CREJ Interior Design and Architecture Conference; WELL-ness, Choice, and the Next Gen…

“Next Generation Designers” panel featuring Drew Marlow, Leah Romero, Rick Sommerfeld, and MIke Sudolsky, moderated by Beth Mosenthal

This past Tuesday I attended and participated in the annual Colorado Real Estate Journal Commercial Interior Design and Architecture Conference.

This event, a mixture of panels and presentations by industry leaders and professionals both nationally and locally has proven to be a helpful snapshot of the trends, issues, and wide range of perspectives informing Denver’s interior commercial architecture in any given year. Topics covered ranged from workplace trends to sustainability and wellness to how to design for trauma and what it means to find “authenticity” in design.

In a quick Friday post, here are my take-aways from the conference, with some links to additional information should you find yourself interested in a specific topic or area of thought leadership.


In a panel of Denver-based sustainability specialists, including a developer initiating a WELL-certified development in Denver, Brian Levitt from NAVA Real Estate, Tom Hootman, AIA and Performance and Design Innovation Lead at MKK Consulting led a discussion regarding the relevance of the “WELL” building movement, and how WELL Certification differs from the LEED rating system.  To quickly summarize, the WELL Building Standard (WELL) “is the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness. It marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research – harnessing the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and wellbeing.”

From monitoring the quality and taste of building’s drinking water to the incorporation of antimicrobial materials in workplace cafeterias, WELL aims to go beyond a consideration of the environmental impact of a building to focus on the health of the occupant in the building, related to air quality, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and the mind. Championed by health-industry gurus such as Deepak Chopra and supported by the Clinton Global Initiative, many developers and companies are becoming interested in pursuing “WELL” in favor of, or in tandem with LEED.

For further reading:


We all know the struggle is real; the multigenerational workplace continues to test the comfort level of the 9-5, one-person-one-desk paradigm.

This panel, featuring workplace leaders in various firms in Denver including Gensler, Acquilano Leslie, Page, Kieding, Elsy Studios, and Interior Architects, focused on major trends in commercial interiors.

Moderated by Joy Spatz, head of Studio Collaborative, a consistent theme in the panel was that a successful workplace in today’s world is highly contingent on providing choice, flexibility, and a supportive, informal workplace-culture to employees.  The liberation of the worker as an individual with different needs, family structures, and preferences for working (whether it be posture, location, or productive hours of the day) continues to prove itself as an important tool for worker recruitment and retention, not to mention an important acknowledgement that providing choice to employees to incorporate work into life in a way that works best for an individual (within certain parameters) provides a modern adoption of generational preferences and realities.

Some further reading: ;


At the conference, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to moderate a dialogue regarding what I defined as “issues and interests informing the next generation of designers.”

In this panel, I moderated a discussion with four “next generation” designers at different stages of their emerging professional careers. The lively discussion tackled difficult questions and varied perspectives related to issues that will become increasingly relevant for the next generation of designers to address. From more stringent sustainable design approaches, to adapting and adopting new technology and an integrated design process, to an anticipated change in general workplace attitude and mindset with the on-set of Generation Z in the workforce, this discussion provided a glimpse into the evolving issues that will continue to emerge amongst a newly-defined multigenerational workforce as well as a society with limited resources and a need for smart growth and design solutions.

Rick Sommerfeld, Assistant Professor and Director of Colorado Building Workshop, the design build program at the University of Colorado Denver, provided important insight into how students are working in both digital and analog, to create complex, quick design solutions and iterations to a myriad of different design problems. Mike Sudolsky, a designer at Gensler, talked about his fascinating perspective as someone interested and fluent in video game visualization and software, and how this will continue to impact the field of design visualization and user experience.  Drew Marlow, AIA and Principal at Acquilano Leslie spoke of the skill sets that are relevant for recent graduates and new designers when looking to join a firm, as well as the pros and cons of being a “jack of all trades” in the industry vs highly specialized.  Leah Romero, a workplace leader at OZ Architecture spoke to the invaluable necessity of mentorship in the effort to recruit and retain the next generation of workers, that have already expressed a preference to switch jobs every 3-5 years.

For further reading: ,

Overall, the conference was thought-provoking and familiar; I recommend it to anyone that is interested in connecting with their peers in the industry while contributing to dialogues that will hopefully continue to push Denver’s design thinking and solutions further.

Adventures in Real Estate; An Update from Meg Hohnholt, AIA Colorado EP Blog Founder

Hohnholt recently made the leap from architecture to real estate

Hohnholt recently made the leap from architecture to real estate

And I Jumped Right In. 

It was a year ago this week that I stopped staring at the edge of uncertainty and I jumped right in. Initially, the experience was exhilarating and liberating. Now it’s turned into an adventure that’s exciting yet uncomfortable, clear yet frustrating, constant yet evolving.

Hello again AIA EP Blog community! It’s Meg Hohnholt. I’ve missed you.

What’s this jump you ask? A year ago I left the traditional practice of architecture and began my journey of a career change. And now I am a business owner doing residential real estate brokerage.

How I got started:

So why real estate?

I was looking for a career path that would be a great fit for my personal strengths, utilize on my architecture knowledge, and have great potential to capitalize on those assets. So far real estate has fit the bill beautifully.

What was the process to get started in real estate?

I attended Armbrust Real Estate Institute full time for a month to get the amount of education required by the State of Colorado DORA. Then I sat for the state and national real estate brokerage exams, which I would say combined were comparable to one ARE test. After I passed the exams (first try Baby!), I had to select a brokerage firm to “hang my license at”.

In the State of Colorado, new agents are required to be with a brokerage firm for their first two years before they can go on their own at start their own firm.

After all the the necessary paperwork and fees were paid then it was time to build my business plan, develop my marketing and get some clients!

So what business do you own?

All real estate agents are independent contractors for their brokerage firms, so technically real estate agents are all small business owners.

What I’ve learned (so far): 

Marketing is constant – from the clothes I wear, to my Facebook posts (both on my personal and my business page), to the events I go to – I am always on. This doesn’t mean I’m all business & no fun – I met two of my clients at a party where we played Cards Against Humanity together. But I am always ready to share my knowledge about real estate and architecture, and help people with excellent service.

Life Balance is more like a Life ‘Counter-balance’. Life is rarely balanced…I’m learning it’s more like a seesaw where you’re standing above the center fulcrum. When I start feeling like I’m dipping too much into the work side of life, I need to put more energy on the life side of life to get things counter balance, and vice versa.

Where you can find me: 

Here’s where you can find me at should you want to know more about what it was like to take on a career change, how architects are positioned to be awesome in real estate, or generally what I’m up to next!

I’m still blogging now at where I write about the downtown Denver lifestyle, architecture, and real estate.

Want to say ‘Hi’? Shoot me an email at

My company’s website is & we are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram too.

Take Care! -Meg

Live from New York City- Katie Donahue Talks About Her Recent Award-Winning Installation, “The Pulp Canopy,” and Where You Can Find 800 Rolls of Toilet Paper


Pulp Canopy @ the Boston Society of Architect’s, Courtesy of Katie Donahue 2015

Wait, so is this art or architecture?” Someone asked me as I was dangling from a ladder trying to figure out how several thousand bright blue modules would be suspended in mid air. My colleagues and I had just won a competition to design and fabricate an installation for the Bigger than a Breadbox, Smaller than a Building exhibition at the Boston Society of Architects’ Space Gallery, and we were scurrying to figure out how to actually produce it in just a few months. The show, which is currently on display, curates installations that have been critical to BSA architectural history (from that of Coop Himmelblau to MoMA PS1) and also showcases current solicited pieces like the Tensile Vault by NADAAA which was built like a dome, but upside down, and Microtherme, a space onlookers can climb up into that produces variations of heating and cooling effects, created by Matter Design.

The question about art or architecture was a fair one, and to borrow from Hans Hollein’s seminal 1968 Bau Journal text “Everything is Architecture” I would posit just that – ‘If architecture is spatial practice, then anything with a consequence for our physical environment could be architecture.’  There’s a long list of things that affect the way we experience space and the profound impact a place can have on us, and it’s not limited to walls and doors and floors. The scale of installation is an ideal way to explore all those other things inbetween. Khora, the exhibition curators, stated that “As a medium, installation serves a unique function in the architect’s toolbox… it allows designers to bridge the gap that exists between the conceptual and physical practices of architecture. It introduces new ideas and methodologies to the design process, questioning long-held notions regarding the nature and purpose of architecture.”


The Pulp Canopy was the second project in a body of research that investigates potential applications for reconstituted cellulose fiber, or paper pulp, in architecture and design (the first was the Pulp Wall ). It explores texture, color, light and movement in more than 4,400 modules and considers how something as everyday as discarded paper can be transformed to provoke new experiences and alternate forms of interaction. The unique process of creation, the trial and error, the collaboration and improvisation, was one of the most fruitful aspects of the work.

The team at work in Denver

The team at work in Denver

Over 800 rolls of toilet paper were collected from the Denver International Airport that discards hundreds of pounds of partial rolls each week (as is common practice in many businesses with large facilities that find it more economical to replace and refill all rolls at once rather than employ labors to check more frequently –who knew?!). This remnant paper was broken down into its fibers, pulped, and reconstituted with a combination of digital and hand-craft techniques that required pouring and molding – best done on concrete under the Denver sunshine where they can dry quickly. When unprecedented storms flooded the city day after day while we attempted production, we were saved by a team of incredible volunteers, some in architecture, some just curious, who helped us completed adopt a new methodology indoors.

In the end, what we’re learning is that the scale of the architecture installation is soft and pliable. It allows us to ponder implications of fineness and detail as well as systems and infrastructure, straddling the two scales so as to be nimble, investigative and provocative. It permits us to shift our weight ever so slightly and ever so quickly at the sight of new ideas worth testing. It rewards curiosity.

Thank You to Volunteers/Supporters: Greg Behlen, Tim Holk, Boyao Jiang, Whitney Liang, Jonathan Miller, Liz Pettit, Caitlin Pfarr, Stephanie Sammons, Ian Redmond, Alfred To, Lia Giannosa, Levi Jette, Emelia Jost, Ashley Rawling, Adam Torres, Zach Zemljak. And also EVstudio, Jonathan Ochshorn, Professor at Cornell University, Clark Thenhaus, Director of Endemic and Lecturer at University of Michigan, Taubman College, Denver International Airport, and University of Colorado-Denver, College of Architecture and Planning.


In Dialogue; Exploring the Evolving Issue (and on-going conversations) of “Quality” Architectural Design & Development in Denver

Whether it’s at the espresso machine or the water cooler, there are a lot of conversations amongst Denver’s professional design community regarding Denver’s rapid development, and the arguably contested design character and quality that has defined many recent additions to Denver’s mixed-use, multi-color, multi-story skyline.

After marinating post water-cooler, these conversations recently became more “public” through the medium of writing. One only needs to look as far as Denver’s major publications to find a series of snarky blog posts regarding Denver’s “worst” buildings, or more studied editorials such as an Op-Ed in the Denver Post by local architect Jeff Sheppard. Most recently, a showcase article in Modern in Denver from Arch 11 claimed that “Modern is Not a Style,” providing an interesting perspective on how and why Denver’s recent “modern homes” do not follow the didactic thinking and principles of the actual modern movement in architecture.

What’s shifted is that these conversations are no longer being relegated to written word and informal conversation. Instead, they are becoming topics for large public forums and community dialogue, ultimately focused on raising awareness and, while vague in its measures of action or implementation, eliciting reactions that might resonate within design and development firms in Denver moving forward.

Just a few weeks ago, the AIA Colorado and ULI Colorado presented a discussion at the Denver Art Museum aptly titled “Denver is Booming: But is Design Quality Keeping Pace?” In the event description, the conversation was posed as a series of questions including, “Are we getting buildings and public spaces worthy of our city and region? Why so many look-a-like stucco buildings?”

A similar discussion related to Arch11’s recent aforementioned article will take place this evening at Modern in Denver’s first “Design Conversations” event, focusing on “Design’s decline in quality.. [this discussion will] explore what it means to be modern in principle…how as a community can we affect change…?”

I was just updated this event has reached full capacity—demonstrating both a need and desire for connection, dialogue, and eventually, measures that might lead to tangible change.

Denver is a city that continuously demonstrates an appreciation and alignment with grassroots, community-based measures geared towards incremental and arguably “positive” change. The current design discussions and red flags Denver’s design, real estate, and urban planning communities have come together to wave are both important and imperative to Denver’s rapidly-evolving landscape.

My hope is that while conversations like these may be important first steps towards creating a collective consciousness and concern regarding relevant issues, we must also address (and answer) the question: What are the steps (and who are the stakeholders) we must engage to actually see progress in improving the quality of architectural design and development in moving Denver forward?

Please feel free to respond to this post as yet another forum for aggregating thoughts related to this topic.

Inevitable Change


There are numerous blogs, columns, and articles regarding the ins and outs of personal romantic relationships. In recent years, the topic of these articles has shifted from the analog courtship to the nuances of relationships in the digital age.

One of my favorite Sunday columns in the New York Times, for example, “Modern Love,” has featured countless articles about online dating, the ethical dilemmas of being able to google someone prior to a date, and the travails of long distance relationships initiated through an online connection.

Every now and then a Modern Love column gains traction, as the topic strikes a sometimes vulnerable or heartfelt chord with its audience. This happened a few weeks ago, when a writer talked about her experience in being “ghosted,” i.e. the act of being broken up with by one partner simply “disappearing.” Numerous articles in the Times ensued, eliciting people to tell their own “ghosting” stories, and what it means to be entirely non-accountable in the age of social media and the omnipresent access to cell phones.

What is interesting to me is that I’ve rarely seen these columns address the topic of platonic workplace relationships, and the ability for those professional, mentor/mentee, peer-to-peer, and co-worker/friend relationships to evolve and change, or, to be lost or, in a sense, “ghosted” once an individual leaves one workplace for another.

A few months ago, a former colleague and I mused that, when intellectualized, it can seem strange that professionals’ spend the majority of their waking hours with an assortment of co-workers rather than with one’s family and friends. Regardless of how separate one chooses to keep their personal and professional lives, these daily collaborators and like-minded individuals become important voices and interactions in the DNA of our day-to-day, and undeniably play an important role in the fulfilment many people seek by choosing to work in a collaborative office environment.

Having recently switched jobs, I’ve experienced the interesting process of leaving one work environment and daily cast of confidantes and co-workers for an entirely new set of faces. I have not “ghosted” any of my former co-workers by any means, but what is interesting is that in switching workplaces, one must accept that the daily relationships that have been forged by the simple nature of seeming people 8-10 hours a day, 5 days a week will inevitably evolve and change.

While friendships that transcended work have easily translated beyond the structure of “place,” it is interesting that in inviting professional change, we also bring about personal change.

Like most big decisions, the outcomes are varied and nuanced. I would argue that while transitions take time and serve as a healthy and humbling reminder to be patient, a tangible benefit of pursuing new opportunities is the notion that there are new professional relationships to be forged, viewpoints to learn, and processes and related outcomes to explore.