Why Biomimicry Will Shape the Future of Design

This is astounding.  I have heard of bio-mimicry before in our second year studio with Professor Katrina, but until now I guess I have sort of taken it for granted.  I assigned it to aesthetics and buildings only, without letting it expand to where it truly fits: everywhere.  In this talk, Jay Harman, President and CEO of Pax Scientific, starts off by giving several examples of elements found in nature that can impact our own products, or the way that we design buildings or pharmaceuticals, etc.  One particularly fascinating chemical that exists in nature is hippopotamus sweat.  It is a natural sun-block.  It is waterproof, spreads on it’s own, and of course effectively blocks UV radiation.  Companies are currently testing and engineering hippopotamus sweat to be used in human sunscreen to create a more effective radiation blocking cream.  Why has this not been done before? In a sense, it is so simple.  This knowledge has existed around us for hundreds, thousands of years.  It works for our animal and plant friends, so why can it not work for us?  Another pattern that Harman mentions is the vortex, a geometry found nearly everywhere in nature, the weather, our ears, seashells, and even a human skin pore.  He notes that there are no straight lines in nature, yet we use nearly only straight lines in our architecture and designs.

We think as humans, that by going in a straight line, we are using the least amount of energy.  Pax Scientific essentially “froze” a whirlpool and created a miniscule component to place in a massive tank of water, that processed and cleaned the water to make it potable and reduce energy consumption by about 80% as well.  This component is now in application all over the world, and works in every installation.  Apparently, copying nature actually works.

My one concern, particularly with chemicals is the question of whether or not something that works for a hippopotamus can work for us?  Will we have adverse reactions? How much of an adaption do we have to make before our creations are basically synthetic?

Harman, J. (2015, February 9). Why Biomimicry Will Shape the Future of Design. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.greenbiz.com/video/why-biomimicry-will-shape-future-design


Week 12

This week I worked on a variety of projects.  Monday was spent working on a few favors for Dennis.  I gathered and perused through existing drawings for a new library project we won last week in Eagle, Colorado.  These drawings would then be used by Dennis to create some preliminary concept sketches for the library, who is debating whether or not they want to remodel or expand or renovate their existing building.  After looking over the floor plans, he decided they were messy and hard to read, so he requested that I reconstruct them to make them cleaner and more readable.  I also gathered images from Google Earth of the town of Eagle (located thirty minutes west of Vail), the surrounding neighborhood, and the site.  I then identified the actual site and approximately how much acreage they owned by looking at county records and zoning maps.  All of this I then delivered to Dennis.  I may even be taking a trip up to Eagle soon to take pictures of the site and the building for Dennis to use to begin concept work on the project.

The rest of the week was occupied with the McNichols project, surprise work from Xcel for the Thornton Substation, work on an apartment complex called Vela (or Peoria Apartments), and further picking up of red-lines on the retail space, 38th and Kalamath.  McNichols work included some quick modeling on the current section model for new designs of the lobby area and third floor alterations for a client meeting on Tuesday morning.  Then Xcel came back to us for revisions to the elevations on the Substation that I have worked on in the past.  Sometimes clients can be incredibly particular.  The fun work for the week was on 38th and Kalamath, learning a little bit more about egress and how to show that in construction documentation, and learning new tricks in Revit as some of the information from previous drawings was missing when we reconfigured the site. On Peoria, I modeled a few different options for signage outside of the clubhouse and created a few images of what that would look like from both the entrance and the back.  I’ll try and upload some of these images if I can next week.

How to Master Your Next Meeting

The article, “How to Master Your Next Meeting,” by Ross McCammon provides practical advice on how to make the most of meeting time.  Most people greatly dislike meetings, and it is no wonder, as usually next to nothing gets resolved, people are confused, and often the conversation is sidetracked and takes a jaunt down the rabbit hole.  McCammon offers several glimpses of wisdom into this event.

The first topic that is covered consists of knowing what people want.  People desire for their expectations for the meeting to be met, and people wish to feel that their presence is crucial.  In order to accomplish and make decisions in a meeting, having an agenda and following it is key.  Not only does an agenda help the attendee to know what will be going on and how much longer the meeting will go, but it also provides an excellent reference to stay on track.  Also, the other component to addressing what people want is to make them feel necessary.  No one wants to waste time at a meeting that they do not need to be at.  Therefore, make the topic relevant to everyone, and be attentive to make eye contact with everyone involved.

The next aspect to cover is how to actually deliver the message.  Treat the information you are delivering as a speech.  Speeches are organized, easy to follow, and to the point.  That is how the information in a meeting should be delivered.  Say what you are going to talk about, talk about it, and then state the main deal again to bring everything full circle.  Keep it short and sweet and stay on schedule.  Usually there will be interruptions throughout, but it is completely fine to ignore those altogether and acknowledge the interruptions when you are done.

There are also some ideal conditions to help a meeting be productive and successful.  First of all, start at an earlier time, then people are not already worn out by a long day.  Next, have meetings in a smaller room rather than a larger one.  Attention is more called for in an intimate space.  Also, have fewer people.  Fewer people makes it easier to move forward and avoid distractions.  Keep a room warmer rather than cooler.  It is easier to concentrate.  Allow for natural light as opposed to artificial light.  Be quiet and attentive when you are listening to the speaker.

McCammon, R. (2015, March 3). How to Master Your Next Meeting. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/242497

Week 11 (I think)

I am starting to lose track of the weeks, though I guess that is a good sign that I am enjoying myself.  This week contained a lot of variety, small tasks for many different projects.  I quite enjoy this though, as it gives me an excuse to be nosy and learn a lot about different projects.  Another added bonus is that by talking to the people who create the design, you get a behind the scenes look at the nitty-gritty, how and why a client did or did not like an idea, what it is like dealing with a regional building department, talking with contractors and manufacturers, thinking a lot on certain details, such as how high and thick the foundation wall needs to be to address the 100 year flood, etc, and having to take a best guess on color choices when you really do not know what a client wants.

The first part of my week consisted of more work done on the McNichols model.  I will show you more pictures later.  I may have mentioned this before, but I always kind of thought model building was antiquated in modern architectural offices, but it truly has proved to be a very useful tool for the client, who continually asks us to bring the model to the design meetings.  This time we have moved on from the exterior plaza and entrance, and are dealing with the stairs and third floor ceiling.  The stairs on the second floor will be restored to their historical proportions, detail, and grandeur.  The first floor stairs, however, were in debate until Tuesday afternoon.  This was originally the basement of the old Carnegie library, and so it was used exclusively for storage.  Therefore, the stairs were never meant to be used with heavy traffic.  The three options were to make them simple and up to code, up to code with historical replication, and a completely different twist that allows them to lower the landing and open up the lobby area just off of the current grand main entrance.  I modeled these three, and the Denver Arts and Venue people are very open to what we propose, so they chose the completely new option.  The new stairs now also need to be completely enclosed, so we are playing around with the idea of surrounding the stairs and the lobby for each floor in fire-rated glazing.  This provides protection from fires and noise from events on each level, but still gives you a visual of what occurs on each floor as you move to your desired destination.

The next items I worked on were a continuation of the report for Big Piney Library in Big Piney, Wyoming, more work on our office renovation, and prepping and submitting material for the Colorado Landmark Buildings award for Library 21C in Colorado Springs, CO.  Ryan and Dennis returned from the initial Mind-Breaking and Building-Breaking session for Big Piney, so I compiled their results into the report and made several diagrams, explanations, and wordles to help the client visualize the results.  For the office renovation I mainly helped move around furniture, and redrew portions of our site and desired parking for Dennis to take to the contractor for pricing.  For 21C, I cleaned up and redrew the existing plans in Revit to be ready to submit for the award.

Here are some photos of Library 21C before and after, as well as McNichols:

before atrium after atrium

before middle after middle

before staircase after staircase


Coin Check

There is an architecture and design podcast that I have been listening to recently (yes, they also have full transcripts posted on their website) called 99% Invisible that I highly recommend everyone to listen to and check out.  This podcast out of San Francisco is produced by a man named Roman Mars, with the help of various NPR associates and reporters.  Roman’s background and education is in Architecture, making him a suitable host for a podcast such as this.  What I like about this podcast is that it is not explicitly architectural.  Every podcast relates back to architecture or design in general, but maybe in a less conventionally way.  The show has really pushed me to see design in literally everything around us, and has put me in a state of awe in regards to how the world is organized around us, whether that be specific works of architecture, or music, or other parts of design.  Is that not what design is about?  Organizing, making sense of, improving, and beautifying the world around us?

The podcast that I listened to this week, or rather one out of the many that I have been binge listening to, is titled Coin Check.  It discusses the use of Challenge Coins within the military.  These exist throughout all branches of the military, but are used in various ways and take on various aesthetic forms.  The producers remember a story of when they attended a conference, and ended up getting into a long in-depth conversation with a high-ranking officer.  As they parted ways, the officer handed them a coin.  This led to the birth of this story.

Apparently, these coins serve a variety of purposes.  They are used to show gratitude or affection in an environment where emotion or displays of affection are counter-cultural.  Often-times they will be received and given as a form of friendship and well-being, or as thanks for a job well done.  They are also commonly used in a drinking game.  This drinking game occurs when someone takes his challenge coin, and taps it on the bar or table, loudly calling out coin check.  Everyone who knows what is going on will then take out their coin and do the exact same thing.  The hope is that someone does not have their coin on them, and then has to buy a round of drinks for everyone involved.  If everyone does have their coin, the initiator has to pay for a round of drinks.  The rules vary from place to place and branch to branch as well.

The interesting part about these coins is, though they are prevalent throughout all branches of the military, they are not official.  There is no budget for them, no rules, no regulations, which for a culture that is used to rules and regulations, and control, this is a nice breath of freedom and identity.  There are literally hundreds of different types of coins and looks, each individualized to a specific group, branch, unit, etc.  They also vary by rank, further allowing for identity and ownership to be built into the coin.  Coins are usually designed in powerpoint, then sent off to the people who produce them, where the design submitted by the soldiers is put into more complex software, such as Adobe Photoshop, and then produced and delivered to it’s owners, to be circulated throughout more ranks, branches, and units.

Mars, R. (2015, March 10). Coin Check. Retrieved March 24, 2015, from http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/coin-check/

Commongrounds and Union Station


Commongrounds Coffee House is a small coffee shop/lunch place in Lower Downtown Denver.  They are located in a large building, but only take up a small tenant space in the first floor.  I must be honest, I expected a lot better atmosphere from this shop.  Spatially the establishment functioned well, but the details could have been a lot more spectacular.


The layout consisted of two larger seating areas on both sides of the door, separated by bookshelves.  Each of these seating areas were pleasantly situated by the large full-height storefront windows.  Another small seating area was situated just off to the side of the beverages counter.  The counter itself took up a large portion of the room, with coffee and tea ordering and creating to the far left, food ordered and made in the half-circle portion of the counter, and alcoholic beverages served to the far right of the counter.  Prominent signage, with their name and logo hung in another concave semi-circle behind the main counter.  Another small booth seating area occupied the back portion of the shop near the restrooms at the very back.


Circulation ran smoothly, with people channeled through the main entry forced through on either sides by half-height bookcases framing the customer on both sides.  Main circulation revolves around the counter, and secondary circulation branches off to the various  seating spaces.

As stated before, the details were nothing extraordinary.  Furniture consisted of a variety of wooden chairs and tables,  the ceiling was exposed to the black painted ductwork, and lighting consisted mostly of downlighting spotlights.


Union Station on the other hand is a pleasantly surprising space.  This building is indeed the main Amtrak Train and Bus Depot for Denver.  The entire building, exterior, and courtyard was renovated last year, once again making this space a pleasant one for the visitor.  The exterior courtyard is sprawling, with the building façade itself boasting a complex masonry cladding.


Once you enter the building, through either side, you pass through a small airlock, and enter into the main waiting room.  A restaurant and bar, Terminal Bar, is situated at the front of the space, while the exterior spaces of the main room are occupied by gift shops on the left side and small restaurants on the right.  Cafeteria seating exists just outside Terminal Bar, and the rest of the spaces are arranged with couches, side tables, table lamps, and armchairs in comfortable and intimate settings, with area rugs defining each setting.  The middle portion is raised with two tale shuffleboard games in the middle flanked at each end by more lounge seating.  A florist station is setup at the end of this raised space, and some of the traditional high-backed benches have been placed at the far end of the station.  Train and bus access can be reached by a hallway to the very back right of the main lobby.  The three upper levels of the station consist of office space.


Circulation happens in an orderly, orthogonal fashion.  Two main walkways go from the entries to the back, and cross to reach the trains, with secondary circulation splitting the lounge spaces and entering the restaurants and gift shops, and tertiary circulation spanning from the primary circulation to the raised portion of the station.

IMG_1675 IMG_1682

In terms of details, the space was stunning, with the furniture lending to a homey, warm feeling, and the lighting giving a grand scale to the space.

Week 9

Last week we received the go ahead from the owner of 1230 at 38th and Kalamath as well as Civil to continue working towards 100% completion on construction documents.  That meant that this week was a big push for taking that leap from design thinking to technical thinking.  Originally all of this was going to be due at the end of this week, but due to some issues with Structural regarding the foundation, we had to push the due date out a ways.  I was tasked to spend ten hours on drawing up wall sections and details in Revit and generally just cleaning up the Revit model that we so quickly put together when the façade was changing.  The work was then passed on to another co-worker, Felipe. The rest of the week was supposed to be spent doing work on Big Piney Library.  We won the bid for Big Piney at the beginning of this month.

Big Piney library is located in Big Piney, Wyoming, and Humphries Poli will be the lead architect working on remodel and possibly expansion or relocation for this library.  At the beginning of each project Dennis or Joe and the project manager travel to the location of the project for a few days and conduct “research” sessions with the client.  They invite the owner (board of trustees, private owner, investors, etc.), the staff or employees, and the general public or the users to a variety of interactive meetings.  During these meetings they introduce who they are and get to know their clients.  Then they conduct interviews, surveys, and “Mind-Breaking” or “Building-Breaking” exercises.  These exercises consist of using large scale printed out floor plans and titled tags for people to dictate things like where is the quiet part of the library?  Which entrance do you use?  What is the best view?  Outdoor space? etc.  Mind-breaking exercises consist of participants placing sticky notes with their thoughts on large pieces of paper with categories such as, teen space, renovations, staff, seniors, technology, sustainability, etc.  Once all of this information is compiled and Dennis and the project manager, in this case, Ryan, return all of this information is processed and put into a report that continues to grow as progress continues.  This book is very similar to the other one that I have worked on previously for another library, Campbell County Library.

My job this week in regards to this library was to compile the aerial images, plans, blank plans, and mind-breaking sheets and have those printed and ready to go for Monday.  I also had to print out all of the tags for the exercises.  The funny part is, almost every person who walked past me cutting out these tags commented on how they had to do that too or wish they still did not have to do that.  After these tasks were completed, I began to compile and set up the report in InDesign for when Dennis and Ryan return from Wyoming next week and we start processing the information.

Time in-between working on this report was spent helping Felipe clean up and organize the Revit model, and draw wall sections and details.  I learned a lot about detailing and how walls meet at a parapet, foundation, exterior cladding change, storefront, etc.  We have not spent too much time in school with specifics on flashing or membranes, building wrap, or furring for metal panels, so it was fascinating and slightly confusing at first to learn how all of these make up a wall and how to protect any changes in material or direction from water infiltration.  Tom and Felipe were happy to teach me what I did not understand.