SPOKE – ST. LOUIS DESIGN WEEK

Poster and branding for STLDW was created by Carlos Zamora of Kiku Obata.

It was about a year ago that I returned to St. Louis after graduating. Know that there weren’t many jobs out there for recent graduates I thought I might be able to get a leg up on the competition by getting involved. So with that in mind I went to my local AIA office and asked how I could help or if there was anything that I should be doing as a recent grad. The reply I got was more than I ever bargained for but I found out about a few local groups like the Young Architects Forum, Design Speak, among many others. But most important of these were STL Design Week, as I was invited to do an event for AIA from the idea they had. What was the idea? It was an architectural bike tour of the city. Now I haven’t owned or ridden a bike in a few years so my first instinct was, “Sure, why not? How hard could it be.” I had no idea what I was doing or what I had just gotten myself into, but I wouldn’t have changed a single thing because it was one of the best experiences I have had so far.

The entire week was a huge success with nine different events happening across seven days all in the amazing city we call home. We had events that featured anything and everything design, between lectures with award winning chiefs like Gerard Craft that discussed the impact design has on a restaurant to DART, which is an interactive project that you to throw a dart at a board and discover that space over the following month through the art of photography. There was a student competition and industrial design show called FUSION, a functional object show and lecture series put on called FORM. An event named ARTeffect that was a charity auction to benefit a children’s art program run through the Contemporary Art Museum. With the entire week being finished on Sunday morning with the architecture bike tour aptly named SPOKE.

Riding the route with the docents before the day.

So I could take you through the long tedious process that my team and I went through to create SPOKE, or I could just let you know the results. I think for the sake of time and holding your interest we will stick to just the results, as it was a very long process filled with team members stepping away, road blocks with streets departments, new teams members getting caught up, insurance concerns, safety precautions, and trying to find enough docents to make this event a success.

We started the tour at a place called BWorks located in the Soulard neighborhood. I met the amazing people behind this organization in December and when I learned what they do I had to include them in this plan. A brief history of BWorks is that they are a nonprofit organization that host 3 children’s programs that included: book works, byte works, and bike works. Their bike program lasts 5 weeks and teaches the kids bike safety, bike maintenance, and in the end the child earns a bike and a helmet that they can continue to use. The day of the ride we were able to raise a couple hundred dollars in donations, a few of the riders even gave up their old bikes after the ride, or signed up to be a volunteer with one of their programs. Oh did I forget to mention that BWorks receives donated bikes and is run by volunteers? This group is certainly something you need to see to believe, or even better it is a great cause to support.

As your starting to see this wasn’t just about the architecture of St. Louis but also abut the amazing programs and organizations doing work in our community. The second stop along the tour was a new place in town, called Climb So Ill. They are a very outgoing group of guys who had a dream to open the best climbing gym in the Midwest, and personally I think they have done an amazing job and not just from the stand point of the facilities, because the a certainly raising the bar, but because of the passion they have. I was very happy to feature them along the route and show off another adaptive reuse project with a great deal of success. The guys who run the gym know all of their regulars by name and will go out of the way to make sure your are comfortable. Climb So Ill is a great place to check out in St. Louis and a wonderful addition to the tour.

The third stop along the way was the architecture office of Cannon Design. This project was completed only a few years ago, and with it being a private office the opportunity for the public to experience the space is very limited. We received so many compliments about this space because of the quality if light and just the overall work environment that they have been blessed with. Needless to say this space made a lot of people jealous when compared to their office.

 

 

The fourth stop along the tour was a place called the Kerr Foundation. They are a non-profit organization that focuses on education and helping to better the community. This building was selected not only for the organization behind the building, but the structure itself. This building is a LEED platinum building and originally started as a bathhouse many years ago. This stop allowed participants to get up close with various “green” technologies, and the gain a getter understanding of how they can be used. The building utilizes solar and wind power, along with natural light, permeable paving for the parking along with a bio swale and rain garden to collect runoff on site. This was a great place to bring the technical side or sustainability to the tangible and approachable for those touring the facility

The stencils I put down on the streets to mark the course for riders.

In the end the tour had over 150 people involved between the volunteers, riders, and docents leading. There were no accidents or major catastrophes through the day, despite having heavy traffic because of the baseball and football games starting at noon and one. Overall everyone had a good time, enjoyed them selves, and was able to experience a little more of St. Louis than usual. It’s a magical thing that happens when you get on a bike and slow down from your car, you take the time to look around and think about what was there and not just rush by things and take them for granted. I know I shouldn’t be thinking about it, but I have already started to plan for next year, meeting with the docents and people involved and seeing what we can improve for next year. This has been an amazing yearlong journey that allowed me the meet so many tremendous people along the way and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

One of the groups before they departed.

One of the many points of interest along the tour.

The final tour route.

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LEADERSPEAK: IS YOUR CHECK ENGINE LIGHT ON?

Have you ever been driving down the road and all of a sudden a little sport car goes flying past you? I started thinking about that car the other day after I was wrapping up a day in the office. I was picturing that car cruising along, oblivious to the fact that it was blowing a whole lot of smoke and causing a mess for everyone else to navigate through. I smiled when I passed that car pulled over on the side of the road, realizing if only they had taken better care of their car it wouldn’t have happened. For the purpose of this piece, let’s just say they ran out of gas.

I normally don’t like using analogies to make my point but this time I am going to make an exception. For the past year I have been in and out of so many offices searching for a place to start my career, just like every other recent graduate out there . Through that time, I have had the opportunity to see various offices and the character and culture of each.  This has allowed me to gain a better understanding of what an office environment is really like compared to anything my professors tried to explain. The analogy came to me when I was reflecting back over my experiences from the past several months and the thought of that little car came to mind.

I’m sure you’re wondering where I am going with this, right? Well, what I mean by that is that an engine runs on gas and oil. If you consider the oil as the collaborative and creative side of an office, while the gas in the tank as the productive side that keeps the office running, you’ll get this analogy. The point is that you need both of those to keep the car operating, so keep that in mind when you start the engine on your firm.

Think about this; if you run with too much oil and not enough gas, you just end up in a big cloud of smoke while you’re stranded on the side of the road. This means when you spend all your time thinking and playing without proper production, you just end up breaking down and on the side of the road with your thumb out asking for a ride. The opposite is equally devastating, too much gas and not enough oil, you end up going really far but burn out after that recommended oil change. What I mean is if you are only productive and don’t take time to play, then you lose your passion for what you do and quickly stop caring about the task at hand.

The right balance for everyone is different. Each firm has their own ratio that works for the culture they have created. A particular amount of oil to every gallon of gas is critical, some work better with a drop and some take it by the quart. Every firm is unique and there is no exact science to the right ratio but there does need to be balance. Finding that balance and individuals who believe in the culture of the office will keep it running smoothly and it is those firms that will stand the test of time. Now there will always be other factors to consider, but when the firm has a shared vision and believe in what they are doing they will always find a way to make it work.