Travel Habits of an Architect

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately so in this video, I wanted to share some of my architect travel habits for sketching and photography. These tips apply even if you’re not an aspiring architect and will help you wring the most out of any trip you take, near or far. (And, be sure to stick around at 4:46...wait for it...)

GEAR

My travel kit is as lean as it’s ever been, just a sketchbook, a few drawing tools, my camera gear (more details here) and a small laptop. You don’t need an expensive camera or special tools though to do what I do. The DSLR is an intentional choice for me as it forces me to slow down when I'm traveling. It makes me think about lens selection and composition, the subject, the lighting. It’s probably the single best investment I’ve made in the past 10 years (aside from travel).

For lenses on this trip I brought a wide zoom, a medium zoom, a telephoto and a macro. And this was way too many. Lenses are heavy and to lug these things around in a backpack in the tropics is…well, sweaty. Of the four I brought along, I used the 24-70mm and the 100mm most of the time. The zoom is great because the 24mm end on a full frame camera is wide enough to capture landscapes or interiors and the 70mm is perfect for details. Then you have the right around 50mm is great for portraits. So this one lens covers a lot of situations.

You'll learn why I reject guidebooks in general, my process for observing, documenting and then cataloguing my travels and you'll see what I do in the downtime between destinations.

Time Stamps:

  • 0:22 Start Now. Don’t wait until you arrive at your destination to start taking photos or sketching.

  • 0:42 Follow 30by40 on Instagram: http://thirtybyforty.com/instagram

  • 0:49 Travel Essentials.

  • 1:28 My Routine (Shoot then Sketch)

  • 1:55 Subjects. Not everything has to be architectural.

  • 2:53 Details + Materials = Experience. Learn to observe the world this way.

  • 4:46 Wait for it…

  • 4:55 Has this ever happened to you? Relaxing on the beach and out of nowhere…!?

Sketchbook - 50pages from Strathmore (trying something new…I quite like it)

White pen - ink isn’t semi-transparent, but flows nicely, not gummy at all

Copic Marker Set (grays) - essential (this is a set of 5 and includes a non-smudging Multiliner pen too)

Blue + Tan + Green + Yellow Copics are from the blending trio sets (they’re cheaper to buy as sets)

Mechanical Pencil (a personal favorite)

White colored pencil (wood-free)

 Hallway Light + Room Numbers at The Williamsburg Hotel

Hallway Light + Room Numbers at The Williamsburg Hotel

SIDE NOTE: The Williamsburg Hotel (at 3:16) in Brooklyn, NY was designed by the London Architecture Firm: Michaelis Boyd and completed in 2017. We actually had no plans to stay here, but we arrived in NYC to an early season snowstorm and our connecting flight back to Maine was canceled. Our flight the following day wasn’t due to leave until 10pm, so at my better half’s urging, we traveled from JFK airport to Williamsburg in Brooklyn and spent the next 24 hours exploring the neighborhood and staying in this fantastic hotel. Completely worth the little bit of extra effort to get there from JFK.

 Railing Study at The Williamsburg Hotel (clever design, but, man it really whistles in the wind!)

Railing Study at The Williamsburg Hotel (clever design, but, man it really whistles in the wind!)

Client Meeting + Site Visit - The OUTPOST

Tag along on a client meeting and site visit to a very special location on a small island miles off the coast of Maine. Together we walk the site, sketch and discuss the strategies for building in such a pristine environment. You'll hear the questions I ask, the ensuing discussions and discover the ideas that shape the design process and ultimately our architecture. And, perhaps surprisingly, it's more than just a solving of functional problems.

This is a side of the architectural design process rarely seen and a wide-ranging discussion that questions local architecture and building traditions, how to design for experience. We cover everything from the mundane and practical to the conceptual.

Architectural Sketching (techniques + tips)

Inside My Sketchbook - An Architect's Essential Tools

A look inside my sketchbook as I start a new project and review my current favorite sketching tools. See my go-to paper, pens, pencils, markers; everything in my everyday carry kit for sketching.
Instead of the chronological approach I've used in the past, I now dedicate entire sketchbooks to individual projects, tasks, or idea categories. I've found this helps me to organize information and find it quickly when I'm searching for it later.


Sketchbooks

Here's what I'm currently recommending (it's a substitute for my favorite, but still quite good) Although the Muji A5 dot grid with elastic is my all-time favorite, lately the stock on Amazon has been outrageously priced (in-store, they're ~$4 each).

Pencils

Kuru Toga .5mm - I use this for sketching currently. If you prefer a chunkier lead, try this lead holder clutch made by E+M

Colored Pencils

Pens + Markers

Pilot Precise V7

Signo

Sign Pen

Markers

Accessories

Pencil Case

Eraser

Eraser Pen

Desk Brush

Chop Stamp

Modern Practice Series - Ep 2 Eponymous Architecture (cont'd)

After more than two decades of working for other architects, John decided to step out on his own. In part 2 he recounts the move from moonlighting to starting Eponymous Architecture and his early client work. He shares the difficulties he’s faced along the way, how he’s structured his life and practice, where he’s been finding new projects, and even a few unexpected advantages of going solo. This is a window into the early days of starting an architecture firm from nothing.

Topics discussed: 
1:01 Testing the waters
1:59 Making the leap
3:51 The Lean Startup – Software + Hardware
5:37 Challenges of Sole Practice
8:30 Material library (in a small space)
9:47 Becoming a Better Architect
11:49 Your Portfolio (of someone else’s work)
15:21 One Year. Enough time?
17:02 Why Eponymous? 

**Did you miss part 1? Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/yOAIf6WX6mY
 

Modern Practice Series - Ep 1 Eponymous Architecture

In this new series, I’m visiting architects and design professionals asking them to share the choices, challenges, failures, successes and failures that have shaped their careers. Too often we hear from only those architects elevated by the media to superstar status. These so-called 'starchitects' account for a small percentage of design professionals. And, the stories from the bulk of our ranks - a great many talented architects and designers – remain untold. This series gives voice to their stories. 

We uncover early inspirations that led them to choose architecture, experiences in architecture school, internships, what firm typologies to look for, advice for taking the Architectural Registration Exams (ARE), how to find work and clients, working for and with others, networking and struggles building a business.

In the inaugural video of the series we meet John Clappi, a licensed architect living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He has more than 20 years’ experience practicing architecture in both Boston and New York City at a variety of scales from large developments to award winning Record Houses and private residences. He’s worked for two starchitects: Richard Meier of Richard Meier and Partners and Brad Cloepfil at Allied Works, both high-end, boutique design firms. In part 1 he recounts the school years and his early career pivot points as well as his experience working for Meier and Allied Works and time working on large scale developer projects in New York City. 

In part 2, we’ll discover why he set out on his own, how he secured his first commissions and the challenges he’s facing as he builds out a larger vision for his nascent architecture studio: Eponymous Architecture, PLLC.

It’s a rare and candid look into the struggles designers and architects face as we seek to become licensed professionals and to find a life of true, creative fulfillment.

A Thank You + Unboxing the 100K Silver Play Button

Taking a moment as I received a special package from YouTube on the studio's doorstep to reflect on an important milestone. YouTube recognizes creators at a few waypoints, the first being when you cross 100K subscribers, then 1M, and then 10M. Earlier in 2018, I crossed the first of those and this video is my thank you note. Ironically, the week I received the award the channel was passing 186K subscribers.

I'm so humbled by the support and kindness you've shown as I've worked over the past five years to make better things, more interesting content, and exponentially increase the number of people I'm able to reach + connect with.

I never thought I’d get this award, it’s certainly not something I set out to achieve. To think that 100,000 people thought enough about what I had to say to subscribe is just a completely silly notion (especially when I look back at some of the things I’ve made in the past). In the beginning, I focused on sharing knowledge and documenting what I was creating. As time went on, I started to have higher expectations of my work; I became interested in filmmaking, composition, color grading, audio, and storytelling. I think I make a lot better things than I used to, but I'm nowhere near as good as my heroes or as I want to be. And, I know when I look back on this in another year’s time I’ll see what I made today wasn’t that great either.

However, without a body of work to look back on, I’d have no context to see the journey. It's important to remember that we can’t possibly make our best work the first time we publish something, it takes practice, discipline and the knowledge that most of what we make won’t live up to our own high standards. In time we get better. This was the 196th video uploaded to YouTube for me; that's a lot of practice!

I hope this inspires you to take action and to make things. See my path and take comfort in the fact that I just pressed 'publish' - even when I wasn't capable of executing at my own high standards. Pressing publish is the only way to improve. There are no more gatekeepers, if you have access to the internet and a smartphone you too can speak to millions of people if you choose.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for allowing this kind of life to be possible and for being such an important part of my story on YouTube. 
 

(Architecture) Conferences. Why Bother?

I used to thumb my nose at conferences, but this year something changed. I decided the island I've been living on felt a little too isolating; a little too small. And so, I thought brushing up against 26,000 other architects might be a good excuse to get out of my own head and see what everyone else in this profession was up to. I secured a press pass to attend the 2018 AIA (American Institute of Architects) national convention in New York City and I came away surprised by just how much I enjoyed it.

If you're an introvert - like me - it’s easy to avoid large groups of people, but even introverts need to network with others and to hear new ideas. I've learned time and again that whenever I'm able to step outside my comfort zone, great things happen and this experience didn't disappoint. I met viewers of this channel, students, interns, and architects from all around the world of all ages.

A few of the things I came away with:
+New ideas + inspiration
+Larger network of connections + contacts
+Deeper connection + appreciation of NYC
+Behind the scenes info. on buildings & systems
+Cutting-edge information via seminars + thought-leaders
+New product info.
+Some really amazing food
+Chance to meet & collaborate with IRL an amazing friend and mentor from down under.

Stick around to the end for details on how you can help shape the future of this channel and a chance at one of five, one-on-one chats with me, here's the link.

 

(Another) Day in the Life of an Architect vlog

In this installment of the vlog, look through a drawing set for a project under construction and learn how I approach and draw architectural details. I discuss one of the most common struggles of working alone, what happens when a project is delayed, how to create a balanced practice, and I share my thoughts on the innovative business plan presentations I reviewed as a juror for the architecture business plan competition.

Don't miss the view from my mid-day hike (!) and what I learned on the podcast I was listening to.

Learning to See (Like an Architect)

 

As architects, our job is to uncover what’s hidden...in a place, in our clients, in the materials we use. We're taught to make our discoveries visible and tangible. We're taught to give the silent a voice. To do this, we explore, analyze, consider, dissect, unearth and seek to understand the meaning of things which are often hiding in plain view. Finding a muse is one of the best tools I've discovered to teach the depth of research and skill required to become a more thoughtful designer. A muse will teach you how to truly see like an architect.

Learn more about mine here:

Why Do Architects Make Models?

Architects build scale models for many reasons: they're a form of three-dimensional sketching, they help us visualize how light will illuminate spaces, they help us analyze the best forms, spatial and material relationships. Even with so many digital tools that are faster, more accurate and easier to change architects still build physical models, why?  In part, because the act of making and manipulating things with your hands has been shown to produce more efficient, more creative, and insightful solutions to problems.

Learn more and watch as I build this tiny model in the video.

Architecture Photography Tips

Looking to improve your architectural photography? Learn the stylistic and technical fundamentals to help you take better photographs of architecture whether it's your own work, or someone else's. In this video I share with you some of the amateur mistakes I made when I was first starting out so you can avoid them in your work. 
Photography is an essential meta skill I think every creative needs in their toolkit, it teaches you about light, composition, texture, color and narrative and it will help you document your surroundings, your design projects and your travels in a more professional style.

Links to the gear I use:

DSLR CAMERA:
* Canon 6DMKII http://thirtybyforty.com/6dmkii
* Canon 80D: http://amzn.to/2fBWGMQ

LENSES: 
* Canon 24mm f2.8 Lens: http://amzn.to/29l7ac5
* Canon 40mm f2.8 Lens: http://amzn.to/29x2QcI
* Canon 10 - 18mm f4.5 - 5.6 IS Lens: http://amzn.to/2vyErvS
* Canon 24-70mm f2.8L Lens: http://amzn.to/2DMt0Y5
* Canon 16-35mm f4L IS Lens: https://amzn.to/2Emj9Ev

Day in the Life - An Architecture Vlog

Follow a typical day in the life of an architect. Part architecture vlog, part behind-the-scenes look at some of the tasks architects work on each day: from designing a set of elevations to managing projects in construction, to writing specifications, to managing an office, and how to deal with the inevitable creative blocks creatives face on a daily basis.

I intentionally structure my day to be divided between making in the morning and managing in the afternoons, with a mid-day transition break for exercise. Learn why this works for me and follow along as I work through some of the most common struggles an architect faces in daily professional practice.

For aspiring architects, architecture students, and those curious about exactly what it is that architects do each day.

Featured gear in this episode:

 

No Longer (Just) An Architect

An excerpt from a conversation I had with Maleick, a 22-year old architecture student from Baltimore. He’s preparing to graduate architecture school this spring, making plans, weighing his options and struggling with the anxiety of not knowing what’s next.

Twenty-two years ago, I stood where Maleick stands today, entering the profession with the same concerns, the same worries. And today - twenty-two years later - I’m no longer an architect. Yes, I have the degree and the license and buildings I’ve designed, but the profession I stepped into back then no longer exists. There are no more architects in the singular sense of the word. Today I’m a photographera graphic designer, a marketer, a filmmakera writer, a negotiator, an editor, a curator, and a creator. Professional practice is anything and everything we design it to be.

Approaching practice with a creator's mindset has allowed me to explore a spectrum of influences and interests and incorporate those into my work as an architect. In much the same way, my architectural training informs and colors my other creative pursuits.

The uncertainty remains though as a part of life. What do you think? Did I get it right?  What advice would you offer a soon-to-be graduate?

Happy New Year - 2018

After a brief break for the holidays, I'm excited welcome 2018 and get started on everything I have planned. With my design boards full of new work + new collaborations, and a renewed vision for the YouTube channel, I wanted to share one of my favorite videos from 2017 here on the blog. Cheers...!

5 Things Every ARCHITECT Needs (under $20)

Sharing (a few) of my favorite items from my everyday carry - all under $20 - that every architect (and student) needs as well as a philosophy on living a creative life. These tools are the raw materials for design, the inspiration comes from within, in this video I share how I refill my creative stores week after week; it's a reminder for architects, aspiring architects, and students alike.

5-things-blog.jpg
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Architectural Design Process : Form, Orientation and Sunlight

Learn how you can use the Sun to locate, orient, shape, and inspire the details for your architectural design. In this video, I walk you through the design process for a project whose form, orientation, and details were all developed by carefully analyzing the solar path on the building site.

Floor Plan Design Tutorial

In this design tutorial I'll show you how I develop and sketch floor plan ideas quickly. From diagram to rough sketch and on to more formalized plan layouts, you can follow along as I show you everything you need to draw a floor plan using one of our new residential projects as an example.
 

I discuss in detail: 
- why you should start with diagrams (and not floor plans)
- information you'll need before drawing
- tools I use and recommend
- tips for developing better ideas
- form, space, and order (of course)
- using grids
- scale
- and what I listen to when designing...