So, it's likely that some of you have browsed over to my web portfolio at some point. I have been working on the html version bit by bit. Understanding the complex language of html these days has been challenging at times, especially when a poorly written script works in Chrome to only be completely wrong in Internet Explorer. Even Chrome can't manage to understand my scripts sometimes. It's not like the good ol' days.... I'm pretty amazed at the power of a cascading style sheet. Anywho, I am going to start producing pages for each of my projects. My first page is for one of my favorite early projects, The Rare Books Library. It's a cool hand draw project from my third year.

I will start working on the other pages and I'd like to get your opinion on future developments. Take a look at the portfolio browser and let me know which projects seem more interesting to you from the single image provided. This will give  me priorities for future development. Also feel free to give me feedback on the portfolio, good and bad.

I Like My Architecture Plaid

We were at a our local bar the other day, when someone noticed a picture in the dimly lit corner of Jesus blessings a building. I jumped up and examined the picture to recognize the building as the United Nations Headquarters. I say "great design," followed by a friend asking "whats so great about a box?" This question comes up often. I don't think Washington solely possesses this architectural pessimism, but Washingtonians have a way of becoming experts on anything with all the Master's Degrees. I know I can't change an international relation's expert on architecture, but I'll beg that one hear me out.

What instills confidence that the UN Headquarters a great building is the fact that Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier designed it. I don't know the in and outs of the building, but I know that these two were/are (Oscar is 104! -[Update- Oscar passed away December 5, 2012]) very competent designers with a record surpassing most architects in the past and now. My confidence in these two architects' designs is similar to the confidence most people have in Apple. I don't know every Apple made device, but I can easily argue every product is good. Apple products are known to work well, be built well, and have an intuitive interface. No one can compare!

So what makes Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier so good? In the word of my graduate studies professor, Robert Livesey, "What is it doing?". Everything Corbusier touched was full of symbolism, strategies, historical references, and arguments that would take hours of Doug Graf  diagrams to explain. Niemeyer even recognized the brilliance of  Corbusier calling him "the master"  and he would use these same devices in his own work.

I know this isn't going to convince anyone outside of architecture that the UN Headquarters is great. What makes any architectural argument weak to a laymen is their understanding of architecture as an aesthetic. Architecture is a language. I can't speak French to a German and expect him to understand much. In a similar way, an hour long presentation analyzing the UN headquarters won't make much sense if you don't understand Chandigarh or Brasilia. If one want to truly discuss the merits of the built environment,  it's imperative to know basic architectural language.

If architecture is only an aesthetic, there isn't much to discuss. I like plaid you like stripes.


This past month NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) decided it was time to ask their record holders for a little feedback. The feeling to voice my opinion about NCARB strikes a desire similar to say, congress asking me how they could better serve the American people. I started the survey one day to find the process to take longer expected. I'm sad to say I did not complete the survey. At least I can happily know the perserverant managed to fill the result banks with dissatisfaction. So why is NCARB so bad? I know very little about NCARB, except they enforce the rules and take my money for record keeping, so I decided I should take a look at potential issues. Naturally, my mind questions the current leadership and organization structure. I decided to read through the bylaws and looked at the leadership and discovered it's politics as usual. Members of the board have worked their way up a through the system and only serve a short and mostly unpaid terms. The terms are so short,  when one reaches the executive board they are only allowed to serve for a year (two years for Presidents). For the powers that NCARB holds I would think the board would have a more influential tenure, after all, a typical collegiate student council has a longer allowed term.

Another drawback to the current board is age. The board is served by a wise old crowd of tested architects. Unfortunately, the generation of architects that lead our professional field are far from understanding the current wave of technology. This is a much larger issue of our field, but relates to how NCARB has implemented technology. Fortunately they have made advances in technology, but still don't have the refined feel that a tested architect would practice in detailing a building.

Two points of contention seem to come up in my circle of soon-to-be architects that might be the result of the generation gap. One is the Intern Development Program (IDP). While getting the process online deserves applause, it still largely reflects the old paper model. Why should one have to keep track of hours with a spreadsheet on their computer, to transpose the same numbers to an online sheet to send to the boss and NCARB? IDP should skip a step and allow one to save unapproved hours online like an email draft . Then when the user is ready, they could send the logged hours to the boss and NCARB. (one can save unsent hours now)

Another point that is popularly irritating is the ARE (Architecture Registration Exam) drafting program. NCARB doesn't want to endorse one of the many popular drafting software. This seems logical as some people might not be familiar with AutoCAD.  NCARB's solution was to developed their own poorly made drafting program that requires test takers to learn a software they will never use again. NCARB should allow all the software companies to load their drafting software and allow users to chose what they want. As long as the requirements are met in the drawings, who cares what program was used? Why not allow hand drafting (this seems more universal than a NCARB only program)?

These are not rocket science solutions, but ones that my generation might have a better insight on that could help the old guard and the profession. As designers and frequent users of the computer, young architects could make NCARB better than dealing with the DMV.