The Most Important Committee of All

By Cynthia Fishman, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP – Associate Director, AIA Colorado

dr_diagnosisMy friends have started calling me The Committee Queen.  It began with a few AIA groups, but like any gateway drug, it led to many other committees that now sometimes require me to attend two or even three meetings a night after work.  I have become a master of organization, scheduling, and my Google calendar.  It reached the point that when I was upgrading my phone and the salesperson was synching my gmail account, he commented “Wow, you have a lot of things on here.”   I thought it was odd that he was looking at my calendar, and odder still that he thought it was appropriate to comment, but he did have a point.

Back in the fall of 2011 when I was elected Associate Director for AIA Colorado, it seemed like a good idea to be involved with planning for the AIA National Convention.  I looked at it as an opportunity to collect and funnel information to Associates. The plan was that I would just sit on the Steering Committee and listen, so that if an Associate asked me about the convention I could provide an informed answer.  However, I wasn’t really satisfied with just sitting there and not contributing.  After looking through all my options, the obvious one for me was to join the Access and Affordability for Emerging Professionals Committee.

This was the first year that there was a National Convention committee devoted to emerging professionals.  We discussed many great ideas.  In the end we created two documents to help EP’s attending the convention.  The first helped with the access and affordability aspect.  It contained information about traveling to Denver, how to get around in the city, and listed events that were on the less-expensive side.

The second document broke up the city into different neighborhoods (if you’ve read the last few blog posts you know what I mean) and listed restaurants, landmarks and activities to check out.  We also included relative costs for these places, along with a map.

It was interesting approaching Denver as a visiting EP architect.  It really made me think about what makes this city so great and how to experience as much of it as possible in a limited time frame while on a limited budget.

My friends are hoping that after the Convention I can cut down on my committee commitments and start hanging out with them again.  I feel the same way, but in no way regret having signed up for the Access and Affordability committee.  I hope that what happened in Denver was just the beginning of this type of committee since there is so much potential in terms of what it can provide to the future of our profession.

Park(ing) Kids, Not Cars

By Katie Donahue, M.Arch Candidate, AIAS Denver – Vice President, AFH Denver – Board of Directors

A woman jumped up and down atop the hood of the car, denting it, trying feverishly to kick in the windshield. I joined in, tearing off the side mirror and beating the hood mercilessly. And it felt great.  It was my first dose of tactical urbanism and my first time experiencing Park(ing) Day. This made-up holiday was invented to take a day out of the year to plug a meter at a parking spot, and instead of filling the place with a car, fill it with people. Parking spots all over Denver were filled with plants, picnic tables, art work, people working, people playing, and – incidentally – one spot with a jar the was labeled “complaints in life,” a sledgehammer, and a car to take it out on. It’s a cry for action, calling for community members, urbanists and designers to think about what we can do to make our cities more inspiring other than just covering them with parking spaces.

It made me think of what it means to be a designer or an architect in a growing urban place like Denver. I don’t think it means that smashing all the cars and doing away with parking is the answer. But I do think it means that we have a social responsibility, and that we should consider the power that design has to transform urban places. We have the chance every single day to lend our design expertise to projects that will spawn community interaction and bring joy to those who pass through.

Architecture for Humanity-Denver (AfH) just started the Parking Lot Project. It’s our attempt at an urban intervention to hack a derelict parking lot into a multi-purpose community space. The current lot belongs to the Museo de las Americas, a wonderful museum that supports art of the Americas and believes in art education. The cramped windowless basement with low ceilings is home to the Museo staff as well as their Museo de las Americas Summer Camp (MASC) targeted to help the at-risk Latino youth population. All the while, the best space on the property with fresh air, glimpses of the mountains, art murals, and access to 300 days of Denver sunshine is occupied. By empty cars.

The Museo is an incredible community asset, and so we at AfH came up with a way to repurpose salvaged materials to redesign their parking lot. Old hollow-core doors will be made into a fence, old flooring will become an awning, and old sailboat sails will become a canopy during the summer. The design for the Parking Lot Project is flexible and can accommodate cars when the Museo isn’t holding summer camp, community film nights, gallery events, or fundraisers out there.

This project is important to help the Museo continue its summer camp, to give back space to the neighborhood, and to foster a creative climate. We’re using crowdsource fundraising to make this project happen because we need your help. We have to finish raising every single penny of our $20,000 goal by May 23 at 9:00PM MST on our Kickstarter page, or we don’t get any of the money that has been pledged so far. In exchange for your support, we are giving away rewards that we have made, like earrings and necklaces made out of salvaged materials or putting your name in the donor garden. Watch our video to learn more and to hear what kids suggested for the design of the classroom, including chocolate fountains and walls made of Jello. Think about what kind of creative spaces you would like to support, and considering helping this one become a reality!

How Small is Too Small?

By Adam Harding, AIA, LEED AP – Colorado AIA10 Chair

How small is too small when it comes to living? New York, Boston and San Francisco are among the first in the US to push the boundaries on the micro-apartment concept. With single units ranging from 250-375 square feet, it doesn’t give one much room to move. But this new trend is very intriguing to young professionals who want to live in an urban environment where rental prices for a studio can run as high as $2,500 a month. Living in one of these units isn’t for everyone though. Let’s say you have a large collection of plastic toy pony’s, this will not work for you. Or perhaps you like to leave things out and not put them away in their rightful place, just a few items and you might be considered a hoarder by friends that come over to visit.

The layout of these micro-apartments is a lot like living in an RV or boat. Rearranging furniture to create a dining space or a sleeping space is the name of the game. You must be committed to cleaning up your dishes after you drunkenly eat a burrito at 2am in the morning on a Saturday night in order to go to bed. Do you have what it takes?

It’s true, your private space is small, real small. To make up for this lack of private space, most of the micro-apartments have a adequate amount of shared space such as roof decks, lounges on each floor, rooftop gardens, cafes, fitness rooms, larger lounge areas for dinners and events, laundry rooms and additional storage.

Now this concept isn’t new, Europe and Asia have been doing this type of housing for many years now. For instance, Paris has a 130 square foot studio that used to be the master bedroom of a larger apartment. Yikes! Just think of the thought and detail that has to go into planning a space like that in order for it to be livable. Every item in the space must have a function, every inch of space must be thought of.

Denver is also beginning to think about these micro-apartments. For instance, there is the Micro-Housing Ideas Competition that will be taking place this spring/summer. “This is an ideas competition inspired by a concern about the lack of innovation evident in Denver’s existing multi-family housing market where many banal apartment, townhouse and condominium complexes are springing up throughout the area. With this competition, designers have the opportunity to explore the future, question the past and re-invent the notion of responsible affordable housing with an emphasis on thriveability and regenerative design (defined as a design approach that transcends sustainability while addressing higher principles of societal health, human sustenance, site integration, energy production and appropriate materials and building systems.)” This competition is a great opportunity for the Emerging Professionals of Colorado to think outside the box and come up with solutions that might be the new normal in Denver living in the years to come. Plus, there is $3,000 in cash awards… that doesn’t suck. Registration has already started for the competition and ends May 1. For more information go to:

So how small is too small when it comes to living? For those looking to save on rent and are able to live lean, a micro-apartment might be the answer in order to enjoy life in the big city.

Traveling through Thailand

By: Korey White, AIAS – President, AIAS UC Denver

korey1Culture shock is one of those things that just knock you off your feet. It’s an incomprehensible feeling. Like any shock, you are not sure how to handle it but know that you are privileged to be visiting a place so vastly different from your comfort zone.

This January I traveled to Thailand with a small group of students from UC Denver along with the Department Chair, Taisto Makela. Our travel itinerary led us through Los Angeles, Beijing, and finally landing in Bangkok after 43 hours of travel. Once in Bangkok we started our two-week excursion through Northern Thailand by visiting The Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok. The Grand Palace was our first experience with Thai architecture, Thai culture, Thai weather and foreign crowds. Some would say it was sensory overload.  Coming from Denver, the weather was about 90 degrees warmer and the city seemed as if it were 90% denser. It definitely took some adjustment to meander through shoulder-to-shoulder crowds while taking in the amazing architecture.

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50% Form 50% Function

By: Katie Donahue, AIAS – AIAS Denver Vice President

I started my first year of the graduate program for architecture with visions of grandeur. I think most of us do. It was sexy and sparkly, just like in the movies. I envisioned myself starting on a path of high art and couture buildings, full of concepts, theory, and big picture ideas not to be sacrificed. I was certain that all good buildings must have deep, metaphorical imagery at their roots.

By my second year something switched and without even realizing it, I had done a one-eighty. I was head-over-heels for Architecture for Humanity, this notion of guerrilla design and tactical urbanism, and I was a proponent of architects as smart business-people before all else.  I worked for a savvy serial entrepreneur at a booming tech start-up here in Denver, lapping up lessons on growing a brand. In short, I wanted to see stuff get done. I wanted to build things that people could touch and that could touch people. I wanted the things on the paper to be things in the fabric of our cities, too.

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