Monday, October 31, 2011

Food for Thought

By Erik Illies

How about a little food for thought? During my initial research for thesis I've found out some very interesting facts/ statistics/ propaganda/ general lies/ persuasive insinuations/ and a few random worthwhile things to consider. The topic of my thesis is Vertical Farming and the benefits of urban agriculture. Hence the clever/ witty preface question (insert pat on the back for being funny). So, please indulge in some of my findings of the need for a big ole rash of "Vertifarms" to start popping up in our cities! Enjoy:

Currently over 800 million hectares is committed to soil based agriculture, about 38% of the total land mass of earth to feed 6.8+ billion people (Despommier, 2011). It is predicted that after the next fifty years our global population will increase to 8.6 billion people and will require an additional 109 million hectares to feed them (using current food production methods)(Despommier, 2011). This equates to a total land mass the size of Brazil, with necessary climate/ soil conditions suitable for food growth. This amount and type of available land simply does not existing anymore on Earth. Most sobering of all is that this is only one problem humanity will have to solve concerning food production in it's foreseeable future.

As the global population grows so does the amount of people living in cities and urban environments. Unless suddenly or even eventually humanity reverses this trend we are going to have to start getting creative about how we create food. Already our cities are very unsustainable from a food consumption point of view since they typically do not have the food producing land necessary to meet their consumption needs surrounding them (Nordahl, 2009, p. 16). But even if they did, an agregarian city model of agriculture surrounding the city begins to fail when the population continues to push cities further into undeveloped land and the agriculture further away from its center. Population growth and the current trend of urbanization will continue to increase city growth, so instead we might consider placing farms inside the city as opposed to out.

The disconnection our urban environments have with their food source hosts several problems, one of which being its environmental impact. As agriculture is pushed further away from those who consume it the food must travel further. Not only does this cost more since fossil fuel prices continue to rise, it also creates a strain on the environment from the emissions of transportation. Much less the pre-existing embodied cost of producing/ and harvesting the food to begin with. Michael Pollan contends that "smaller, localized agricultural efforts that do not rely on big, complex machinery, industrial agrichemicals, and vast systems of transport are needed in and around our cities" (Nordahl, 2009, p. 16). "
The problem of environmental impact caused by the current model of food production/ transportation is easily overlooked by the casual consumer in urban environments. Daniel Solomon argues that "the lack of everyday contact with fresh food in the modern city erodes our sense of place, and disconnects us from the natural environments" (Nordahl, 2009, p. 21). And that's just the issue of being aware of the problem, there are still the ridiculous statistics associated with transportation costs/ emissions. Who knew that something as basic as the food we eat could have such a widespread impact on the world we live it? Well, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture commented on this very topic exampling Americas heartland, and says that "the average produce item trucked to a terminal market in Chicago travels more than fifteen hundred miles" (Nordahl, 2009, p. 21). Statistics like these highlight the issue of transportation costs alone associated with the current food allocation system. They also hint to another issue of food quality due to the lag time that can be expected between harvest and point of sale.

Hhhhmmmmmm, how'd that taste? Would you go back for seconds? I know I would! There definitely seems to be a need steeped in reason for cities to pursue greener pastures in the deep blue sky. Furthermore, if we intend to colonize neighboring planets in the future we will certainly need to have developed and employed the technology of growing food on a large scale indoors. Regardless of urgent necessity, vertical farming would provide a valuable cultural resource no matter what. Who is going to argue that safer, healthier, local food is a bad thing? Not the guy two thumbs pointing at himself (this guy).

Stress is in My Control

By Zachary Collins

Stress, the one little word used so much in a college student’s vocabulary. And in the major of architecture, it’s magnified by a 1000. Add on top of that a job, or 2, projects and homework, you might as well sit back and let the stress bombs explode into your mental and physical beings!

I can honestly say being in graduate school has by far been the hardest of my college years. We are over half way done with the semester and I have been consistently stressed. Some weeks are worse than others, but still, the stress remains. In an effort to help my fellow architecture students, I am going to provide some self-help tips for relieving some of the stress that studio and other classes bring to our demanding lives. I try to do most of these things on a regular basis, but sometimes, duty calls, and all I have time for is working on projects. Following are the top 5 stress relievers for college students from

1 - “Working Out – Physical activity is a great stress reliever. It’s healthy, and doesn’t have to be terribly time consuming in order to be effective. If you are stressed, I’d suggest simply getting out of your dorm room and having a nice work out.”
-This obviously is probably not one of our favorites, but still, I try to do about 4-5 hours of work outs per week. And honestly, I can say I always feel better after doing so.

2 - “Sleep, Sleep. Sleep - Sleep deprivation is like an epidemic on college campuses. Students stay up way too late, and get up way too early. Instead of partying on a Friday, why not take one day off and get some extra Zs? Stress can be relieved by forcing one’s self to maintain a regular sleep schedule.”
-I for one have changed a lot in this area. I used to party or go to the bars during the week and on weekends, and get very minimal sleep. But with my schedule now, I have learned that certain things are more important. I try to get 6-8 hours of sleep every night and my partying days have been limited to mainly Friday night and sometimes I don’t even get that. So needless to say, my priorities have changed since my undergrad years.

3 - “Listen to Music - Take a few minutes out of the day to lie down and listen to your favorite music (even if people wouldn’t consider it calming music). Music has an effect on a variety of areas in the brain and can be quite relaxing. Not to mention, it’s a nice way to spend a study break. If you are feeling stressed by your roommate, just go for a walk and put some music on. I bet you’ll feel a lot better afterwards.

-This sums it up very well. I listen to music every day, whether it’s at school, work, home, driving in the jeep, etc. There is a “relaxing” feeling when listening to music. And for me, it focuses me when working on a project.

4 - “Eat right - Taking the time to cook yourself something healthy, or find a healthy place to eat on campus can do worlds for your body. Don’t skip meals either. There’s nothing more stressful than being tired, and hungry. Make time for breakfast before your morning class. Eating right will certainly help to reduce your stress in the long run.”
-This tip was one of the hardest for me, because I love junk food way too much. But it did take months to get my diet to a much better standard than what it once was. Now occasionally I will indulge on my most desired and delectable foods, but for the most part, I cook my own meals and I eat much healthier foods.

5 - “Management - If you simply manage them both, it won’t be as stressful. For time, make use of date books, calendars, planners, and anything else you need. Don’t over-stretch yourself and make room for relaxing time, eating, and sleeping. For finances, management is also a key component. If you have a credit card, don’t buy something unless you can afford to pay it off. Also, if you don’t need it, don’t get it. Too many people get credit cards and see a fountain of wealth. You can be proactive and take control of reducing your stress.”

-This was a huge eye-opener for me. My time management was horrible in undergrad, hence the many all-nighters. I have had to really do some time management this semester with my busy schedule, and I feel like I’m doing an okay job. For my finances, I was the exact person they talk about above where the person sees the credit card as a “fountain of wealth”. Believe me, it’s no fountain, and no wealth comes with it, just debt. I have finally gotten my finances under control and it feels so good to know that I will never be put in the situation I was in with my credit card. It was a lesson learned for me.

So, I hope these tips and my small testimonials will help with my friends in the architecture program along with prospective graduate students. The bottom line is managing your time, tasks, and needs. Do not let stress get the better of you!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Architecture App, by: Makayama

By Sean Keoting

Apple recently approved 'Architecture' for release in their App Store. The app contains a selection of the world's finest architectural masterpieces in a pocket sized format and acts as a one-stop GPS-enabled guide to the world’s greatest buildings from the 20th and 21st century.

You can travel to nearly any place in the world and the guide will tell you where the most interesting nearby buildings are located. It lets you know the story behind the building and even informs you about the architect. For each project two images are displayed along with a website, address, and a detailed map with walking or driving directions.

Currently, 'Architecture' contains projects from 165 different architects, in 270 cities worldwide. Everything from Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe to Zaha and OMA can be found in the vast selection of 20th and 21st century architecture that spans varying traditions throughout the world. But not only does it featuring the obvious iconic time honored favorites and latest Pritzker Prize winners, it also has some hidden architectural gems and even a few oddities.

It’s a great tool for architecture and design lovers, world travelers and city dwellers, to discover great buildings worldwide. Projects can also be browsed by categories ´cities´ or ´architects´ with no data connection needed, because all information and pictures are stored offline on the end-user’s phone. So no expensive roaming cost when abroad and it can also be used without GPS or on the iPod Touch.

'Architecture' offers a free trial version that lets users try all features for 3 days. After the trial period, it will return to basic browsing mode. Cost of application is USD 3.99.

Thanks for reading,
Sean Koetting

Information source (

The McPike Mansion

By Audrey Treece

In lieu of Halloween, I thought I would share with all of you one of the pieces
of architecture that is housed in my hometown. It is one of the destinations
that make my hometown the most haunted small town in America.
Alton, Illinois is home to the McPike Mansion, along with several, and I mean several,
other places that are known for being haunted. I do not know if you believe in
paranormal activity or not, but read the brief history and check out the video
at the end, enjoy!
The McPike Mansion is a sixteen room Victorian mansion
located at 2018 Alby Street and was built for Henry Guest McPike and designed by
Lucas Phiffenberger in 1869. It is located on a fifteen acre site that is known
as Mount Lookout which is the highest point in Alton. It was extremely
elaborately designed inside and out.
Henry McPike was a descendant of two prominent men who fought in the Revolutionary War alongside George Washington at Valley Forge (Captain Mose Guest McPike and Captain James McPike). Henry, who was the son of James, moved with his family to Kentucky in 1795, but relocated to Alton, Illinois in 1847.He was a man of several different interests
and career paths. Three of his pursuits were manufacturing, real estate and
insurance; however, he demonstrated an interest in horticulture. He was a son of
an abolitionist and was very involved in politics as he served with the war
department as Deputy Provost of the region during the Civil War. He was later
elected for City Council, and then was Mayor from 1887-1891.
The McPike Mansion remained in the family until 1936 and several McPike’s still live in
Alton today. After 1936, the mansion became home to Browns Business College
until it was sold to Mr. Paul Laichinger who took ownership in 1908 until his
death in 1930. There are varying records on when exactly Paul Laichinger took
ownership because there is some confusion on the documentation. However, since
1936, there have been several different owners of the mansion. The
mansion has not been inhabited since the 1950s and has fallen victim to
weathering, vandalism and theft that have destroyed things such as the ornate
interior marble fireplaces and hand-carved stairway banisters. Today, the
mansion is owned by George and Sharyn Luedke who bought the mansion at an
auction in 1994. They are now in the slow and expensive process of attempting to
restore the home to its former splendor. The home is listed in the National
Register of Historic Places and the Luedke’s host tours and campfires to assist
in the cost of restoration.
The McPike Mansion has a history of paranormal occurrences, it is known for its hauntings.Numerous photos have been taken that add to its mystery. Balls of light go unexplained by professional photographers, human-shaped outlines appear in the windows, shadowy or glowing, and they were not seen by human eyes until photos were developed. There are several speculations on who and what the ghost could be; however, nothing has
ever been determined. Hopefully, you will catch a glimpse of Paul A.
Laichinger. He may be standing near a window in an upstairs room. Or perhaps,
you will be run into Sarah one of the domestic servants that can be seen on the
third floor. Paranormal activity does abound in the McPike Mansion and was noted
by one group, that during an exploration of the wine cellar, heard the footsteps
of someone coming down the stairs and walking across the floor and then the door
to the wine cellar closed without a person around. This occurrence plus others
have been noted by psychics and ghost hunters who out of curiosity wish to
visit. The Luedke’s have admitted that they too have seen ghosts while working
on the house.
If you want to learn more about the haunted mansion visit or book a Haunted Alton Ghost Tour at (I will advise you to book as soon as the dates are
released, the tour sells out within hours of open sales).
Don’t believe? Check out this video from Bi State Paranormals. This clip was also featured on
the Discovery Channel's, Ghost Lab TV show.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

SO-IL but not Southern Illinois

By Matt Owens

So I was perusing Arch Daily the other day which I do from time to time, and something caught my eye. As I was scrolling down the page when I saw the heading “In Progress: Kukje Art Center / SO-IL.” A couple things ran through my mind right away; where is there is an art center being built in Southern Illinois? and Arch Daily is featuring a project that is being built in Southern Illinois, cool. I was a little excited about this. That excitement only lasted for about a second, or about the time it took me to scroll down just enough to see the next line: “In Progress, Seoul, SO-IL, South Korea.” Obviously this art center was not in Southern Illinois, it was in South Korea, and probably has nothing to do with Southern Illinois at all. The name should have clued me in from the beginning, Kukje Art Center, probably not something you would find around this area, but you never know. Anyway I was fouled into a split second of excitement.

After a slight feeling of disappointment I still had to investigate a little further. What was SO-IL, the architect? So what did SO-IL stand for, obviously not Southern Illinois? SO-IL is a New York based firm, and SO-IL stands for ‘Solid Objectives –Idenburg Liu.’ Mostly an idea based firm, they have done work all over the world. The web page is pretty interesting, and they have done some pretty interesting work. The projects are divided into four categories, live, play, work, and reflect. Most of the work they do is in an urban setting which may be beneficial for some of us grad students to check out, as we are trying to define some of these spaces in our projects now.

In the end I suppose I could not be too disappointed, although it would have been cool to see a project in Southern Illinois featured on Arch Daily. It did catch my eye and made me check out a project and a firm that I may not have otherwise looked at.

Death by Architecture

By Joel Wallace

In a job market that remains a bit down, one way many architects and students are staying fresh and getting their names out there is in the world of competitions. Competitions raise great opportunity for creative freedom , as well as involvement in projects and problem solving we may not be lucky enough to become commissioned for.

For those not familiar with it, the creators of have dedicated themselves to organizing such competions in both timeline and category. Competition levels include student only, international, professional, and regional to name a few. Below is a brief explanation of the creation and history of how it came about and how it remains a powerful tool in the search for new challenges and opportunity…

Death By Architecture (DBA) began in 1995 as the personal web page of Mario Cipresso, an undergraduate architecture student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. By 1997 Death By Architecture had become the preeminent site for architecture competition information on the internet. Joining with several other like-minded sites in Europe, DBA was a founding partner of the International Competition Network in 1998.

Enjoying a solid presence on the net since those early days, Death By Architecture needed to grow beyond just one individual to truly realize its potential, to serve its loyal users and to pursue a more meaningful goal. After securing an all too critical grant from the LEF Foundation in northern California, the Los Angeles based interactive media design firm of Garden Digital was approached to begin this first of two phases.

The forthcoming second phase intends to produce an unparalleled catalog of competition information and entries as well as expand Death By Architecture's content and feature set.

Considering sponsoring a design competition? Death By Architecture has over 12 years of experience with the participation, management and promotion of design competitions. We bring valuable and unique insight and resources to the competition process, ensuring your event is a success. For more information on how Death By Architecture can manage your organization's design competition, please contact Mario Cipresso

Please note: Although we do make every effort to ensure our competition information is reasonably accurate and complete, it is the responsibility of the competitor to verify all conditions and requirements.


By Laura Thomas

What have I been doing this semester? Research and writing and a lot of it. Much more than I was anticipating or wanting to do. I'm constantly writing parts of my thesis, multiple papers for my Project Leadership course, panel information for our architectural Systems course, blogs every two weeks as part of my graduate assistantship, research documentation for my research assistantship with Shannon McDonald. I'm always writing and I'm tired of it.

Unfortunately for me, I'm not the best writer. I have a hard time coming up with what to discuss, how to argue it and how to stretch it out so that it fills up the proper amount of pages. It also takes me a while because I'm not the fastest reader and English was never my strong subject. I'm a very simple, straight forward, get to the point, person. Here it is, it sucks because of this, it can be fixed by doing that - great, let's move on. That is not acceptable though. It must have precedence, it must be substantiated by what is already out there, proven through multiple examples that something does or does not work. This provides insight, educated design that leads to a solution that improves upon the negative, pushes the boundaries of the existing and is the direction of the future. That is what our thesis is trying to accomplish, raising the bar.

For my thesis I have chosen to propose a solution to provide better hospice care than what the other options can currently provide. I selected this topic as it has great personal meaning to me so I enjoy the time I spend working on it. I have collected resources through Morris Library and their I-share program and now have several books at my disposal. I find that my resources are somewhat limited though as Hospice is a relatively newer topic of discussion having become more popular in recent years. I'm finding little precedent studies and where mentioned in a peer reviewed architectural magazine or journals it usually only mentions it's construction method or awards won for sustainability. Nothing that discusses the design and what works, doesn't work so I must continue researching.

For those undergraduates who will continue into the Master's Program I have a few suggestions. Start thinking about your thesis now. Discuss with your instructors different topics that you are interested in. Schools, hospitals, arenas, skyscrapers, residential, commercial - pick a topic and start. Begin gathering information, read it and start some documentation. Don't become overwhelmed with books of research that leave you wondering where to begin. Now that another blog is done, I'm going to continue writing another paper for another class.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thesis Poster - Sean Hartman

The True Meaning

By Matt Owens

Since we just had mid reviews in studio I found this appropriate. I recently came across a blog article form ‘the all nighter’. The blog must be under construction or something because it does not look too good, unless that was the look they were going for? The blog is appears to be done by architecture students, although I could not figure out form where. They even have a Facebook page, but I could not gather much information from there either.

Anyway the particular article if found was about critics during reviews, and what your critics were actually saying. This could also be applied to your professors in studio during those desk crits that happen every day too. It’s about the hidden meaning behind what is actually being said. It is kind of like reading between the lines, sometimes your prof. or jury member is just trying to sugar coat something, or maybe they just feel inappropriate saying what they really want. Either way sometimes what is said is not actually what is being said. The list provided below is from the blog article form the all nighter. This may be helpful for all of us to decode the language of the review we just had and all of the critics in the future.

“That’s interesting”

“Hmm interesting”
I can’t comprehend what you are saying so I am buying time


“What’s that”
Thats gotta go

“Holy Shit”
This is visually pleasing but its shit

“Check these buildings out”
Good ideas. Look these things up to expand

“You should read these books”
Your ideas suck. Read these books.

“That’s very impressive”
I am going to steal this

“Now you know”
I told you so

I no longer think you’re braindead

“Talk to so and so for help”
I am tired of dealing with you. Go talk to my brown noser.

“I want five study models”
I know you only have time to produce 3 good ones and 2 shitty ones but do them
anyway for my amusement

“We communicate through our drawings. That is why I am so hard on you.”
Stop sucking at drawing

“Do you have more to show me?”
I know you don’t but I wanna see you squirm

“You should oranize your desk”
Throw out your old models. They’re painful to look at.

“You’re not being aggresive”
You’re a wimp

“This project can be more dynamic”
You’re being a wimp and your work shows it

“Get some sleep”
You’re not being productive and starting to smell. This greatly offends me.

“Where did you go for undergraduate?”
I probably went somewhere better

Thesis Poster - Sean Koeting

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thesis Poster - Jason Skidmore

All you need is....

By Audrey Treece

All you need is love, right?

I live a double life. From 8 AM on Monday until 5 PM on Friday, I am a student. From 5 PM on Friday until 8 AM on Monday, I am a wife. I have trained myself to get all of my work done during the week and can honestly say that in the last five years I can count on one hand the amount of weekends that I actually had to do school work. With that in mind, you probably think that I undercut my school work or have deprived myself of extracurricular activities to accomplish this life style. The truth is, however, I completed two degrees simultaneously, was the leader of the American Institute of Architecture Students for three years, worked two jobs, planned a wedding and maintained a 3.6 GPA. Again, I managed all of these things while never having to do school work on the weekends. What’s my secret? Easy peasy, as Professor Dobbins would say, it is called time management!

Time management is an essential skill that helps you keep your work under control, at the same time that it helps you keep stress to a minimum. Don’t let me fool you, I am constantly stressed out and often think that it will be impossible to finish all of the work that is required. Sure, we would all love to have an extra couple of hours in every day. Seeing as that is impossible, you need to work smarter on things that have the highest priority, and then creating a schedule that reflects your work and personal priorities. With this in place, you can work in a focused and effective way, and really start achieving those goals, dreams and ambitions that you have.
I am going to give you a few of my secrets to hopefully help give your time management a pick-me-up.

1. Set Goals
Setting goals requires time and effort and often gets ignored. If you take the little amount of time to set goals then in the end you will save an enormous amount of time and frustration knowing where you are going and what exactly needs done in what order which leads me to the next thing…

2. Prioritization
Not to be confused with a To Do list, which is actually secret number three, prioritizing your goals is especially important. I always try to work on the most important or highest priority tasks first. Otherwise, you may be working very diligently on a specific goal that needs finished, however, if you don’t complete things that are more pressing you will end up scrambling to get something else done that has an earlier deadline. This will lead to poor work quality and extremely high stress levels.

3. To Do Lists
As promised in number two, my third little secret is creating To Do lists. Again, not to get confused with prioritizing, to do lists are especially helpful in compiling a list to know what needs to be completed and scheduling your time effectively. I create about three different lists a day. I know it sounds like a lot of wasted time, but I am constantly reminding myself of my goals and deadlines. On top of my lists, I always estimate the time that it will take to be able to cross it off the list. I also include interruptions such as time to eat, time spent in class and even time to take care of personal things such as phone conversations with my husband. There is nothing that feels better than crossing things off the list.

4. Procrastination
Procrastination is my worst enemy. It is as tempting as it is deadly. The best way to overcome procrastination is to admit you do it. Once you admit that you have the problem, you can start to overcome it. Figure out why you are or what is making you procrastinate and remind yourself of the consequences in the end. Don’t be scared to reward yourself for completing your jobs. It may sound stupid, but my reward is being able to cross something off of my obsessive amount of To Do lists. I love an empty list!

5. Manage Interruptions
The fifth and final secret is to manage your interruptions. Interruption is a natural part of life. Whether it is a phone call, email or unexpected project deadline, interruptions are going to happen. No matter how much I plan or prioritize, I inevitably come across something that changes the game (hence why I make three To Do lists a day). The only thing I can say about managing interruptions is to take care of the things that need immediate attention, otherwise, manage them appropriately. Don’t be scared to adapt and remember that your To Do list can always be modified.

These five things are the best way that I can sum up my secrets to what I think is successful time management. There is always opportunity to improve these skills and doing so will increase your effectiveness of work and success.

All you need is….time management.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Robots in the library

By Matt Owens

The future of the library has arrived! The University of Chicago opened the Mansueto Library designed by Helmut Jahn earlier this year. What makes it the future of library? Is it because the main reading room looks like a crystal egg sticking out of the ground? It definitely does not look like any other library I have ever seen, but it is not what is above ground that sets the Mansueto Library apart from the rest. The Mansueto Library has the world’s first fully subterranean automated book retrieval system. Located below the reading room and completely underground is an enormous storage facility with shelve reaching fifty feet in height, holding up to 3.5 million volumes, which is managed by robots. Check out video of how it all works.

Robots retrieving books at a library! Sounds like everything we know about the library will change. Libraries will no longer need to have stacks of books available for patrons to search. Will there even be a need for a librarian? Like at Mansueto all you really need is computer access to the library’s database, and a robot will do the rest. Well I guess there still is a human element involved at Mansueto, someone actually takes the book from the robot and transfers it to you, and then upon return that person takes the book from you and hands it back to a robot pretty much, which at this rate there should just be another robot to do that too.

As for the reading room, one of the first images of the library I saw was a student sitting in the reading room, a glass dome reading room. It was a nice sunny day and as you could imagine the room was flooded with light, well the student was on his laptop. Most people might not think twice about that, but all I could think about was the glare that must be coming off his screen. As the sun gets lower in the sky I myself am starting to fight the sun and glare issues in studio as I am sure most of us are. I also noticed that such intense sun makes it difficult to read printed things as well. I have not been to the Masueto Library in person but that seems like it could be an issue. Along with the fact that I think the whole robot book retrieval thing is kind of silly, it sounds cool and looks cool though.

I believe the next step in library revolution will be the complete destruction of the library. How long will it be before every piece of written information is available on line? Everyone will have a tablet and will be able to access a world library without ever having to leave their house. I do not think it sounds too far-fetched, but that still may be a ways away.

But if you are really intrigued, during the Chicago Humanities Festival’s Hyde Park Day (10/23) you can purchase a ticket and get a chance to check out the underground automated book retrieval system/bat cave.

Architect Barbie

by Laura Thomas

A joke to start off this blog......

One day a father gets out of work and on his way home he suddenly remembers that it's his daughter's birthday. He pulls over to a Toy Shop and asks the sales person, "How much for one of those Barbie's in the display window?"

The salesperson answers, "Which one do you mean, Sir?

We have: Work Out Barbie for $19.95, Shopping Barbie for $19.95, Beach Barbie for 19.95, Disco Barbie for $19.95, Ballerina Barbie for $19.95, Astronaut Barbie for $19.95, Skater Barbie for $19.95, and Divorced Barbie for $265.95".

The amazed father asks: "It's what?! Why is the Divorced Barbie $399.95 and the others only $19.95?"

The annoyed salesperson rolls her eyes, sighs, and answers: "Sir..., Divorced Barbie comes with: Ken's Car, Ken's House, Ken's Boat, Ken's Furniture, Ken's Computer, and one of Ken's Friends.

Why the joke? Because Architect Barbie is not a joke but finally a reality. From the Barbie, I Can Be..... series created to inspire little girls to play roles of women in different career fields, Architect Barbie was released in 2011 and sells for $13.99. Her outfit consists of a pink layered dress that is detailed with geometric print , topped with a gradient blue dress that depicts a city skyline. The outfit is finished off with a pair of black anklet boots, a streamlined black jacket with white accent stitching, hipster glasses and a decorative square bracelet. Like every Barbie, she has accessories. She comes with a scaled house model, drawing tube, drawings and a hard hat. Where ever this girl needs to go she is prepared but will need a change of clothes and shoes if she's going to a job site :)

While this is great I would love if they come out with the Architectural Grad Student Barbie. She would looked like death warmed over with half closed baggy eyes, dressed in sweatpants with a Saluki T-shirt, flip flops, greasy hair in a pony tail from not showering. Accessories could include a backpack full of books, a laptop, drawing tube, an energy / coffee drink, alarm clock that says 3:00 am, bunch of broken models and crumbled up paper.

Architects have been fighting for Architect Barbie since 2002 and are thrilled to see her finally come to life. Architectural Record and American Institute of Architects have written articles and a few blogs about this doll. The reaction to this doll in the architectural community alone is outstanding.

I myself will be purchasing two of these dolls, one to "play" with and keep the other one in the box. Young or old, male or female, this doll is flying off the shelves and into many offices, studios and schools around the world. For students she represents a goal that is achievable. For those who have struggled to be identified as an architect, she achieves that. For the men, she is the dream intern that they wish they had in their office. Architect Barbie will be a great gift for friends and families of the architectural community, so make sure you ordered yours today. Shameless plug I know but this is so cool!

Design Mishaps

By Audrey Treece

As design professionals, we will have a lot of responsibility. All of our decisions will not only influence the space aesthetically but will also influence the people that use those spaces. Things can be easily overlooked and something that may seem like a good idea could turn out to be a disaster.
I came across an article the other day on about a recently completed $105 million courthouse in Franklin County, Ohio. The building contains a really unique glass staircase that aesthetically completes the design and was put in place with innocent intentions. The designer, however, did not think about half of the population that would be using the space. Women and I suppose men for whatever reason, that choose to wear dresses or skirts cannot use the staircase due to the transparent nature of the material. Those who wear skirts are warned by the courthouse security about the problem and encourage those persons to avoid using the staircase. A female judge, who works at the courthouse, has said that even though she chooses to wear skirts and dresses, she does not trust people to be mature and/or with today’s technology, she doesn’t trust cell phones with cameras. She fears that she will end up on the internet by just innocently walking up or down the stairs at her place of employment. On the other hand, some women are still using the staircase with the hopes that people will be mature about the situation.

Picture taken from

I have to admit that even though I am female and sometimes where skirts and dresses, I am not sure that I would have thought about this being an issue during the design process. This just goes to show how easily things can turn into a disaster by not thinking through a design problem.
A University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor, Dr. Kathryn H. Anthony, has started a website called Disadvantaged by Design where her goal and research is, “to challenge and change design education and practice, inspiring faculty and professional architects to create more humane learning and working environments. Her work stresses the critical importance of designing for diversity and creating spaces for people.” (
I encourage everyone to visit and frequent this website to see what is happening out in the profession that unintentionally affects people who will use our designs.
If you want to read more about the glass staircase visit: