✱ How Do You Do? by Evan Troxel

By far, the question I get asked the most is, “How do you do so much?” Another version I hear a lot is, “I don’t know how you do everything you do.” I get the same question/comment weekly if not more often. I’m going to put some thoughts on the page here so I can point people to this blog so they can read about it if they want to. Hopefully you’ll get something out of this too.  

In a nutshell, I do a lot. I don’t take time off too often. I’m nearly maxed-out on PTO. But when I do, I make it count. I don’t watch much TV. I don’t like to sit still. I love making things. I want to do even more. I sleep seven hours a night (I only say this because I won’t sacrifice sleep—I need to stay healthy so I can do more). I like to record podcasts. I haven’t decided if I’ll write another book. I recently made an online course to teach others a 3d program. I’m designing (and am going to build) a custom camping trailer from scratch. I’m a licensed architect. I mentor people. I lead. I’m on many teams. I want to be outdoors more. I like to exercise. I love rock climbing. I miss making music. I want to travel and see things. I want to have experiences. I want to be inspired. I want to be with my family. 

I think about two words quite often: freedom and impact.

I like making goals. Part of the reason I like making goals for myself is that I enjoy progress. I try to go through the goal setting exercise once a quarter. Some goals are short burns, and some are long term. 

I also like autonomy. Autonomy serves me well. I don’t like having to move at someone else’s speed limit (and this doesn’t always mean I like to move faster). Autonomy gives me the freedom to do more with my life than most people are comfortable taking on. It also allows for me to do meaningful work, to me at least. 

The word ‘freedom’ immediately came to me earlier this year when Mark LePage asked the EntreArchitect Facebook group to "Pick one word that defines your focus for 2017.” There were lots of great words added in the thread that day and for many days after that. I wrote ‘freedom' that day because it meant autonomy among other subtleties. 

So freedom was my word… for about 3 months. I've now changed it. Don’t get me wrong, freedom hasn’t been banished. It’s still there, but it’s not the priority. It’s now periphery. Hopefully it’ll be an outcome of my new word: impact.

Why did I change my word? Because I want to make a difference. Freedom was selfish. Freedom was for me. Impact is for others. Impact is my why. Why do I do what I do? To make an impact. To help others. To make a difference. To push the boundaries. To color outside the lines. To make progress. To allow for change. For better.

In case you’re wondering, I’m no different than anyone else. You could choose to do anything I do. You might be able to do it better. You just have to decide if it’s worth doing. What's important? What’s your priority?

If I could ask you to do three things, they would be:

  1. Care more about something. Talk about it. Share it.
  2. Do more. More, more, more. This often means doing less of something else. Take inventory and make tough decisions on what you can cut. Make a Now page about your priorities for a little accountability.
  3. Start. If you start, you’ll make an impact. This is what the world needs, even if it only affects one person.

✱ Why I made a paper version of my book by Evan Troxel

I originally didn't plan on writing a paper version of my book, but I ended up doing it. I started with the idea that I wanted my book to embody the spirit of how I studied for the Architect Registration Exam myself, meaning, whenever possible. I wanted the reader to have the ability to bring up my book at any moment of the day, and the only way to do that was to get it on their device that is already in their purse or pocket.

But I love real books. I love them for many reasons, and I was reminded of a lot of them when I read CJ Chilvers' blog post this morning about the reasons to buy paper books. Take two minutes to read the list and remind yourself why paper books are so important. I love reasons number 3, 9 and 13.

✱ Are we there yet? by Evan Troxel

It's the question all parents hate because it usually comes up within the first five minutes of the trip. Within the context of writing (and finishing) my book, I keep hearing myself ask the question. Honestly, I had an idea it was going to be like this because this kind of project has taken me out of my usual stomping grounds. Becoming an author is new territory for me, but it's been important because 1.) I love trying new things, and 2.) I'm intensely interested in widening my experience. 

I've just finished my sixth revision to the main body text, and am now tidying up all the loose ends that come along with a project like this. Let's just say it's much different than writing a blog post. I'm so glad I took the time to review it again and again- it's a much better product because of my obsession with the craft of writing. I've learned so much over the last seven months, not only about how to write a book, but simply how to write better. I have to say I am amazed that I'm still excited to share the book with everyone even though I've read it at least ten times now. It's loaded with good stuff. But in my pursuit of perfection, this book needs to be done and it needs to ship. 

This week I'll be designing the cover and tightening everything else up. I don't plan on revisiting the text again for a very long time. That's not to say it's perfect, but it's good enough. If all goes as planned, it should be available in a couple of weeks. If I didn't have to worry about all of the other moving parts of my life, it would've been done much sooner. That's just not my reality.

ARE Hacks has been a labor of love, and I can't wait for everyone to read it.

✱ Finishing ARE Hacks (my book)... by Evan Troxel

Finishing my book has been one of the more difficult things I've done lately. The to-do list only seems to get longer, but my excitement is very alive for this project. I've heard that the last ten percent of a project is another ninety percent. So first you do ninety percent, then you do another ninety percent, or something like that.

Today I'm doing my final read-through* and taking care of formatting. As I mentioned in my last post, I've written longish things in the past, but nothing like this. At this point my book is just over 40,000 words, and that's just what made it into the final document. There have been many other words and ideas written that didn't make the final edit. 

It's been a roller coaster ride. Curiously enough, here's a post by Seth Godin that diagrams what it's like writing a book. It's been an incredible journey, mostly involving just showing up to do the work day after day, which is much like what's involved in studying for and passing the ARE's. 

Not only have I learned a new program to do my writing in, I've also learned how to self-publish. There is a lot involved in the process of creating printed and eBooks that I've never done before. I'll be writing more about how I wrote the book in future posts here on my blog, but for now I need to keep my focus on shipping

Sign up here to be notified when it's ready.

* Fingers crossed. No, really. This is it.

✱ I've been writing a book by Evan Troxel

For the last seven months, I have been working on project that's been taking up a majority of my early morning project time and other down-time. I've been writing a book, and it's been much more work than I initially thought, but entirely worth it. Besides a couple of medium-length manifesto's, this is my first foray into long-form writing. As I wrap-up the final details, I thought it might be a good idea to let you know that it's coming and to give you everyone opportunity to know when it becomes available. 

So what is the book about? It's about a subject near and dear to me—how to pass the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) so you can call yourself an architect and practice architecture. It teaches you how to hack your life and create the space necessary to have the time needed to study, how to turn the best strategies into habits, and it gives you many other tips, tricks and resources you can use to become licensed.

Who is it for? This book is for people who crave freedom. It's for people who want to become "real" architects and elevate their careers. I waited seventeen years after graduating from Cal Poly to get my license and call myself an architect. Now that I've done it, I want to help others get theirs (in a much shorter time period!). Getting licensed gave me freedom and it finally quieted the nagging voice in my head to finish what I had started so many years earlier. Getting licensed is an important piece of the puzzle that many graduates forego, and because of it the profession has suffered. 

There's still much more to talk about. I'll be posting about the book leading up to the release over the next few weeks. For now, you can head over to the landing page where you can sign up to be notified when it's available.


✱ Words Architects Use by Evan Troxel

Our words matter. I keep seeing this one thing that is killing our chances of truly connecting with our clients over and over again. It's spreading like a virus through our profession, and it's probably going unnoticed by the people propagating it. It's your vocabulary, and it isn't impressing the right people.

I love a well developed lexicon, so please don't misunderstand me. This is written from the perspective of the people who are trying to decide if they want to work with us (most likely for many years on a project) or not. Many times we just never get that chance because of the words we use when we give our first impressions. The following is based upon my experience. 

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✱ What Architecture Means to Me by Evan Troxel

A friend of mine was beginning to teach a new architecture class at one of the local universities and he wanted to get the new kids thinking about architecture and what it could mean to them. They were new architecture students and were probably the type of people who didn't really know or understand the definition of architecture yet. From my perspective, it's a difficult thing to define if you haven't really thought about it. No, it's not "buildings".

He asked a few of us at the office who are passionate about the profession to give their points-of-view. It's a hard thing to define even for me, and I wonder if I might have given a different answer if it were asked on a different day.

"What does architecture mean to you?"

Architecture is a dichotomy in so many ways. It is where we spend the most personal and private part of our lives, and it is also the framework within which we all live and work in the public part of our lives. It is something we all participate in every day and yet is something many (most?) rarely notice. Architecture lies at the intersection of art and science. It brings together primal needs and high tech. It grounds us on the planet and often defies gravity. It is a huge, intricate, advanced thing that is still mostly built by hand. Perhaps the strangest part of our interaction with the built environment is what can be so evocative and meaningful for one person can mean absolutely nothing to someone else.

The process of architecture is not for the passive. It requires a passionate involvement and commitment to bring out creative solutions to complex issues. Architects are poised to solve many of the world's biggest problems, and we do so willingly. We are problem solvers by definition. Working with others (listening, exploring, creating, struggling, thinking, asking, etc.) and collaborating on solutions to these problems is the biggest workout your brain will ever get. The more I do it, the stronger it gets. It feels good and right, and I probably wouldn't want to do anything else.

When we as architects work on something we always try to reach that extra level… trying to achieve soul or depth. This is part of what separates architecture from buildings. In every project there is this inseparable combination of function and aesthetics; of function and emotion. It should make our lives better. Architecture has the potential to address form, tectonics, craft, color, light, texture, sound, reflection and shadow. It must achieve a provocative relationship between simplicity and complexity. It must access the unconscious... and that is maybe what architecture is all about.

So... I'd like to know: what does architecture mean to you? Write it down and post it for others to read. Leave your thoughts or a link in the comments. 

✱ My Favorite Place by Evan Troxel

The latest ArchiTalks post idea was to write about our favorite place. That could be taken so many ways. Favorite architectural place? Favorite place for what activity? Favorite normal place or favorite place that I've only been once? Maybe it's my favorite place I've been to many times because I like it so much... I guess I'll have to pick one because I have all of these types of places zipping through my brain right now. Decisions, decisions.

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✱ Architecture is for People by Evan Troxel

I recently took to Twitter and shared a story about a visit to an architectural project I worked on with a photographer who will be shooting the project when it's complete. It was a great experience and I though I'd try a new way of sharing my story on Twitter instead of my blog. I spewed the entire thing out and a few salient tweets were retweeted out by some of my followers and friends. But I think it's better when there's context and seen as a whole, so I took all the pieces and put them into one larger story using Storify.

Here it is presented in its entirety.

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✱ My Favorite Things by Evan Troxel

This is yet another post in the ArchiTalks series, and this time Bob Borson from Life of an Architect has asked us to talk about our favorite things. There will be links to everyone else's posts at the bottom so you can find out what has captured all of us architects' attention. 

Cars, being outdoors, making things in my workshop, travel & tech top the list this time. 

The truth is that I could write about this subject for days because I’m into so many things, but I just don’t have the time to get way into it tonight. I still have laundry to fold, you see. Tonight I feel like writing about some of my favorite things that have nothing to do with architecture, which I hope will paint a more complete picture of me. So here are some of the things that I just can’t get enough of, and now that I think about it, find myself coming back to again and again throughout my life so far.

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✱ Rejection is Good for You by Evan Troxel

Rejection is something every person working in a creative field has to learn to deal with if they want to get better at what they do. It's an essential tool that must be learned and put to use, as scary as it is. There are lots of people that think we get to do the "fun" job being the creative. While I would agree about the fun part, there are lots of non-fun aspects to the job that are actually downright terrifying sometimes. It takes a lot of guts to be vulnerable and put your work out there in front of others for it to be judged. Many people overlook this difficult part of the job.

For those of you unfamiliar with a common part of an architect's education, a jury of academics and professionals come together to critique a student's work that has typically been pinned up on a wall for everyone to see. It's called a Crit, which is short for "critique". The Crit is the home of rejection in an architect's life. It's what we do with the rejection is what separates the professionals from the amateurs. 

Wikipedia states:

Criticism is the practice of judging the merits and faults of something (or somebody) in an intelligible (or articulate) way.

  • The judger is called "the critic".
  • To engage in criticism is "to criticise"/"criticize".
  • One specific item of criticism is called "a criticism" or a "critique".

Criticism as an evaluative or corrective exercise can occur in any area of human life.

The Crit

A fairly standard setting of a Crit. This one happens to be at sci-arc. Click to embiggen.

While rejection is definitely not limited to architecture, it's the perspective I'm coming from. Architecture school was and is a good place to learn how to develop a thick skin because of the critiquing process students go through when presenting their projects. It's where we learned how to deal with rejection. Sometimes it was relentless. People cried.

It is the role of the designer to use said criticism to make the next project better as it is probably too late to make the current one any better because there is no time left. Make sure you understand: the goal is to make the project better. It is often a misunderstood method. Most of the time, at least early on, the student takes it personally. They shouldn't.

I always loved how after working tirelessly for weeks on end at a breakneck speed to hear "It was a good first pass" at the final presentation. The irony. 

I've also noticed that we tend to lose touch with the idea of the Crit after school. A lot of times we take it personally because of our inability to separate ourselves from the work. Designers pour their lives into their work and it becomes an extension of them, so it makes sense. Other times it's taken personally because of the inability for some jurors to make a constructive criticism. Some jurors response and/or tone is often demoralizing and full of their own ego. We get to hear all about how they would have done it (so perfectly I might add). This is a problem, but not the point of this article. Those kinds of comments and attacks should be dismissed immediately.

I was sent links to these articles about rejection, and they are very well written so I thought I'd share them. I wish I’d read these years ago during school, but it's great to read them as reminders now. To be able to use rejection and criticism as a tool is a powerful thing. I've included just a small quote from each article but they really are worth reading in their entirety. 

Rejection and the designer by Lisa Shaughnessy:

What are the results of working in a discipline where rejection, and its first cousins, compromise, dilution and modification, are ubiquitous? Does rejection harden ambition and act as a spur to better work? Or does it inject a debilitating toxin into the organs of creative ambition? 
Of course it’s not social rejection that designers fear, but it’s almost as deeply felt, and strikes at the core of what it means to be a creative producer. How designers cope with rejection of their work is fundamental to how they progress and develop as creative practitioners.
And there’s a paradox here for designers: if we wish to avoid rejection we nearly always have to choose blandness, but on the other hand, if we want to make work with depth and resonance, we have to risk rejection. So unless we decide to settle for blandness and cosy consensus, we have to live with the near permanent threat of rejection.

So many great points. I must hold back from quoting more... please go read it for yourself.

And then there's this article coming from the perspective of a writer that easily crosses over into other creative work. The author describes why it's good to get rejected:

Get Rejected by Lisa Carver:

It may say something about you, positive or negative, that your piece (or your love) was rejected, or it may say absolutely nothing at all about you. (Same with having your piece accepted.) Rejection, personally or professionally, is only saying this doesn’t fit here. Maybe it used to, or maybe it would if this and this changed, but right now, as is, no. It may be a case of wrong time, wrong place, or it may be that what you wrote is just plain uninteresting. Some things you write are going to be pretty bad. It’s good to get notice that there’s something more you could be doing, writing, thinking, experiencing. Why be hurt by that? Go do something bigger, go try it.
Once you stop being frightened of saying no, that’s when you can say a real yes when it’s yes. When you stop being frightened of getting told no, that’s when you stop being frightened of their yes not being really yours, and you no longer need to worry over either a yes or a no like a dog with a bone about to be snatched. Get good with rejection, and you’ll be able, finally, to be accepted. And cherished. And celebrated. Every once in a great while. And you’ll know it’s yours.

Even now I use the critique/jury process during the development of my projects. It allows me to get a wide range of alternative perspectives to view my work; a 'fresh set of eyes' as they say. It takes deliberate thought and action for me to make sure I take the crit as potential ideas to make the work better. To not take it personally. It's then my job to weed through the comments and different points of view—to take some to heart and to leave others in a ditch by the side of the road as I speed off and never look back.

We did an Archispeak podcast episode on critique and criticism where we explored the subject more. The comments on the page by some of our listeners are golden.

The bottom line is that the Crit is the important part, and rejection is good for you. It's where you listen, and it's a tool you can use to become better at your craft. Once you figure this out, you actually start looking forward to Crits because they can provide clarity. If they don't, there are two things wrong: You're either not inviting the right people, or you're not doing it right.

✱ The Best of 2014 by Evan Troxel

Sapphire Pool, Yellowstone National Park
© Evan Troxel – All Rights Reserved

The year is winding down and I’m sifting through 5,000 photos getting ready to make the 2014 Troxelmar Family Slideshow. It’s a tradition that I’ve done the last 3 years and this will be the fourth installment. I already have over 300 images earmarked and I haven't even gotten into the videos yet... Wish me luck.

I get a little better at it each time, and it’s become something I look forward to doing the last few days of the year. The first couple of years were pretty stressful. Now I’m knee-deep picking photos and videos, putting them in order, applying transitions, adding music, adding titles and BAM! It’s going to be an epic viewing. We usually cook up some popcorn and watch it on the big screen TV on New Year's Day. This is going to be the best shoebox of photos ever in about 10 years when the kids are all grown up and moved out.

It’s time to reflect. Why? Lots of reasons, but really the biggest one is because it's a good time to reinforce to my brain that I'm making progress in my life. This past year was definitely a turning point for me. In a nutshell 2014 was the year I decided to overcome the biggest hurdle in my life in order to do some of the things I really want to do, which was to finally get my architectural license. Done.

The main reason I was able to accomplish that and so much more is that I set goals for myself in October of 2013 and I reviewed them monthly. I also decided to put off some majorly-cool things so that I could focus on this priority. The side benefit to that decision was that I had some very cool things to look forward to when I finally did finish. I kept reminding myself that I'd get to do some awesome stuff as long as I finished well.

Setting goals has been the most important thing I've done in recent years. I mean actually writing them down and saying them out loud. If I were to just have all these ideas bouncing around in my head there is no way I would ever be able to methodically chip away at them. I would be aimless. The second most important thing I've done is to continually check in with myself and track my progress. 

Starting this December, I set new goals in every part of my life for the upcoming year and I now review them weekly. This came out of a big brainstorming session, lots of coffee and my trusty Moleskin notebook. I set a weekly reminder to go off every Sunday so I would remember to do my weekly review, because otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Life just has a way of continuing on if I don't create proper reminders to pause and reflect.

Further, I'm using some tools like this one to help me focus on four main goals, and I'm tracking progress on them five days a week for 12 weeks. I've also been doing a lot more mind mapping lately, and I've found it to be an invaluable tool for visualizing my projects, organizing them, finding lots more clarity and answers. These tools help me really tune into what's working and what's not so I can make adjustments along the way to make sure I make it to the end.

My morning ritual

Since I started two years ago getting up at 5am to study, I've just continued doing so to chip away at my new goals. It's a great way to start each day and figure out what small thing I can do to make it one step closer. I am super excited for what's coming!

The purpose of all of my current goals is to set me up for an amazing 2016 and beyond. I've found that looking ahead three years is just about right. Of course things won't turn out the same as I've planned them, but the point is to just have some sort of direction. It's loose on purpose. I make lots of adjustments along the way. I’ll probably add some new things in and remove others completely.

Here are some things I'm proud to have shipped in 2014:



  • I was promoted to Associate at HMC Architects.
  • I passed the last five exams to get my license to practice architecture. HOT DAMN!
  • I went canyoneering in Zion National Park. I lost both of my big toenails and could hardly walk afterward. It was very manly. (Photos coming soon)
  • Our family went on vacation to Yellowstone National Park. We drove over 3000 miles towing a travel trailer and had the time of our lives. I swear a gallery will be going up soon. There are some amazing shots.
  • I was named one of 25 architects you should follow on Twitter.
  • I was named one of 8 Independent Architects Taking the Lead on DI.net.
  • A school I designed won a 2014 Merit Award by the American Institute of Architects, Inland Chapter.
  • The kids and I made a video over a weekend about our adventures while my wife was out of town.



I’ve never been one to sit still. 

Regardless if you find these things awesome or lame, they are all huge for me. Progress is personal. I'm definitely not writing them as a comparison to you, so please don't read it that way. I think it's a good practice to evaluate our accomplishments yearly and memorialize them in our time capsules. This happens to be mine. 

So here's to a great 2015! It’s going to be even bigger. Stay tuned, stay curious, and never stop learning.

✱ Requirements for Creative Thinking by Evan Troxel

Isaac Asimov Asks, “How Do People Get New Ideas?”

Read this article first. It takes about 10 minutes, and is completely worth your time if you do any kind of creative work.

This is an insightful article that has an amazing comment section which really adds to the original. It's nice to see an article have so many intelligent and well-written comments that hasn't degraded into a typical internet flame war. Asimov speaks early on in the article about the necessity of working in isolation to be creative. The older I get, the more I appreciate time to myself for thinking. I've been building it into my routine and it's paid off even though I wasn't really aware I had done this. After reading this article I can now see it. This isn’t new thinking, for sure, as you can see the article was written in 1959(!).

Isaac Asimov:

"My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.)

The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display."

We've talked about some of the topics in this article on Archispeak. Some things came to mind while reading the article, so I’ve included my notes here. I read a lot about creating environments that support creativity, so allow me to connect the dots with my thoughts, others’ thoughts, and the referenced article by Asimov:

  1. Conventional wisdom was not always conventional. This came to mind when reading about how things seem obvious (or ‘reasonable' as he says) now, but when originally conceived were considered out-of-the-box thinking (and shunned because of it).
  2. Creativity happens within a set of constraints. Blank pages are overrated and often overwhelming. 
  3. Creativity happens when there is a safe place to practice it. For the best ideas to float to the top above the rest, you need to have a place where it's OK to have bad ideas often and not be shunned for it. I refer back to John Cleese's talk on creativity, which as I’ve said before is probably the best thinking on creativity I've heard.
  4. The people you work with are just as important as the (safe) place where you work. If you can trust those you work with not to belittle your "stupid" ideas, you have a much better shot at saying something stupid that ultimately leads to a breakthrough.
  5. A creative work environment should afford the freedom to play. The burden of constant results-based business that is always looking for more efficiency is killing this necessary aspect of play as a tool for creative thinking. It feels like we're living and working in a world where we need (or be perceived) to have all of the answers, when in reality it's our job to explore and find the answers. This is a maddening paradox to be sure.
  6. Creativity rarely happens on a schedule. It doesn't happen in a particular place or when you need it to happen. My best thoughts appear when I'm in the shower, out for a walk, or in the middle of the night. It's good to take notice of when your best ideas happen so you can be on the lookout for them. You can start expecting them to show up and you can be ready to write them down because you will surely forget them if you don't. I think we can all agree that it sucks when we don't write them down.
  7. Someone may have a good idea and it takes someone else to add to it to make it a great idea. I've witnessed this many, many times. This should be the basis of critique, as we spoke about in the Episode 45 of the podcast.
  8. I often find that the best group creativity happens at the dinner table with a bottle of wine or at the bar after work. The faster you are able to lower your inhibitions, the faster the ideas start flowing. Don't forget to bring a sketchbook... you'll need it if you want to remember all of your seemingly great ideas the next day.

With all of this in mind, some of the companies I know of that have this type of environment are IDEO, Pixar, and the Eames' office. They show that it is possible to run a company that champions this type of work, and the work they produce shows it. I'm sure there are more, and I'd like to know who they are. This goes especially for the architecture industry - who are the firms that exemplify these principles today? 

I’ve included a gallery of architectural studio office environments here. This is what it looks like. The creative process is a messy one as expected; as it should be.

✱ It's Their Story by Evan Troxel

This is my third post in the ArchiTalks series where a bunch of internet friends in the online architecture world write an article and post about the same topic on the same day. We most definitely don’t write about the same things however. We’re given a topic capable of a wide range of interpretation which gives a lot of variation in the posts by all who are participating. Bob Borson over at Life of an Architect started this whole thing and it seems to be going well, so we're continuing to do it. Click through to read the whole article.

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✱ This is Exciting... Because It's Real by Evan Troxel

This is the second post in the ArchiTalks series where a bunch of internet-friends (no, we did not meet on match.com) post on the same topic that has to do with our chosen profession - architecture. Bob Borson over at Life of an Architect started this whole thing last month and it went really well, so we're continuing until it doesn't go really well.

As if.

At the end of my post I'll link to the other articles posted today by my friends so you can see what all of their "This is Exciting" posts are about, so hang on until the end.

For my second installment in the ArchiTalks series, I'm going to write about the most exciting part of my job. After all, the topic is called "This is Exciting" and I had to pick something to write about. I have to say that without a doubt, it's when one of "my" project starts getting built. The point when it goes from drawings to reality. When it gets out of the ground.

I say "my" project (in air-quotes) because it's never really just mine... I am but one person on an incredible team that worked really hard to create the plans and do all the behind-the-scenes work to get this thing to a point where it could be built. It takes years and thousands of hours to accomplish. It's huge.

But I've already digressed away from the main point.

Typically when a project "breaks ground" it's the ceremony for the uninvolved. This is not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about a bunch of people standing around with a golden shovel who didn't do much (anything?) on the project, posing for PR shots. What I am talking about is when backhoes dig trenches. When steel goes up. When concrete gets poured. Framing too! The sound of a saw ripping sheets of wood on the job site. Yes, I'm talking about the sights and sounds of a building becoming a real thing.

A project I had a part in is now under construction near Los Angeles, and it's a community center for a very deserving, underserved area. It will, no doubt, be their pride and joy. They will love it for many, many years and I know they will take care of it like a newborn baby.

I had the opportunity to visit it the other day with my my friend/mentor/boss Mark, and potentially field any possible questions that might have come from the County Supervisor, and I probably spent more time ogling over the space than most of the other tourists. I tweeted this:

It's true. I have a bit of romance with projects I work on, and I didn't want our first date to end. I've been working, along with many others, on this project for years now and much like a child being born, it's an amazing thing to see it for real the first time. This isn't only true for this project. It's true for all of them. I think I actually prefer them when they're under construction because they're just so damn cool. It's like seeing beneath the skin of an airplane... there's just so much going on. For a while we get a glimpse of the stuff that makes a building what it is before it gets all covered up with a final coat of makeup. It's at this stage that we are reminded that these enormous things are built by hand.

How about some pictures?

Here are a few shots I posted on Instagram: The first one here is of the street-side entry and memorial wall for the local Veteran community. It is a giant, curved, monolithic wall that has an enormous window in it. This thing has what we call 'street presence.'

Here is a shot of an interior open-office with plenty of natural daylight streaming in through some clerestory windows, which make the space just wonderful:

And here's a shot of the main lobby roof from the street side. It's just floating away... Catch it if you can.

Here's the side where most people will enter around back and the cantilever shoots out beyond the edge of the world:

It's just unreal to me that I get to work on, and eventually walk through projects that actually get built. They are an unbelievable amount of work to get to this point, and I can't still can't believe they are really building this thing. 

As I was walking the site with Mark, he said that it feels like we got away with something on this project. I couldn't agree more. There are some amazing details, spaces, materials and so much more that will start showing up very soon here. The bones are there and it's developing at an incredible rate.

As we toured the site, the Construction Superintendent paused, holding his arms up in the air. He guided them in a linear motion with one eye closed as he talked about how the main roof material flows from outside in the plaza to inside the lobby through the main curtain wall past the front door. I wish you had seen it! When a freaking construction supervisor is excited about the architecture, you know you've got something special. You can tell this is going to turn out to be a great project because he can't wait to see how it finishes either. And on top of that it's ahead of schedule and under budget.

Seeing one of our projects in person is by far the most exciting part of my job. It's unbeatable.

Here's a peak of what it'll look like when it's all done:

Click here to see other posts on Twitter using the hashtag #ArchiTalks.

Check out what others wrote about the topic "This is Exciting":

Cormac Phalen - Archispeak Podcast 
@archispk and @archy_type
This is Exciting: The end is like the beginning

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design
This is Exciting - It All Comes Together

Nicholas Renard – Cote Renard Architecture
This Right Here, This is Exciting

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture
This Is Exciting: Marketing For Architects That Works

Jeff Echols - Architect of the Internet
This is Exciting: 5 "RE's" to Change the Future of Architecture

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect
This Is Exciting - The Beginning of the End

Matthew Stanfield - Field 9 Architecture
This Is Exciting

Marica McKeel - Studio MM
From Dreams to Reality - THIS is Exciting

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet
This is Exciting: 5 'RE's' to Change the Future of Architecture

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect
This Is Exciting :: Start + Finish

Oscia Wilson - Boiled Architecture
This Is Exciting: They're Fighting It Out

Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect
This Is Exciting - Making A Difference At Entrepreneur Architect



✱ Eleven questions about a career in architecture by Evan Troxel

The following Q & A is my take on 11 questions that are commonly asked of us in the field of architecture. This is a fun and informative post, and the charge came from Bob Borson over at Life of an Architect (thanks Bob!). Lots of other bloggers are answering the same questions from their point of view today as well. I'll have links to them at the bottom of this article so once you've read mine, you can go along to another to get their perspective.

You can also follow along on Twitter by searching the hash tag #ArchiTalks.

Q: What kind of projects were you doing when you first started as an architect?

I started interning in the same firm I work for now, although I did move to several other places over 12 years between my 2 stints. When I first started working at HMC Architects, I was not working directly on projects. Instead, I was working with the group that helped our school clients secure state funds to build their facilities.

Right after I graduated I was offered a permament position and I eventually moved into working for the studio that was responsible for K-12 schools. I was mostly working on details in the beginning. It was through that process that I began my career and have eventually ended up as a school designer, among doing other public building types.

Q: How many projects can you expect to be working on at once?

I work on as many as 3 or 4 projects at once, typically touching 2 or 3 lightly while spending the majority of my time on one. Right now I am working on one new K-12 school project while doing marketing and interviews here and there to help the office get new work.

Beyond my day job, I'm studying for and taking my licensing exams, co-hosting a podcast about all things architecture, running a tutorial site for architectural designers, and raising 4 kids with my amazing wife who has her own company.

Q: How often did/do you work in a team?

I am almost always working within a team. Very rarely do we have projects that only require one person. I think this is just the nature of public work... it's pretty complicated dealing with the various entities involved in moving projects forward and getting approvals.

Q: How important is an innovative mind to the company?

I love this question. An innovative mind, to me, is required. The architectural industry as a whole has suffered because of what I would consider a lack of an entrepreneurial spirit. We all should be getting out of our comfort zones and getting our hand dirty constantly trying new things, having a safe place to do it, and learning from failed attempts while trying. This is how we get better.

Oh, and always be learning.

Q: What key things do you look for in potential new hires?

I look for a few things, but above all the main one is passion. I want to work with architects who are passionate about doing great work for the people that hire us. We have an opportunity to change people's lives for the better with each and every project, and that is only going to happen if we really care about what we do. If you're just looking for a job, I won't be interested.

Q: How important is diversity to your company?

I can't speak for my company on this one, but for myself it's a big deal. Simply put, the more diverse the team, the better our projects are going to be. Creativity and problem solving come from experiences. Wider experience comes from diverse backgrounds, origins, upbringing, education, etc. 

Q: How big of a role does HR play in your company?

I stay away from that department as much as possible, but they really have our best interests at heart. They are our advocates, and we have quite a few people in our firm. I would say they are very busy people.

Q: Would you say Architecture is a field for everyone?

Absolutely not. When we went through school, there was a weeding-out process. It works for the most part. If you are not a good fit for architecture, why would you torture yourself and continue in it? That sounds miserable to me. My advice it to only do it if you love it. 

Q: What is the best asset in your company?

Someone with vision who can inspire others to do their best work.

Q: Describe your best employee in one word?


Q: What style architecture do you love most?

Googie - pay attention to the spelling because it's not the search engine. Check out John Lautner.

✱ A Leader's Job - Launching Project Undercurrent by Evan Troxel

This article originally started out as a short blog entry where I was going to simply vent about leadership because I have been reading some absolutely great things on the topic lately, but not seeing much of it in action. My mind was churning while writing and it turned into something much larger. Since the beginning of the year I've been reaching out to many others in the industry to get their take. There are many parallel conversations going on. Thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head came together into one coherent article after having those conversations. It's funny how that happens sometimes. 

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Letters of Note: Best of 2012 by Evan Troxel

Have you visited Letters of Note lately? It's one of the best. Don't miss their Best of 2012 letters.

Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. Scans/photos where possible. Fakes will be sneered at. Updated as often as possible; usually each weekday.

I've read so many amazing letters on the site. It's one of those where you can get lost for a few hours and not know where the time went.