Inspiring People

✱ FLW 150 by Evan Troxel

Frank Lloyd Wright would be 150 years old today, and thinking of him immediately took me back to my childhood. At around 8 or 9 years old, I replicated his floor plans on grid paper of my own. I would beg my parents to buy me plan books or find books in the library because they were utterly fascinating, and I remember specifically drawing the Robie house (seen below) and being in awe of the kinds of plans he designed mainly because it didn't look anything like the houses I had lived in. I only thought of them as 'plans' at that time... I didn't even know they were real buildings! But then at one point I remember seeing pictures of the Wingspread house (in the slideshow below) for the first time thinking that it couldn't be real. How could that be a house?




Animated floor plan of the Robie house

Animated floor plan of the Robie house

It's amazing to me what a man with such an incredible vision and creativity could do with a pencil.

I've had the opportunity to visit a few FLW buildings—the Hollyhock house in Hollywood, the Ennis house in Hollywood, the Gammage theater at ASU, and Taliesn West in Scottsdale. I've always loved my experiences in them and obviously I have a lot more to see. He designed over 500 built works.

So here's to Frank. His architecture was a piece of what inspired me to become an architect, and his architecture will continue to inspire us for at least another 150 years. What a legacy.

Prince by Evan Troxel

My awareness of Prince started when I was in the 5th grade and heard Little Red Corvette and Raspberry Beret for the first time on a cassette. Then I vividly remember seeing his Purple Rain album pressed on purple vinyl, of course. In more recent years it was all about his guitar playing for me. Here are a few of my favorites live moments. 


Video: Brené Brown on Why Your Critics Aren't the Ones Who Count by Evan Troxel

Brené Brown talks at the 99u Conference about showing up and doing the work. She also has some strong words about whom we should listen to when it comes to feedback on our projects. 

I absolutely love how this talk applies to architecture and designers in particular who have the obligation of being vulnerable. It also reminds me that the process of design is a struggle, and it is not "the fun part" of architecture, although it is often categorized as such. Don't get me wrong... I love the challenge and wouldn't want to do anything else.

A constant struggle, a ceaseless battle to bring success from inhospitable surroundings, is the price of all great achievements.
— Orison Swett Marden

I need to find a way to get this video to automatically replay every time I'm having self-doubt or need a kick in the ass to get moving on my projects again. So about every 2 weeks then.

We Don't Like Your House Either by Evan Troxel

This documentary is about some of Architect Bruce Goff's work and he talks openly about his relationships with his clients and about the work itself. The label 'genius' comes up a lot, and to be truthful I've never been interested in his work but I took some time to watch this and it's fascinating. I love how much his clients trusted him and loved what they were able to accomplish together. 

For some reason it starts at minute 17. Rewind it back to the beginning before you start watching.

✱ The Salk by Evan Troxel

My wife and I went down to La Jolla a few weeks ago and did a small architecture tour while on our getaway. I brought my camera and made some photos so I thought I'd share (because that's what I do!). We visited four buildings in and around La Jolla, California that I'll be putting here on the blog in separate posts as I get through the images. I posted some of my iPhone shots on my Instagram feed but these are from my main camera and haven't been shown until now, and I'm really happy with how they've turned out.

First up is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies by the master, Louis Kahn, which was built in 1962.

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Video: John Cleese on Creativity by Evan Troxel

I've watched this video twice now, and I'll probably watch it again. I keep picking up on new things each time. I have to say, this is the most succinct presentation on how to get in the creative mode I've ever seen. And it goes without saying that John Cleese comes off showing his complete understanding of this science-backed thesis in a captivating way. Just thinking about the way he designed the talk to include humor, timing, confidence, intuition and science makes me want to find more videos of him doing this kind of thing so I can study them. 

Take notes.

Link: 25 Architects You Should Follow on Twitter by Evan Troxel

I'm honored to be included on my friend Mark LePage's list of 25 architects to follow on Twitter. For those of you not in the know, Mark started Entrepreneur Architect and his mission is to help architects build better businesses. He and I (and another Mark) met up last spring in New York City and walked the High Line together. It was a first for all of us, and it was a very special place. We had a hot coffee, talked about all things architecture as well as plenty of other stuff as we walked along the elevated park. I can't wait to get back and hang out again. You can see my photography from the trip here. I love these photos.

The reason I'm posting a link to his list, although seemingly self-serving, is that the other 24 people are all worth your attention. There are some new ones to me on the list as well, and I can't stress enough how friendly and supportive the people I know on it have been to me and my career. I even started a podcast about architecture with two of them.

Mark sums the Twitter thing up really well:

If you haven’t yet participated on Twitter, I recommend you give it a try. It’s difficult to explain the interest gained by these many short interactions. Small firm architects benefit from camaraderie and support offered by others in similar positions. Relationships are formed and friendships are forged.

Yay internet!

Video: The Illusion of Life by Evan Troxel

I used to do a lot of animation and I wish I had studied this kind of stuff a lot more. The artists that use these subtleties and are able to put them into their own work have infinitely better results than the brute force-style I was employing. It's making me remember just how hard it was to do great animation. It's such an inventive, fun little video. Great style too.

The 12 basic principles of animation were developed by the 'old men' of Walt Disney Studios, amongst them Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, during the 1930s. Of course they weren't old men at the time, but young men who were at the forefront of exciting discoveries that were contributing to the development of a new art form. These principles came as a result of reflection about their practice and through Disney's desire to use animation to express character and personality. This movie is my personal take on those principles, applied to simple shapes. Like a cube. Check also the animated gif gallery here

Link: "Everything I know about business in one minute." by Evan Troxel


Here is some great advice for business and for life. It's a quick summary from a one minute long presentation by Bill Drenttel, but you should go to Michael Bierut's site and read the story behind the message because he has some great observations about the man and his text. Bill sounded like an amazing guy. 

These are the ten things he said:

  • Focusing on making a partnership work is more profitable than focusing on making money.
  • Love your employees more than you love your clients. 
  • The best new business is your current business.
  • Price projects by asking yourself what the client's lawyer would charge.
  • It's better to be hired for your work than for your price. 
  • When it comes to getting paid, the first of the month is better than the thirtieth. 
  • Making money off mechanicals, printing and computers turns your business into a commodity.
  • The books in your library are more important than the numbers on your balance sheet. 
  • In order to love your work, take vacations.
  • Power, in business, comes from sharing money and valuing love.

Summary: Love > Business

Video: Blood & Oil by Evan Troxel

Cale Glendening wants you to wake up, get off your seat, be more creative, and live. That's the inspiration and message of this wonderfully shot short film, Blood & Oil.


Blood & Oil is a short film I have wanted to shoot for some time. It speaks to all avenues of passionate endeavors and the common thread of desire, determination and relentless pursuit it takes to see them through. That feeling that wakes you in the dead of night, the call to action that courses through your veins. It doesn't matter what you do or what your passion is, there is always room to be challenged, to grow, advance and to be more inspired.

With that heart and intention, Blood & Oil is about wanting to create, be more awake and to be more alive. I have been lucky enough to both work and play with truly ambitious and talented people that push me more everyday, to those people I say a very special thank you.

I so needed this.

✱ Have You Been Watching FiftyThree? by Evan Troxel

FiftyThree is an amazing company to follow and study. Their message is clear and it has been fun to watch what appears to be something so simple (yet I'm sure it's not at all simple behind the scenes) come together methodically over the last couple of years.

Image courtesy FiftyThree

First they introduced Paper, a free iPad app with a natural looking paint engine (brushes, brush strokes, digital ink technology) and tools that won App of the Year from Apple along with several other awards. Users could decide to get all of the tools via in-app purchase and it was a no-brainer to do so. How could we resist? They just looked gorgeous. Then they built new tools into that app and made them also available via in-app purchase. The ability to do color mixing to create our own custom colors besides the original 7 was a genius move, and generated more revenue for them to take their vision further.

Where to go from there? Well, looking back it's obvious. They gave us the ability to make printed versions of our sketchbooks. They called it Book, and they partnered with Moleskin to deliver these beautifully crafted analog media. Simply put your Book together in their app and it arrives at your door within a couple of weeks. Boom.

Image courtesy FiftyThree

Image courtesy FiftyThree

As if that weren't enough they've now built an ecosystem around what was once just an app by adding a new device to the mix. Now FiftyThree makes hardware. It's a stylus called Pencil, and it works perfectly with Paper. It simply connects right in the app over bluetooth so of course it has additional functionality like an eraser. And of course it fits their brand perfectly because it's fancy technology wrapped in beautiful, warm wood. I can only imagine how nice it is to hold. I want.

I only bring all this to your attention because I love watching stories like this unfold right in front of us. It all seems so obvious, and that's something I love about companies like this. They just started with an app (albeit an amazing one) and look where it has come. It's amazing technology wrapped in a very warm analog wrapper and it just feels right. It's so clear; so simple. That, to me, is where technology works best. 

I'm rooting for them.

Architectural History: Le Corbusier by Evan Troxel

Take 5 minutes (less actually) and learn all about Corbu, one of the pioneers of modern architecture in these two very nicely done motion design projects. Once you're done, you'll know enough of the major points to impress random strangers at a cocktail party with the finer points of modernism. 

These things have definitely made their way into our modern projects and may seem normal today, but as my friend Rob likes to say, even conventional wisdom was at one time thought of as being unconventional. Corbu was firmly embedded in future thinking and laid some incredible groundwork for future generations of architects.

The Five Points of a New Architecture

Le Corbusier 2.0

(Via Architizer

The future of performance art is architectural; includes robots and video projection by Evan Troxel

Or perhaps the title of this post should be: The future of architecture is performance art. 

See this video by Bot & Dolly for a glimpse into a space where the entire environment is a known quantity - the stage, the room, the performers and the viewer. The intriguing thing here is that most of those things are moving throughout the space! And remember this as you watch - the entire thing is captured in-camera. None of the stuff happening in the room is done after the fact. Not the writing on the floor, not what's happening on the screens - nothing. Like I said, they know where everything in the room is located.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
— Arthur C. Clarke

This kind of creativity is amazing. I'm now thinking how (and if) I can apply this to my architectural projects. It could make for a heightened experience with little additional expense. For instance, maybe the room can track the occupants as they move through the space and deliver additional "spatial" elements based on their location. Suddenly the architecture's ability to affect the mood of the inhabitant just went way up. I'm not saying it's for every building or every person, but the idea is intriguing.

If we design spaces for this kind of interaction with architecture in mind, how would we design them differently? Would a lot more of our architecture become a screen-like element? Could we get away with less expensive skins and handle more of the fenestration digitally? Could it change throughout the day, week, month or year? Could a simple, dumb space become the ultimate flexible room for so many different activities just by being able to accept digital projections?

I don't condone architecture being relegated to fashion; don't get me wrong. I'm wondering how this can be used to solve real problems - both functional and at a deeper level how people actually interact with architecture rather than simply passing through it.  This just might be a game changer. Put on your thinking caps, kids.

(via The Fox is Black

Inside Pixar’s Leadership by Evan Troxel

Ed Catmull on a managers self-destructive tendencies for creative work:

The notion that you’re trying to control the process and prevent error screws things up. We all know the saying it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. And everyone knows that, but I think there is a corollary: if everyone is trying to prevent error, it screws things up. It’s better to fix problems than to prevent them. And the natural tendency for managers is to try and prevent error and over-plan things.

This is a great article full of excellent points. As I was taught by one of my mentors, a manager's job is to get out of the way and trust the people they've hired to do their best by allowing them to use their skills.  With this approach, the sky's the limit, and Pixar has proven that time and time again.


Link: By Architects for Architects: Novedge's 10 Favorite Online Resources by Evan Troxel

Both this blog (the one you're reading right now) and another project of mine, the Archispeak podcast were featured in Novedge's latest blog post as a couple of their favorite online resources. I am honored to be in such great company. There were some new ones to me on the list as well. I can't wait to dig in.  


If you have been following Novedge on social media, you know we are big fans of architecture and design. I have had the pleasure to interview and talk personally with some of the best architects who are helping others succeed by sharing their knowledge online. If you are looking for new reading material, want to learn best practices or find inspiration, I highly recommend subscribing to the following blogs and channels by architects, for architects.

Connecting the dots on the internet is one of the real reasons blogs like theirs are such useful tools. They are doing a great service to our architectural community of readers and information seekers by putting together these lists. The Novedge blog is truly a hub of information, and the value they provide makes it worth your time and attention to follow them.

My thanks to Novedge for their support!