ABOUT THE ARCHITECT:
Eric has passionately dedicated his career to architectural design excellence. As Director of Design, Eric embeds himself with project teams and collaborates with end users to identify design opportunities and explore prospects for innovative solutions. As an educator, Eric has served as a professor at Kent State University teaching design studio and digital application courses and inspires future generations of designers through engagement and mentorship.
ABOUT THE PROJECT:
The quarter-coffer brick detail was developed for the new City of Westlake Senior Community Center to bring new life to a classic style. The City of Westlake, Ohio has adopted a distinctive Western Reserve traditional style of architecture. All public buildings throughout Westlake are comprised of a traditional sandstone watertable, a blended red brick veneer, and a pitched roof with reverse gables over their entries. Additionally, it was strongly suggested by the city that all buildings in Westlake incorporate the same “Olde Detroit” red/brown blend of brick in a standard modular size. Although the new building was encouraged to exhibit vernacular building materials and traditional forms, the articulation and arrangement of the building materials offered some flexibility and left room for creative intervention. The design team took on the challenge, choosing to re-imagine the standard running bond pattern of brick through the lens of an ancient roman ruin which has stood the test of time for over 2000 years.
The Westlake Senior Center is a facility designed for an aging population to celebrate their lives, share stories and create new memories. The building needed to express the idea of timelessness and warm familiarity for the users. The coffered dome of the pantheon is often referenced as a precedent for many classic structures, and the design team looked to it for inspiration. The Massiveness of the form projects strength and stability, the volume of the space is welcoming, the light that streams through the oculus is inspiring, and the manner in which shadows spill over the coffered ceiling of the dome alludes to timelessness of the design. The passage of time is expressed in the pantheon by the light that enters the space through an oculus and streams natural daylight across the surface of the dome’s interior. Like the pantheon, the Westlake Senior Community Center affords its occupants an awe inspiring experience with an open air courtyard which brings natural light deep into the interior of the building, and a expansive volume on the interior where visitors are encouraged to linger around the perimeter of the courtyard.
The exterior of the building however, is where the quarter-coffer brick detail expresses the strength and depth of the mass of the building. The coffered dome of the pantheon has been abstracted into a vertical pattern that repeats across the facade of the building in a rhythm of solid and void that exudes the same timeless sense of depth. The repeating forms of the detail establish a predictable rhythm that is modulated across the surface of the building from a 15’-0” high veneer on one side, and 18’-0” on another. The articulation of the brick detail allows for openings in the perimeter which not only are practical, but also support the pattern. Punched window openings allow light to enter the building around the perimeter and provide views out of the offices into the landscape where the staff can keep a watchful eye on the patrons as they come and go.
In this way a very traditional vernacular material was used to bring contextual continuity to a new project, yet re-imagined in a new way which provides a much more meaningful experience for the users of the building. The awe-inspiring volumes on the interior of the building are echoed in the tranquil courtyard serenity garden. The dynamic sequence of experiences continues onto the exterior of the building where light interacts with the facade throughout the day while patrons play bocce ball, participate in yoga sessions, and make use of the extensive hiking trails that depart from the Westlake Senior Community Center.
Detailing the Concept
Looking to the Pantheon as a classic example of architectural beauty, the team decided to express massiveness and depth to the 28,000 SF building through a unique masonry detail. Making note of the solar paths on the site, the design team decided it would be unnecessary to construct the exterior of the building with symmetrical four sided coffers, Instead by using only ¼ of the coffer, the most expressive portion of the coffer that reveals the deepest shadows and details can be captured and repeated across the surface in a regular 8’-0” or 12’-0” module. Both modules permitting a 4’-0” wide window or doorway through the pattern without interruption. The exterior wall assembly is a structural steel bearing wall which allows for the masonry veneer to be deeply expressive without structural concerns. The design team allowed for a full wythe of movement in the wall to create deep reveals in the facade. To bring further movement to the surface of the building, the corner of the coffer is further expressed with a running bond brick pattern in a soldier brick orientation. These vertically oriented brick transition to a horizontal orientation as they turn the corner of the coffer. Using the standard 8” nominal unit, a ⅓ step in the masonry allows for the brick to gracefully turn the corner. The vertically oriented brick low in the wall expresses the verticality and expansive volume of the building, while the horizontal banding at the top of the wall maintains the buildings cohesiveness and brings closure to the facades’ composition.
Although the texture that is generated across the face of the building appears to be intricate, the repetitive module of the masonry detail makes constructability of the system quickly repeatable and simple to construct on site. Using a jig as a template, the depth of the wall can be rapidly replicated around the perimeter of the building. The design team specified for a mock up wall panel to be constructed on site to work out any of the intricate details and serve as a reference for any tradesmen who are on site.
Although the Westlake Senior Community Center is not pursuing LEED accreditation, sustainable strategies were employed throughout the design process to ensure an environmentally sensitive response to the project. The single story structure offers natural light to every inhabited space within the building thanks to expansive glazing around the perimeter and a glazed central courtyard that permits sunlight to penetrate deep into the interior of the building. Specifying High efficiency mechanical equipment with LED lighting and a high performance envelope ensures that the building will have a minimal impact on the environment. The building’s response to sustainability doesn’t end with the building systems however, the skin of the building itself was carefully considered. The longevity and durability that masonry affords was of utmost importance to the design team. Because this building is designed to serve the citizens of Westlake for generations to come, a low-maintenance, long-lasting material was needed to provide this degree of longevity. Furthermore in a northern climate with perpetual moisture issues, buildings with a carefully detailed masonry envelope can perform for generations with little or no maintenance.
In this way, the Westlake Senior Community Center will serve as an example for the use of vernacular building materials in a contemporary cultural context to recall inspiring structures from antiquity that have inspired visitors for thousands of years.
00;00;00;02 - 00;00;05;10
Doug Pat (DP)
Let's go inside the vault. The design vault.
00;00;05;12 - 00;00;37;12
Eric Pros (EP)
The previous facility really just wasn't suiting their needs at all. They didn't have large gathering spaces. They didn't have places for fitness or any kind of wellness. So understanding all of those needs and trying to come up with a layout for the building that made all those spaces very obvious and making circulation to those spaces very easy. So we laid the building out as kind of a big donut.
So the circulation pass around the core. You can't get lost if you make a wrong turn, you just do a loop around the building and you're right back where you started.
00;00;37;14 - 00;03;04;27
This is my guest, Eric Pros. I'll share more about him shortly. In this episode from the Design Vault, we highlight Eric's new City of Westlake Senior Community Center. The new City of Westlake Senior Community Center was designed for senior citizens. The building is quite large at 28,000 square feet, and the building typology is more and more familiar across the United States.
With that said, the design team used design restrictions as an opportunity. The City of Westlake, Ohio, adopted a distinctive Western reserve traditional style of architecture. All public buildings throughout Westlake are comprised of a traditional sandstone water table, a blended red brick veneer and a pitched roof with reverse gables over their entries. At the outset, it was strongly suggested by the city that all buildings in Westlake incorporate the same old Detroit red brown blend of brick in a standard modular size.
With these stipulations in mind, the finished building reimagines the standard running bond pattern of brick through the lens of an ancient Roman ruin. The team created a unique quarter coffer brick detail to make both the construction process repeatable and the facades uniquely textured. The resulting esthetic is innovative and quite elegant.
Hi, I'm Doug Pat and this is Design Vault.
Eric is Director of Design at DS Architecture in Cleveland, Ohio. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in architecture and MBA all from Kent State University. Eric has also served as a professor at Kent State teaching Design Studio and digital application courses. His focus at DS Architecture is creating accessible and inclusive design, which has led to numerous award winning projects and successful partnerships across the country.
He was recently awarded the American Institute of Architects 2022 Young Architect Award at the national level. He was included in the 40 under 40 class of 2022 by Building Design and Construction Network. He was also chosen as the 2022 recipient of the International Masonry Institute's Young Architect Innovator in Masonry Award. Welcome, Eric. Nice to have you with us today.
So tell us a little bit about DS Architecture in Cleveland, Ohio. Where are you guys located? What's the size of the firm and what type of work do you do?
00;03;05;03 - 00;03;31;16
Thanks, Doug. It's great to be here today. DS Architecture is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, and we are growing to be 20 people. We're actually making a hire very soon. We're actually celebrating our 40th year in business this year. So David Summers founded the firm in 1983, and it's been growing ever since. So I've been with the firm for about 12 years now.
August was my 12-year anniversary at the firm, and it's just been really incredible to see the growth over that time and to be a part of it.
00;03;31;19 - 00;03;34;25
Had you worked at any other firms before DS Architecture?
00;03;35;01 - 00;04;13;18
Yeah, I had an opportunity to intern as a high school student for a small design firm out on the west side of Cleveland in Vermillion and learned a lot there. They were a little bit more of a traditional firm in hadn’t fully embrace technology, so even had a chance to draw by hand and run blueprints the old way.
So gave me a great background into the design profession. Then as I went into college, you know, I had an opportunity to intern at a couple different firms and get a good experience learning about the industry, learning about different typologies. When I graduated, the opportunity to join DS Architecture presented itself. I've been there ever since.
00;04;13;20 - 00;04;16;12
So what's your role in your current position?
00;04;16;15 - 00;04;58;26
I'm the Director of Design at DS Architecture. That means a lot of different things. I have some influence and some input on all the design decisions we make at the firm. Some projects I get a lot more involved with and run through some of that project management as well. On other projects, I'm a little less involved and just there to provide feedback or to be a sounding board for the team.
So every project is a little bit different. The Westlake Senior Community Center Project is one of those projects where I was embedded in the team throughout the entire project. So the interview process to the ribbon cutting ceremony, I was there for the whole step. That project presented a lot of opportunities for us. It was the right one to really get involved with. So it was a pleasure.
00;04;58;28 - 00;05;10;21
It clearly did and I'm really looking forward to digging in here. So let's talk about the building. Tell us a little bit more about the new City of Westlake Senior Community Center. So how did your office get the project?
00;05;10;23 - 00;06;06;25
So it's a public project. Obviously, our client was the City of Westlake, so we went through a typical RFQ process where we submitted our qualifications. We put together a great team for this project. We had two engineers that we partnered with quite often on these public projects. We also brought in a subject matter expert, a firm called Lifespan Design out of Cincinnati, to serve as our senior center design consultant.
So they have a wealth of knowledge on designing senior centers and all the details that go into that. So that team is the reason why we won. I think our passion for design and the team we had built really gave us a chance to win that one. So again, went through the interview process, was awarded the project. The City of Westlake was our client and we had the end users.
A win by anybody. Agad is the director there. So she was sort of our client in a way. But we're working with the City of Westlake is our point of contact.
00;06;06;28 - 00;06;10;23
So you guys did not know the clients before you submitted the RFQ?
00;06;10;26 - 00;06;31;11
That's correct. This was our first project with the city. Like so brand new client. That's part of the fun with the public projects. We always meet new people, and even though it's a similar project to maybe another community, every community has a different character. They have a different vision for how they'll use the space. So it's always a new relationship that we get a chance to build.
00;06;31;14 - 00;06;34;11
So how far was the location from your office?
00;06;34;14 - 00;06;45;25
Not too far. About 20 minutes. Just near west side of Cleveland. So there's a highway that connects the two pretty closely. So very easy to get there, and we're proud to be working in our community.
00;06;45;27 - 00;06;48;28
Could you give us a little history of the location?
00;06;49;01 - 00;07;27;01
Sure. The senior center is located in the recreational campus for the City of Westlake . They have a parking space that they've designated for the public to use. It has a rec center. It has baseball fields, pickleball courts, a fishing pond, even sledding hills. So it's a place for the community to gather. This project wanted to be a part of that overall campus, but have its own identity.
Before this, the senior center was located in an old golf clubhouse and it really wasn't suited to their needs, wasn't designed for the uses there. So they wanted to be a part of that overall civic campus. What have their own space?
00;07;27;04 - 00;07;33;05
So the scope of the project is pretty obvious. Could you give us a little bit more about the client's programmatic requirements?
00;07;33;07 - 00;09;09;09
Absolutely. Working with the senior center and understanding the users and the types of spaces that they would be using there gave us an opportunity to really get an insight into the daily operations of the senior center and learning all of the wonderful programs that they have. The previous facility really just wasn't suiting their needs at all. They didn't have large gathering spaces.
They didn't have places for fitness or any kind of wellness. So understanding all of those needs and trying to come up with a layout for the building that made all those spaces very obvious and making circulation to those spaces very easy. So we laid the building out is kind of a big donut. So the circulation pass around the core, you can't get lost. If you make a wrong turn you just do a loop around the building and you're right back where you started thinking about visibility and in views through the building from the building to the building were really critical for us. The wayfinding that we did for the project made it so that anyone who was coming to that building for any of the programs they have has a very clear path to get from the parking lot to the building and to the program safely.
We located the administrative offices right in the front of the building near where there is a drop off and clear view of the parking lot. So in Cleveland, our winters can be pretty rough and we wanted to make sure that there was visibility out into the parking lot in case a car were to get stuck or someone would have trouble getting from their car to the building.
So thinking about the views and that connection between the staff and the patrons was really critical.
00;09;09;12 - 00;09;19;18
So let's back up a sec and talk a little bit about the site. It seems to me there were no unique topographic features for the building. The land is relatively flat other than the sledding hill.
00;09;19;18 - 00;10;09;18
Correct. It's a very flat site and because of the users with possible mobility issues, thinking about making the site as level and as flat and is easy to navigate as possible was critical for us. We did introduce some landscape elements, some kind of mounting to provide some interesting views to the building, provide a little privacy from some of the other users in the recreational campus, and also to provide a bit of a buffer between this facility and the neighboring residences because it's in this park, we have a lot of activity on one side of the building.
On the other side, there are people's homes. So we wanted to make sure we were good neighbor. The nature of this building, it's not loud, doesn't stay open late, but we did want to make sure we had that proper separation between the uses here and people's backyards.
00;10;09;20 - 00;10;21;10
And what about project restrictions? You've got the job. Now you've got to look at the zoning codes and building codes, etc. Anything unique or special regarding like ADA, for example?
00;10;21;15 - 00;11;16;20
With this project, because we were designing for seniors that may or may not have mobility issues, we took ADA compliance very seriously and even went into more of a mindset of universal design where we didn't want to have any slopes more than 20%. We wanted to make sure that we had handrails around the perimeter of the building for someone who's walking, it may need to take a break between two locations.
So we really thought a lot about the types of people using the space, how to give them dignity while they're using it, and to make it a space where people feel comfortable. One of the biggest challenges is getting seniors to come out, connect, feel comfortable, create those relationships. And that was one of the challenges that this building had, was finding ways to make all that happen without making it look geriatric or like a senior home or a hospital, but having those features there when you need them.
00;11;16;27 - 00;11;24;23
So I'm sure the city reviewed the design. How long did the planning process take the City Review and design and construction kind of start to finish?
00;11;24;25 - 00;12;37;02
Yeah, that's a good question. The city was very involved as our client, obviously the city engineer, were our main port of contact, so they helped us through the process. They were there to sort of lead that design because it was a high profile public project for the community. We got a lot of feedback from the community, especially those that the neighbors that abutted the property had concerns and we certainly wanted to address all of those.
So the process was involved. We got a lot of feedback. We had many, many public meetings trying to find the right way to position it on the site, trying to find the right way to make sure respecting the neighbors, making the building visible. A lot of parameters there to navigate. Ultimately did we got through and even the style of the building was something that people felt very passionate about.
As you mentioned at the beginning, it's in this campus that has a Western Reserve style to it. We wanted the building to fit into that campus, but also have its own identity, and that gave us certainly a design challenge. How do we make something that feels traditional but doesn't feel too dated or has new energy in life, which is what the seniors need out of this building? So it was a challenge, certainly was.
00;12;37;04 - 00;13;36;06
So the City of Westlake set up some restrictions, obviously, what material the buildings made out of, but they didn't say how to form those brick modules on the exterior. Correct? And so you guys decided we've got 28,000 square feet in the buildings, a giant donut. So we have these large facades and you're thinking about what the heck can we do with a building that most architects would simply probably not spend a lot of time thinking about these exterior elevations?
When I saw these photos, I got to tell you, I was blown away. This is a gorgeous series of details and it must have taken quite some time for the office to put these together. So let's talk a little bit about start to finish. Who came up with this idea and how did you guys start thinking about the fact that we're going to use an ancient Roman ruin?
And where do you go with that and how do you articulate that in the office and how many different passes did it take, etc.?
00;13;36;08 - 00;15;26;14
Thank you for appreciating the challenge that that presented. As you mentioned, you know, we sort of inherited a kit of parts, the tools of the materials that we needed to use for the project. But as you indicated, how they come together is really what's interesting. As an architect, you can take a brick and detail that a number of different ways and get a lot of other results out of it.
Then what might be expected. So as you indicated, the Pantheon was sort of our inspiration for this project. The layout of the building is focused around this courtyard, which brings natural light into the building, makes it a focal point for people to gather. Even if the weather's not cooperating, you can still go outside and be under these covered canopies, so you can at least get some fresh air.
Enjoy the weather in Cleveland when it is appropriate to do so. So the Pantheon became sort of a inspiration for the overall way that the buildings felt, the way that light came into the space, energized that space, created a focal point and really made that volume inspiring. People that are familiar with the Pantheon, the most dramatic spaces when you get into that covered dome and you have the lake coming into the oculus in the way that light spills over those coffers is just incredible.
Every time you're there, the light looks differently. The shadows that are cast on those coffers are just truly inspiring. So we took that idea and instead of making it part of the interior, we express that on the exterior. So we took the idea of a coffer and developed a detail out of bricks that accomplished those shadows, the as light across the surface and detailed it in a way that we could get as much drama out of those details as possible.
So as you indicated, the quarter coffer we kind of took that coffer detail and took a corner of it and use that as the inspiration for the exterior.
00;15;26;21 - 00;15;32;17
For those that are listening who don't understand what a coffer is. Could you describe that to people?
00;15;32;20 - 00;16;06;15
Yeah. So a coffer, particularly in the pantheon, it's a concrete dome and these are recesses that are carved into that mass. The Pantheon has a series of kind of steps to their coffers too. So there's even more shadow, there's more depth to that material. And the massiveness of that concrete is really celebrated in that way. You can get a sense of how much depth and how much mass there is to that form.
And then the way that light interacts with that space just really energizes it and creates that dramatic effect we wanted to capture.
00;16;06;18 - 00;16;26;22
If I recall correctly. So the coffers create a kind of structural grid. And there also the concrete is thinned out toward the center in order to make the concrete lighter so that it actually works. So it's a really interesting idea. I can't wait to get into how these masons and you guys work this whole thing out.
00;16;26;25 - 00;17;52;15
But again, yeah, using the idea of the coffered dome as a way to catch light, in a way to show the passage of time, but also to create something that's massive and feels permanent and feels welcoming in a way too, because of the volume of the space that became sort of our inspiration for the exterior, we made many iterations on exactly how we can capture so depths out of an otherwise flat wall.
Some of the spaces of this building are large. There's an auditorium space that has a very tall volume of space, and we didn't want any windows on the exterior of that. So what do you do with an 18 foot high brick wall? We had some ideas. We had some great ideas on how to make some depth, how to make the building feel enticing, and to take light differently in the morning than it would in the afternoon.
The colors change as light conditions change across it. So we took that detail and wrapped the entire building with it. Once we came up with the one that we liked, we just used that module in a number of different ways. It gave us a chance to explore the depths of the wall. There's was only four inches from the outside base of the brick to the back, but the subtlety of how we either could build the brick or slope them and step them back gave us opportunity to get nuances out of the shadows that you wouldn't think were possible out of a four inch gap there.
00;17;52;17 - 00;18;02;29
So there's a lot to talk about here. I guess my first question is, did you have to make the exterior walls four inches deeper in order to accommodate that four inch dimension?
00;18;03;01 - 00;18;43;15
We did, yeah. We took our typical brick cavity of maybe an inch to two inches and pushed that to more like four inches. So we had the ability to still have that drainage plain, still have proper brick detailing, but we also then had that depth to work with. So the base of the building is a calcium silicate sandstone looking product.
And behind that we just had some for CMU to help build out that mass, the typical Western Reserve style, you'd see a sandstone base. We embraced that idea kind of let that be the place that everything else would be housed on and then use that brick to start to articulate the facade and explore that depth.
00;18;43;18 - 00;18;47;19
So when you guys drew this, did you draw it in both 2D and 3D?
00;18;47;22 - 00;20;01;13
We sure did. And in fact, we went a step further and actually built a physical model. We were still in lockdown from COVID at this point, so maybe had a little more free time on my hands than I normally would have. But I thought it would be a great opportunity to take our digital models, our sketches, some of our inspiration images, and actually build a physical mockup of what that detail could look like.
So I went on Amazon and bought some small little bricks that I think are used to build dollhouses or maybe model train environments and actually built it. I built a whole panel of the quarter coffer detail and I had fun with it. I learned some ideas about how to detail it more appropriately. I think the Masons laughed a little bit when I brought it out on site to show them what I was thinking, but I think they also respected the fact that I took the time to try to communicate our ideas in that way.
But we use building information, modeling software called Revit that helps us visualize the materials in our digital environment. But building it in a physical sense, gave us opportunity to really kind of see the way light shines on it in a real world. So we built it at one inch to a foot scale. So it was about two feet tall, not a small model, but they had a lot of fun with that.
00;20;01;15 - 00;20;22;01
It sounds really cool. You know, one of the things that's really elegant about this detail, I don't recall how many steps are in the coffers at the Pantheon, maybe two or three, but this has many as a series of steps. And each one of those what's the distance on each one? A quarter of an inch or a half of an inch?
00;20;22;03 - 00;20;23;29
It's about a quarter of an inch. Yeah, you're right.
00;20;24;02 - 00;20;26;18
Yeah. So it's super subtle.
00;20;26;21 - 00;20;55;16
Yes, exactly. And then certain points the day you don't even appreciate the fact that they are going up, other times a day when the sun's more an oblique angle, you get lots of shadow, lots of kind of linear lines that come out of that that completely change the look of the building and that's what we really enjoyed is from the morning light to the evening light, sort of subtle and soft.
And then by the afternoon you really get some stark shadows and some really striking depth out of that detail.
00;20;55;23 - 00;21;21;27
What I love about this show is the guests that we have, they're architects, but they're doing what we're taught to do in school, right? I mean, that's really think about what you're doing. So another architect in my mind, most architects would take this project and do, as I said earlier, something very straightforward, right? They just take the easy way out and do a really simple facade. But you guys really thought through this to an absolutely beautiful detail.
00;21;22;01 - 00;21;22;13
00;21;22;19 - 00;21;26;13
So was sustainability an issue ever for the building's design?
00;21;26;15 - 00;23;32;11
It was. We didn't pursue LEED certification for this project, but we certainly wanted to be mindful about sustainability, the longevity of this building, hopefully being in service for many decades. We wanted the building to be an asset to the City of Westlake and something that they can be proud of for the long term. So as I mentioned before, you know, accessibility users had to come first, but we saw it a lot about natural light.
For instance, how do we bring light into all those spaces in ways that enhance the user experience and avoid glare and make the building kind of energized in that way? So lighting was one of the really great tools that we used in this project to just flood the spaces with light in different ways that make the spaces more exciting and at the same time more sustainable.
We have a light harvesting, daylight harvesting system in the building. So if there's enough natural light to the exterior, the interior lights dim automatically. So in the evenings obviously the lights come back up to provide the lighting the way we needed to. You know, thinking about resiliency, Masonry is a wonderful product for public buildings. This building, as I mentioned, will be in service for 50 years, hopefully.
So throughout that time, we really hope that the bricks will serve them well and be a good investment in the future in that building. So the envelope of building behind the masonry veneer, we really invested in a fluid wall system that provides that thermal barrier that we need. We had a sheeting product that has a factory applied weather barrier, so the whole system came together great.
We had a rigid insulation continuous around the entire building and even filled the cavity of the metal studs behind it with spray foam. So we have a really tight envelope there. We have a lot of masonry in the buildings, kind of these two flanking bars that are mostly masonry. And in the middle of the building is very transparent, very open.
So we have a lot of glazing through the middle of the building. We found a glazing product that had high energy performance for us there to mimic the performance in the masonry.
00;23;32;14 - 00;23;41;07
So you guys clearly learned a little bit more about using brick masonry. Have you guys used this idea again in other projects or something similar to it?
00;23;41;14 - 00;24;18;20
That's a good question. We try to be unique. We try to have each project be a new challenge and a new opportunity to try to use Masonry in a new way. So in some ways we learned some detailing, we learned some constraints, we learned some construction methodologies that we've certainly taken forward. But I don't know that we'll use this exact same detail again.
I think we'll find a way to continue to innovate. For me anyways, I'd like to do something a little new. Each project. I think that's what architects can do for a project too. If we did another senior center, I think we would take a completely new look at it. I don't think we would try to replicate really anything. It's a new adventure.
00;24;18;25 - 00;24;24;17
That's great to hear. Spoken like a true architect. So did you guys have any trouble finding a good mason?
00;24;24;19 - 00;25;45;08
The contractor we worked with had a mason that was under their umbrella. They self perform masonry. So when they were building the project, they had a lot of questions and we had a lot of good conversations with them very early on. And really happy with the product. We got Mason's insight. They were passionate about their craft, they were excited for the challenge.
We had a lot of good collaboration back and forth. They were calling me throughout the day asking me, Are we doing this right or understanding what you're looking for? Or even, Hey, you know, we've got an idea that can make it even better. Or what about this? So having that energy, having that connection with the craftspeople that are doing the work I think is really important.
You know, a lot of times as architects, we do our drawings, they go out the door, somebody else builds it, and there's really never that opportunity to kind of interface with the folks that are actually doing that work. In this case, though, we built a great relationship. I'd be very happy to work with those guys again. They were wonderful.
They were even some younger apprentices that were on the job that I think had never really done any projects before, let alone something with this amount of care. So I think they learned a lot. I think the foremen on the job had a chance to teach a lot, so I hope they were inspired by the project and would move forward with a renewed passion for the profession.
00;25;45;11 - 00;26;01;27
I hear a lot about how difficult it is to find people to learn masonry, so it's good to hear that there are people out there learning the craft. So back to the mock up real quickly. So you clearly did a mock up. Did these guys then do one giant panel for you before they got rolling?
00;26;01;29 - 00;28;05;16
That's a great question. So the International Masonry Institute, first of all, they are wonderful resource. The people. There are just a wealth of knowledge and they're there to help you answer questions, help you work through details. So I engage with them quite often when we're looking at some of these details, it's always good to get a second set of eyes, or many of those people actually were Masons or worked in the trades in some capacity.
So they may have some wisdom on other means and methods of how to install that. But in this particular project we engage them and asked if we could build a mock up very early in the design process to test out some ideas. We had some thoughts about can we make precast lintels with bricks formed into a concrete beam to accomplish some of those steps that we had?
Could we run stainless steel rods through the brick cores and kind of build a structure that way? But we ended up doing a little more traditional lintels to accomplish that goal. But we did have a chance to explore those ideas. And so the great thing there they have apprentices that are coming through the training program that are available to help build mockups.
So as an architect, I get a chance to interface with the future of the masonry profession. They get a chance to work with an architect very early in their trainings and look at drawings and start to understand how to read drawings and how to interface with design professionals. So very thankful for that resource and it's actually very close as well.
It's only maybe a half hour away. So we had the Masons that were building the job look at some of the photos we did of the mockup. We had some diagrams of how those bricks could come together and we had the trainers out there at the center available to answer any questions about how big do our anchors need to be or how are we detailing the flashing at some of these connections or interfacing with the international Masons, who is just a wonderful opportunity.
I don't think they're sick of me coming out there yet and borrowing their apprentices. So I'll keep taking them up on the opportunity.
00;28;05;23 - 00;28;17;27
Great to hear. So switching gears, Eric, you're a young and successful guy. Do you have any advice for young architects out there that's been helpful to you along your journey?
00;28;18;00 - 00;29;41;27
Boy, how much time do we have? I guess, you know, for me, I think you brought up a good point earlier that sometimes the easy thing to do is kind of what's expected. We always have budgets, we always have schedules. We have all these constraints that seem to limit our ability to create and be creative and innovate on, you know, brick.
We used a modular brick unit and got a really different result out of it than maybe otherwise could have been possible. So I think it's important to remember what we passionate about and trying to find the time to make that a priority in the project. You know, the client didn't come to us necessarily and say we want a really cool brick detail. We want something that's different. We had to kind of convince them that this building is worth investing in. It's worth doing something a little bit different. It wants to have its own identity and it also wants to fit into the context from a couple thousand feet away. You wouldn't really notice some of those details as you get closer to the building and more intimate with the spaces, that's when you really start to appreciate some of the richness.
And the end users of the building are what it's all about. They're the ones that are going to this building, hopefully being inspired by the brick by the other details of the project. To me, that's what it's all about. So we certainly could have taken the easy road and just made it a flat brick wall. But we wanted to do a little better for those people.
00;29;41;29 - 00;29;50;11
There are going to be people that want me to ask, Did it cost more because you ended up making the exterior detailing more challenging?
00;29;50;14 - 00;30;47;03
I would have to say that the material cost was about the same. We still use the same quantity of brick as we otherwise would have. The labor that went into it, I think was a little more time consuming. So again, having that early opportunity to collaborate with those Masons explained to them the goals, explained to them that he once you do this detail, once it repeats around the building, figure out a methodology to accomplish this and then just keep doing it.
So they came up with some pretty interesting ways. It's always fascinating to see the Masons out there in the field working, but using plumb bobs and using some wooden kind of jigs to help establish some of those flat planes that are pushed in. How do we measure the corbels that are coming out? They had built some jigs that would help repeat that pattern, so they got innovative out there in the field as well and found some ways to speed up that process, but certainly was more time consuming than just your typical one on top of two.
00;30;47;09 - 00;30;54;12
Yeah, but it didn't break the bank, right? I mean, it was something they thought, hey, let's just do this. And it was well worth it in my opinion.
00;30;54;14 - 00;31;27;04
It took a little convincing. I had to prove to them that this effect, this detail, would be something that is worth investing in. And I think, you know, if more people were to put some challenges out there to the Masons and maybe help them make this more the norm, it wouldn't take quite as much convincing. But I think at the end of the day, the Masons went into it with a little bit of concerns.
They were a little unsure, but it was really awesome to see throughout the project. They really start to take pride in it and really get excited about the project. It was a great relationship.
00;31;27;06 - 00;31;34;05
Eric it’s been great to have you here today. Thanks so much for your time. Where can people go to learn more about DS Architecture and yourself?
00;31;34;07 - 00;32;50;03
We have our web site, DSArchitecture.com. We're located downtown Cleveland in Playhouse Square on the ground floor. So we actually have the model I was describing to you in our window there. So anybody is walking by downtown, Cleveland, pop by and take a look at it and some other fun details we've developed. Stop in. I'd love to talk with you more.
Just a quick anecdote, too. As I was talking earlier, you know, the end users of these buildings are really what it's all about. And someone who goes this facility in Westlake happened to be downtown, saw a logo in our lobby area and actually came in just to thank us. And in this particular detail, he was thanking us for is the way we built in some handrails into the walls of a donut kind of hallway that we built in it.
And you don't know that it's a handrail, It's a flat panel. It's kind of rounded top to it and a little bit of a recess. And again, it's to give people dignity. If you're walking from the classroom to the bathrooms and you need to take a break for a moment to catch your breath, you've got a way to do that that doesn't make you feel feeble or like you're meeting assistance.
And this gentleman just came into thank us for being that thoughtful. And, you know, it's those kind of details and those kind of moments that just really made this profession so enjoyable.
00;32;50;10 - 00;33;02;05
Wow, great story. I can't imagine many architects get to say somebody stopped in to tell them how excited they were about a detail or about something about their building. I'm sure that made you feel great.
00;33;02;08 - 00;33;02;27
It was incredible.
00;33;03;02 - 00;33;05;23
Well, thank you very much, Eric. It's been a pleasure having you today.
00;33;06;00 - 00;33;09;06
Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.
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