Frankie. The arches went in for a bit of grandeur from simplicity, and the interiors vamped up with additional requirements for a luxury experience for future residents.

Meghana, where are you going with this story? This is an irrelevant story about your  DD, CD and CA, but your blog is to be about SD.

Design. Design Intent. Unintentional design.

Working on this project opened my eyes to the fact that housing had reached such an unaffordable level that average hard-working citizens in parts of my city could no longer afford to rent or buy. Working on this project opened my eyes to the hard work Citizen Architects and politicians put into ensuring that there was affordable housing, especially affordable housing to Seniors to help them live in communities like this with dignity. As I looked up TCAC and CASp requirements to help detail the plans and fine tune them for tax credit qualifications, I opened my eyes to a whole different world, and a whole different “design” to counter the side effects of nationally growing housing market, and gentrification.

On one hand “starting a design” meant working on a set of plans for that newest approved district zoned residential, and on the other hand, “starting a design” meant working on a plan to make sure that new district is not all about million dollar itty-bitty three storied condominiums in beige affordable only by a defined set of residents. Projects get personal to us when we spend our weekends working on them, but this is even more personal to me as I live two blocks away, and I am one of the voting citizens of the City who has a say in deciding what we build, and what we cannot build.

While I am working on the design development of the next building at my desk, I have slowly taken interest into studying homelessness in the nearby cities, and effects of gentrification. I have taken interest into what non-profits do to help stop homelessness and continue to strengthen inclusionary housing. The levels of involvement and the details of this design will probably be limited to sharing articles agreeing with my thought process on Social Media, and researching every available details on Skid Row Housing and Mercy Housing, and understanding how I can involve myself into more than writing a check to support these causes…reading Assembly Bills about Affordable Housing, knowing the amendments…educating myself on housing from the socio-economic perspective than the architecture perspective only, because end of the day architecture is not about how you design a building… or how painstakingly you detail the components of the design to stay close to the original design intent. It’s all about how your building fits into the bigger design of the community, and how it functions in defining the community.

Here are thoughts of my “Architalks” group about “Starting a Design”… Please stop by, and read articles on the same topic written from different perspectives.

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture(@FiELD9arch)
Slow Down. Hold Still.

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect(@LeeCalisti)
where do we start?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC(@L2DesignLLC)
How to Start a Design

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture(@rogue_architect)
Starting a Design: #Architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk(@wishingrockhome)
On Your Mark, Get Set — Start a Design!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Starting Design

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC(@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #35: Starting a Design

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum(@boardandvellum)
Where do you start when designing a new home?

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace(@cogitatedesign)
do-re-mi- Design

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect(@jamesmehaffey)
First Thing’s First

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect(@timothy_ung)
5 Tips for Starting an Architecture Project

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects(@architectmark)
How it all begins…

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)

“Where do we begin?”


  1. Meghana, what I’m about to say wouldn’t work for senior housing because many seniors have issues with stairs. But if you’re looking to do the scale of urbanism you’re showing here, but do it more affordably, you might look into the work of the Incremental Development Alliance: They’ve developed a set of hacks of both building codes and financing that let you do 2-3 story urbanism in smaller increments like the Missing Middle Housing advocates illustrate, making the cost per unit a lot less, and also doable for much smaller developers than would be required for a 157-unit project.

    Liked by 1 person

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