Pro (Save) Prentice!

Posted in opinion, other architects, projects, responsibility, sustainability by DS26 on 04.28.2011

In the recent weeks I came across the very controversial issue of the Prentice, a Goldberg-designed concrete structure, originally a women’s hospital in downtown Chicago.

I am a mid-century and concrete lover… all things cast-in-place, or raw exposed concrete, are my thing and I am with those in effort to save it.

Northwestern University, currently (and seemingly stubborn about it) are looking to demolish the place to build a new tower. A research facility. If you asked me that seems… counter-productive.

Demolition Costs + Expenditure in New Construction ≠ Gain

Plus, there is significant architectural value that is inherit of Prentice, and it adds to the significant architectural value of the city of Chicago.

As a (soon to be) builder – and aside from my design self (architecture licensing in progress) – what really hurts in this case is the disregard for the methods used in the creation of this project.

Why, you ask?… well, it is cost-prohibitive.

Meaning that the costs that are incurred in an all concrete structure or cast-in-place project, the labor costs, and its curvilinear form (which comes with formwork costs), all come together to insurmountable amounts in today’s market… not to mention the lack of craftsmanship that comes with today’s workforce.

Oh, and let me guess?

Northwestern wants a LEED certified building?… Am I right?…(yes! Probably.)

Have you not heard? :

The most sustainable building, is the building already built!!

I was reading and looking through the reuse plans that have been published, and all seem very adequate, achievable, and effective for their purpose. I especially liked the residential study (and can imagine that firm that actually came up with it – trying to add interior curvilinear value to Goldberg’s current curvilinear exterior shell).

But – and just throwing in my opinion here – a potentially more successful, and maybe a more easy model to sell, would be that of a hybrid project. An even more flexible one that those that have been presented.

I would have proposed a mixed housing + research facility, where Graduate and PhD students would want to move in to exploit this space as a live/work-share/work environment… that, as supposed to watching tv in the center of the structure.



HS.. thinking Architecture?

Posted in a design education, High School AEC Education, projects, stuff by DS26 on 01.27.2011

If you’re a High School student now, and are not sure but have the suspicion that maybe you would like to be an architect, there are many wonderful programs nationwide to help you explore design before you have to concretely make a decision.

I, myself, am involved in one, offered by Duke University via the Duke TIP program.

This particular program is a 2-week boarding session where we concentrate not only in Architecture, but other building industries and also matters of Sustainability.

This year, 2011, will be my 2nd time participating. 2010 was actually the founding class (picture below) and some of our students have left the class with great passion and inspiration to continue in the path to becoming architects. We also had future engineers and builders.

[ follow the link for Duke TIP Arch here ]


Another great program is the one led by my undergraduate school Director Aron Temkin, now professor and Dean of the School of Architecture and Art at Norwich University. Located at the Fallingwater residence designed by famed american architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this program is a 1-week boarding program that

is an interdisciplinary architecture program for students interested in exploring environmental and design related issues in the context of one of America’s most significant works of architecture

[ for more about Fallingwater HS Residency ]


There are other local non-boarding programs around, like the CAF (Chicago Architecture Foundation) Teens program. Offered during the summer in the City of Chicago.

[ more about CAF Teens in Chicago ]

CAF, in addition, offers a program at Taliesin, studio founded by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Or the summer Architecture program offered by IIT (Illinois Institute of Technolgy), also in Chicago, located in the famous campus with buildings designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe & Rem Koolhaas.

[ more on HS iit summer architecture ]


There are specialized High Schools around the country that are also tracked in Architecture, for those of you that were undoubtedly born for the art.

Like DASH (Design Architecture Senior High) in Miami.

I probably would’ve attempted to get in if I would have known it existed…

Many programs, many places, chartered schools, etc… do your homework.

Google “High School Architecture”.   :)

let’s pray…

Posted in opinion, other architects, projects by DS26 on 01.09.2011

Today, Sunday, a day especially made of religious significance (at least in certain religions) is a day most dedicate to calm, prayer, and faith.

Most, additionally, dedicate this day to be with family, whether partaking in religious activities or not.

When I was growing up Sundays were Catholic Church days, and family gathering at or around lunch time to spend the entire day together at my house. We would be anywhere around 10-15 people or more. Every Sunday.

In lieu of this day, and events in the last one, I thought I would dedicate this post to

7 details that have made 7 of the most recognizable works of religious architecture.

In no particular order of preference (because Ando would be back to back on my two top spots.. ehe):

1. Notre Dame du Haut  (“Ronchamp”)

A famed building, and surely his most significant religious work, by Le Corbusier.

A couple of things that make Ronchamp most recognizable: its roof structure (form), and its varying punched windows. The random-nes of their sizes, widths, angles (within), create a magnificent ever-changing display of light in the space.

Both can be seen in this image and, though the stand alone differing greatly from each other, they’ve made the ‘whole’.


In keeping with the theme of light…

2. Church of Light

One of Tadao Ando’s most recognized buildings in Japan.

Details that are most significant in this building, as well as all of most of his other work, is not what is there but is what is created in its absence. Ando believes architecture is not about the objects, but about the void or space created. In the Church of light he creates the cross of light by subtracting it from the concrete wall. Additionally, to create a much greater definition, one can see the side wall joints approach the light cross, to give it a perceived extension.


In keeping with the theme of light…

3. Jubilee Church

A religious structure by Richard Meier, in which light is one of the most important design drivers.

From an inside perspective one can see one of the many skylights above. The skylights span from one double curved wall slab to the next. Though obviously not structural, it is built in to the whole building becoming a significant detail in the experience of its faithful. Casting shadows, and allowing daylighting, are these skylights’ most significant purpose.

(Please notice there are structural members from wall to wall, but they act independently from the glass)


In keeping with structures…

4. Thorncrown Chapel

A structure meant to bring the outside in, by E. Fray Jones.

There is something very beautiful about the repetitive pattern. The space created by a lattice linear repetition.

Don’t think this space was designed, or meant to bring any particular religious preference. It may instead connect anyone who visits to nature, therefore light, and a sense of peace.


In keeping with structures…

5. Sagrada Familia

A never-ending project, of magnificent proportions and detail, designed by Antonio Gaudi.

This, architecturally, is the one building everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Whether a religious individual or not, the shear scale of this structure is something to be admired. Also, Gaudi though some regard as having been eccentric, had noble reasons for most of his work.

Aesthetically we’ve heard that there is a certain bone-like inspiration to the columns in the space. If Gaudi was alive I would ask to further give me insight to what he was thinking… I see the “bone-like”, but there are these spurs; these flashes of structure.

I admire the dedication Gaudi put into his work when he was alive, his cause the “forgotten creatures”, and the dedication now of Spain and its people to finalize this monumental work of art beyond his death.


In keeping with objects… though not monumentality

6. Church of Water

The second piece featured in this article by Ando.

This time he did not play with what isn’t there… unless we look at a surface for the cross to stand on.

The cross is an object he has placed into an almost god-like existence, floating on water. What I appreciate most about this structure (like any other in his work) is the minimalism that allows what is important to be so strongly perceived… in this case the symbolism of this particular detail.


In keeping with minimalism… though not recognized

7. Saint Benedikt

Lastly, though not recognized, this religious structure is so minimal but so perfectly thought out and executed, it could be considered a detail in an of itself.

Designed by Kunze Seeholzer in Germany.

Perfectly detailed doors, benches, even the bell location, and cross…. we call this a little & beautifully crafted ‘religious architectural gem’.


Let’s pray… for family… friends… this country… this world… and also for more great design…

growing up to be #BIG… ?

Posted in projects, sustainability by DS26 on 01.06.2011

As we quickly approach yet again another graduation, a license and legitimate practice, and the place in adulthood of no return (and no excuses)… we continue to strive to understand what it is DS26 will be.

We spend a lot of time looking at firms that we greatly admire, BIG among others.

Bjarke Ingels, a 36 year old Danish guy with fantastic architectural vision and mad skills to retain private developers as perpetual clients, has lead BIG (the Bjarke Ingels Group) to become one ‘universal’ practice. He’s being recognized for his radical aesthetics yet he insistently retains sustainability as a core value in the work… creating many instances of daylighting, endless paths for pedestrians, and must-have routes for bicyclists. BIG recently opened shop in NY.

One should have great admiration for such projects accomplished as the mountain and the 8 house.

We always joke saying “we want to be like BIG when we grow up”… but is it really this BIG?


Spontaneously the both of us continue to feel there has to be more to life than simply a design-service pratice… and more to life than design for money. That sustainability does matter a great deal. And that there must be a way we can actually have a BIG-ger impact.

We (definitely I) don’t want to deal with the everyday headaches I’ve already experienced… client-based practice, billing, contract issues… and in this market? We (definitely Bobby) would much rather experience design in its pure form, unapologetic, unbound by the mundane. See design actually change lives… that it becomes appreciated… enjoyed.

I, particularly, think education is a great part of my calling. I want to educate through Arts+Sciences. I mentioned in my “death” the High Tech Center.

So maybe we should be looking at other big ones, with a different type of architecture and maybe a bit more impact, like Samuel Mockbee

Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee (12/23/1944 – 12/30/2001) dedicated his life, as a teacher and as an architect, to creating architecture that not only elevated the living standards of the rural poor but also provided “shelter for the soul.”

He, with his Rural Studio at Auburn, managed to lift many spirits in the rural south. His architecture was BIG in other ways.

Also Michael Reynolds (aka Garbage Warrior), who in his own quirky way is slowly building what he calls ‘biotecture’.

Reynolds’ work is so radical, even the AIA banned him from his credentials at one point.

We recommend you watch the movie ‘Garbage Warrior’ because in a little bit of his madness, it actually makes sense. He builds a city with man hours in exchanged for your eventual own home. He uses garbage disposed (by the megatons) every day as building materials… and with it he is creating a completely self-sustained community. Talk about a living city

Here’s your sneak peek… Believe me it’s so worth your time…

> We think there’s something to this “helping others” and “truly sustainable practice” thing…

the architecture of Apple

Posted in opinion, projects by DS26 on 12.06.2010

Remember this?

People lined up for days… hours… it was a craze.

The opening of Apple in 5th Ave, NYC.

The novelty that was the clean, transparent, glass box. The steel details. The floating crisp, white apple logo.

Wow. What a beauty.

Well… it does not end there. And, as I learned recently, there are many more impressive Apple stores out there, and this post will give you a bit of a gist.

It all started in Soho (or so I am told). The restoration of the interiors of the Soho store was taken on.

The facade and structure remain, restored, and the interiors have taken a modern life, like Apple alone can do it.

Truth is the company has created an architecture to expand and highlight their branding.


NO doubt you have arrived to an Apple store, without even catching a logo, as soon as you see it. Certain materials and certain details announce it loud and clear.

The company has taken steps toward a more sustainable architecture including daylighting, green roofs, aluminum (highly recyclable and potentially already recycled).

Also, sustainable because they have learned (or chosen) to respect historic features and structures. You can see it at their Soho store, and others.

Something I did not know, as you probably don’t, are certain record-breaking facts.

For example, the store at NYC upper west side has a record-breaking span glass roof.

Also, the new Shanghai store. It has an impressive glass span vertically (seems like 3 stories).

I looked at this image quite closely, to make sure it was a continuous piece. It surely is.

The cylinder is an homage to the original 5th ave cube… right?!

A new underground playground for all the Apple fanatics, users, lovers in the world.

One store that impressed me was the Louvre. Did you know the Louvre had an Apple?

At first I thought it could not be real… it was so… pre-meditated.

But there it was.

A Louvre Apple!

Now… I wonder what IM Pei thinks about this new glass pyramid.

Does it (potentially) pay respect and admiration to his architecture?

I think maybe so. At least, I hope so… he is to be very well respected, and one of my faves.

The latest store I visited was really enjoyable. It is the place where, as of yet, I have found the most natural light… it was quite a refreshing space to experience.

It is the newest Chicago store, at Lincoln Park.

In this store, longitudinally arranged, the two ends are main entries, one which faces and welcomes people from the CTA red line “clybourn” stop.

Also, there is a long span skylight that runs most of the entire length of the building, plus a green roof.

I have heard many rumors about this particular store, and some are tied to some facts.

One for example is that they want to rename the red line stop to “Apple”, or the apple logo.

I cannot corroborate or deny this as a fact, but I can attest to the significant improvement to the red line entry by the creation of the plaza.

A genius here told me that, due to a union strike, the opening of this store was delayed.

I was there for it’s final stages, and visited in the recent weeks, in it’s first weeks.

Extra cool facts are, for example, that Apple’s revenues are approximately $7,000 per every single square foot of retail built space (staggering!).

Also, that Apple recently launched AutoCAD for Mac. I waited almost a decade for this… being a personal user for almost that long. I have used CAD since it was Release 14… in the early 90’s.

I am not that old, but I did listen to my dad when I was 17 and took my 1st pro class in college.

NOW  I simply hope that, after the CAD release, Jobs considers the next (newest) best thing, and that is to develop a Mac Revit series (architecture, structures, mep)…

Truthfully that could have been it… they could have skipped CAD… but then again, vectors had to happen before hand I guess.

It is obvious I LOVE APPLE, and I am not the only one… there is a whole culture out there.

My twitter friend @npann for example, keeps me informed often. He has an area (category) in his site dedicated to his Apple posts.

Also, my friend @liraluis calls herself (proudly) Miss MacGruber.

There’s Miss MacGruber, wearing electric blue, at Copenhagen’s meat packing district… friends bonding with Apple at Soho’s Architect of Record : Ronnette Riley.

( thanks for the pic lira! )

And, self, hugging “my apple” the first time I visited Chicago’s Apple store on Michigan back in 2007… First time I visited Chicago when we came for USGBC Greenbuild.

I have always been called by friends… the Mac Baby.

Maybe you should consider joining us?!

Hey, Apple… need another Senior Design Manager?! ~ sounds like whole lot of mac fun…  :)

milwaukee (un)expected . .

Posted in opinion, other architects, projects by DS26 on 09.19.2010

As you may or may not know that we visited Milwaukee yesterday.

Sure we visited because there is the renowned Calatrava & Saarinen that meet in the waterfront :

Later on, we took a ride to a very familiar place (in books)… one of FLW’s last projects :

I even  found what would be my home if I were ever to have a home in the city… a renovated mid-century beauty :

But as the day went by, and our camera was tired of snapping, we found our way to an unlikely and architecturally unexpected place in the city…

the Harley-Davidson Museum

What do we know about Harley-Davidson?…

It screams ‘BAD-ASS’, ‘dangerous’… and possibly ‘mid-life crisis’ (to some).

What did we not know ?… (but perhaps should have…)

That ‘BAD-ASS’ architecture would come along with…

We were stunned, even from the moment we saw it over the highway.

Big, Bold, Cool, Dark, Structural… Volumes sit, very well composed, on the site :

Surely, the Architects got to play with the coolest of Structural materials… Gigantic Steel Sections, Cross Bracing…

At this point we like it… but it turned to love when we saw this :

Can you see it? … Custom 14-15 ft tall doors. Beauties… Now we had to go in, and certainly knew we were in for a treat.

Approaching the door we find that it is a copper finish. Nice. Open and you walk into an intermediate space (foyer) and you encounter the doors projected… next in what seemed to be brushed chrome.

Inside… just great. Still Cool, Bold, and Metal. A bit Rock & Roll…

And you know you got a winner when you visit a bathroom, and you find such customization :

If you did not see it, look down. The faucet is ‘active’ via a motorcycle gas pedal (clutch). Can’t get more bad-ass, can it?

Well, we kept walking and encountering… The Cafe :

The Shop :

And one of my personal favorites… an ‘I-Beam’ for a bench on the way out :

We would like to send props to PENTAGRAM ARCHITECTS in New York for a ‘BAD-ASS’ building… the Harley-Davidson staff loves it, they told us about you and your details ( and of things like the crazy sanding of the galvanized steel members, and the smooth opaque black bricks ) and could not stop… and now us.

By the way… those cool copper doors we talked about earlier… only a paint, surely a metal-finish paint. A pretty peny.

I guess Harley-Davidson love their bikes, love their clients… and love their Architects.   :)

rhythms, balance, harmony . . .

Posted in music+architecture, opinion, other architects, projects by DS26 on 08.19.2010

these are things that can be found to be distinctly important in two areas : music + architecture.

there are different ways one can explore the connection between the two.

firstly, technically. of course, one can connect the two in terms of acoustics/acoustical values, reverberation in a space, sight lines and distances… however i, as many others do believe, find that there is a much deeper connection. an ethereal connection.

why don’t we explore this idea ?

architecture + music . . .

architecture is the art of the creation of space, lives within the medium of air, and it is to be experienced by people.

music is the art of the creation of sound (pleasant) through the medium of air (in space), to be experienced by the people.

both carry one end goal, and they are pretty closely related to each other in terms of ‘delivery’.

they both need rhythms, balance, harmony, hierarchies, repetition. both could be mathematically determined, and analyzed.

is that the key ? mathematics ? …

but, both are generated by the right side of a human’s brain…under ‘the arts’. however, since i do not have electroencephalographies (eeg) to prove it, i would like to simply assume the activity can be found close by. and, how do i know this ?

well, take for instance how it went for me :

when i was young, really young, i was actively involved in classical music. all of it from theories, to instruments (piano, guitar), and vocal training… and though i spent my everyday dedicating at least 5 hours to my musical training somehow, at 8 years old, i had the epiphany while standing in front of a geodesic dome full of structural steel details that, i would become an architect.

poliedro de caracas / venezuela

how does that happen, really ?

how does someone that, for such an expansive amount of time (about 10 years) is involved in music, does suddenly become keenly aware that architecture (space + details) is what will be ?

i think back at such times and find myself puzzled.

why wasn’t i going to be a musician? a singer (as i was, and doing well) ?… but instead an architect ?

it also helps that, the space where i mostly enjoyed performing, was an architectural gem of mid-century modern. a place of deep cantilevers, exposed concretes, and clean lines. i would be on my way to perform, and i could not help but to marble at the ‘architecture’. there was, for me, a direct relationship.

teatro teresa carreño de caracas / venezuela

but . . .

what about @arch_girl (jenny) ? … or my friends enrique & luis daniel, better known (along with 2) as mojo pojo ? …

i would encourage you listen to the last (that’s why i linked their myspace page instead of website)… founder enrique (lead voice & bass) was actually in classical music school with me, every day, and i find that they are now a greatly sophisticated new pleasant sound. i love their stuff.

these are all full-fledged musicians + full-fledged architects

we are not halved, or a bit of each, but surely both. fully.

so i am not alone. and, would it be safe to assume we are not the only 4 in the world ? … therefore, since it is not one, or two, but likely a crowd, there has got to be a greater connection ?!

today . . .

after being (mostly) done with my architectural training, meaning a few tests away from a practice, i find myself at the end of the big circle … and returning back to my musical past. admittedly, getting back to singing is not easy when you’ve stepped away for long to acquire some alternative advanced academic background.

a closely related future ?

it has been always my dream to achieve my license, and put it to good use to develop-design-build a science+arts cultural complex of sorts. it is a complex process surely… taking a lot longer than i would like it to.

i will see the day i design a space that will host many performances by young aspiring musicians (or musicians+architects) … and will provide a place to make connections, and enjoy a healthy and culture-filled life.

FLW Hides (i meant at Hyde)

Posted in opinion, other architects, projects by DS26 on 08.16.2010

yesterday we took a stroll a bit south from the house, looking for one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s (FLW) most famous houses : the Robie House.

in rendering, this happens to be one of BobbyZ’s favorite drawings of all time. i concur that it is pretty good (you would not find that kind of drawing at any starchitects office today).

we found the house hidden, a bit, in the intersection of 58th & Woodland Ave… surrounded by beautiful foliage…

the linear design and famed cantilevers are everything everyone (at least in architecture) expects them to be.

robust. strong. present.

even the details are not left untouched by FLW. brilliant pieces that serve mundane functions fill the house.

the window

the water drainage

the light fixture

wait a minute… WHAT IS THIS ?

… as we walked, and marbled, we stumbled upon sign after sign…


… and garbage cans… GARBAGE CANS ?!


one of the most beautiful shots to be taken, ruined by plastic. like it wasn’t enough we had to deal with people walking around with 80s headphones…


if FLW was alive today, we guarantee he would be apalled by such atrocity.

the man that would detail down ‘wright’ to the benches, lighting, glass, etc…

“no place for crap” we’re sure he would say.

even he would have not guessed that someone would one day ‘MISPLACE’ stuff around his work of art.

as trained architects, walking around.. we were…

saddened. disappointed.  in dismay.





a musical gehry

Posted in music+architecture, opinion, other architects, projects by DS26 on 07.31.2010

“Aqua Tower” … not all that!

Posted in opinion, other architects, projects by DS26 on 07.20.2010

“Aqua this…”  “Aqua that…”

So overly exposed, the new high-rise in Chicago has given a name to a woman owned and ran architecture practice, and it has caused serious commotion worldwide. Magazine covers, prizes, lectures, additional work, etc.

We, in part, do give Studio Gang credit because the simplicity of the solution, in terms of construction, has generated a (mostly) very aesthetic piece… one that most people do love (especially in Chicago).

I actually, in disagreement with BobbyZ, found the conceptual video compelling. I like to see datums that are brought in from significant city points to the project in question, and found quite interesting and complex that they no longer held to only the X & Y planes, but transcended into including Z.

[ Aqua Concept Video ]

In Bobby’s mind though, it was just an explanation after the fact, one that did not make so much sense.

“Laser beams melting a stick of butter…” – BobbyZ.

Much better, simpler, is the fact that maybe it emulates the river ?! Hence Aqua. Why so complicated ?!

With that said, we will tell you why we think is just  “not all that!”

Up close, it’s great. Just look at the picture above, and even closer, as in from the units’ balconies out toward the city, that much better. Very “sexy”, as Jeanne said herself during a published construction visit video clip.

From afar though, the beauty of the curvaceous slabs begins to, say… disappear.

As a matter of fact, even further, it gets completely lost. I did make a point to observe from the red line window.

Notice, in the picture above, the “gap” mid height of the tower. For some reason a double space, slab-less part had to be created. I would have guessed HVAC equipment, except it is enclosed with a curtain wall… that now makes me not sure of the intention.

Whatever the reason may be, it breaks the beauty that is created by the vertical continuity of the “curvaceous slabs”.

Also we find that the tower #fails at touching the ground. Again, an issue of the aesthetic continuity.

Being (as we are) big mid-century modern fans, Mies certainly, his work and the Chicago work of that time was concerned, always, with the way the building touched the ground. Opening views to the water, and allowing people to see and appreciate beyond the building was a must.

What the heck happened here ? …

One last negative, and this is back to my view from the red line, I found this intrusive, hideous, white box that sits at the very top, of-centered even, of the tower. You guessed it, this time it is an equipment room (& I now that for a fact), made of concrete.

I am not going to judge which way it should have been resolved. I know what we, in our (future) office would have done… but we were not a part of this project.

Like BobbyZ additionally so accurately expressed… “Still a developer’s project”, so maybe it was no longer up to the Architects to decide…

If we take Sears ( I could never call it ‘Willis’ ) or the John Hancock Tower…

unlike Aqua…

they begin, continue,and end  flawlessly…