Editor’s Comment

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[Originally published 3rd Quarter 2007, in arcCA 07.3, “Comparing Awards.”]


Another year has come and gone, and we applaud once more the fine projects recognized by the AIACC and Savings By Design awards programs. As we do periodically, we have devoted the regular section of the magazine to an examination of awards programs themselves, in part affirmative, in part critical, and in part, we hope, simply helpful.

Ann Gray, FAIA, editor of FORM, has brought together a range of thoughts from architects who value the awards process highly. Her article is followed by two essays challenging the value of awards: Daniel Downey and James Cramer question their ethical underpinnings, while psychologist Richard Farson, PhD, argues against their effectiveness. A round-up of AIACC Design Award winners since 2000, supplemented by the always eagerly awaited “. . . and Counting,” provides statistical fodder for your further speculation.

On the how-to front, we present two articles, “Presentation is Everything,” by Hraztan Zeitlian, AIA, Alex Anamos, AIA, and Julie Taylor, and “Thank You for Submitting,” by David Meckel, FAIA, back by popular demand from arcCA 01.1. Along with these, we have compiled what we hope will be a useful guide to current awards programs.

If all has gone as planned, your copy of arcCA will have arrived bundled with A Century of California Architecture, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Division of the State Architect. You may be surprised by the breadth of accomplishments of the State Architect’s office, which at one time, in the early- to mid-1960s, was the world’s largest architecture and engineering firm. Many of us think of the DSA now primarily as a regulatory body, but its more important role is as a voice for the incredible benefits that good architecture brings to society. In this context, it is worth excerpting a paragraph from Richard Farson’s critique of awards:

Award photos rarely identify the profession with solving the most pressing problems of shelter around the world, let alone other contributions architecture can make to reduce the indices of despair, such as crime, mental and physical illness, addiction, school failure, divorce, and suicide. Consequently, the public does not often look to architecture for help in those areas. But architecture can really help, because it designs situations—not just buildings; and situations, as every psychologist knows, are the most powerful determinants of behavior: more powerful than personality, habit, education, character, and genetic makeup—more powerful than anything. That’s why I put so much of my hope for the future in the design professions. But it will take a different kind of communication with the public if they are going to support the profession of architecture with hundreds of billions, as they do education and medicine, which are not nearly as effective.

We should all think about how to communicate most effectively architecture’s power for good, and we should lend our support to those institutions that are—or aspire to be—strong, clear voices for the discipline, among them AIACC and the State Architect.



Engineering Invention

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[Originally published 3rd quarter 2008, in arcCA 08.3, “Engineering + Architecture.”]


Author Grace S. Kang, SE, LEED AP, is a structural engineering principal at Forell/Elsesser Engineers, Inc., and a professional affiliate member of AIA.


Invention is the product of the imagination—the discovery, sudden or deliberate, of a way of getting something done. Invention may be a solution to a “problem” or an improvement on a situation or circumstance.

Engineering is the application of science by which properties of matter and sources of energy in nature are made useful to man. It is the useful application of science to how we live.

Both invention and engineering synthesize ideas that come from many sources. Looked at this way, invention and engineering are synonymous, exemplified in Archimedes’ screw moving water uphill, in the codices of Leonardo da Vinci, which illustrate methods of moving humans through the air, and in our generation’s development of surfaces that are “invisible” to radar and light.

In the built environment, invention in structural engineering is based on the application of mathematics, physics, the science of materials and their properties, and economics and their effects on how we live in civitas—in civilization. These sciences affect our infrastructure, shelter, and commerce.

Common Ground

Designers want to make ideas work. It is helpful to understand the expression of an idea, and, more importantly, it is essential that the source or root of the idea be understood. If the main ideas or goals are discussed, then there can be a meaningful exchange and dialogue, and the design process can remain fluid and malleable. Designers want to create something that works in form and in function. A realistic solution will have to address aesthetics, function, cost, and expectations, among other issues.

Effective design is founded in exploring solutions that can address more than one issue, while enhancing function or purpose. The collaboration of engineering with other design disciplines is fruitful when all the issues are raised from various vantage points, so that the common ground, the common goal can be identified. It is about embracing “what-if?” and finding out “why.” Addressing questions of “why” gets us closer to the root of an idea. If there are other ways of addressing that idea, then solutions can be explored.

There are numerous considerations weighed in coming to a solution—constrained budgets, limited energy sources, limited space, and short and long term performance expectations. Understanding and prioritizing each of these considerations is essential to zero in on an appropriate solution.

An Early Example and a Recent One

The development of Gothic cathedrals through the centuries was spurred by the imagination and fervor of the church and their master-builders, and executed by diverse trades of masons, carpenters, and metalworkers. The Chartres Cathedral nave soars at 38 meters (124 feet) with rib-vaults that flow down the sides of the nave to rest on clustered columns. At the exterior of the building, flying buttresses with arching arms stiffen the column-piers and direct the thrust of the canopy to the ground. This cathedral, constructed of discrete blocks of brittle material, exemplifies the refinement that occurred over centuries, evolving from massive, stacked blocks to become skeletal, so that glass and light become the primary features of the cathedral.

Form can be based on analogies found in nature. Nature is efficient and is a constant source of inspiration: ribs strengthen and reinforce thin sections around them, springs and coils move flexibly, tubes and branches are models of compressive or tension, and tap roots provide anchorage.

Santiago Calatrava, architect and engineer, combines his training in both fields and expands on them through his sketches and sculpture. His work is derived from his diverse and artistic background, and his building and bridge structures are sculptural and articulated. The proportions of his works make sense and fit together, reminiscent of their anatomical basis. In his Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River in Redding, California, the arc of the pedestrian bridge deck is suspended from cables from a single mast that leans back to the riverbank. The angle of the mast creates a palpable visual tension from the support through the steel cables to the glass roadbed. This visual tension reflects the engineering tension as well—the cable-stayed bridge is configured in such a way that the forces on the mast and foundations are not optimally minimized. Nonetheless, those forces are addressed, and the entire bridge, from the curved abutments, the arcing walkway, and the splayed cables to the swooping cantilever mast is sinuous, fluid, and expressive.

DCF 1.0

Santiago Calatrava, Sundial Bridge, photos by Grace Kang.

Knowledge of Properties Is Fundamental

The exploration and understanding of material properties is fundamental to structural invention—the compressive attributes and jointing limitations of masonry, concrete, and glass; the tensile and flexible characteristics of steel shapes, tendons, rods, and tubing; the lightness of thinner steel members and the limits as dictated by their geometry and crippling tendencies; the unique characteristics of wood depending on the direction of the grain and the direction of the forces; and the elastic and flexible limitations of membranes and woven materials. An understanding of the fasteners that join materials together is critical, as well. Fasteners must be compatible with respect to corrosion potential and thermal expansion rates across dissimilar materials.

An Example of Non-Transparent Form

Design of form can be realized through pure technological skill. Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco has a distinctive bowl resting on a pedestal; its shape includes both flat and curved surfaces, unlike a typical shell of revolution, such as a dome. The transition from level floor at the low point to nearly vertical wall at the top suggested a structural transition from a flat plate to a deep wall beam, both in the same curved element. The curved slab is hung like a catenary ribbon from its own upper edges, which are supported by the outer ends of the side walls. These walls act as cantilevered beams, carrying gravity loads to the pedestal. A three-dimensional network of post-tensioned tendons reinforces the slabs and walls, allowing the structure to behave in this way, while limiting cracking and deflection. The form is created and expressed in the material, yet the way the form is achieved—through the network of tendons—is not transparent, contributing to the mystique of the design.


Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects, Inc., Congregation Beth Sholom; photo above courtesy Forell/Elsesser; below, Rien Van Rijthoven. The seismic lateral forces generated by the large mass of the bowl atop the pedestal were a challenge. The high center of mass generates large overturning forces, which argues for a deep foundation. Yet piles or piers would have been costly and disruptive, besides anchoring the mass of the structure rigidly to the earth and exacerbating the effects of ground shaking. Instead, the engineer placed the pedestal on a four-foot thick concrete raft. Dynamic analysis using records of actual earthquakes indicated that a beneficial rocking action would occur, lessening the lateral forces experienced by the structure.


Tools to Enhance Resources

The earliest tools of structural engineering are experience-based and experimental. Some examples are deliberate and empirical, such as the construction of the dome at the cathedral in Florence, and some fall into the category of trial and error, such as the choir at Beauvais, which was intended to be the “tallest and widest” until its collapse and reconstruction. Gaudi devised forms from hanging models that created shapes, which he inverted. More than a generation ago, thermoplastic materials were loaded and isostress areas (areas of equal stress) were graphically shown with color. More recently, empirical testing with physical models that are appropriately scaled in mass and size are loaded with wind, fire, or shaking bases that simulate earthquakes. Such physical tests provide one source of information.

Another source of information is provided by computer analysis. Numerical computation is an extremely powerful tool. The speed of iterative calculations is fast, the graphic output of results can be visually revealing, enabling the engineer to perform numerous parametric studies, and the computer can be used to optimize load paths. Optimized design can also be achieved by a numerical sensitivity analysis in which a shape can be subjected to load, the stresses and deformations calculated, and the geometry of that shape automatically altered mathematically so that the stresses and deformations are minimized. Each succeeding iteration generates a form that further minimizes stresses and deformations, creating mechanical efficiency with minimal use of materials.

The effectiveness of these tools is as good as the data that goes in, and the interpretation and application of results that come out. If the information, boundary conditions, physical constraints, and material behaviors are not appropriately modeled, then the results may be misleading. An effective analysis is based on knowledge and prediction of realistic conditions. The results of analysis need to be scrutinized, compared, and tempered with physical, empirical evidence.

It’s Not a Free-for-All

Creative engineering is dependent on the engineers, their resources, and their collaborators in both design and construction. Communication is essential for the best outcome. Creativity comes from broad thinking, from the ability to embrace ideas outside of the normal realm, and from the application or synthesis of those ideas to another application. Creativity may also come from the imaginative application of an existing idea to a new situation. Creativity is about knowing how to create a prototype model, knowing what to look for in the modeling, and knowing how to interpret results and refine them further.

Recognizing what aspects are fundamental to a refined solution is an important skill. From broad-based thinking, selective deliberation is required. A common thought is that there is a solution for anything. And indeed there may be. Exhibitionism can be indulged in various ways, and “brute force” will always yield a solution of sorts. However, a refined, elegant, spare, and efficient design that informs and responds to form as well as function requires thought, creativity, and discipline, freedom through discipline not freedom from discipline. Structural creativity requires both imagination and discipline, the fundamental tools of invention.



A Report on Senate Bill 1312: the Interior Design Practice Act

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[Originally published 4th quarter 2008, in arcCA 08.4, “Interiors + Architecture.”]



Author Annie Chu, AIA, is a principal of Chu+Gooding Architects in Los Angeles, focusing on projects for arts-related and education clients. Notable projects include the Masters of American Comics exhibit at MoCA and Hammer Museum and Architecture of R.M. Schindler exhibit at MoCA, renovation and addition to the 1950 Harwell Hamilton Harris masterpiece English House and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. She is a member of the arcCA  editorial board and the AIA Interior Architecture Advisory Group.


As the interior design profession matures, it has become important to some in that community to be recognized as professionals with unique educational qualifications and knowledge. Those members have cried out for their profession to be distinguished from the practice of interior decorating, as well as from the practice of un-trained persons who can market themselves as interior designers without legal consequences.

Proponents of regulation seek to promote either Title Acts, which limit who can use the title, or Practice Acts, which limit who can perform the service, on a state-by-state basis. (For example, the term structural engineer is controlled by a Title Act, whereas the term civil or electrical engineer is controlled by a Practice Act—which is why you may find “civil engineer” on your structural engineer’s stamp.) Opponents of regulation cite economic hardship and discrimination due to the requirement of accredited education and qualifying exams.

What seemed to be a fairly cut and dried issue has spawned a civil war among interior designers and practitioners, pitching membership organizations and even members within the same organization against one another. Besides this internal disagreement, the complexity has increased with the overlapping jurisdiction between architects and interior designers on interior projects.

State-by-state battles by interior designers have mostly taken the form of legislation to establish a Title Act, a Practice Act, or some hybrid form of the two. This year in California, Senators Leland Yee of San Francisco and Ron S. Calderon, representing parts of Los Angeles, introduced California Senate Bill 1312, which was eventually defeated. This legislation proposed to create official state licensure and regulation for “registered interior designers.” It would replace the California Architects Board with the California Architects and Registered Interior Designers Board.

Proponents of legislative regulation of the interior design profession include the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), and the Interior Design Coalition of California (IDCC). They cite public health, safety, and welfare as well as increased professional status and independence for interior designers as the main reasons for regulation initiatives.

According to Randy Stauffer, co-Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs for its Southern California chapter, IIDA is in support of Practice Acts that will allow registered interior designers to have the authority to stamp and seal drawings. As Stauffer notes, currently, depending on local jurisdiction, certified interior designers have to obtain the stamp and signature of another professional (such as an architect or structural engineer) when they submit for plan check.

In a telephone interview with Bruce Goff, Legislative Director for the IDCC and national board member of ASID, he clarified that the drive to register interior designers originated with the need to clarify vocation versus profession and to ensure that interior designers can practice to the full extent of their knowledge and experience. The proposed Practice Act will not preclude anyone from calling oneself an interior designer, but will create a tiered categorization of interior designers. The legislation will define the activity areas of registered interior design practice relative to public health, safety, and welfare and code impact.

In an example to clarify the Act’s intent, Goff spoke of a set of drawings submitted for plan check that may include pages stamped by the interior designer (for design intent), structural engineer (for structural design and calculations of load bearing members), and architect (for the master exiting system and other code impacted areas). Goff also drew an analogy to the subcategories of the nursing profession, in which their activities are also governed by tiered registration. As he further remarked, the three E’s (education, experience, and examination) should form a threshold to qualify an individual for the scope of work commensurate with the quality of the vetting measure.

According to AIACC Director of Legislative Affairs Mark Christian, the AIA California Council has, in the past, supported a simple Title Act, but not a Practice Act such as SB 1312. The Council believes that the state should not interfere in the marketplace by restricting the production of services, unless such interference is needed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. It believes that no evidence has been put forth for that argument. Also, interior designers in California can already operate within the exemptions of Section 5538 of the Architects Practice Act and can submit plans to building officials within those guidelines. Those guidelines do not prohibit anyone from furnishing drawings, specifications and data: (a) for nonstructural or nonseismic storefronts, interior alterations or additions, fixtures, cabinetwork, furniture, or other appliances or equipment; (b) for any nonstructural or nonseismic work necessary to provide for their installation; or (c) for any nonstructural or nonseismic alterations or additions to any building necessary to or attendant upon the installation of those storefronts, interior alterations or additions, fixtures, cabinetwork, furniture, appliances, or equipment, provided those alterations do not change or affect the structural system or safety of the building.

A major opponent of the licensure of registered interior designers is the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), consisting of a membership primarily serving residential markets. In testimony before the Pennsylvania House Committee on Professional Licensure in September 2007, NKBA’s General Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs, Ed Nagorsky, stated that “a handful of interior designers . . . seek to monopolize the industry” and that there is no evidence that the public is being harmed without the legislation.

AIACC’s Christian notes that SB1312 would have prohibited the interior designers represented by the NKBA and their allied opponents from offering interior design services, and that, depending on their education and experience, it may be difficult for residential interior designers to become licensed.

Therefore, it would have created a caste-like system for interior designers in California, with residential interior designers at the bottom. In Maclachlan’s article in Capitol Weekly, Christian characterized the bill as a “power grab cloaked behind the rhetoric of ‘protecting the consumer.’”

Also in opposition is the Interior Design Protection Council (IDPC), whose main purpose appears to be to organize and educate interior designers on how to effectively resist ASID-supported legislation and protect their livelihoods. Another allied opposing voice is the California Legislative Coalition for Interior Design (CLCID), which is concerned about the exam and prerequisites putting designers out of business.

Also vocal and active against licensure is the Institute of Justice (IJ), self-described as a libertarian public interest law firm, but also referred to in Capitol Weekly as a conservative legal foundation funded by the Coors and Walton families. In a case study released in November 2007, the Institute professed to have documented “a long-running campaign led by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) to expand regulation of interior designers in order to put would-be competitors out of business under the guise of ‘increasing the stature of the industry.’”

The national AIA maintains that the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the public is paramount, and that architects and engineers are the only professionals who meet the threshold of licensure and registration. The AIACC also wrote a letter to Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas opposing SB1312. It stated that, “Interior designers often are an integral part in the design process, and frequently work with architects in planning and designing interior spaces . . . . However, their knowledge, acquired through education and experience, does not include the whole building system, and this knowledge is necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.”

California has maintained a self-certification process since 1991 (California Business and Professions Code—Sections 5800-5812). This is how related interior design organizations became part of the discourse. The California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC), a non-governmental organization, administers the IDEX-California examination (which, beginning this October, replaced the previously required combination of one of three competing national exams and the CCRE (California Codes and Regulations Exam)).

Candidates must also provide proof of combined work experience and interior design education, totaling six years with an accredited degree or eight years without. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) is an independent, non-profit accrediting organization for interior design education programs at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. A full listing of accredited interior design programs is available on their website, www.accredit-id.org. The majority of the California community colleges are not on this list, hence the burden of many interior designers with a degree from an unaccredited school to produce evidence of two more years of experience than those who received an education from an accredited school (likely a more expensive education).

This civil war among interior designers gets even more complicated when we factor in that many architects who practice primarily interior architecture or interior design are active members of both the AIA and IIDA or ASID. Some architects in larger firms practice alongside interior designers daily and collaboratively and find it difficult to decide where to stand on this debate. As part of the AIA’s Knowledge Community, the Interior Architecture Advisory Group has begun outreach efforts to the interior design community through the IIDA. Instead of attempting to resolve any conflicts, it is approaching the contact on a member-to-member basis to begin the dialogue about this complex issue that will persist for many years to come.

*In 2004 Alabama District Court found the practice act to be unconstitutional. In 2007, the state’s Supreme Court upheld that decision.

*In 2004 Alabama District Court found the practice act to be unconstitutional. In 2007, the state’s Supreme Court upheld that decision.



Historic Preservation Tax Credit Bill on Governor’s Desk

in: Advocacy / 0 Comments


Legislation to create a California tax credit for work performed on historic buildings is sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting his decision. You can help by sending Governor Jerry Brown a message encouraging him to sign this important bill into law.

The bill, AB 1999, is jointly sponsored by the California Preservation Foundation and the AIA California Council. It would have California join the federal government and 35 other states in offering a tax credit to encourage developers and owners to make improvements to these historically important buildings and make them relevant components of our communities.

AB 1999 creates a 20% tax credit for work performed on these buildings. Some buildings would be eligible for a 25% tax credit (for example, if they are a part of an affordable housing project or in a transit-oriented development).

For more information on AB 1999, please read the coalition letter sent to Governor Brown.

There still is time to send Governor Brown a message urging him to sign AB 1999 into law, but it must be done this week. If you would like to, please follow these steps:

  • Send him a message using the Governor’s online comment form
  • Go to https://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php
  • Select “Have Comment”
  • Under “Please Chose Your Subject” scroll down to AB 1999
  • After pressing “Continue”, select the “Pro” button and enter comments urging him to sign AB 1999; if you are comfortable doing so, please enter comments on the importance of these buildings to our communities.

And, as always, if you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below.


Helpful Energy Resource Site

in: AIACC / 2 Comments

The AIACC came across this very helpful resource and we wanted to share it with the members. Along with all the information, research and links, one can also find a plethora of training and events. Browse through the site when you have a moment and see what we mean.


Vocal Criticism Be Warned

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members in the news-580

This op-ed piece was written by member Stuart Magruder, AIA, LEED, who stepped up to actively participate in public policy and when he questioned motives, felt rather marginalized.  We thought it important to publish because there is a level of government accountability to be addressed, and if you feel so inclined, a petition has been started to have Magruder reinstated. The petition is for all concerned citizens and does not depend on locale.

Stuart Magruder, AIA

Stuart Magruder, AIA, LEED

For the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of serving pro bono on the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee (BOC), a body charged with ensuring that public bond funds used by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are used to provide the infrastructure to educate the City’s youth.  The District has been the beneficiary of the largest municipal bond fund program in the history of the United States, totaling some $20.5 billion to date.   Busing, year round calendars, and serious overcrowding have been almost eliminated throughout the District as a result of the bonds.

With these major accomplishments behind it and close to $7B of the $20.5B remaining, LAUSD has diverted infrastructure bond funds to a poorly designed and poorly executed technology initiative: one iPad for every student, K through 12.  The price tag for this initiative: $1.1B.

From the beginning, I have been a vocal and consistent critic of the program as it was clear to me that the District had not designed the initiative well.  Rather than starting with a pilot program to figure out what works and what doesn’t, the District planned to provide every student – some 600,000 – with an iPad.  And they planned to do it over the course of a year or so.  The teaching core was not consulted in any meaningful way, to say nothing of training the teachers that have to manage the devices.  Countless missteps along the way have occurred from paying for “content” (otherwise known as a “textbook”) that is not finished and is not being used; to not supplying keyboards; to numerous missteps around privacy and student data.

Nominated for a second two-year term by the AIA Los Angeles Chapter, the District’s Board Of Education, in a split vote, rejected my re-nomination.  This action violates the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between LAUSD and the BOC.  Per the MOU the District is compelled to approve the AIA|LA nomination – 12 of the 15 slots on the BOC are held above meddling by the District with an ensured appointee.

The reason for my nomination’s rejection is solely due to my criticism of the technology initiative.  Buying tablet computers with Bond funds is bad enough but moving to silence a critic of the effort is scary for our democracy.  When our politicians waste taxpayer funds and attempt to put themselves above reproach, we, the citizens, must resist.  Help me keep LAUSD honest.  Sign the petition and let the AIA|LA know their support of my re-nomination is vital.

For further insight, click here.


In Passing: John O. Merrill Jr., FAIA

in: AIACC / 0 Comments

The following was sent courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Architect John O. Merrill Jr., FAIA, the son of the founder of SOM died April 25 at his home in Tiburon, California. He was 90 years old. Merrill was the Partner in Charge of many of SOM’s widely regarded projects including the Mauna Kea hotel in Hawaii; the Oakland Stadium and Coliseum; the 52-story Bank of America building in San Francisco; and the Weyerhauser corporate headquarters in Tacoma, WA.

During his 40-year career at SOM, Merrill had a significant impact not only on the firm, but on some of the most celebrated architecture of the 20th century. In the late 1960’s, Merrill, with frequent collaborator and SOM Design Partner Charles Bassett, oversaw the five story stepped back headquarters for Weyerhauser Corporation. Decades before the notion of green roofs and trends in office layouts, this building’s sloped terraces were each planted with lush greenery. Floor to ceiling windows run completely uninterrupted along each level, blurring the boundary between outside and in.

“With John’s leadership, SOM brought an approach to integrated design that hadn’t been seen before on the West Coast,” said SOM Managing Partner Gene Schnair, FAIA. “John’s focus and insistence on design excellence deeply influence our practice.”

Merrill began his career with SOM in San Francisco in 1949. In 1952 he took over the leadership of the firm’s then office in Portland, Oregon and in the following eight years established the basis of the firm’s stellar reputation in the Pacific Northwest. He quickly rose to the level of Associate in the firm (1953) and then Associate Partner (1954). He was elected as a Partner in 1957 and served as a senior Managing Partner of the firm until his retirement in 1989. In addition to his important contribution to the firm’s West Coast practice, he worked internationally in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, Russia and France. Along the way he was elevated to the level of Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, of which he served as President of the San Francisco chapter in 1976.

His influence reached far beyond the firm. In fact, he was instrumental in achieving AIA San Francisco’s Affirmative Action Plan for Women in Architecture. And he was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Art Institute when that 75-year old, 800-student institution was near collapse due to student unrest and financial problems. Merrill instituted student and faculty reforms as well as fund raising efforts that saved this cultural asset.


2013 Academy of Emerging Professional Award Recipients Announced

in: Press Room/Releases / 0 Comments

American Institute of Architects AEP honors top young leaders and mentors.

The American Institute of Architects, California Council (AIACC), is proud to notify the public about the results from the Academy of Emerging Professionals recent awards program. Not only have the best and the brightest minds been recognized, but those who support architects in the early stages of their career. The 2nd annual awards program jury deliberated and announced the following 2013 award recipients:

Chapter Award:
AIA Pasadena & Foothill. This chapter has an inclusive approach to Emerging Professionals, resulting in engagement from the community as well as the design arena.

Firm Mentorship Award: Lionakis, a firm known to actively connect the Emerging Professionals within the organization to a wide range of resources to enrich development and further enhance the architecture arena and society as a whole. With firms in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Hawaii, they are able to touch a wide range of up and coming architects and mentor them along the path to success.

Student Leader Award:
Keko AlRamah. She has demonstrated an early commitment to her profession and contributions and achievements have already been observed in her community. She currently attends West Valley College in Saratoga.

Educator Award: Gary McGavin, AIA Jurors agreed McGavin embodies the idea that architectural success is enhanced when one sees the calling as part of a well-rounded life, and imparts this on his students. He is on faculty at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona.

Associate Award: Haley Gipe, Assoc. AIA. Jurors noted there is not a single aspect of associate activities connected to AIA that she has not touched on a national scale and all should look forward to her contributions in the future. Gipe is an intern at Darden Architects in Fresno.

Young Architect Award:
Brian Crilly, AIA and Britt Lindberg, AIA LEED AP. Both have been noted for their creative solutions and innovative thinking. Crilly is credited for his contributions with a conference all should be attending—the Now Next Future. Many are looking forward to see how Lindberg continues to contribute to the leadership within the field of Architecture in the future. Crilly is an architect at Lionakis, Sacramento. Lindberg is a project architect at Gensler in San Francisco

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Shannon Calder, at 916.642.1718, or scalder@aiacc.org.


Rio Vision Meets R/UDAT

in: Important Issues / 1 Comment
Humphrey the Whale

Humphrey the Whale. Illustration courtesy of Nick Gaston

In 1985 and then again in 1990, Humphrey the Humpback Whale, deviated from his Pacific Ocean migration path and found himself 60 miles inland of the coast of San Francisco near the city of Rio Vista. Because his wayward journeys (and the ensuing successful rescues) made national headlines, you may have heard of this place: population 7,563.

Do not be deceived by the modest number of citizens: this small Delta community is mighty. Very recently, a group of citizens rallied to rise above predicaments such as a near-municipal fiscal collapse in 2009, by composing a well-written application (Rio Vision). They were awarded the help of a Regional Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT). R/UDATs are sought out by the communities themselves. They can help assist with responding to issues such as unfocused growth, gridlock, crime, loss of identity.

The primary purpose of the R/UDAT process is to essentially help communities become more livable. Since 1967, these teams have assisted more than 150 areas by coming in, assessing the problems and providing solutions in the form of executive summaries—summaries which do not read as instruction manuals, but rather a list of recommendations with detailed analytics as to why. Rio Vista is the latest community to receive one such summary.

Direct issues were discussed, analyzed and faced. Take Rio Vista’s waterfront and downtown for example. According to Rio Vision’s request : “The downtown has a 1950’s undisturbed look and feel … buildings have facades that obscure the charming brickwork … some buildings look dated. Storefronts have little curb appeal.” Also, the community has “a charming but lackluster core city and waterfront.” In direct answer to this, the R/UDAT explicitly stated the downtown and waterfront should not be considered two different areas but rather the “Waterfront will catalyze down town through downtown expansion, restaurants that help provide access to the river, dense housing to build downtown’s critical mass, built around public space.” (p. 2)

Because Rio Vista was armed and prepared with an already established vision, the process went that much smoother. “Rio Vista had a lot of enthusiasm built up, so we hit the ground running. This was a very ideal case for us,” said Erin Simmons, Director of the AIA Center for Communities by Design.

Rio Vista Bridge. Illustration courtesy Nick Gaston

Rio Vista Bridge. Illustration courtesy of Nick Gaston

Architect and member of the Rio Vision steering committee, Mark McTeer, AIA, was skeptical upon entry of this project as momentum on situations such as these do have a tendency to fade. But that was not the case. “I could hardly believe what they were achieving and for the first time in almost a decade, people were starting to talk and dream again. Everything seemed rooted in optimism.”

The R/UDAT team consisted of nine professionals from across the country. 10 college students from the San Francisco and Sacramento area also joined in. Consumnes River College student Daniel Christman, AIAS, (and AIACC’s Student Director North), happened to be one. “It was a great opportunity to observe how design professionals analyze a community in need.” But the attendees and participants were not limited to the experts. 50 community members attended the targeted focus groups and 350 citizens attended a Town Hall meeting. Once assembled, several action-packed days (and nights) were spent coming up with suggestions and solutions. There were short-term goals set, (p.77), as well as long-term. Some basic ideas and objectives: calm Highway 12; (see the “road diet” section, p. 9 -31), and to build a viable business community in the downtown area by revitalizing and creating a stronger identity.

According to McTeer, there are now more volunteers and potential projects and Rio Vision is planning on accommodating them. Simmons said about the experience, “This is what a project can be.”

The fire was ignited, but the passion to start this adaptation of the community was already in place. McTeer articulately wrote of the value of the process coupled with the value of the people: “… The change in attitude oddly reminds me of a scene from The Wizard of Oz. Nine professionals flew in and drew back the curtains and with a little faith and encouragement, granted a struggling community something they had all along: brains, courage, and heart.”

Brains, Heart, Courage. Illustration courtesy Nick Gaston

Brains, Heart, Courage. Illustration courtesy of Nick Gaston

Maybe Humphrey knew something we didn’t. Perhaps he felt the spirit of this place and its people and wanted to take a swim in some freshwater to check it out. Let’s hope, for his sake, he doesn’t return again. But humans from all locales are absolutely welcome to visit. For communities in need some insight and assistance, may Rio Vision serve as inspiration.

Read the full report here. If anyone is interested in a live, first-person account, they may want to consider attending AIA East Bay’s event Wed., Apr. 30. Three members from the Rio Vision steering committee will be presenting. Visit the AIA East Bay website for information and registration.


Avoiding White Space and Other Distractions

in: Notes From the 2nd Floor / 1 Comment

In this issue we continue the discussion of AIA fostering a culture of firm services and benefits that enhance the prosperity of the profession. Admittedly, achieving this objective is much easier said than done. So, where do we start?


Paul W. Welch, Jr., Hon. AIA

We begin by clearly identifying expected outcomes:

  • an educated profession well prepared to meet the environmental and economic challenges of a shrinking planet;
  • architectural firms that have the necessary tools and resources to prosper in an evolving profession and growing unpredictable marketplace;
  • an aggressive outreach campaign that engages the public towards a greater understanding and appreciation of architects, architecture, and the contributions of design to the human experience;
  • and an AIA that vigorously participates in local, regional, and national conversations regarding design and construction.

Understandably, to be successful, these ambitious objectives require discipline and focus at all three levels of the AIA.

AIA, within the framework of the Practice and Prosperity Initiative, has begun the journey. Underway is a major effort to clearly identify the programs and activities that contribute to a culture of firm services. The inquiry is not confined to the Design and Practice Department. The research is being conducted Institute-wide and will identify the activities in all the AIA’s programs, activities, committees, and task forces. Ultimately, the inventory will include firm benefits and services being provided by state and local AIA components. Once the survey is complete, a thorough review and validation of the findings will prioritize valued services, and ascertain programs and activities that have outlived their usefulness.

While the validation process is underway, commensurate efforts will identify “white space,” or issues, problems, and/or opportunities for member services that are not currently being addressed. This effort will require additional surveys and discussions with architectural firms of all sizes. Once these white spaces have been identified, they will be prioritized before moving to operational planning and budgeting to ensure the AIA has targeted those items that have the highest positive impact on the firms and the members.

This exploratory effort at cataloging existing and needed firm service and benefits will contribute considerably to expanded member communications and efforts to enhance public and client messaging. If we are serious about changing the conversation about design and construction and elevating the value of design while empowering emerging professions, we must not be distracted by the noise of adversity and conflict, but, instead, be willing to stand up for what we believe in.

I fully appreciate that The Practice and Prosperity Initiative, within the context of Repositioning, represents a different paradigm of resourcing our firms and our members to meet the challenges of the post-recession economy and an unpredictable and volatile marketplace. However, we must be bold, courageous, and innovative, if we are to reposition the AIA to be an active participant at the leading edge of practice.

To be truly valuable to members, especially the emerging professionals, the AIA has to focus resources in order to earn a reputation as an organization that doesn’t follow, but leads. In the past, with the best intentions, our incremental efforts to accommodate myriad demands has resulted in AIA spreading itself much too thin, with far too many competing priorities. Our challenge is to target with laser-like accuracy those services, and only those services, that leverage our finite resources to best advance the value of the organization and the members it serves. Prosperity is a consequence of good business practices. As firms prosper, our members will benefit, and society will experience first -hand how design influences the livability of our communities.

In the words Albert Einstein:

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and forgotten the gift.”

Money and resource allocation is the cutting edge of organizational policy. In other words, if we are truly committed to repositioning the architect in the marketplace and elevating the contributions of design, we need to “put our money where our mouth is.”

What are your thoughts? I look forward to hearing from you.


Mr. Malinowski Goes to Washington

in: Industry News / 0 Comments

members in the news-580

“Wood is being rediscovered; wood is being reinvented.”
–Michael F. Malinowski, AIA


Michael F. Malinowski, AIA

Sometimes there is more than one way to think through a predicament; more than one solution to be considered. For example, the public often views timber as a precious resource in danger of disappearing. But what if this isn’t the case? What if sustainable harvested would was a medium and therefore a way to increase the employment rate? What if building with wood actually reduced greenhouse gas emissions?

These quandaries were discussed at the White House Rural Council Workshop, Building with Wood: Jobs and the Environment, presented on Mar. 18. Among the presenters invited was California’s own Michael Malinowski, AIA.

According to a press release distributed by the US Forest Service, the idea is to “support sustainable forestry and buffer reduce [sic] greenhouse gas emissions.”

To this effect, The Agriculture Department (USDA) announced a $1 million program to promote wood as a sustainable material in order to boost rural economies. In addition, another $1 million is being used to set up a design competition. The intent is to “demonstrate the architectural and commercial viability of using sustainable wood products in high-rise construction,” according to a USDA press release.

Malinowski, President of Applied Architecture, Inc., presented on the use of timber in architecture. His platform revolved around the narrative of a situation where his switching to wood on a project received very positive results. His account included video and slides, one of which powerfully and simply read: “Wood is being Re-discovered; Wood is being Reinvented.” Malinowski was also able to provide evidence via surveys of innovations regarding wood use that are currently transpiring. “It happened I was one of the three invited jurors for the Canadian Wood Design Awards program – juried in Ottawa, Canada this last December – so I had a ready access to an amazing breadth of work and the firms who are at the leading edge of this innovation in design and application.”

Malinowski received solid feedback on his presentation, as well as an announcement from the AIA Grassroots podium announcing that a member presented to the White House Rural Council. (Even though the event didn’t technically transpire at the White House. Snow prevented the original date and place. As Malinowski said, “It turned out the government was shut down on Monday due to a snow storm; the event was moved to Tuesday at the USDA headquarters on the National Mall – not quite as heady as the original location – but still an event where there were two senior people from the white house speaking, followed with an address by the Secretary of Agriculture.”)

If the mission of this symposium is to consider wood as a sustainable resource and for it to be more widely adopted, no one better to speak than an architect with the research and the experience to back it up. It is from these sorts of presentations which not only the profession learns, but the public as well.

Additional Resources:


School Design Excellence

in: Awards / 1 Comment

2014 Leroy Greene On Feb. 25 in Sacramento, Calif., CASH (The Coalition for Adequate School Housing), in partnership with AIACC, announced the recipients of the 2014 Leroy F. Green Design + Planning Awards. Selected by a distinguished panel of jurors, representing educators and design professionals, these awards recognized new, modernized, and specialty facility projects throughout California.



Award of Excellence
Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan
Irvine Unified School District
Irvine Unified School District
LPA, Inc.


Award of Excellence

Paramount High School
Paramount Unified School District
LPA, Inc.

Mills High School Theater & Gymnasium Complex
San Mateo Union High School District
Quattrocchi Kwok Architects LLP

Award of Honor

Arroyo Viejo Child Development Center
Oakland Unified School District
Dougherty + Dougherty Architects, LLP

Award of Merit

Placer County Office of Education
Seavey Center
Placer County Office of Education
Williams + Paddon Architects


Award of Excellence
Hillcrest High School
Alvord Unified School District
HMC Architects

Pioneer School
Delano Union School District
HMC Architects

La Escuelita Elementary School + District Programs (KDOL Studio/ District IT Center/Community Health Center)
Oakland Unified School District
MVE Institutional, Inc.

Award of Honor
Richard N. Slawson
Southeast Educational Center
Los Angeles Unified School District

Granite Hills High School
Grossmont Union High School District
Ruhnau Ruhnau Clarke


Award of Honor
Fremont High School Expansion
Los Angeles Unified School District
LPA, Inc.

The AIACC congratulates each of these recipients on successful projects as they provide school districts with a glimpse of how a well-designed facility can enhance the learning environments for California’s public school students. The AIACC believes good design in public school facilities enhances the learning, development, and behavior of the students and positively affects educational outcomes.


Chapters: Possibilities at Risk

in: Important Issues / 2 Comments


The previous issue of Notes from the Second Floor began the conversation of “One AIA.” This issue continues the discussion and focuses on the AIA chapters, and the challenges facing chapter executive directors. If working better together is an expected outcome of the Repositioning Initiative, there should be no higher priority than the need to improve the health and welfare of our chapters, and the working conditions facing many of our component executives.


Paul W. Welch, Jr., Hon. AIA

A cursory examination of the AIA’s chapter boundaries across America is not unlike reviewing political reapportionment. Chapter boundaries seem to wander aimlessly around cities and towns, geographical and topical formations, in search of new ZIP Codes to incorporate. Occasionally, chapters will quarrel when boundaries conflict as cities and townships expand into previously undeveloped landscapes. Unfortunately, once new AIA chapters are created and chapter boundaries constructed, they seem to be irrevocable as the decisions are seldom revisited.

Created with an enhanced desire for increased local focus and control, newly formed chapters had an abundance of volunteers willing to step into leadership positions. However, for many chapters, times have changed. Now, faced with declining or negligible membership growth, many chapters have recycled their leadership to the point of exhaustion. Additionally, declining resources have reduced staff hours, or resulted in staff being laid off entirely. Understandably, these challenges have severe negative consequences on the component’s ability to deliver member services. The difference between what the members expect and what they actually receive is having a significant chilling effect on membership retention and recruitment.

While the skills and competencies of component executives very, they all share a passion for architecture and advancing the value of design within the communities they serve. Unfortunately, many component executives toil many more hours than they are compensated, work without benefit of a position description, seldom experience an annual review of performance, salary or compensation, nor do they receive any employment benefits such as health insurance or retirement. Given the difficulty of increasing dues, local chapters frequently look to raising non-dues revenue to partially or fully compensate the component executive. As members fail to renew their membership due to lack of services, component executives will likely find their hours reduced or even eliminated. Understandably, survival becomes a priority over member services. Regrettably, this sense of estrangement and isolation fuels negativity and erodes collaboration and harmony.

How can we achieve a unified AIA when our chapters are struggling to find a new generation of leaders, experiencing declining membership, while also grappling with increased state and federal corporate regulations and responsibilities? Considering increased competition among chapters, an overstressed dues structure, and a marketplace increasingly complicated by changes in technology and project delivery, how do we resource our component executives to meet the challenges faced at the local level?

The Repositioning Initiative provides a unique opportunity to address both problems. We need to review the alignment of AIA chapters, the services they provide, and the commitment of AIA to make good the promise to local components that they will be the “touch stone for member satisfaction.” Furthermore, we should not be content until we provide a culture of innovation and support for our chapters and our component executives. We should do all we can to provide them the tools and resources they need, and to strengthen the value of AIA membership at the local level. We need to be sensitive to the problems of local chapters. After all, they are chartered by the AIA and the AIA brand should clearly communicate the importance that chapters contribute to the member/value equation. The failure of any component to deliver on member services should not be an option, since the failure of any one affects us all.

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Our conversation regarding the concept of one AIA and component realignment continues in the next issue. Please take the time and opportunity to participate. Your thoughts are appreciated.



Changes to the Architects Practice Act for 2014

in: Gov’t Affairs / 0 Comments

Both licensees and candidates for licensure should be aware of some significant, and some not so significant (but none the less important) changes to the Architects Practice Act.

And regardless of your area of practice and to what extent you practice, all licensees should have knowledge of the California Architects Board’s statutes and regulations, as well as be familiar with and understand their provisions.

Provided below for your information are the most recent changes to the Architects Practice Act relevant to the practice of architecture and the licensure process, as of January 1, 2014. Additionally, be aware that throughout the year regulations may be changed, whereas new statutes typically become effective on January 1 of the year following their passage unless they have an urgency clause.

Of particular interest to the profession are the following recently added or amended section(s) of the Business and Professions Code and California Code of Regulations:

Business and Professions Code Sections Added or Amended

§ 30 Federal Employer Identification Number or Social Security Number Required of Licensee
§ 31 Noncompliance with Support Orders or Judgments-Effect on Registration and Licensing of Businesses
§ 114.3 Waiver of Fees and Requirements for Licensees Called to Active Duty
§ 115.5 Expedited Licensure for Spouses of Active Duty Members
§ 125.9 System for Issuance of Citation to a Licensee
§ 143.5 Provision Prohibited in Settlement Agreements; Adoption of Regulations; Exemptions
§ 149 Advertising in Telephone Directory Without License-Agency Citation
§ 5536.4 Instruments of Service-Consent
§ 5550.5 Social Security Number Exemption

California Code of Regulations Sections Amended

§ 103 Delegation of Certain Functions
§ 109 Filing of Applications
§ 117 Experience Evaluation
§ 121 Form of Examinations; Reciprocity

Link to the Architects Practice Act.


Your License May Not Be Enough

in: Conferences / 0 Comments

There was a time when having an architect’s license alone was enough to complete just about any building type. Add a smattering of consultants (structural, electrical, and mechanical), and you had a project team.

My how times have changed. Today construction projects have every imaginable type of consultant—from finance bond consultants to commissioning agents and everything in between. Ah, the good ole days. But lamenting on the past, and ruminating over how this came to be will only help us today if we’ve learned something from it. Ask yourself: how many entities were on your last project duplicating the services you, as an architect, were capable of performing—and what did you do about it besides share your fee?

And now another mouth comes to trough: the Certified Access Specialist (CASp). Only this time things are different; this time you can be the consultant, you can be the CASp. In fact, you can be the CASp and the architect and keep the fee for yourself.

There are other advantages to this opportunity: being a CASp is a standalone service you can provide or, it can be an additional service you can provide your clients. Additionally, you may be able to lower your professional liability insurance by having a CASp on staff to review your CD’s (Construction Documents, duh) for access compliance.

For those architects wishing to become CASp certified, there are three upcoming opportunities.

Registration is now open through the Division of the State Architect (DSA) for the CASp examination. The scheduled dates for 2014 are Mar. 12, Jun. 25 and Oct. 8. For more information, click here.

CASp was created by the Legislature in order to create a body of individuals who would have demonstrated expertise within the accessibility laws and regulations. According to the DSA website, “The program is designed to meet the public’s need for experienced, trained, and tested individuals who can render opinions as to the compliance of buildings and sites with the State of California codes and regulations and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or accessibility.”

What it Does:
This certification is an opportunity and architects need to seriously consider taking it. “We as architects have given up pieces of the practice, and this is a chance to turn that around and encompass the built environment,” said Widom.

Who Benefits:
Everyone. The builder/owner/client receives expertise in order to navigate through the sometimes tenuous path of building-code-regulation. The architect benefits because they obtain a further expertise and specialization, can be sought out by individuals, or become an on-site expert within their firm. “From a business development standpoint, this can only expand and open doors for the architect who is certified,” said Widom. And the public-at-large benefits because buildings are safer and code-compliant.

Who is Eligible:
California licensed architects, landscape architects, civil engineers, and structural engineers are encouraged to register. Examination dates for 2014 are Mar. 12, Jun. 25 and Oct. 8. For more information, click here.