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HiWorks

Celebrating Six

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Today is the six-year anniversary of the founding of HiWorks. A lot of cool things come in packages of six - like my abs for example. And so to celebrate this milestone in the history of the office I took my off my shirt and photographed my own six pack.

This is not that photo.

Finding God

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There are some really cool parts about being a small office. On the one hand I answer to no one. On the other hand I have the support of no one.

Of course that’s oversimplifying things a bit: I answer to clients and I have the support of colleagues and consultants. But there are times during the life of a project where it would be really nice to have an extra set of hands. Or three.

I’m in the final week of the production of a construction document set. These are the drawings that the contractor will use to build the design. On the one hand it’s as close as I often get to the actual construction of a building. Although an architect doesn’t physically build buildings they do have to think about how someone will build them. They have to think about how hands will assemble materials together to keep the rain out while allowing the spirits of the inhabitants to soar.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously said that “God is in the details”. That may be true but the devil is in there, too,

Meanwhile on Olmos

 before...and after

before...and after

This little office renovation we did on Olmos Drive (across from one of our early projects) wrapped up last year but it's taken until now for the landscape to mature. The idea was create a more pleasant environment for the workers inside by replacing the street parking with a landscaped garden and by protecting the street-facing glazing with a perforated metal screen.

Happy Labor Day.

We do "Tower Enhancements"

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Back in 2015 our proposal for how to "improve" the existing control tower design was selected as the winner of a design competition. Three years later the project is nearing completion and we were recently shown a sample of what the bronze plaque will look like next to the tower's main entrance. HiWorks along with Wrok5hop are listed as being responsible for the "Tower Enhancement Design". 

Of course this being a secure FAA facility no one is ever really going to see the plaque, but we'll know it's there. 

The Changing Face of Community Theatre

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So we've been working on a new theater for Fort Stockton for the better part of three years now. We just released a progress drawing set (see above) and if all goes according to plan we'll have everything ready to go for construction to begin this fall.

Although the basic organization of the building has remained consistent, if you've been paying attention you'll notice the face of the building has changed considerably over time. At first the taller mass of the theatre itself was clad in weathered metal while the marquee was a more traditional back-lit affair where physical letters could be attached to it:

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Later the color of the theatre was changed to green and the form of the marquee became more streamlined with its underside becoming a backlit plane of light. A LED sign provided information about coming attractions:

After the design was released to the public it was pointed out that green is the color of Fort Stockton's main football rivals and so its color was changed. Currently the marquee's form and material matches that of the buildings around it while a constellation of small LED lights illuminates the entry underneath it:

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In all probability the design will continue to evolve. It's all part of the process and with a project like this there is always a delicate balance between civic aspirations and budget realities. Of course the goal is to make a great new performance space for For Stockton. We're doing that but we also know it's important for the building that houses that space to be a landmark for the city.

First Ink

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As a licensed architect I'm required by law use a seal "to identify all construction documents prepared by the registrant or under the registrant's supervision and control for use in Texas". In other words, I have to stamp and sign my drawings.

Back in the day architects used a physical rubber stamp but today it's far more common for drawings to be issued electronically and for a "digital" stamp to be used. That's why even though I've been an architect for over a decade I never actually had a reason to use the physical stamp I purchased after I earned my license. I kept it tucked away in a drawer, it's surface unsullied by the ink that impregnated the pad sitting next to it.

As it came time to release the drawings for the project we're doing in Big Bend we realized that the National Park Service requires (amongst many other things) that a set of "record" drawings be produced with a physical stamp and signature. And so after eleven years of waiting, my architect's stamp finally was given the chance to do that which it was made to do.

I have to admit that the act of signing and stamping a set of drawings is a remarkably satisfying experience. The physical act provides a fulfilling closure to what is often abstract, digital process of working for months on a computer. 

I'll still use the digital stamp for most of my projects but it's nice to know the physical stamp is there, ready and willing, should the need arise.

As Promised

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As you've probably seen in recent posts our portion of the Stinson Municipal Airport Tower project suddenly materialized last week. The "wings" we had designed along with Work5hop were manufactured in Arizona and last week they were shipped to San Antonio where all eight panels were then lifted into place.

Architecture takes a long time. In many ways this project was no different: we won the "design improvements" competition back in 2015, we completed our portion of the design documents in 2016 and construction on the tower itself didn't begin until 2017. That said our portion of the project really materialized over the course of only a few days. Normally the transformation from rendering to reality does not happen so quickly. There's still work to be done: the cables that secure the wings to the tower need to be tightened and the lighting inside the wings still needs to be calibrated and scheduled. But man, we're close. 

And the renderings that we produced years ago were pretty close, too:

 The original rendering for the new Stinson Municipal Airport Control Tower

The original rendering for the new Stinson Municipal Airport Control Tower

HiWorks goes to Big Bend

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There was a time when my college roommate and I would make an annual pilgrimage out to west Texas to explore the natural beauty of Big Bend National Park. As we got older (and got married and had kids) these trips became less frequent. And so when the opportunity arose to work on a project in Big Bend (and get paid to go out to Big Bend) I jumped at the chance to go back. I was also thrilled to collaborate again with Work5hop – a firm that was founded by my college roommate with whom I would often travel to Big Bend.

On paper the project itself isn’t the most exciting – it’s the restoration of a historic motel on the banks of the Rio Grande – but it’s great to have an excuse to go out there again. It’s also an honor to be a part of effort to preserve Big Bend so that future generations of college roommates can make pilgrimages out there as well.

Meanwhile in Fort Stockton...

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As you may remember back at the end of 2015 we worked on a schematic design for the Fort Stockton Community Theatre. The group used the conceptual design we produced to start fundraising and two years later they were at a point where they were ready to release us to start producing the final documentation of the design.

And so at the beginning of this year we got back to work for the good people of Fort Stockton. The design has evolved but the concept is still the same as it was in 2015. Their existing building will be renovated into a flexible event space that can be used to host the pre-performance dinners they have become famous for hosting:

The theatre space itself with have seating for 125 people and provide updated lighting and sound systems for more sophisticated performances. It will also provide for a more comfortable experience for those attending the performances:

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And when there is a performance the marquee will bathe the sidewalk in light announcing to those passing by that there is something special happening in Fort Stockton:

It is an exciting time to be in Fort Stockton and we're of course excited to be a part of that.

$711

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As a small business owner I watched closely as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was pushed through Congress at the end of last year. Naturally I was curious about how the bill would impact HiWorks but it was hard to tell - in the final stretch the bill changed from day to day and even after it passed I wasn't sure. HiWorks does not have the luxury of employing a team of accountants to crunch numbers in real time but when it came time to do my taxes for 2017 (the new tax code applies to income earned in 2018) I asked my accountant to see what the difference would be if the new tax code was applied.

All totaled HiWorks will pay $711 less in taxes.

To be fair my tax burden was reduced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 as promised. But $711 does feel more than a bit underwhelming - especially when I was told “There’s never been tax cuts like we’re talking about.” Given that this tax cut is projected to add one trillion dollars to the deficit next year alone it would seem some businesses are getting more than $711. It would seem the promised tax savings were not as equitably distributed to small businesses as promised

The fact is I can't hire a new employee with $711. I can't increase productivity by buying a new computer. I suppose could put that extra $711 into my daughters' college savings account but at the end of the day it really doesn't amount to much.

Some might say what I need to do is invest in a better accountant but what I'm starting to believe is that what I really need to do is invest in a better Congress.

This Poster Is Not For Sale

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My Facebook feed contains a pretty diverse collection of posts. From friends who seem to constantly be on vacation to Russian trolls there are lots of things vying for my attention. One ad that caught my eye the other day was for a company that sells posters featuring the control towers of various airports from around the world. Of course I checked to see if they had one for Stinson Municipal Airport. They did not but since we have something to do with that particular project I thought I'd suggest an additional print be offered for sale. Please see above.

I realize there have been a number of Stinson blog posts in the last few weeks and I promise to return to my usual collection of random posts here in the coming weeks.

Stinson Hat

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A few weeks ago I wrote about the progress of the new Stinson Municipal Airport Control Tower. As the main portion of the tower was going up the "cab" - the uppermost part with all the windows where the air traffic controllers actually do all their work - was simultaneously being built on the ground. Last week a large crane lifted it to its final resting place on top of the tower.

This is not how buildings are normally built. Then again an air traffic control tower is not a normal type of building. When you think about it, this approach makes sense. Since the cab contains the majority of the detail work associated with the project you want to build it in the most efficient way possible. Forcing every sub-contractors to climb ten flights of stairs to do all their work a hundred feet in the air isn't very efficient. Hoisting a massive pre-built component may seem like an extreme approach but it turns out to be the best one. AJT, the engineering firm responsible for the main portion of the tower, has perfected this approach having built several multiple versions of the same tower over the years.

Design is about the finished product to be sure, but it is also about how you get there. Strategizing how the "wings" - our contribution to the design - are prebuilt and attached to the tower represented a significant portion of our design as well.

In Praise of Good Humor

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SpaceX launched its first Falcon Heavy launch vehicle this week. I was able to watch it live on my computer at my office and it was a truly spectacular event. As a test flight with a relatively low chance of success the rocket carried no "real" payload. Normally these sorts of tests carry ballast or some other sort of dead weight, but the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, thought that would be boring. 

And indeed it would have been. And so instead they sent aloft a cherry red Tesla Roadster. Tesla, of course, is also helmed by Musk and while all this could be dismissed as a publicity stunt, I appreciated the gesture.

I am in no way comparing myself to Musk - obviously he and I function in very different planes of influence and importance - but I certainly recognize his desire to humanize (or at least humorize) the tasks he undertakes. It's the same reason Michael Jackson and David Hasselhoff inhabit the renderings I produce. It's the same reason this website is littered with hidden Easter egg links.

It's good to take seriously the important thing you do in life. But it's also OK to wink at the people you encounter along the way.

 

A Note About Our Residential Work

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At HiWorks we do a lot of different types of projects. Yes we do theaters and control towers but we also do private homes. Out of respect for the privacy of our Clients many of these projects aren't publicized on our website. Even so we are incredibly proud of this work and always feel honored to be a part of the journey that leads to a new home.

One of these homes was recently photographed and the Client graciously gave us permission to make the images public. The house was designed to offer expansive views of the outside world while at the same time providing a private refuge from it. By using a combination of natural wood and stone we created an addition to the hilltop that feels like a natural extension of it.

In the coming weeks we'll be adding this and other projects to the "What We Do" section of our website. So by all means, do stay tuned.

HiWorks in the News in West Texas

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So I was in Fort Stockton last week for a series of meetings with the Community Theatre and my Theatre Consultant. It was a good meeting and as a part of it I was also interviewed by KWES Channel 9. I spoke at length about the project and a few seconds of that detailed, nuanced description made it onto the air. So for better or worse my fame now extends to the West Texas / Southeast New Mexico regional broadcast area.

At any rate, in case you missed it, you can watch the story here.

 

Enjoy.

Stinson Rising

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Construction of the new Stinson Municipal Airport Control Tower is currently underway. So far the effort has focused on the concrete tower (the part not designed HiWorks in conjunction with Work5hop) but in a few months our portion of the design will be attached to that central core. These prefabricated "wings" are currently being assembled in Phoenix and the full-scale mockup looks great.

So stay tuned - things are about to get interesting.

HiWorks at Five

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Data from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that about half of new businesses don't survive past their fifth year. HiWorks is now officially five years old so, well, I guess that means we're awesome.

Of course one interesting (and telling) thing about this particular anniversary is that I totally forgot about it. Legal documents say HiWorks was established on November 1st of 2012. November 1st, for the record falls right smack in between Halloween and one of my daughter's birthdays. This year it was particularly busy in that we were preparing for a birthday party and had a dance performance to attend. All that is to say the anniversary came and went and I didn't even realize it until a week later.

I suppose it's a good thing that the survival of my business enterprise is no longer a noteworthy event. HiWorks today is a lot different than I would have expected five years ago. It'll be interesting to see where we are five years from now.

Selwyn School

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Earlier this year I mentioned we had started work on a master plan for Selwyn School up in Argyle, Texas. It was a busy summer but the team of architects, administrators, faculty members and students all worked together to create a campus design that fits the uniqueness of the school's approach to education as well as the uniqueness of the school's wooded site. We are all excited to start work on designing the actual buildings that will make up the campus.

On a purely personal note it was incredibly fun to finally have the opportunity to work professionally with Michael Malone and Audrey Maxwell of Malone Maxwell Borson Architects. Although we have been friends and colleagues for years and had always talked about trying to work together, Selwyn School represented our first opportunity to actually do so. Hopefully it will not be our last.

In the meantime, additional images describing our work on Selwyn School are now available on the website. Go Unicorns.