Earth Day for Architects

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Levi Miller

 

by Levi Miller, LEED GA, KSQ Project Manger, vice-chair OK USGBC

We’re not really sure how most architects celebrate Earth Day, but here at KSQ we chose to spend yesterday looking at both the past and the future from an environmental perspective. The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges came out and we enjoyed learning about all of the colleges that have decided in the recent past to make a serious commitment to sustainability in their campus infrastructure, academics and activities.

KSQ was pleased to see so many of the campuses we have worked with in this guide, including; New Mexico State University, Stony Brook University, University of Houston, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Vermont, University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign (who has made the guide for the past five years), and more!

The guide–presented in partnership with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council–can be downloaded for free here.

Not only is a commitment to campus sustainability important for the Earth, but it’s also important to prospective students. A school’s commitment to the environment was cited as a deciding factor in applying for a college by 61% of college applicants surveyed.

Stewardship of the Earth is a viewpoint that starts at an early age, and because of this we went to Eisenhower International School yesterday to encourage such a viewpoint with groups of young people. Doug K reading at Eisenhower on Earth Day Doug Koehne, KSQ’s Director of K-12 Planning, read a book from the Eco Boys and Girls book series to an Eisenhower kindergarten class. The series features whimsical cartoon characters created by Maria Snyder that promote environmental awareness. Levi reading at Eisenhower on Earth DayThe reading at Eisenhower was a great opportunity to share with Tulsa’s youth the message that we want to take care of the Earth–not just for ourselves and our children, but for our children’s children, and all future generations..

We feel confident that the young students we read to will attend colleges with sustainable campuses–hopefully net-zero energy campuses.

Fab Lab Field Trip

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KSQ is a member and supporter of Fab Lab Tulsa, but most of the staff in the Tulsa office hadn’t actually toured the lab or been officially introduced to its capabilities. We decided a field trip was in order!

Before the tour most of us knew about the Fab Lab, but it was usually in the context of what a few select staff members had made there. As in “oh, Tyler made that model at Fab Lab.” But, what is a fab lab exactly?

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The concept of a fab lab grew out of the MIT class “How To Make (Almost) Anything,” and the labs focus on products limited to mass production. Imagine having an image saved as a PDF and then taking that PDF and creating a laser cut, a screen print, or even a 3D model from it. Can you create a PDF file? If you can and you have access to a fab lab, you can make “almost anything.” This process–taking a digital file directly out of the computer and plugging it into a machine that spits it out–is known as CADCAM and/or “bits to atoms.”

Most fab labs are associated with a specific school, but Fab Lab Tulsa is unique due to its non-profit, independent status. The lab caters to everyone from casual users (families, hobbyists, students) to the deadline driven professional (like KSQ).

Specific areas in the lab include the 3-axis mill that has created everything from architectural models to street signs to electric guitars.

mill by carl

A laser cutting area (that we’ve used to personalize client presentations) surprised a lot of us with its ability to adhere to so many different surfaces. Like this:

Fab Lab Tulsa Laser cut

“She dressed for the occasion!” – Emily couldn’t help but notice that one of her colleagues was wearing a laser cut blouse:

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We ended our tour with the hottest toy in the make “almost anything” market; 3D printers! Eight pins with hundreds of jets deposit resin and help create “almost anything” 3D objects. From large scale models by Stratysis to desktop models by Makerbot, Fab Lab Tulsa has kept both its casual and professional users in mind. When we heard “desktop model,” there were visions of a near future when most people have a 3D printer on their desk…like it’s no big deal.

Seeing the 3D printers in action was a big deal on this tour. We’ve all heard about the process but learning about the support materials that act like scaffolding for the object, holding a 3D printed wrench that works as a wrench, and examining a steel 3D print object inspired us to consider how we can make “almost anything.”

 

 

Celebrating the buildings that house books…

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Heather Miller 2 by Heather Miller, Marketing Coordinator

In celebration of National Library Week, I was asked to read books to the kindergarten and 1st grade classes at All Saints Catholic School in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. To my delight, my kindergarten teacher Ms. LuAnn Cannon, is now the librarian at the school. architecture design library week The students were asked to dress up as their favorite character from a book, so I ended up reading to Sleeping Beauty, Princess Elsa from “Frozen,” GI Joe, Thing 1, Woody from “Toy Story,” and other fun characters. DSC_8443 Before reading 10 Little Hot Dogs I asked the students if anyone had a little hot dog (dachshund) at home. I didn’t realize this would result in a lengthy conversation about dogs, cats, and turtles. Ms. Cannon looked at me as if to say “you started this.” We also read Friend of a Feather and Germs My Invisible Dog (yes, he’s still in our pockets ’cause he’s very, very small). DSC_8442 It was time well spent, and so much fun to support Library Week and share stories with the students–including students that are the children of my childhood friends and classmates. I don’t know too many people who can say they still have a relationship with their kindergarten teacher. I feel fortunate to have this bond and to witness her continuing to educate and inspire children. DSC_8431 Consider celebrating National Library Week by checking out a book this weekend–maybe The Library: A World History; a book that dives into the buildings that house books and how libraries throughout history have served as symbols of their time: The Library A World History, archdaily, architecture books Or, maybe you have a Thing 1 or a Sleeping Beauty to share a book with. If that’s the case, maybe this book is better suited: roberto the insect architect, architecture book, childrens books

Want to transform your campus? Here’s what TCU did.

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TOM_HIERby Tom Hier, Higher Education Planning Consultant, Biddison Hier

How do you take a campus without a vibrant student life to the next level of engagement?

Often the answer is in the spaces where students interact outside the classroom. Such was the solution Texas Christian University found in the creation of Campus Commons, a massive student life project completed in 2008.

Campus Commons at TCU has tranformed the campus. This was once a parking lot in the center of campus.

Campus Commons at TCU has transformed the campus with housing, a union and technology-enabled study spaces. Once a parking lot filled with cars, the space is now a lush green quad filled with student interaction.

So why am I talking about it now, six year later? New research conducted by KSQ Architects and Biddison Hier shows the project has had a tremendous impact on student life, engagement and satisfaction, and David Short (KSQ), Craig Allen (TCU), Don Mills (TCU) and I shared the results of this research in February at SWACUHO (Southwest Association of College & University Housing Officers).

By the mid 1990s, administrators at TCU knew they wanted more for their student life–starting with housing a higher percentage of their students. For TCU, the answer took on this shape: take the giant parking lot in the center of campus and turn it into a residential quad complete with a student union and massive outdoor space for more student interaction.

Turns out, they were onto something.

Focus groups I conducted in both 1995 and in 2005 showed students wanted more in terms of quality housing, dining options and hours, and cocurricular activities. They left campus in the evenings and on the weekends because, simply put, there was nothing to do.

Convinced the center of campus (and across the street from the football stadium) was the right place to establish Campus Commons, the TCU/KSQ/Biddison Hier team’s plan included moving parking to the edges of campus–a fairly radical idea. In fact, we surmised, students would need their cars less if they were engaged in campus activities more.

The result of this vision and planning is now TCU’s most magnetic campus venue and a potent recruiting tool for the university. When our team conducted more student focus groups in late 2013 to get a sense of the impact this project has had on campus life, we heard things like, “Campus Commons is where everything happens,” and “It’s the physical representation of the sense of family and community that makes TCU so special.”

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The Drum Cafe is just one example of the vibrant student activities that bring Campus Commons to life at TCU.

 

In fact, the transformation is so compelling, we made a short video that helps tell the story:

Here are 6 tips our team gave to chief housing officers at SWACUHO:

  1. Have strong decision-making skills–top administrators need a clear vision and plan for how to make it happen.
  2. Expand your thinking–TCU’s vision went beyond beds and buildings to include creating a special space where student life could happen.
  3. Trust the experts–consultants bring specialized experience, knowledge and insight to make the project better than you at first imagined.
  4. Understand your campus–be a learning organization who always talks to your students to assess their wants and needs.
  5. Include a wide range of voices–TCU took a collaborative approach to planning Campus Commons.
  6. Have a funding plan–while good design doesn’t have to be expensive, every project has a price. Think outside the box at ways you can fund your dream (student fees, bonds, donor support, etc).

Four residence halls housing 600+ students and a new student union surround a massive green space that is twice the length of a football field. The enclosed space is the venue, according to students for “everything going on at TCU.”

From fun and games to sunny naps, graduation photo ops and impromptu guitar solos, a lot is always happening at TCU’s Campus Commons. All of us involved in the planning, design and implementation of the project are truly proud to have contributed to this transformative campus life project.

My kids’ impressions of Tadao Ando.

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–Monica Roberts, Communications Manager

Monica RobertsNever underestimate the impact of architecture on young minds.

Japanese architect Tadao Ando designed the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, seen here at sunset against the 1.5 acre reflecting pond. Wow. This is by far the best photo in this post, by the way, which means I didn't take it. Liao Ysheng did and it's in ArchDaily.

Japanese architect Tadao Ando designed the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, seen here at sunset against the 1.5 acre reflecting pond. Wow. This is by far the best photo in this post, by the way, which means I didn’t take it. Liao Ysheng did and it’s in ArchDaily.Never underestimate the impact of architecture on young minds.

I saw it first hand recently on a spring break field trip to Fort Worth, Texas. After visiting the zoo (theirs is one of the top in the nation, who knew?), my family and I decided the next day to check out both the art and the architecture at The Modern. Just one step inside and you see something akin to this.

Here's where my photography starts, obviously.

Here’s where my photography starts, obviously. A self-taught architect, Ando believes in a “high degree of connection between the inside and outside of architecture,” as he explains in this interview with Architectural Record.

You walk in and straightaway see this amazing six-inch reflecting pond and Conjoined, a tree sculpture by American artist Roxy Paine.

You walk in and straightaway see the amazing six-inch reflecting pond and Conjoined, a tree sculpture by American artist Roxy Paine. My 14-year-old son, Jack, stepped outside onto a platform and shot this, as he’s really into iPhone photography lately.

The Modern is comprised of five pavilions of concrete and glass on 11 acres, including a 1.5 acre reflecting pond. In a recent New York Times article, Pritzker Prize-winning Mr. Ando is described as “renowned for instilling a thoughtful air of calm in his simply arranged structures of thick-walled concrete.” He rarely works in the United States, so seeing one of his buildings is a real treat, even if you’re not an architecture junkie.

My five year old, Oscar, quickly honed in on Ando’s conceptual sketches posted near the front desk. He was promptly asked by a nice museum lady not to place his drawing materials on the walls.

Oscar tries his hand at museum design–Mr. Ando, meet your summer intern circa. 2028. The kid loved everything about this place.

Oscar tries his hand at museum design–Mr. Ando, meet your summer intern circa. 2028. The kid loved everything about this place.

Upon entering, we made our way up this staircase. Way more exciting in real life but maybe you get the picture.

Upon entering, we made our way up this sweeping concrete staircase. Way more exciting in real life, but maybe you get the picture.

Eleven year old Lucy completely understands the aesthetic value of the Modern. She was pretty happy here, which is saying a lot for a pre-teen these days.

Eleven year old Lucy completely appreciated the aesthetic value of The Modern. She was pretty happy here, which is saying a lot for a preteen these days.

My favorite photo of the day. I promise we didn't ask him to lay down and sketch. In every gallery.

My favorite photo of the day. I promise we didn’t ask him to lay down and sketch. In every gallery.

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A jaunty photo by Jack. If you’re ever in Fort Worth, don’t miss this museum, as well as the Kimbell, where a new addition by Renzo Piano is another architectural fix.

One of our favorite family memories is taking Lucy and Jack to the Kimbell in Fort Worth when Lucy was roughly four. She kept touching the 600-year-old European oil paintings (she still loves to touch things that look touchable), and one of the official-looking staffers couldn’t help but smile through her scoldings. Next time you’re headed to a museum, take a kid or two along. You may not get to read every plaque in the place, but you’re sure to see something even better.

 

 

New student housing projects demonstrate diversity.

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KSQ is not a one-note architect.

Our recently completed work on two student housing projects in Texas demonstrates we can move easily between classic, traditional-style architecture and minimalist, modern design without missing a beat.

Phase one of the new Worth Hills Village development features nearly 400 suite-style student beds in two res halls for sophomores. This project serves as a gateway for the entire development and is a connector to the main TCU campus just down Stadium Drive. Ultimately, this exciting project will feature a third res hall, a dining/multipurpose building, a parking structure and a Greek Village. There’s a lot of wow-factor in this luxe student housing…parents and kids alike loved it on move-in day.

student housing at TCU designed by KSQ Architects

TCU’s newest student housing at Worth Hills Village looks pretty great. Anyone want to go back to school?

This dramatic barrel vault arch is a key design element connecting the two new res halls and will serve as a gateway to the entire new Worth Hills development.

This dramatic barrel vault arch is a key design element connecting the two new res halls and will serve as a gateway to the entire new Worth Hills development.

Common areas such as student lounges feature natural light and porcelain tile with comfy seating. We like to create spaces where kids want to just hang out.

Common areas such as the student lounges feature natural light, porcelain tile and comfy seating. We like to create spaces where kids want to just hang out.

Each room is suite-style, featuring wood-look flooring for two double rooms, a living area and a private bath. A few lucky students get the rooms with the big arch windows. Nice.

Each room is suite-style, featuring wood-look flooring for two double rooms, a living area and a private bath. A few lucky students get the rooms with the big arch windows. Nice.

This is student living at it's best. Parents and students both were loving it on move-in day.

This is campus living at it’s best. Parents and students both were loving it on move-in day.

The showers even have a small corner shelf that serve as a foot rest for leg shaving. Wow.

The showers even have a small corner shelf that serves as a foot rest for leg shaving. Wow.

Cougar Village II at the University of Houston is all about affordable, modern style. At under $45K per student bed, this project delivers value and then some. CV II includes living-learning spaces (faculty apartments, classroom spaces, study rooms and more) and features concrete floors, vibrant red accents (school colors, of course) and modern furnishings throughout. This student housing project accommodates 1,100 freshmen along the southern edge of the campus. KSQ worked in association with Brave/Architecture of Houston on this project.

The glass-encased lounges on each floor create a lantern effect at night. Super modern, super cool.

The glass-encased lounges on each floor create a lantern effect at night. Super modern, super cool.

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Bike racks reinforce the university’s commitment to a pedestrian-friendly culture. Love the scarlet accents–Cougar red!

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Concrete flooring throughout adds to the modern effect and is a cost-efficient solution.

student housing lounge

Areas for TV watching or quiet study are found throughout this building that also features academic spaces for collaborative learning.

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Simple windows add to the modern effect–most of these rooms are designed for double freshman sharing with community baths.

Working on campuses across the nation is a passion for all of us at KSQ. And seeing the faces of students and their parents on the first move-in day of a new res hall? That reaction is what gets us up in the morning.

Sustainability In The Sky

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This gallery contains 12 photos.

KSQ project manager Levi Miller, along with the Oklahoma United States Green Building Council (USGBC) chapter, recently toured the Devon Energy Center in downtown Oklahoma City. The 1,800,000 SF, 50-story corporate skyscraper is among the ten largest LEED-NC Gold-certified buildings worldwide. The … Continue reading

And the award goes to…

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KSQ has been enjoying the architecture version of red carpet season. In New York, we were awarded the Excellence in Architecture award at the Long Island AIA awards banquet for our work on the Stony Brook University West Side Dining project. Armand attended and accepted the award at the chapter’s ceremony at the Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York. He cleans up nice, right?

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KSQ Principal Armand Quadrini with the AIA Excellence in Architecture award

Our West Side Dining project also received an Honor Award at the AIA Westchester-Hudson Valley award ceremony.

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(L to R) Ofe Clarke, Kevin Mowatt, Blake Auchincloss, and Chester Ehrig at the Westchester Hudson-Valley AIA Award Ceremony

In Oklahoma the state AIA chapter presented KSQ with a Citation Award in Commercial Architecture for the Armand Hammer Alumni-Student Center at Oral Roberts University. The award was presented at AIA Oklahoma’s Central States Region event at the historic Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City.

OK AIA Official photo Chester

We’d like to thank the Academy…um, the AIA, for the awards and for recognizing our vision and hard work!

Yes, we design Halloween costumes, too.

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Most people with a major creative mindset (or a dark mindset) love Halloween.

So when 10-31 rolls around, a lot of KSQers bring their “A” game for some serious costume competition.

After a morning spent reviewing all the contenders, the office voted for winners of five categories: Scariest, Funniest, Most Creative, Best Couple and Best All Around.

Carl and family as "Angry Birds" take the "Best All Around" award

Carl, Joanna and Adam as “Angry Birds” take the “Best All Around” award. Rumor is Joanna made the costumes, which is even more impressive.

Heather and Monica as  "Bosom Buddies" walked away with Funniest Costume

Heather and Monica as “Bosom Buddies” walked away with Funniest Costume.

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Dawn as “The Daily Bitch” calendar took home “Most Creative.” A big winner last year, Dawn always raises the bar for Halloween creativity.

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Sai as “Death” won the “Scariest” costume vote by a landslide. She didn’t, however, let a scary costume keep her from wearing her trademark platform stilettos!

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Chauncey and Stephanie as Kim and Kanye (with baby North West in tow) won “Best Couple.” We especially liked Stephanie’s b’donk-a-donk butt enhancements for this role.

A great year for costumes in the Oklahoma office. Next year, we’ll challenge the Colorado, New York and Texas offices to join the fun!

ORU student union project in home stretch.

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As one of the most exciting projects we’ve designed, the student union project for Oral Roberts University has us all on the edge of our seats as we await its completion in January 2013.

Super modern, super cool. Borderline Dr. Seuss-like in several aspects. When a roof slants front to back and right to left (by design), you know you’re doing something interesting.

Recently a few of us took a quick tour to check on its progress. Next time we’ll show off professional images–for now these will have to do.

Shannon, Monica and Jenna sport the required hard hats on site. No way are these stylish, but then neither is a concussion.

Shannon, Monica and Jenna sport the required hard hats on site. No way are these stylish, but then neither is a concussion.

North side of the exterior. You get the gist of how dramatically this roofline slopes.

North side of the exterior. You get the sense of how dramatically this roofline slopes.

The blue glass strip runs front to back and serves as a connector to the Prayer Tower to the west and Lake Evelyn to the east–two significant site features.

The blue glass runs centrally from front to back and serves as a connector to the Prayer Tower to the west and Lake Evelyn to the east–two significant site features.

This red staircase is a major focal point inside and will be spectacular.

This red staircase is a major focal point inside and will be spectacular. You can see it’s covered in paper and dust right now, which takes away from the effect. Just trust us on this one.

Another view of the staircase. With a glass railing, it looks super modern.

Another view of the staircase. With a glass railing, it looks super modern.

Another striking feature is the screen wall surrounding the western and southern exterior. When it's completed, we'll show what these screens can really do.

Another striking feature is the screen wall surrounding the western and southern exterior. When it’s completed, we’ll show what these screens can really do.

Enormous double-sided fireplace connects a living room-type area to the multimedia room on the first level.

Enormous double-sided fireplace connects a living room-type area to the multimedia room on the first level. Note the yellow ceiling inset.

We love these lights stationed near the entry.

We love these lights stationed near the west entry.

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First level bathrooms deliver a major dose of color. Funky fuscia in the girls’ (below), electric orange in the boys’.

Downstairs bathrooms get a major punch of color. Fuscia in the girls', electric orange in the boys'.

Upstairs are spaces for alumni offices and functions. This flexible space can be used for lounging or for large banquet-style events.

On the upper level are spaces for alumni offices and functions. This flexible space can be used for lounging or for large banquet-style events. Note the double-sided fireplace overlooking the first level.

This lime green pops in the corridor leading to student government offices on the first level. Same color is carried through at the front desk (below).

This lime green pops in the corridor leading to student government offices on the first level. Same color is carried through at the front desk (below).

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The multimedia wall here will feature a 12'x21' screen where video game competitions, concerts and other broadcasts can be viewed. We have some amazingly cool furniture coming soon for this project–cannot wait to see it installed.

The multimedia wall here will feature a 12′x21′ screen where video game competitions, concerts and other broadcasts can be viewed. We have some amazingly cool furniture coming soon for this project–cannot wait to see it installed.

This feature will be completely covered in mirrors and will serve as a stage for musicians, comedy improv and other impromptu presentations.

This feature will be completely covered in mirrors and will serve as a sort of stage for musicians, comedy improv and other impromptu presentations.

Lots of fresh, youthful colors are used throughout. We love this turquoise feature wall separating the multimedia lounge from the pool table areas.

Lots of fresh, youthful colors are used throughout. We love this turquoise feature wall separating the multimedia lounge from the pool table areas.

Furniture is slated for installation the first week of January, with grand opening events beginning later that month. More updates coming soon on this significant project both for KSQ and Oral Roberts University.

Field Trip to Philip Johnson Glass House

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Always up for an adventure and/or field trip, our staff in the White Plains office recently took a tour of the Philip Johnson estate in New Canaan, Conn. The big feature here, of course, is the iconic Glass House, built in 1949.

The entrance to the 47-acre Johnson estate references medieval gates and serves as a ceremonial marker to the beginning of a journey.

The Glass House sits on a promontory overlooking a pond and woods. The decor has not strayed from its original design and most of the furniture–designed by Mies van der Rohe–came from Johnson’s NY apartment.

Inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house, this modern structure served as the architect’s weekend retreat for 58 years. With a house of glass, Johnson once said he had “very expensive wallpaper” as the surrounding landscape served as his walls. All 1,792 sq ft is comprised of glass and charcoal painted steel, with a brick floor 10″ above the ground. Kitchen, dining and sleeping areas are all in one room, divided by low walnut cabinets. The bathroom, a brick cylinder, is the only floor-to-ceiling enclosure.

As for privacy, this house affords little except to note that it’s located at the edge of a crest behind a stone wall on the estate, overlooking a pond. As far as modern architecture goes, this project was highly influential as a study in proportion, minimal structure, transparency and reflection.

In addition to the Glass House, the estate features a wide range of other buildings, including a painting gallery, sculpture gallery and other artful structures.

The Painting Gallery, built in 1965, houses the collection of large-scale modern paintings including Frank Stella’s work and a portrait of Philip Johnson by his good friend Andy Warhol. The interior space is set up in three circles, each with a setup similar to a vertical Rolodex so you can rotate the paintings, as Johnson only liked to view six paintings at a time.

The Sculpture Gallery, built in 1970, was inspired by the Greek islands and their many villages marked by stairways. With a glass ceiling supported by tubular steel rafters, the interior reveals a complex pattern of lights and shadows on sunny days. This building houses sculptures from artists such as Michael Heizer, Robert Rauschenberg, George Segal and Frank Stella.

According to Kevin Mowatt, one of our NY team members who attended, the tour was a pilgrimage that magnified the group’s shared passion for design.

Kevin put it this way: “Stepping into the Glass House for even a short amount of time, as with other great works of architectural design, was a humbling experience. What I took away was a deeper understanding of the commitment required and payoff that rewards us all as architects.

The Lincoln Kirstein Tower (white structure in background) was meant to be an event on the landscape–a staircase to nowhere. The Pavilion was created on a man-made pond and was used for lunch parties. It was scaled down in size to play on the viewer’s sense of perspective, making it seem further away than it really was.

“Da Monsta” was inspired by the painting and sculpture of Philip Johnson’s good friend Frank Stella and was the last structure built on the site. The name of the building is an adaptation of “monster”, a phrase for the building that Johnson used during a conversation with an architecture critic from The New York Times because he felt that the building had the quality of a living thing.

Kevin pats the “Da Monsta” building, which Philip Johnson would do every morning. Architects tend to get attached like that.

The Brick House along with the Glass House was meant to be a lesson in contrasts. In addition to being a guest house, the brick house contains all of the support systems necessary for the function of both buildings. In later years the Glass House was used for entertaining only.

The Library/Study is a one-room workspace and library where Philip Johnson housed volumes on architecture. He designed it to be a comforting “monk’s cell” where he liked to read and work facing a small window.

From the photos you can see our White Plains staff soaked in all of this architectural significance on a picturesque fall day. Brunch ensued afterwards, along with a download of everyone’s impressions and inspirations.

Katie Wilmes, Shaun Gotterbarn, Billy Collura, Scott Hillje and Adriana Medina refuel after a busy morning. Food always tastes better after a tour of historic architecture.

Kevin summed up the trip as a team-building experience that was satisfying on many levels.

“Given the number of new employees that we’ve added in the last few months, I felt that this company outing was a perfect opportunity to get to know each other. The next day, it was time to get back to work!”

Halloween Brings Out the Best

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There’s a lot to like about Halloween, especially if you’re somewhat creative.

Around here, there’s more creativity than you can shake a witch’s finger at. So naturally, the Tulsa office decided it was time to put on our game faces (or masks) for a costume contest.

Out of all the 20 + possible winners, four rose to the top (i.e., got a lot of votes). One snazzy costume even won two categories.

Inspired by Conan O’Brien’s “Minty, the Candycane Who Briefly Fell on the Ground,” Dawn put major effort and creativity into this getup–and won Most Elaborate and Best Overall as a result. Chad (who was extra loopy from late nights working on a design competition) entertained us all by singing the Minty theme song over the intercom. See the real Minty here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otyoC1xPByM

As Octomom, (aka Nadya Suleman), Stephanie was brilliant and was voted the Funniest costume. Don’t overlook the big orange lips.

Leave it to one of our designers to be inspired by red lines for her costume. Lori won Most Creative…and was a second runner-up for Scariest costume (won by Maury, below). Ask anyone in the firm and they’ll tell you, this many red lines is truly horrific.

Maury was definitely the Scariest costume for Halloween. Though it takes this bizarre combo of skeleton/soldier to creep us out around here. Kelly was dressed as a KSQ employee–which is super original.

Minty definitely raised the bar on all of us this year–so the stakes should be much bigger in 2013. Look for more creative costumes from KSQ next Halloween!

An afternoon with the Godfather (of LEED, that is).

You might think something suspicious is going on in a large room where a presenter is speaking with only natural light filtering into the room. And it wasn’t because he had a Power Point running, either.

OK, so the room wasn't quite this dark. But it was pretty dim--you get the picture.

OK, so the room wasn’t quite this dark. But it was pretty dim–you get the picture.

Or, more correctly, you might think he was simply emphasizing the need to use natural daylight over electricity to illuminate the room.

Such was the case when the Oklahoma chapter of the USGBC scored a major coup in getting Rob Watson to speak at the organization’s South Regional Conference Leadership Summit held in Tulsa March 7th at the Woody Guthrie Center.

For those reading this who aren’t sustainable building groupies (there are a few), Rob Watson is the founding father of the LEED green building rating system. For an hour and a half, he spoke and answered questions about the hurdles he and a handful of true believers faced back in 1995 when the idea of creating a green building standard first took shape.

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Shortly after bowing and kissing his ring, conference attendees lined up for party pics with Rob Watson. Just kidding about the bowing and kissing…sort of. Total starstruck groupie field day was had by all (including Levi and Monica from KSQ), and Rob was very nice and gracious.

What started as a big idea is now the international standard for rating buildings as LEED certified, silver, gold and platinum. Medals from the 1996 Olympics, in fact, inspired the names for the various LEED levels (bronze was later changed to “certified,” he said, because “bronze sounds like a loser.”) Rob likened those early years to “a blind man trying to describe an elephant” as he and his fellow USGBC members tried to define what makes a green building. Today there are more than 13 billion square feet of certified buildings in 127 countries as far away as Yemen.

Rob also gave attendees a multitude of insights in how to talk to clients about LEED. A LEED building, he said, does not add one percent to the cost of the building. Rather, it costs one percent differently. While budgets are always a reality for every project, by investing in building components that contribute to sustainability you can often take away from the budget in other areas to make up for it. Rob also emphaszied it’s not really LEED that is more expensive, it’s new that’s more expensive, meaning that the learning curve design and construction professionals have to go through on their first couple of LEED projects can add to the ultimate project cost due to a lack of experience with LEED contributing products and construction methods. At KSQ we’ve completed a dozen LEED certified projects on college and university campuses and have found that the process goes faster with each experience.

Finally, Rob gave us five steps for success when approaching LEED as a project goal:

  1. Start early–no advice is more important than making LEED a priority from the beginning to save time and money.
  2. Discard old thinking–green design and construction requires a fresh approach.
  3. Have a firm “green goal” in mind (Silver, Gold, etc) so you know what you’re trying to achieve.
  4. Set a reasonable budget–financial boundaries are a reality and LEED has to work within that.
  5. Don’t compromise the budget for the green goal–send the team back to get it right.

To see the latest KSQ LEED Gold project, take a peek at Marion & Clark Halls on the campus of Texas Christian University. A big kudos also goes out to Beck Construction Group as our partner in achieving this important goal for our client. And to Rob Watson, thanks for being a pioneer, and for not calling the rating system Domec! (the name suggested to him by a Madison Avenue ad man–think Don Draper with a serious NY accent).

What’s Trending in Student Housing

A senior political science major made the following statement during a recent KSQ student focus group:

“When I started college, I had no idea how important my housing experience would be to my overall happiness and success in college. Had I known, I would have placed the quality and style of housing at the top of my criteria when visiting campuses.”

Many students (and their parents) do rank housing as a major deciding factor when selecting a university, according to a study by APPA’s Center for Facilities Research (CFaR). From more traditional, freshman-style residence halls to suite-style arrangements and roomier apartments for upperclassmen, student housing today must meet the ever-increasing demands of the modern millennial. With sophisticated tastes and a global perspective, most 21st century college students expect both on and off-campus housing to not only meet their basic living requirements, but also be a place of comfort and style for sleeping, studying and socializing–often with features that make parents wish to be a student all over again.

Common areas are essential.

Even in today’s world of social media, students still crave the ability to “see and be seen” by their peers. Common spaces are critical for helping build community and a sense of place for students in the formative years of their collegiate experience. When KSQ approaches a new project, one remark we often hear from hall directors and student alike is that they want ample common spaces that are ideal for both structured hall gatherings and general hang-out time. Furnishings, while meeting certain durability standards, must also feel inviting and not so “precious” that a student cannot put his or her feet up and relax for a while.

Learning spaces aren’t just for academic buildings.

Much of student learning actually happens outside the classroom, and many of the universities we work with are looking for how they can incorporate the living-learning trend on their campus. These spaces must support both quiet, individualized study as well as group collaboration. Whether simply including more whiteboard-equipped study spaces in an honors hall to actual classrooms and faculty-in-residence apartments in a residential college, KSQ understands that combining academic spaces with living spaces helps many college students engage more in their studies, achieve higher GPAs and remain connected to their university.

Kitchens cook up community.

Just as the kitchen is the hub of today’s homes, the community kitchen fills an important role in traditional freshman or suite-style housing. Students enjoy the camaraderie that comes with baking cupcakes or cookies on a Friday movie night, or cooking the occasional frozen lasagna to share with friends. Even with meal plans and on-campus dining just steps from a residence hall, students want the ability to build relationships over something simple that evokes feelings of home.

Furniture gets wired. 

From built-in WiFi and cable to furniture featuring outlets for charging electronics, technology is essential to supporting the needs of today’s wired generation. Flatscreen monitors in living-learning style classrooms help to connect long-distance study groups–or in common areas simply allow students to cheer on their team during an away game.

Furnishings in student life spaces need to be both comfortable and feature outlets for charging laptops, smart phones, tablets and such.

Furnishings in student life spaces need to be both comfortable and feature outlets for charging laptops, smart phones, tablets and such.

Green is golden.

The millennial set is perhaps more conscientious about the environment than any previous generation. They want to know where their food comes from, how their clothing was made (and by whom) and what chemicals were used to create any given type of product. Sustainable features in student housing not only attract students and their parents, it can also improve health and wellness for occupants and save the university money in utilities and maintenance over the long haul. KSQ looks to include common-sense sustainable features in all of our buildings, whether LEED is a priority or not.


Safety is in the cards.

Key card access is the standard for entrances at most every residence hall we design–and a growing trend is that student room access is also provided by a card rather than a key. Exterior surveillance cameras combined with adequate lighting for evening and early morning hours increase the safety factor for students and peace of mind for their parents.

Let the (sun) light in.

Lighting can dictate the mood of a space like no other factor. Our experience has proven time and again that natural light in particular helps to promote a sense of energy and encourages dynamic interaction among students. Whether by including skylights, incorporating glass curtain walls or lighting a dim basement with the help of glass block tiles in the ceiling, the design team at KSQ continually looks for innovative techniques to illuminate a space the old fashioned way.

Oversized windows bring in natural light, which is shown to improve not only mood but also productivity.

Oversize windows bring in natural light, which is shown to improve not only mood but also productivity.

Finishes get sophisticated.

Depending upon a university’s budget (and geographic location), the per-bed price range typically stretches anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 according to a recent report published in the July 2013 issue of College Planning and Management. Our own experience working with universities across the nation confirms these numbers as a typical price range for quality student housing. From the more luxurious quartz countertops, travertine tile and wood-look flooring to low-maintenance stained concrete, there remains a wide-range of options to make residence halls feel inviting while also providing the practical durability required for student life.