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AD Interviews: Bradley Khouri / b9 Architects

Urban Canyon, © William Wright Photography
Urban Canyon, © William Wright Photography

Sustainability has become one of the main issues when designing for any architecture practice around the world, and not only thinking in technological aspects but also in the quality of the community environment. Awarded with the Young Architect Award by AIA Seattle, b9 Architects creates innovative, sustainable, modern architectural solutions utilizing open, connective spaces and maximizing access to natural light. Working through a comprehensive design process, they translate initial concepts into form through text, drawing and modeling, utilizing rhythm and pattern in order to create moments of contrast and difference. Through thoughtful site planning, energy considerations, daylighting and material choices, b9 Architects are committed to working towards achieving carbon neutrality in our built environment. With this introduction, we would like to present an interview we made to Bradley Khouri, AIA, the Principal and founder of b9 Architects inc. Their work focuses on creating positive change in the urban environment through innovative place-specific modern architecture. Supporting sustainable, transit oriented, walkable communities, b9’s completed works include urban single- and multi-family housing projects, live-work dwellings and commercial interiors.

Urban Canyon, © William Wright Photography
Urban Canyon, © William Wright Photography

For you, what is architecture? Architecture is defined in the dictionary as “the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings”. In comparison, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is quoted as saying “Architecture is ‘frozen music’… Really there is something in this; the tone of mind produced by architecture approaches the effect of music.” I think architecture must be both about tone in music and execution of building details. It is an art, similar to music, embodying rhythm and contrast, pattern and difference, developing ideas in philosophy, culture, science, sociology, economics and history. Architecture is an opportunity for society to work at multiple scales in order to create spaces for community. Architecture needs to continually innovate while establishing an open dialog that encourages and facilitates the formation of a unique vision for each project, each environment. I believe that specific solutions shall originate from a concept and be responsive to climate, environment, programmatic requirements, zoning regulations and construction methodology to inspire innovation and splendor for life.

Judkins House, © William Wright Photography
Judkins House, © William Wright Photography
Judkins House, © William Wright Photography
Judkins House, © William Wright Photography
Judkins House, © William Wright Photography
Judkins House, © William Wright Photography

How important is innovation to your practice? b9 architects is dedicated to creating innovative sustainable communities and spaces. All projects seek innovation, whether by using renewable technologies and specific design strategies to improve building performance, reducing the impact of the automobile, sourcing reclaimed materials locally or rethinking specific housing typologies. b9 architects creates innovative, green, modern architectural solutions utilizing open spaces and maximizing access to natural light. b9 balances affordability with environmentally friendly design, while providing the highest level of quality. Through thoughtful site planning, energy considerations, daylighting and material choices, we are committed to working towards achieving carbon neutrality in our built environment. Supporting sustainable, transit oriented, walkable communities, b9’s completed works include urban single- and multi-family housing projects, live-work dwellings and commercial interiors. b9 has received awards for innovative approaches to urban living, winning AIA Seattle’s Future Shack awards the last two years for Urban Canyon, a 7-home residential development about a pedestrian canyon that winds through the project’s center asa place to create community and Urban Trees, an 11-home commercial and residential development organized around a central woonerf providing access to parking, but more importantly providing a treed place for owners to mingle and gather. How important is networking for you? b9 architects has grown primarily through word of mouth and recognition as a result of the successful execution of projects. As the projects have received greater notoriety I have also dedicated significant time to advocating for a holistic solution to Seattle’s Central Waterfront and a 30 year update to its Multifamily Land Use Code to improve our urban fabric locally. In addition my specific contributions to Seattle’s local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and relationships with past and current clients have created natural opportunities for networking with like-minded individuals in the public and private realm. I prefer this approach to networking as it grows organically from the work I believe in.

Red Lantern, © b9 architects
Red Lantern, © b9 architects

How important is the Internet for your practice? b9’s portfolio is well represented on the Internet, through its company website and through publications and blogs. This creates a platform allowing b9‘s work to be discovered by individuals and companies globally. Although my practice is in Seattle, due to the Internet, I have been invited to speak in Boston and Finland and have consulted on projects in New York, Washington DC and Cleveland, Ohio. b9’s website contains a selection of completed and in process architectural projects as well as my development projects, graphic design, sculpture and photography. I find the Internet is a great resource to communicate my business and personal values as a member of 1% for the Planet and as an architect through the electronic media.

Saga, © b9 architects
Saga, © b9 architects

How has your office benefited with the use of digital technologies? Digital technologies provide tools that improve b9‘s efficiency in the design and construction process. Digital technology is used to test the performance of buildings and create sun-studies to demonstrate how daylight activates exterior communal spaces and interior private spaces. We use ArchiCAD and Adobe’s suite of products. In public design review meetings and in private client meetings these software platforms help me to communicate specific qualities and ideas of the projects. The use of powerful BIM software creates opportunities to have a single digital file that can produce schematic drawings, presentation sketches, rendered views and working construction drawings and details.

Urban Trees, © Andrew van Leeuwen
Urban Trees, © Andrew van Leeuwen

How was the transition from physical to digital? I still design by hand and use digital technologies and physical models to test design ideas. My schooling was primarily a process of physical drawing and modeling. In practice, I spend much less time creating physical models although they are still an incredibly useful tool. The use of of both physical production and digital technologies improves my clients’ understanding of their projects, whether through a simple line sketch that I produce by hand or a perspective drawing created in the BIM program. I like using both and believe that my best projects transition back and forth from physical to the digital realm.

Urbansight, © b9 architects
Urbansight, © b9 architects

Which software do you use and why? I use ArchiCAD in my office for several reasons. First and perhaps most importantly, I have been using it since 1996, taking more advantage of its BIM capabilities in the last four years. Second, having witnessed first hand its progression into a more powerful BIM software, I now use its modeling capabilities to communicate my design intent at all phases of projects. Third, I chose it because it is intuitive and effective. I know that many offices use other programs for different reasons but I believe that ArchiCAD is the most efficient and easy to use.

Cite:Graphisoft. "AD Interviews: Bradley Khouri / b9 Architects" 06 Oct 2010. ArchDaily. Accesed . <http://www.archdaily.com/80444/ad-interviews-bradley-khouri-b9-architects/>