Changes abound

Once again,

Its hard to always keep restarting, but that is the nature of it all right? Restarting again. Cycle, rebirth, do-over, mulligan, getting off the canvas.

So here it is a new day. Half of 2013 is gone and July is in full swing. I don’t like July at all, well except for the holiday at its start. But other than that, July is hot, it signals half the year is over and look at all the things that did not get done and what needs to be done. July means summer is in full swing. This July, I’m starting in a tough place. My mind is not right. I am way to much into the “the glass is half empty” attitude. So I need to restart, and try jumping off into this next half of the year right.

First order of business – business. Need to work harder, smarter and make sure when looking back at the 3rd and 4th quarters, nothing is left on the table.

Personally – I need to flip the worry and anxiety into something productive. That means doing versus procrastinating. And this thought hits me at every level personally and in every aspect. I actually was thinking if I worked as hard as I do at procrastinating and putting things off, channeling that energy into doing I would meet all of my goals and would be setting new ones. So that is the challenge. Work as hard at my goals as I do at putting things off. 

Writing daily- Check

Sketch daily – Check

Do to list at work – Check

Sketch 1

Sketch 1

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Learning while Teaching

I have always heard the adage that you learn when you teach, and I have always believed it. I have had more and more of an opportunity to teach as my career has progressed and I have always found I did learn something while teaching. The lessons generally included thoughts on being better prepared, planned, well rounded and lessons that deal with people and students like patience, compassion, empathy, when to be lenient and when sternness is necessary. I find more and more that there are so many subtleties when teaching that blossom from the setting your in, the material your covering and most importantly the students you are delivering material too and their personalities and issues and how those effect their perception, connection to the material and response. Lots of items to juggle, and some you have to react to immediately in order to keep things moving in the direction and toward the outcomes you want.

I ran into a buzz saw yesterday and the lesson I was giving directly applied to me. At least I heard myself at this point I’m not sure how many others did. My buzz saw was a room full of students, who were starting their next semester, after the grades for my class had been posted and their assignments had all been finished. 

I felt and still am glad I did do this, that they deserved additional feedback from me regarding their final projects. While I was thrilled at what they turned in and produced, there were some glaring errors and omissions that needed to be handled now so that they can easily move past them and not make them next time. There is going to be a next time for them. 

As the discussion moved forward, I was getting sidetracked from what I wanted to cover and even had to rely on student conversations to help reign us back on point. As we sloughed through some touchy issues, specifically about grades, I was able to express my overall point about the assignment, in that now matter how detailed the rules, expectations and takeaways from an assignment there are, there is an even stronger learning experience from the doing.

Doing the assignment can teach you so many lessons that I can’t impart. Or better put lessons that I have learned from doing the work and are ingrained in me to where, I assume you know it. Even that is a bit of a cop out, because we all know there are a multitude of subtleties in the doing of the work that can’t be expressed in the assignment directions, such as working on team with different personalities  illustrating your work and packaging it together. I have my preferences when I do my work, but those are not always the best way or even the right way, and those results are tied to me and my personality.

The students needed to do the work themselves. There is value in the doing of the assignment. Not only value, but lessons that can make a stronger connection with the student then with me just telling them.

It was a tough conversation at the end of long day for them, with clear frustrations from their part being expressed. I heard it all. I have been there. I hit the buzz saw. But I was glad I did it. I was glad I went and I was glad I engaged them the way I did. One, I felt they earned that with the amount of hard work and they  put into their projects. Two, there were specific lessons that actually carried weight now that they had done the work versus me just telling them what and how to do it my way. Three, I would have wanted that experience, chance, conversation if I was in their shoes, which I was at one point.

The big lesson of the afternoon, Value in doing. I relearned that and learned how it directly applied to my teaching style and the material I deliver. I went and did what I felt was needed and necessary. I learned a lot from it, form the interaction I had with them, and the conversation we all had together  I made some mistakes and learned quite a bit form the entire experience. I hope they did too.

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Thoughts on a program and teaching

I have been thinking more and more on not only teaching but my profession and practice as a designer. Some of those thoughts have manifested themselves in pretend conversations where ideological questions are asked by specters in my head and I am allowed to answer. The answer I gave this morning to one of those questions and or situations I had imagined, struck me as a little bit profound for me.

To set the context I was being asked a very poignant question on my thoughts of a current School of Architecture and the current design field from my perspective by a group of accreditation jurors. My response,

Design programs are equal in that they each provide a nest, a school with an inclusive environment for the student to learn and grow. Their distinction from one another comes from the facilities they dedicate to this environment and the level of expertise/ quality of the professors and assignments given. Student progress can be a quantitative measure through graduate placement, awards won and other measures of the subjective quality of the students that are produced. All in all each school/ institution can provide and does provide a measure of this. In the broad view they are fairly equal.

Where schools and programs separate themselves, gain notoriety and elevate their performance retention and quality of students produced, is when they expand beyond the simple model mentioned above. It is in this next level of facilities, teaching and programs where a myriad of factors can be leveraged and acted upon to produce high quality end results and standards. All of these factors can be summed up in the idea of service.

The design profession is one of service; service to the client, service to the project, service to community, service to a greater whole capitalizing on the unique perspectives and solutions we provide.

Schools, as stated above, can leverage this fundamental concept to a greater degree than just the simple model of servicing the students, but can now provide the students, the program and even the facilities a means to service something larger, the community. This fact is proven to us time and time again as we publicize, as we admire, and as we imitate programs such as Auburn’s own Rural and Urban studios. At the heart of each program is the value of service. It is this value where the school thrives and provides a richer depth of lessons, projects and partners to create, aspire to and lead as a signature program or institution.

It is through the value of service that a student and teacher can elevate both their crafts and careers by understanding, participating and the giving of their talents and also the lessons they have learned.

Service is the value which shows the distinction and elevates the quality that a school, an individual and project can provide.

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Change of Mentors

The change continues. The change I am talking about is the transition of leadership and the role this studio plays in the firm, at an organizational level. It hasn’t been easy so far. There has been some mis-communication, I believe, on both sides. I say that because of the way I feel about the situation and the conversations, meetings and emails that have resulted from the news. But it is official, the group I have been working in for the last ten years is changing.

That’s not inherently a bad thing at all. But after developing these relationships, bonds and familiarity with each other and how we work, it is a shock. My role is expanding and changing, and it has to if it is to survive. I think that is what is most unsettling about it all. The personal side of reacting to the change. That I have to change, evolve  and adapt if I am going to survive it all. Its scary, exhilarating, promising and terrifying all at the same time.

Having emotions and response like this, to a situation that is still just work, is that too much? Am I over thinking it. Well, yes, of course, that is how I react, this is part of my nature. But I can see it from both sides, but the one that wins is the one that knows that this is my career, my passion. This is what I do and what I love doing and what I want to continue doing. So that’s what I will do; change, evolve, adapt.

I have been especially lucky blessed, in my career and the jobs I have had. I have not only made wonderful friends, helped others and worked on great projects but I have found a career I love and am passionate about and have had the opportunity to work with and to be mentored by outstanding individuals. Those who have taught me lessons, given me opportunities, trusted in me and given me the rope, which I haven’t hung myself yet on. I hope to be able to return that, both in my performance, my service and to give that back to others.

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Change is constant, bad decisions…

Only in Alabama? Last week, a Boaz man got in a wreck while he was drunk, and was taken to the hospital so his injuries could be treated. But his night was just starting.

He then fled the hospital by stealing an ambulance, ditched the ambulance and tried to steal a horse, stole two cars, totaled one, and got home.

Birmingham News Article. 

Well I had to include the above…… Change is inevitable… but wow, there is a guy who just kept making one bad decision after another.


Change has come once again, as it always does, generally unexpected and unwanted. All change is not bad, but the trick is not making a bad decision, making an opportunity out of the change that is presented. Making the change work for you. 

That is my current position, making the change work for me. So where to begin? Well first you have to be excited about the change  if not excited, you have to get excited. This has been a hard first step for me. I need to embrace this change, or it will be forced on me and when that happens it will not pleasant for me, and or I am passively removing myself from having an ability to effect the change. UGHHH just typing out that honesty for my lack of enthusiasm is tough. I need to change! Ughh, and that is hard too. But were we go. 

First I need a plan, a strategy of some kind. Something I can share with others and can get feedback on, as I work my plan and refine as I go. Second, quality control. To demonstrate an ability to deliver high quality as I go. Not only for the clients and projects sake but for my own. Pride in ownership.

*update* stepped away from the post for a bit to spin out a couple of ideas. Future post, taking constructive criticism, Its one thing to give it, another to take it.

With that said, I need to get back to a plan. Something that will give me a road map for the next few months, that is flexible and can respond to change and something I can be proactive about. I need to work my plan.

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Temp Post

So I recently just wrote a post for another blog. OF course it is just a first pass and has to go through several hands before it gets placed on the website. So i thought it would be good to put down what I originally wrote here, and we will see how much it changes by the time it goes up.

Uncovering Place


The City of Birmingham is currently growing. It is redeveloping areas that have long sat vacant and under utilized. The City of Birmingham is uncovering place. One of the most dramatic areas of growth is in the newly formed Park District located in Birmingham’s Downtown. The district is the buffer between the University of Alabama Birmingham and Birmingham’s traditional downtown business and industrial uses. The Park District celebrates its name with a national award winning project and urban open space, RailRoadPark. This development and additional infrastructure projects the city has infused into the district is leading to the uncovering of a great place and district in the city with new businesses, uses,  and connections to downtown and UAB along with signature projects such as Railroad Park and the new Birmingham Barons baseball stadium.


One of the first projects the City of Birmingham completed as part of its initial investment was the redevelopment of the districts north south collector street, 14th Street; running 18 blocks from 8th Avenue North to 10th Avenue South. 14th Street is a major collector for the area, interconnecting the University of Alabama and Downtown Birmingham. 14th Street serves and run adjacent to UAB’s central green, major classroom buildings, Bartow Arena, JeffersonCounty administrative buildings, the future Birmingham Barons baseball stadium, RailRoadPark, Innovation Depot and ending at the Social Security and future Treasury building.


14th Street is a key multimodal corridor linking the western edge of Birmingham’s downtown. KPS was the lead designer of the project. The project focused on streetscape improvements within the existing right-of-way for the 18 blocks from 8th Avenue North to 10th Avenue South. The streetscape improvements consisted of street trees, pedestrian lighting, benches, trash receptacles, and sidewalk improvements to ensure the corridor was ADA compatible and allowed for users to walk safely and comfortably from destination to destination. The corridor is highlighted as it crosses into the park district with brick pavers and urban spaces designed at each corner. This design element is used to signify the Park District and connect to the areas cultural past and historic uses.

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Building on Assets

Investment can be tricky. The when where and how clearly can pose problems. But today I just wanted to put down some thoughts on a few recent observations and conversations I have had with others.

First, why not invest in places that are successful. Why not build on existing assets that you have. We are all trying to spend our money in the best way possible, while still growing our retail, employment and housing markets. So why doesn’t the city target its investments where they may have the biggest payback? I see multiple examples where cities have put a little investment into a place, i.e. parks, street scapes even a vision for a neighborhood that then allows for and encourages private investment in that place. Cities have so many tools at their disposal, spending a little capital on infrastructure can and will allow for additional private development to meet its financial needs, and can be the encouragement needed to bring private capital to bear. We have a variety of great places now. We have a variety of assets now that people visit, use and interact with everyday. Why not capitalize on those and build on them versus building something brand new that is not connected back to the places and infrastructure that is already in place and succeeding?


Which brings me to a conversation I had with a friend last night. Who expressed to me, while he was driving one day, that he looked down on the City’s newest entertainment district, and noticed how stale and artificial it was. A place the city was creating to be an entertainment spot. A place the city was creating. A place the city was investing large sums of money into. A place that had in span of minutes already turned off a potential customer. At the same time, the city is littered with great places that need help and encouragement, and the places that people already visit for entertainment that have unique character and history and the ability to grow. WIth a little help of course. With much less the city could do so much more to help these existing places succeed. Versus dumping funds into a new place in hopes that people will come.

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