Month: November 2018

Even house project

Even though I have started the new desert house project, I jumped back to the Philly Bridge project to generate this year’s winter special. This was a view that I had planned on illustrating months ago but ran out of time. Luckily, it works perfectly for creating a winter narrative of the first snow of the year with sledders racing to the top of the bridge. This image took a drastic leap from the original V-Ray rendering to the final completed scene with lots of Photoshopped textures throughout. Below is a quick break down of how the image evolved.



1. Sketchup Model / V-Ray Rendering


Above, the Sketchup Model

Above, the V-Ray base rendering. The sketchup model was minimal in detail most of the textures were reused from other views. The only thing I adjusted was the amount of reflection in the sidewalks and the softness of the sun shadow.



2. Context


Next, I inserted the context by Photoshopping in facades that I cut out of online street view maps. I didn’t spend too much time here because I knew it would get washed out quite a bit by the snow.



3. Vegetation


Winter trees were added in the plaza along with shrubs and plantings up the stair wall.



4. Bridge Ceiling


I wanted to do something to draw attention to the bridge, so I dropped in some LED lights and amped up the saturation of the panels. I didn’t want the underside of the bridge to read too dark and uninviting. The LED’s also add some much needed movement to the image.



5. Wet Ground


This was an important part to the narrative of the “first snow”. The ground needed to look wet and slushy so I found several textures that I stitched and overlaid onto the street and sidewalk. I should have spent more time on this step but had to keep moving on.



6. Lights and Snow


Next I needed to show a dusting of snow starting to accumulate on the vegetation. Again, I would have preferred to spend a little more time on this step but had to keep the image moving forward. I also dropped in some lights on the trees for a holiday atmosphere.



7. Car Details


The street needed to be activated so I added tail lights and reflections on the ground. Mist from the wheels was also added to again play up the wet ground look.



8. People


A big part of the narrative of this image was the bridge turning into the perfect sledding site on top. Therefore, I inserted some sledders on and around the grand stair moving the viewers eye up to the top of the bridge. More people were added around the plaza to give the sense that the entire space was being utilized.



9. Color Adjust


Before I inserted the snow, I tweaked the tones of the images to cool things down with more blues and purples. I also drew out some more textures in the underbelly of the bridge and sidewalk.



10. Snow


Finally, the snow was added washing out some of the background and creating more contrast between the shadow of the bridge and everything else. You can find a tutorial on adding snow HERE.

Desert Abstract Interior Studies

I decided to go abstract with this latest post. With this set of illustrations, I have been studying the interior spaces of the Desert House. I tend to prefer interiors with minimal color and material, so I generated these studies as a way to force me out of that way of thinking. Also, the exterior renderings were a little more serious and detailed, so I wanted to switch things up and have a little fun with these. One thing about minimal images is that inserting just a little texture can really change the reading of the illustration. In this case, just a hint of plaster texture on the walls gives the images a painterly quality. Below is a quick break down of one of the images.



1. V-Ray Base Rendering


For the V-Ray base rendering, I simply applied some colors close to what I was looking for knowing that I would tweak them later in Photoshop.


The Material ID that rendered out of V-Ray was crucial for me to make fast selections. Each color represents a zone that will take on a very specific color in Photoshop. I have talked about Material ID in more depth in this POST.



2. Add Color


Next, I took each zone of color and created a mask of that specific area in Photoshop so that I could dial in the color. In the image above, I adjusted the center pink zone to be lighter and more saturated. I wasn’t trying to be realistic so I wasn’t concerned about washing out the shadows a little bit.


Above, the image shows what the illustration looked like once I had all of the colors adjusted in each zone.



3. Texture


I added a simple plaster texture to all of the walls to break up some of the smoothness of the color gradients. I wanted to do this in Photoshop so that I could dial in how strong the texture was. It is important to note that I still distorted the perspective of the plaster texture to match the wall angles. If it sounds like a lot of work, it isn’t because I was able to use the color zone masks used in the previous step to speed this process up.



4. Color Adjust and Noise


At this point, I began adjusting the overall image. I first lightened the images and increased the saturation. I also added just a hint of noise. I describe how to add noise in step six of this POST.



5. HDR


Finally, I added a slight HDR effect that amplifies the contrast and textures. I used Topaz to generate the HDR effect.



Final Images


Desert House Spreads

The Desert House Project is nearing completion and I have begun looking at how I can piece together the different images into portfolio spreads. Setting up these spreads help me to clarify what images still need to be generated to fill in the narrative gaps. They also get me thinking about the branding strategy of the project and what tone the pages will take on. In the case of the Desert House Project, I drew inspiration from the Abstract Interior Renderings that I created in my last post. Those images used an aggressive color palette and could be interesting when applied to the entire project. The colors are weighted on the warmer side and are extremely saturated. Once I had the color palette, I began adjusting some of the past illustrations to take on the more vibrant colors.

Below are some drafts of the spreads. I still need to obviously add text and annotations, however the spreads are starting to take shape and I can now study how the colors and layouts flow from one spread to the other. There are also a lot of images and spreads for this project that are not included in this post but that will be included in the final portfolio. For the new portfolio, I will be giving each project more pages to express the design so that each spread can have a little more breathing room and less pressure to cram as much information as possible into them.

One of the spreads I put together included some new floor plans of the house. Again, I still need to layer in some text and annotations, but the framework is there. I experimented with lots of different material and color options before settling on a more simplified final image. Floor plans contain a lot of information that viewers are trying to digest quickly. Layering in lots of textures and colors can sometimes overload the plans with too much information and ends up hurting the hierarchy and reading of the diagram. I almost always end up going the more simple route with my floor plans.

I will hopefully have a new project underway by my next post. I have yet to do a project in a mountainous terrain. I think I will give that a go and see what I come up with….

Aspect building

So after eight and a half years, I have finally decided to enter the world of podcasting. I am excited to add this medium to my toolkit as I think podcasting my actually be a more natural medium for me rather than writing a blog post. I have maintained that I am a terrible writer, but I actually think I am a fairly engaging speaker – especially in the casual environment of a conversation between friends and colleagues.

In this first episode, we do a little character development as I introduce you to Landon Williams – who will be my co-host in this adventure – and we talk about why we are doing this, what our objectives and goals are for the podcast, … and we only go down a few rabbit holes in this first episode.

Bob Borson and Landon Williams – Life of an Architect Podcast

The setup we have in place is pretty easy and direct. Since Landon literally sits next to me in the office, we simply sat at our desk when recoding the episode. If anyone has a question about our setup and the equipment we used, just ask in the comments below. After an incredibly deep-dive into the recording technology and equipment, I think I have a pretty good grip on a really good mid-level podcast setup. Of course, you’ll have final say on that once you listen to our first episode.

Landon Willams sketching during recording

This is Landon’s sketch that I mentioned during the show – If I wasn’t recording, maybe I would have tried to get a little closer. As one of our “learning” moments, I’ve told Landon that there is no sketching allowed during our recording sessions.

During the post-production editing, which was a small adventure in and of itself, I kept hearing this loud popping sound that was really annoying. I mentioned this to Landon and he confessed that he was clicking his pen … what?!? Soon he will be in charge of post-production editing and it will reinforce to him that good recording behavior will save loads of time in post-production editing.

I should say – and maybe this will change as I get my podcasting legs underneath me – that I don’t intend to do much editing from our recording sessions. I think the stumbles in how a phrase is turned makes the conversation a lot more natural and since you can’t go back during a real conversation, why should I do it here? (other than to edit out pen clicks …)

Finally – since I don’t think many people will be familiar with the “Barbara Streisand” song mentioned, I’ve embedded it into the post today so you can all enjoy a classic from Landon’s college studio days. [Note: If you’re reading in a feed reader, you may have to click-through to the post to see the player.]

The show notes to our first episode aren’t very exciting – I’m not sure they ever will be since all the action is happening within the actual podcast. I do hope that you will give this episode a try, and I hope that you will consider subscribing and making the ‘Life of an Architect’ podcast part of your listening rotation. Since this is the first episode, I will have to come back in here to provide links to Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio, and Spotify – until I actually publish today’s post, the podcast doesn’t technically exist yet!

Thanks for being there for the first podcast – you will be able to say you’ve been there since day one!

Inadequacy and Inspiration

It is Sunday night and I find myself sitting in my usual location preparing to write the next post on Life of an Architect … except I am experiencing a problem that is making this particular post difficult to write. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about, it’s that I have too much to write about, which I will confess is worse than having too little.

I have been out of the office for almost two weeks – which rarely-to-never happens. I attended the American Institute of Architects National Convention in New York for a week and then immediately after I rolled into a week-long vacation in Maine. I’ve never been to Maine before and since it was geographically convenient, it seemed like the right time to go. Also, it has been hot as Hades in Dallas lately and I wanted needed a break from the heat.

Here is a quick graphic to illustrate my point:

Weather Comparison - Texas versus Maine

The top is Dallas with the high temperature’s indicated … anything over 95° got a red circle. The bottom is where we stayed in Maine (technically we stayed on Swan’s Island but this was the closest daily temperatures I could find in my 15-second search). Everything below 95° got a blue circle. Dallas pretty much cleared 100° every single day during this last two weeks while that daily high in Maine was somewhere in the low-70’s.

I am not kidding you when I say that my wife started looking for property in Maine during our vacation.

I’m not sure how many of you actually attend conventions, but I definitely have a love/hate relationship with them. Conventions have evolved over the past several years for me – what was once about acquiring continuing education units, taking tours of buildings, and catching up with friends around the country, has now become more about proper time management, meetings, and obligations. I’m not complaining (much) but the speed and demands requested of my time has changed in a way that makes conventions feel like I’m still working, but without the benefit of having a desk, proper access to wifi, and all while responding to emails on my phone, which a way worse than texting … and I hate texting.

I did manage to go on two architectural tours during my time in New York – the first was to Grace Farms, completed in 2015 by the Pritzker Prize-winning firm Saana. Beautiful building located in New Canaan, Connecticut, even prettier setting.

Grace Farms by Saana - photo by Bob Borson

Grace Farms by Saana - photo by Bob Borson

Grace Farms by Saana - photo by Bob Borson

The next tour I managed to take was of the 1964 New York World’s Fair – which was organized by Robert Moses and built in Flushing Meadows – Corona Park.

New York World's Fair Globe - photo by Bob Borson

New York World's Fair Philip Johnson Pavilion - photo by Bob Borson

New York World's Fair Philip Johnson Pavilion - photo by Bob Borson

Most people under 50 years-old associate the Philip Johnson-designed New York State Pavilion viewing platforms with the movie “Men in Black”. These structures are unfortunately in an advanced degree of decay and our ability to see them was limited to some distance away.

I was able to run through the Expo during one of my afternoons – which was a shame really as I would have liked to have spent at least a few hours wandering through all the booths. There were a few that I made a specific effort to visit –

SketchUp at AIA National Convention New York

I have been a fan of SketchUp since its release and it’s been pretty amazing to watch how the platform has grown over the last 17+ years. I also have the good fortune to be speaking at their bi-yearly SketchUp 3d BaseCamp event that is taking place in Palm Springs, California, September 24 through the 28th. If you are planning on attending, sign up for my lecture and make a point to say “hello”.

ArchiCad at AIA National Convention New York

I also spent some time in the ArchiCAD booth checking out all the amazing things they have going on – which was a lot! Despite the fact that my office is on Revit, I still feel the need to keep an eye on what everyone else is doing so I can manage my technological expectations. I posted the picture above to my Instagram “stories” account and was flooded with comments from people singing the praises of the software. I have to admit that the fans of ArchiCAD are extremely vocal in their support, that alone makes me think this is software I need to pay attention to it.

I ended up leaving the convention earlier than planned so that I could meet up with my wife and daughter in Boston while en route to our family’s summer vacation – this time it was spent on Swan’s Island, Maine. I jumped on an Amtrak train in Penn Station in NYC and rode the 4 hours to Boston in relative style (i.e. – I sat in the “Quiet Car”, put my headphones on, and looked out the window). At first light, Saturday morning, picked up the rental car and started our 6-hour drive North.

Cabin Rental in Main - Swan's Island - photo by Bob Borson

This was the cabin we rented for the week. It was just the three of us and was ridiculously oversized for our needs … but the location was perfect.

Maine front yard - photo by Bob Borson

Maybe it’s the Texan in me but whenever I see this much lush green flora, I instantly think “There are going to be a lot of bugs here …” and unfortunately they did not let me down. Nobody else in my family looks as battle-tested as I do, most likely due to the fact I am delicious and I am confident that there is a mosquito newsletter that is distributed that maintains my whereabouts at all times.

Maine - View from the rock - photo by Bob Borson

This was the view from our property. While I would like to say that this is a singularly amazing view, it turns out that just about all of Maine looks exactly like this.

Still looks pretty good to me …

Maine coastline - Low tide - photo by Bob Borson

This is the same spot as the previous picture, this time at low-tide. Twice a day, the tide rolls in/out and the water drops about 10′, exposing what is technically the ocean floor. At the bottom, that’s my wife for scale.

Maine - View from the rock - photo by Bob Borson

Main Coastline - photo by Bob Borson

Not going to lie, just about everywhere in Maine looks exactly like this photo. I think I took this picture on day 5 of my vacation, and despite its obvious beauty, I remember framing the image up and thinking “Meh … I’ve already got a hundred of these.”

Morning View in the fog - photo by Bob Borson

Since Texas is a gigantic state, most of the time I have spent “on the water” has taken place in lakes, and unlike oceans, they are not subject to the ebb and flow of the tide. As a result, it always takes some time to get acclimated to there being water at one moment, and then there not being any water a few hours later. The picture above and immediately below is basically the same place separated by approximately 3 hours.

Morning View in the fog - photo by Bob Borson

Cooking on the deck in Maine - photo by Bob Borson

One of my requirements for cabin living is an outdoor cooking area. Despite this being vacation, we rarely ate out. Mostly we had no choice since we were on an island that didn’t have any restaurants … but so what? When I have the time to prepare food with objectives other than “eating” I actually like to cook. When I tell other architects that my backup plan was to be a chef if the whole architecture thing didn’t pan out, the response I hear the most often was “me too”.

cooking a steak in a cast iron skillet - photo by Bob Borson

Unless you are a vegetarian, you have to admit that this steak hints at the promise of something incredible. I do wish that I had a pepper mill and kosher salt to finish rather than the customary rental cabin generic salt and pepper shakers (but I wasn’t going to let that hold me back).

One of the unplanned, yet wildly enjoyable side trips that popped up on this vacation was the opportunity to meet with architect Eric Reinholdt at 30×40 Design Workshop.

Bob Borson visits 30by40 Studio
30 by 40 Design Studio

Ironically, I have been aware of Eric for a few years – it’s hard to have a blog like mine and not receive emails from people saying “Have you seen the videos this guy is making? You should totally check them out – they’re amazing!

Well, they are amazing and you should totally check them out.

I posted a picture on Instagram during this trip and someone asked if I was going to go visit Eric … and considering that I had no idea where he was, my initial reaction was “probably not” until I looked up his address. You have to understand that Eric lives on an island off the coast of Maine, kind of in the middle of nowhere, so when I punched up the address and found that I was only 20 miles away from his office, an email was sent off asking if he had time to host me.

Bob Borson visits 30by40 Studio
Eric and I are both Norwegian … except I’m a bigger Norwegian than he is

As evidenced by the picture above, he was able to accommodate me into his schedule. I was able to spend a few hours with Eric at his studio despite the fact that he was hosting Australian podcaster extraordinaire Amelia Lee, and what started as a casual visit turned out to be an extremely fruitful use of my time.

Thanks Eric and Amelia!

Bob Borson - Maine Selfie
my best “Popeye the Sailor” impersonation …

So it’s time to circle back around to the main topic – inspiration and inadequacy. The past two weeks have been literally packed full of amazing projects and people – the sort of people who are singularly amazing at what they do. I have been blessed to have surrounded myself with high-quality individuals and it’s really easy to find inspiration in their work. The flipside to spending time with highly successful people is that I frequently leave with this feeling of “what more can/should I be doing?”

Bob Borson Master and Commander
Bob Borson … Master and Commander

The grass is always greener and I am aware that from the outside looking in, I have it pretty good – and I do – but I don’t readily settle or accept the status quo. I see what others are doing and feel like I need to step it up. Things are both good and could be better … but we can always do better, right?

Please Don’t Mess Up My Cabin

It doesn’t happen very often these days but I had a first … I had an extended stay in one of my projects after the client had taken possession. It was both weird, and not weird, all at the same time.

Lake Cabin view from the woods

I am talking about the BSB cabin – a project that I have extensively profiled on this website and after all this time, I don’t think there is anything about this cabin that I don’t know, other than how one particular leak is happening, but that’s not really the reason I came up here. I’ll admit it didn’t take much persuading on the part of my client to get me up here considering that it’s beautiful, the air temperature is currently about 30 to 40 degrees cooler than in Dallas, and there is another project right next door.

Beer on the Dock at Sunset

While it isn’t particularly difficult to get here, it does require a little bit of time. My door-to-door travel time is around 9 hours – only 2.5 of which is spent inside of an airplane. Despite taking the first flight out, I don’t typically roll up on site until 5:00 pm… just in time for a beer (or two) on the dock while eating snacks and waiting on the sun to set. You have to cut this portion of the evening pretty tight because the mosquitos are coming for you.

Lakeside at 5:00 in the morning

Have I ever told you that I don’t sleep well when traveling? Well, I don’t. This is on top of not sleeping very much to start with on a regular day. It also seems that the sun comes up supernaturally early and at the slightest hint that the day is starting, the waterfowl on the lake decide to start their mating rituals –

Loon #1: Hey, I’m right here! Who wants to party?!? Let’s party!!
Loon #2: Hey, I’m right here! Who wants to party?!? Let’s party!!
Loon #3, #4, #5: Hey, I’m right here! Who wants to party?!? Let’s party!!

It’s inconsiderate really because it’s 4:30 am and nobody wants to party. I guess I’ll get up and … literally, do nothing. One of the on-going items we are resolving is getting satellites installed so that we can get some connectivity to the cabin. As it is, there is no cell coverage, no internet, no anything. It’s nothing but natural beauty and nature all up in your face, looking to party. Great if you’re on vacation, the WORST if you are trying to get some work done.

It’s almost as if this place consciously tries to keep you from working.

Work area at the cabin

I pulled out all my gear, wrote some show notes for upcoming podcasts, cleaned my camera body and all three of the lenses I brought with me … and by that time it was almost 6:00am.


Work area at the cabin

So I had to kill some more time – but I’ll tell you how just a bit later.

propane tank in the side yard

One of the objectives I had on my list to accomplish while I was up here was to see about relocating the generator and the propane tank. We all thought that we were really clever when we told the contractor to put these items in the side yard, just to the left of the garage. The previous cabin had no generator and the propane tank, which we kept and reused, was in the driveway and must have been a constant obstacle to people pulling in and eventually trying to turn around. In fact, I know it was an obstacle because the previous owners built a “lovely” barricade around the tank so that guests would damage their bumpers hitting it, instead of hitting the actual propane tank.


Since I don’t have loads of experience when dealing with propane tanks, snow plows, refill trucks, etc. we talked with the contractor about moving the tank into this sideyard space and they “took care of it.” Sadly, while they did take care of it, nobody really thought about what happens when the snow that has been living happily on the roof all winter decides to slide off … and pound directly onto the tank.

So we are going to move the tank, which includes a steel structure which will protect both the propane tank AND the generator –  to keep snow from piling up and restricting air flow – make service a bit easier if it happens to take place during the winter season, and avoid all the underground utilities, conduits, drainage pipes, etc, that also happen to live along this bit of ground space.

The other partial reason for this trip is that there is a window that leaks whenever there is a rain event … and nobody can seem to figure out what the problem is just by looking at it.

Testing the gutters in the windows

This was a leak that happened prior to the owner taking possession of the house and the previous contractor “said” that they fixed it … but they didn’t, and the leak came back. I spent half of one day working on this particular leak, the bulk of which was actually trying to recreate the leak while we were there paying attention. The first step in the process was just to see if the internal drains and gutters for these windows were working … which involved me pouring a copius amount of water in the sill.

Testing the gutters in the windows

This leak is taking place in one tiny area of the 32′ long window on the lakeside elevation … which is a drag because it’s one of the least accessible windows on the project.

Testing the gutters in the windows

Gutters did their job and seemed to vacate the all the water I poured in the sills.

Testing the gutters in the windows

All I learned was that there are a lot of dead flies on the windows.

Flashing Details A908 - Dallas Architect Bob Borson

This leak is a bit maddening because we literally detailed the bejeebus out of this project … including all the flashing details. The contractor deviated from our drawings and we can’t really be sure that all the peel and stick flashing membrane was properly installed.

If you can believe it, during one of my site visits during construction, I saw that the windows had been installed WITHOUT ANY SILL FLASHING!!!! When I pointed this out to the project manager, he looked at me and without missing a beat and said:

“I thought you said we didn’t have to put that in.”

What?!? I told them that they had to take every single window out and install the flashing – because, duh. There was a period in time when the owner of the construction company offered up some “options” that would allow them to leave the windows in place but I rejected them all because windows need sill flashing. I was told that all the windows were removed, flashing installed per our drawings, and reinstalled. Problem is, now that there is a leak, I don’t believe that they did actually install the flashing properly after all and the only way we are ultimately going to solve this problem is to pull the window out and do some exploratory demolition.

This is the sort of thing that makes me crazy, and I definitely know that it is driving the homeowner crazy.

So I have to tell you that with the exception of the leak, this is an exceptionally nice cabin to stay in … like ridiculously nice, and the homeowners built it for their guests to stay in when they come to visit. That’s right, this is a party cabin and it is intended to house one or two families at a time with the homeowners staying in another cabin that is a 90-second walk through the woods next door. What this means is that when the day is done, or when it is close to done, I go to my cabin, and the homeowners go to their cabin … and it might only be 8:00 pm.

For a guy that doesn’t really sleep that much to begin with, being in a cabin with no cell coverage, no internet, no TV, no radio, etc. leaves a lot of downtime to fill. So what did I do? For starters, I took a lot of stupid pictures – like this one of the eggs I made myself for breakfast:

preparing eggs for breakfast

Relax, I’m not going to take you on a photo tour of my scrambled eggs … I just thought that the food I was about to eat, using eggs that I found in the refrigerator left behind by the last houseguest, kinda looked like the “biohazard” symbol, and I could help but wonder if some ghostly specter was trying to tell me something … like “don’t eat these eggs”.

folded sheets

So what else did I do with my 8 hours of “what the heck am I going to do” time? I cleaned the cabin. I washed sheets, folded towels, vacuumed the floors, cleaned out the refrigerator, cleaned bathrooms (didn’t do the toilets, I have my limits) and I even took out the window screens and scrubbed the sills and vacuumed out all the 30-jillion dead flies.

making the bed properly

Take a look at that job making the bed – wow. That is a museum quality product right there. If there was TV to watch or if I had enough wifi to download a book, I probably wouldn’t have done all of this work, but I have to confess that there was a part of me that doesn’t want this cabin to get screwed up. I suppose that’s what happens when you stay the week in one of your projects – you start looking very closely at everything, scrutinizing every act almost as if it’s some sort of vandalism. I knew that I needed some sleep as I was wiping down the polished chrome bathroom fixtures with clorox to rid them of some water spots, and I was thinking “what sort of monster doesn’t wipe off the faucet when they’re done?!?”

Clearly, that lack of sleep is getting to me.

Turn Up the Music in Studio

Architecture and Music … they go together extremely well as music frequently fuels the creative process and there are few things I enjoy more than turning on some music and jamming out in the studio.

Except I can’t do that … not really, because we have an open office plan and it’s already a lot louder than it should be without adding a driving bassline into the mix. The other thing that makes me happy is when I expose some music to somebody that they like. In my office, if you can believe it, just about every song I play nobody has ever heard of before, and I’m not talking about super deep cuts. I once put together a playlist and it took about 45 minutes before anybody recognized a song, and we had already played U2, Kool and the Gang, The Pretenders, and Earth, Wind & Fire.


Last Friday, as Landon and I were preparing to record our next podcast, I mentioned that I used to put together posts where I listed off some of the music that I was currently listening too. He is currently going back through my old posts as we work on assembling our podcast editorial calendar, but he has yet to discover any of my “musical” posts so I thought I would take a look at my listening history and list the last handful of songs here in hopes of exposing you to something you like that maybe you’ve never heard before. Of course, if you are reading this via email, you are going to have to click through onto the website to get access to the videos.

So let’s get this party started – right?

Reignwolf – Are You Satisfied
Canadian rocker Jordan Wolf has yet to release a full-length album (as far as I can tell) but I have stumbled across a handful of his songs dating back to 2014. If you like rock, then this is a song you should appreciate.

Joe Cocker – Feelin’ Alright
I actually had this song on 45 back in my youth … and I feel somewhat positive that the majority of people reading this post have no idea what a 45 is. Joe Cocker has one of the more unique voices, but that’s not why I like this particular song. There is a lot going on in the rhythm section and I think this is just one of those songs that makes you want to open a bottle of wine and dance while your cooking dinner.

That’s an awfully specific description but if you take a moment and listen to the song, I think you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign
I was actually just looking for a pure Albert King version of this song but since I am also a huge Stevie Ray Vaughn fan, I am still happy putting this song up for your enjoyment. A lot of people have actually recorded this song but Albert King was the first. Even if you don’t really like rhythm and blues, I think you’ll have a hard time not thinking this is a great song. It also has one of the best blues lyrics ever:

Born under a bad sign, been down since I began to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all


Vance Joy–  We’re Going Home
This is a new one for me and I have my daughter to thank for pointing it out. Of all the people I try to introduce “new” music to, my daughter tops the list. I’m sure she equally enjoys it when she is able to show me something new.

Eels – Fresh Blood
This song has been in my rotation for quite a while but I remain a bit luke-warm on the rest of their songs. The band is really just front-man Mark Everett with a constant revolving door with all other members. This song supports my wife’s observation that if the song doesn’t have a driving bassline or a particularly clever drum pattern, you probably won’t hold my attention in the long run.

I gotta say … she’s not wrong.

The Roots – Break You Off
While some people might only know The Roots as the band for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, those people would be missing out on some incredibly innovative musicians. I will admit that I don’t really ever listen to the words of any song and if the video for Break You Off is any indication, this is a fairly dirty song. What I will point out is that the drum lick and the organ riffs in this song are what make this song worthy of today’s list … I dare you to tell me that I’m wrong.

Queens of the Stone Age – Feet Don’t Fail Me
While I don’t really consider myself a “hard rocker”, I will admit that I am a sucker for just about every song Queens of the Stone Age have ever recorded. While this song takes a while to get going (at the 1:50 mark) the build-up to that moment is totally worth it. Of all the groups represented on today’s mini-playlist, this is the group that I want to see most in concert … with the possible exception of the next entry …

Architectural T-Shirts

There are currently 58 “draft” articles on my site – some are fairly recent and some go back years. There are any number of reasons why I hadn’t finish writing a particular post:

Lost interest in the topic
I found it boring so assumed everyone else would as well
Didn’t have the images or graphics to support the content
Lost momentum (this accounts for probably one third)
Sometimes the creative process is cathartic and not intended for public consumption
As we creep towards the fall holiday season, life tends to slow down just a bit and I find myself with some spare time on my hands in the evening, as is the case tonight as I write dust this post off (it’s either this or start sanding down bathroom cabinets).

While I don’t plan on finishing most of those posts, there are a couple (mostly those in category #4) that I thought I would finish and push out – consider them a bonus mid-week blog post … which brings us to architectural t-shirts.

Colorful T-Shirts lineup – copyright Bob Borson 2018

I wear a t-shirt every single day and as a result, I have more than my fair share. A long time ago I decided I wanted some architectural t-shirts and almost all of the ones I found online unilaterally stunk, so I thought I would make some for myself since the act of making your own t-shirt is ridiculously easy.

I actually own every single one of the shirts in today’s post and at 6′-1″ and 205lbs I am a comfortable XL.

Skull and T-Square Ink Stamp by Bob Borson

There is a confession to make here – most of these were ideas that turned into a “new skills” exercise in Photoshop – learning how to make patterns that look like wood-cut stamps, getting my graphic to “undulate” with the flow of the fabric of the shirt, that sot of thing.

Skull and T-Square Ink Stamp Red by Bob Borson

Yes, I will admit it – I like my architectural jolly rogers. I will also admit that I might have multiple t-shirts with this design on it … and yes, maybe I am slightly influenced that this is the t-shirt that gets the most response when I wear it.

Architectural Seal by Bob Borson

I also wanted to play around with “decals” as a different sort of graphic stamp.

BIMJA Rectangle by Bob Borson

The irony here is that not only do I have this shirt, but I also have a mug with the same image on it … and I still don’t know Revit. I keep telling myself “one day …” but so far, that day hasn’t come (although if it ever does, I’m not sure I will choose Revit as my platform).

Modular Man cracked ink by Bob Borson

Modular man? Please and thank you.

Vintage Modern Le Corbusier Design by Bob Borson

Come and Take It Ink Stamp by Bob Borson

While the phrase “Come and take it” was first credited to Spartan King Leonidas in the 480BC in the battle with the Persians, since I am a Texan, I associate it, and this basic graphic (substitute the t-square with a canon), more with the Battle of Gonzales where a small contingent of defiant Texans successfully held off Mexican forces who had been ordered to seize the cannon.

Bauhaus cracked ink by Bob Borson

I am actually going to be in Weimar, Germany this next week for what is essentially a week-long celebration of the Bauhaus movement … and I think I’ll have this t-shirt with me. Pretty sure that I’ll be the only one who will have this t-shirt, which I will admit is feeding part of my desire to make it in the first place.

While this post has almost nothing to do with architecture, it does represent a few things that I think are important characteristics about my personality. In my spare time, which is fairly precious, I would still rather develop some new skills and flex some creative muscles (however poorly) than sit around and do something a bit more passive. The fact that I can experiment and make some t-shirts that I actually want to wear is simply a nice bonus.

I’m actually going to give a t-shirt away – simply tell me which one you would want and I will choose some lucky winner at random! Happy hump-day! ** Giveaway is now closed and the winner has been notified **


The Bauhaus and Me

In 2019, Germany will be celebrating the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus together with partners all over the world. Founded in Weimar in 1919, relocated to Dessau in 1925 and closed in Berlin under pressure from the National Socialists in 1933, the school of design only existed for fourteen years. Despite this, the Bauhaus still has an impact all over the world.

As it turns out, I am heading out to Weimar for the next week to take part in the celebration of the 99th anniversary of the Bauhaus movement. This will be the first time I have been back to Germany since I spent time there while in college. One of the main differences between then and now is that I’ll be sleeping in a hotel rather than on a train, but the other difference, and probably the more important one, is that I have been preparing for this trip by reading a bunch of books and doing a lot of preparatory research.

Bauhaus Curriculum in English

This is the conceptual diagram showing the structure of teaching at the Bauhaus, that was developed by Walter Gropius in 1922. As described by the Bauhaus Archive:

The programme places building at the center of all the activities. But a regular course in architecture was only introduced at the Bauhaus in 1927. Only the most talented students were admitted to the architecture course. At the start of their studies, they received a year of basic training in the so-called preliminary course, in which they were able to experiment with color, shape, and materials, with no specific goals. Depending on their individual suitability, this was followed by practical work in the workshops and accompanying disciplines. The students entered the workshops as ‘apprentices’ and were to sit their ‘apprenticeship’ exams within a given time period.

The outer ring indicates a preliminary 6-month course in basic materials and involved painting and rudimentary experiments in form-making. The inner two rings indicate a 3-year period where students were introduced to workshop training conducted by two masters: one artist, and one craftsman. The center of the wheel references building construction, engineering, and Architecture, which was studied in theory and then skills learned would put into practice by working on the actual constructions of buildings.

The Bauhaus in its international forms is still the most effective cultural export that Germany produced during the twentieth century, and it has shaped today’s lived-in world in many ways. The ideas of the Bauhaus in the fields of fine and applied art, design, architecture, and education were disseminated all over the world by its former teachers and students, to countries including the United States, China, Israel, Switzerland, Japan, and Mexico. Its global approach involving a rethinking of the world was central to its effectiveness.

The Bauhaus was a vibrant school of ideas and a realm of experimentation. Lesser known paths led to new terrains, which were explored there with insatiable curiosity through experimentation, production, drawing, and study. Learning and experimentation took place using real materials and in real life. This involved nothing less than a transformation of everyday life, housing, and social coexistence – issues that are as up to date and relevant today as they were 100 years ago.

With its universal design methods – elementary in terms of formal language, comprehensible and accessible to all – the Bauhaus stands worldwide for a grand idea, for interdisciplinary design, for an unconditional quest for utopias, opportunities, and inspiration. All quests and experiments also involve mistakes and failed or incomplete projects – and these also form part of the international history of the Bauhaus.

I have been looking forward to this trip for the past several months. There is a huge series of events taking place over the next several days – lectures, moderated panels, and a great many tours. If you have ever been to this part of Germany, please let me know if there is something you think I should make a point to see. Otherwise, I plan on sharing photos of my adventures in semi-real time throughout the week on my Instagram account and I hope you can live vicariously through me.

Embarrassing Conference Calls

At some point, somebody thought instead of having face-to-face meetings, conference calls would be a good idea. They were wrong because it’s a bad idea … just like ordering anything from a “food” truck is a bad idea. Just a warning, I am writing today’s post while balanced upon my soapbox.

architect on the telephone

I have a project I have been working on that seems to have every possible consultant possible involved – Structural, Civil, MEP, Smart Building, Door Hardware, Interior Design, Specification Writer, Information Technology, Low Voltage, Building Automation, Sound Masking, and Security … I think the only consultant we are missing is a Zookeeper. Due to the number of consultants (twelve if you were counting), we have a lot of meetings and a lot of conference calls … and conference calls are one of the biggest time-sucks ever known to mankind.

There are probably a lot of you out there thinking:

“You’re crazy, conference calls save so much time, they are an incredibly effective use of my greatest resource … time.”

If you are that person, you are probably part of the problem. As the architect on the project, I have to talk to all of these consultants constantly, literally hours and hours and hours each week, whereas most of those consultants only have to talk to one or two other people from that list, and even then, only occasionally (and I’m on all of those calls). When working on a project with that many consultants, one of my roles is to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks and that the work is coordinated between all the associated individuals. When a conference call is involved, 9 times out of 10, the person I am speaking with just starts looking at the information we are supposed to be discussing while we are on the phone.

Am I the only person who actually prepares for conference calls?!? Recent observations have led me to conclude that conference calls are a crutch to allow people to postpone doing their work ahead of time. If you are sitting across the table from me and you aren’t prepared, there’s nowhere for you to hide … you will see me looking intensely at you as if I were your mother and I just caught you doing something that we both know you shouldn’t have been doing.

The amount of time I spend acting as “Quality Control” for someone else’s scope of work seems endless. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, the architect has become responsible for making sure that everyone else is actually doing their job … and if I wanted to do their job, I’d be whatever it is that they are. Apparently, it is now my job to check everybody else’s work and cover such low-hanging fruit like:

“You can’t physically put this here, that’s a wall”


“Why are there sound-masking devices in the parking garage?”


“You have abbreviations for everything, including the manufacturer … you’re going to have to provide a legend.”

or my favorite

“You have the wrong project name in the specifications.”

I know that these are highly trained and intelligent people, so what’s going on? Have I slipped into a cycle where people know that I will check their work and as a result, stopped doing it themselves? As the architect, and project lead, it is my job to coordinate the work of all my consultants … I totally get that and I am on-board for providing that service, but these days it seems like I am an extension of all my consultant’s firms and my job description includes performing quality control on their scope of work.

If you think I am complaining, you would be correct.

Stop the madness, or I’m going to send you to bed without your dinner.

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