Friday Feature: Stephanie

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Stephanie. I’m an urban designer and intern architect.

What made you decide to go into your field?
My art history degree led to an interest in architectural history, which led to an interest in the process of how me make (and inhabit) buildings – and how buildings make us.

What did your family think of your chosen field?
They were pleased to have go from visual arts into a more respectable (and profitable) profession!

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?
Marc Boutin, my senior studio prof and thesis adviser. His work really influenced my interest in cities and urban design and how buildings create urban spaces.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)
The biggest hurdle by far is the one I’m facing right now: writing all the licensing exams while completing my intern hours to get my full professional registration.

What inspires you?
My walk to work in the morning. Riding my bike late at night in the summer.

What schooling is required for success in your career?
You must have a Master’s in Architecture to become an intern and work towards professional registration. In general, you can have any undergrad degree to get into the master’s. Visual arts or another design degree of some sort is very useful. Alternatively, a more technical background can be an advantage such as an architectural technology diploma. An undergrad in business would also be incredibly useful once you get into the work force. Architects are generalists, so the more you know the better!

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?
In order to get through architecture school you have to be fairly tenacious. It also helps to be a detail-oriented person.

What is the best advice you were ever given?
Honestly? It probably wasn’t related to architecture or my career!

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)
I think there will always be room for career growth as partners retire and more senior positions become available. The demand for architects is obviously dependent on the construction industry but it’s a pretty diverse profession and it qualifies you for all kinds of work.

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?
Making buildings is a huge undertaking. My advice is to look before you leap, so to speak, and try to figure out which aspect of the process you are interested in. Some people are more interested in the technical side of construction (architectural technician), or how the structure will function (structural engineer), or what the space looks like (interior design). Architects have to know a little bit about everything and coordinate things. Someone considering a career like this has a lot of options and it’s good to know about all of them before making a decision.

Happy Holidays

As the eve of Christmas approaches, we thought we would take this opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season and an excellent new year.

This card was created by our own intern architect, Ivan Ilic. We only hope that Halmark doesn't try to scoop him up.

So from all of us here at VIA Architecture, Season's greetings and (aside from a post on Friday) we shall see you all in the new year!

Monday News Roundup

California approves more big solar powered projects (Grist)
The California Energy Commission on Wednesday approved two more big solar thermal power plants, ending the year having green-lighted a total of nine projects that would generate 4,142.5 megawatts if all were built.

The music of planning (Planetizen)
A website called "Isle of Tune" lets you build streets SimCity-style, with a twist- the houses and streetlights become musical elements in the sequence that you make.

TransLink to let public vote on name of electronic fare card (Planetizen)
TransLink plans to let the public decide what its new electronic fare cards, which are set to be introduced in 2013, will be named.

View corridors in downtown Vancouver are protected, city planner says (Vancouver Sun)
Vancouver city’s plan to consider allowing extra-tall buildings in the downtown core affects only seven specific sites and would not allow any intrusions into long-protected view corridors, the city’s director of planning said Thursday.

Can streetcars save America's cities? (CNN)
In a down economy, pursuing the American dream can be challenging, but restaurant owner Todd Steele was willing to take a chance. He set up shop on a streetcar route and has benefited tremendously from it.

A video of Curitiba, Brazil, the birth place of bus rapid transit (youtube)
Hover over cc to get English subtitles and learn about the planning that went into the bus rapid transit of Curitiba.

You've Heard of Pocket Parks, but Pocket Airports? (Planetizen)
A NASA-related agency envisions a future when people will commute from small neighborhood "pocket airports" in their "Suburban Air Vehicles" (SAVs).

Five Technologies That Matter For Cities (Planetizen)
Mobile broadband, government-sponsored cloud computing, smart devices - these are a few of the technologies that cities should be thinking about for the future, says the Institute for the Future in a new report.

Smart Growth's Future in Northern Virginia (Planetizen)
In an interview with Arlington County Board Vice-Chairman Christopher Zimmerman, Jonna McKone asks the local official about current and future transit-oriented development (TOD) and managed growth in the Washington, D.C. region.

'Humane' food sparks excitement, labeling controversy (Vancouver Sun)
ST. LOUIS — American shoppers face a dizzying array of labels in the aisles of their grocery stores, most designed to help them make healthy choices. Soon they'll see yet another label — this one concerning the health of animals in the food chain.

Solar-Powered Machine Creates Rainbows From Recycled Rainwater (Inhabitat)
Rainbows are fleeting and beautiful illusions - a gift from nature to us. Certain climatic conditions are generally required in the creation of a rainbow -- unless you're artist Michael Jones McKean, who has found a way to shoot rainbows across the sky at will. Next June McKean will produce a rainbow twice a day for 15 minutes using reclaimed rainwater and sunlight.

Friday Feature: Jenny K

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jenny and I am an intern architect.

What made you decide to go into your field?
A fascination with maps and plans, and of course – lego! I also thought it would be an interesting job.

What did your family think of your chosen field?
They were delighted – apart from the cost of me having to go away for university, when the local university was literally a 10min walk from our house. (It didn’t offer architecture as a course)

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?
Hugh Campbell my 2nd year History & Theory lecturer and Studio Head. For his enthusiasm but also for showing that architecture is everywhere and affects so many aspects of life – it’s not just about 4 walls.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)
Trying to overcome nervousness in project critiques and believing in my work, so I think I was probably my own biggest hurdle.

What inspires you?

What schooling is required for success in your career?
Bachelors Degree in Architecture, (or a Masters is more common in this part of the world).

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?
All types of people can be successful in architecture. Different aspects of the job play to different strengths – hence working in teams tends to work out quite well! Some useful attributes include creativity, practicality, ability to compromise, good communication skills and a logical mindset.

What is the best advice you were ever given?
‘Hold the head’, by my Dad. It is his stock advice in all of life’s problems, big or small. I think it’s good advice!

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)
Not at home (Ireland) right now unfortunately, but I don’t think things are too bad here in Vancouver.

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?
The college stuff isn’t easy, but the job can be great if you like learning new things, continuously being challenged and variety.

How Design Can Affect Your Mood

by Jennifer Kelly, VIA Architecture
Architects have long intuited that the places we inhabit can affect our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Now behavioral scientists are giving their hunches an empirical basis.

Scientists are unearthing tantalizing clues about how to design spaces that promote creativity, keep students focused and alert, and lead to relaxation and social intimacy. The results inform architectural and design decisions such as the height of ceilings, the view from windows, the shape of furniture, and the type and intensity of lighting.

Such efforts are leading to cutting-edge projects such as residences for seniors with dementia in which the building itself is part of the treatment. [source]
Ceiling Height
Back in 2007, Joan Meyers-Levy, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota, wrote a paper that found that an individual's thoughts and actions were affected by the height of the ceiling:
“When a person is in a space with a 10-foot ceiling, they will tend to think more freely, more abstractly. They might process more abstract connections between objects in a room, whereas a person in a room with an 8-foot ceiling will be more likely to focus on specifics.”
 An Art Studio is better suited for high ceilings

But Meyers-Levy is quick to point out that there are good reasons for a low-ceiling height; like in an operating room where you want the surgeon to "focus on specifics."

Building Views
What about the view that you have from your office or living room window? It would be easy to assume that if you had a window that looked out at trees, fields, etc., that you would be more distracted than if you had no view.

Quite the opposite is true -- a study by an environmental psychologist found that views of natural settings actually improve focus. Other studies along the same lines have even found that children with ADD are more focused after being able to observe "green space."

Great deck design (and not just for a view out the window, but a chance to relax before getting back to work!)

But what if your office or home is located in the middle of a city where your only option is an urban view?

While people already have a tendency to feel relaxed / rejuvenated by nature, psychologist Stephen Kaplan proposed that urban settings are too stimulating and that paying attention to them requires more work than a view of nature.

We can counteract this over-stimulation, by adding greenery to our windows and our decks, or living in a building that has a rooftop garden, so that, even for a moment, we can focus on nature and forget the bustle of the city below.

Every interior designer knows that the colors in a room can affect mood. Restaurant owners choose colors and designs that either encourage customers to stay and enjoy the evening (soft cushions, low light), or to eat quickly and move on so that they can seat more customers (bright colors, hard seats).

There are also times when individuals will pick out a color they think they like for their walls and furniture, but once the room is painted and furniture arranged, they find they feel uncomfortable. So before choosing your colors, take time to think about the emotions you want to bring out in a particular room:

Blue brings a calming feeling of serenity and is great for bathrooms or living rooms. But dark blue can evoke feelings of sadness, so refrain from using it as a main color in a room (see image below with dark blue as just accents):

Yellow is a "happy" color that lightens your mood and can help you feel more carefree. It is a great color for kitchens, where many people start their day, and is one of the most used rooms in the house. (beware of red, orange, and brown, which evoke feelings of hunger):

Red is the color of passion, and can evoke intense feelings like love or anger. Perhaps a bedroom with red is a good choice, although it should only be used as accents, and not as a dominant color, as it could promote restlessness:

Orange encourages an enthusiastic mood, and would be a great color for a children's playroom or for an exercise room (but not for a baby's nursery, as it can be too overstimulating).

It can also be a great color for social gatherings, or to increase appetite (like if you want your loved one to make sure they get a great breakfast in the morning):

Green evokes a feeling of the outdoors and can help alleviate stress. With those qualifications, it would be great in any room:

(if you want to create a real forest, instead of just simulate one) link

Purple can also bring out a passionate mood -- bonus: the darker the shade, the more passionate you feel. It is also associated with luxury and royalty. If used as an accent, it can bring warmth and depth into a room.

 (like a "darker shade" = "more passionate,  I'm not sure what "more neon" equals) link

Black is a very powerful color and should be used in moderation, or it can overwhelm a room. Here are some accents, as well as Gray colors, which can add a subtle elegance to a room:

(found on a website called "Clearly Fabulous")

 And of course, there's White, which evokes a mode of cleanliness and calm (as long as it's kept clean!):

Some fun accents in a white room:

 (not completely white, but I love this image + wanted to fit it in somewhere)

Other interesting tidbits about how design can affect mood:
  • Adequate sunlight improves student's grades
  • When exposed to more sunlight, retirement home residents have less "cognitive decline" [+ have overall improved brain function]
  • Having lighting in your home that can change from day to night will help you not only to stay awake, but also to sleep at night.
  • Dim lighting helps people loosen up
  • Curved furniture and edges are preferable to sharp edges (because of the association of sharp angles with "danger")
  • In Residential Health Care Facilities, the common practice of placing chairs along the walls of resident day rooms or lounges actually prevented socializing
    • A better plan to encourage interaction, researchers found, is organizing furniture in small groupings throughout the room
  •  Classrooms:
    • semicircle configuration increased student participation
    • putting desks in rows encourages students to work independently and improves classroom behavior
  • Carpeting can "grease social wheels"
    • In hospitals, carpet increases the amount of time patients' friends and families spend visiting (which may speed healing)