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.



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…

GB10… the best of…

Posted in events, opinion, other architects, sustainability by DS26 on 11.18.2010

It all started bright and early when we showed up at McCormick Place in Chicago… we were directed by friendly faces to pick up our name tags (since we had registered online).

This took an entire 3 whole minutes… and truly I thought WOW!… what a change since the last time Greenbuild came by Chicago in 2007 (where they were not short of endless hours-long lines for registration).

Roaming around our 1st stop was the Bookstore… there I found my friend Marcy’s ADA book (I was so excited to see it there… I tweet-ed it). You can find her tweet-ing all about her expertise (and I suggest you listen) @abadi_access.

Next, we stopped by the merchandise shop… not that I would necessarily get anything, but pure curiosity… but there it was:

OMGB! (Oh My Greenbuild)… I LOVED IT!! (too bad I forgot to take a picture)

Eventually we made our way

The first thing we saw was a cool wind generation vertical turbine called Eddie… It was a beauty (though I still did not take a picture… boo me).

Shortly thereafter, a very cool water collection system pillow (air-less closed system) made to sit inside or outside. It was pretty ingenious.

Eventually, as we kept walking, I finally thought about the camera I was carrying (duh!), the pictures I could be taking, and the potential blog post (this one).

I made up my mind… I will blog about the best in the Greenbuild 2010 exhibit hall.

So.. now that I was enlightened, we were at the Haworth booth. They had a really nice set up, and a very friendly rep that did not hesitate to help us (though many people did not due to our very laid back outfits and very young faces)…

We found they were featuring their custom pieces/sufaces… and saw this table

Could not resist the opportunity to make our mark. ”  DS26 was here!  :)  “

The next coolest thing, and this really was cool, was the knauf insulation. Besides the fact that the insulation was innovative, what really impressed me was their business card, check out the back

Plant this card, and you will get a flower bed. Awesome!

This is truly creative. We picked up a couple, and could not help but to repeat  to everyone that is probably one of the best marketing pieces around.

To keep up with the insulation theme… of course the jeans insulation

I thought it was pretty fun that also, as innovative marketing, they had a fantastic ‘jeans’ cookie.

Also, started to see other inspired & designed booths, this one for example (notice the carpet), where the floor plane lifts into their banners.

I believe that, at this time, we met up with @hern_jenn & @matthewcarbonne … said hello for a bit.

Moving along…

We made it to where I am supposed to be. I love concrete… and I saw the tee. I MUST HAVE IT (and so I do)

In the front “Think. Harder. Concrete.”. In the back

It is debatable, the sustainability of concrete. Natural materials & life?… certainly. Very sustainable. Process?… mmmm.

Best tee shirt I got though. Or, is it?

We kept walking.

Then Boom!!… Black & white, but screaming for us to walk up to it… Interface Flooring

Brains are greater than Oil.

A fact. Anyone would agree.

I walked up to them, and told them how much I liked their marketing… they said that they were doing an on-the-spot social media marketing campaign.


So I created our own @DESIGNSTUDIO26 equation… take a walk!  (Walking is greater than driving). They tweet-ed.  :)

If you follow their #greenbuild tweets, via @InterfaceFLOR you will find us there.

Other great installations

The fresh greens installation (above) and the cool FSC lounge (below)

By the way… see that bike there? Wood crafted. Yes, and unbelievably beautiful.

And always cool, young & hip… Bluebeam.

It’s PDFin time!  (chuckle)

So, as we’re winding down… after a long day walking (though I’ve shown you a handful, we’ve covered some 600 exhibitors by now)… In the realm of cool materials check this out

Hand chiseling the USGBC logo… on Aircrete… Hebel.

They showed us the material… very neat. Not only you can chisel it, but also hand saw it, cut it, etc.

The most impressive fact, however, is that there is an hour of fire protection per inch of material… in addition to the drastic reduction in weight from your standard concrete. Impressive!

Now we are very tired… there was a severe lack of seating.

Even at spots where there was coffee, or drinks and food, no tables or chairs. Really?… We could not get more chairs and tables in there?… How much is each person paying again?…

Of the things we missed, I can I admit… I COULD NOT FIND BIG ASS FANS. What the heck happened? Were they even there?…

We found comfy leather benches at Kone… and I decided to give the reps a hard time (since we were ignored)… all in good fun.

And, when we thought it could not be more fun, my business card was drawn at the Weitz Construction booth, and I got to play the cash machine… Though I made $7 bucks (enough to get my caffeine fix) I felt like a million bucks. lol.

Afterward I finally found my friend Robyn, on twitter @robbiejep (one of the original WIAfund collaborators, along with Marcy mentioned above) after chasing her for a couple of hours…

She is presenting a class at Greenbuild on Friday morning early. Catch her if you can… she is a great ‘sustainable’ inspiration from Orange County, California.

And my buddy Lira, on twitter @liraluis, this year’s Athena Young Professional Award-ee, and whom I consider a good friend.

It took about 3 shots to get to this one…

All of us mingled for a little, spoke of Gehry in South Florida (of course), and the USGBC lawsuit… and the Living Building Challenge, from the International Living Building Institute.

Before I forget… the ILBI was kind enough to give me some cool materials for my kids at Duke this coming summer (I’m staff for the “Green Architecture” summer course in their Duke TIP program)… I like to introduce the students to it, and now they’ll have a pocket guide to the process. YAY!

But.. the button is mine!   :D

So next time Greenbuild is around, I suggest you visit. It is a wonderful place for free t-shirts, gain some info, learn, and mingle…

results are in… did they love it ?

As some of you may know, I was part of the staff this past summer for the Duke TIP program, at Duke University.

The class :

Green Architecture 2010 (we suggested to change it’s name). It included 9th through 12th graders.

(picture above is the class, and we asked them to make a structure… ha!)

The Results :

The numbers below represent the highest ranked response out of 24 students in the class.

Q1. What they enjoyed the most…

17 answered the Interactive Group Planning Activity

This is what the planning activity looked like… plan + present to the class. It was chosen random, and they did 3 or 4 different complete site plans (including developing a programmatic solution)

Q2. What is recommended to improve program next year…

6 responded they want a level II class (not many submitted an answer)

Q3. What they gained…

13 answered ‘Knowledge’

Q4. Under additional Comments…

one response read

“All of the instructors were great. Tabitha was extra personable and gave us more specifics about getting into the field of Architecture.”

a few others:


“Can I come back?”

“I came into this course not knowing how I would like the ‘green’ aspect. But now I absolutely love it because of how much I loved this course.”


As much as it was a learning experience for them, it also definitely was for me. There was magic in seeing how the untainted minds of them would think through problems, and resolve for a solution.

By the end of the two week course they completed a building project, on their own, sustainable, and had to develop a 3D Google SketchUp model, pin up, and formally present to all of us.

There was so much talk about our class, they actually gained an external audience coming in to the presentations.

Their solutions were genius. I can be certain some will stay in the A/E profession(s), and will be outstanding.

Enjoyed spending time, telling them about the profession, and even played “apples to apples” and poker endlessly.

I enjoyed every minute, and hope to return next year. We’ll see if I get invited.

For now, I can honestly say…

…  I Feel Loved !


grow baby, GROW !

Posted in stuff, sustainability by DS26 on 07.29.2010

Yes, it is BobbyZ ‘s birthday, but no I’m not talking to him this time.

This is a blog post ‘update’ on our veggie (rented apt) indoor potted garden.

If you remember our last post [ Now… eat the fruits of your labor! ] , we introduced you to some very sustainably advanced individuals (& friends) and our small attempt to begin our very own green garden at home.

Certainly, my main interest is due to the fact that I am a veggie monster (unlike BobbyZ who’s a cookie monster).

Give me a red & green pepper and I will add some mango and chicken, red wine and soy… and make you the best stir fry you ever had.

Give me a tomato… and i’ll eat it and cook it 1 million ways.

Give me a garden at home that gives the peppers and tomatoes, and oh my goodness. Someone stop me.

The garden, slow to grow, showed some signs of life at end of week 1, at least in the cucumber pot. Funny how that cucumber was fast :

A couple of weeks into it, exactly 15 calendars day later, we now have all 3 plants going.


We transplanted our cucumber to a bigger pot, and now are thinking on getting serious and visiting a store for the 3 kinds of peppers (I need them all in my life), some more herbs, and I am hoping for some fruit.

Problematically, most fruits are trees, and I cannot plant trees in my back sunroom.   :(

Here are the snapshots of the day :

Now… with a tiny pot left unused… and the bag’s remaining soil, we decided to put it to good use and planted a second tomato plant.

Yesss !

One can never get enough tomatoes.

Grow baby, GROW !

Here is how our free garden is looking, after clean up.

We are on our way !


Now… eat the fruits of your labor !

Posted in opinion, stuff, sustainability by DS26 on 07.14.2010

If you’ve considered a more sustainable way of living, then consider your own green garden at home.

We all love the farmer’s and green markets, truly, because in any Saturday it is a very entertaining walk ( for most ) to find the best vegetables, home-baked goods, home-made spreads, and other wonderful items like delighting old aged cheeses ( yes i did find a 10+ year-old cheddar last time i went ) … so if you are into the fresh, into the best…

why not begin your own garden ?

In the last few months I’ve found a couple of people that are very advanced, highly intelligent sustainable beings, that with their efforts everyday have amounted to beautiful fruitful gardens in their backyards.

Christina’s Garden :

I went to high school with Christina, many years ago, and since finding her again she has truly impressed me with her sustainable farmer’s and at home crafter’s spirit.

From her home-made composting device

To her small little helper

Christina’s garden is truly an inspiration… that amounts to some beautiful harvest.

If you want more, and other beautiful things by her… you can visit her etsy store. She does make some awesome organic soaps !

Christina on Etsy ( link )

Nicki’s Garden :

Nicki and I met through my work at Duke University. As a matter of fact she runs the Duke TIP program.

She is a PhD in education, and very proper/polished when at work, so I did not expect what I encountered in her back yard.

While at the “Sustainable Architecture” course, it occurred to us to present the students with a real life problem (and client). Their task was to improve their water collection system at home. I thought  –  water collection? ..You? –

Anyhow… what we found was stunning, from her re-purposed children’s playground into a chicken coop

And her use of old car tires to plant various roots

Her backyard surely made for a great setting for the class project, and had wonderful variety…

So, in talking to Nicki about planting a garden indoors, being that we still ‘rent’ for a living… she told me that she started in potted green gardens in small apartments as well. While she lived abroad, she always did this. I thought

Great !


Target sells these little potted plants (sometimes) to get started, 99 cents each, and we’ve taken steps to begin our very own green garden with tomatoes, parsley, and cucumbers.

We will add to our garden, but this is what we managed to accomplish this morning.


+ it was fun to watch the very compressed soil expand (rapidly) !    :)

what IF the earth did stand still ?..

Posted in opinion, responsibility, sustainability by DS26 on 06.04.2010

we watched a movie last night.. “The Day the Earth Stood Still” ( i love Keanu )

Now, I would even love him more if I knew that his intentions of participating in the movie were far more than those of just another leading role. Will I ever know ? Keanu, did (do) you care ?


We knew some of the plot based on the previews… and since we are movie buffs (watch too many to count).

A couple of things that stood out : first the idea that someone, other than humanity, would come save the earth from ourselves, and the advanced (conceptualized for the movie) materials.

Sure we need it ! … that is : someone to save the earth from us…

Have you seen the Oil Spill .. & the damage we’ve done ?

Don’t know about you but, I wish someone would come and save us.

Unfortunately (or should i say tragically) the ones of us that care.. not a little, but truly do care, are not nearly the slightest of enough, empowered, or able, to save our planet. It is a truth we must admit.

We (not just BP) are killing our planet.

Right now BP is the target since they are the ones in the public’s eye, and no.. I’m not making excuses at all… but,

What about technology ?

We were in discussion yesterday the we dispose of so many parts & materials that are inert, that cannot be re-used or recycled… we just, throw them out.

Began because Bobby’s computer totally went out. Three years of life, and out. It is a crime when we cannot do anything now with what’s left.

It may simply, as all others, end up here :

Another example is the iPhone (& i’m sure its not the only one) but, when I asked about replacing the battery for the original one I purchased (remember the metal one)… I was told by a ‘genius’ that I needed to simply buy a new one. No battery to be inserted.

I did, as everyone else in the planet does, get a new one. Now the old sits around, and I dwell plenty on what the heck to do with it.

Do you still doubt that we are far from the land of “WALL-E” ?


( I do hope Pixar is working on developing the real thing… )


On the Advanced materials mentioned…

How wonderful !

Wouldn’t it just be great to have a protective self-healing skin/body wrap? … maybe it would have saved some of our victim friends from the Spill.

What about a bio-material as powerful and organic as the one on the big BIG guy that is protecting Keanu ?

If you refer to my  ” Let’s talk CONCRETE(ly).. “ post you will see that, there are individuals all around the world working on such technologies. We’re looking to be those people.

In the case of those individuals, and of us, it’s for architecture/construction… but how about just all material ?

What if we could not dispense of technology parts, or iPhones, or anything for that matter ?! .. what if we could co-exist in-sync with our planet & its resources, and that all be bio-degradable, re-generating, self-healing, self-protecting… etc…

That’s the world I want to live in!… Will it be your world ?


What IF the earth did stand still ?..  and to give us a warning :

Change and move on… Or you’re moving Out !

( ohh wait a minute… what was that?… was that another earthquake? )