12.08.2009

What Are You Thinking For 2010?

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The whole world is in discussion about global warming at an international conference in Copenhagen, Denmark: The 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) this month. One of the aims of this is to embark on a new climate change treaty. Debates arise due to the disparate economic situations between the rich and poor nations and the impact they create on carbon emissions.

Is the Philippines then, given its current economic condition accountable for the earth's global warming? In the past months, it experienced the extreme effects of climate change by way of flooding caused by typhoon Ketsana and Parma.

In 2007, I first presented a study I did about the potential for extreme flooding in the Philippines, based on information from Ed Mazria's Architecture 2030, during the United Architects of the Philippines 33rd National Convention. Now in 2009, it is as relevant today as it was 2 years ago when I delivered this keynote. I'd like to share an important point from that presentation. Here it goes:



This is the size of the Philippines in relation to the whole world:


It is almost the same size as the State of Arizona, USA.


If the size of the country is small compared to the rest of the world, then its carbon emissions couldn't impact that much as compared to other larger nations. Is this one of the reasons why the construction industry in the Philippines is plagued by irresponsible land development practices? The urge to imitate western cities was one of the planning solutions that would make the country look more developed than it actually is. Or its citizens are too busy praising and electing celebrities in important government positions and failing to make climate change a priority. Remaining vigilant about this issue has been stressed by fellow architect Felino "Jun" Palafox, Jr.




The Philippines is accountable because it shares the planet with the rest of the world.


Chris Leubkeman of Arup, during his presentation for Architecture 2030, pointed out that the increase in population over the course of the next decade will require a systems thinking of sustainable carbon-neutral urbanization for new cities being developed to maintain security.








This was a "projected" study I did about the possible effects of climate change specifically in the Philippines:




In Ed Mazria's presentation for Architecture 2030, he explained via a map how global warming and increase in sea levels would affect parts of Asia.


There was not much information about how climate change would affect the Philippines, however, I cared enough to take that information as point-of-departure and "speculate" this to happen to the Philippines, based on solid research. Bear in mind, I gave this presentation back in 2007. At that time, I had both skeptics and open-minds in the audience.


This was almost right-on-the-money during the recent floods in major cities of the Philippines.


In 2009 when Ketsana made landfall, Manila (where the World Trade Center--the venue of this keynote presentation during the 33rd UAP National Convention) was submerged in water, along with the cities of Marikina, Malabon, Muntinlupa, Quezon, Makati, the city of Manila, Pasay, Pasig, Antipolo, Taguig, Valenzuela and San Juan. Flooding also occured in nearby provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and other Southern Tagalog areas.


ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE PHILIPPINES YOU WILL INHERIT?

Something to think about as we approach a new year...

...

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11.22.2009

After The Disaster: 6 Things To Do Immediately Following A Flood

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(Taken from Restoration Industry Association)

The First 24 Hours is critical...

1. Get your family some place safe and secure.

2. Contact the Red Cross or your local chapter--they can supply temporary housing, clothing, food medications, etc.

3. Do not re-enter the building until declared safe by an emergency management official.

4. When able to enter the premises, remove valuables such as jewelry, medication (for replacement purposes only), clothing and important papers (e.g. birth certificates, marriage license, passports, credit cards, social security information, wills, insurance policies, driver's license, stocks & bonds, income tax records, mortgage papers & deeds). Do not remove food or cosmetics.

5. Secure the building to prevent further damage from weather or vandalism--e.g., screw plywood over windows, place tarps over open roof areas.

6. Shut off main water, gas, and electricity supplies.
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10.19.2009

Calm After The Storm: 3 Things To Check If Your House Was Flooded

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If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm. -Frank Lane

I woke up in the middle of the night to the drumming beat of torrential downpour, as I huddled in a red plush sleeping bag. That was my first night experience under a lightless/heatless canvass shelter during the monsoon season at Taliesin West in 1997. I was alone in the middle of the Sonoran desert of Arizona and I thought to myself "The world wouldn't care much if I lived or died at this moment".

As I watched the news unfold before my eyes about typhoon Ketsana and Parma, and the massive flooding that resulted, I wondered if those people who found themselves climbing to the top of their roofs, ever had the same thoughts I did back in my shelter in 1997.

The Philippines was recently devastated by these two strong cyclones hitting major cities that included Manila, Quezon City, and Marikina. It is a country of 7,100 islands with a land area about the same size as Arizona, USA. It is located north of the equator at approximately 14° 34' 51" Latitude and 120° 57' 15" Longitude. There are generally two seasonal climates, the dry season (from November to June) and the wet season (from July to October). It is during this wet season when the torrential rains and typhoons can be expected.

Rain is always expected in this tropical country. This time however, it was different. The volume of rainfall far exceeded what was considered normal. Nobody expected flooding to occur in this magnitude where nearly half a million people were displaced.

This story is more than just about world news for me. It is a personal story about friends losing their homes to natural calamity. It is about a high school classmate whose house was flooded to the rooftop. It is about a college friend who found his house flooded days after the storm has passed. It is about a former colleague getting stranded in flood waters more than six meters (approximately 20 feet) high.

For me as an architect, this is a call to action. That action is to share information on what one needs to do if you find yourself a victim of flood. Here are three major issues that need to be checked and addressed after a building or house has been subjected to prolonged periods of water submersion.

1. Ponding/ Standing water

Ground water poses a threat to foundations (structural) and below-ground spaces. While accumulation of water towards buildings can be accounted as a factor of design, the non-provision for diversion where surface water intercepts buildings is considered negligence on the part of the designer. The best thing to do after your house has been exposed to flood is to check the structural soundness of its foundations. While the common material used in building houses in the Philippines is cast-in-place concrete, some may have used concrete-hollow-blocks, or at worst, timber for some of its wooden structures.

Keep an eye out for any cracks on the floor slab and make sure that the waterproofing coat is still effective and not damaged.


2. Moisture

Moisture is a breeding ground for mold, bacteria, and fungi. If your house contains wooden structures, have a professional engineer check it's soundness. Observe if dry-rotting has occurred on the structural member's surfaces. I would recommend opening all doors and windows to let the house completely dry out. The presence of moisture in the air also affects the indoor air quality of the house that could later on lead to respiratory diseases for its inhabitants. Ventilating the interior space would be a highly recommended approach to keep the levels of moisture at a desirable level.


3. Runoff

The most serious effect of a concentrated flow of water is the possibility of pollution and contamination that can be in the form of organic, chemical, and radioactive. One lesson can be learned about the developmental effects of urbanization in areas of Marikina and Quezon City: These areas which were formerly low and marshy were filled in with housing development. The extensive grids of paved roads and sidewalks in these level developments caught and held water, resulting in the presence of standing water. The storm sewers reached beyond capacity, or in some areas, non-existent. Overloading of storm sewers is one of the major causes of flooding. These need to be incorporated in any building design: Designers need to begin to emphasize storm infiltration (also known as recharge of groundwater), rather than quick runoff. Other ideas include incorporation of porous pavement, vegetated green roofs that will retain water and slowly release it, and on-site infiltration of runoff.




The greatest risk to health, safety, and welfare of home owners after flooding has occurred is that they want to go back to their houses without knowing if it's safe to do so. It will be a long rebuilding process, and for some, starting over. The calm comes after the storm.


For more extensive tips and ideas about rebuilding the sustainable and organic way specifically structured for countries in the lower latitude, please listen to my audio book, Frankly Speaking: It's the Wright Way.

(Beginning in November, some proceeds in the sale of "Frankly Speaking: It's the Wright Way" will be used toward rebuilding efforts of communities affected by Typhoon Ketsana and Parma.)


...

Resources:

Frankly Speaking: It's the Wright Way by Lira Luis, 2006

Philippine Architecture During the Pre-Spanish and Spanish Periods by Norma I Alarcon, 1991

Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings by Benjamin Stein and John S Reynolds, 2000

...

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9.26.2009

Real Effects of Global Warming: An SOS

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If you thought Katrina was bad, see what Ketsana (Typhoon Ondoy) and recently, Parma, did.

Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, LA at the end of August 2005.

http://liraluis.blogspot.com/2009/03/make-it-wright.html

This year 2009 at the end of September, a strong typhoon Ketsana, locally named Ondoy, hit the Philippines on September 25. Then a week later, typhoon Parma hit Northern Luzon:



(photo by CZ Llave Plata)

This hits close to home, as these flooded streets which are more than six-feet high, were streets that I used to take either going to school or going to work. Below is a video of the road leading to my condominium in Alabang:



I've experienced a similar type of flooding in the 90's as an Undergrad architecture student at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.

Two years ago, I gave a Keynote presentation for the United Architects of the Philippines during it's 33rd National Convention at the World Trade Center-Manila, specifically targeting Climate Change and the Environment.

http://liraluis.blogspot.com/2007/05/what-it-takes-to-create-21st-century.html

http://liraluis.blogspot.com/2007/05/convention-and-unconventional.html

I shared with my fellow professionals in the built environment the effects of global warming. In Ed Mazria's 2010 Imperative and 2030 Challenge, he showed the global effects of Climate Change. (http://www.architecture2030.org/) One of the informative aspects that can be drawn from this was the map he showed of how, on a global scale, flooding can occur.

I used this as a point of departure to go further and investigate how the Philippines, will be affected by flooding caused by Climate Change and Global Warming. The results of the finding were that Manila could potentially be submerged in water, far greater than what it has experienced in previous years. It is slowly becoming a reality as the nation is now afflicted with flooding as a result of typhoon Ondoy.

Two years later, this happens to Manila:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/liraluis/sets/72157622334073381/

Global Warming affects everyone who lives in this planet. Just imagine the impact larger nations have in affecting change. The Philippines is a country that is about the size of Arizona (by acreage) when the islands are put together like one solid puzzle. What one does in one country affects another country across the globe.

Right now, the Philippines is in need of support for this catastrophic event. For those trying to help, I would suggest going directly to NGOs and other Non-profit organizations rather than directing your support to its government. This will ensure that it will reach those who are truly in need.

Beware of scam artists when considering sending donations.

Please follow me in Twitter for updates on where you can send your help.

@liraluis

Places to Donate Relief Goods in Philippines

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8.26.2009

Sustainable Urban Growth

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This year my home city celebrates the 100th year Anniversary of the Plan of Chicago, also known as the Burnham Plan. These two pavilions represent the audacity of this urban plan conceived by Daniel Burnham in 1909.

(photo by Lira Luis)


(photo by Lira Luis)
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7.01.2009

LEEDing Change Across the Globe

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This Nation's movers-and-shakers recently joined me in a roundtable discussion about the Philippine environment and the important role that architects play:

Amado DeJesus, FUAP (Philippine Inquirer Newspaper columnist and Green Architecture Movement Founder)

Felino "Jun" Palafox, FUAP (Palafox Assoc. and Save-The-Trees-In-Subic advocate)

Prosperidad Luis, FUAP (former National President of United Architects of the Philippines and Dean of University of the Philippines College of Architecture)

Carmelito "Cat" Tatlonghari, LEED AP (former USAID Climate Change Program Manager and Climate Change Thematic Specialist at United Nations)
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6.21.2009

A Design Tribute

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"I’m not an abstractionist. I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on."
-Mark Rothko



As I scrolled through my text messages on my phone this morning, I saw a message I sent to my father last year around this time. It was father's day and I sent him a greeting. Little did I know that it would be the last greeting of this nature that I would be sending him.

I can't help but choke up as everyone celebrates all fathers today because I just lost mine three weeks ago. As an architect/artist, the only way I can think of to express strong emotions is to design something. Here is a collaborative product between me and my youngest sister "A" who is an interior designer---an outlet for our emotions as designers, serving as tribute to our father. It is a candle and flower holder that will be fabricated and placed at the columbary.

" The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place; from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web."
-Pablo Picasso
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5.30.2009

My father, THE COLONEL

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Today I lost someone who is instrumental to me becoming "the First Filipino Protege at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin since 1932". A great and self-sacrificing man who gave this opportunity to me even when money was tight. Every project I design from this day until I can no longer design, I dedicate to my father, Colonel Ernesto H Luis (September 20, 1939 - May 30, 2009), who always believed in me. You have left this to the world as a legacy.

http://www.army.mil.ph/Army_Sites/INFANTRY%20DIVISIONS/arescom/comdrs.html

I love you and will miss you terribly.


Your "ANNA"

---

Our family wants to thank all of those who sent well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our family great comfort. My father was proud of his 5 children and left this world with the knowledge that he gave what he could to us. For that we are forever thankful. The wake is at the Loyola Memorial Chapel in Guadalupe, Makati, Philippines. Room D. (I will be in the Phils. this week till June 13.)
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5.09.2009

50th Anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum

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As a former Master of Architecture apprentice at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, I'd like to re-post a Press Release from the Taliesin Preservation Commission and Guggenheim Museum website in celebration of the iconic building's 50th anniversary with a retrospective opening on May 15, 2009:

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT FOUNDATION AND GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM CELEBRATE VISIONARY ARCHITECT WITH EXHIBITION TO MARK 50th ANNIVERSARY OF WRIGHT’S MOST ICONIC BUILDING
Exhibition: Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
Dates: May 15 – August 23, 2009
Preview: Thursday, May 14, 10AM - 12PM

(NEW YORK, NY – September 11, 2008) – Fifty years after the completion of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic work, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will celebrate the golden anniversary of its landmark building with the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward, on view from May 15 to August 23, 2009. The exhibition will examine Wright’s vision for harmonious living through inventive spatial constructions designed to stimulate social engagement and integration with the natural world. Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward is co-organized by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which owns and operates the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives, the primary source of loans to the exhibition, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Regarded as the most influential American architect of the 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) is best known for his ability to organically unite people, buildings, and nature. His innovative designs are continually referenced in contemporary architecture. Presenting over 50 of Wright’s projects, from privately commissioned homes to unrealized urban mega-structures, the exhibition examines Wright’s oeuvre as an “architecture of democracy” that constructs and encourages social interaction. Furthermore, the exhibition reveals the spirituality and idealism of Wright’s projects, conceived and constructed in harmony and balance with the natural world. This presentation of Wright’s visionary work, culminating with the Guggenheim’s famed rotunda, aims to inspire visitors to contemplate architecture as an extension of daily life.

The exhibition is curated by: Philip Allsopp, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation; Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives; Oskar Muñoz, assistant director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives; and Margo Stipe, curator and registrar of collections of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives; in collaboration with Thomas Krens, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward will be presented through a range of media including over 200 original drawings; newly commissioned and historic models; photography, including new, large-scale formats shot for the exhibition and catalogue; and related books, periodicals, correspondence, and ephemera. In addition, video and digital renderings will further acquaint contemporary audiences with Wright’s timeless ideals. Numerous works from the archives of both the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, including newly framed original drawings, will be on view to the public for the first time. An audio tour of the exhibition will incorporate architectural features of the Guggenheim, emphasizing the unique experience of Wright’s masterpiece in relation to his complete body of work.

Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward is organized as an overview of Wright’s work through the seven decades of his career, progressing up the museum’s spiral ramp and extending into its adjacent Tower galleries. Through extensive materials on view, the exhibition will highlight the extraordinary architecture of the Guggenheim and will focus on another eight of Wright’s projects that clearly addressed the quality of social engagement within various community structures: Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois (1905); Taliesin, Wright’s private home and studio, Spring Green, Wisconsin (1911-1925); Gordon Strong Automobile Objective, Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland (1925); S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc., Administration Building and Research Tower, Racine, Wisconsin (1936, 1944); Herbert Jacobs House, Madison, Wisconsin (1937); Crystal Heights, Washington, D.C. (1940); Pittsburgh Point Civic Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1947); and Plan for Greater Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq (1957).

Fifty years after Wright's death and the completion of the Guggenheim Museum, the cultural showpiece has just completed a comprehensive condition assessment and restoration in preparation for its 50th anniversary celebration in 2009. The Wright building has been declared a landmark by the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission (1990) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (2005). In 2007, the Landmarks Committee of the National Parks System Advisory Board--a body of historians, preservationists, historical architects, archaeologists--recommended to the Secretary of Interior that the Guggenheim be designated a National Historic Landmark. UNESCO World Heritage Center also is considering Wright's legacy: ten of the architect's most relevant buildings, including Taliesin and Taliesin West, his private home and studio in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the Guggenheim have recently been included on the United States' tentative World Heritage List, which identifies the most significant cultural and natural treasures worldwide.

Exhibition Tour
Following its presentation at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Frank Lloyd Wright will travel to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Catalogue
Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward will be accompanied by a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue. With forewords by Phil Allsopp and Thomas Krens, the catalogue will include essays by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer and Margo Stipe and Wright scholars Richard Cleary, Neil Levine, Mina Marefat, and Joseph Siry, exploring Wright's focus on sociability.

Education and Public Programs
A full roster of educational programs will be presented under the auspices of the Sackler Center for Arts Education during the run of the exhibition. For information contact the Box Office at 212-423-3587 or visit www.guggenheim.org/education.
Admission and Museum Hours: $18 adults, $15 students/seniors (65+), children under 12 free. Admission includes an audio guide. Saturday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. Closed Thursday. On Friday evenings, beginning at 5:45 p.m., the museum hosts Pay What You Wish. For general information, please call 212 423 3500, or visit www.guggenheim.org.

About the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is a leading global multi-disciplinary center for education, scholarship, debate and research committed to the place of architecture and the arts in enriching the quality and dignity of life. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s mission is to: educate and engage diverse audiences through programs that encourage innovative thinking about the relationships between architecture and design and the natural environment, and inspire a quest for beauty, balance and harmony in the creation of buildings and spaces that enrich daily life; and preserve the works, ideas and innovative spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright for the benefit of all generations. Wright established the Foundation, headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1940 to be the repository of his life’s work. The Foundation owns and operates: Taliesin in Spring Green, Wis., and Taliesin West in Scottsdale (Wright’s own homes and studios); the professionally accredited Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture; and the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives, widely regarded as the largest of its kind devoted to the works of a single artist worldwide. Both Taliesin and Taliesin West are National Historic Properties and are on the United States World Heritage Tentative List. More information about the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is at www.franklloydwright.org.

About the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Founded in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of art, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. Currently the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation owns and operates the Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue in New York and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection on the Grand Canal in Venice, and also provides programming and management for two other museums in Europe that bear its name: the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. In early 2013 the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a 452,000 square foot museum of modern and contemporary art designed by architect Frank Gehry, is scheduled to open.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION CONTACT:
Mary Gilbert, Public Relations Counsel to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Mark Lynch, Public Relations Counsel to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
A.L. Brourman Associates, Inc.
412-261-6344
Email: fund@brourman.com

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Betsy Ennis, Director, Media and Public Relations
Lauren Van Natten, Senior Publicist
212 423 3840
E-mail: pressoffice@guggenheim.org
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4.29.2009

What has the AIA done for me lately?

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Tomorrow will be the commencement of the 2009 AIA National Convention and will be culminating on Saturday, May 2, 2009. This year's host city is San Francisco.

With 80,000 full AIA members strong, the American Institute of Architects is probably one of the "leading professional membership associations for licensed architects, emerging professionals, as well as other allied professionals." It was established in 1857 in New York City "to promote the scientific and practical perfection of its members" and "elevate the standing of the profession".

Prior to getting my architect's license in the United States, I was already licensed as an architect in the Philippines. However, since I am a permanent resident of the United States, I felt compelled to get that coveted three letters after my name: "AIA".

AIA.

What's in a name anyway?

Some of my colleagues and I would have constant debates about the significance of having these three magical letters after our names. Why can't we just settle for being called simply an "architect", much like during Frank Lloyd Wright's time when he simply wrote "architect" after his name? Or perhaps approach the term with childlike astonishment the way Ted Mosby (from the tv show "How I Met Your Mother") does whenever he calls himself "architect". I have to explain that some of these colleagues are also part of my Taliesin family and we have learned that Frank Lloyd Wright himself was not a member of the AIA. There was that long struggle of "should I" or "should I not" be part of the organization.

So what has the AIA done for me lately? When I served as Board Director (Associates) for the Central Arizona Chapter of the AIA, I have learned that what you get from it, or any organization for that matter, is directly proportional to what you put in. If you have not invested time or talent in it, then yes, you may come away with less than what you expected for the membership you paid. As an architect, aside from the natural jolt I get whenever I sign my name with "AIA", in retrospect, it did open a lot of doors for me to grow professionally. Aside from the numerous Continuing Education, field trips, sponsored events and competitions, it has helped me foster relationships with other architects in the industry that I never thought possible. For the most part, it has helped me elevate my game up a notch.

There are numerous avenues on how to become a member of the American Institute of Architects.

Membership Categories:

Full Architect Member (AIA)
Individuals licensed to practice architecture in a U.S. state or territory.

Associate Member (Assoc. AIA)
Assoc. AIA is open to individuals who meet one of the following criteria:
*Recent graduate with a degree in architecture
*Currently enrolled in the Intern Development Program (IDP) and working toward licensure
*Currently work under the supervision of an architect or hold a degree in architecture
*Faculty member in a university program in architecture

International Associate Member (Int'l Assoc. AIA)
Individuals who have an architecture license or equivalent from a non-U.S. licensing authority.

Honorary Member (Hon. AIA)
A person of esteemed character who is not eligible for membership in the Institute but who has rendered distinguished service to the profession of architecture or to the arts and sciences allied therewith, may be admitted to Honorary Membership.

College of Fellows (with an "F" added to the acronym)

The College of Fellows, founded in 1952, is composed of members of the Institute who are elected to Fellowship by a jury of their peers.

Allied Individual Member
Individuals who do not hold a degree in architecture but share a special interest in the built environment as a professional colleague or enthusiast.

Cornerstone Partner
A special partnership is available for those companies that are either a building product manufacturer, service provider to architects, or trade association.






For those architects flying in all the way from the Philippines to attend this year's convention, I look forward to bumping into you during the convention.

I will be tweeting my way through the conference and you can follow along if you're a bit curious. My twitter handle (liraluis) is listed in the Official AIA Twitter Roll:

http://www.aia.org/practicing/AIAB079438
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3.22.2009

Make It Wright

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My undergrad school days at the University of Santo Tomas' College of Architecture were marked by memories of crossing waist-deep flooded streets of Espana Avenue while protecting my T-square and rolled-up drawings from getting wet. This flood-prone street has gained that reputation specially during the rainy season. It is amazing how the people living there have learned how to cope, survive, and still remained and chose to live in the area flood after flood after flood.

Across the Atlantic lies a similar flood-prone area. Nearly five years (circa 2005) since hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA), I was curious to see what development has taken place in the flood-devastated area.

"I wouldn't recommend you go there and walk by yourself" said the gentleman at the information counter of the Louis Armstrong Airport. "The Lower Ninth Ward is still pretty much an empty lot, with a few houses built by the Make It Right Foundation curated by Brad Pitt. There are no street signs yet up to this day. The best way to get there is by taking a cab."

I looked at my watch, in about an hour, one of my friends would be arriving at the airport and we would have a cultural experience of the south. I sent a text message telling my friend that I will be hanging out at the nearby terminal sports bar and would wait until her plane arrived so we could get to the hotel together. I took a seat and opened a map of downtown. As I mapped out where the Lower Ninth Ward was located (coming from the CBD where our hotel was), I acquainted myself on the housing project that was launched with a dramatic pink fabric resulting in a nickname called The Pink Project.

http://www.makeitrightnola.org/thePinkProject.php

This was a metaphor that conveyed a message to disaster victims in this area that "they have not been forgotten".

It was a mild morning at seventy degrees Fahrenheit. In true N'Awlins fashion, we satisfied our pangs of hunger with freshly baked beignet and Cafe Du Monde over ice.


We took a cab that would take us to the territory of the Lower Ninth Ward. This was what greeted us.(photo by Mika Kondo)




We drove a little further down and I saw a glimpse of developmental hope.
(photo by Mika Kondo)

(photo by LL)

(photo by LL)

(photo by LL)

(photo by LL)

I have to admit, my immediate reaction upon seeing these houses in a deserted land was, "oh cool modern houses". I knew little about the cultural heritage of the Lower Ninth Ward, or of New Orleans in general. What I knew a lot about was architecture and modernism. I know a modern structure when I see one. There was not much time to digest the visual candy of the houses in the Make It Right project, since I was coasting along the empty streets while trying to imagine what had happened that fateful night when hurricane Katrina hit causing a breach in the levee. It was difficult to fathom that the area where we were driving was once flooded with water to up about twenty feet. For someone like me who does not know how to swim, that is downright frightening. So just like any normal architect would do when confronted with a camera and some modern houses in sight, I started filming and taking photos. Later I would share these with my architectural community which is mostly populated with supporters of Frank Lloyd Wright's Organic Principles. I was amazed with varying reactions.

"This has no warm feeling, a sort of regurgitated shot-gun house with a bris soleil. Maybe keep the railing, though (on one of the houses). Mr. Wright would have likely took the sledgehammer in his own hands and knocked this thing down...if not him, a band of able armed apprentices." says Michael Hawker, Principal at Zoetic Architecture & Design (St. Louis, MO) and former Taliesin apprentice. He posed a thought-provoking question: "Other than solving the flood issue (being on a pilotis), do these lift the spirits of the inhabitants?"

I went back and researched the history of the houses and the original submissions since it was my understanding that these were from designs by local, regional, and international architects invited by Brad Pitt. Most were to my liking as my architectural inclination leans more towards the modernist. Michael's comment brought my reactions back to the ground while my thoughts journeyed into outer space. It made me remember a trip to the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands nearly five years ago. My Dutch friend and tour guide explained to me that while Amsterdam kept and preserved the heritage of its cultural past, Rotterdam was devastated and bombed completely during the war so this city had no other recourse but to rebuild. Rotterdam today, is filled with modern buildings that probably inspired publications like Super Dutch. The city has no bearing on what it was pre-war in the literal sense, in comparison to what Amsterdam has preserved both pre-war and post-war. These two cities when compared side-by-side define contrast. Coincidentally, these cities are located below sea-level similar to New Orleans.

Could the Lower Ninth Ward have a similar future potential? "Wow, what a contrast...It's just that they have a great opportunity down there to do something amazing and it would be a shame if they miss that" shared Jochen Walther from the Taliesin Fellows Board (Scottsdale, AZ).

It was great that this neglected part of the country was brought to our attention by Mr. Pitt when he curated the submissions. We have yet to see what this portion of New Orleans would eventual become after more houses will have been built and a new neighborhood culture emerges. But right now, it is still an empty canvass waiting for architects and builders to take part in painting the town with its potential future, that could make it more Organic, emulating the principles that Mr. Wright used in harmonizing building and landscape. In true Organic-Principle-fashion, just "Make it Wright."
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1.10.2009

New Year's Resolutions

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Every once in a while, I get comments in my blog and my thoughts on how architecture meets everyday life that are so enraged, to the point of tearing not just into the content of blog, but me, personally. These are the realities of voicing an opinion on your blog and surely opens up comment-heckling and attacks.

"Genuine hate, bigotry or prejudice is not something I want to provide a forum for."

I follow Jonathan Fields' golden rule which is worth sharing:

---start of article---
(from: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/03/09/how-to-deal-with-blog-hecklers/)

Here’s what I came up with as my golden rule…
Try to get to the underlying intent of the commenter.

If you find yourself or your ideas being attacked in a comment or even a post on someone else’s blog, it’s important to try to understand what the commenter is trying to accomplish by voicing her/his opinion. This will go a long way toward letting you figure out how best to respond, if at all:

The genuine thrasher.

Some people literally spend the better part of each day looking for a fight.
It makes them come alive. And, very often, with the added separation of the screen, people feel even freer to let loose online.

These folks often look to provoke a fight and seek an active response as fuel to escalate the fight. They’re less interested in a genuine conversation or debate and more interested in just venting, proving dominance and ranting.

A quick click over to their blog or search for comments they’ve left on other blogs will usually reveal this pattern on a broader level.

My advice, here, is to make a conscious choice, based on your temperament and what result you’d like to achieve. If you are someone who shies away from conflict, you may want to explore either ignoring the attack with reply or simply replying one time, responding only to any relevant point or arguments in a respectful way and leaving the conversation at that. If they feel to the need to escalate, just disengage.

If, however, you’ve got a bit more sass in your step and are someone who’s comfy with conflict, then go ahead and engage…BUT, take the higher ground, keep it civil and attack the issues, not the person. Yes, I know emotional fights and rants can drive traffic, but, in the end, the net result is not all that constructive.

The PR thrasher.

Similar to the above, but some folks will actually provoke a comment war in attempt to drive traffic or publicity to their own blog or website.

One big giveaway here would be to check out the heckler’s blog, then search on them, especially the link text they used in your comments and see if they are using this same tactic in other more highly-trafficked blogs.

If they consistently link back to a newer, less-trafficked blog when they leaves thrasher comments or have a pattern of leaving highly-provocative comments on other higher-traffic blogs, you’ve likely got a PR thrasher. My advice is to pretty much ignore them. The more engage, the more you give them what they want and more often they’ll return.

The debater.

Similar to the genuine thrasher, some people just love to debate and, if they disagree with your point of view, they want the opportunity to be heard and have a discussion on the merits.

The difference between debaters and thrashers is a genuine desire to discuss an issue with a stronger emphasis on intelligent conversation and, if possible, resolution. It’s not about the fight, it’s not about abusing or disempowering anyone…it’s about the conversation.

You can usually tell the difference between the debater and thrasher by the tone of their language, their focus more on the message, rather than the messenger, and their openness to a continuing, civil discussion. It’s not about name-calling or belittling, it’s about exploring issues with respect.

Debaters can be great contributors to the community as well as help you refine your own point of view and learn new information.

The Joker.

Some people look at your comment-section as their weekly comic relief and chime in with jokes about you or your content. And, I have to admit, sometimes, they can be really funny and a welcome addition (or distraction from) the discussion.

Other times, though, they don’t really add anything, save an opportunity to hurl a bit of smack at either a blogger or another commenter.

I look at these comments on a case-by-case basis and, though I rarely ever delete any comment, if something is so irrelevant to the discussion, off-color or offensive that I think it genuinely adds nothing or, worse, propagates hate, I’ll seriously consider going beyond ignoring it to deleting it. Genuine hate, bigotry or prejudice is not something I want to provide a forum for.

Trust in the community.

A final thought. Once your community grows large enough, very often, if you give them enough time, your supporters and fans will rally to your cause in the comments. In fact, they may even engage a blog-heckler, where you’d rather have just let a comment die a slow, unacknowledged death. At that point, you have to decide whether to step back and gently moderate or take a more active role in the direction of the conversation.

In the end, it’s important to circle back to one critical understanding…
Compelling blogging requires a willingness to have and share a voice.

When you do that, you not only draw attention, you inspire conversation. And, there will always be people willing to oppose your point of view in a effort to further their agendas. Sometimes, those agendas are constructive. Other times, not. When this happens, it helps to have a strategy to deal with how and when to respond.

Over time, my guess is we all develop a set of comment-heckler coping tools that allow us to keep sharing strong opinions. Without those tools, it’s just too easy to slip into fluff in an effort ot avoid having to deal with any conflict.

And, by all means, if you have found any other techniques effective, please share them, along with your thoughts, in the comments. Heckle away!

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The New Year's resolution is to inspire a dialogue in this blog...
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