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Coffee with an Architect: The Latest Architecture and News

On Designing Evil Lairs

This article, by Jody Brown, originally appeared on Coffee with an Architect as "Evil Lairs."

New plan.

From now on I will ONLY design evil lairs. Because all the best architecture is designed for the evil.

My work will have moats, and concrete, and glass and steel. I will design 16-story one-bedroom homes, with helipads, and lots of electronics. There will be a retractable roof, maybe lasers.

I will completely ignore the building code, because you know “evil”. Building codes are for the common people. Not for the evil.

Architect Valentines 2014

Thanks to the popularity of last year's Architect Valentines, Jody Brown has come up with a whole new batch for you to enjoy in 2014. This article originally appeared in Coffee with an Architect.

Architects are a romantic bunch. But, we tend to be busy. We know we should stop working on this design for a while and go buy some flowers or chocolate or something. We know that. But, we have a deadline. Maybe we can pick up a card from the internet on the way home.

Here you go.

You’re welcome:

Christmas Cards From Famous Architects

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via Le Corbusier, it’s one of his five points of Christmas

Happy holidays from the architects! We made you a card.

To celebrate, here’s a few Christmas Cards from famous architects from the popular architecture blogs Life of an Architect and Coffee with an Architect.

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What Architects Do Doesn’t Count

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Yesterday, a good friend of mine wrote “It doesn’t count, unless it’s built.”

I read this, and thought. “I completely agree with this”. And, then my head began to hurt. More.

Because, what does that say about my work? (I don’t mean the obvious reference to my lack of built work the last few years). No, I mean in general, my work isn’t about a built project. It’s about a vision of an unbuilt project. Or more specifically, my work is about visualizing an as yet realized building. My work isn’t a physical thing that you can order from Amazon. My work is not a thing at all. It’s a path to a thing.

I meet with a client. I listen to them describe their idea of this thing that doesn’t exist yet, and then I begin to work. I slowly use the tools of my trade to bring into focus an image of what that idea can become. It’s a poetic endeavor really; making these images of forms and light that point towards someone else’s hopes for their future. It’s a translucent profession, not an opaque craft.

more after the break

What are buildings trying to say to us?

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They say great architecture has meaning. That buildings, when well designed, can speak to us. But, what are they trying to say? What if we could really hear them?

Jody from Coffee with an Architect translates some of the buildings thoughts after the break.

Architecture Flashcards

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Here are some simple flashcards I’ve made, to aide the young student in their study of Architectural styles.

more flashcards from Coffee with an Architect after the break


The Death of Modern

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Modern was probably dead to begin with.

But, in his youth, he achieved fame by removing elements, simplifying, and arranging order. We were infatuated with his purity. With Modern, we stood in front of a blank canvas that seemed to clear away our past regressions, and promised a future of precision and clarity. Modern was singular and lovely, like silence.

At his height, he traveled extensively, leaving simple white calling cards as far aboard as Switzerland and Barcelona.

Architects are, do, and/or do not…

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Architects are not funny

Architects do not fish

Architects do not understand velvetta

Architects do not hunt, they do peck

Architects have not seen ”Two and a Half Men”

Approaching the Architect

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With the Holidays upon us, many of us gather together, drinks in hands, and celebrate together. Except the architects. We tend to be the sullen looking ones at the party, clustered together, over in the corner. Granted, architects aren’t the easiest group to approach, but it is possible, IF you know a few simple conversation starters:

So you’ve seen them standing over there in the corner. Morose and bi-speckled, sipping a cosmo and looking out the window towards a distance church steeple. They seem pensive and dapper at the same time. They’re an architect, but no one’s talking to them? It’s too much pressure? I mean, what do you say to the most interesting person in the room?

Well, here are some possible conversation starters for approaching the Architect, each one sure to start a fascinating and intellectual chat. Go ahead, give it a try:

Talking to Clients

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First of all, they probably don’t know what they’re talking about anyway. And, I think they asked for some kind of pastel. So, just nod often, eventually, they’ll go away.

If not.

Say things like:

“Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”


“No, that’s not going to work.”


“No, because it doesn’t fit with the “vocabulary” of the building”.

(Put “vocabulary” in “air-quotes” and raise your eyebrows.)

Try to look aloof. (well, of course)

When the client opens their copy of “Home and Garden” magazine to show you the kitchen that is “not exactly what they want, but it kind of gives you the overall idea”… try not to appear as if you want to stab them in the eye. Mention that Martha Stewart came up with a line of pottery while she was in prison. It was a custom line of nativity figurines. This might shift their attention. Then, spill your coffee on the magazine.

more tips on talking with clients from coffee with an architect after the break

2012, New Plan

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Hey Architecture,

Let’s be honest, 2011 could have gone better. For me, the wind came out of my sails somewhere around June (or February, whatever…) I did not do the best work of my career in 2011. I didn’t define the character of my generation in elegantly proportioned board-formed concrete, mainly because I was exhausted. Somehow, my highly held ideals seemed beside the point in 2011, so, I put them down for a while, and decided to feed my family instead. My work in 2011 was not the most innovative of my career, to say the least. Except for the restroom addition I just finished, that was epic. In 2011, I could have been the poster boy for the recession, or the new normal, or whatever they’re calling it now.

In 2011, I put my passion aside, lowered my head, and pushed forward.

Twelve Days of Architecture

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On the first day of Christmas,

my Architect gave to me

A study guide for the A.R.E.


On the Second day of Christmas,

my Architect gave to me

Two turtlenecks,

And a study guide for the A.R.E.


On the Third day of Christmas,

my Architect gave to me

Three French Curves,

Two turtlenecks,

And a study guide for the A.R.E.


This Foyer is going to be Epic

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I don’t think you understand what I’m telling you. I’m not trying to open the door here. I’m trying to open your mind.

It’s a simple problem really. Just keep the rain off of them as they enter the building. That’s all you really need to do, right?. Hardly… This is the first impression this building will make. I’m not going to waste it. You’re not going to open the doors and just walk inside. You’re going cross this threshold into the rest of your life.

Thank you Public Plaza

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Thank you public plaza, for being so unnecessarily spacious, and for allowing me to park so far away from the entrance. I probably needed to walk that extra 30 minutes during my lunch hour on my way to the DMV.

Thank you public plaza, for changing levels occasionally, just to keep me alert.

Thank you public plaza, for your simple paving pattern articulated by oily puddles, and the homeless. It makes passing through SO whimsical, like an obstacle course, designed for the lonely.

Thank you public plaza, for obscuring your entrances. It’s like a treasure hunt. Is this my bank here? nope, that’s a dumpster enclosure. Fun! Signage is for losers anyway.

Modernism and Postmodernism

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Alternative names for Architecture

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Ten Representations of Minimalism


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Less is More stupid

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Less is more.

Congratulations, you have officially alienated 75% of the population. Now if you can make Less cost more? You’ll knock out another 23%. The remaining 2% are married to an Architect. Clearly, your practice is off to a good start.

Reducing everything down to the purest, most elegant form is difficult, and only a truely gifted Architect can achieve that level of perfection, and that gifted Architect probably designed a glass house for a crazy lady in a robe, but she died, and now the house is a museum, and, yes, I just called Philip Johnson a crazy lady in a robe, and I think the facts will back me up on that.