PKN : Tampa volume 1 20 slides x 20 seconds

Emerging Tampa Bay Architects, with Creative Tampa Bay, is hosting Tampa’s first installment of Pecha Kucha Night on October 10th (7-10pm) during Archifest, a month long celebration of architecture and design in the Tampa Bay area.

This event will give local architects, artists, designers and creative personalities a chance to present their work/ideas and enter a dialogue about design. Each presenter will have 20x20 (20 slides for 20 seconds each), totaling 6 minutes and 40 seconds per person. Slides automatically advance, leading the speaker to be concise and stay on topic. The presentations provide for a lively evening full of exciting ideas, beautiful images and good discussion about design. For each volume event night will have presentations from ten different speakers. The evening will begin with a reception; beer, wine and light appetizers, and end with a spirited conversation.

E-mail the following submission information to
1. title of your presentation
2. brief description of your presentation (200 words max)
3. 3 images relevant to your presentation (1mb/image max)
4. name and contact info (e-mail and telephone)

A small committee of individuals (one e-tba member and Creative Tampa Bay representative) will review all entries and contact all applicants with the final selection. Submission deadline for the first installment of PKN Tampa is October 3rd.


award time!

AIA Tampa Bay is looking for nominations for the annual service awards and Garcia Design award. Every year AIA Tampa Bay honors architects and members of the community for thier work to elevate architecture within the community.
Go to AIA Tampa Bay for more info and nomination forms.
Also be sure to check back for upcoming information on the annual Archi-fest, happening in October this year.


“Sicilians in Tampa”

First Annual Ybor City Museum Society Symposium





JULY 11 – 12, 2008



Contact: Tomaro Taylor, Symposium Coordinator, (813) 974-5750

“Sicilians in Tampa” scholarly symposium considers Sicilian-American and Italian-American cultures and identities.

YBOR CITY, FL: A two-day symposium sponsored by the Ybor City Museum Society will explore the cultures, identities and perspectives of Sicilian and Italian Americans. Featuring scholars from a range of disciplines, the symposium will highlight such topics as immigration, acculturation and assimilation; socio-cultural influence; and community life.

The opening session, being held Friday, July 11 from 5 to 8 pm, will feature Keynote Speaker Dr. Gary Mormino. Dr. Mormino, Frank E. Duckwall Professor of Florida History and co-director of the Florida Studies program at the University of South Florida, is the author of such works as The Immigrant World of Ybor City: Italians and their Latin Neighbors, 1885-1985 and the recently published Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida.

On Saturday, July 12, program participants will explore various aspects of Sicilian, Sicilian American, Italian and Italian American life. Speakers include: Dr. Denise Scannell, City University of New York; Dr. Stefano Luconi, University of Rome; and Dr. Patrizia La Trecchia and Andrew T. Huse, both of the University of South Florida.

“Sicilians in Tampa” coincides with the Ybor City Museum Society’s exhibition “Sicilians in Tampa: Unfolding the Journey,” which considers Sicilian and Sicilian-American life as a whole while highlighting the many contributions of Sicilian immigrants and their descendents to Tampa.

The symposium is open to the public and is free for members of the Ybor City Museum Society, L’Unione Italiana and La Nuova Sicilia; nonmembers are asked for a suggested donation of $5. All proceeds from the event support the Ybor City Museum Society’s efforts to “preserve, promote and celebrate the unique cultural heritage of Ybor City.” For more information, please contact the Symposium Coordinator at ttaylor@lib.usf.edu.


Placa Dali: The Box vs. The Blob

The design for the new Salvador Dali Museum which will be located on the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida was revealed at a City Council meeting yesterday. The design, by HOK's Tampa office, appears to be a minimal white box that is being attacked by a glass blob dubbed "The Enigma".

The preliminary design was approved by Council. Construction should begin this fall with the new museum opening in 2010.

See the story in the St. Petersburg Times.



Hey everyone, I just want to remind that The Urban Charrette will be hosting ECO.lution:


I plan to be involved on Saturday's event at Gaslight Park in Downtown Tampa.


If you want to help, please flag me down. If not, please check out this and the other events.

Also, I have set up an online petition to designate Kiley Gardens as a local landmark. In addition to that, I am handing out hard copies of this petition (available through the events and Cafe Hey).

Here is the online Petition:


Please take a few seconds, (literally) to sign it. After ECO.lution, my goal is to take a record of this, in addition to the hard petitions, to our mayor.

Please spread the word.



Tampa is on street view

Tampa is now included streetview. No need to get out of your car. You can now experience most of Tampa, St. Pete and even Valerico on Google streetview.


The Bids Are In

This morning, the City of St. Petersburg received three bids from developers for the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site. I haven't had a chance to read through the proposals yet, but here are a few highlights. You can see all of the information yourself on the City's website.

Archstone Madison proposes a ten year build-out with a total of 5,448,850 SF (FAR 1.45) of development with a construction value of $1,209,061,290. This includes 1,126,000 SF of retail/restaurant/entertainment, 800,000 SF of office, 2,690 units of residential, 600 hotel rooms, and 10,088 parking spaces. This team features a design team of Torti Gallas and Partners with Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin.

Hines Interests proposes a ten year build-out with a total of 3,095,803 SF (FAR 0.81) of development with a construction value of $880,000,000. This includes 855,000 SF of retail/restaurant/entertainment, 200,000 SF of office, 1,173 units of residential, 200-250 hotel rooms, and 6,850 parking spaces. This team features a design by EDAW.

Williams Quarter proposes a seven year build-out with a total of 4,410,000 SF (FAR 1.18) of development with a construction value of $773,440,315. This includes 360,000 SF of retail/restaurant/entertainment, 125,000 SF of office, 4,000 units of residential, and 250 hotel rooms. This team features a local design team consisting of Reliable Group Architects, Land Design Landscape Architects, and TBE Group Civil Engineers.

At first blush, the urban design and architecture are even worse than I could have imagined. Again this is based on just a quick look over the 3 proposals, but I don't really see anything more than a glorified mall without a roof. I expect more design-wise from both the EDAW and Torti Gallas/Glatting Jackson. The FAR's of right around 1.0 seem REALLY low for such an urban site. More commentary to come once I have a chance to digest some of the information.


art or zoning issue

At one time, the only thing of interest on the I-4 drive from Tampa to Lakeland was the Dinosaur marking the exit for DinoWorld. Now there is a new piece of Americana. The locally nicknamed "Airstream Ranch."
Unfortunately, the art critics within the Hillsborough County Code Enforcement have spoken up and deemed this to be a code violation and NOT art. The owner has been given 30 days to take down the Airsteams. more info here.
story1. story2. gallery. story3. story4.
story before the controversy.

sensory overload

Creative Loafing is holding an "art" event in Ybor on March 29. Wide arrange of artists, musicians and other things creative. Admission is $10 Check it out.


More details on the Rays' plans

Today the Tampa Bay Rays submitted some more details on their plans for a new ballpark on the downtown waterfront. The "Detailed Design Submittal" and "Transportation and Parking Submittal" are available, as well as some other information, from the City of St. Petersburg.

Parking has been one of the key hot button issues for stadium opponents. The parking study suggests that there are about 14,000 parking spaces that would be available for game parking. This figure does not include the 7,000 on-street spots in the area.

The preliminary design package includes additional information regarding the design of the building (including the retractable sail roof), public amenities, streetscape improvements, and a sustainability plan. It is anticipated that the new stadium will achieve LEED certification, one of the first professional sports venues to do so.

Stay tuned for more as the RFPs for the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site are due next week on March 18th.


Tampa Downtown Partnership invites you to coffee with Mr. Tom Balsley.

Mr. Balsley is the architect of the New Curtis Hixon Park and we are very pleased that he has been able to make some time available to show and further describe the plans for the $15 Million renovation of this significant public space. Maestro’s Restaurant, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center
1010 North W.C. MacInnes Place
Monday, February 26th 8:30am to 9:30am
Parking as available on the arrival plaza


what is green?

Good News. Some in Tampa city council are pushing to add incentives for builders to build green. Along with increased density and quicker permitting times, part of the incentive is reduced permit and impact fees.
Now the bad news.
Unfortunately, that same council member is trying to halt the construction of the downtown park next to the new TMA.
The reasons for halting the construction are the same as any other time. Money. (Sidenote; this story reminds me a lot of the TMA story about 2 years ago. 3 million already spent, but let's stop and build it later when costs are expected to increase.)
The park is seen by many, including the mayor, as a catalyst to urban renewal and therefore less spawl, commuters, etc. So wouldn't building the park be considered green as well?
So, which is the better way of "being green?" Giving "breaks" to developers to build green, or using existing funds to create a public ammenity and encourage people to move back into the city? Ideally one council member would believe that BOTH are in fact "green."

new rays stadium photos

The Rays stadium design is gathering quite a bit of attention. Hopefully, they can figure out a way to get past the city and resident's hurdles in order to get this built. It will definitely be a bonus to St Pete. Go here.


coming soon to soho

the grande at soho

Tampa's first "green" streetcars

For those of you interested in Tampa's future mass transit system, first take a look into the past. I found an interesting web page full of information about Tampa's original street car system. Go Here. The site also contains several links to other worthwhile rail sites. Check out the page that touts Tampa's street car's environmental qualities.

Superbowl XLII

Eisenman is a Giant's fan? It's not everyday that you see an article about an architect hidden in the sports pages. Eisenman and HOK's Arizona stadium will be on center stage, again.


your chance to design the George W Bush library

Although the library will be packed with children's books with pretty pictures, now is a great time to submit what your design ideas are for the "can't be former soon enough" president George W Bush library. Back of the envelop competition site.


some good news for the end of the year

-Ikea is coming! Still on schedule and with all approvals to move forward, Ikea should open early 2009.
-A livable downtown Tampa is still a few years away, but we are getting there. Some significant progress has been made in the last 2 years.
-The Tampa Museum of Art is finally back on the right track and moving forward.
-Additional funding is in place for the Children's Museum. From the renderings it should be quite a significant building in Tampa and designed by a local architect.
-The Riverwalk and the street car receive additional federal funding. Those earmarks are certainly nice when they help your community.
-The "No longer-Devil" Rays announce a plan to redevelop almost half of St. Pete. Check out this very informative website on their very ambitious, yet plausible plans. A mixed use community and a very cool waterfront stadium.
-Temple Terrace gains city council approval to move forward with their downtown redevelopment. (While not the best plan, at least it is moving forward.)
-Ybor city looking to begin a small business incubator.
-Seminole Heights to begin flirting with form based zoning.
-Hyde Park Village moves forward with its plans for redevelopment.

All of this leads one to wonder what Tampa 2012 will look like?


but are they registered

AIA will have its hands full, going after yet another person or company using the word architect without holding a proper license.


the city stands in the way AGAIN

Why is it so hard for anything to get built in Tampa?
The city is in decline, developer after developer step up to try and contribute to the urban fabric of the city, create modern urban villages and make the city better. And developer after developer have been basically told not in my city, invest your money somewhere else.
A 90 foot "tower" has the less than half of the Old Hyde Park neighborhood up in arms. "It will block the sun." It will be an eye-sore. My property value will drop."
Old Hyde Park is in the middle of the city, it is an urban neighborhood. It is supported by more than just the Hyde Park residents, it is supported by the entire city. The HPV needs to be revitalized, in order to be revitalized the developer needs to make money. (The city and taxpayers surely won't foot the bill.) If the developer needs 160 units to make the village better, give him 160 units and a 90' "tower".
Last night resident after resident came up and spouted their credentials, "I've lived here my whole life, went to Gorrie and Wilson." Those same people protested the first construction of Hyde Park Village and Kate Jackson Park. They will protest against anything and everything. the developer has compromised, the residents and city have not.
The city of Tampa needs help, and city council is consistently, whether they know it or not, voting to pull the plug.
Why not bring prosperity to the city, why keep holding on to 1980.
The vote is currently 3-2. Charlie Miranda who was absent will watch the public hearing and cast his vote on Thrusday. Hopefully with based on his prior pro-growth opinions, he will vote in favor of this project.
See more editorials here.
Another story here. and another.


patching the (historic) urban fabric

A point of contention in Ybor City for the last few years has been the Sheriff's office's "temporary" closing of 20th Street. Matters are coming to a head, as the office seeks a permanent closure of the street. Community residents and some city officials are speaking out against this, arguing disruption to the urban fabric and facilitating the wrong type of growth in Ybor. Is this growth warranted, or an imposition on the historic neighborhood? Are it's "9/11" motivations legitimate, or do you think there are other agenda involved?

If you're interested, the Barrios will be having a meeting to discuss next Thursday, Dec 20 at 9am. Ultimately, the decision falls to the City Council.

some art news

New art gallery in North Franklin area, after hours events at TMA and other art events. Article here.

new office building in Tampa

A new green office building to be built in downtown Tampa. Article has no mention of architect, article here.


cafe hey

The trib ran a story about Cafe Hey, a coffee shop owned by fellow architect, Chris Vela. Everyone should definitely check it out, good coffee and great morning muffins. Thanks Chris and Anne. Congrats on your "contribution to the urban fabric."
story here


An interesting blog post...

....about bending zoning and building codes in a prominent South Tampa neighborhood.



Submit your napkin sketches!!!

If you haven't already submitted something please take a couple of minutes to draw a quick napkin sketch for the 2nd Annual AIA Tampa Bay Holiday Party Napkin Sketch Competition. The winner will receive a free local AIA membership! (Associate=$60, Full=$150) We had a bunch of great submissions last year and look forward to seeing your sketches again this year.

Please drop your sketches off at the AIATB office by the new submission deadline of 5:00PM on Wednesday, December 5th.

The gallery opening and holiday party will be at 6:00PM on Friday, December 7th.

See you there!

Will this be the new home of the Tampa Bay Rays?

A street level view from 2nd Ave. S.

Aerial view from the north.

On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Rays revealed their plans for a new stadium along the waterfront of downtown St. Petersburg. It's no surprise the HOK Sport is involved with the project, but what is slightly surprising is that they are going for the now typical retro look. The proposal includes a very tall mast and an innovative cable-stayed roof system. See more at the links below.

HERE is the Rays official website dedicated to the proposals.

HERE is the St. Pete Times' special page that is dedicated to their coverage of the proposed stadium plans.



The city of Tampa is considering selling naming rights to the Tampa Convention Center to increase revenue. This Tribune story discusses the consideration, as well as the naming of spaces in other civic buildings (like the New TMA) or entire buildings (like the Glaser Children's Museum.) In a city already feeling budgetary constraints from tax reductions, and with a smaller base of support for cultural and arts programs than many other metropolitan areas, is this a creative way to boost funds? Is this a crass commercialization of our urban fabric? Or are we so far mired in 'Raymond James' & 'Tropicana' Stadiums and 'Tostito' Bowls, that it no longer matters if we sell off our remaining buildings as billboards?


A Tremendous Opportunity

By now most of you have probably heard that the Tampa Bay (no longer Devil) Rays are looking to build a new stadium along the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg. There are two major parts to the deal. The first would be building the new stadium on the site of Al Lang Field (pictured), the current spring training home of the Rays. The second part of the deal would be the sale and redevelopment of the 70-acre Tropicana Field site. I think that both would be HUGE benefits for St. Petersburg. Having the stadium in the heart of downtown could generate a ton of revenue for downtown businesses.

While the new stadium would be great, I think that more important issue is the redevelopment of the Trop site. It could be incredible if it was done correctly. It would be an opportunity to build a significant amount of affordable and attainable housing, which by the way, was the original plan when the City demolished the historic African American neighborhood that once stood on the site.

People have mentioned the Atlantic Station project in Atlanta as a precedent. This worries me quite a bit. Not only because AS is filled with bad architecture, but also because for the most part it is proving to be a failure. I would point to something like the Orestad project located just outside of Copenhagen. Only the first phase has been completed so far, but there is a great attention to detail in the design of the infrastructure and public realm at Orestad. In fact, the City of Copenhagen gave the Orestad land to the developer for free in exchange for building the city's entire new metro system.

What do you think? What should happen? Can a downtown stadium and 70-acre redevelopment be the impetus that Tampa Bay needs to build a mass-transit system?

See articles from the St. Petersburg Times HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.


RFQ happening for Kiley Gardens?

(realized this was old when I was prompted about recent work happening)

It seems Kiley Gardens will be rebuilt but by minimal standards. What I do know is that there will be a true rooftop garden application (similar to the one used on at Rinker Hall at UF) which is exactly desired because a lot of the older leak problems related to poor construction. Further, I believe that the fountains/runnels will return though I am not sure how many. I do know that this project was suppose to be started in January and will be completed by October of 08.

I am going to attempt to find out more about the project, do a site visit today. If landscaping is going to be cut back (which is my gut feeling) I do have the original list of plants/trees that were intended for the park, found that list this morning. I also have a contact that is willing to donate some plants/trees if that possibility comes up. If anyone has further information, ideas or some more insight please contact at me at cmvela311@yahoo.com or post below.


Architect Gehry sued by MIT

'BOSTON - The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is suing renowned architect Frank Gehry, alleging there are serious design flaws in the Stata Center, a building celebrated for its unconventional walls and radical angles.'


PLY Architecture: Building Practice/Practice Building

PLY Architecture: Building Practice/Practice Building
By: Phillip M. Crosby, Assoc. AIA

Earlier this year I was sitting in my office on a conference call with the steering committee that was developing the 3rd Annual AIA Florida Emerging Professionals Conference. I suggested that we invite the guys from PLY Architecture to speak as the keynote speakers. We culled together a list of up-and-coming firms and decided on PLY as our top choice. Eventually, Kim Headland, the chairperson of the committee called up to Ann Arbor and invited Craig Borum and Karl Daubmann to speak. Quite unexpectedly, they both agreed to come down to lecture.

Fast-forward six months and now I’m at the Lido Beach Resort in Sarasota, Florida. I’ve just arrived at the hotel after driving about an hour south from my home in St. Petersburg. I check into the conference and grab a quick bite of breakfast from the continental breakfast. I see Craig and Karl working away on their laptops in the lobby trying to put the final touches on their presentations. I had been emailing with Karl earlier in the week and had arranged to set some aside some time during the conference to interview them, so I quickly introduced myself and told them that I was looking forward to sitting down with them to talk.

At 9:00am they start a marathon three-hour lecture. Craig is first up with a presentation entitled “Building Practice.” He describes their competition projects and how they try to approach them strategically. They view two-phase competitions as “self generating commissions” that offer an opportunity to build their credentials. After a short break, Karl begins his presentation “Practice Building” in which he describes a series of their built projects. He sets up a clear narrative that links from one project to the next. It’s not necessarily a direct line of thought from project to project, but you can definitely see the progression of their ideas. After the completion of the lecture we decide to get a quick bite to eat and then to do the interview. We eat lunch with the rest of the conference and then move into the conference room that is being used as the conference command center. It's a room overlooking the beach, although it’s a bit of a dreary day by Florida standards. After a little bit of small talk, I turn on the tape recorder and begin to ask some questions…

(Karl Daubmann (left) and Craig Borum (right) at the EP Conference)

Phillip Crosby: You’ve talked about automotive manufacturing and obviously being up in the Detroit area gives you some unique opportunities. In your lecture you touched a little bit on it in terms of slipping in on the weekends to use the water-jet cutting. Could you talk a little bit more about what sort of partnering opportunities you’re looking at in terms of subcontractors or manufacturers?

Karl Daubmann: I don’t know that it is so strategic in that we’re seeking those things out, but it seems like, well, like in the same way that practice is pretty tactical it depends on what projects you get and how those things go. Then it just seems like having to be aware of those things and tied into those things. You start to think about who you want pull in on a project to work on something. I don’t know if there are specifics, but for a project that we’re doing “it’s like oh well it would be interesting to try to work with that person.” So lets either wait for a project to come along where you can do that or you try to steer a project, the design of a project, in a way that might be able to tie into that or work with someone. That was the case with Rick. I don’t know that we’ve done it any other times.

PC: Rick is the machinist that did the wall cap on the Mies plaza?

KD: Yeah.

Craig Borum: Yeah, I think that’s true. It’s more tactical. The actual relationships are more tactical. I think the inspiration is knowing what’s there. Knowing the organizations and how they work from the actual big three down to a whole series of outsourcing to smaller companies that are producing individual parts. Knowing what is on the ground gives us a certain way to start thinking about projects. But I think probably what we are finding more is that a lot of the small outsourcing pieces that we’re doing, just in terms of the equipment and stuff, are just cabinet shops and sign shops that actually have all of the equipment and have had it for longer than we’ve been thinking about it. You just realize that they are there and you have a whole new source. The auto industry is like a big shadow or big cloud, but the realities are that a lot of the things are pretty straightforward. They’re simple pieces of equipment that we’re using that are pretty widely available and people just don’t realize it.

KD: You just have to be able to understand how to tie into those things too, because we always get the question… It’s a pretty long drawn out introduction when we call a place. We’re having this cabinet shop cut a bunch of material for us and they want to know what it is for. Whether or not you even have to explain to them what the pieces are for. They are used to cutting letters or cabinet doors. They are doing the same process over and over and they’re using the same material but it’s not a letter or it’s not a door. We’re trying to get them to realize that we’re not asking for anything different than what they do. It’s just maybe a different shape or a different thing. Sometimes we’re like, just let us worry about how it’s going to fit into something else. It depends on where the cost is. Some places you can just be like “Yeah I need this weird shape cut. Can you guys help us out?” And they don’t even ask and they just cut it and that’s it. But there are other times where it is more collaborative and we work with them to figure out how to do something.

(Mies van de Rohe Plaza - Detroit, Michigan - image source: www.plyarch.com)

PC: How do you go about finding the different people to work with? Is it people that you just meet in passing? Or do you cold-call up a shop and introduce yourself?

KD: It’s a bit of both.

CB: Yeah, it’s a bit of both. Sometimes we’re just online and type in “cabinet shop Ann Arbor” (everyone laughs) and you get a list and you start calling. You cross off a bunch and then you suddenly develop a pool of people that can do it and you get a couple of people to price it and start building relationships.

KD: Other times we’re just trying to figure out what’s local. Like Craig showing the butcher shop [in the lecture]. That guy knows where the cow came from. He knows where it was raised and then he butchers it. For us, we can just be driving around town and happen to drive by a place and be like, “Oh i wonder what they make there. I wonder how they do those things.” When you get a project you make a call, and you figure out who your neighbors are and what they make. There are a couple of people down the street from us. There is a guy that does metal working, there’s a sign shop and an artist’s studio. You realize that there are people around and you just have to know where to look. Usually it’s where the rent is a little cheaper (laughs) and around the edge of town.

PC: At the University of Michigan there seems to be a lot of young talent there these days with you, PEG, and Mittnick Roddier Hicks and some of the other people that are teaching there. Is there something that is drawing people to Ann Arbor? Or is really just a freak occurrence?

CB: It’s the weather. Everyone is drawn by the weather. (laughs) It’s 75 degrees everyday and sunny. It’s totally awesome. The beaches are a big draw. (laughs).

PC: You actually brought the cold weather down with you to Sarasota. This is about as cold as it ever gets down here.

CB: I think the school where we are right now is the draw. We have a really amazing faculty. There is a huge amount of design talent. Our chair, Tom Buresh, I think has been instrumental in cultivating that. He is supporting us, our practices, and the work that we’re doing. He’s helping us to figure out ways to make things more visible and allowing us room in our teaching to try to get at issues that we’re interested in, although we all want to more of that. But I think that we’ve been really lucky. There is a great comradery at the school. We all talk to each other. There are wide ranging and diverse opinions about education and the nature of practice and its pretty productive.

PC: Some of the research project that you showed, like the concrete, is that something you’re doing in the office or as part of an independent study at the university or a little bit of both?

KD: Some of them are probably a little bit of both. Sometimes we have a research assistant, but there is only so much that you can do at school. You can’t take up the space and you can’t do certain things. One of the other things that Tom [Buresh] has started, is that the students that have scholarship money are put together with a faculty member to help develop or generate some research interests. The balance of that is that we’re basically volunteering our time to mentor a student and work with them, and then in our case we use our office space as a way to give them a space to work. If we’re going to cast something then we use our shop so we don’t have to worry about dealing with stuff at school. So that’s what brings those things together. If there is downtime in the office between projects, or if we’re waiting on something else, it will be like, “OK lets come up with how to build something or how to get excited about something else.” A lot of times those things might sit on a shelf, but then when we pick up a new project there is almost like a shorthand discussion. “What if we took that, but it was a little bit of that, but then the way that you used that material over there… What if those things came together and produced something? We don’t know what it is yet.”

PC: Is that the kind of thing that happened between the concrete study and the Mies plaza in terms of the way that you were dealing with the precast slabs?

KD: Yeah. I mean those were around, but it is not the only thing that lead to that. It wasn’t the only genesis of that. There were other discussions about how we do this, about how we cast these things. But because we had done that and tested a couple of things, we realized we can cast them, we can make some form work, we can do this. The early idea was to cast one on-site, cast the next against it and flip it over, then cast two on those tiles and flip those over. It was trying to use that book-matching strategy of Mies as casting one tile against the face of another and letting them multiply that way. We had developed that, but then we went the direction that we went.

PC: You’ve referred to PLY as being a “research practice”. Is that the idea? You do some material research and then it eventually makes its way into a project? Can you talk a little bit about what you’re teaching, what you’re practicing and your research and the buildings?

KD: Well, let me just start off explaining what research is a little bit. The way that calling it a research practice runs contrary to just a practice in general is that, I think, research has to be generalizable. It has to be applicable to other projects. We try in the best case to have each project deal with broader ambitions or broader goals than just solving the problems for that specific project. They may be material, but we’re starting to deal with more and more things like zoning. The competition projects deal with a kind of urbanism and how to research those things in order to find an urbanism in those places. And how to make something that has spatial consequences as well as social consequences within the context. That’s the first part. It has to be able to be in a broader context. Then, I think that anyone that talks about research also talks about the distribution of research and publishing those things or making those things known so that that plugs into a larger discussion of things as well. We’re in a constant dialogue with colleagues, with friends, with architects in other places. We’re open to a broader discussion and wanting to have a broader discussion instead of just focusing down and dealing with the project. We’re careful not just to characterize the research as a material research. There are other trajectories for us that we’re interested in doing. The difficulty that we’ve been talking about is how to link those different research trajectories and make it one seamless story and whether that is even necessary.

CB: Right. The crisis recently has been a crisis of the narrative. We’re doing projects, there is a body of work that we didn’t even show today that doesn’t fit as neatly in the story that we were trying to tell today. There is a way, probably, to spin it. But it takes a little bit longer and given that we went three hours today… (laughs) We’re trying to struggle with how to bring this other work that we really like and are very proud of into the narrative of the other things. Part of it comes, I think, from being an academically oriented practice and wanting to tell that story and make the connections to articulate the research. If you can articulate the research then you can articulate that narrative and then you can tie the work together. I think that there are some moments that the more particular a project gets, the less it fits. It may even be a better project as a project than some of the research work, but we’re still struggling with how we want to tell the story.

KD: For the most part it is residential. One of the bodies of work that wasn’t at all included today was the residential work. We’re trying to figure out if it’s because that is so intimately driven by the client and there desires. Although there was the Case Study house which tries to open that up and talk about those things. It’s the middle scale that we’re trying to weave that into. There is still an interest in materials and how those things are made. But maybe it’s that we can be contractors on commercial projects in Michigan and the studio that we just built was residential, but I was the homeowner, so that’s why I was able to be the contractor. But at the same time it’s not about wanting to build houses. It’s not about us trying to fabricate the houses, but we’re just struggling with how it fits together.

(PLY's new studio - Ann Arbor, Michigan - image source: www.plyarch.com)

PC: Can you talk a little bit about how PLY started? You started building the practice through competitions. How do you look at competitions strategically to build the practice from the ground up?

KD: Well, we talked about this a little bit at lunch. If you want to do school projects, you can’t do a school unless you’ve done a school before.

CB: That’s a big part in selecting what type of projects that we’re doing competitions for. It also gives us a way to jump scales in an interesting way. We’ve started a few competitions that were much more urban scaled, but we’ve lost our footing somewhere in the middle of those and we just haven’t finished any of them. I think that we’re moving back and forth. I think that the move to the next scale of construction for us was actually the first line of thinking that we developed together as partners and then it was actually the projects that pushed us into this realm of fabrication which I think is directly tied into the larger issues of industry and craft. Now we have a pretty significant body of built work at the scale of fabrication and part of the competition selection is to get us to the next scale of building where we can really talk about building systems and larger material assemblies and not just surface. So the studio that we’re running right now is geared directly toward that. We’re trying to get the students to work on it, but its also a vehicle for us to think about what we’re up to and to refine our process and thinking. Our teaching works in a similar way as the competitions some times which I think is a pretty interesting aspect of this whole juggling act that we go through.

KD: Teaching is a way for us to think through the ideas. While ideally the competitions seem like a way to build qualifications for us to be able to do other projects. But it’s interesting to imagine that the competitions set up a methodology for us that then plugs right in to when we start to do material things. With the larger scale projects and competitions we are questioning how the things are made; whether its a butler building that is used to make a church or precast panels that are used to make a school. When we start doing a sushi restaurant, we interrogate it the same way and realize that given the time constraints and the budget we can do those things quicker rather than challenging a contractor to rethink the way that they’re making what they’re making.

(Chicago Public Schools Competition - Chicago, Illinois - image source: www.plyarch.com)

PC: What’s is one of the biggest challenges for you teaching full time and maintaining the practice? You’ve mentioned that after the Chicago Public Schools competition that you really had to formalize your office. Do you have a staff member in your office that takes care of the billing and administrative things?

KD: That would be nice. (laughs)

CB: No. We don’t. It falls on us. We do all of it. The biggest challenge is getting enough sleep.

PC: So, it’s basically like working two forty hour jobs?

CB: Well I wish they were just 40 hour jobs. (laughs) Somedays it feels like they’re endless. It’s definitely a challenge to balance all of this and keep the momentum going. Then there are the competitions. We’ve done five. Finished five in eight years. We’ve needed those years off in between just to recover. Because financially it’s a huge investment and a huge risk and there is so much energy put into them. The teaching has a pretty nice cycle. We get 4 months off in the summers. Kind of. But the everyday operation of a business can get pretty taxing too. When you sit down at your desk to draw something and it’s covered with bills that you have to deal with, it’s pretty hard to think about what the issues are and what you’re trying to draw. There’s a stack of messages that just came in while you were at studio and it’s 6:30 at night and you just got back to the office after teaching. It’s a grind, definitely.

KD: Usually when we’re going to sit down and design something, which seems more rare as we go, it’s usually at night after the phone has stopped ringing and the employees have gone home that we can just sit down and talk about something and work through something. We’ve changed the make up of the office. At one point we thought that we could have someone with very little experience in the office because we were there and there was less overhead and issues like that. Now we’ve tried it a number of different ways and the best scenario is to have people that are pretty invested in what they’re doing and have some experience. Right now we have a pretty good range from someone that has 8 years of experience through to someone that just graduated from undergrad. So when we’re not there, it’s a lot like a design studio. We’ll come in and give some criticism and have them develop the project in a couple of different ways then come back and critique that. We give them freedom to be part of the project, but we give direction to it. So it is a lot like school. In the same way that we teach, I think that we’re not so heavy handed in terms of telling our students to do it exactly this way. What are the questions that we’re asking? What are you interested in? How do you develop these things? Here’s a couple avenues. Here’s a couple of precedents to look at to try to make sense out of all these things.

CB: But to loop it back, the stronger and more articulate that we can be with the narrative and question of the research, the easier it is for someone to step in and help us because we have establish the set of ideas. Whereas in the design studio at school, I think that probably half of the time is spent figuring out what the narrative might be with the student. Allowing the student to have ownership in the direction of the project and the direction of their interests. Even though we might create an umbrella of issues that the studio is going to deal with, we leave a huge amount of leeway for the student to carve their own path within that. In the office, there’s a little bit less leeway because the stronger we can be with the narrative the tighter that gets. But at the same time it’s easier to let someone else help us with that if we trust them. For us we’ve found, a lot of times, that its really worth it to pay more for someone with more experience than to pay less for someone with less experience because they can understand what the goals are and work toward them in a much more efficient way. It doesn’t just balance it, it actually expands it.

PC: So by having a continuity between projects, like you showed in the lecture today, where there is a continuous feedback loop of looking at different things, does that give you a way to show an employee where you’re coming from and where you’re going so that they have an idea of what you’re trying to do on the next project?

CB: Absolutely. That’s essential. The stronger we can be with that, the easier it is to sit someone down and say, “Work on this. This is the goal. This is the direction. This is where it’s coming from. We don’t know exactly where it’s going to go, but it’s coming from here. Where does it go from there?” So there’s a point that you can fix in the process and it doesn’t rely on you being there the whole time as long as you’re smart enough to understand the evolution of that idea. Unfortunately though, sometimes it takes us three hours, like today, to explain it. (laughs)

KD: (laughing) Well, they gave us three hours. We didn’t take three hours. We expanded it because we had three hours.

CB: That’s true.

PC: How do you keep work coming in? You explained how you’ve used the new studio space and your website to weed out the projects that you don’t want to deal with. How do you keep the projects that you do want coming in? Do you do marketing? Or is there a steady flow of people coming to you because of your previous work?

KD: We don’t do any marketing.

CB: None at all. Except that we try to get all of the work published. It’s less a direct marketing and more an indirect marketing by being visible.

KD: But that’s usually to other architects more than it is to potential clients.

CB: It’s a little bit of both. A lot of it is just word of mouth. Our clients usually leave really happy and really enjoyed the work and they appreciated the process and they recommend us. That has gone a long way for us. We’ve had some absolutely dream clients. We still do. They are open to discussion, open to thinking, open to being challenged in their assumptions. And the best part is that they communicate that to their friends. We’ve had a really great success that way. The other part is that now we have some experience in stuff. A couple of restaurants, or at least interviews for restaurants, have come because they’ve seen a restaurant that we’ve done. They call us and we say, “Yeah, we can do restaurants.” A couple of those have ended really badly because they’re looking more at experience rather than the work. They’re thinking that because we’ve done a restaurant we can do any restaurant. They’re not looking at the restaurants that we’ve done sometimes. But at other times people are really excited by the forms, the space, the intensity of color, the richness of material that isn’t an expensive material but we get qualities that are way beyond the expectation. They give us some space to work and we end up in a collaboration with them.

KD: It seems like the publications are less about marketing, as far as getting new clients, but it’s about a credential. Yeah, it’s just a little burrito restaurant but there must be something else going on because it’s been in five different publications. They start to look at that and see that more is actually going on and that it’s not just about answering those specific issues that they bring to the table, but it also puts it in a broader context.

CB: I know that the guys are always surprised whenever they see their restaurant published.

(Big Ten Burrito - East Lansing, Michigan - image source: www.plyarch.com)

PC: In terms of the fabrication and design/build aspect of your work, it’s interesting, because a couple of weeks ago at our annual AIA Gala up in Tampa, we had Monica Ponce de Leon from Office dA as the keynote speaker. They did a lot of fabrication early on and someone in the audience asked the question “If you could go back knowing what you know now what would you do differently?” She said that they would stay away from fabrication and instead would find a different subcontractor that would do it for them. What’s your take on that? Do you foresee continuing to stay in the design/build side of things? Or are you doing it now just to get things built?

KD: It’s probably a little bit of both. There was the immediate need of having to get things built, and we wanted to see things built, so we’d step in and we’d do it because we understood it. But I think that we’re transitioning to a point where it’s not about a complete level of control where we design it and we make it and it’s a closed loop. Now we’re having someone else make it and we work with them through that. But I don’t know that if we did it over again that we would give up those things. We learned so much from the direct interaction with the materials and with running the actual machines that make these things. That comes back in our work in different ways, so I wouldn’t want to give that up. But the difficulty is to be stuck doing that. It can limit the size of the firm and the projects that you do. It limits things that way. Instead, we’re trying to open those things up.

CB: I was just thinking about writing a recipe without ever having cooked. That’s what architects do. (laughs) But there’s something pretty interesting about knowing more about the specific engagement. Knowing Office dA’s work, it’s pretty hard to imagine that they’d be where they are if they didn’t engage it as directly as they did at some point in their process. Not that they have to stay in that realm, but I think doing the construction and fabrication gives you a knowledge base that you can work from that is different than if you just conceptualize it. So many things that we just conceptualize, we never gain the full reality of the piece. I try to talk to students about when they’re working that there is a difference between thinking and architectural thought. If you’re thinking architecturally, you’re making something. You can’t just sit there and think through the thing and have it all worked out. So there’s a difference in what the value is in occasionally engaging the material directly and conceptualizing how to engage it. It produces two very different tactile worlds. I think that you have to be able to do both as an architect. I think you should be open to doing both as an architect. For us, we get frustrated sometimes by the slowness of having to do the work ourselves. But at the other end of it, there is so much that we learn in doing it that it advances the work the next time. I don’t know that I would ever want to completely give it up, but I can imagine that there is a moment when you know it well enough that you can predict it, or you can orchestrate it better. But I think that there is a difference.

KD: So much of the discussion is about experience when you’re first starting out. I remember saying experience is what produces the same thing over and over again. What you’re struggling with when you start a firm is that you have essentially no experience that you can prove that is your firm or body of work. So you’re trying to build up credibility with these things. The publications help with that. The competitions help with that at a national level. The fabrication stuff has helped with that because we’ve taken contractors to spaces that we’ve built before and talked to them about what we are trying to do. That lends us some amount of credibility with the contractor because we understand where they’re coming from. We understand some of the issues. We understand what is going on with the materials. Then we can have a dialog with them. The conversation can be pretty stunted when we tell them that we want them to do this and they think that we’re coming out of left field and that we don’t have any experience with those things. We’re trying to use that experience. Like we talked about in the lecture, for us it’s never about trying to do the same thing over again, and quicker to make more money. It’s about trying to extend the last thing to the new thing while trying to innovate it and push it.

With that the interview ended and I thanked them both for their time. They headed out to find Karl's family at the beach and then were off to see some of the Paul Rudolph work that is scattered around Sarasota.

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a good idea

The Tampa Museum of Art is looking to temporarily relocate to West Tampa during the construction of the new museum. They are hoping to utilize the vacant Centro Espanol arguably one of the most historic buildings in Tampa.
Hopefully the museum's opponents won't use this as an opportunity to suggest making the move permanent.
Story in the St. Pete Times.


FLW water dome

Today the long awaited FLW "water dome" at Florida Southern will come to life. The water dome has never been realized due to technology and funding, but finally after thirty years as a pond and sidewalk the water dome will be operational. See story in Orlando Sentinel.


It's not easy being Green

Many probably already know about (or attended) the Creative Tampa Bay-sponsored luncheon with Joe Cortright, a Portland-based economist. Cortright spoke about the success and properity Portland has experienced by their focus on being a more sustainable, environmental city. Cortright emphasized to the audience how Tampa's economy could be bolstered by a focus on 'green.'

Forgoing the more fobvious discussion of 'would Tampa leadership really undertake this task', I would ask how you feel about the validity of the mission in general, and how do you think our community of young designers could help bring this culture about in specifics. Being sustainable and bringing environmental awareness has become a much hipper, and less taboo, mindset in the last two years, but how do we affect real change?

As an example of specific actions to help focus on change, look into Lights Out Boston. This is an event planned for next spring, similar to the one in San Francisco last weekend, which will bring people together to turn off unnecessary lighting in the city for one hour.


Tampa Center for the Built Environment?

A lot of you may not know that our local AIA chapter has been exploring the possibilities of leading a team to convert the old federal courthouse in downtown Tampa into a "center for the built environment". This idea has been in the works for months but is now starting to get some real traction as AIATB will sign a letter of intent with the city. AIATB now has 6 months to perform due diligence to determine if the concept is feasible. The adaptive reuse concept for the 102-year-old courthouse building includes office space for AIATB and other organizations, an urban-planning research center, galleries, retail and restaurants.

You can read more about this at the St. Petersburg Times and at the Tampa Tribune.

What do you think of the concept? What things would you like to see go into the building?

I think that this may be a great use for a building that has seen many proposals come and go. It is certainly an opportunity for AIATB to step up and show some leadership in the community. I would like to see the program include a shared studio space for young architecture firms where people could rent desks and have access to shared facilities like conference rooms, voicemail, plotters, etc. Something along the lines of what LTL Architects had in NYC. In its heyday, the collaborative studio with a storefront presence at 147 Essex Street housed the emerging firms LTL, L.E.FT, nArchitects, Architecture Agency, Miloby Ideasystem, and Briggs Knowles Architecture + Design. Essentially, 147 Essex acted as a business incubator for young architecture firms.


Stepping outside of the box

Sarasota Herald-Tribune ran a great story in the real estate section about style (or lack of style) in architecture and the influences of computer modeling on design. Great article which quotes USF assistant professors Michael Halfants and Jim Baek. Read the article here.

Hyde Park Publix

No it won't be like the famous Miami Beach Publix, but I found a site with elevations of the new Publix in Hyde Park on Armenia between Platt Street and Azeele. The first "urban" Publix in Tampa. Due to the small lot, parking is on the roof. Through many hearings with the city and neighbors it seems that the Publix is finally breaking ground. You won't find any incredible architecture in SOHO, another box clad to look like it always belonged there. You know, matching the incredible and unique architecture of that area. Find the images here and here.

green, green, green.

Below are a list of active "green" blogs. Check them out, there is plenty of useful information to sort through during the day.

Cleantech Blog - Commentary on technologies, news, and issues relating to next generation energy and the environment.
The Conscious Earth - Earth-centered news for the health of air, water, habitat and the fight against global warming.
Earth Meanders - Earth essays placing environmental sustainability within the context of other contemporary issues.
Environmental Action Blog - Current environmental issues and green energy news.
The Future is Green - Thoughts on the coming of a society that is in balance with nature.
The Green Skeptic - Devoted to challenging assumptions about how we live on the earth and protect our environment.
Haute*Nature - Ecologically based creative ideas, art & green products for your children, home and lifestyle, blending style with sustainability.
The Lazy Environmentalist - Sustainable living made easy.
Lights Out America - A grassroots community group organizing nationwide energy savings events.
The Nature Writers of Texas - The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State.
Sustainablog - News, information and personal meanderings related to environmental and economic sustainability, green and sustainable business, and environmental politics.
These Come From Trees - An experiment in environmentalism, viral marketing, and user interface design with the goal of reducing consumer waste paper.


Libeskind on CNN

With the opening of the Denver Art Museum, his struggles at the WTC, his multiple condo projects, Daniel Libeskind is quickly becoming America's favorite architect. He is the focus of this month's "Revealed" by CNN. go here for everything Libeskind.


FLW at Florida Southern

NPR's All Things Considered ran a story on Frank Lloyd Wright, focusing on Florida Southern and the restoration currently being preformed by architect Jeff Baker.

Go the link here, and be sure to check out the image gallery.


PLY named as one of the 101 world's most exciting new architects

PLY Architecture, the keynote speakers at this year's upcoming AIAFLA Emerging Professionals Conference in Sarasota, have made Wallpaper* Magazine's list of "101 of the World's most exciting new architects." PLY is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan where both partners teach at the University of Michigan. They consider themselves a "research practice" that rejects the "routines of professional practice" in favor of "continuous reinvention." They are one of 5 young American firms to make the list.

See the entire list here.

See more about the conference here. There is still time to register.


kiley park revisited

Found this little tid bit on the "restoration" Kiley Park. Not sure what the restoration will mean, but seems like something might be done to renovate the park. Story from WMNF

Kiley has been a constant battle and in some degree the beginning of e-tba. Earlier this year urban charrette held one of their first meetings at Kiley.

go here for some of the history of the effort to Save Kiley Park.


The Future of Ground Zero

This is the future view from Midtown Manhattan towards the World Trade Center site. The Architects Newspaper has a story on the three recently released designs for WTC 2,3, and 4. The developer, Silverstein Properties, now prefers the names 200, 175, and 150 Greenwich Street, projects designed, respectively, by Foster & Partners, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, and Maki and Associates. AN has renderings of all three projects.

200 Greenwich Street by Foster & Partners

175 Greenwich Street by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (aka Richard Rogers)

150 Greenwich Street by Maki and Associates

What do you think? I'm a little disappointed. But at least things seem to finally be moving forward.

Lebbeus Woods Interview

Given that it is AIATB Annual Gala time, I thought that I'd post a link to an interview of Lebbeus Woods who was the keynote speaker a few years ago. Check it out over on BLDGBLOG.

Also, Lebbeus has a new website that is worth checking out.

Don't miss Monica Ponce de Leon

If you haven't made your reservations yet, be sure to call Paulette at AIA Tampa Bay to get your tickets for this year's Annual Gala. The keynote speaker is Monica Ponce de Leon of the Boston based firm Office dA. It should be a great evening. I hope to see you there.


urban design excellence awards

Downtown Tampa is seeing some of its most dynamic changes in several years come to reality. Many individuals have worked long and hard hours to bring to the urban core some outstanding improvements and projects.
Because of this, the Partnership, through generous sponsorship of Carlton Fields, is launching the First Annual Urban Excellence Awards. The event will be held November 27th. Now is your opportunity to submit the names and projects of those whom you believe have done an outstanding job. To do so, click here for the Urban Excellence Nomination Form.


Will Downtown Dreams Come True?

Will Downtown Dreams really come true for downtown Tampa with the start of 4 high profile projects: The Children's Museum (Gould Evans), The History Center (Verner Johnson and Associates), Tampa Museum of Art (Saitowitz) and the Curtis Hixon Park Redesign (Thomas Balsley)? All projects are scheduled for completion in late 2008 / 2009.

Do these projects deserve the hype that they are starting to receive? What are your thoughts about the future of dowtown Tampa? Are these truly great projects breathing new life into the dowtown core? Or are they missed opportunities for a city that has struggled for the past decade to be something more than a 9-5pm workplace destination?


Are bicycles a valid transportation option?

In an August 15th interview with Gwen Ifill on PBS's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer", Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters hinted that too much federal money was being spent on bike trails and that was partially responsible for the bridge collapse in Minnesota. In the interview she said, "I think Americans would be shocked to learn that only about 60 percent of the gas tax money that they pay today actually goes into highway and bridge construction. Much of it goes in many, many other areas." She continued on to explain that "there are museums that are being built with that money, bike paths, trails, repairing lighthouses. Those are some of the kind of things that that money is being spent on, as opposed to our infrastructure." You can read the transcript of the entire interview here. You can also read a story about the interview at Salon.

I found Secretary Peters' comments particularly interesting since I just spent a week in Copenhagen, Denmark at a conference. discussing the Future of Cities. It was widely agreed that alternative forms transportation were key to the development of sustainable cities. It was also interesting to learn that in Copenhagen nearly 40% of residents ride their bikes to work. If I remember correctly the breakdown was something like 37% bike, 33% car, and 30% mass transit. Also, in about a month my office will be moving and I will start commuting to work on bike as well.

What do you think? Are bikes a viable transportation option in Tampa Bay? Should 60% of the gas tax be used on building highways? Or should a higher percentage be used for mass transit? What about congestion taxes? They seem to be working great in London and soon may come to fruition in NYC?


engineer vs architect

A receptionist at a contractor's office today asked me, "What's the difference between a structural engineer and an architect?" I laughed in my head, and tried to not be too taken back.
Then I began wondering, what IS the difference. Turns out her question was extremely valid.
According to city's permit office, either an architect of professional engineer can sign and seal drawings. There is no clear designation for when an architect is required to receive a permit. So if an architect is not required for permit (which is the single document that every building requires), then when is an architect required?
It happens every day, buildings are built all around us with no architect involvement. Not just is suburbia, but in urban infill, on main streets, in long established neighborhoods. The ARC does not even require an architect be involved. They are the ARCHITECTURAL review commission.
How did we become so marginalized? Is it because most architects would not want to touch a single family tract house? Is it because of our egos? Is it because big corporations have taken over design, i.e. Target, IKEA, Home Depot, and home design software? Is it because so many contractors and engineers are ready to get dirty and get the job done, while we are worried about AIA contract documents and liability?
How do we get back in the game and truly effect a larger portion of the built environment?

hyde park village

Is it me or does it just take forever to get something done in Tampa?
3 years ago I first heard of the changes coming to Hyde Park Village. The movie theater was closed last year to prepare for the changes coming. and, then, nothing.
The developer has now presented another new scheme hoping for resident approval. see stpete times article.
After this presentation, three additional presentations are required, with one being in December. The redevelopment plans were first announce in February of '06.
Go here to see the May plans on the Old Hyde Park Village website.
From the 'pretty' watercolors the design is decent. CGHJ will definitely pull out a quality design. The important part is the density and creating a streetscape with buildings that are taller than the current single story. The vignettes definitely show a more 'urban' or 'village' feel. Mediterranean without being too literal.
Hopefully we will see construction before 2010.