The Journal
Architectural Theory
Spokane Architect's Journal - Perspectives: Knowledge vs. Wisdom
Perspectives: Knowledge vs. Wisdom
Technological mastery versus sensitivity and harmony

Architecture has the potential to be greatly enriched with an inclusive appreciation of both 'Western' ('European') and 'Eastern' ('Asian') perspectives. This is not to say that we favor Asian style, but rather, that we appreciate the contrasting character of Asian thought systems and what thos...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Proportions of the Particular
Proportions of the Particular
Considering the particular within the universal

Questions of proportion span across philosophy, mathematics, science, history, and numerous aspects of art and architecture. Two opposing schools of thought about our understanding of reality recur in this context. One camp describes proportional systems as a means to better understand the harmonies...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Path to Health and Happiness
The Path to Health and Happiness
Health is a design issue

Health and happiness cohabit in a powerful alliance. It is a close partnership; one does not fare well without the other. Neither just happens. Both require attention, both require work. To this simple rule, no exceptions are allowed, no excuses are granted. There are no shortcuts. Anything that ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Meaning of 'Professional'
The Meaning of 'Professional'
Why hire a licensed professional?

The meanings of words shift over time. In the 13th century the word 'nice' meant foolish, or stupid. Today, the word 'professional' has been shifting to refer to pretty much anything done for money. But this erosion of meaning muddies the critical distinction embodied in the term. Professional&nb...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Rammed Earth: Deep Green by Design
Rammed Earth: Deep Green by Design
It's not a 'dirt' wall - it's a natural, toxin-free, sanitary rock wall

A view of earth from space reveals a trace band of blue - our atmosphere - just visible across the sunlit edge of our planet. Below, eighty percent of the globe is coated by salt water but a fraction of the depth of that atmosphere. The remaining surface area rising just above the seas supports an...

Spokane Architect's Journal - My Mentor's Mentors
My Mentor's Mentors
What I discovered they all had in common

"There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the center of this way. It is...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Terroir and Architecture
Terroir and Architecture
Listening to this place

Our present position begins with the observation that people and cultures are defined by the balance they make between the general and the particular. We feel that in Western society this balance is in jeopardy. Mass culture is becoming so predominant that the local and the particular are becoming l...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Cakes Left Out in the Rain
Cakes Left Out in the Rain
"... If it leaks, it's art."

That natural forces will act on, and ultimately destroy, any contribution we make to our built environment persists as one of the few things we can be sure of about the fate of any building. For architects, this presents a challenge somewhat analogous to that of medical professionals who, desti...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Building Legacy Architecture
Building Legacy Architecture
Site matters more than stuff

Building with durable, inorganic materials such as SIREWALL means spending more initially to create buildings that will not burn, rot, or otherwise decompose. What are the implications of designing buildings that will stand for generations rather than years?A brook trout swims freely... within the b...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Dualities in Design
Dualities in Design
It's not always desirable to resolve differences

Yang: The active, masculine cosmic principle in Chinese dualistic philosophy.Yin: The passive, female cosmic principle in Chinese dualistic philosophy. Differences may be experienced as complimentary attributes. It is not always necessary or desirable to resolve differences. It has often been the...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Choices Reflect Values
Choices Reflect Values
How do we love the children of all species, for all time?

"Simplicity, clarity, singleness; these are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy." ~ Richard Halloway Imagine that in your left hand, you hold a bottle of very low cost wine... and in your right, something like a Willamette Valley Pinot or a Napa Valley Cabernet. The ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Symbolism in Architecture
Symbolism in Architecture
Thoughts on authenticity - or lack thereof

In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language. ~ Peter Zumthor From a generalized societal perspective, we have for the most part been increasingly creating our buildings and communitie...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Welcome, come on in!
Welcome, come on in!
Entrance should be a highlight

Celebrate your home or office with a well-designed entry sequence. Like the path into a great cathedral, every entrance and the route you take before and after can potentially create a rewarding experience of moving from one place to another.  Imbuing that transition with a powerful mem...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Dwelling as Placemaking
Dwelling as Placemaking
Home is not a house so much as it is an experience

"Only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build." ~ Martin Heidegger Our present position begins with the observation that people and cultures are defined by the balance they make between the general and the particular. We feel that in Western society this balance is in jeopardy. M...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Signature Architecture
Signature Architecture
In search of True

"Where there is style, there is no need for a style." ~ Frank Lloyd Wright Social networks provide opportunities to engage a diverse community of people in conversations to reveal a broad sampling of opinion on any topic. I have occasionally posed questions to fans of my Sam Rodell | Architect...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Travel and Architecture
Travel and Architecture
You had to be there

One of the most addictive aspects of a career in architecture is the level of ongoing learning that it engages one in throughout the entire arc of a career, of a lifetime. The sources of this 'continuing education' need not be distant or exotic travel. The insights offered by local interactions an...

Spokane Architect's Journal - The Adoration of the Joint
The Adoration of the Joint
How architectural elements embody expressive potential

"I put the glass between the structural members and the members which are not of structure because the joint is the beginning of ornament. And that must be distinguished from decoration that is simply applied. Ornament is the adoration of the joint." ~ Louis I. Kahn How design elements and mat...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Getting to Simple
Getting to Simple
Eliminate the superfluous and nonessential

"Like all great performances, a great work of art makes complexity look simple. It is executed with style, skill, and grace. Any genuine work of art is created through tremendous discipline, not put together out of a grab bag of random references and trendy trim. Great art eliminates everything su...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Designing for Natural Light
Designing for Natural Light
Forensically accurate sun studies

One of the first things we do with a new project is build a detailed and accurate three dimensional computer model of the land and its physical features from a survey. The survey work is usually completed using both a laser theodolite and satellite GPS data. The topographic model created from this d...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Cultivation of Expression
Cultivation of Expression
Gravity never rests

Buildings are anthropomorphic interventions in the natural environment - in other words, we live in a built environment that we create largely in response to the way we live within our bodies. Architecture serves far more than physical needs, but the human body is a primary determinant of architectu...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Choice and Cultivation
Choice and Cultivation
The task of our time is to combine vitality with calm

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." ~ Henry David Thoreau To function, even at the most basic level, we must be ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - When Walls Meet
When Walls Meet
Where changes of mass, plane, color or texture feel most comfortable

Corners are a design opportunity, potentially telling part of the story of a building through the material fabric of a buildings surface. Corners can be a tool for wayfinding, a way to change the visual size of an object or an opportunity to show off great design. Nothing stands out as ina...

Spokane Architect's Journal - What Plants Can Teach Us About Storing Energy
What Plants Can Teach Us About Storing Energy
Do it like rhubarb does it

Biomimicry: What plants can teach us about storing energy... Good bye, fossil fuel dependency! The main challenge with sun and wind energy is storage. Because the sun isn't always shining, and the wind isn't always blowing, we need to be able to bank away renewable energy when it's available for ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Building with Organic Materials
Building with Organic Materials
Why build with stuff naturally destined to burn, decay, or rot?

All the rivers run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full.  Ecclesiastes 1:7 Waste does not exist in nature. In the natural world, everything is cyclical; everything happens in closed loops and dynamic systems of loops. One familiar example would be the hydrological cycle, in which e...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Layering Views
Layering Views
It's not enough to simply orient spaces to a view

"If there is a beautiful view, do not spoil it by building huge windows that gape incessantly at it. Instead, put the windows which look onto the view at places of transition - along paths, in hallways, in entry ways on stairs, between rooms. If the view window is correctly placed, people will see...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Design for Future Abundance
Design for Future Abundance
Talking about sustainability as 'doing without' is counterproductive

The classical English pattern of using the village commons (that communally owned and used land which was available for pasturing private livestock) did not involve a conflict between public and private welfare as long as there was enough land. However, as herds increased, the over-grazed land becam...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Regional Authenticity and Architectural Sincerity
Regional Authenticity and Architectural Sincerity
Meaningful design is not driven by gratuitous 'decoration'

In virtually all our travels now, we see all manors of decorative devices employed in the built environment. Most represent, overtly or indirectly, intentions, aspirations, or values. Often, signage supplements or simply replaces architectural iconography.Regional authenticity is undermined by the f...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Getting Off Oil - With Architecture
Getting Off Oil - With Architecture
There is no energy crisis, only a crisis of ignorance

It is no secret that our dependence on oil reaches into every aspect of modern life. This must change - actually, will change, whether we like it or not. Not only are we wreaking environmental havoc burning fossil fuels, it is certain the costs will continue to dramatically rise, impacting every cor...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Restorative Intervention
Restorative Intervention
Design with nature - not against it

We designed and built our home on a site in a small development enfronting wetlands. Rather than extending the ubiquitous domesticated landscape of American suburbia into the native landscape, we instead pulled the wetlands and native landscape back into the domesticated realm of the housing devel...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Waste is Food
Waste is Food
(7 minute video)

A 'circular economy' is a term for an industrial economy that is, by design or intention, completely restorative.  In a circular economy, material flows are of two types: biological and technical. Biological nutrients are designed to reenter the biosphere safely, and technical nutrients are des...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Heirloom Architecture
Heirloom Architecture
Architecture has to be measured in elephant time

"When you make things well, it's an ethical thing." ~ Stanley Tigerman Instant gratification in architecture is highly over-rated. As an architect, being published and winning prestigious design awards is validating and gratifying, but this kind of recognition also tends to be fleeting, capric...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Preserving Darkness to Design With Light
Preserving Darkness to Design With Light
(TED Talk Video)

Lighting architect Rogier van der Heide offers insights into how thoughtful architects and lighting designers pay attention to light (and to darkness) to design more healthy, delightful spaces and integrate the built environment into the world in more gracious ways. ...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Coaxing a Stone
Coaxing a Stone
Architecture exists both in the material world and in the realm of ideas

"You say to brick, "What do you want, brick?" Brick says to you, "I like an arch." If you say to brick, "Arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over an opening. What do you think of that, brick?' Brick says, 'I like an arch.'It is important that you honor the material you use. Yo...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Details and Intention
Details and Intention
If our work is well designed, benefits will far outweigh costs

When we experience good design - whether it is the design of a product, a service, or an environment - seemingly small, nuanced details we may well not even be conscious of will often exert a powerful influence on our perceptions. Even without knowing why, we are drawn toward the intentions of our b...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Art and Science of Architecture
Art and Science of Architecture
Any architectural firm worthy of the title must excel both artistically and technologically

In Western culture, science and art are often thought of as existing in separate worlds. Our higher educational institutions support this notion, for example - coursework is generally offered in the arts, or in the sciences. Yet we need look no further than the rise of Apple to recognize this is a...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Designed to Fail
Designed to Fail
We have much to learn from simple sophistication

This sextant is an example of sophisticated navigation technology designed and built to reliably function over a hundred years ago. It is well designed, anticipating challenges of use in extreme conditions when accuracy could be a matter of life and death. It is well made, of materials selected to...

Spokane Architect's Journal - Responsibility and Gratitude
Responsibility and Gratitude
We find nothing more rewarding than creating harmonious outcomes for clients

"Our life work is built on a foundation of reverence, responsibility, and gratitude."  ~ Sam Rodell Imagine building a scale model of the earth 75 yards in diameter. The biosphere in this model would be roughly the thickness of the skin of a tomato. It is here, between earth and sky, where t...