New York City

A friend offered Susan and me her apartment for a week stay in New York City--she made us an offer we couldn't refuse.  Since we lived there in the 80's, we've been back perhaps five times and it's always intriguing to see how the city has changed while remaining, in many ways, the same.  We said "yes!".

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The endless energy remains, like an angel hovering over the city, driving innovation and pushing for the new.  The neighborhood where we worked, lower Chelsea, has been transformed from derelict to divine due to the Hi-Line park being a stratospheric success and generating countless new "starchitect"-designed buildings by Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry, the late Zaha Hadid, Enneagram, Diller Scofidio, and others.  Construction cranes tower over many areas.  Times Square is glitzier than ever.  New bike lanes are a welcome addition.  Central Park continues to be the green beating heart, keeping the city sane and breathing.

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The Hi Line

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Central Park

Yet, I can't help but miss many of the things that are now of a bygone era.  The unique districts have lost much of their distinct purpose, having become homogenized thru countless chains strung along the streets and by the extraordinary rents that forced many of the Mom and Pop's to leave.  Nowadays, it's hard to tell that there was a Garment district teeming with teenagers pushing carts of hung clothing along the avenues or a Meat Packing district where you could view innumerable hung carcasses by day and more colorful characters walking the streets by night.  Some heat has left Hell's Kitchen as it lurches towards Purgatory and there is little Italian being spoken in Little Italy.  Much of the grittiness has morphed into gentility.  There is no more graffiti on subway cars and the place actually feels safe.


Garment District 1940's

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Garment District today


Meatpacking District 1950's

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Meatpacking District today

Still, New York City is a marvel, one of the real wonders of the world.  World-class in so many large and small ways.  Walking the streets is full of adventure and discovery.  Many of the new buildings are laboratories of inventiveness.  The detail of the city in old and new is palpable.  New restaurants abound.  It's easy to get around.  While there, Halloween was about to happen and we got to review/judge costumes of young and old everywhere we went.  The young won.





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Rockefeller Center


Brooklyn Bridge



And now, safely back home, I read accounts of a sad young man fueled by bad religion, driving and killing people near the West Side Highway.  Lord, have mercy.

Redemptive Work

We are thrilled to have been a part of a great project for San Angelo, The Stephens Performing Arts Center.  Reclaiming and reinventing the old derelict Coke warehouse has been a very good thing for downtown and for the arts, giving life to both.

Things we like about San Angelo, Part One

During one of our office's Friday afternoon discussions over beer, we decided to document some things we like about San Angelo.  I like old signs.  I took a camera and began to record several of the old painted signs around town.  This signage is often very simple or layered or weathered...but it works, especially when set against a great West Texas sky.   See what you think as you CLICK THRU THE IMAGES BELOW... 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

            Everywhere you look, from the grocery store to the clothing store and hardware store, consumers are presented with various products labeled with the word "recycled".  Many people, myself included, gravitate towards these products because I believe we are making a better choice for our environment.  However, I pose a question, "are we making a better choice?"

            The year was 1970, millions of people stepped outside for peaceful demonstrations while demanding environmental reform in the first celebration of Earth Day.  One product of this movement was a design competition led by the Container Corporation of America.  The CCA wanted to create a recognizable symbol to be used by any manufacturer engaged in recycling.  Gary Anderson, a young college student would be responsible for the circular arrow design we have come to know today.

The first image is Anderson's original symbol, and the subsequent images are used world-wide to represent (L) a product can be recycled and (R) a product was made from recycled materials.

The first image is Anderson's original symbol, and the subsequent images are used world-wide to represent (L) a product can be recycled and (R) a product was made from recycled materials.

                    There are several products we use every day that are made from recycled materials such as: cereal boxes, bottles, paint, paper, concrete and floor coverings.  If you decide to purchase these products then you are completing the recycling loop.  In addition, recycled materials also become new products that are different from their original uses.  Many of these show up in the building industry such as carpet made from plastic soda/water bottles and asphalt or concrete that incorporates recycled glass. 

            Items such as paper and aluminum are also reported to be practical for recycling because aluminum can be used again and again and countries like China, depend on our paper waste to make paper goods.

            As I continued to research and answer my own question, "are we making a better choice by recycling?" I discovered evidence that indicates maybe not every location should recycle certain items such as, glass. Not all recycling facilities can accept glass, and some facilities have to transport the glass recyclables at least 200 miles away.  Furthermore, in some larger cities, residents are urged to recycle and they are provided separate plastic bins for separating recyclable materials.  In doing this, cities also had to increase their fleets of waste disposal trucks to keep up with the demands of transporting these recyclables.  While it sounds like the best of intentions, it does contribute to the growing pollution problem. 

            In an intervew with economist Holly Fretwell, Research Fellow at Property Environmentand Research Center and an adjunct instructor at Montana State University, she makes a claim that the U.S. at its current rate of trash production would have enough landfill space for the next 100 years on one of Ted Turner's expansive ranches  with 50,000 acres to spare.  Fretwell also makes note of the positive results that come out of landfills. They are carefully lined and sealed once full and then cities have built beaches, or parks, and even ski resorts all above a pile of waste.

            While doing further research on landfills I stumbled upon another question - are landfills really that bad?  I know, they have a pretty bad rap.  They are unsightly, the smell can be rather intoxicating, and just plain gross.  However, I came across several examples of what a landfill looks like once it's sealed and I was impressed.  Some examples worth noting are:

Freshkills Park - Staten Island, NY. (which also produces solar energy)

Freshkills Park - Staten Island, NY. (which also produces solar energy)

Red Rock Canyon Open Space - Colorado Springs, CO

Red Rock Canyon Open Space - Colorado Springs, CO

Washington Park Arboretum - Seattle, WA

Washington Park Arboretum - Seattle, WA

Washington Park Arboretum - Seattle, WA

Washington Park Arboretum - Seattle, WA

 One positive thing to take note of: now we have these beautiful park spaces and conservation land that could have been asphalt and concrete.

            At the end of the day, are we making a better choice?  I guess it depends on what you decide to recycle or not.  Maybe it depends where you live.  Maybe, we have to accept that both worlds need to co-exist.  Landfills and Recycling Centers.  At least we can ride on our recycled skateboards over the skate park - landfills.

Melissa Speck


The Ones That Got Away...

In cleaning out the innards of our computer, we came upon some old projects that have not been heard from in years:  old projects that were designed but never built or old small built projects that we seemed to have relegated to the digital dustbin.  Finding them was like seeing an old friend on the street after many years.  The connection is real and immediate.  Here are some images of these "children"...for better and worse.


Generative Sketch of The Giving Quilt

Generative Sketch of The Giving Quilt


The Giving Quilt - Donor Recognition Wall










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SHIRLEY FLORAL - Awning studies 



Why Study Architecture?

Written by Shelby Rowe, age 17, Central High School senior, intern at KFA

            "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This question is thrown at you the moment you walk into your first classroom. When you are little, answers consist of cowboy, cheerleader, racecar driver, and mermaid. Everyone is so excited for their future and  just can't wait until they are old enough to fulfill their innocent dreams. The closer I got to grown up, the more unsure of my answer I became. Every year, my answer would change. Maybe a veterinarian, a concert pianist, a special ed teacher. I would pass by street artists drawing cartoon faces of people posing in front of them and think, "Well that looks fun. Maybe I should do that." Everything looks fun and exciting to a seven year old who's not worrying about how much money they will make and if that will actually make enough to raise a family on. The  question only comes more frequently in high school. You get to arrange some of your courses to better fit your college and life plan, if you have one. Teachers, counselors, parents, nosy church ladies, all curious as to what you want to do with the rest of your life. "You are the future. What do you plan to do with it?" Everyone hates the "I don't really know," answer, but that was all I could come up with. I have so many hobbies, so many joys, how am I supposed to narrow it down to just one for the rest of my life?                                                                                        Growing up, I filled notebook after notebook with drawings, resisting the urge to not cover my textbooks with doodles. Every week, I looked forward to my art class in school and even better were the art classes after school that I was constantly enrolled in. Further into high school, it became clear to me, and anyone who met me, that whatever I did with my life, art would have to be a part of it. painting and drawing had always been my outlet, the thing I did by myself, for myself. No one taught me how to do it, I just did it because I wanted to, because it made me happy. It wasn't until the summer between my sophomore and junior year that I discovered a new form of art: architecture.                                                                                            History has always been my favorite subject in school because I am fascinated by people, how and why they lived they ways they did, their artistic and musical tastes, what materials they had access to and how they used them. That summer, my family and I took a trip to Europe, traveling to Paris, London, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. In Paris and London, I was intrigued by architectural staples such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey, but I also noticed the small apartment complexes, street pubs, tiny boutiques, aging churches tucked away and hidden by the busy streets. In Ireland, I fell in love with the intricate bridges and ancient monastery ruins, Scotland showed me castles and cemeteries. Everything was so detailed, the wood and stone carved by hand, each their own masterful piece of art. This art was different from any that I had ever created or imagined creating. This is when architecture became a very real thought as to what my future plan would contain.                                                                                                                                                 I had always thought of architects as the people who united  America with uniform, blocky buildings, destroying the individuality of beautiful cities and urbanizing every inch of open space. Big cities across the country, across the world, are sacrificing their personalities to chain restaurants and department stores, Wal-Marts and McDonalds. Architects, however, fight this uniformity. They infuse cities with interactive pieces of art, adding a bit of their own personality. Why architecture? This is why. There is something very pleasing to see your art being used instead of simply framed and hung on your bedroom wall. This will be my contribution. I will add to the community character by revitalizing historical styles and incorporating them with my own taste. Architecture will allow me to turn my hobby into something productive and efficient, something needed instead of just something admired by a few of my friends.                                                                                                                                          Architecture affects everyone. People spend their lives going in and out of buildings, up and down downtown streets, walking through parks, constantly surrounded by the work of an architect. As wonderful as a painting hanging on the wall is, I want to look at a home, an office, a school, a library and be able to say "I helped create that. We made that beautiful building happen." These are the places where people spend their lives. I want to make these places more than just four walls and a roof they visit every day.