Architecture Monday

Oh, I like this.  A gaggle of cabins (14 in all), intended as micro-dormitories for the Colorado Outward Bound School.  There’s some serious nice stuff going on here.  I like how they tread lightly on the soil.  I like their choice of materials.  And I especially like how, while all following the same basic intent and pattern of construction (a frame, a porch, a dethatched shed roof, an insulated box, and housing for the students) they display wonderful range of diversity and design that surpasses the repetitive blandness that typifies most subdivisions in North America.

From the outside, the steel structure, with its cable X bracing, fits well with the forest surroundings.  But it’s the hot-rolled steel cladding that covers the insulated living quarters that wins hard in my book.  The random imprints that are inherent from the manufacturing process of the panels are not only very tree and leaf-like in its pattern, but the contrast between the sharp edges of the box with this random pattern is very striking.  This is only further rendered beautiful by the jewel-like windows, with some being very precise cuts into the face, and others pushing out as a steel-lined extrusion.  Glowing with the reflection of the wood paneling within the cabin, they become very lantern-like, beacons in the high mountains.

Inside, as mentioned before, the 14 cabins are divided in 14 different ways.  Folding furniture features prominently, letting the cabins be spacious and compact at the same time.   This intricate dance of walls-that-are-also-beds/storage/desks/etc is what allows for the variety of unique interiors, making it fun and pleasant to be in while adding functionality.

And oh those windows… simply marvelous.  Through an equally diverse placement, they provide fantastic connections to the picturesque surroundings, sometimes a full-on portal gazing outward, sometimes just a glimpse like a precious painting.  Couple that with entire wall sections that open to let the inside bleed seamlessly out into the landscape.

I mean, who wouldn’t want a desk like this?

Completely wonderful project.  A great use of rugged yet well selected materials, exquisite and careful detailing, and intentful design to create living spaces that excite and feel great to be in.

Colorado Outward Bound Micro Cabins by Colorado Building Workshop

P4A 2016 – Earthjustice

Here is my video for this year’s Project for Awesome, asking for votes towards Earthjustice:

P4A is a completely community-run 2-day event, where you can vote for various non-profit organizations and donate to the P4A fund.  At the end, the non-profits with the highest votes get a split of the money donated.  Please consider voting for Earthjustice at this link (voting ends 11:59am EST on December 11th):

Please share this video far and wide, and please consider donating to P4A and/or to Earthjustice directly!

With the results of the elections in the United States, I feel Earthjustice’s work will become more and more critical.  I personally am upping my monthly donation so that they are as supported as possible to do their good work in keeping the fundamental operating system of our planet running.  It’s not glamorous, but they’re saviors and heroes.

Wonder Wednesday


The ethereal beauty of Neri Oxman’s 3d printed glass sculptures…

Amazing intricate overlapping fingers of light and shadow,

filaments of radiance that dancing around and through each other,

captivating intricacy that draws one deeper and deeper in,

rendered alive by eddies of air.

(I apologize profusely for the vertical video… though it makes sense for the framing in this case :P)


Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

The things that get us into trouble are almost always hidden from our view.

Be they our biases, our identities, our views, our attachments, or etc, they all sneak their tentacles out to steer us wrong into situations and results that aren’t at all how we’d like them to be.  Like walking into furniture in a dark room,* they trip us up.  Hard, and often painful.

Boom!  We thought we were going this way, but we’ve bumped into something and now find ourselves careening in another direction and all’s a mess.

Boom!  We are suddenly doing this thing and we don’t even know WHY or HOW we ended up here (but we certainly ain’t going to stop now because we’re probably right and that other person has got to be wrong) and there’s such a hole already dug and yuck.

Boom!  “I’ll never do that again!” we’ve said, all self-assured, for the fourth time, and yet here we are, yet again, doing just that thing with the same undesired result.

Gah!  What the heck is up with all that?  How do I find these darn blind spots?

Here’s an exercise I’ve taken on as a practice that’s proven useful to help in this game of unconcealing.

I call it The Notepad Exercise, though it works equally well with any form of persistent writing implement.  Scrap paper, computer screen, whatever, it doesn’t matter, just so long as it sticks around.

Start by writing the area of investigation at the top of the pad.

Then, ask the question:  “What the heck is up with that?”

And write down what comes to mind.



No Editing.

It doesn’t matter how









“can’t be that!”

“don’t want to write that!”



… it is.

Write.  It.  Down.  All of it.  Stream of consciousness.

Just keep writing. **

Eventually, one of three things will happen.

You write something down and there’s this feeling that makes you go “oh, wait… thaaaat….”

Or you start writing the same thing over and over again and over and over and over again.  Which pretty much always means that’s the thing, there’s something there about that.

Or after a time neither will happen, or you’ll find yourself getting distracted, or your little voice will try to convince you to stop.  No problem.  Let it be, and come back to it the next day and do it again.  Keep doing it until one of the first two happens.

And that’s it.  Just like that, we have something new:  a new a gem to examine, a new avenue to focus mindfulness towards, a new angle to transform.  It’s out in the open.  We can see it, we can maneuver around it, we can deal with it, we can move it, and we can put it away.

We can drive towards where we want to go.

Give it a try!


* Which, clearly, is why shins were invented, to find furniture in the dark… ow…

** What’s remarkable is that, after some practice, quite often the moment you sit down and are ready and ask the question “What’s up with that?” the first immediate thing that comes to mind will be it.  Dead on.  And your little voice in your head will go “nope, nope, can’t be that!  Doesn’t make sense/don’t want it to be that/don’t talk about that/that’s dumb/don’t go there/don’t look behind the curtain.”  But it’s 100% that.

Architecture Monday Additional

Just a quick addition to speak about the tragic fire in Oakland this past weekend… and the thought that keeps coming to mind whenever I think or hear about the fire is “this is why we have building codes.”

Yes, there is a conversation to be had about affordable housing, be it for artists or others.  This is not about that.

It also isn’t about whether live/work spaces are a good idea (they are), or about if you can have creative amazing spaces like the interior of Ghost Ship for creative people to be in (you can).

It isn’t also about blame right now.

It is about the simple reason why the building code exists and why it is important.  It is about life safety.  It is all about life safety.

To every person, client or otherwise, who’s asked me, “Is this really that important?” or “Can’t we just ignore/skirt this one thing?” or “Why do we have to do so much?” or “Why are there so many ‘regulations'”… to them all I say, very simply,

“This is why.”

The building code has evolved and yes grown over time to ensure the safety of people inside buildings, especially when the shit hits the fan.  It’s to ensure that the shit doesn’t fly in the first place, and it’s to ensure that people can safely exit the building when it does.

This fire to me is a powerful reminder of the responsibility I am taking on when I am doing my job.  I am creating spaces not only to enliven and excite and support people in doing their thing, but I’m taking their lives into my hands too.

Building a community means being responsible for our collective well beings, in all of its facets.

Let’s build amazing things so we can all live to enjoy them for a long, long time.

Architecture Monday


So, yeah, this happened! Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be able to visit a bit of the Walt Disney Studios lot.  It was a wonderful day of festivities, but also a wonderful day for geeking out not only on Disney history but also on the architecture and design of the studio buildings and the lot itself.  There’s something to be said about standing on the lot itself, surrounded by all the buildings and being in the alleyways made between them, to experience that space (and the meaning we bring to the space).





There’s something very lovely about the old original Animation, Shorts, Cutting, and Theatre buildings.  Disney oversaw the design of many of these, especially the Animation building, which was designed deliberately, looking much like a double-sided comb in plan, so that there was as many areas available with windows so that the animators would have access to as much natural light as possible.  Trees fill these “light-alleyways” now (the building was converted to administrative use during the dark days when Disney Animation was not doing very well), but still the feel is very much there.


Taking a step back, the building does exude its utilitarian function, but Disney was an artist, and knew the effect that art and surroundings had on people.  The articulation of the building, with the continuous green bandings and the brick base or brick highlights around the doors, carry through on all of the buildings of that era, little touches that help give them scale and texture, as well as helping them relate to each other.  It’s great to note that the buildings were not exact copies of each other, but that they used the elements and motifs in slightly different ways.  For buildings to talk to each other, they don’t have to be exact copies.


This carries through on some of the newer and much more expressive buildings, the most prominently known of which is the Michael Eisner Team Disney building.  Very different building type and feel, yet the redish brick and yellow stucco still make an appearance, even if the roof is being held up by the dwarves.

(As an aside, I’ll say here that, like all so-called architectural styles, there are examples of wonderful post-modernist buildings, and examples of some pretty awful executions.  I think the hyper-PoMo lines Team Disney building, with its stylized neo-classical puffery and dwarves holding up the oversized pediment, really works as a Disney building.  It’s kind of silly and playful and the proportions are not so horrendously out of scale, nor is it too reduced to too much of a caricature of the building form.)

I was also really struck by the use of fonts.  I’m… also a bit of a font geek, and there’s a font used throughout the Disney property (you can see it repeated in the signs on the buildings above) that, again, really made things feel cohesive and really helped evoke the sense that you were in the Disney domain.  For the employees working there, that careful level of detail can be felt and helps create a strong sense of place, and a wonderful reminder of what they’re there to do and the art they’re there to create or support in being created.

A modified version is even used on the wonderful road markings!


One building I didn’t get to see very well as it is across the street, is the new home of Walt Disney Animation, the Roy E Disney Animation Building.  The most playful of the bunch, with its big hat entrance and the large “fin” that stretches the length of the building, there are still touches that reminisce to the original Animation building.

not my picture -- alas
not my picture — alas
view from Google Earth

(One day, I will visit within.  Given my recent, achem, obsession with Zootopia and the rekindling of my love of Disney Animation, I must visit….)

I’ll end with a mention of the new archive building, a nice little composition in glass and steel, and a shot of the Zorro parking structure, where we started and ended our day:



Architecture.  Helping Disney make magic since 1940.

Gaming Thursday: D&D Character Stand-Ups

For our new 5E D&D campaign, I made some character stand-ups for our party:


As I mentioned when introducing my FATE stand-ups, having the character portraits in front of each players is a great way to keep the character fresh in our minds.  Each time we interact with each other, the image coupled with the graphic design — with all the information, personality, and world feel they convey — is front and centre to lend it’s evocative assistance.

They’re a lot of fun.  If you’d like them for your gaming table, I’ve placed a generic InDesign template for downloading here, and two PDFs to use as backgrounds in other programs are available here.

Game on!