The Rio Games

The city and state of Rio is a beautiful and intriguing place to be. The culture and lifestyle of Rio is unique to Brazil and everywhere else. There are common sense rules about how to live there, or survive there as a tourist, just as there are in other exotic cities and places. Rio has significant difficulties, but it would be unfair to malign it as a whole, just as it would be to look at Chicago only for its horrendous gun violence.

Nevertheless, as the NBC coverage of the Americans at the Olympics is about to end, and the USA’s mining of gold complete, it begs the question why the Olympics needed to be held there in the first place. The decline in Zika infections is probably the greatest post-Olympic benefit to Rio, because there does not seem to be any value that the Olympics have produced for Rio’s culture, economy, infrastructure, social equity, or world perception, and, certainly not for its architecture.

The International Olympic Committee, as well as their counterparts in nations around the world, perpetuates a thirst for hosting the Olympic games that etherizes away all economic common sense. In an inexplicable effort to do anything to get them, cities ignore what are their real needs to sustain and improve their urban environments. With few exceptions, the Olympics have done more to ruin host cities than to improve them.

If the Olympics are to perpetuate, they should be both economically and environmentally sustainable. Why not alternate holding the Olympics between two locations – Athens and Chamonix (the two original modern Olympic hosts, and in the case of Athens – its inventor)? All participating nations, and of course NBC, should share in building permanent facilities of great architecture, and maintaining them. It makes economic sense, environmental sense, and it would help thwart corruption, favoritism, and politics. For a change, it would be nice to focus on the sporting events of the Olympics.

Studio Playlist: May Day - Cuba!

Guajira Guantanamera              

Compay Segundo

Juana Bacallao                           

Juana Bacallao

Mambo No. 5                               

Pérez Prado 


Buena Vista Social Club

Chan Chan                                    

Compay Segundo

Quizas, Quizas (Bolero Cha)    

Ruben Gonzalez

Calzada del Cerro                       


Amor Verdandero                      

Afro Cuban All Stars

Rumba Caliente                          

Elio Revé y su Charangón

El Negro Esta Cocinando        

Los Van Van

Todo lo bonito (En Directo)   

Lazaro Valdés y Bamboleo

La Negra Tiene Tumbao        

Celia Cruz

Gozando En La Habana          

El Chacal, Charanga Habanera & David Calzado

No Vale la Pena                        

Issac Delgado

A Mis Abuelos                           

Arturo Sandoval


Danay Suárez

El Party (feat. Micha)             




Don't Unplug My Body           

Daymé Arocena

Mambo Break                          

Wichy de Vedado

Me Recordarás                        

Diana Fuentes

La Mulata Rumbera                

Roberto Carcasses

Alas Escarlatas                         

Yilian Canizares

Yemaya - Son Montuno                       

Roberto Fonseca


X Alfonso


In Memory of Peter L. Schaudt

On Sunday, July 19, we lost a visionary member of the landscape architecture field, Peter Lindsay Schaudt. He was an inspirational advocate of landscape architecture and created public spaces that exemplified his passionate and creative focus on the “art of design”. Peter added 17 acres of green space to Chicago’s lakefront, along with numerous outdoor plazas — his legacy will carry on through his work here in Chicago and around the world.


Second Tuesdays: The First Twenty-Six

We started a thing in our office this year called Second Tuesdays where two employees give a presentation on the second Tuesday of each month about what’s going on with the firm — what they want to cover and how they choose to do so is entirely their choice, with no prior review. The first one was last week, it became more of a history of the firm and turned out to be pretty funny as well. Click here to take a look at the video.

Studio Playlist: Valentines Day

The Look Of Love

Diana Krall

The Look Of Love


When Love Comes To Town

U2 & B.B. King

I Wanna Be Loved

Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Feel Like Makin' Love

Roberta Flack

Sexual Healing

Hot 8 Brass Band

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

Solomon Burke

Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe

Barry White

When I Fall In Love

Little Jimmy Scott

L-O-V-E (French Version)

Nat King Cole

Love And Affection

Joan Armatrading

The Ways Of Love

Neil Young

The Glory Of Love

Peggy Lee

Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)

Ella Fitzgerald

When A Woman Loves A Man

Ella Fitzgerald

A Case Of You

Joni Mitchell

It Must Be Love

Rickie Lee Jones

Ain't No Cure For Love

Leonard Cohen

Sattellite Of Love

Lou Reed

Crown Of Love

Arcade Fire

Love To See You

The Roches

Lover, You Should've Come Over

Jeff Buckley

The Trouble With Love Is

Kelly Clarkson


25 Years: Brininstool + Lynch Offices

Brininstool + Lynch first designed this 7,500-square foot, three-story building twelve years ago for a group of theoretical physicists. B + L removed the front of the 1920s brick-and-concrete building and replaced it with a beautifully detailed steel-and-glass façade, and completely renovated the interior. The building became available in late 2012, just as Brininstool + Lynch was looking for new office space, and the firm built out its studios on the top two floors. A soffit floats above the studio from one end of the building to the other, providing a concealed space for mechanical equipment and lighting. Millwork volumes separate workspaces from conference rooms, and translucent glass provides privacy where desired while still admitting light.

25 Years: Arup SoundLab

Arup enlisted Brininstool + Lynch to collaborate in designing an enclosure for their new SoundLab within their existing Chicago office, located in the historic Jewelers Building. The room was conceived as a glowing, living object in their space to project the importance of this growing market sector for Arup. We created an acoustical envelope from conventional framing, gypsum board, and a thick layer of fabric-wrapped sound absorbing panels on the interior. On the exterior of the room, translucent acrylic wall panels are set in gasketed aluminum channels and are backlit with a programmable LED fixture that can range in color across the RGB spectrum. The detail of this illuminated acrylic has made SoundLab the physical and conversational focal point of Arup’s Chicago practice.

25 Years: Wood House

Designing this Chicago residence was an exercise in creating a sense of privacy within an urban neighborhood, while providing an abundance of open, bright space. The first floor is defined by floor-to-ceiling views from the landscape in the front to the courtyard at back; from living room, to kitchen, to media room. The second floor has private rooms with northern and eastern light, appropriate for comfortable sleeping spaces. The third floor provides solitude for working and adjacent outdoor areas of repose that encompass views over the courtyard, the neighborhood, and to the city skyline. Together, they comprise a rational and inspiring response to the basic needs of living, sleeping, and working. The views, copper screens, connections to the exterior, and careful detailing create a serene and distinctive environment.

25 Years: Enova

Brininstool + Lynch used several creative strategies to divide the 18,000-square-foot floor plate of Enova's office into distinct and recognizable zones. The elevator and stair core is enclosed in bright blue acrylic sheets that are offset from the wall and backlit to create a glowing blue box that is visible from almost every vantage point on the floor. Private offices and audio/video conference rooms – enclosed in either translucent or transparent glass – surround the core on the east, west, and north sides, with two of those sides facing walls of windows. Brininstool + Lynch also created a 150-foot-long feature wall, constructed of custom formed recycled fiberboard panels set in an irregular, undulating pattern that creates a wave-like effect. The design of this office successfully weaves together function and aesthetics, exceeding the client's expectations and leaving a strong and positive impression on employees and visitors.

25 Years: Basecamp

Basecamp, a web based software company in Chicago, hinges on the philosophy “less is more” in both their software design approach and their business objectives. To design an effective yet minimalistic workspace, a rectangular volume of team rooms intended for project specific collaboration was inserted into an open plan. The volume is wrapped in a custom configuration of sound absorbing material: stacked industrial felt strips reminiscent of chalkboard erasers. The felt material frames large magnetic chalkboard and glass panels that are inset into the central volume. To provide contrast to the neutral grays and blacks and increase sound absorption, custom cork panels line the interior of the team rooms and a red carpet tile was designed for the floors. In response to their new 10,000 square foot loft workspace, the company’s founder says, “our own work is all about paying attention to the small stuff, and the design brings a thoughtful response to that.”

25 Years: Coffou Cottage

This cottage was designed with a simple structural system, a horizontal red cedar rain screen on the north, and a wall of operable glass on the south. The open plan of the kitchen, dining room, living area, and porch intensifies views to the meadow and woods to the south while also maximizing solar gain in the winter. Radiant heat in the ground concrete floor is enhanced by passive solar gain and runs throughout the three-bedroom cottage. A fireplace positioned in the front hallway divides the bedrooms from the living area, and a custom sofa bench set into the wall across from it creates a traditional fireplace inglenook.

25 Years: R+D 659

To best optimize views and sunlight, this mixed-use project consists of two residential slabs set against the street and the highway—the resultant corner identifies the building’s entry while also marking an entrance to Chicago from the highway. The inner, overlooking residences are developed with full height glass and projected balconies to heighten their experience, while street side residences have floating spandrels and inset terraces to mediate their exposure. Similar materials, forms, and detail are seen in both the interior and exterior architecture of this building.

Studio Playlist: Autumnal Anthems

Summer End


Ragged Wood

Fleet Foxes

Dog Days Are Over

Florence + The Machine

Leaves That Are Green

Simon & Garfunkel

Sun It Rises      

Fleet Foxes

Leaves In The River

Sea Wolf


The Helio Sequence

Landscape - Demo

Florence + The Machine

Changing Seasons

Sea Wolf

Colder Weather

Zac Brown Band

The Boxer

Mumford & Sons feat. Jerry Douglas & Paul Simon

Old Pine

Ben Howard

Down In The Valley

The Head And The Heart

The Cold, The Dark, & The Silence

Sea Wolf

Go Outside


Changing Of The Seasons

Two Door Cinema Club

Sometimes In The Fall





25 Years: Claremont House

Traditional materials of brick, concrete, limestone, steel, and zinc are used to form a non-traditional house on a lot on the north side of Chicago. The house further resists city conventions by uniting the front yard with the back through visual transparency, where sheets of glass more than ten feet high and fourteen feet wide terminate an open plan. A three-story volume of millwork separates the floors from the vertical circulation of the stairway and contains storage and equipment, neatly separating functional performance from open space.

25 Years: 550 St. Clair

Overlooking North Michigan Avenue, this multi-residential development contains a level of design detail typical of custom single family housing.  The forms, systems, and materials were selected to provide openness and privacy, flexibility of use, and functionality.  A translucent arcade leads to a wood entry vestibule and a lobby where glass, stone, and wood enclose a small garden and seating area.  The residential tower rises as a single eighteen story volume enclosed by window planes on the north, east, and south.  It is relieved at the corners by inset balconies delineated with translucent glazing.  

25 Years: Racine Art Museum

When we undertook the design of the Racine Art Museum, it was with a thorough understanding of the type of art that would occupy it, the environment required for the museum galleries, and the knowledge that our design would need to be a pivotal project in revitalizing a downtown community.  The design for the new museum redefines the existing structures with contemporary materials and a new spatial composition.  The facade is wrapped in translucent acrylic panels that are separated from the exterior surface—natural light subtly illuminates the surface of the building during the day, while lighting at the top of the facade causes the building to glow in the evening.  The iridescence of the acrylic panels by day and their lantern-like glow by night parallel the qualities of light and movement inside the museum. 

25 Years: Carus Residence

Positioned on a large, flat site in north central Illinois, this house evokes agricultural buildings historically built in the Midwest. The L-shaped house is oriented towards the perimeter of the lot, acting as a privacy screen by protecting views into the pool area and yard.  Visual and tactile elements interconnect, resolving each room's function in a way that gives the project an uncommon sensibility. Cement board panels and varied sizes and applications of redwood siding are wrapped over a steel frame to create the exterior skin.

Sign of the Times

I first read about the controversy of the sign to be placed on the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago back in February in Crain’s Chicago Business and didn’t think too much about it, other than how absolutely crazy the big tower sign issue was becoming. The seriousness of this issue didn’t occur to me until four days later when Joe Cahill, also of Crain’s Chicago Business, wrote an opinion piece in favor of the sign and defending Donald Trump. My first reaction to his commentary was to remember the words of the late New York Times architecture critic, Herbert Muschamp. 

We live in relativistic times. And architecture is a deeply subjective matter. One of its glories is that even stupid people get to have an opinion about it. Nowhere is it written, however, that architecture must appeal to the lowest common denominator of taste. Or that there’s no difference between an opinion and an informed opinion, educated and uneducated taste, a prejudice and an idea.

What particularly struck me about Mr. Cahill’s opinion piece is that he quoted marketing professor Tim Calkins of Northwestern University saying, “He really has built a brand that means something. It stands for quality and elegance and luxury.” OMG! He really said that? Dean Blount should have taken a line from Donald Trump and told Professor Calkins, “You’re fired.” 

Mr. Cahill himself went even further, “Nobody knows more about branding than Donald Trump. He has turned his name into one of the most recognized brands in the world, reaching far beyond traditional real estate development.” Of course, it wouldn’t take much research to discover that isn’t true. The Donald has made his money in real estate, pure and simple, regardless of his forays into entertainment and non-real estate businesses. Even as a real estate developer, he has made some serious business errors to the detriment of others (while not being personally affected) and has a meager track record compared to other New York real estate developers. And by no means is he the wealthiest of them, not to mention he didn’t even come close to making the cut in Crain’s New York Business’ “Most Connected New Yorkers.”

I realize that Mr. Cahill might consider purchasing a tie with a Trump label attached to it—perhaps he is wearing one now—but for the rest of the world this is not a popular luxury item nor a coveted one. Perhaps he was seduced by Professor Calkins pronouncement that by Donald Trump “putting his name on these really spectacular buildings like the Chicago tower and similar high-rises in other cities…a consumer who is impressed to see Trump on an opulent skyscraper is more likely to try a cologne with the same name.” Mmmm, I guess next time I’m at Walgreen’s I’ll have to look for Waste Management’s new line of men’s deodorant, or BP’s skin care products. It’s unfortunate, if not embarrassing to his institution that someone like Professor Calkins cannot distinguish between good and bad branding, or even correctly define it in regard to its specific place in the market, but I guess now we know where the real estate people get these crazy ideas. Maybe the professor should look to someone immensely more successful in both business and in building a luxury brand than the Donald, such as Giorgio Armani who famously said, “Elegance is not about being noticed, it’s about being remembered.”

Which brings me to the point of why I am writing this. Why is everyone so upset about this sign in Chicago? Why should Chicagoans care? Well, because it is Chicago, and like few other cities in the world, architecture is Chicago’s brand. Chicago is one of the few cities in the world where you can stop someone in the general populace and more than likely they can point to a significant building and identify it by name. Not because there is a huge sign on the building, but because architecture is part of the public realm, it’s important to the city, and Chicagoans are proud of the fact they know something about it. And it is not only Chicagoans who appreciate the city’s architectural legacy, but also half a million people annually who take organized architectural tours while visiting, spearheaded by groups like the Chicago Architecture Foundation—the largest organization of its kind in the world. 

I understand why Kohl’s, Mariano’s, Burger King, Office Depot, Mr. Beef and thousands of other businesses need signs on their buildings. They are companies that would never consider architecture or, specifically, the good design of a building as part of their business strategy or success—quite the opposite—and they require something to mark their spot, like a dog and a fence. Nevertheless, for scores of high-rise buildings in Chicago, it is architecture that speaks to the public about the businesses that occupy them, and there is a tangible benefit and prestige for those that do. Where architects have been involved in the planning of a building’s signage, rather than a real estate broker, there seems to be a noticeable difference in quality and affect. A few dissimilar examples come to mind and in different cities: the Apple Stores designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, take your pick of which location but I prefer the Lincoln Park Store; the Inland Steel Building in Chicago (my favorite) designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; The New York Times Building by Renzo Piano; and in Washington, D.C., where the architect Cass Gilbert not only designed the placement of the signage for the Supreme Court Building, he penned the now famous lexicon that is inscribed in the entablature above the front entry, ‘Equal Justice Under Law.’ 

When it was originally announced that Donald Trump was going to build a tower on the Chicago River, there was a shared gasp and a sense of angst that built up among Chicago architecture enthusiasts, but when it was completed, there was a collective sigh of relief from the same group. It was, in the end, an elegant tower designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and it fit well on the river. In fact, in spite of its little flaws, it became a new Chicago architectural icon and part of its brand. We have Mayor Daley and Adrian Smith to thank for that, more than the building’s developer. And for plastering a bad hairpiece on the side of the building and deteriorating the city’s brand, we have none other than Donald Trump to thank for that.


Studio Playlist: AFRICA!

Méchant Garçon

Diblo Dibala

Toujours Oui

Diblo Dibala

Be Africa

Bibi Tanga & The Selenites


Miriam Makeba


Miriam Makeba


Miriam Makeba

Gari Good

Segun Damisa & The Afro-Beat Crusaders


Segun Damisa & The Afro-Beat Crusaders


Segun Damisa & The Afro-Beat Crusaders

African Dialects           

Peter King

It’s a Vanity 

Gabo Brown & Orchestra

Se Na Min

El Rego et ses Commandos

Crazy Afrobeat

Tony Allen

Soul Makossa

Manu Dibango

Wicked Funk 

Kwanzaa Posse

Alu Jon Jonky Jon

Fela Kuti

Chop & Quench

Fela Kuti

Eko Ile

Fela Kuti

Je’nwi Temi

Fela Kuti


Olu Dara



25 Years: Yamamoto Residence

Located in the suburban perimeter of Indianapolis, the house offers a serene environment for the display of art and a comfortable place for entertaining. The sequence of entry, which is defined by a series of horizontal elements, both privatizes and delineates the approach to the house. Through setting the main living area of the house away from the street, the home is shielded from an area of typical suburban development and also reduces the impact of the design within this context. The intent is calm juxtaposition—not a radical statement.

The uniqueness of the design in suburban Indianapolis garnered Brininstool + Lynch a shelf full of awards, including two from the American Institute of Architects, and a host of publications, including a feature article in the second issue of Dwell magazine.

25 Years: Thompson House

A little over twenty years ago we completed the second to last of a number of projects that we worked on as both architect and contractor—the Thompson House.

It was the first project that received national and international press attention; it was also the first of a long line of projects for which we received both the Distinguished Building Award and the Interior Architecture Award from the American Institute of Architects, valuing the building design holistically. Interestingly, it received attention recently when it sold for five times what it originally cost to acquisition the land and build it.

Studio Playlist: Fat Tuesday

Goin' Back To New Orleans

Dr. John

Walking To New Orleans

Fats Domino


Professor Longhair

Iko Iko

The Dixie Cups

Go To The Mardi Gras

Professor Longhair

Hey Pocky A-Way

The Meters

Big Chief

Professor Longhair

Street Parade

Earl King

Tremé Mardi Gras 

Kermit Ruffins

Handa Wanda

Bo Dillis and the Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Indian Band

Second and Dryades 

Galactic & Big Chief Monk Boudreaux

All On A Mardi Gras Day 

The Wild Magnolias

Fire On The Bayou 

The Neville Brothers

Right Place Wrong Time

Dr. John

Carnival Day 

Dave Bartholomew

Throw Me Something, Mister 

Buckwheat Zydeco

Do Watcha Wanna

Rebirth Brass Band

La Danse de Mardi Gras 

Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys

When The Saints Go Marching In 

Pete Fountain

Jambalaya Strut 

Dr. Michael White


25 Years: Architecture Is a Lot Like Cooking Eggs

My favorite scene in the movie Big Night is the final one. Shot in a single five minute take, it contains almost no dialogue, only the sounds of a kitchen at breakfast. Secondo cooks eggs for his brother Primo and the waiter Cristiano after an almost endless night of preparing and serving one of the most amazing gourmet feasts ever represented in film. The scene is not only a visual record of how to cook eggs, but a testament to getting up in the morning and moving on to the next thing, to doing what you have to do.

Similarly, no matter what happens in a studio of architecture—no matter how many mistakes are made, how many projects are unrealized, or, inversely, how many successes are celebrated—you are right back at it the next morning with a routine of tasks. If you believe in it, there is no escaping it other than to leave it altogether.

When we were in a third floor loft on North May Street twenty-five years ago, there wasn't much there. The neighborhood was dark and empty after 5pm and the views to the skyline down the railroad tracks were expansive and uninterrupted. The wind rattled the single pane windows in winter and the jets from the Chicago Air and Water Show rattled them in the summer, given our location at their turnaround point.

Our desks were 4' by 8' sheets of MDF on metal legs topped with Borco and large parallel rules with Luxo drafting lamps mounted on the sides. Our side tables were hollow core doors on wood horses. Our conference room table was identical to our drafting tables and we had eight old banker's chairs arranged around it. Our office was the epitome of simplicity and frugality.

In 1989, CAD was still relatively new to architecture. Computers were huge (in size, not in speed or memory) and we used word processors. Almost no one used email and the Internet was a vast wasteland of informational opportunity. Cell phones looked and felt like small phone booths, there were no PDAs, digital photography was in its infancy and no one transferred files digitally. Our office technology consisted of a fax machine, a copier and an underutilized phone system; we tended to “drop things off” rather than use a messenger service.

We drafted by hand, used press type and sticky backs for schedules, titles and specifications, and hand-lettered notes on drawings. We used plastic lead on sheets of Mylar and some of us also used technical pens. The sounds of the office were the tearing of tracing paper, triangles and scales clacking against the edge of the rule, lead pointers grinding, electric erasers whirring, drafting brushes sweeping, eraser shields clinking on the desk and, of course, the sound of the parallel rule rolling up and down the sheet. A quiet background of classical music filled the room since there were no personal MP3 players. My favorite sound was that of a technical pen cutting into the Mylar, making an unmistakable etching sound as it crossed the surface—much like the sound of eggs hitting the pan at just the right moment, metaphorically speaking.

While the process within the studio is as vigorous as ever, the tactile sounds of architecture are mostly gone. What can be heard if you do not have earbuds in are the tapping of keyboards, a computer mouse dragging and the sound of printers in the background. Fortunately, there is still the tearing of trace and the sound of felt tips sketching; and the routine of showing up every morning and running through the tasks at hand is still here, as is the belief in doing good work.


Watch These Films: A Lovers' List


Michael Curtiz  


Brief Encounter  

David Lean  



Billy Wilder


An Affair to Remember 

Leo McCarey



Jean-Luc Goddard  


Splendor in the Grass

Elia Kazan


Jules et Jim

Francois Truffaut


Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?

Mike Nichols


Bonnie and Clyde

Arthur Penn


The Graduate

Mike Nichols


Woman Under the Influence

John Cassavetes



Woody Allen



Paul Mazursky


Paris, Texas

Wim Wenders


I Love You

Marco Ferreri


Betty Blue

Jean-Jacques Beineix


Wings of Desire 

Wim Wenders


The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Philip Kaufman


The English Patient

Anthony Minghella


Shakespeare in Love

John Madden


In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar-Wai


Pride & Prejudice

Joe Wright


Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell


Blue is the Warmest Color

Abdellatif Kechiche



25 Years: A Blog Series

2014 marks the 25th year of business for Brininstool + Lynch. Throughout the year we will be blogging about our firm’s experiences, projects, and challenges as a way to reflect on this milestone. Don’t worry – we’ll continue posting our Studio Playlists, Heard in the Elevator quotes, Watch This Film and Read This Book Now recommendations, and other blog subjects alongside this new feature, which will be subtitled 25 Years.


The Ice Storm

2013 came to a close in the city of Toronto with an ice storm and, as luck would have it, I was there. I arrived on Thursday, December 19, in town for a few meetings and an annual holiday party at my cousin’s house. Saturday morning I was booked to fly back to Chicago, but the day began with a series of flight delays that turned into cancellations that continued for the next four days, until I was finally able to board a plane the evening of the 24th.

Having grown up in Wisconsin and lived in Chicago for almost thirty years, I have experienced plenty of ice storms, including one in rural Quebec four years ago over Christmastime where power was lost for five days, and a small wood-burning stove kept everyone warm and melted snow for water. This storm was different.

This is what happens in an ice storm: it is the result of an ice formation process, influenced by general weather patterns. Ice accumulates when super-cooled rain freezes upon contact with surfaces, such as tree branches, that are at or below the freezing point. This generally occurs when a winter warm front passes through an area after the ground-level temperature reaches or falls below freezing. Accumulations of ice can increase the weight of a tree branch by 30 times or more, and branch failure occurs when loading from the weight of ice exceeds wood resistance. Strong winds substantially increase the potential for damage, particularly as the temperature drops.

A light rain began in Toronto late Thursday afternoon; it was not continual, but it didn’t completely stop until the following Tuesday. Temperatures hovered just above 32F during the day and a few degrees below freezing at night. By Sunday at noon, thousands of fallen trees and tens of thousands of broken branches filled the streets and yards of the city after the rain-turned-ice began snapping trees and branches in the early morning with magnificent force and the loud crackling of wood splintering. After an uproarious year of political folly, this storm gave a new meaning to ‘crack’ for Torontonians, but not the kind of international press coverage that was realized by their mayor the previous three months. In this circumstance, the mayor was firm in stating that the ice storm did not constitute an emergency - even though 300,000 people were without power that Sunday, two-thirds of which were not restored until late Tuesday. (And, at this writing, hundreds still remain without power.) Yet with financial losses in the tens of millions, if not the hundreds of millions of dollars, the mayor was, once again, steadfast in refusing help.

Toronto is the sister city of Chicago, both figuratively and literally. Their climates are the same. Their urban population is the same. They both are in the political-economic centers of their countries. They are both situated on beautiful lakefronts. Of course, there are pronounced differences. One has had a prodigious master plan for its lakefront and city center for more than a hundred years; the other still does not. One city identifies with the east coast, dresses in black, and is truly international; the other one dresses in Eddie Bauer and thinks it is (international). One city has a mayor whose appetite for alcohol and drugs is insatiable and who believes he is the boss; the other city’s mayor IS the boss.

The one absolute thing these two cites have in common is the people that inhabit them. They love their city, they know their city, they are self-critical, and they are interesting, intelligent, inquisitive, and warm. Sometimes it takes something like an ice storm to bring clarity to people’s character, and that is what I saw in Toronto. In spite of any faulty leadership, when the lights went out and people moved from their homes to friends, neighbors, relatives and hotels, there was no insurgence of crime, there was no looting, but there was collaboration, or as one dear friend said, the reliance on community. The holiday parties continued on dark streets with glowing fires and candlelight, generators to run the microphones and amplifiers, not the furnaces, and before the city crews could get out to remove the trees blocking the sidewalks and streets, neighbors were there to help each other first, laughing as they did, holding onto each other’s arms on the ice, and calling out to dodge the next falling limb.

One of my favorite things about Toronto is its topography - ravines that create a geographical space unique among large cities, like a web of wooded canals and rivers, where pathways of gravel surrounded by dense foliage replace water. At 2 a.m. a week ago Monday, I left the comfort of indoors and went outside to a disserted neighborhood. I walked along the ravines and through the streets to a symphony of percussion that was created by the movement of tree limbs, and I stared at the glistening of reflected light from the glazed canopy of trees. It was extraordinarily beautiful, but also very dangerous, and slowly the sounds of branches surrendering to the ice gave way to the memory of listening to the piano of Keith Jarrett the night before. Obviously, I was taken by the storm. My delayed return was not disastrous, but a wonderful gift in many ways. From the time the first guests arrived at my cousin’s party, to the sun appearing five days later, I was fortunate to experience the intimacy and warmth that you can only find on the edge of a potential crisis.

As the year comes to a close, the ice storm has reminded me of the fragility of our own conditions, but has also framed the beauty and optimism that exists with them. The residential streets and ravines of Toronto will not look the same in the spring, but trees and plants will grow again with time. It is more difficult to replace people and, fortunately, the ice storm didn’t take them away in Toronto - it just made them better.

In the world of architecture we lost a few people this year who lived very full and long lives, like Ada Louise Huxtable, Henning Larsen, and Paolo Soleri, but unfortunately we also lost some far too early, such as Allen Eskew. Allen was a true gentleman and an architect’s architect, and if there was a storm in your town, he was the person you would want leading your community to better things.

As David Brininstool and I embark on our 25th year together as a firm, we are keenly aware of the fragility of our world, yet we are perhaps more optimistic than ever about doing good work, creating new experiences, and working with wonderful people. 


Studio Playlist: Winter SOUL-stice

Soul Searching

Solomon Burke

People Get Ready

Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions

I’ll Take You There

The Staple Singers

Bring It On Home To Me

Sam Cooke

Sweet Soul Music  

Arthur Conley    

Soul Man       

Sam & Dave

I Got You

James Brown

Try a Little Tenderness

Otis Redding

Hold On! I’m Comin’

Sam & Dave


Junior Walker & The All Stars


Otis Redding

Cry to Me

Solomon Burke

Mercy Mercy Me

Marvin Gaye

Let’s Stay Together

Al Green

Whatcha See Is Watcha Get

The Dramatics

Let’s Groove

Earth, Wind & Fire

Dancing In the Street       

Martha Reeves

I Want You Back

Jackson 5

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Diana Ross, Jackson 5 & The Supremes

Studio Playlist: GOODBYE LOU









































Studio Playlist: Autumnal Equinox

Suddenly Last Summer

The Motels

Last Summer Days

Archer Prewitt

Indian Summer

The Doors


Earth, Wind & Fire

Wake Me Up When September Ends       

Green Day

Autumn Sweater            

Yo La Tengo


Paolo Nutini


Edgar Winter


Malcolm Middleton

Grand Theft Autumn

Fall Out Boy

Autumn Almanac


Autumn Shade

The Vines

Autumn Stone

Small Faces

Slippin’ Into Darkness



David Bowie

Waiting on the World to Change

John Mayer



Harvest Moon

Neil Young


Studio Playlist: Bastille Day

Hymne à la Victoire

Luigi Cherubini

Le 'Ça ira'

Edith Piaf


Django Reinhardt

Le tien

Stéphane Grappelli

Belleville Rendez-Vous           

Matthieu Chedid

La Vie En Rose            

Edith Piaf

C'est Si Bon

Eartha Kitt

L-O-V-E (Francais)

Nat “King” Cole

La mer

Charles Trenet

Ne me quitte pas

Jacques Brel

J'y suis jamais allé

Mercuzio Pianist

Les sucettes

Serge Gainsbourg

Ce Jeu


La belle et le bad boy

MC Solaar

Toujours Oui

Diblo Dibala


Independence Day: The First Laptop

In 1776 Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence on a portable lap desk of his own design. Featuring a hinged writing board and a locking drawer for papers, pens and inkwell, the desk was Jefferson's companion as a revolutionary patriot, American diplomat and President of the United States.

Jefferson was an architect, but he could also write:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Studio Playlist: Summer Solstice

Blister in the Sun

Violent Femmes

Hot! Hot! Hot!

The Cure

Light My Fire

The Doors

Rev It Up

Jerry Harrison

Little Red Corvette


Like That

Black Eyed Peas

Over and Over


Give It Away

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Super Bon Bon

Soul Coughing

Dance to the Music

Sly and the Family Stone

Dancing in the Streets

David Bowie and Mick Jagger

Papas Got a Brand New Bag

Jimmy Smith

Bang Bang

David Sanborn

In These Shoes?

Kirsty MacColl

On a Night Like This

Los Lobos

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Rolling Stones (Soulwax Remix)

Destiny Feat

John Talabot





Sugar Man



Studio Playlist: Arbor Day

Lemon Tree

Trini Lopez

Going Up the Country

Canned Heat

In My Tree        

Pearl Jam

Cedar Tree

Indigo Girls

Earth Anthem

The Turtles


Fleet Foxes

Box of Rain

Grateful Dead

Green River

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Don't Go Near the Water

Johnny Cash

(Nothing But) Flowers

Talking Heads

Nature Boy

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Mother Nature's Son

The Beatles

Black Sky

Sam Phillips

One Sweet World

Dave Matthews Band

Nature's Way


A Gallon of Gas

The Kinks

Big Yellow Taxi

Joni Mitchell

Doctor My Eyes

Jackson Browne

I'd Love to Change the World

Ten Years After

Waiting on the World to Change

John Mayer


Heard in the Elevator: Earth Day

"There is a great need, and growing support, for the introduction of new values in our society--where bigger is not necessarily better--where slower can be faster--and where less can be more."

Gaylord Nelson, United States Senator from Wisconsin and founder of Earth Day

St. Patrick's Day: Irish Writer

from Under Ben Bulben


Irish poets learn your trade

Sing whatever is well made,

Scorn the sort now growing up

All out of shape from toe to top,

Their unremembering hearts and heads

Base-born products of base beds.

Sing the peasantry, and then

Hard-riding country gentleman,

The holiness of monks, and after

Porter-drinkers’ randy laughter;

Sing the lords and ladies gay

That were beaten into the clay

Through seven heroic centuries;

Cast your mind on other days

That in coming days may be

Still the indomitable Irishry.

- William Butler Yeats

Studio Playlist: The Oscars

The Continental (1934)

Con Conrad and Herb Magidson (Ginger Rogers)

Over the Rainbow (1939)

Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg (Judy Garland)

The Last Time I Saw Paris (1941)          

Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein (Ann Sothern)

Baby Its Cold Outside (1948)

Frank Loesser (Ricardo Montalban, Esther Williams)

Mona Lisa (1950)

Ray Evans and Jay Livingston (Nat King Cole)

Gigi (1958)

Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Turner (Louis Jourdan)

Moon River (1961)

Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer (Audrey Hepburn)

Call Me Irresponsible (1964)

Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn (Jackie Gleason)

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (1969)

Hal David and Burt Bacharach (B.J. Thomas)

Theme from Shaft (1971)

Isaac Hayes

Last Dance (1978)

Paul Jabara (Donna Summer)

Fame (1980)

Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford (Irene Cara)

I Just Called to Say I Love You (1984)

Stevie Wonder

Streets of Philadelphia (1994)

Bruce Springsteen

You Must Love Me (1997)

Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice (Madonna)

Things Have Changed (2000)

Bob Dylan

Lose Yourself (2002)

Marshall Mathers, Luis Resto, Jeff Bass (Eminem)

I Need to Wake Up (2006)

Melissa Etheridge

Jai Ho (2008)

A.R. Rahman and Gulzar (Sukhvinder Singh, Mahalaxmi Iyer, Vijay Prakash)

We Belong Together (2010)

Randy Newman


Home for the Holidays

Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony, in what would later become part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving in the fall of 1621 after a winter of starvation and privation. Reportedly, all of the colonists and the neighboring Native Americans shared a feast that happened to include four wild turkeys. Almost one hundred and seventy years later, George Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1789. It was not until the middle of the civil war that Abraham Lincoln—upon the urging of feminist, editor, and writer, Sarah J. Hale—created the national holiday of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November beginning in 1863. In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt pushed to make the third Thursday in November the official holiday, but it was in 1941 that Congress passed a joint resolution to make the fourth Thursday in November the law.

Not to be outdone by the Americans, Canadians can trace their first Thanksgiving to Martin Frobisher holding a formal Thanksgiving ceremony in Newfoundland in 1578 to celebrate surviving his voyage searching for the Northwest Passage. However, it wasn’t until almost four hundred years later in 1957 that Canadian Thanksgiving was officially declared to be the second Monday in October—coincidently, the same year that Fernand Lachance came up with the idea of poutine: "Ca va te faire une maudite poutine."

Many decades before there were parades and football games and, in fact, before there was a Macy’s or a football, there were families traveling home for the holidays. Historically, families lived closer geographically, so perhaps it was an easier trek in distance, if not in convenience of transportation.

On the first official Thanksgiving Day, ninety percent of the United States population were farmers and during the Lincoln administration, fifty-eight percent were. At the end of World War I, twenty-seven percent of Americans were still farming, and the end of World War II, that number had decreased to fifteen percent. Today, farmers represent less than 2.5% of the American population; however, there are more acres under till than ever before producing more agricultural products per acre. What began in this country as a family-based agrarian culture is now predominately a large, industrial complex.

Going to grandmother’s house by sleigh in Louisa May Alcott's time was not just a romantic plot idea for the March family of Little Women fame. In the mid-nineteenth century, it was reality. The March’s were not a farming family but they were one generation removed and lived in a town that was more rural than urban. Other realities in New England at this time also meant close philosophical ties to a community of Transcendentalists, people like Emerson and Thoreau. Mr. March, like the real life Bronson Alcott on whom he is based, was one of these enlightened, forward-thinking people. It was later in the nineteenth century that these transcendentalist ideals strongly influenced designers in the Midwest, such as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, the latter also being one generation away from working the farm. In Little Women, the March sisters travel the globe—Jo goes to New York, while her sister Amy embarks on a European tour—but they always come back to the family home where their pride in the democratic ideals of independence and advancement through hard work is obvious.

Over the years, this agrarian heritage also gave families a sense of practical know-how. In learning how to construct and make things, repair and maintain them, they developed an ability to recognize quality, craftsmanship and lasting value, and established a criterion for evaluating aesthetic achievement. The further we get away from knowing how things work, and indeed, working with our hands, it seems the further we remove ourselves from appreciating craftsmanship and thoughtful endeavors in our built environment.

This year, though, I am thankful that someone still knows how to make good bourbon and author a good book.


We’re on a Mission from God

There have been plenty of movies made about Chicago, in Chicago, and around Chicago, but no feature film captures the visual and cultural essence of Chicago in 1980 better than The Blues Brothers. I was reminded of this the other night as my 17-year-old son and I watched it for the tenth time. The unimpeded view of iconic tall buildings across the cityscape made the best modern high-rises of Chicago easily recognizable (along with one in Milwaukee as seen from the bridge to nowhere in the famous car chase scene).

Thirty-two years ago Chez Paul was considered the finest restaurant in Chicago, crime was up, Jane Byrne was mayor and graft was a daily part of doing business with practically every city and county department. When John Landis, the director of The Blues Brothers, sought permission to shoot on Cook County property, he didn’t approach county officials; instead, he went to the mob. Like other American cities of a similar size, Chicago had yet to see the urban renaissance of young professionals forsaking the suburbs in droves for the urban experience, gentrifying neighborhoods that needed it as well as those that didn’t.

By the time John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, and Howlin’ Wolf had all passed, so too had Nate’s Deli, which was used as the location for the fictional Soul Café where Aretha Franklin belted out “Think” and where John Lee Hooker performed “Boom Boom” outside on Maxwell Street. In the following scene, Ray Charles performed “Shake a Tail Feather” at Ray’s Music Exchange, better known to Bronzeville residents as Shelley’s Loan and Jewelry on East 47th Street. James Brown performed at the Pilgrim Baptist Church on East 91st Street and the concert scene in Wisconsin at the Palace Hotel Ballroom with Cab Calloway was actually the South Shore Country Club in Chicago.

Today, Maxwell Street is there in name but a large percentage of the buildings have either been demolished or replaced. With few exceptions, where there were once thriving street markets, blues clubs and authentic soul food, there are now chain restaurants, sports bars and new condo developments. The bridges, roads and “L” trains that were so predominately depicted in the movie have been modernized by new train cars (and I miss the look of the old ones) and some very new stations, but not all are better.

The Chicago skyline has dramatically changed as well. The city has increased the number of tall buildings over 18 stories by tenfold in the last thirty-two years. Unfortunately, this hasn’t made it a more attractive skyline, just a bigger one. One must remember that the first skyscraper in Chicago (and thus the world) was only ten stories in height. Most buildings were only a few stories high and the vast majority of them, no matter when they were built, could not be considered good architecture—just urban infill and real estate. The difference is that this new litany of tall buildings that we see on the skyline detracts from the beauty of the skyline rather than improves it.

It’s not all bad. As the city changed so too did its politics, business investment, real estate, investment in education, and the perception of us as an urban society. There have been wonderful improvements made to the built environment in Chicago in the last three decades. To name just a few of the more thoughtful and meaningful building projects, we have seen countless preservation initiatives, sections of Millennium Park, the Gary Comer Youth Center, the Buckingham Fountain visitor pavilions and the tree planting of the boulevards and Lake Shore Drive. It is too bad the same skill and thoughtfulness was not instilled in many of the new tall building developments that now obstruct our skyline.

The plot of The Blues Brothers was to raise money to save the Catholic orphanage in which they grew up from tax foreclosure. The irony of the plot is that it was Cook County foreclosing on the Catholic Church and as an organized religion the Catholic Archdiocese does not pay property taxes.

In today’s election, once again we are being told how horrible our tax situation is and that we need to rely more on private enterprise and business expertise to save us from the horrible mistakes of government. It is an indisputable fact that we are paying less tax as a percentage of income than we were thirty years ago and seeing less done with our money domestically with what tax revenue we do have. Regardless of what we pay in taxes, we should be asking ourselves what our government is supposed to do for us. Shouldn’t our expectation of the government be to provide a physical infrastructure on which we base the way we live in good times or bad?

The government gave the automobile manufacturers paved highways, oil companies subsidies for exploration, and the western states power and water. Unfortunately, the projects of this great recession haven’t come close to those of the Great Depression in either scope or quality; and in the private sector, big building projects have done little for our skyline, culture, or sense of identity unlike, say, Rockefeller Center in New York in 1933. The private sector has not stepped up to the plate when the government has pulled back. In fact, more than ever, large corporations are looking for government subsidies to determine their geography. And, unfortunately, our government leadership has not effectively made the case as to why we should be investing in our infrastructure like no other time before.

Today, as we elect a president and hundreds of federal representatives, what is it that we seek from government? It seems the best investment our government can make is to develop and maintain a path that can bring neighbors together, helping to create both a political and physical environment that promotes interaction and a healthy exchange of ideas as well as a vibrant and divergent commerce. That is difficult to do when the path you use to seek out your neighbor is a muddy rut. Perhaps it is again a time to ask ourselves what it is that we can do for our country.


Studio Playlist: Halloween

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Johann Sebastian Bach

Funeral March of a Marionette

Charles Gounod

Theme from Psycho

Bernard Herrmann

Tubular Bells

Mike Oldfield


Michael Jackson

Werewolves of London

Warren Zevon

Black Magic Woman




Burnin’ Hell

John Lee Hooker

I Put a Spell on You

Sreamin’ Jay Hawkins

Evil Hearted Woman

T-Bone Walker

(You’re The) Devil in Disguise

Elvis Presley

Friend of the Devil

Grateful Dead

Old Devil Moon

Frank Sinatra

Sympathy for the Devil

The Rolling Stones

Voodoo Child

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Psycho Killer

Talking Heads


Stevie Wonder

Evil Ways



Chinese Take Out - Part 3

Another day, another city. In Beijing, I told Li, our dutiful project manager in China, that I wanted to go to the city’s third best restaurant. We ended up at Bianyifang, established in 1416 during the Ming Dynasty and famous for Peking Duck which is presented whole and sliced at the table. I’ll say it was third best, or better…what do I know? Lunch began with lots of Tsingtao Beer, a roasted prong with an apricot glaze on purple sweet potato, and chopped green vegetables in a soy-like sauce which was compressed into a cylindrical form and topped with spicy peanuts and sweet red onions. The duck was plated in a feather-like pattern after cutting and we were supplied with julienned leek and cucumber as well as steamed, paper-thin rice pancakes. These were used to roll the duck and vegetables in before dipping in a Beijing sweet sauce (similar to hoisin). Once the duck had been cut and plated they took the carcass to the kitchen and placed it in a boiling cauldron to make and serve duck soup with leeks.

The next day was to the government planning bureau in Tianjin where we ate in the workers’ lunchroom. Even that was better than anything I have had of the Chinese vernacular in Chicago. Lunch consisted of fried perch, eggplant, spicy cabbage, noodles and fried pork. But wait, just outside the train station I was told Tianjin was famous for its pork buns; I had to run to a nearby stand—HOLY MOMOFUKU!!

My last stop on this trip was Shanghai and I favored the Xintiandi district. I first needed a couple of martinis, which I got at the American owned DR Bar, to prepare me for my final and most wonderful taste treat of the trip. In fact, this was worth the entire visit. I am, of course, talking about the made-to-order xiao-long-bao (dumplings) at Din Tai Fung. The dough is of the most delicate nature and handled masterfully to take a filling of choice (minced pork for me). Lightly pinched and twisted with a small spoonful of broth having been added, the xiao-long-bao are then steamed in a bamboo basket and served with a small bowl of Chinkiang vinegar and ginger slivers to dip them into. As you bite into the soft wrapper, the broth inside explodes in your mouth as you begin to realize the flavor of the filling falling onto your tongue. Heaven. Six more please.

Now I was ready for the fourteen-hour flight back to Chicago. I have since learned Din Tai Fung has a restaurant in LA. That would only be four hours.


Chinese Take Out - Part 2

Late that night I traveled to Hangzhou and dined in the old, famed restaurant of Lou Wai Lou that overlooks West Lake. I had beggar’s chicken in beef, which is a chicken bathed in a beef broth, wrapped in multiple layers of lotus leaves, tied together in a bundle with twine and slow baked on hot stones. Best chicken ever. I ordered it with sides of glazed pork, pineapple and Chinese broccoli.

The next day, lunch in Hangzhou was at a simpler, smaller restaurant also near West Lake. The building’s interior was clad with old wood of various shapes and sizes and composed of very small dining areas on different levels around a central, open courtyard filled with old wooden birdcages. The restaurant was furnished with simple wood tables and benches, while tea and food were served in wooden cups and mismatched bowls and plates. First came the roasted shrimp in spicy orange and crushed peanut sauce cooked in a pot of hot stones. Then came the chicken soup with a whole chicken in the pot, swimming in leeks and peppers. Next, some type of white river fish that looked like Mr. Limpet peeking his head out of the water, which had just come fresh out of a tank before being steamed. This was served alongside roasted pumpkin slices, fried pork in orange sauce and an abundance of melon and beer.

The next day’s stop was the government offices in Zhengzhou. At the Zhengzhou Planning Bureau, lunch was served in a luxurious private dining room just past the workers’ lunchroom and a statue of Chairman Mao. Yet again, I was presented with a grand feast of white river fish, beef ribs, braised pork and noodles, assorted squash and vegetables, duck soup – and always plenty of melon.


Chinese Take Out - Part 1

It has been a year since I worked in China, and I cannot say that there is anything I am missing, except perhaps the food, and some of the people. It is a country where, apparently, the officials visited ours, found the grave of Robert Moses and brought him back to life a la Frankenstein and for the last twenty years have been perpetuating the worst of 1950’s American expansionist building at a mind-numbing rate. It is a culture, or perhaps lack of one, that is in crisis, fueled by a robber baron capitalist zeal and backed by the conforming organizational abilities of communists that abided by, or grew up in, the Cultural Revolution. Why people are clamoring to emulate this phenomenon, or work there, is beyond my grasp.

To be fair, my time in China was spent primarily in six cities in the east. There are forty-four fast developing cities with a population over ten million that I have not visited. It is my understanding that there are scores of historic cities and hundreds of square miles of countryside of unique and rare beauty that I have never seen in the north, west, and south. No doubt there are wonderful things to see away from the new development in cities like Suzhou, Hangzhou and even Shanghai, and even the new is not all bad. There are, of course, a few notable exceptions—places like the Jinhua Architecture Park, the architecture of Wang Shu and his wife Lu Wenyu, and when he is not under arrest by the Chinese government, the work of artist Ai Weiwei along with many other performance and visual artists. However, you don’t want to get too close to the famed work of western starchitects you see in the architectural press—it looks much better from a distance or, for that matter, in the magazines.

Needless to say, I have been jaded by the new building development in China, but I love the food. As I wrote to my friend Doug last year, with few exceptions, lunch was pretty much the big meal for me, and I mean big. My first lunch in Jinhua was in a large private dining room at the hotel our client owned. I was given a chair at a table for ten, with only four of us having lunch. The meal took almost two hours and I would estimate that it consisted of twenty courses of beef, fish, fruit, pork, soup, tofu, vegetables, and more. The only downside was the television blaring a Chinese game show that our hosts would often be distracted by.

It turns out Jinhua is famous for their pork—a dark red, cured ham—and renowned for their pork bun sandwiches (“I’ll have two please”). Better than Momofuku? Absolutely. This is the real deal. A fatty layer of pork belly skin cut in the shape of yellowfin tuna sushi, deep orange in color from sauce and braising, is presented over fragments of meaty pork belly finished in a broth reduction. This is laced with paper thin cucumber, frayed leek and a touch of hoisin that makes it beautiful to the eye as well as succulent to the tongue. The rice bun it is served on is perfect in texture and size and I would describe biting into it, but we would be getting into the realm of food porn.


Studio Playlist: 4th of July

America Simon & Garfunkel
4th of July, Asbury Park  Bruce Springsteen
Democracy Leonard Cohen 
Ode to Liberty (The Protest Song) Phillip Lynott
This Land Is Your Land Trini Lopez
America Rita Moreno
We No Speak Americano Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP
Living In America James Brown
Star Spangled Banner Jimi Hendrix
Living in the U.S.A. Steve Miller Band
Surfin’ USA The Beach Boys
We’re an American Band Grand Funk Railroad
Young Americans David Bowie
American Woman Lenny Kravitz
Rockin’ In the Free World Neil Young
War Edwin Starr
Fight for Your Right Beastie Boys
Bang Bang David Sanborn
I Would Die 4 U Mariachi El Bronx
American Pie Don McLean


Studio Playlist: Summer Solstice

Summertime (UFO Remix) Sarah Vaughan
California Soul (Remix) Marlena Shaw & Diplo
Hot Fun In The Summertime Sly & The Family 
Summer in the City  The Lovin’ Spoonful
In the Summertime Mungo Jerry
Summertime Blues Eddie Cochran
It’s Summertime  The Flaming Lips
A Summer Song Chad & Jeremy
Here Comes the Sun The Beatles
Heat Wave Martha Reeves & the Vandellas
Summer War
Indian Summer The Doors
Sunny Afternoon The Kinks
Sunshine of Your Love Cream
Summer Romance  Rolling Stones
Cruel Summer Bananarama
Suddenly Last Summer The Motels
Summer Solstice Crystal Antlers
The Sun’s Gonna Shine Again Ray Charles
Summertime Billy Stewart


Heard in the Elevator: Arbor Day

"It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetime the nation's need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted."


Studio Playlist: St. Pat's

Cadence to Arms Dropkick Murphys
Oliver's Army Elvis Costello
Sunday Bloody Sunday U2
What's Left of the Flag Flogging Molly
Foggy Dew The Young Dubliners
Rebels of the Sacred Heart Flogging Molly
The Body of an American The Pogues
If I Should Fall From Grace with God The Pogues
Have a Drink Ya' Bastards The Skels
Seven Drunken Nights The Tossers
Lessons from the Empty Glass The Killigans
Whiskey in the Jar The Dubliners
If I Ever Leave This World Alive Flogging Molly
Jackie Wilson Said Van Morrison
Danny Boy Jackie Wilson
Nocturne for Piano No. 1 through 18 John Field


Studio Playlist: Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Pie Pt. 2

Rebirth Brass Band

Mardi Gras Mambo

The Hawkettes


The Meters

Bugle Call Rag

Jim Cullum Jazz Band

Down By the Riverside

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Bayou Betty

Royal Flush

New Orleans Nightcrawlers

Crack House

New Birth Brass Band

Carnival Time

Al Johnson

Drop Me Off in New Orleans

Kermit Ruffins

I Been Hoodood

Wild Magnolias

Pie-Eyed Manc

Stanton Moore

Second Line

Stop, Inc.

You Can't Fly If You're Too High

Rebirth Brass Band

Whoopin' Blues

Leroy Jones

Hey Pocky A-Way

The Meters

(My Big Chief Has A) Golden Crown

Wild Magnolias

I'll Fly Away

Stanton Moore

When the Saints Go Marching In

Olympia Brass Band



Heard in the Elevator: Presidents

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”


“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”


Architecture Relates to Everything

In 2000, the New York Times architecture critic, Herbert Muschamp, wrote about the importance of architectural preservation as a means to raise the public perception of “architecture from the economic and political to the cultural plane.” Muschamp proclaimed, “We live in relativistic times. And architecture is a deeply subjective matter. One of its glories is that even stupid people get to have an opinion about it. Nowhere is it written, however, that architecture must appeal to the lowest common denominator of taste. Or that there’s no difference between an opinion and an informed opinion, educated and uneducated taste, a prejudice and an idea.” Specifically, he was referring to Docomomo, an organization whose mission is, in the organization’s words, “to document and conserve building sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement.” Muschamp’s words still resonate, as they are as applicable to the preservation of modernist buildings, as they are to the evaluation of architecture in general.

This blog will be used to talk about architecture and how it relates to everything else, and how everything else relates to architecture – at least on a cultural plane. And, of course, attempt to write about why good design is important to us all, and as a firm, how we are trying to be good designers. We hope to surprise occasionally by straying from writing about buildings and structures, but most often we will try and relate our words back to architecture, because in some ways, everyone can relate to it.


Studio Playlist: St. Valentine's

(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To


Happy Valentine's Day


Young Adult Friction

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

Let’s Spend The Night Together

The Rolling Stones

I Wanna Be Where You Are

The Jackson 5

Fell In Love with a Girl

The White Stripes

Hold The Line

Two Hearts Beat As One


Is This Love?

Bob Marley

I Only Want You

Eagles of Death Metal

For Me Formidable

Charles Aznavour


The Beatles

I'm Always in Love


I Got You Babe

Sonny & Cher

Love Rollercoaster

Ohio Players

Never, Never Gonna Give You Up


Love Her Madly

The Doors

La La Love You

The Pixies

Love Me or Leave Me

Nina Simone

I Love You 'Cause (You Look Like Me)

The Ponys



Studio Playlist: Holiday

Let It Snow

The Ray Brown Trio

We Free Kings

Rahsaan Roland Kirk Quartet

The Christmas Song

Jimmy Smith


Grady Tate, Jimmy Smith & Kenny Burrell

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

Oscar Peterson

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Dave Brubeck & Gerry Mulligan

Jingle Bells

Duke Ellington and His Orchestra

Baby It's Cold Outside

Betty Carter & Ray Charles

Frosty the Snowman

Ella Fitzgerald

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Frank Sinatra

'Zat You, Santa Claus?

Louis Armstrong & The Commanders

Jingle Bell Rock

Bobby Helms & The Anita Kerr Singers

Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)

Elvis Presley

Run Run Rudolph

Chuck Berry

Please Come Home for Christmas

Johnny Winter

Back Door Santa

B.B. King & John Popper

Christmas Blues

Eric Clapton & John Popper

Merry Christmas Baby

Stevie Wonder & Wyclef Jean


Blues Traveler

This Christmas (Hang All the Mistletoe)

Macy Gray

White Christmas

Otis Redding

Soulful Christmas

James Brown

Rich Man for Christmas

Lady Saw

Christmas Is


Oi to the World

No Doubt

Back Door Santa


Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)

The Smithereens

Come On Santa

The Raveonettes

Santa Lost a Ho

The Christmas Jug Band

Must Be Santa

Bob Dylan


Leonard Cohen

Cossack Dance

Tim Sparks