Ramen Girl and the Architect

Ramen

Ramen

Ramen Girl and the Architect #djawest

Recently,  I was interviewed by two women who had traveled far; while also daring a long, unfamiliar, narrow and winding canyon road and arriving under cover of darkness on a Montana mid-winters eve. Our nearly 2-1/2 hour conversation was unique; unique because 99% of the topic was about me rather than about project programming, budgeting, architectural styling and alike. What a rare opportunity in my profession…to be given the ears of others who wanted to learn something more about an architects mind, inspiration, the art of architecture and the importance of integrity, devotion and yes…even passion.

Our discussion was effortless as the pair presented many well thought out questions on a variety of topics; and I found myself eager to discuss every aspect of the inquiry. Towards the end of this exchange came the one query that totally caught me off guard; not that the question was complicated, nor even challenged my well informed understanding of a highly regulated profession…rather it was perhaps the most personal question I have ever been presented with.

The question was this….What is the one thing that an Architect must posses to be successful? I fell silent for a moment and carefully considered my reply; and within the first breath of my response, I felt as though my heart and soul was about to be revealed and exposed to the world. Immediately there was a rush of vulnerability and likely my final word on that which resides in the deepest part of who I am…perhaps my most profound truth. It would have been easy to deflect and talk about education, licensure or even my connection to art and love of place…but my new found friendship was pure and deserving of an honest and sincere response.

“Passion” was my reply…and to really understand the significance of this response, you need to understand what the word ‘passion’ means to me. I’ll explain….

In our culture and likely around the world, we sometimes wander without true purpose…expecting that things will just happen; even perhaps that our employer or a big company will take care of us for life. We go to school, receive our diplomas, put in our 10 to 12 hour a day…all in the absence of any true, unadulterated passion.

For example the movie Ramen Girl http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ramen_Girl is a simple metaphor about the deeper passion I speak of; emphasizing that even when all the right ingredients are plainly there and the steps have been followed precisely, the end result is still just bland soup. In a sentence, it’s about finding your passion and to pour all of it into your daily endeavor; imparting a soul the Japanese refer to as Tamashii.

In conclusion, if all else is equal…find an architect that demonstrates the ability to solve complex goals with passion; passion for you, passion for the land, passion for the profession…and in this journey or pursuit to perfection, you may, like me…discover something about your profession that is informed by the most intimate of places…your very own soul!

Interview: Big Sky Journal – Mountain Living and Architectural Design

Interview: Big Sky Journal - Mountain Living and Architectural Design

Headwaters Camp, Big Sky, Montana

INTERVIEW: BIG SKY JOURNAL – Mountain Living and Architectural Design

Q & A – Headwaters Camp

Q.) What were you trying to achieve architecturally when designing Headwaters Camp?

A.) First and foremost Owner satisfaction; understanding hopes and aspirations is very important and certainly a prerequisite to the creative response. No less significant is the location itself; it is imperative for me to feel the site on a very personal and emotional level before tasking on a solution; sights, smell, sound, texture, sun, wind, wildlife, vegetation, etc. all are allowed to be absorbed by the inner person. I develop a very personal relationship with place and location before allowing myself to move forward with a solution.

Architects Journal Entry – November 2008: “…Words cannot possibly begin to convey a feeling or emotion well enough to be shared or understood by others. How does one capture the sense of place, song, passage or remembrance that moves the heart or soul? Such things are often deeply personal and occur in a moment of silence; the kind of silence I had experienced while in the palm of…”(see Architects Journal Entry for the entire journal entry.)

Specifically, the strategy behind the Master Plan was to create an encampment. The kind we all remember as children when for two weeks during the summer we would bunk with new found friends, explore our surroundings and enjoy a unique mix of liberty and freedom. Distilled to the basics, Headwaters Camp is about a series of experiences, preserving sightlines, locating building envelopes and thinking about their relationship to each other. Within this context the crown jewel; a substantial series of ponds, streams, falls and wetlands help to unify the entire concept. Often times in rural Montana the outbuildings are seen or experienced before the dwelling; Headwaters Camp is no different. From the main road a romantic notion of place is gathered by an over-the-shoulder preview of horse pasture and a high mountain barn; finished with beautifully weathered, reclaimed materials of wood, timber and corrugated roofing.

A single point of parcel entry allows for opportunities to pause and stand silently in wonderment and curiosity as to what lies beyond. Transitional pieces such as a bridge help to create a sense of departure and arrival. Avoiding existing meadows, water ways and placement of access lanes to the inside of a forested edge helped to preserve the feeling of minimal intrusion upon the land. Mr. Thomson (Todd) was very specific about setting up a visual relationship from the future primary residence to the distant summit of Lone Mountain. In particular from the great room, the need to experience the pond in the foreground, oblique view of a cabin shimmering over the waters edge beyond, each embraced by Lone Mountain seen in all its glory along a distant horizon.

Q.) What were the owner’s requests and/or needs of the home?

A.) Todd and Melissa’s request was for an efficient Guest Cabin that contained the needed programming for serving the everyday necessities of life. The Cabins character was to be what is termed Parkitecture; or the more popular and contemporary definition known to many as Western/Rustic. Parkitecture by our definition is the exaggerated use of boulders and stone, large expressive tree trunks for columns, log beams, trussing and a mixed use of timbers. These elements of the structure appear to be emerging or growing from the earth itself. Mr. Thomson was very clear about capturing distant views deep within the space and that there be an iconic stairway leading to the upper level loft. At the end of the day, the resulting structure was the culmination of inspiration, place, program and a collaborative contribution made by Owner, Architect and Contractor alike.

Q.) How would you describe the home’s feel?

A.) Special, organic, original, well rooted and appropriate to place. The Cabin and the Barn for that matter, each convey strength, permanence and a sense of confidence amongst an overwhelming panorama of majestic mountains and weather extremes. If you reduce to words the definition of successful architecture you will discover three essential characteristics, they are: Expressive structure (experiencing working members, detailed connections, inside and out), site specificity (plugged into the site in a very specific manner), and a feeling of transparency (open air connections, large window openings, etc.). In comparing the Cabin to this measuring stick we hit a home run.

Q.) At only 1,800 square feet, what special challenges were encountered designing for that space?

A.) Actually the Cabin is defined by a 1377 sf foot print which excludes the loft and detached storage, mechanical space. This is a great question; to the average person the prevailing myth is….the smaller the project the easier it is to design, when in fact just the opposite is true. A small gem of a structure that succeeds at all the things that I’ve touched upon is very difficult to achieve. Thinking about how the structure would utilize a natural drop in elevation or a descending topography to waters edge was fun and a rare project opportunity. Our Structural (Bridger Engineers) and Civil (Allied Engineering) both from Bozeman, were a great asset during their respective phase of service.

Q.) How is designing a “green,” LEED-certified home different than a typical assignment for you?

A.) The big differences are in the control of the owner and contractor. Todd’s commitment to the process and the many requirements necessary to achieve LEED Platinum was extraordinary; certification would not have been possible without Mr. Thomson. The contractors sought good advice and direction from LEED consultants Kath Williams and Associates.  Again, certification would not have been possible without the contractors commitment to the process and execution of the many details and variables involved.

Aside from the previous mention, we as architects are always thinking about building orientation, adaptation to site, weather extremes, passive solar, code compliance and energy efficiency standards. Really what makes this project so special was the commitment on behalf of all the parties to push Headwaters Camp to the next level that currently has no equal.

Q.) Is this the first home you have designed to achieve LEED certification?

A.) Yes; however design or a particular vernacular is less critical to the achievement of a LEED Certification than say the efficiency of the building envelope and other systems supporting the use of the dwelling. Incidentally, I wish to acknowledge our consultant to the Geothermal Heating System/ Pond Loop, Major Geothermal located in Wheat Ridge, CO.

Q.) What trends have you noticed in people’s decisions to adopt a more “green” building sense?

A.) Green is red hot! Everywhere, in all walks of life there is a renewed excitement and determination to become good stewards of our remaining resources and to develop technologies for sustainable, renewable energy. We are poised as a nation to do great things; not only do we have the opportunity to deliver ourselves from a dwindling petroleum dependant system, but to also create new career paths and other related jobs currently needed to bolster our economy. We can provide opportunities for our country in a way not seen since the automobile was first massed produced in Detroit and believe it or not, it starts in our own back yard! It seems that at a time of our greatest desperation, great things are achieved. I have faith in our country, our technologies, our educational system and in our future. “Green” is beyond a trend, it’s here to stay, and if you are a business leader just beginning to think about green……you are already behind.

Q.) What is the outlook for new housing; is now a good time to build?

A.) Many experts have looked at every possible housing indicator you can imagine and the statistic that seems to be most relevant to business leaders is private, fixed, residential investment as a percent to the GDP. Reportedly the 60 year average is 4.8%. According to Home Depot CFO, Carol Tome, at the height of the homebuilding market, that number stood at 6.3%; at the end of the first quarter of 2009 the number equaled 2.7%; obviously indicating a huge contraction. Also according to Tome, when you compare 2.7% and 60 years of data it is logical to assume the worst is behind us. In conclusion she reminds us that the contraction could continue, however a serious decline as we have experienced should be over. (Fortune Magazine – August 2009; Renovating Home Depot; pg 46)

Bottom line, we are sharing with our clients who are poised to move in a soft market, to take advantage of pricing not seen in a decade. A home is an investment; investments are idealized when purchased low and sold high. It would appear that we have reached the bottom end of a declining economy, so now is the time to build.

Check out Dan Joseph Architects at: http://djawest.com/  #djawest

Interview: Pure West – Christie’s Great Estates

Interview: Pure West - Christie's Great Estates

INTERVIEW: Pure West – Christie’s Great Estates #djawest

Q. What brought you to the Bozeman area?

A. Montana State University, love of the outdoors and related recreational opportunities. I had created and operated a large competitive Bid-Build Commercial Construction practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan (200 plus employees at a high point), and after fine tuning the organization, the lack of an ongoing challenge gave me pause and time to reconsider my career path.

After a few family vacations to Montana, we decided to move to Whitefish in 1991. It was there when serving as an Owners Representative to a large school remodel/expansion project that I became eager to formally blend my construction experience and creative interest as an Architect. Not wanting to leave Montana, I became aware of Montana States well respected Architecture program and we quickly relocated to Bozeman in 1992.

We remained in Bozeman for approximately 10 years; life’s circumstance brought us back to Michigan for a period of time. Our love of all things Montanan has now brought us back full circle to our adopted home state.

Q. What is the approach to your craft?

A. My approach is to carefully balance the needs of budget, programming and the sensitivities of place or location. I like to share with my clients that Architecture is similar to music; in other words what would you like to hear or see? Let’s pick the vernacular and then talk about volume. For instance we may talk about “Mountain Rustic”, but as such there is not a one size fits all approach to this vocabulary. One client may be visualizing something that is close to say turn-of-the century (loud) and another may be thinking accents of rustic with perhaps more modern finishes (soft). It’s all in the range of how one prefers to feel or hear his or hers particular preference, vocabulary or song.

Continuing, in my opinion there are three things that define great design…they are: Site Specificity, a Sense of Transparency and Expression of Structure; like a three legged stool the absence of any one leg and the project won’t stand up to curb-side scrutiny.

Lastly, it is important to remember that Architecture is an expression of art rooted in technical competency. It is important for me to feel a sense of place, to be inspired by the context of location; often times it can be the subtle little things of place that speak the loudest. Think of it this way…a lot of people can play a piano, but how many can move you to tears. Technical competency alone will not add value or interest in a built solution.

Q. Can you discuss past projects and designs?

A. Michigan seems to support a straight line approach to need; in other words most design commissions available are about adaptive reuse, commercial, institutional and like work opportunities. This is not to say that a higher level of design is not valued, high design is appreciated in all walks of life. It’s just that the opportunity to focus on the Art of Architecture is rare in certain areas of our country. My love for the west actually resulted in our “Faithful” brand series or concepts.

It was kind of like this; I am a fly fisherman and like any good fly fishermen, we often times enjoy our sport more so for the process and place that we experience. Faithful began that way; as wanting to be faithful to a place and a remembrance, I began to doodle in my spare time. Those doodle’s or in the passion of place and art eventually found its way to some very capable people. I suspect they sensed something in me that that was sincere and genuine. Combined with a love of place, competency and the ability to administer their better interest, I have been extended some unique opportunities.

Most notably Headwaters Camp; which included Master Planning, Aquatic Development, infrastructure, Geothermal Pond Looping, Solar Arrays, Cabin(s), Horse Barn and a significant Primary Residence. The first of three Guest Cabins proposed has been honored at the highest level by the US Green Building Council; and a significant National Award utilizing a different set of criteria that will be announced publicly for this same project in March. As an obscure and fairly unknown, these recent recognitions are pretty exciting stuff. Incidentally we were measured and contrasted to a number of well known Architects for this special and unique project assignment; I am very humbled and appreciative to have been extended the opportunity we were given.

Headwaters Camp - Cabin 1

Yellowstone Club’s – Headwaters Camp by Dan Joseph Architects

Q. Tell us about Beaver Creek, Faithful and the Grizzly Ridge Lodge?

A. Beaver Creek Cabin started as a sketch rendering of a high end, High Mountain Cabin requested by Rustic Book author Ralph Kylloe. Since our publication in the Big Sky Journal, we have received inquires of interest for this Cabin from Southern California, Jackson Hole and Texas. It will be interesting to work on the Owner’s requested programming, remaining elevations and see where it ultimately ends up actually being constructed.

Schematic Design

Beaver Creek Ranch ~ Schematic Design by Dan Joseph Architects

The Faithful – Home came very close to being constructed in the Yellowstone Club; however instead we delivered a different look and much larger program, on a very unique ski-in, ski-out parcel. Our Faithful – Home continues to inspire others and has led to other project opportunities reflecting individual owner wants and desires.

Faithful - Home

Faithful ~ Private Residence by Dan Joseph Architects

The Faithful – Lodge is a franchise opportunity for a Rustic Structure of accommodating proportions and western character. There is a huge demand for destination places of substance and experience and our Faithful Lodge Franchise has the potential to become a Coast-to-Coast phenomena. To drive home this point, when you see people flocking to Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s to eat, meet and marry the demand is very transparent. Michigan with all of its shore lines, Great Lakes and Mackinaw Bridge takes a back seat to the number of visitors ascending in record numbers on a retail center that has now become the number one tourist attraction in the State. This retail outlet allows but a glimpse of a real Rustic–Western experience. Not everyone can travel to the Rocky Mountain West and our urban centers are begging for this built acknowledgement. Our Faithful Lodge is a reflection of interest and desire to position ourselves as a provider to a National demand for a quality destination facility. Presently we are organizing concepts for equity investment partnering.

Faithful Inns

Faithful Lodge by Dan Joseph Architects

Grizzly Ridge is a high-end custom home that was originally designed for a client that has since evolved into a second iteration of development and appearance. This particular client has made this first design response available to the public through our services. A one time purchase of completed plans is available and can be modified to suit ones particular taste and want. “Jason, thank you so much for including us in your Pure West website.”  Check out Dan Joseph Architects at http://www.djawest.com/

Grizzly Ridge

Grizzly Ridge ~ Private Residence by Dan Joseph Architects