MJ And so a couple of years ago my wife and I decided to start a development company and start doing this type of work. Subsequently, we have discovered that there are a few others out here tying to doing modern architecture in Texas as well.
"I always say even hippies are conservative here when it comes to architecture."
And of course you may have heard some of the controversy over the Blanton Museum that was being designed by Hertzog & de Meuron -- which was a brilliant building and then the regents came in and pretty much stopped that. And that is really typical of the situation we have going on here...and we are somehow trying to do something about that and trying to gain a voice.
AFR So this is more the result of a conservative 'tendency' in Texas, is that right?
MJ People tend to think of Austin as this liberal place but it really isn't like that. You come and spend some time here and you'll soon start to realize that it is really an incredibly conservative place. I always say even hippies are conservative here when it comes to architecture. On the other hand, we have been receiving all kinds of support and encouragement from people who show appreciation and excitement for what we are trying to accomplish.
AFR Now let's talk about something that is not conservative necessarily. Let's talk about sustainable design. Now you were a co-founder of the Sustainable Building Coalition. What type of 'green' strategies have you employed in your architecture?
| || AFR: One of the more interesting projects you have great renderings of is the Congress Street project, where you have these flying lap pools and city views. Can you talk about that a bit? |
MJ Well, first of all its not just a residential project but a six-story building with many different uses. So it becomes much more complex than when you are dealing with just a residence. There's a gallery space, offices, a deli, a bar with a pool and a view of downtown, and a penthouse with another pool.
I like to believe that all our projects are very different from each other, except that they all have a modern thread.
AFR I guess your firm just jumped into computers relatively recently. How can you describe your processyour architectural processfrom pre-computers to where it is today?
MJ It's been very interesting. I've really changed my mind a lot about computers themselves and maybe it is because of the programs we are able to utilize right now and the things that they can do so quickly. We are running some pretty powerful Macs so we are able to generate images relatively quickly on them.
What I find is that they have 'augmented' my process. So, the way the process usually starts is that I begin to do small sketches, usually in a small sketch book I carry with me to the site. I will start to think about what is going on.
"Well...I originally started working on IBM PCs early on in my career. Ah, and it was alwaysI thoughtkind of a pain in the neck."
Almost before anything else happens, we immediately make a physical site model for the project. And of course we'll go out and take your typical site photos and video. From those sketches we'll start to build a physical model and start to think about fenestration and those types of things.
AFR: And when do you introduce 3D modeling?
MJ: After the rough study model. Either myself or my team will do a three-dimensional computer model of that project using VectorWorks. Then we move into FormZ quite quickly and start to use some textures and do light studies.
MJ Well we really try to think about the whole gamut of different possibilities. You know I really don't think about or call my architecture green just to call it green -- I just think we have a moral responsibility to try to look at these products and look at our buildings and see what we can do and they just come out more responsible.
AFR Now you are doing things with screens and there is a lot of layering going on with the facades...[interrupted]
MJ Well not only on the facades but on the interiors as well. Juxtaposing different elements against each other.
AFR Right. Now are you trying to control light in a way that is more about energy or are you dealing with controlling transparency?
MJ Well, it is really more about translucency and transparency and just how materials change by the way the light hits them whether that is natural light or artificial light and the way you move around the materials themselves. But we certainly use those things in a very logical way to control the Texas heat and sun.
AFR In your computer renderings are you trying to render them in a way that accurately captures the transparency in some of these planes and surfaces or is that less the issue and just a consequence of the rendering?
MJ Yes, but we are actually sometimes pumping up the reflectivity of those planes a bit, to try to really capture more of a mood of what you might actually experience in the building. It is almost like what you might do with photography where you wouldn't just shoot it directly but maybe take more of an impressionistic approach.
continued above right.
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From those, we go back to the physical model. I am constantly sketching as the computer work develops in parallel or I sketch over it.
AFR Now why did your firm choose to use Macintosh computers?
MJ Well...I originally started working on IBM PCs early on in my career. Ah, and it was alwaysI thoughtkind of a pain in the neck when you got new stuff and having to just set up things.
A consultant working for one of the offices in California had a Mac and he really loved it. It was really interesting how he would pour information into it and then it would just explode out, it seemed, into anything he wanted...and I found that very interesting.
When I started to become more aware of computers themselves, Macs were just easier to use, how you could just plug them in and immediately start working on them... they are just so easy.
So...and now because we are so highly 'graphic-oriented' the Macs work much better for us and to be quite honest, we've kind of become Mac snobs.
AFR Sure [laughter] ...OK. What types of computer applications besides FormZ are you using in your day-to-day work?
MJ Well we use VectorWorks...and we do most of the modeling in VectorWorks and then we will import that into FormZ and apply textures and lights and colors..and then a lot of times we'll take it into Adobe Photoshop. And then sometimes, depending on our presentations we use QuarkXPress. And of course we use Microsoft Word and stuff like that.
AFR How do your clients react to the computer imagery?
MJ Oh, I think they really like it. A lot of people really start to see how this thing will turn out to be, they get a mood. Maybe they get this sense of how the house might be because they sense this mood.
Like any rendering or any model, it is just sort of a way to seduce the client into understanding, accepting, and getting excited about the design itself. And especially with the stuff that I am trying to do in the office,which is, in some ways, complex... where I am trying to do things with the way light comes in.
So, the more I can try to explain things in a sort of graphic way, the better.