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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