A visit to architecture firm

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We have heard the expression: “Technology have changed the world,” and we should add: and the way architecture firms works too. When we visit the architecture firm Handel Architects, LLP in downtown San Francisco, we found that the old way to plan, work and present the projects has change too.

When you enter to the firm looks that they are working like the all days, but if you go deep in their work, they depend so much in technology.

Every aspect has change. For example to prepare their presentation, it was a long morning, using the printing machines, and finishing the models. Today, it is a matter of minutes because they use the projector to present the majority of the material in a PDF format, and if the client have questions, they could use the digital archives or visit the Internet right there. Finally, with new technologic architects can reduce the area of storages because they have to keep records of their project for 10 years

Fortunately, most of the time of the time they are not under a lot of stress that only happened during deadlines. Also, because is a medium firm, the architects need to work as a team. Architects have more experience in one area than others, which make them experts, so they need each other.

Usually architects work in front of the computer. Other architects work in different tasks at the same time, but others have different hats, so they have to be in and out.

In this firm they prefer to accept interns that they have ethical principles and want to work in collaboration environment rather than have someone who can have good skills but who want to work alone. They recommend that during an interview, the must important aspect is to be honest.

Finally they recommend for future architects that is essential to do internships in order to get experience and to star getting connected with firms that in the future can hire them.


Architecture for the people by the people

Screen shot 2013-12-13 at 10.56.09 AMAlastair Parvin is a designer from England and has a very unique idea on how to move from the corporative way of making architecture to a very simple and accessible way to give services to many people in the world. Parvin and associates have developed the Wikihouse.

The idea of Wiki house is the mass distribution the of a small design house created in SketchUp, which basic version is free. This house can be built in a day with the collaboration of two people. The house has very simple kit of part.Screen shot 2013-12-13 at 10.56.39 AM

In the majority of the time, people imagine the top architects that work in the big firms as those that are going to solve the main issues of today: Sustainability, climate change, and social equality, but this is only a perception.

In general architects make an average of $40,000 a year, and this collocated Screen shot 2013-12-13 at 10.56.25 AMthem in a higher position, comparing with the rest of the society in the world. Architects form all generations had been working for the rich people, but this can change soon with new technology.

But how the majority of architects are going to work for the other 99% of the people in the world?

Parvin summarized this idea in three issues:

  1. Architects need to realize that the idea that architecture is about to build buildings need to change. Actually, a building is the most expensive solution.
  2. In this new era, we need to think about the need of the mass construction, so instated of building an enormous building, which in any society is not a good democratic solution, architects need to focus of the need in each city.
  3. The construction are now focus in the entrepreneur because with the new technology in the hands of millions of people around the world like three D printers, people can have access of design created in other part of the world for free.

According to Parvin, the solution of the construction will be on the hands of the 99 percent and not in the hands of the rich people. He underlines that architects really are committed to social economic solutions as well in environmental and sustainability, all of us need to bring the whole world into the solution of habitat and not only the top architects.

(A summary for a presentation by Alastair Parvin)

Architect David Green, a curtain wall consultant

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 11.39.55 PMAs in any area, the high demand of  specialists is a reality because the complexity  the products and the advanced technology. Architecture is not the exception. Engineers and architects are needed with expertise structural, mechanical, plumbing, and façade to name a few. The architect David Green works as a consultant of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Ins. (WJE).

Green is a busy architect that during a week may can revised and work in 18 different projects. He is an expert in Façade. and he need to be update on the different glass materials as well in the new codes of constructions.

His work requires to travel to different parts of the US and other parts of the World where he need to supervise the constructions of new building or the elaboration of the glasses.

This busy architect also need to write documents that may be publish. Also, he in is encourages to present conference during seminars, so other companies can learn about the new products or materials for the façadas. In addition, this is a good opportunity to create a business agenda, so the company can have new business.

Green is the typical architect that always has a job because he not only supervise the construction of a new façade. He also is interrupted during the week for clients who have problems in their buildings or for colleagues from other offices of the company in different parts of the nation.

He also work with other architects, helping them in the selection of materials,  designing of the best performance criteria, reviewing drawings, calculations, and other technical submittals.

He has been working in big buildings in the United States. A few of  those are:
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* MoMa, Art Museum in New York.
*Gannett/USA Today
*Hokua in Hawaii
*Millennium Tower in San Francisco
*UCLA Housing in Los Ángeles
*10th and Market in San Francisco
*S.L.A.M. in Alaska

Green started his architecture in U.C. Berkely, where he finished his B.A in 1994. Then, he went to Colombia University to finish his masters in 1998. After that, he worked as Curtain Wall Consultant at Heintges in New York City, and in 2007,  he worked in other firms. Finally in 2007, Green stated to work as a curtain wall consultant at WJE in Emeryville.

Green is a hard working consultant, who enjoy his profession.

The PG&E Pacific Energy Center

IMG_8797 is a good resource for all clients and has facilities for architects. It also offers many free classes, and has a library.

In the architectural area, the center has the following resources for architects:

1. Heliodon for Studies:

The heliodon is a tool for identifying opportunities for energy savings through climate-responsive architectural design. They have limited staff and their focus must remain on energy issues. For this reason, they cannot accommodate requests to study the shading impact of an addition or new construction project on neighboring residential properties. To make a reservation to use the heliodon, you need to fill out a Request to the Heliodon form and one of their staff members will contact you, usually within 24 hours.

2. Daylighting Initiative:

PG&E’s Daylighting Initiative has two goals: to raise awareness of good daylighting practice within the design community and to improve the practice of daylighting design.

3. Solar Geometry & Radiation Calculators:

They offer three simple tools for calculating or looking up basic solar angles and radiation values: PEC Sun Angle Chart, Pilkington Sun Angle Calculator (PSAC), Architect’s View of the Sun spreadsheet. These angles and values are used when designing solar control (shading) devices.

3. Guide to California Climate Zones:

The Guide to California Cimate Zones is a reference for designers interested in designing bioclimatic buildings. The files listed at right include climate descriptions, design strategies, and climate data (temperature, relative humidity, degree-day, design-day, extra-terrestrial radiation, wind speed and direction) for the California climate zones as defined by Title 24. Suggestions and guidelines for appropriate passive designs are shown on a bioclimatic chart.

The PG&E Pacific Energy Center offers classes that are sponsored by PG&E, and they are offered at no cost (unless otherwise noted) to California investor-owned utility customers and building professionals with projects in California. Spring classes begin in early February and are posted during the third week of January. Fall classes begin in early September and are posted during the third week of August.

The PG&E Pacific Energy Center is an excellent resource for students of architecture who want to be update with energy saving, and who can test their projects, bringing their models at this facility.

For more information visit: http://www.pge.com/pec/

Paper tubes, new architectural structures

p3*By Luis Gris

Shigeru Ban is an exceptional architect. Fame hasn’t robbed him of his dream, which is to build houses for low-income people. Since the eighties, he began a long list of international successes that made them known him by his simple but harmonious constructions, but what has given him the recognitions as the “Robin Hood ” architect, it is his great job made of cylindrical paper tubes used in the construction of houses for refugees, displaced people and victims of natural disasters in several countries.

In 1986, he began to test in the laboratory the resistance of the industrial cylindrical paper tube. According to the architect, this was a complicated process, but it was worth because the tubes can be used as architectural structure. Moreover, these can be fire and waterproof.

In 1990, Ban built the first temple with a paper tube structure. He used over 300 tubes, which were 120 centimeters long, and with the collaboration of his students, he could perform this project.


In a short time, he was invited to the Expo in Germany to build a pavilion, where the central topic was the protection of the environment.

What did raise awareness of this famous architect was when he finished the construction of a spectacular museum in France. Ben noticed that since the beginning of architecture, many architects are stuck serving the rich and powerful people.

“We are not working for the society. We work for privileged people, the government and the developers. They have the money and power. They hire us to visualize their power display, and then construct their architectural monuments.”


Ban assumes that architects have the responsibility to work for the society, especially for temporary-shelter-japan-2the most needy. He states that in natural disasters, architects have the ability to build fast and to solve many problems that other professionals are not capable to do so. However, they are so busy serving the powerful people, so they seldom involved in these types of disasters.

Ban has worked on a long list of countries hit by natural disasters such as China, India, Haiti, and others, including his own country, Japan, which suffered a tsunami in 2010.

In all these difficult situations, the architect discovered that at the beginning when he introduced to the authorities the idea of building houses with paper tubes, it was not well received, but after testing its effectiveness, the constructions have continued in many parts of the world.

One of the most ironic cases was in Rwanda, where two tribes were in conflict. The United Nations was in charge of the displaced people. Unfortunately, they only had been provided blankets, but with the rain, they were wet and frizzing. The fortune of these people changed when the U.N. stated to build small houses that resisted the weather conditions. Also, people stopped to cut down trees because it was no longer necessary to build wooden shacks.

In a sad experience, but in which people believed in Ban was after an earthquake in Japan, where a Vietnamese’s refugees community lost their temple, and the architect built them a provisional one that would use them for three years, but exceeded to ten years and was subsequently transported to another country to be reused.

The architect says his constructions can be considered provisional, however buildings made out of reinforced concrete can collapse after an earthquake, and it can became provisional. What continues to inspire Ban is to build monuments to the community, which are constructed and used by them.

(*Summary of the presentation: “Shigeru Ban: Emergency shelters made from paper”.)

Circumstantial points with architecture

r2_catedral_nueva_salamanca_t3700083.jpg_369272544*By Luis Gris

Journalist Mary Cecilia Cacciotto Euronews visited Santiago Calatrava in his house, and she presents us an architect who has a spiritual perspective on architecture, which wants governments to focus on economic issues to benefit the people and not only the most privileged. And also, he spoke about the role of architecture as the memory of a civilization.

Calatrava emphasized that since ancient Rome, the architectural structures should be useful, beautiful and strong, and since the evangelization of the Roman people, they added a new quality: it should be spiritual spaces. Form Christian faith, man was created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, their spaces should be sacred too.

As each person is sacred and divine, this helps us to understand that architecture goes beyond to construct only buildings. The architect should designs and builds sacred spaces where people can share holy experiences. The Romans were responsible for spreading this idea very strongly, so building churches was promoted to many European places.

The architecture is also associated with the economy. Many people believe since ancient time that is better to buy a house that to put their money in to the bank. Part of this analysis is true. Definitely buying a house is an investment, but it is not a total guarantee that the constructions will lasts forever.

105 - 110 freeway interchange in Los Angeles, California. freeway, highway, road, traffic, cars, automobiles, travel, drive, transportation, los angeles, california, ramp, interstate, motorway, autovia

What Calatrava does not agree is that governments always help banks to maintain stability. The idea of improving banking situation to stabilize a country is an incomplete idea. Calatrava suggests that governments should invest in infrastructure during financial crisis to create more jobs and improve services such as roads, bridges, schools, which will bring a better quality of life to the taxpayers. The old idea of giving money to banks only benefits bankers, while constructing infrastructure benefits many people.

Architects also have the responsibility of building with attractive infrastructure. In addition the buildings should have less environmental impact. The architect should not build without a purpose.


When the reported asked him where is easier to build: in Europe or in America? The architect said that Europe is a mixture of styles. In one block, there may be a baroque building next to a Gothic, and those can be near a building from Roman times. The process to respond to a site, it is more complex than in the U.S., where most of the buildings are more contemporary.

Finally, the reporter asks him his reaction about the terrorist attack perpetrated on September 11, 2001, in which the terrorist destroyed the icon of New York too. For this Spanish architect, this event was a tragedy for humanity because those spaces designed to benefit people were used as deathly weapons. Calatrava stressed that the only way to fix this horrible incident is with love and generosity. We must remember that the architecture is also designed to the divine, and that architecture buildings hold the memory of civilization. We will remember our failures as well as our successes.

(*Summary of the interview: Santiago Calatrava: finding architecture’s soul.)

A monument in the countryside

lyon5* By Luis Gris

From a the distance looks like a bird with open wings that is frozen in the time, but it is a modern infrastructure that became an icon in Satolas, Lyon in France. This structure serves as a connection to passengers traveling by train and plane. The architect Santiago Calatrava designed the station in Satolas with very simple but well researched ideas.

When the company Train à Grande Vitesse or High Speed Train wanted to build the new railway station in Satolas, it gave as one of its requirements to be an icon as the Eiffel Tower is to France. At that time, the young Spanish architect was inspired by a sculpture he had made ten years ago, which represent a human eye.

The sculpture consists of a metal sphere ranging tirelessly on a metal block through a 4130720328_e6fdbf7538groove, imitating the movement of the iris. On top of the sphere is a curved sculpture that comes to a point, also simulates an eyelid.

Calatrava studied very carefully the site and realized that the building had to be very high to be seen from a great distance because the vast plain could be its biggest enemy. Another obstacle was that the station should be placed above the train tracks. Some trains will stop, but others will not. These last ones will rut at 300 kilometers per hour without slowing down.


Calatrava faced a final barrier, which was not part of the site, but that had to be negotiated the best way possible. Initially, the airport managers wanted an underground railway station, so it will not compete with the structure of the airport, but after negotiations, eventually they had to settle for not blocked the airport.

Calatrava harmonized the new railway station with the existing airport. He copied some windows and geometric shapes, including the shape of the air station, which has a main central building and a linear arrival and departure areas.

The central building of Calatrava has the order of principal of datum, which the elements of the composition can relate. The design also includes symmetrical, repetitions and the curvilinear language. At the top of the axle shaft is the railway station, which has three pairs of arches, which are arranged in a v shape. The two interiors arches help to support the structure of the lobby, and exterior arches support iron large wings.

It is an iron structure, which is mostly exposed both inside and out. The walls of the building facades, on the north and south, contained 25 iron bars each one, which are covered by large windows. Together seem as a big display case.

At the bottom, where the trains run, are six lanes. On the side are two pares that stop at the station, and the two center lines are covered by a long open tunnel because those trains do not stop. The sides of the tunnel were inspired by the human figure, simulating two rows of people, which have legs 6983165024_6ba1341b7f_zopen in a v-shaped, and they have arms raised in a cross shape. Each row supports a beam. On top of these walls is the roof of the station.

There were many challenges to build this station that connects people with two transport systems, but Calatrava remarked: ” The art of the engineer (and architect) is the art of the possible. ”

(Summary of the documentary: Santiago Calatrava, Satolas Station, Lyon, a monument in the countryside.)