Monday, January 05, 2009

This Blog Has Moved

This blog has been officially moved. Fortunately it is not far away. Just one click will get you to the new and improved modative blog on architecture, design, development, and modative happenings...

The good news is that all the old postings are there as well. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Modative Holiday Hours

Modative will not be operating at full strength from December 24, 2008 - January 4th, 2009. You may contact us at this time, but responses will be delayed. E-mail is preferred as many of us will not be checking voicemail over the holidays.

Normal office hours will resume on January 5th, 2008.

Happy Holidays.

Happy Holidays to Our 2008 Consultants

This holiday season, we at Modative would like to give thanks to the consultants we have worked with throughout the year. Without this talented group our architecture would not be possible.

John Labib + Associates Structural Engineers
John Labib, S.E. and Tony Nguyen
Not only are they one of the best structural engineering firms in LA, but they are a pleasure to work with.

Rainville Design Associates (Landscape)
Miriam Rainville
Miriam never disappoints with her ability to beautifully match landscaping to buildings.

Iacobellis & Associates (Subdivision Engineering & Surveying)
Thomas Iacobellis, Thomas Iacobellis Jr., Chris Nassiri, Mark Fox, Gail Hearsey
In the ever complicated world of subdivisions, these guys are pros.

Fine Line Systems (Civil Engineering)
Chris Chan

Chris knows the ins and outs of the City of LA so well that we swear he has an office at City Hall.

Breen Engineering, Inc. (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, & Structural)

Hamish List, Gary Mills, Ryan Ramos, Joper Tupas

Breen is a one stop shop for all your engineering needs. However, this convenience is second to their obvious desire to continually please their clients.

Geocon Inland Empire, Inc (Geotechnical Consultants)

Neil D. Berliner

Geocon used their expertise in liquefaction analysis to save our client a bunch of money on foundations. And that is good news for everyone.

Taylor & Syfan Consulting Engineers (Structural Engineering)

Steve Taylor, Garrett Mills

Taylor & Syfan are expert engineers on projects of all types and sizes, plus they are easy to work with and always on top of things.

J. Byer Group, Inc. (Geotechnical Consultants)

Guiseppe Cugno

We would like to thank Guiseppe and they J. Byer team for always answering our stupid questions about geotechnical engineering. Thanks for helping us architects to understand.

ARC Engineering (Structural Engineering)

Gagan Baines

A great midsize structural engineering firm. Gagan, thanks for helping to solve problems us architects create.

TDR Engineering

Ysali A. Shank

The fastest and most affordable surveyors in the west.

Ray Associates (Structural Engineering)

Ajay Ray

We would like to thank Ajay ray for his personal touch to engineering and willingness to take on projects of any scope.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Southern California Fires

As a very intense fire season continues to cause damage in Southern California, our thoughts are with those who have been displaced and lives upended by the recent fires. Since designing homes is such a large part of what we do here at Modative, we feel for those who have lost something so integral to their lives. 

In an effort to help in the recovery, Modative is offering deep discounts on our architectural services for anyone affected by the Southern California fires. Whether rebuilding on the site of the loss or in a new location we are here to help. Please contact us if you are interested.

A photo I took while driving down the 101 freeway during last year's fires.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Environmental Architecture in Greece

I just returned from a vacation in the Greek islands and discovered some amazing historic examples of designing for the environment. The trip began on some of the Cyclades islands: Paros, Ios, and the better known Santorini. These islands contain the type of architecture one often pictures when they think of the Greek Islands; white painted flat roofed structures with minimal blue trim. These collections of white boxes stand out beautifully against the often barren brown landscape and deep blue color of the Mediterranean sea. This clean and practical style stuck with me as almost modern in appearance. Created only for pure function. No decoration necessary.

The Cyclades Islands: Santorini

This style that became so common among the Cyclades islands changed dramatically when we reached our final destination of Samos located in the lesser known North Aegean island chain. Samos, less than 80 miles away from the Cyclades islands contained structures with pitched tile roofs and much less white paint.

The North Aegean Islands: Samos

Intrigued by this dramatic difference in the architecture of these islands I asked a tour guide/ archeologist for an explanation. She explained that the reasons for the difference was simply  climate. 

The Cyclades islands were very dry, hot islands, so the buildings had flat roofs that could collect the minimal rainwater they received for reuse. This is especially important when you are on a small island with no other viable sources of water. These buildings were also all painted white to reflect rather than absorb the summer sun. The structures also had small windows to keep the heat out. Time inside these dark interiors is minimized by spending time on outdoor shaded patios.

Designed for Dry: Santorini

Samos on the other-hand has a much higher annual rainfall, which was evident by the abundant vegetation on the island and the fact that it rained most the time we were there. This is why the roofs are pitched; to get the rain away from the structures. This milder climate also explains why the windows were larger and the buildings were not all white.

Designed for Rain: Samos

This beauty of this contrast is that it shows how buildings had to be designed to their environments in the days before electricity and easy transportation. The buildings were not designed to a particular style to maintain a common appearance but to their particular microclimate. I love the sustainability of these simple design moves. Although the process of making our build environment more "green" involves utilizing innovative technologies, these simple lessons from the past have much to offer the design community as to how to move sustainability forward.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Reducing Construction Conflicts

One of the interesting things about being an architect is that it is not only our responsibility to design beautiful and functional buildings, but we have to make sure these structures can be built. This involves coordination of many expert consultants: structural engineers, mechanical engineers, etc. It is critical that all these different systems work together in the building. Unfortunately, there are often conflicts between these systems that are not discovered until actual construction where they are costly to fix. An example would be a mechanical duct (for heating) running into a structural beam.

In an effort to reduce the number of construction conflicts, we utilize our architectural software (we use ArchiCAD) to model these various systems in the virtual building. This three dimensional analysis allows us to see these conflicts during the construction document phase, where they are easy, and much cheaper to solve.

Below is an example of this process. This is an in-progress virtual model of the Venice Boulevard Urban Dwellings project showing some of the primary structural members (columns and beams) as designed by our structural engineer, John Labib, S.E.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Fay Ave. Small Lot Project - First Look

After  months of design and tract submittal preparation, here is a glimpse of our latest small lot subdivision project here in Los Angeles. This project, called the Fay Avenue Art District Dwellings, is only two blocks away from our Venice Boulevard small lot project. This design for these seven homes is inspired by the growing art district in the area. 

Fay Ave. Art District Dwellings is currently in design development and will be posted to the website in the coming months with more images.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Kayo Connection

Although Modative is at its core an architecture firm, we have always been interested in expanding beyond this traditional role into both development and construction. Hence, the whole "Design, Develop, Build" tag line (see below) and philosophy. As of several months ago, I'm happy to announce that through collaboration, our push into these two other fields is complete. 

As previously announced, we have had an ongoing collaborative relationship with Pacific Beacon Properties, LLC, a development company, working on two small lot subdivision projects in Los Angeles. We not only provide architectural services for Pacific Beacon, but assist with development analysis and decisions.

For the "build", we have teamed up with Libiano Construction Inc., headed by Mark Libiano. We have known and worked with Mark for many years and the results have been great. Libiano Co. is also involved the the two small lot subdivision projects, offering his construction expertise throughout the design and construction process. Having a close collaboration with Mark has proved so successful, that we have decided to offer this collaboration between architect and contractor to other potential clients as a true design/build team. 

The Kayo Connection
With this design + build collaboration comes the opportunity to collectively market our services as well. This is where Kayo comes in. Kayo is a long time (11 year) friend and colleague of the three founders here at Modative. She also happens to be Mark Libiano's wife. So, who better to go out there and spread the good word of both entities. 

Just as we here at Modative have let you know a bit about ourselves in the profile section of our website, we thought we would give you a sneak peak into the life of Kayo N. Libiano...

Early Years

Canadian born, Kayo moved to Southern California at the age of 3 and began her training in classical ballet, continuing as an avid dancer for over 17 years.  She attended dance academies in the OC, LA and even studied ballet in Japan for a year, so it was not surprising that she greatly appreciated the arts and cultures of different countries from an early age.  Though, what did come as a surprise, was when she wrote in an essay in Junior High English class that she wanted to be an architect, NOT a dancer when she grew up.  Her thought process was that the body deteriorates with age, but the creative mind lives on...  What sealed the deal of her conviction was when she fielded comments like; “There aren’t many famous female architects in the world” or “How will you succeed in such a male dominant profession?”  Kayo’s stubborn and tenacious personality took hold and she set out to prove everyone wrong.

Fight On!

The instinct to create personalized spaces always interested Kayo and she was constantly rearranging furniture, designing accessories and painting pictures on the walls in her family home.  Her first sewing machine was gifted to her at the age of 10 and though dance was her #1 passion, making her own clothes and throw pillows came in as a close second of her favorite things to do.  By the time she graduated from High School, she had completed 3 years of technical drafting courses as the only girl in the classes and her hopes of attending architecture school were cemented in place.  USC served as a training ground where she honed her skills and where she met many of her future colleagues whom have greatly influenced her career thus far.

Experiences in the Field

Post graduation, Kayo went to work for David Jay Flood Architect (DJFA) with her friends, Derek Leavitt and Michael Scott whom both graduated a year before her from USC’s Architecture school.  As a team player, she worked on several architecture and interior projects.  From DJFA, Kayo took a job as Project Manager at Jacquez Marquez Architects (JMA), where she got a taste for designing high-end homes and day-spas in Beverly Hills and Greater Los Angeles.

Going Corporate

Knowing the importance of the great American Corporation on the economy in the United States, Kayo worked for Merle Norman Cosmetics as a franchise designer, where she built-out stores and oversaw installations for studio owners across the nation from Las Vegas, Chicago and New York.

One of the Guys

As girly as Kayo might appear on the outside, she has no problem sporting a hardhat and a construction belt on-site, or dealing with city officials.  Whatever it takes to get the job done, she is up to the task, even if it means roughing it with the boys.  Her path crossed with Christian Návar, another old friend from USC at Studio 9one2 Architecture when she moved to the South Bay.  As a designer and project manager, Kayo kept the office organized and had the opportunity to collaborate on beautiful contemporary homes, commercial buildings and most importantly, developed contacts with a slew of subcontractors which are vital connections in the building industry.  “It's all about who you know and how well you can keep up good public relations!”

To Have and to Hold

The little secret to Kayo’s success in architecture comes from her husband Mark, whom she dated since her senior year at USC.  Being a General Contractor by trade, Mark has steered and coached Kayo through the nuances of the architecture/construction world and while letting her make her own mistakes, has above all, taught her what it takes to survive in the admittedly “male dominant” building industry.  Today, Kayo works hand in hand with Mark (whom she married in 2007) to build his growing construction company and also acts as the link between Modative and Libiano Construction, Inc. as a Design + Build team.  She heads-up the two companies’ marketing and is an enthusiastic supporter of both thriving businesses.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Retail Project Update

I thought it was about time to share some images of the retail project we have been working on in collaboration with Brent Thompson of Global Design Workshop LLP. This big project has an equally large design team and we have been lucky to work with some very talented firms in the process so far. The project is now called "Celebration" and without giving too much away, is located somewhere in Los Angeles County.

And (most of) the design team:

In the coming weeks we will be adding this project, along with more images, to our website.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

LA & Enterprise Launch $100 Million Fund for Affordable Housing

Developing affordable housing in Los Angeles just got a bit easier as the City of Los Angeles and Enterprise Community Partners announced this week a $100 million fund aimed at providing financial assistance to non-profit and for profit developers of affordable housing projects. 

More information on this fund can be found in this MarketWatch Article as well as through Enterprise.

Here at Modative we are interested in the opportunities this fund can provide for innovative affordable housing projects in Los Angeles. Although much of affordable housing is geared towards the rental market, we have always had an interest in providing home ownership possibilities for people of all income levels utilizing the small lot subdivision ordinance. More info on  Small Lot Subdivision in L.A.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Prefab Home - Manufacturing Required?

Karrie Jacobs, one of my favorite architectural writers, has once again called out prefab housing for what it currently is, "building inside." As she argues in this Article from Metropolis Magazine, Architects thus far have approached prefab housing with an architect's mentality when it really requires an industrial designers approach. 

Although prefab housing has started to gain a small niche, discussion and theoretical projects still far outweigh concrete examples. Even the current "models" on the market are primarily just pieces of homes built in a factory, trucked to the site and assembled over a standard foundation system. These homes are not truly manufactured. The level of efficiency and cost savings that is the goal of prefab housing will not be achieved until the entire approach becomes more like that of an automobile assembly line. So, as Karrie Jacobs suggests, are architects the right ones to be solving the problem of prefab construction?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Digital Organization with ArchiOffice

If you ever want to feel like an architectural community insider, just ask an architect "What CAD software do you use and why?" This will undoubtedly be answered with more information than you care to know about the digital world of architectural design. Explanations as to why their CAD software is the best, most efficient, a great design tool, etc, etc. 

Now ask that same architect, "what office/project management software do you use?" Most often, this will be met with startling silence. 

While most architecture firms pride themselves on their CAD prowess, they often ignore or undervalue all of the other important  aspects of running a practice. These include contact organization, timecard and expense tracking, project management, correspondence, billing and calendar coordination. Sure, they probably have something to handle these items, but more often than not, these seemingly mundane tasks are accomplished with disparate pieces of software. 

Aware of this hodgepodge way of doing things, we instead opted for a software system that manages all of these items in one concise, easy to use database. Our office/project management system is called "ArchiOffice" This system is used as much, if not more than our CAD software. 

One example is the timecard portion of the system. We diligently use the timecard system to track hours for all projects, office overhead and marketing. This information is not only used for our billing, but also provides us valuable historical data over the life of a project. How efficient were we on this project? Did we make a profit? Can we be more efficient? We also use this stored information to give future clients a proper fee on their project because we know how much time was spent on past projects of a similar nature.

Here is a sample screen shot of a timecard from last year. 

Note that the system tracts the project, project phase, job code, description of what was done, and the amount of time. The system is easily navigated via the top menu with icons of the various modules in the system: Contacts, Time/Exp, Projects, Billing, etc.

The ArchiOffice database is stored on a central server here in the office. Every memo, e-mail, project and contact are interconnected and automatically sorted, so no information is lost or improperly filed. All appointments and tasks are easily accessible to everyone in the office. Invoices are directly tied to to our timecards and expense reports. This ease of using this seamless system versus a mixture of non integrated software packages allows us to spend more time on design. This approach not only helps us run a better office, but it helps us better serve our clients.

Being creative doesn't mean you can't also be organized.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Smaller, More Attentive, Better Quality

Following up the last post on why selecting a younger, energetic  firm (such as Modative) can be an advantage over going with a more established firm. Here is something that we have always considered an advantage:

Larger, more established firms often have many more projects and larger staffs. This is not necessarily a good thing for you as the client. With those many projects and staff comes less attention to your project. The principal (boss, lead architect) that you initially met with, will probably have very limited time on your project. They will often hand it off to someone lower on the totem pole to manage, such as a project manager. That project manager may even have most of the work done by someone even lower on the pyramid, a draftsperson or intern. The quality and attention you receive will no doubt be somewhat diluted. 

In an office such as ours, there is no grandiose hierarchy.  The principals you meet with with manage, design and most often perform most of the work on your project. That kind of attention is hard to beat.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Battling Ageism in the Architecture World

A few months back, the partners here at Modative had lunch with a very well known  international architect.  The three of us admire his ability to have achieved success at a relatively young age. So given this opportunity, we had to ask him, "How were you as a young architect (such as ourselves) able to convince clients to go with you over older, more established names in the industry?"

His insightful answer was ripe for the taking. He said that there were two clear reasons for selecting a young energetic firm over a more established firm:

1. With older firms, there is a reputation that is already established. Whereas with younger firms, your project is critical to the building of our reputation. We have a vested interest in making sure your project is great in order to build our reputation.

2. Older firms typically have an established ego. This is not meant as a negative jab, but rather that they often have a set way of doing things. So, when you hire the established firm, you will often find yourself competing with this ego. With a younger firm, we keep your "client vision" as the priority. We are more flexible and open to new ideas.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dogs Like Modern Too...

Introducing Bella, the latest member of the Modative family. She is Christian's new puppy and as you can see, she has made herself quite comfortable in the office.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Move Over Prius

Rarely a week goes by here at the office without someone bringing up the topic of alternative transportation technology: electric cars, mag lev trains, etc. We have a bit of an obsession with the ideas of driving without oil/gas and two hour train rides to Las Vegas on a moments notice.

So there was a recent flurry of excitement when Christian found out about Aptera, a new hybrid/electric car company working on a very innovative new car to debut in the California market. 
What makes this car so interesting is not only that it can get 300 mpg, but its beautifully designed from the ground up. The stunning design is not for just pure visual impact, but it is based on function; to reduce wind resistance and improve milage. It utilizes many of the principles of aircraft design to achieve this goal. Check out the car and the company here:

Monday, March 24, 2008

New Project News

Modative has recently teamed up with Brent Thompson Global Design Workshop ( on the design of a large, 100,000 sq. ft. + retail and entertainment complex in the Los Angeles area. Many of the details including specific location can't be released at this time due to the often competitive nature of the retail development industry. 

The architecture team also includes DesignARC in Santa Barbara, CA and executive architect LCRA in Pasadena, CA.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Defining Modernism

So, last weekend I finally* started reading The Perfect $100,000 House by Karrie Jacobs, and already I discovered a great little blurb on "modernism" in the introduction. It's a definition that is very appropriate in explaining the type of modernism we strive for here at Modative. She also manages to define it such an eloquent way that I've never been able to. This, however, may have to do with the fact that she is she's a professional writer and I am, well... not. Anyways, here it is:
"The modernism that I love, that I care about, isn't a historical movement that peaked in the  mid-twentieth century and is currently enjoying a major revival but is rather a frame of mind. It's a way of thinking that involves an ongoing investigation of methods and materials. It's a design philosophy that values comfort but doesn't confuse it with excess. It's a strategy that views the most important elements of design as space, daylight, and the surfaces with which we routinely come into contact."
Although I'm a painfully slow reader, and it may take awhile, I'm hoping the rest of the book is this insightful.

* I say finally because I talked about this book last April in our news section.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Promise of Prefab?

For all the hype of the Modern Prefab home these days, there still remains one clear problem: PRICE. The real promise behind prefab has yet to surface - "an affordable alternative to site built." 

For all the positives that prefab claims to have: efficiency, speed, quality; the facts are clear, the price of prefab is often more than standard on-site construction. I'm not saying that this will always be the case, but for now, the cost savings are hard to see. This is especially the case in places like Los Angeles where the permitting process can be complex and labor costs are high. So, without naming names, here are some recent per square foot (construction only) prices of some prefab home makers:

Prefab Company A: $400/ sq. ft.
Prefab Company B: $300/ sq. ft. 
Prefab Company C: $250/ sq. ft. 
Prefab Company D: $275/ sq. ft.
Not exactly affordable numbers, especially considering that these homes are often full of compromises in order to be factory built - primarily size and room proportions. In the current Los Angeles construction market, a more affordable goal for modern building would be in the $150-$200 range. 

At Modative, one of our primary goals is to reduce the cost of modern construction. This is a difficult and ongoing process that so far it has not lead us in the direction of prefab. So as some of our projects progress, we will see if this range can be accomplished.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Malibu Property

Just got word today of an off-market listing for an ocean front property in Malibu, CA. The property is developable as a home or two-unit. Feel free to contact me if you have any interest.