March 1, 2009, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Scapes


The nature of mass transportation develops patterns and geometries unlike anything else in urban, suburban and rural environments.  Today’s blog post takes a look at the patterns of large scale transportation via our “scape” series.  These aren’t just photos of highway spaghetti, but rather the register of mass transportation -in some situations concrete isn’t even involved.

Los Angeles, CA  33°52’33.63″N, 118°11’28.75″W

Border between US and Mexico  32°32’31.14″N, 117° 1’43.42″W

Seattle, WA  47°35’37.76″N, 122°19’10.70″W

Manhatten, NY  40°45’25.64″N, 73°59’40.12″W

Houston, TX  29°45’59.00″N, 95°20’35.97″W

Libya, Appears to be mining operations 27°37’57.41″N, 21°16’11.26″E

Libya, Appears to be mining operations 28° 8’30.61″N, 21°13’51.63″E

Tokyo, 35°38’14.88″N, 139°45’27.78″E

Los Angeles, CA 33°55’41.61″N, 118°16’42.40″W

Berlin, 52°30’5.17″N, 13°16’49.51″E

Algeria, 27° 8’58.86″N,  2°31’45.15″E

Baltimore, Maryland  39°16’13.83″N, 76°37’38.86″W

Paris, 48°52’25.80″N,  2°17’44.14″E

San Antonio, TX 29°23’44.77″N, 98°30’39.01″W

Algeria, 28° 5’54.55″N,  2° 4’15.31″E

Minneapolis, 44°58’3.45″N, 93°15’4.56″W

Bejing, 39°59’23.44″N, 116°31’54.21″E

Bergen, Norway 60°23’2.83″N,  5°20’9.07″E

Iowa, 42° 3’48.62″N, 93°18’31.71″W

Los Angeles, CA  34° 9’12.64″N, 118°22’29.70″W

Peru,  7°25’22.20″S, 78° 7’12.37″W


BUILD build-out
February 26, 2009, 11:35 am
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC, Seattle, Urban Architecture

It has taken us 17 months to finally finish our own office here at the Park Modern, but that gave us a little time to focus our industrious nature on the task.  Through our good buddy Chris, we were able to obtain some unused perforated metal material that was going to be scrapped from a local project.  Keeping this in mind, we employed the same tricks we use to keep our client’s budgets reasonable on our own space- finding reusable or discounted materials and finding a way to turn them into elegant compositions (in our humble opinion).


Here’s the material breakdown:

BUILD build-out materials breakout

1. Homasote display board attached to vertical slats
2. 1½” x 2” vertical cedar slats at varying lengths
3. Track lights concealed above cedar slats: Juno T12W Trac-Master w/ T359W w/ basic mini universal heads
4. 1 1/4” x 8” cedar slats @ 6”oc (composed of laminating (2) 5/8” slats).
5. 4” deep x 1 ¼” metal flashing “champagne” to match corrugated steel soffit
6. Corrugated, perforated steel panels (off-cuts provided from nearby large project).
7. 4’ long fluorescent lights, boxed out with flashing to match soffit
8. Conference table by SPD; solid laminated Anigre top with steel base
9. Concrete slab floor with clear sealer
10. Maple plywood cabinets with exposed edges and clear sealed
11. 4’ long fluorescent light boxed out with cedar trim
12. 6062 “Boeing” aluminum alloy, steel plate wall hanging
13. Track lights: Juno T12W Trac-Master w/ T359W w/ basic mini universal heads
14. Orange acrylic panel mounted to wall
15. Corten steel sheet panel mounted to wall
16. Cork panel wall mounted
17. 3-Form Drift Green panel wall mounted
18. Solid fir plank, clear sealed and wall mounted
19. Chalk board panel wall mounted with inset Mockett pull for chalk holder

The construction process vid

The quick cost summary looks like this (in round numbers):
free    perforated metal panels (salvaged and reused)
$350    210 lineal feet of matching edge metal (fabricated)
$225    improperly milled clear cedar material (mill unable to sell conventionally)
$1150    additional lumber, cedar, hardware and materials for ceiling assembly
$1200    additional track lighting, heads and lamps
$1250    conference table base; top was salvaged anigre laid-up by our shop, SPD
$75    homasote panels
free    6062 plate (salvaged from Boeing Surplus many years ago)
$35    acrylic panel, cut to size
$95    corten steel panel
$35    cork panel on multiply base
free    3-Form panel (salvaged)
$295     fir plank (bought from reclaimed supplier)
$85     chalk board panel
$300    general consumables

$5,095    project total

Now granted, the labor was our own.   If you factor the labor in at our normal billing rates, the $5,095 balloons up to $14,000.  This makes our office improvements a tidy $22/ square foot, everything included.  An industrious budget by an industrious group in times that call for industrious solutions.

Cheers from your friends at BUILD

The Irreplaceable Quality of the Architectural Model
February 25, 2009, 12:22 am
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC

There is something about physical architectural models that digital renderings will never be able to reproduce. Don’t get us wrong, we’re no luddites; we use a variety of 2D and 3D software to explore form and to present our ideas. But for each project we design, if we don’t build a physical model there is a dimension of the exploration missing from the process. So today we’ve decided to post some of the physical models that have been produced around the studio lately. While rendering techniques come and go, the basswood and cork architectural model seems to be a timeless method of representation and exploration. These are just a few from our studio – there are some amazing examples of physical models out there, let us know about your favs.

The Park Modern

Bainbridge Island Residence

Magnolia Residence

Bainbridge Guesthouse (unbuilt)

Medina Residence

Whidbey Tractor House (unbuilt)

On the Radar
February 20, 2009, 12:31 am
Filed under: On the Radar

There’s been a number of hot blogs coming our way lately, check em out:
the belly of an architect; good writing, nice big images and it’s full of links.


arch Daily; we suggest starting with the Brione House – rrrroww.
-thanks to Senior Field Correspondent and all around rock-star Josiah


The Art of Where; clean and sleek with plenty of sexy images.
-thanks to Dru


The Architects Newspaper; we suggest diving into the article on Cecil Balmond’s latest exhibit at the Graham Foundation in Chicago.


BUILD is on twitter, jump on board for the sneak peek at things.


The February 1st Sunday New York Times book review covered Zoe Strauss’ book “America” which includes some great photography of urban American grit.  We did a bit of homework on Strauss and stumbled on a portfolio that hits a chord of authenticity.



The work of Sete Dias takes photographs into a uber-interesting hybrid graphic context.

-thanks to Lou

The St. Antonio Church by jlcg arquitectos in Portugal brings a monastic clarity to form.  The website slideshow is really worth a tour.
-thanks to John – who continues to knock the ball out of the park


The French designer Marc Venot has developed one of the most unassuming industrial design aesthetics our eye-balls have ever seen.  His “Secret Box” seen below is one of many inconspicuous products.
-thanks to Josiah


There are a couple of new methods to get your dose of lectures without having to find a spot to parallel park.  Tune into the Stanford lectures and the pop tech lectures.  You Seattleites might check out the Blaine Brownell lecture which could just as easily be titled “Local Boy Does Good”.
-thanks to Craig

Heard of Siftables yet?  If not get on board, it’s going to be HUGE.


Also, a phenomenal lecture on the nature of genius given by Elizabeth Gilbert can be found at TED.
-thanks to Jerry

Blaine Brownell has also got a couple of websites that you should really become familiar with: Transmaterial and Transstudio.


It happens once a year, Nicholas Felton releases his “Feltron Report”, the measure of his year in graphic presentation with clean, inspiring diagrams.  Check out the online version here and buy the physical versions here.  If you are in any way involved with design, knowing Felton’s work is a requirement. (…and a tip from your friends here at BUILD – the eating and drinking categories are always filled with Manhattan’s new cool spots.)


Anytime an architect is designing the interior of a learjet they have our full attention.  Check out some of the hot, sleek work that Shelton, Mindel & Associates are up to.  Also take a look at the work of David Hertz Architects Inc. who is doing some crisp work in Santa Monica.  For a dose of some gorgeous regional work from the Pacific Northwest check out our friends over at Rex Hohlbein Architects.
-thanks to Josiah





“We live in an amazing, amazing world, and it’s wasted on the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots.” It’s in no way related to architecture or design but we though you might get kick out of this vid.
-thanks to Chris

D’Arcy Jones in Vancouver, BC has developed a line of flat-packed cabins that seems to have potential.
-thanks to John


The sharp-shooters over at The Roger Smith Hotel in New York have come up with a new concept to spread the news of their hotel.  And while the design isn’t modern – the marketing tactic is brilliantly modern: offer discounts to bloggers. (did we mention we’ve got a trip to NYC coming up in March…)

In the modern design department is the Jumbo Hostel.  Leave it to the Scandinavians to re-appropriate a Boeing 747 as a youth hostel.  Over the top hot.
-thanks to dezeen


Guys jackets with modern lines for 50 bones.  Check out Artificial Flavor.


There’s a good, clean, modern way to get rid of that old electronic <fill in the blank> you’re no longer using.  Check out for a regional list or if you’re in the Seattle area head on over to Total Reclaim.
-thanks to Donald

A BUILDblog fan sent in this photo of MUMOK in Wien.  It’s the only gable we’ve liked in a while…

-thanks to Jerry


Liberated Architecture
February 15, 2009, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Rural Architecture, Travel

Recently on a trip to South America we visited Tigre, a community about an hour north of Buenos Aires by train. Also known as the archipelago of Argentina, the area is a web of inter-connecting rivers and streams. Within the labyrinth of waterways were hundreds of homes and cabins representing the full spectrum of form, size and design philosphy. There didn’t seem to be any master-plan, development or overall scheme.  Aesthetic covenants seemed to be excluded from the community and, judging from some of the structures, it didn’t even seem like a permit process or building department was involved. It appeared to be a community of liberated architecture. Some projects were clearly built from an architect’s drawings; others could have been crafted on site without a single piece of documentation. Needless to say, we were fascinated.

[Photo by Andrea CB]

[Photo by Magdo-50]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by Gabriel Robledo]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by Hanneorla]

[Photo by Hanneorla]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by bdnegin]

[Photo by Bloggingsouls]

It’s easy to imagine that an environment like this is the product of a community that solves differences through communication rather than filing lawsuits.  A population of individuals who maintain an open mind about appearances and design rather than trying to control and manipulate the built environment through review boards and covenants.  A society that designs and builds responsibly because it’s the right thing to do, not because a building department required them to do so.

The diversity of architecture and construction in Tigre was refreshing and it seems like there are some fundamental lessons to learn here about society and behavior.

Letter to BUILD
February 11, 2009, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Letters

A few weeks ago we received an email from a very talented young architect in training that we interviewed several months ago.  It’s an important letter because it exemplifies many of the thoughts and concerns we’re hearing across the board amongst architects entering the profession.  The letter (posted with permission) and our subsequent response should resonate with anyone who is starting their own business, contemplating it or already in an established business.  In our humble opinion, these are the characteristics that make any small practice successful (key points in bold for those of you short on time):

I have been keeping my eye on your blog since we met months ago and today’s entry has finally inspired that I get back in touch with you to at least let you know how my architect career is so far as well as maybe pry a little knowledge out of you.

Not too sure if you remember everything from when I visited your office, but in addition to architecture I am intensely interested in incorporating furniture/woodworking into my future design path(s).  I only had limited involvement with it in my graduate studies and became hopeful of finding a way to fulfill my desires on my own rather than through academia.  Perhaps it is too soon to be discouraged but my current path is not taking me toward this goal, not even relatively near it actually.  Unfortunately I made a poor choice for a first job after school – a choice that I am locked into so long as the market stays where it is.  Turns out that the ratio of well crafted desert-modern buildings to el-cheapo housing and condos is not what I had imagined.

However, your entry on the Build blog, and the corresponding link to the newly revealed SPD division, has given me back some hope.  A small studio producing excellent work in the range from cabinet to home is inspiring to me.  My current status as over-educated drafter (driven by all but one project being put on hold in my office, which saturated said project with project managers) has recently left me quite the opposite – uninspired and wanting.  I have gone so far as to hunt for cabinet-shop openings recently, only to find that they too are having trouble staying busy.  The dream of going out on my own is something that keeps me at my desk accruing IDP hours, but I don’t want to wait until I am able to open my own studio/shop to start figuring out how to do it.  Also, when I think of your previous advice about how getting a job at a fabricator is better than a job at a bad architecture office, I think of how much more I could be learning by assembling cabinetry than I would by filling in letters in a 400-line door schedule.  (Please don’t write this off as a spoiled kid out of school wanting to design the whole building instead of earning my way to the up – I truly just want to maximize my learning in preparation for future work)

I wouldn’t expect you to give away all of your secrets to success, but considering the informative nature of your blog and your willingness to help me in my original job hunt have led me to write this email and ask simply – what makes it work?  Did you have mentors to bounce ideas off of?  Or did experience at other offices provide all the experience you needed to hit the ground running?  Did you start with some good contacts/clients or did they come as time went on?  Are there things I can/should be doing now that can help me for when I am on my own (or with a small group)?

I am sure that this isn’t a simple answer, assuming there is one at all (unless the SPD division is hiring lackeys).  Any insight you have would be help to me.  I imagine the state of the economy will give me some time before I really have to worry about making life changing decisions – I just want to start preparing sooner than later.

If you don’t have the time or don’t want to respond to such a long email, I really do understand.  Either way I will continue to check your blog regularly, especially now with the addition of the SPD work and any new designs that come from it.

Best regards,


p.s. it was not my intention/expectation to leverage a job out of you, but I wouldn’t be offended if you kept me in mind if you ever heard of something coming available…

We’re honored to be on the receiving end of this letter, thank you for keeping a pulse on us and thank you for the accolades.  We’re more than happy to lay out our “secrets of success” and the lessons we’ve learned so far:

We hope that BUILD LLC, SPD and the BUILDblog look clean, tight and professional out there in the world – we’ve put a tremendous amount of time and energy into the presentation of each over the years.  The fact of the matter, though, is that we started out doing basement remodels, seismic retrofits, re-siding buildings, and whatever we could get our hands on as a couple of young architect/builders.  As unglamorous as this work was, we were grateful for it.  Our first jobs came from friends and the community around us.  As the years went on (10 of them now) the jobs became larger, more architectural and more photogenic.  Our point is this – all these slick architectural websites out there are a bit misleading.  They don’t allow young architects to see the steps between starting out on their own and someday having admirable projects under their belt.  Getting work that you can learn from, work that establishes a clientele and a track record is important – even if you don’t get beautiful photos out of it.

We too had our gigs with other firms –big firms, little firms, firms that you’ve most likely heard of, firms that you probably haven’t, architecture firms, engineering firms…  Wherever we were, we were constantly doing architecture, design and building in our personal time.  If the learning curve at the office bottomed out we could always route the momentum into our side projects and moonlighting.  It’s not necessarily your employer’s responsibility to fulfill all of your professional ambitions.  Moonlighting is great – it offers you the experience of running your own firm without having to be financially dependant on the profits (or lack thereof).  Over the years we’ve noticed that architects either choose to live powerfully or, by default, lose their momentum and subsequently lose their passion for architecture and find themselves in a 9 to 5 “job”.  Architecture is a lifestyle, not a job – keep designing and building whether or not you’re on somebody’s payroll.

There is no substitution for hard work.
Most of that hard work will also not be doing architecture.  We’ve become just as passionate about book-keeping, finances, organizing and data tracking as we are about design.

We had and still have our mentors and they are critical to our continuing development.  They’re not the Rem Koolhaases and Neil Denaris that academia is always holding up like the Holy Grail though, those guys are too far from our reality.  Our mentors are scrappy, they have both feet on the ground and they have gritty challenges just like we do – only they solve them with more skill and wit.  Mentors are important; choose them wisely, rather than having them chosen for you.

We learn everyday.  The experience we gained at other offices in town was invaluable but this is an infinitely confusing and complicated profession that requires a constant learning curve.  We certainly did not hit the ground running with everything we needed to know 10 years ago.  Our peers working as employees for other firms will still have to go through everything we went through when they go out on their own -there’s just no other way to learn it.  If you want to be running your own firm, our advice is to get out on your own as soon as you can and tackle the first 5 years (they say the first 5 is the toughest and we agree).  Doing small architecture projects does not require a license in most states either, don’t let the long process of licensure stop you from starting your business.

People skills are more important than architecture skills.
We know plenty of skilled architects who will never be successful at their own practice because they don’t know how to communicate.  By the time most architecture students shoot out of graduate school they know enough about design to get going.  However, most recent architecture graduates don’t have training in communicating and being personable which is critical if you want to enroll a client in a design vision.  If you’re in a big firm – push to get out in front of, near, or at least in the same room as the clients and consultants.

We go out for drinks as often as we can.  Seriously.  Architects have a tendency to become reticent and introverted over the years – losing that prevailing humor from the college architecture studio days.  A martini or two helps us blow off steam, keeps us humorous, and keeps the lines of communication alive.  Alcohol is good for architects.

A good business is every bit as complicated and intricate as a marriage.  We (the business partners here at BUILD) have more contracts and agreements signed with each other than either of us do with our respective wives.  Choosing the right business partner(s) is vital, it is more important than your education, more important than all the glossy photos in the magazines and more important than the names on your resume.  It also helps if you can go out drinking with them (refer to above).

We once went to a lecture by Will Bruder and he said one of the more profound statements we’ve heard in our professional careers.  He said that you should honor your clients – they could have gone out over the weekend and bought a house on their credit card. And while that may no longer be the case in our current credit crunch – I think you get the point.  Your clients (or future clients) will trust you to lead them on the adventure of design and construction – what an honor to be at the helm of that journey.

Designing a house or an office should be fun.
Clients don’t want to come to boring meetings.  It’s definitely something that requires constant crafting, and I can’t say that we always succeed, but it’s part of the Architect’s job to make the process of design engaging, interesting, and well… fun.

Everything above is to be taken with a grain of salt.  It’s not necessarily right or wrong, simply the lessons that keep emerging for us – and we continue to work on all of them day by day.  We really enjoyed the letter which was sent because it got the juices flowing and because we like knowing that there are bright young architects out there asking the important questions at the right times in their careers.  And while we don’t have positions open at the moment, asking the right questions definitely gets a resume bumped up in the queue.


Residential Construction Cost Cheat-Sheet
February 8, 2009, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC

Here at BUILD, we pride ourselves on being industrious- we establish reasonable project costs very early in the design process with our clients and then stick to those costs till the physical construction is complete. We work diligently to maintain the budget, and when circumstances chosen by our clients or brought to us by the nature of custom construction cause impacts to that budget, we are forthright and manage those circumstances immediately. In our spirit of transparency, we’ve devised the residential construction pricing guide below- around the BUILD community we’ve been calling it the BUILD Cheat Sheet. We believe our industry has done a fantastic job of misquoting and/ or poorly enumerating what the actual construction AND overall project costs of a project are going to be. Many of us have experienced something like… “oh I didn’t know that wasn’t included in the construction costs before” or the dreaded “I read in a (fill in the blank) article that they built the (fill in the blank) for $110/ sf.” What is in that number? Who’s uncle was the electrician? Were the appliances and lighting free? Does it include the cost of the cabinets and finishes? Was it built with student or prison labor? Who verified the number anyway? So, in response to these and other pressing questions, we’re giving the guide away below for free. We hope its valuable as you’re looking at your options for the design and construction of your dream house. And if you want more of the straight scoop, feel free to contact your friends here at BUILD LLC.


The PDF download can be found here.