Holiday Greetings

As the earth we inhabit reaches the end of an orbit around the sun, each of us will celebrate the dawn of another year on December 31, 2008.

May 2009 bring you and your loved ones new hope.


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Architects of Change

It's been almost a year and a half since I left Phoenix to live in Chicago, sometimes called the Windy City or "Chitown" to most locals. With the move came a lot of changes for me: from the seasons, time, lifestyle, and right through the environments. Change has also been the unifying vessel that propelled nearly half a million Chicagoans to flood the streets leading to Grant Park on Election Night last Tuesday, November 4, 2008 for the Democratic Rally.
(photography:Courtney Reagan)
Grant Park was the site of a monumental landmark in the landscape of political history which also happens to be a 10-minute walk from my place of residence. As people waited in uncertain anticipation, sitting, squatting, or standing on Chicago's public front yard for the election results, and wait for hometown boy (President-elect) Barack Obama explain his blueprint for change, I looked at my watch. It was only 10 in the evening, Central Time. What can I do to pass the time, I wondered.
(photography:Courtney Reagan)
My thoughts traveled from the grassroots of my architectural foundation to several milestones in the profession, and the resulting potential for paradigm shift in perspectives.

It Can Be Done

It was 1993, my junior year in architecture school. I had just secured a summer apprenticeship with a young architect of a design-build start-up in Makati City, Philippines. I cannot remember anymore how much I earned for my first wages, however what I do recall was that it made me realize how I would have to live on ramen noodles for survival, had it not been that I lived with my parents throughout my college life. After finishing my fifth year in undergrad, I had a dream, a vision, if you will: I would go to architecture graduate school in Europe on a scholarship. My middle class background in a single-income military household did not lend itself to a life of luxury but more like a utilitarian way of life. I ended up going to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin for its 3-year Master of Architecture program earned through a learning-by-doing methodology. Taliesin East in Wisconsin and Taliesin West in Arizona became my residence for three years. Receiving an acceptance from this school was a miracle in itself, let alone finishing the program and graduating when my spending money was still coming from my parents' home country that was undergoing the Asian economic crisis triggered in 1997. The academic training was rigorous, the sacrifices bittersweet. In the end, I kept telling myself, it would be worth it. I could rise above the turbulent economy of my country and the plummeting finances of my family. Seeing the major milestones and breakthroughs that I experienced, I realized that "it can be done" and it was done.

Changed Immigrant

TV's NBC news announced the 44th President of the United States. This couldn't be the results, I told myself. It's only 10 o'clock in the evening, and besides he wouldn't be appearing in Grant Park until 11pm. The dawn of a new political era woke the spirits of the crowd. Suddenly, men, women, and children started cheering. Eloquent tears started cascading down the cheeks of prominent social figures like Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey---shattering the barriers of reserved decorum among strangers. An event as powerful as this provoked me to quiet reverie. I remembered a country I left nearly twelve years ago in pursuit of a borrowed dream, the architect's American Dream. This was a quintessential mantra of immigrant-architects submitting to the Pinoy diaspora. Can you blame them? More personally, can you blame us? In that country where the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer, what are the odds for an architect who does not hold any trump card of famous architect-parents or at the least influential connections in Philippine architecture? One way to gain an upper hand when there's nothing to hold on to is to put yourself in a place where everyone gets an equal opportunity to prove your worth. This is a familiar experience among immigrants in the US who left family and friends in exchange for perhaps a better life, more opportunities, or even merely a new environment. After living away from your home country for such a long time, you unconsciously embark on a way of life so different from your own. Sooner or later, you become an amalgamation of cultures that you're neither true Filipino nor true American. Depending on how you adopt cultural influences, you cannot deny that you are a changed immigrant. Out of all my favorite architects, I look to Frank Gehry as an epitome of a changed immigrant architect. He was born and raised in Canada and migrated to the US. I wondered if he would have become the Pritzker prize-winning architect that he is today had he stayed where he was. Nonetheless, that opportunity was available for him to grasp when he stationed himself in circumstances that would allow that to happen. America, as it turned out, allowed things to be possible for me.

Change Is Here

Architects have an equal responsibility of becoming agents of change. The climate is rapidly changing which will have severe ramifications if we continue to build with total disregard to sustainability. The buzz word these days is "green". How green are we really? It appears that some have adopted this green concept as a brand, creating an image of supporting the environment while their lifestyles reflect a large carbon footprint. Or to the Filipino architect who whines every time a big project in the Philippines goes to a foreign firm, instead of griping, why not be the revolutionary change that clients are looking for. While the global economy is confronted by difficulty, we can subdue it by continuing to believe that our strength lies on the magnitude of our fortitude, influenced by our attitude towards change, while giving gratitude to those who make change happen.

I was lost in a daydream about architecture and was abruptly interrupted by the crowd breaking in pandemonium as the next First Family was announced on stage. Out came the next President of the United States Barack Obama with daughter on one hand while waving to a sea of exuberant supporters on the other hand. "...Tonight", he said, "...change has come"... In my mind, he is an architect of change.
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Danish Delight


As I looked outside the cabin window to my right, I saw a huge sign in Arial font that read "Kobenhavn" and then to its right "Copenhagen". Immediately the captain announced "Welcome to Copenhagen".

A friend once told me that I should go to Denmark because the lifestyle there centers around good design. As I walked out of the gate from Terminal 3 of the Copenhagen airport, I noticed similarities of signage/wayfinding, objects, and machines with those of another favorite place, Holland. I followed the signs that led to the Metro that would take me to downtown Copenhagen. I approached a machine that looked like a vendor for tickets. Great, this is all too easy, I told myself. Except for one thing, when I started reading the text, they were in Danish! I couldn't figure out how much to buy nor which to buy let alone remember the names of the places that looked like words with only consonants and no vowels. After figuring out how the ticket was dispensed out of the foreign machine, I rode the first train I saw that headed in the direction of downtown. I slumped my tired body on the cushy seats of the train and parked my luggage right next to my seat. Again, I looked out the window admiring the new experience of the scenery and the place.

In the middle of my eye-candy and eye-opening experience with all the buildings that flashed before my eyes as I gazed out the window, a Danish man in uniform approached me "Tickets please". I showed him my ticket. "Where are you heading?" he asked. "To downtown Copenhagen" I replied. "Well, this train is on its way to Sweden." Immediately I had to scramble for my Iphone to find my global position via Mapquest. I turned on my phone and wham! I had no signal. The ticket master graciously gave me instructions on how to go back and find my way to downtown.

I'm amazed that it didn't bother me at all to be lost in another country, without a map on hand, and nothing but a friendly smile to give the Danes and hoped that in return, they will point me in the right direction heading to downtown. I took this opportunity to discover areas in Denmark that I would not have otherwise trailed upon. The first structure I took a photo of was this all-glass train ticket station that functioned as a waiting shed too. Again another well designed structure in design-sensitive Denmark.

Out of all the well-designed environments and ubiquitous modern objects, including well-dressed Danes that I encountered, there are three that made a deep impression on my right-brained psyche. One was a new art bar in the trendy meat-packing district of Vesterbro. The second are the contributions in the built environment by architect Arne Jacobsen, and lastly the Zaha Hadid museum. 

Art Bar

One of the things striking about Copenhagen, or Denmark in general is its strong celebration of good design. I went to an interesting art bar called Karriere in the district of Vesterbro to meet my friend for breakfast. Vesterbro was Denmark's answer to New York's Soho or even Chelsea. The area is zoned as a meat packing district much like Chelsea, the only difference is that in Vesterbro, parts of it are still functioning that way.  In between butcher halls, Karriere emerged, as conceptualized by its owners who are artists. As I entered the restaurant, a unique graphic abstraction of the world map rendered on a black wall caught my attention from across the room. I looked at the image from up close and the composition of the whole was made up of white lines that were translucent allowing the dynamic contrast of its black field color. My friend explained to me that the map is illuminated from behind and as the light moves from side to side, its movement is synchronized with the tempo of the movement of light across the earth as the sun hits it. In short, the areas shown in light from the map, represent parts of the globe that were experiencing day time.  Parts of the map that were not illuminated were experiencing night at that point in time. I chose a table next to this engaging map and when I finally settled on a seat, I noticed that the table itself was an art-object. It was oddly shaped, not your regular square, but rather resembled a skewed square made out of sheet metal. Next, it was time to place an order. I quickly learned that Danish cuisine is a bread-based culture, mostly topped with some sort of cold cuts. They are known for their open-faced sandwiches, which can be an art form in itself given the mixture of textures and colors of whatever topping one fancies. However, I still believe that the Japanese by way of their sushi and sashimi have perfected the art of food presentation. Still nothing compares. However, everything about this place is evoking modern design. As I darted my eyes from the north wall to the south wall to the east wall to the west wall, I saw that each object in the place was an art object, disguised as elements for a restaurant/bar. Of course I was describing the place during breakfast time. Come dinner time, the place is transformed into a bustling club scene. Tables with their edgy cuts are nowhere to be seen, instead the whole place has become a dance floor. "Check out the restrooms", my friend nudged me. I went to see what the fuss was about. The material finishes were not extravagant, in fact, the wall treatment was just paint...with a twist. The paint roller was used to create an artsy pattern on the wall almost resembling a scenario where a kid was given a paint roller and allowed to break loose to paint on the wall. The finished product made it even more unique. It is these small artistic gestures that led me to conclude that good design can be had even with the simplest of materials or tools. Creativity goes beyond medium, if you let your imagination run wild. Design can be celebrated everyday, and lived as a lifestyle.

Arne Jacobsen

He was Denmark's leading architect who went beyond the borders of stereotypical architecture, and explored furniture, ceramics, interior, and textile designs. In a way he reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright because he too designed various things, not just buildings. We visited a lot of Arne Jacobsen's buildings during the trip that included the SAS Hotel, The Danish Bank, and his personal residence. The most interesting for me though was the visit to the Republic of Fritz Hansen where we witnessed the production of the Series 7 chair, one of my favorites. It is only but natural for me to own one. This ubiquitous chair is an everyday element at most cafes and restaurants. Its production starts with good quality paper thin sheets of wood that are glued in layers. Then it goes through a moulding process where it is bent to form its sexy contours. Then it goes through a trimming process to cut off excess edges and give it a smooth finish. The metal legs are then attached and the finished product goes through a polishing process as a final touch. I've had this chair for five years now and I can say it was a wise investment on my part. It has survived three serious moves that included a coast-to-coast relocation. This is truly a quality furniture that could probably last a lifetime.

Art Museum Extension

The third experience of Denmark that is of interest to me is the Ordrupgaard Museum Extension by Zaha Hadid. Although I would say how we got to the museum is even more amusing. After touring around Arne Jacobsen's residence, apparently we were supposed to walk over to the Zaha Hadid-designed museum which is within walking distance. Ordrupgaard was an insurance magnate who owned a vast collection of art that he had to build a museum for it within the confines of his residential estate. Imagine that. That is why when our tour guide told us we will be walking from Arne Jacobsen's residence to the museum, I thought why would one place a museum in a residential-zoned area? That explains why. So we walk through a path that literally looks like a forest in the middle of nowhere. Even our guide was puzzled where it was. As we meandered along unknown an unfamiliar dirtroad, we had to stop a couple of times to ask for directions to get there. The walk was worth it. I was not too impressed with the collection though, but was more impressed with the curvilinear forms at the cafe section of the museum. Hadid's use of materials which was mostly concrete and glass reminded me of the work of architect Antoine Predock, only in terms of materiality and not necessarily in terms of the forms because they both are obviously at the extremes of expression in this regard. Hers is softer and curvier, his is more angled and sharper. Overall her design of this space is organic---coming out of the elements of the landscape. The building could easily pass for being "peeled out" of the contours of the landscape.


From the airport, to the bar, to the buildings, to the museum, Denmark celebrates design culture at its very core. This is architecture meeting life. This is design applied as a lifestyle.


See the photographs I took of Denmark trip:

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House Wars: Attack of the Cookie-Cutters


In the world of Architecture, there has been a constant tension existing in the built environment between sustainability and capitalism. I\'d like to focus on one building typology which is a fundamental structure, the house. This tension, I would call, \"House Wars: Attack of the Cookie-Cutters\". I\'m even compelled to spoof a logo for it:

From the movie Star Wars, in the planet of Kamino, a secret clone was being developed for the Republic.

From across residential planned communities, there is a parallel development being done to the built environment, the cookie-cutter house:

Cookie-cutter houses are also known as tract houses. These are houses built identically to create a community, much like the clones. It is a \"clone trooper army\" of the built environment. It gives a sterile character to the neighborhoods, that is, if one can still distinguish between neighborhoods. In these types of communities, there is not much room for celebrating one\'s individuality. In a way, it takes away the spirit of the environment, losing a sense of place.

In the early 1930\'s, Frank Lloyd Wright conceptualized a suburban development called Broadacre City. (I studied this development theory in-depth when I was living at Taliesin West.) In his community planning manifesto coupled with a socio-political scheme, \"each US family would be given one acre plot of land from the Federal lands reserves.\" Each house will be designed by him. When I did my research on the plans/drawings for Broadacre City, I was amazed by his forward-thinking concepts. Even the designs for the cars that he drew back in the 1930s looked like something that came out of a Star Wars movie!

Although the Broadacre City model is one that celebrates the individuaity of the family and respects the character of the house, there are some lessons to be learned about its ideology. This development model is about sprawl. It embraces the automobile as a necessary part of the house\'s existence. There is limited regard for communal or public transportation. In a way, I see this development model as segregation. On the other hand, it deeply respects the privacy within the house and around its environs.

One of the better housing developments of today, is the Houses of Sagaponac in New York, specifically in the Hamptons in Long Island. It is a housing solution that allows the community to express individuality. This one allows us to think and correlate it with great architecture, as opposed to the McMansions that are ubiquitous in housing developments. It is like a living and thriving architecture gallery/laboratory, that is so similar in concept as the Taliesins.


It features 34 houses designed by internationally recognized architects, in a subdivision development. It totally shatters the notion of \"cloning houses\" or the cookie-cutter concept. It introduces a new kind of force that hopefully sheds light and meaning to its residents, casual observers, and guests.

So as you wage through this tension of house wars, may the force be with you...

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The Lifestyle of an Architect

I've been blogging for almost two years now about how architecture and design affects the lives of people. Yet so few truly understand what goes on in the lives of these design creators. I speak solely on the basis of experience as my lifestyle manifests the ups and downs, including joys of being an architect. I am truly passionate about what I do and I believe in what I do. Architecture is a way of life, an attitude towards appreciating art and culture.

Let's begin by identifying trade marks of the quirky things architects do when subjected to a new environment. You may have architect-friends of your own. Observe one common gesture that these aesthetically-enlightened individuals do upon entering a space---they look up at the ceiling. They observe the light fixtures, the contours, the finish-treatments, and the colors.

A friend recently took me to a Poetry Slam at The Green Mill in Uptown Chicago one Sunday evening. I can't help but notice issues about adjacency at the stage. It was bothering to see that the restrooms are located next to the stage----when all eyes and ears of the audience are directed in the same line of sight for the restroom and that of the performance venue.

I immediately told my drink-companion (To my friend: If you're reading this, you didn't think I was serious about blogging this, huh?) that I will have to blog about this. The two rectangular doors at the right side of the image above are the entrance doors to the Ladies and Men's restrooms. I couldn't believe that the designer of this former Al-Capone-speakeasy from the Prohibition era missed an essential element of design---adjacency. Or was this the intent so as to attract mobster patrons?

Another common trait among architects is the so-called "long hours". These professionals are notorious for working late nights and sometimes even pulling all-nighters. We had our very own architecture schools/studio as training ground in this department. Notice how some of your architect-friends pull one of those "disappearing acts" on you when it comes to social calendars. You'd consider yourself lucky if you actually see these nocturnal artists four weekends in a row! It's just the nature of the beast.

Sometimes this work ethic is misunderstood as "becoming a slave to work" instead of using work in order to live. But what if what you do for a living is what you are passionate about? Then the line is blurred between what is work and what you enjoy doing. The result is that work becomes "not work" anymore. I for one happen to love what I do. I've always dreamed of becoming an architect since first grade. Right now, I am living this dream. To deny me of my passion in architecture is like denying me my right to dream---and dream big.

Next characteristic is that architects love well-designed objects and spaces. I don't care if it's just a pen, a toothbrush, or a soap dispenser---I try to buy these objects based on their aesthetics. Furniture tops this list too. Last night as I was having dinner with friends at the N9NE Steakhouse in the West Loop, the unique stair railings made of flat metal caught my attention. One of the primary reasons why I wanted to check out this place was because of the photos I saw of its interiors including their "Ghost Bar", very modern, very stylish.



I was so focused on the well-designed bar stools, salad plates, bowls, and glasses that I almost missed how excellent the steak was. Culinary Art is yet another form of aesthetics that I have yet to explore on. I'm really not big on "eating" however I do love the presentation aspect of food.
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Design the World, Change the World

I've always danced to the beat of a different drummer, so my family and friends often told me. I somehow derive enormous energy from defying convention. Creative individuals have that secret longing to change the world, perhaps through design.

In one of my architectural adventures, I heard and saw this deafening reality while visiting the Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe.

This house was a result of an innovative client-architect pairing between Edith Farnsworth and Mies Van Der Rohe. Dr Farnsworth was a prominent Chicago-based kidney specialist in the 1940's---a time when it was unpopular for women to work, let alone have a successful career.

In the book "Women and the Making of the Modern House" by Alice T. Friendman, it chronicles the attitudes and lifestyles of architectural patrons who defy convention. What better way to build their houses than to engage architects who truly understand unconventional thinking while bringing to the project extreme talent and creativity?

In some way, shape or form, these type of clients like Edith Farnsworth, paved the way for innovation in residential and architectural thinking.

Without Ms. Hollyhock, Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic "Hollyhock House" in California would not have become a reality. I believe it takes an extra ordinary kind of client to be able to build extra ordinary buildings that would become a catalyst for changing the world.

I already know I want to dance to the beat of a different drummer. What are the odds of having the clients I work/will work with who are willing to dance to that beat with me? Each one, whether in architecture or in a different line of business has that lingering hope that one will find clients with whom everything just clicks...
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Seeing the Signs at MIT and Harvard

In a recent trip to Boston for the American Institute of Architects National Convention, I found myself meandering the Ivy League walls of Harvard University and the progressive inconsistent architectural stylings of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

I was greeted by a pleasant surprise when I saw this sign at MIT:

I followed a trail that led me to a narrow staircase to an even narrower hallway. Upon reaching the front door, the spaces suddenly open up with double doors and a friendly greeting from one of the staff.

I browsed a few maps as I did not carry a map with me when I left the hotel at Copley Place but rather relied on my free-spirited instincts to carry me through from one destination to the other. Keep in mind that this is my first time visiting Boston and that I did not know anybody there except my lunch companion who meandered his way to watch the Red Sox game at Fenway Park. The good news is that I did not get lost and safely found my way back to the hotel in time for a quick change of clothes for some heady conversation and nocturnal frolic in this intellectual town.

I digressed. When my short attention span was exhausted from browsing the maps, the architecture bookshelf collection caught my eye. I saw a sign---a sign I've seen before.

It was the HOME House Project, a book on the future of affordable housing by David Brown of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in North Carolina.

This book was special to me because more than five years ago, I collaborated with three talented guys on the project, MOD(Modular Oriented Design) House. Our design efforts resulted in our work being selected as a finalist and making it in publication on the HOME House Project book. The MOD House was also part of a traveling exhibit that was mounted on prestigious venues like the Frederick R. Weisman Museum in Minneapolis, Cleveland Institute of Art, and galleries in New York.

For more information on the HOME House Project Traveling Exhibition, visit:

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When Size Matters: Small is Smart

In the world of liveable spaces, does size really matter? After living in an urban sprawl for ten years, I have to admit, I miss the free-flowing movement that large open spaces allow. "Are we spoiled by too much space?" I asked myself. I currently live in a true urban environment where the ratio of occupant space to occupancy is tight. Every space in my home is utilized---there are no underutilized and neglected spaces.

Then I came across an interesting installation at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. They call it the Smart Home: Green + Wired by architect Michelle Kaufmann.


The house is a demonstration that liveable spaces are not defined by size. It is based on the five EcoPrinciples of smart design, eco materials, energy efficiency, water conservation, and healthy living.

Upon seeing the house from the outside, I thought to myself, the garage in this Smart Home is a good match for the Smart Car. Smart, in this context, means Swatch Mercedes Art. These cute cars are Mercedes Benz's answer to BMW's Mini Cooper.

These fun cars run at forty miles per gallon on premium gas. It parks in very small spaces in the big city. I've literally seen them being parked in London, sideways in a parallel parking spot.

It seems at first I'm having a "smart" idea---the merging of a Smart Home and the Smart Car, until this revelation had to be brought back to reality by flashbacks of images of the ubiquitous McMansions.


The Oxford dictionary defines McMansions (yes, this term is now an official word) as "A modern house built on a large and imposing scale, but regarded as ostentatious and lacking architectural integrity." In our architectural jargon, we call this the enlarged versions of the cookie-cutter homes. This is a product of the developer's business model that giving the buyer an affordable price and biggest size of house without sensitive regard to architectural elements and integrity of materials, will sell like hotcakes (I mean more like BigMacs). Apparently it is an attempt to make the image of an elitist lifestyle affordable to the masses. Some people are taking the bait. Quality of space and materials is sacrificed over quantity.

Thank God there are enlightened consumers who are able to see beyond the fluff of commercialized houses. In true smartness fashion, they would be the ideal "smart owners" for these types of Smart Homes and Smart Cars. As more and more people are becoming informed about sustainability, I am hopeful that more and more consumers will make the smart move.

Great things come in small packages.
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Cutting Corners: Mies is Wright

Corners in buildings convey the stability of a structure.

I have been fascinated by the way Mies Van Der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright articulated the corners of their buildings. Each has expressed corners in a way that they are celebrated as important elements to the composition.

Mies, in his SR Crown Hall building expressed his corners this way:

He used a couple of I-beams and their connections were expressively exposed at the corner.

Wright, pioneered an expression of the corner through the destruction of the box:

He used mitered glass, giving the perception of free-flowing structures.

Treatment of corners, how they are cut, give a radical dimension to buildings. Attention to detail in this regard convey similarities in thought processes between these two legendary architects of Chicago.
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The Makings of An Architect

As I celebrated my birthday this week, it made me reflect on how I came to be an architect. What were the influences in my life that lead the designs I create? Frank Lloyd Wright, as a child got his early exposure to volumes and spaces when his mother gave him the Froebel gifts. (http://www.froebelusa.com/theory.html)

Look at this chair that he designed for the Midway Gardens. You may wonder what kind of garden was it. Was it a manicured garden with Topiaries similar to the ones in the Palace of Versailles? Or was it a natural terrain resembling a Tropical Rain Forest? Well, interestingly this was actually a "beer garden" project.

If Froebel gifts were to Frank Lloyd Wright, then I would have to say that Lego Sets were to me.

And numerous hours of watching Voltes V:

I remember being able to sing the Japanese version of the theme song as a child, even though I did not understand what the words meant:
(courtesy of Youtube, please take credit)

So in retrospect, I wonder if these environments that I was subjected to had a subconscious influence on my Undergrad thesis project thirteen years ago. You be the judge:

(Bachelor of Science in Architecture Thesis Project. Circa 1995. University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines)
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LEEDing the Way to Sustainability

Moving to Chicago has offered me ways in which I can live a more sustainable lifestyle and in the process help reduce my carbon footprint. I do not have to drive everywhere I go. Don't get me wrong, I like to drive, in fact I was driving one of the most fun cars to have.

My AZ back plate reads "MODRNST"

The front plate reads "GOLFER"

What I didn't like is the urban sprawl where I was pre-Chicago that I had to drive even if I'm only going across the street within less than 1/8th of a mile. Chicago today is considered one of the greenest cities in the USA.

When I received my accreditation as a LEED(r) (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Professional, I examined how I am living and evaluated ways on how I can apply the knowledge on sustainability, its practices and principles to my lifestyle.

This is a continuation and a culmination of an earlier post...

While the LEED rating system is designed for high-performance buildings, I wil pattern my evaluation of my sustainable lifestyle in a similar fashion and see how I fare up with the rigor associated with this benchmark.

I've selected an appropriate site to live in---a developed urban environment, in fact, at the heart of the city---Chicago Loop. I live in an Art Deco skyscraper that was used as a backdrop for the 2004 Batman film. The area is dense enough to be able to actually meet people on the streets. On a typical Monday morning workday, the pedestrians fill the sidewalks hustling their way into buildings not any different than what you would see in Manhattan's Wall Street. There are other residential skyscrapers within a half mile from where I live including basic services at an equal distance. What I do enjoy about this is that I am only one hundred seventy-five steps away from the theatre, a favorite pasttime that used to take me all the way to Broadway in New York City just to see a show. Last night, I watched the musical The Phantom of the Opera. It was a relief to be able to leave home just fifteen minutes before curtain call and not having to stress out about traffic or parking since I literally walked to the theatre.
I digress...
Entrance to the Cadillac Palace Theatre

Tonight's Cast Listing

During intermission

The architect in me emerges whenever I am in a space and the most natural thing for me to do is look up and observe the unique tapestry of ideas celebrated in this domed ceiling...

As the players make their last bow

A well-deserved standing ovation

The skyscraper I call home has maximized its open space given an urban setting by providing a roof deck with vegetation. This strategy also helps in storm water management especially in an urban area where there is extensive impervious cover. The vegetated roof helps minimize runoff and controls its quality. Since the building has a stacked program, it has a smaller building footprint as compared to a suburban counterpart of equal density. The smaller footprint helps reduce imperviousness of the surrounding site. As a result, heat-island effects are minimized.

As far as water efficiency, the plumbing fixtures in my home are low-flow high-efficiency types. That's about what I can say since I have really no control over capturing rain water to use for flushing or irrigation in the building.

I can guarantee that the HVAC+R system in our building does not contain CFC (Chlorofluorocarbon) refrigerants. Therefore we do not contribute to Global Warming or Ozone depletion.

I am slowly eliminating the use of plastic bags, paper bags, and any other disposable bags for shopping. I try to bring my black canvass bag with the word "architecture" printed on it, whenever I go to the store. This European-style of shopping allows me to reuse bags. I first encountered this way of shopping when I went to Holland. I went to the grocery and bought some sizeable amount of stuff. When I checked out at the register, no one was bagging the stuff that I bought and there were no bags to put them in either. I had to pay extra for the bags---similar to what Ikea is doing these days. Luckily I had a backpack at that time and I forcibly tried to fit all the stuff that I bought in there. On the positive side, I would be minimizing the divertion of these plastic bags towards landfills by reusing a canvass bag. Some of the furniture I have contains recycled materials too and I try to purchase things that I need within the region I live in Chicago. One of the Arne Jacobsen chairs I have is made of Certified wood.

My unit has two operable windows that allow for natural/passive ventilation. Smoking is also prohibited inside the buildings. If there is a resident who smokes, they have a designated smoking area that is twenty-five feet away from the entrance and air intakes. Inside the unit, I have installed a carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide alarm system. I also bought a humidifier to counter balance the dryness of the air during the winter months. This way, the air inside is within the human comfort range in addition to being cleaner and healthier. I remember, before I moved in, I re-painted all the walls with accents of red and yellow. After completing the painting, I flushed out the place by natural and mechanical ventilation for a week. This helped release the paint fumes out of the condominium. The cabinets in the unit are made of composite wood and agrifiber with no added urea-formaldehyde. This way, it does not contribute to poor indoor environmental quality of the air. As for control of systems, there's pretty much light controls everywhere including remote control of every major gagdet I have that includes the mac mini, LCD projector that doubles as my main computer monitor and tv (Yes, I project the tv shows on my wall like a movie. I do the same for DVD movies.) and speakers plus subwoofer. There is extensive access to daylight in my place via the two operable windows, that I hardly switch the lights on during the day. The views from my window are marvelous as I have the Chicago skyline as a view.
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Producing Our Own TV Show

We will be starting off 2008 with a bang! This year, we will be producing a TV show that focuses on green architecture.

The green city of Chicago will serve as a blank canvass for the palette of shows to be aired in cable and the web. It is a creative collaboration of Jonathan Kloberdanz, Jahmai Ginden, and yours truly.

Allow me to introduce the producers:

Jonathan Kloberdanz

Jahmai Ginden

I will be hosting the series while directed by Independent filmmaker Jonathan Kloberdanz of Below Zero Digital, who recently filmed Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore at the Aspen Institute, in High Definition. Jahmai Ginden, one of the co-producers, recently had a tensile structure installation at the World Trade Center Manila during the UAP Convention last year that became an instant hit. The pilot episode is filmed on location at the architecture Mecca that is Chicago Loop.

We are also looking to form alliances with organizations or individuals in Asian countries to be part of the show. “The goal is to reach a wide audience, not just architects, as green building is also about leadership.” says Jahmai.

For those interested in being part of this forward-thinking and progressive show, please email: office@liraluis.com.
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