Alternative Practice(s) In Denver

When I’m not architecting or blogging, I’m editing for the Young Architect’s Forum “Connection” e-zine, published by the AIA.  One of the best parts of editing is getting to source new content, and in the process, the chance to meet people that are being bold and brave in pursuing their passions and making them realities.

Over the past year or so, I’ve met a lot of people that are pursuing what I might call “alternative practice.” This isn’t a new term, but perhaps a varied term in regards to how it’s used. I would define this as individuals that are pursuing design in methods that correlate with architectural tools and processes, but their intentions and outcomes often diverge from a functional “building.”

For example, for the upcoming issue of Connection, I interviewed a Professor I worked with in London, Alain Chiaradia.  While he began his career in architecture, he quickly realized his passion for design research and analysis on the urban scale.  He now teaches at Cardiff University, while researching and practicing urban design aimed at transformation through spatial analysis.  Prior to featuring Alain, I showcased the work of Viktor Venson, Co-founder of “No Right Brain Left Behind.”  As an ad-man-turned-designer, Venson has been working to create prototypes of new learning environments meant to facilitate learning and creativity in schools.

While architecture lends itself to being interdisciplinary (each project requires becoming a pseudo-expert in a different type of program, building typology, etc.,) I have become increasingly interested in the range of applications architectural tools and thinking can be applied to for various problem-solving efforts on a wide range of scales.

As a resident of Denver, what is interesting to me is that the Colorado design community also seems to have a growing number of professionals that are pursuing “alternative practice.”  Here’s a quick snapshot of two dynamic individuals based in Colorado that balance architecture with other multidisciplinary pursuits, Kelton Osborn and Julie Spinnato:


Kelton Osborn

Kelton Osborn

Kelton Osborn,  Artist and Architect

(1)    What is your background (educationally and professionally)?  How did it get you to where you are now (professionally)?

My undergraduate degree is in Architecture with a minor in Printmaking from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Right out of school I worked for an adobe home builder where I gained immense knowledge about construction. After building several homes, I secured a position working for Antoine Predock also in Albuquerque. After two years, I moved to Denver to attend the University of Colorado at Denver where I earned my Master of Architecture degree. While in graduate school I was lucky enough to cross paths with professor Douglas Darden. Douglas became my mentor – motivating me to operate outside my design comfort zone and pushing me to uncover my true design process.

Over the years I have worked for several Denver architecture firms, each offering valuable personal and professional experiences. Looking back, I’m proud to have had a hand in many exciting projects.

In 2009, I was laid off from my full time architectural position. I decided to take advantage of the situation by switching my primary focus to art. This also allowed me to spend more time with my young daughter. In the past several years, I have completed my first public art commission for the city of Denver and my first solo show at a downtown gallery – while continuing to practice architecture. The difference is, I am able to take on a wider variety of project types.

(2)    What role does architecture play in your current work?

My art and architecture have always meshed and influenced each other. To me, it is all design, whether it is painting, building furniture or designing a building. I am fortunate in that I am able to create things from a very small and intimate scale to a large habitable scale. The Berkeley Lake public art commission I completed last year is a combination of landscape design, architecture and sculpture.

(3)    Can you give an example of a project you’ve completed that employs architectural thinking or processes that yield an unexpected or “non-architectural” outcome?

I suppose that my recent paintings are the result of my “architectural thinking” because I believe most everything in our lives can influence design. I tend to start with a notion or process that is very intuitive. I believe that any starting point in the design process is valid and if you allow your intuition to lead, you can discover many unexpected outcomes.

My current show at the Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery “fragments revealed: a continuous process” illustrates this process.

Some impressive examples of Kelton’s work, on display now at the Carmen Widenhoeft Gallery, as well as his recent commission for Denver’s Urban Arts Commission:

StrataGall IMG_1187 Buoy_cropDSCN1709 - Version 2Linear_crop Berkeley Park Public Art


Julie_headshotJulie Spinnato, Architect, Yoga Instructor, and Artist

(1) What is your background (educationally and professionally)?  How did it get you to where you are now (professionally)?

I received a B. Arch from Carnegie Mellon University and spent a year studying abroad at University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.  I spent a summer during college working as a wrangler at Colorado Mountain Ranch in Gold Hill and fell in love with Colorado.  Upon graduation, I interviewed at firms in Denver and was offered a job at one office’s Vail office.  I worked in three firms in Vail before opening my own firm, Studio Spinnato in 2007.  I moved to Denver recently and have recently accepted an associate position with a friend from Vail, Ken Bridges at Blueline Architects.

(2) Do you find any overlaps between teaching yoga and practicing architecture?

I think that through teaching yoga I have learned to communicate effectively as well as listen throughly.  I also think that clients can be overwhelmed in the design and construction process and to teach them through the process is a valuable tool.

(3) What type of art do you do?

Primarily I am a painter.  I usually paint what is in my immediate environment.  While living in Vail, I painted a lot of landscapes, primarily aspen trees.  I spent time in New Mexico and have painted a lot of Western scenes.  I currently I dabbling with the idea of a juxaposition of the West and the cityscape.

(4) Can you cite a project you’ve completed that employs architectural thinking or processes that yield an unexpected or “non-architectural” outcome?

I entered a recycled art show last year and painted on recycled shutters from Habitat for Humanity. The piece, “Dark Horse Shuttered” won first place.

Some examples of a range of Julie’s work:

dark horse shuttered practicing yoga  aspens-potrippin bootsARCOBCCOHEN0357


Greetings readers! It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything on the AIA Colorado Emerging Professionals Blog but I am excited to announce that we are BACK! Since most of our readership are students, interns, and young architects I know I don’t have to tell you that the life of an architect can get busy – there are always deadlines demanding time, midterms and finals need our attention, there are jobs and summer internship to obtain, and ARE’s to pass – truth be told, that is exactly what happened to our lives, all at once.  The unfortunate outcome of our busy, but good, life is that the blog fell out of sight. To all our loyal readers, we must apologize. But it is because of you that we are back, committed once again to making this Blog a spot where we not only share our personal experiences, but also give the Emerging Professionals a national voice.

In 2010, Meg Kullerd Hohnholt (then, just “Meg Kullerd”) started the AIA Colorado Emerging Professionals Blog. Meg had a voice and she wanted a forum to share it with other emerging professionals. Meg’s vision for the blog was something she shared with the original bloggers. Equally as excited, we joined together to make the success of the blog surpass any of our wildest dreams. Since that first blog post on October 1, 2010 we have had 7 full-time writers and a number of guest writers. The blog has had a total of 44,307 all time views and has reached out to all parts of the world. To this day, The Ted Mosby Illusion is our most viewed post, with 1,830 total views. To add to its success, some of our writers have been published in national publications in the past. Though the years, this blog has provided a voice for Emerging Professionals, near and far, and we will continue to do so in the future.

Over the next few months we will introduce you to new writers and a number of invited guest writers. We will strive to provide you with our own personal experiences as well as share with you information we find intriguing, thought-provoking, and just down right cool.  You can expect our “traditional” 500 word essays, as well as links to other articles around the web that we want to share with our readers. I invite you to come back often, encourage you to share our site with other professionals, and hope you comment on our posts as we want to provide an open forum for all to share their thoughts along side ours. We want to thank you for supporting us through the years and coming back over and over again!  We look forward to sharing so much more with you in the future!

Time of Change…

I’ve been writing about “change” a lot lately, but can you blame? It seems as though what we once knew is no longer, and what is yet to come is undetermined – AIA Colorado is in the process of reposition itself, NCARB will soon be rolling out the still-mysterious next version of the ARE, even the AIA Colorado Practice and Design Conference is mixing things up this year – as Bob Dylan put it “Times are a-changin’.” Change, to me, shows progress and movement forward. Change is a step in a new direction. Change is a commitment to the future.

Here at the AIA Colorado Emerging Professional Blog we, too, find ourselves in a time of change.  As the year winds down, we will begin to say good-bye to some of our original talent and hello to new opinions, perspectives, and passions. It’s exciting and bittersweet at the same time.  The writers that will be leaving us at years end, and those who have already departed, have made everlasting footprints on this blog. This blog has grown into something more than any of us could have imagined on day one – we have readers all around the world, our daily “hits” continue to increase, our writers have been published in national magazines, and a few of us were given the opportunity to represented the blog and fellow AIA Colorado Emerging Professionals at the AIA National Convention this summer by presenting a 90 minute presentation. This blog has given all of us a platform to speak our minds, share our opinions about the profession, and engage our readers with our own professional experiences. As hard as it is to say good-bye to the ones we have come to love, we are excited to let the next generation of bloggers leave their own lasting impression.

I think I speak for everyone involved with this blog when I say that we will miss our departing bloggers but we’re excited for what’s to come. Between September 15th and December 1st we will be accepting “Letters of Intent” from any AIA Colorado member interested in being a blogger for the AIA Colorado EP Blog. In December, we will select 2 Young Architects, 1 Associate and 2 AIAS Students to join our 2014 Blog team. A formal call for entry will hit your inboxes next week! If you’re passionate about architecture, excited about our profession and a talented writer than we want you to join our team! Feel free to contact me directly with any questions –

Over the past couple of years writing for this blog, I have seen change. I’ve seen change in our profession. I’ve seen change here at the blog. I’ve even experience change in my professional life. Through it all, one thing has stayed consistent – this blog has always been a voice for the Emerging Professionals. As we move forward with the blog you will see change. You will read new writers that will come with fresh ideas, different perspectives and a wide range of backgrounds. You will gain new insight to the profession and be exposed to different individuals with diverse opinions. But as we move forward with these changes one thing will remain the same – the AIA Colorado Emerging Professionals Blog will continue to be the of the Emerging Professionals.

Cheers to Change!

AIA Repositioning Creating Changes

I spent this past weekend in a conference room with 50 of my fellow AIA Colorado chapter board members. Organization leaders, representing all parts of our state, gave up a good portion of their weekend to spend debating the future of our organization.  We were asked to attend this All-Board retreat to discuss the repositioning of AIA Colorado.  The AIA Repositioning initiative was first introduced in March at the annual AIA Grassroots Leadership conference in Washington DC. Since then, those of us on AIA Colorado chapter boards have been told that this national initiative was going to affect our state and local chapters. Turning the focus to the AIA membership, and creating an “A(WE)A” campaign, AIA National dedicated itself to change the context, business, and practice of architecture. The AIA has realized that in order to stay relevant with the “New Normal” of our profession our organization needs to change.  And change, we will.

This weekend we were charged with the task of taking a long hard, very hard, look our organization and evaluating how we could make it better – putting our focus on the members of AIA Colorado. As a member-driven organization, AIA Colorado’s primary responsibility is to provide the best programs, educational opportunities, professional services, networking opportunities, etc. to its members. This weekend, we asked ourselves the questions “How are we doing?” “What can we do better?” and “How can we align ourselves with the current and future trends of our profession?”  With the help from Harrison Coerver, author of the book Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations, and the AIA Colorado staff we began our debate over what, if anything, needed to change.

Everything was on the table – from the number of Boards we have as a state to the number of people on each board to whether or not the annual golf tournament provided true member value. We discussed how our organization operates as a non-profit, how the AIA Colorado staff spend their time and how might they spend their time if we began to restructure the organization, and why, in today’s age of technology, our conference call lines still sound like we’re calling China, in the 1980’s. Our conversations got heavy, people’s ideas where challenaged, radical ideas were suggested, voices were heard, and changes were made. Changes are coming.

The idea of change often makes us want to stay the same even more. Change makes most of us uncomfortable. When faced with change we’re often afraid, scared, skeptical to step through the door into the unknown. But, what if that door leads us to a better future? Isn’t it worth taking a step forward rather than staying in a present that clearly isn’t working any more? That answer, by the way, is yes it is worth it. What’s going to happen within our organization in the next couple of weeks, months, years is going to be different. It’s going to be unfamiliar and will probably take some time to get used to. You’re beloved annual event might not take place in the future. You’re favorite committee might no long exist. But, if you put your trust in your leaders and fellow AIA members, I can promise you that all of this will be for the better. These changes are going to make us a better organization. These changes are going to make us better professionals. These changes are going to make us better architects. And really, when it comes right down to it, is that what we all want?

No IDP record? Submit NOW or LOSE!

Are you putting off applying for your architect license in Colorado? Well NOW is the time to apply!
Effective January 1, 2014, NCARB’s IDP will be required of all Colorado applicants for original licensure. This means that if you haven’t been using IDP to log your experience hours, but have completed the required amount of experience for DORA, you better submit soon so that you are approved to test before January 1st!  If you are not approved to test before that date, you’ll have to submit your experience through IDP.

This is going to be upsetting for folks who have NEVER logged in their hours in IDP because they will “lose” all their prior experience and have to start over logging their hours in IDP.

Now I realize that’s a LOT of acronyms in the statement above. So let me break it down further….

There are essentially 3 things you need to become a licensed architect.
ncarb1) Education
2) Experience
3) Examination
This issue focuses on Experience and Examination, and for more information about the whole process of becoming a licensed architect, click here.

Currently in the State of Colorado, if you’d like to apply to take your architectural registration exams (AREs), you need to prove your work experience or that you are on your way to getting the required amount of work experience.

  • One way to do that is through the National Council of Architectural Registration Board’s (NCARB’s) Intern Development Program (IDP).
  • The other is through submitting your experience directly to the State of Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). This direct option WILL GO AWAY at the end of the year.

Now how does that relate to “losing” prior experience?
Say you have a M.Arch degree and have been recording your experience hours on paper (or in an excel spreadsheet) for the past 3 years. Okay, then say you wait to submit your experience for licensure until next year, 2014. As of January 1, DORA will not allow you to submit your experience via paper and pencil, only by IDP. So you start logging your hours into IDP, only to find out that IDP has a 6 month rule that only allows you to log in experience as far back as 6 months (actually 8 months, but that’s another blog post). Now you have just “lost” 2.5 years of experience! You will have to wait that amount of time in logging additional experience in IDP in order for you to prove you have the adequate amount of experience to apply for initial licensure in Colorado.

So if you’ve been thinking about getting licensed and applying with your experience directly to DORA (i.e. without IDP), NOW is the time to get the paperwork submitted! *I write this in bold and italics because come next year, I’d really, really, REALLY would like to avoid getting angry emails from applicants saying they were not told about this transition. In fact, the transition was approved in early 2011…2 years ago.


Below is a Frequently Asked Question from DORA’s website describing the process for this direct option.

Q: Do I have to go through NCARB and IDP to get my experience verified?

A: No, IDP is not required now. However, you must have an NCARB File Number in order to take the ARE. You may apply directly to the Colorado Board without going through the entire NCARB IDP process; however, all applicants are required to apply online at to set up a NCARB record and obtain a NCARB file number. In addition, you must meet the Colorado experience requirements pursuant to the NCARB IDP training requirements (refer to Board Rule 4.4.1). Be aware that many states require completion of IDP for licensure and may not award endorsement or reciprocity licensure without it. Information about IDP and states that require it is available from NCARB’s website. If you decide to apply directly to the Colorado Board, complete the Application for Original License by Examination.

Effective January 1, 2014, NCARB’s IDP will be required of all Colorado applicants for original licensure.

For more information on this, please contact me!
Meg Kullerd Hohnholt, AIA, NCARB
AIA Colorado State IDP Coordinator