NEH Green Architecture Forum

Uploaded by whitehouse on 23.07.2012

Speaker: Being from Iowa, I thought I would all let
you know, this is a Charles Eames Rain Making Machine,
and we desperately need it.
Let me first note, that we are honored to have funded this
documentary that we have been watching.
Secondly, we are pleased to co-host this event with the
Grassroots Leadership Conference of the American Institute of
Architecture Students Association.
In the pantheon of design, Charles and Ray Eames have
carved out a venerated niche.
They innovated with a sense for America,
but also a thorough knowledge and appreciation of modernness,
esthetics advanced abroad.
Their now famous bow house influenced home had a Modrian
like exterior wall.
Charles is much pictured now lost sculptural contraption is
not too dissimilar from the one we saw,
reflected Calderesque engineering whimsy with a
covetous name.
The Solar Do Nothing Machine Is often articulated as pursuit as
the most for the least compliments Mies van der Rohe's
observation, that less is more.
In their joint undertakings Charles clearly appreciated and
borrowed from Ray's artistic sensibilities,
but he considered their work design rather than art because
their efforts resolved, efforts revolved around
solving problems.
Fashion can be a fleeting moment in time,
but as this new century has commenced it appears that the
minimalist's balance and harmony,
the designs of this ying yang partnership created have
multi-generational appeal.
So to probe the influence Charles and Ray Eames have had
in their work, we have assembled a panel of a new generation of
American architects.
First we'll hear from Michelle Kaufmann.
With her firm, Michelle Kaufmann Studio,
Michelle specializes in sustainable,
life style designs including single family homes,
eco luxury resorts and multi family communities.
She has a number of her homes showcased in museums which not
many architects do, Michelle.
A full sized replica of Michelle's home is constructed
at the National Building Museum as part of the exhibit
The Greenhouse.
And a fully functioning three story home she designed is on
display at the Museum of Science and History.
Her work has also been a display at Moca, the Walker Art Center,
and the Vancouver Arts Center.
Michelle received her undergraduate degree from Iowa
State University, and her Masters from Princeton.
But most of all, has been well educated because she graduated
from a public high school in Davenport, Iowa.
As I did.
Allison Wilson holds two architecture degrees from the
University of Maryland.
She and Leah Davies who I will introduce next won a
design competition for a Watershed home.
Allison currently works at Ayers Saint Gross in Baltimore where
she heads up many of the firm's sustainability initiatives.
Leah Davies, also a University of Maryland graduate,
now practices architecture at an international design firm in DC,
Perkins and Will.
Leah Davies aspires to use architectural practice in
teaching to create a stronger connection between educational
experience and our everyday lives.
After Allison and Leah present their Watershed project,
Jason Cohn will take the stage.
Jason who worked with Bill Jersey to makes the Eames
Documentary has an impressive career both in film making
and journalism.
He has produced and directed industrial films for numerous
clients and written articles for Rolling Stone Magazine,
the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle,
and other major periodicals.
The grant from the California Council for the Humanities,
Jason is currently working on a film about Proposition 13.
Jason earned a Master's Degree in Journalism from the
University of California at Berkeley.
He will reflect on the role of the Eames played in shaping the
modern esthetic, and then moderate a discussion between
Michelle, Allison and Leah.
To conclude, Jason will open the discussion to questions from
the audience.
After the program ends, all are invited to the American
Institutes of Architecture for a not so modernness barbeque.
So if you all come up here and we welcome you.
(applause) One at a time, come up here.
This is Allison from Davenport, Iowa.
Allison Wilson: It is kind of tough to follow the Eames,
but I will do my best.
So we love the Eames.
But why we are here today is to talk about what we can learn by
looking back at them.
And I think that this number is a big part of that.
This is the number of the year.
7 billion.
7 billion people on this planet.
And as we look to projections of population increase,
it is pretty scary.
And we hear a lot about transportation,
being a big carbon emitter, big energy consumer.
We hear a lot about industry, but it is buildings that
actually use more energy than any other industry.
And buildings that create more carbon than any other industry.
And buildings are making us sick.
So buildings are our biggest problem.
But that is pretty exciting because it means that through
innovation, buildings are actually our biggest solution.
And that is really exciting.
It is a great time to actually be an architect.
And so as we look back, and I will look back and
share a bit of my story.
So I started working at Frank Gary's office out of school
which was really exciting.
And it was fabulous, seeing people,
being overwhelmed when they would walk into the Build Out
Museum, weeping, overcome from the beauty of great design.
But when I was looking for a house for myself,
it was not that situation at all.
It was super depressing.
My husband and I couldn't find anything that we liked that we
could afford.
We started going to therapy thinking what have we done so
wrong in our lives -- (laughter) -- that we can't
find a place to live.
And then you know, as I, I, I think,
let's design for the masses.
And not just for the elite.
And by looking at the small A, not the big A architecture,
and there is a place for the big A architecture,
don't get me wrong.
I love the museum, and I love Frank Gary.
But if we look at the individual homes,
this is where we can actually have a huge impact.
Homes have so much waste in construction.
It is crazy.
We are so used to seeing these bins just
overflowing with trash.
And so when my husband and I after the six months of therapy,
we finally decided, well, maybe we can just build
something for ourselves.
And so my husband is a builder.
And so he, he built our house.
And we just made a small thoughtful home and we wanted
it to produce all of it's energy and be healthy.
And that is when I went through this process of realizing, okay,
we as architects can either complain about the landscape
being filled with these kind of thoughtless, crappy homes,
or try to do something about it.
And that is when I set on this mission to make thoughtful,
sustainable design that is accessible.
Because it is no longer a question of if people want
green homes or not.
They do.
They want lower energy bills.
They want lower water bills.
They want healthy environments for their families.
But it can't take anymore time than a non green home.
It can't cost anymore than a non green home and it needs
to be easy.
So looking back again at Eames and thinking about alternative
systems for construction, Simplifying the process.
And, you know, I think this is probably a pretty savvy group,
so you probably know all of the differences between these
different terms on this slide.
But a lot of times people get confused.
And they compress all of these terms together.
Whereas prefabrication is sort of anything that is built off
site in some way and shipped to a site.
So components, panelist systems, manufactured.
Manufactured is what trailer homes are.
They typically are not attached to a permanent foundation which
is why they fly through the air in tornadoes and hurricanes.
But the work that I have been focused on is modular which is
still volumetric, built in a factory.
But it is built to site build code.
So it is very different than manufactured.
But part of the problem why we are so behind other countries in
the US -- (laughter) -- is because we have trailer homes
and people don't understand that is a very different thing.
And so unfortunately it has been branded in a sort of a
negative way.
And so it is a great time that we can unbrand or rebrand and
really try to use technologies that we have at hand to make
buildings that are so much better in so much less time.
And they are stronger.
It is really cool.
Like once you actually see some of these buildings get built in
a factory, you can see in this image that the modules are
moving along this assembly line on these tracks.
So the house actually goes to the electrician rather than the
electrician going to the house.
It is really cool.
They are built much stronger and so much less waste.
Because they have storage capacity.
So as they are cutting materials down,
they don't have to just chuck it away.
They have some place to put it and reuse it again and again.
And they are not building outside where it is really tough
to ever actually get the moisture out of the framing.
And plus, who wants to be working in that environment?
Nobody I know.
So in the past six or seven years,
that I have been doing this, we have built over 55 homes.
Homes that create their own energy, sorry,
produce their own energy.
That are built in a factory, shipped to a site.
Homes like this one.
So homes that you wouldn't consider being
made in a factory.
Like so beautiful.
This one came as a series of 11 modules that were put together,
stacked together.
It came with most of it's siding on,
the systems already baked in.
Like this kitchen actually came from the factory.
It came wrapped and they set it on the foundation,
and I pulled off the plastic.
And walked in.
And I just wanted to lick it, it was so great.
(laughter) Because everything you see in this image,
other than the lamps hanging and the fruit,
came from the factory.
So you know, the teak cabinetry, the concrete counter top,
the glass wall with the cabinets in front,
that all came from the factory.
It was so great.
So once you start doing this work,
it is just impossible to go back.
And this allows us to really bake in a lot of these
sustainable systems.
So a lot of times with builders, they want to build better.
But it can take a lot of research and can take
a lot of time.
They have to get new supply chain to figure out like,
you know, how am I going to order recycled paper
counter top?
So this allows us to kind of bake all of these systems and
starting with Smart Design and designing to use less by well
placed windows that sculpt in the natural light,
making smaller spaces feel larger than they are.
By having open spaces using smart systems.
That will help us reduce our energy.
Help simplify our lives.
Efficient materiality.
So bamboo of course is the poster child of green building.
It can be a beautiful poster child.
We can use that.
But we can also use systems like this kitchen actually came from
cabinetry that was going to be thrown out.
It was from a school that was being torn down.
So we reclaimed that cabinetry.
Or things like this, like this tile that was made from recycled
wine bottles which was great.
So you can sit back and be drinking a glass of wine and
feel like you are doing your part.
(laughter) Using materials that are going to last a long time
that don't require maintenance.
So things likes Corden steel, it is such a beautiful material.
Coming up with new siding systems that will actually
collect water to use inside of the house.
Water efficiency is a big one as we are starting to hear that
water is the next oil.
Water is the next scarce resource.
So everything we can do.
There is a lot we can do actually just by putting in
low flow water heads.
Using smart water sense systems.
Here using Green Roof which helps to reduce storm
water run off.
Using gray water systems to collect sink water.
To use for the toilet.
It is almost a crime that we actually put drinking water in
our toilet.
It is ridiculous.
So there is lots we can do even in existing homes to help that.
Using rainwater systems to catch,
to collect the rainwater and use that for watering
the landscapes.
Energy conservation of course is a big one.
Doing well placed glass, having homes of course situated.
Properly having good heating and cooling systems,
great insulation systems, smart lighting systems,
like this fixture which I love that I designed.
And, you know, again smart systems that help us actually
see how much energy we are using and how much water we are using
in real time.
That is one of the biggest things that can help us.
Because if we see, if we just get our electric bill a month
later, it is hard to actually know what to do about it.
But if we can be seeing it in real time,
then we can use that information wisely.
So the best thing we can do is actually make our homes super
efficient and then on top of that,
look to alternative energy systems.
Healthy spaces, choosing materials that are non off
gassing that, you know, growing food in our homes can be great.
And so with this then, as you start to do this kind of work,
it is good to be a story teller.
To share it.
And so that has been a big part of the work that I have been
doing too is to actually have homes that are exhibits.
And so as was mentioned there was a full size replica of my
house that was up in the National Building Museum here
for a year.
So people could walk through it.
We had a house in front of City Hall in San Francisco and that
was really cool because that was something that everybody
could go into.
So it wasn't just somebody who is going to a museum.
But it was like the guys at the bus stop or you know the people
going to pay their parking ticket.
And they would walk by and say, oh, what is this?
Oh, this is a green home.
Oh, that is cool.
I could live here.
I thought green homes were you know made out of recycled tires.
And so having people experience these things,
is really powerful, because then they can
start to feel empowered.
And then being a story teller and sharing things like you
know, as you have these great ideas,
as you come up and find systems that you think are really good,
don't just keep those to yourself.
But share that.
Tell these stories.
And we have so many venues of course now where we can do this
and architects can start embracing things.
And so while it may seem cheesy like having a Youtube channel,
doing these Youtube videos, it is actually really great
because you know people are watching these things.
So wow, there are these terrible TV stations like HTTV that are
kind of filled with really bad content.
This is a great venue for us.
Please, please embrace these venues because they are hungry
for good content.
So let's give them good content.
Let's not just have them tell the crappy stories.
And let's make our information clear to people so that you know
it is like home, should come as a nutrition label.
Something so easy for everyone to understand.
So it is really looking back how the Eames,
they could tell stories that would resonate with everyone.
It wasn't just information that would resonate with
other architects.
Which is great and fun and you know, we know how to do that.
But let's remember that if we can actually tell stories to
people like our grandmothers, that is where we can really
start to have a big impact.
And another part, another great lesson that I learned from the
Eames and also from my personal experience is this
idea of failure.
And to sort of say, okay, to not be afraid of failure.
And to also not think of failure in that negative sense.
But that it is a moment to pivot.
It is a moment to sort of say, okay, let's reassess.
And is there some other way to address this?
And they iterated and iterated and you know to see all of the
work they produced in their studio and to actually come up
with the end result.
They had so many iterations along the way.
And the pivots like we saw in the movie.
And my only personal tale, it was sort of learning about
this chicken and the egg problem of mass production and
prefabrication to really get to the benefits that it can offer
to really get to having lower costs, lower time.
It requires quantity.
It requires a lot of volume.
And it requires doing a number of homes to get that,
those numbers down.
But you can't really get to those numbers until you can get
the costs and the time frames down,
so it is this chicken and the egg problem.
So to then back up and say, how can we do that?
Well, we are multi family, urban in fill.
This is actually the place where it begins to unlock.
So I have been working on this multi family project in Denver.
We did eight homes at one time.
It took the same amount of time to do eight homes as it did to
do one in the factory.
And the costs came down by half if we are just doing one single
family home.
So this is when we can begin to unlock these lower price points.
So what we are working on now for the next phase of this
project is offering up single family urban in fill options
from the multi family options.
So that way if somebody just has a single family,
they can actually add on to the queue from the multi family,
get the same price as the multi family for the single family.
So sort of unlocking that price point.
And also to change this idea of what an architect is.
We learn that there is a very specific role we have with these
boundaries of what we do and what our consultants do and what
the contractor does.
And so something that is just always so wonderful to remember
from the Eames is we have this great education,
we have this great skill set.
So let's use this time to apply it.
And I hope a lot of you do.
We have, there are so many areas to really redesign like
mechanical systems, electrical systems,
like it would be so great.
It is fine that there is not the jobs at the big architecture
firm that you think is so cool.
Like take this time then and come up with the new mechanical
system that can be beautiful, that we don't want to hide away.
But we actually want to see it.
So I think that this is a really great thing for us to remember.
In my own case, I have been you know spending time sort of when
I don't find products that I like,
sort of inventing them and creating them as products.
And then share.
This idea is really, it is so great to see
this next generation, your generation rethinking,
not that the old idea of how architects sort of see like this
is my idea, so this is where my value is.
I am not going to share it.
In my own situation, I had lots of people emailing me about this
barn door track, detail that we used a lot in these sliding wood
sun shades.
So I was like great, I will just make this a detail of mine,
I will tell people how to do it, to share it with them,
like here is where you buy it.
Here is where I found the least expensive thing.
And so just sharing these ideas, making it accessible.
If we are really going to move the dial, we,
the more we can share the good ideas,
the more we can build on top of each other's great ideas.
That is what we really need to have the momentum
for innovation.
And also for us to be the kind of architects that we
want to be.
The more that we can share data, the more that we can capture and
have a lot at our fingertips, this is going to be great for
all of us.
And so to really break down that our idea is somehow
the copyrightable, like this is my value,
this is my intellectual property.
Let's look to the other models, the newer models of thinking
about intellectual property, what we share, how we share it.
There is great things to learn.
This book by Chris Anderson Who is the editor in chief of Wired
Magazine of course threw a lot of people into a tizzy,
because his premise is I think rightly so,
that things are going to be available for free.
Information is available for free.
So it is just the way the world is moving,
so you are either going to have figure out some way of dealing
with this or you are going to be left behind.
Of course, writers are having to deal with this.
And so one can think, well, how can I make money if I am
sharing information freely?
Well, clearly there are good models out there of companies
who are all about sharing information freely who seem to
be doing just fine financially.
This is some of the Google offices.
But also if we look at the music industry,
they have gone through a whole overhaul and still are.
So if we look to Lady Gaga as an example,
she gives away most of her music for free.
She is doing just fine just financially.
She makes most of her money out of her concerts.
So is there something that we can learn from rethinking things
for architects?
And there is some models that I think are pretty interesting.
Architects are for humanity, hope source.
Architecture for humanity, rather than saying, okay,
we are going to come up with a design for one school,
in Kenya and that is it.
The idea is that you come up with that really great school
and it produces it's own energy.
It is really healthy.
It is a great environment for kids to learn.
You make it then available for free for anyone to build in any
climate that sort of makes sense for that climate.
That makes sense with those building materials.
And the more that we can share this in areas like disaster
relief, the better.
But also there are models out there like Etsy.
Like we have this platform where we can be designing things and
we can go directly to the person who is going to be buying.
So while it might not be you know selling a sweater,
there are models out there that we can look to.
And so with Sketch Up, for example,
they are a 3D warehouse.
Or with House Plant.
So you can then actually post your own designs and you can
have people find you, find your designs,
and just buy them directly from you.
So this is a great thing especially for
younger architects.
Where you don't have to have the big marketing budget in order to
actually get clients to realize your work.
It is more about good content that actually rises
to the surface.
So that is pretty exciting.
And there is other websites like Houzz, H-O-U-Z-Z,
where you can again put your portfolio on line.
You can have these audiences that can find you with good
content without the big marketing budget.
And this is the time where we are seeing the big problems in
the world and we are working together that we are the
strongest at those moments.
And like the Eames redesigning our process, you know,
in my personal life, you know, going through the idea of
analyzing the typical model that we all know.
The clients, the architect builder, they are separate.
Architect has their consultants, the builder
has their sub contractors.
But when we look at factory built,
it sort of begins to muddle things.
And then there is sometimes the dealer network and so I went
through the process and then sort of becoming the dealer.
And then that didn't quite work.
And so then we bought our own factory and became the builder.
Which then you know basically we were design build which had a
lot of simplification which was great.
And now we are starting to see integrative project delivery
which is really exciting where it is actually more value based.
Where everyone shares in the risk and shares in the reward
which is a really strong idea.
So as we look to what the future architect will be,
the future architect that you all will be,
it is not just doing design build.
But it is integrative delivery.
It is you actually then get because you are providing value,
you will get money not just from your fees,
but from the benefit that you are providing.
That you will be the team leader.
You know, you are not just the artist.
You are not just the design technician,
but you are the team leader.
You know, you work with a virtual team, globally.
And it will be based on results.
So this is pretty exciting.
This model of an architect.
This is a really strong model.
And it is great because as we are in this perfect storm,
this storm of the economic crisis, the environment crisis,
we can then actually then through innovation,
really provide a lot of great options.
So let's remember to embrace our optimism and you know so many
times architects are so serious.
And while we are serious and we need to be serious about the
work and take it seriously, we have to remember to play.
Otherwise, you know, this is who we will become.
And this is not who, we can be so much better.
And this is not who we want to be.
(laughter) And so let's use technology.
Let's remember from the Eames.
And this is who we can be.
And this is who the world needs us to be,
because this is what is needed.
So you know, let's remember to play also because we need
to remember to have sustainability in our lives.
Sustainability of our own bodies.
This whole idea of working all of the time,
that is not sustainable.
Let's remember to play.
And I look forward to seeing what you guys all come up with.
So thank you.
Leah Davies: Okay.
So I am Leah, and this is Alli and we are a couple of the
representatives from the University of Maryland Solar
Decathlon team and this is our project Watershed.
We are probably going to tie into a ton of the topics already
discussed, but hopefully we can relate a little bit more to
the audience since you guys are mainly students.
Alli and I both just finished school last year and entered the
professional world, and we would love to take you through not
only the design of our house, but also sort of the process
that we went through never having designed or built a
house before.
(inaudible) Yeah.
So before we go into my house, I am curious,
how many of you grew up or live in or lived in a house or home
that looks or resembles something like this?
So it has a front door, it has a garage,
it often gives precedence to the car, automobile, not the person,
not the people that are living in it.
It has sloped roofs, that shed the rain and the water away from
the house and off of the site.
And most interestingly to me, it usually has absolutely no
relationship to it's surrounding environment.
It's natural environment.
It is just sitting on the land.
So the solar decathlon which is the competition that we are
going to be talking about which is our entry aims to challenge
these preconceptions using solar power as the sort of foundation
for sustainable design.
So it asks 20 collegiate teams to over a two year
process design, build, and operate a solar powered,
attractive, and affordable home.
So as Michelle was saying, not something that you know in
previous years people are coming to the competition with
a million dollar house.
And people are saying, this is beautiful.
And this is awesome, but this doesn't work for the public.
So that competition got added affordability.
And then all of the homes are designed to be transported into
one location where they are judged on ten different
categories that are up on the screen there.
But more importantly they are all brought to one place to be
put on public display.
Because the most important part of the competition is really
about public outreach and teaching people how we
can use more sustainable technologies and innovations
in our own homes.
And as you can see, every house is different.
Everybody takes the same problem and comes up with a solution in
a completely different manner.
Allison Wilson: So that being said,
what is it like to do one of these?
What does your life become if you decide to let it?
So we started the project in January of 2009.
Question mark.
And it started as this whole list.
What does it mean?
What are we creating?
We don't know.
It is a house.
We know there is a competition.
What is it going to look like?
We don't know.
How are we going to build it?
We also don't know.
Who is going to be a part of this team?
And it becomes this great collaboration.
That picture in the lower left is one of our early design
meetings where it is you know a group of architecture students
talking to a whole bunch of engineering students and
environmental science guys going, all right,
we think this could be a house.
And the mechanical engineering students are going to come to
you and say, I don't think I can solve that problem.
Try again.
And you go back and forth and you have these really great
conversations with those people.
Sorry, the guy all the way on the right.
He is a builder.
He builds houses for a living.
And he comes in and he looks at what you are drawing and he
goes, really?
You are really going to make that happen?
But you do.
And you experiment with those ideas and you brain storm and
you test them.
One of those things that you also don't usually do in school.
You know you kind of take your designs through as far as you
can get in six weeks basically.
And with this, yeah, you do that six week part.
But then you also have the implications that you are going
to spend next summer building it.
So you have to figure out how to actually go from those really
beautiful drawings, that you know you have pinned up on the
wall and you admire because they are gorgeous and they took
you three days.
And then you have to kind of make those more technical
drawings and say how part A meets part B.
Learning about specs, specifications that I am pretty
sure I never ever would have learned about in school if it
weren't doing this.
And on the scheduling end of it.
So the business part of the proposition of being an
architect and what that schedule looks like and how
you make that happen.
Building it.
So even though you have gone through all of that designing
and you have crafted your drawings to try to help you
describe how you are going to put this piece together,
you get out on-site and you discover, oh, well,
that doesn't look the way I thought it would.
And then you take it apart and you do it again.
So that idea of building it and failing because it didn't match
what you wanted or what your intentions were and then
rediscovering what you could do instead becomes a big part of it
so through all seasons.
We started in the winter and we finished in the August.
And anybody who has been outside today,
it is a pretty miserable summer out there.
Also, you know, the idea of modularity that with these
houses, travel is such a huge design constraint.
When I started my job last may, I started working on building
that weren't going to move.
They were going to sit where they were forever.
I was so excited, right, because the hardest part of
doing a solar house like this for the solar decathlon,
is you have to take the whole thing apart,
move it some place else, reassemble it and then do
the whole thing.
It is absurd.
It is awesome.
(laughter) This lower left hand picture is probably today,
the absolutely scariest moment of my life.
We had just gotten to the construction site on the
National Mall and our house was getting lifted by a crane
into the air.
Leah Davies: On top of the one of the other team's houses.
Allison Wilson: Yeah.
And the competition starts in six days.
And it is my birthday and I am standing there going, oh, God.
If they drop it now, there is absolutely nothing we can do to
save it.
And it was great and it was terrifying.
If you like roller coasters, this is way better.
And then with materials and understanding how they work,
the siding that we were using, you know,
it behaved differently than we thought it would.
And we learned by playing with these materials and really
working with them to know what we were doing.
So play with samples, get, get pieces and chunks of things
and fool around with them and see what they do.
See what they fail at.
And pick new ones.
And probably the most exciting part of this is being out there
and getting to share our story with 20,000
people over ten days.
This thing that we have lived, eat, breathed, and slept,
everything and getting to share that story and continuing to
share it with people like you.
It is awesome.
This is, upper right is the line, the day after we had won.
And it was around the block.
And it was great because you had this huge captive audience that
wanted to hear what you were saying about sustainable design.
As a student there is absolutely nothing more empowering then
seeing people your parents and your grandparents age and the
people who are going to employ you taking an interest in what
you are saying and really appreciating that you have had a
valuable experience and that you have something to offer.
Because you do.
And really you know getting excited about that.
Again, another view of people as they are walking in and becoming
a part of that experience.
And you know to Leah's point that most suburban houses really
like they have no relationship to people.
But the buildings wouldn't be there if it weren't for people
like us that need them to live in.
So having this kind of an opportunity to show case designs
would also be able to show case that relationship between people
and the buildings that they are part of.
And how they get to interact with them and the stories behind
them is really exciting to do.
So anybody going graduate school?
See if the school you are applying to does this
work decathlon.
Leah Davies: So we talked about the process that we went
through for the competition.
Now let's talk about the house.
But before the house, why?
So we all know by now that buildings use tons of
our energy.
As we learned from Michelle, almost half of our energy comes
from building, and it is a big crisis globally.
And we are learning how to address it.
And we have come up with tons of technologies to address it.
But Maryland this year really wanted to say you know the solar
decathlon has been done now, what five times,
and we have started to learn how to address energy in our homes.
Let's look at another thing as well.
And that is another precious resource that we use,
irresponsibly in our homes which is water.
Domestic residential water is the third greatest water
use in the US.
And on a, I think, yeah, statistics,
we count for 30 billion-gallons of water a day in the US,
which is absurd.
And one in six people in the world is living without access
to either potable water and yet Americans on average we
consume over a hundred gallons of water a day.
Through showers and dishwashers and irrigation
of our own backyard.
Allison Wilson: And then you have to drink it too.
Leah Davies: Yeah.
And as Michelle pointed out it is being used in our toil lets.
Which as she said it is totally unacceptable.
So we said you know why not address both?
Why not look at both energy a and water?
And the other, that is sort of at a global scale.
But at a local scale, we are designing for our
own regional climate.
We are designing for Maryland, for the DC region.
And we are right next to the Chesapeake bay.
So we drew inspiration from the Chesapeake Bay,
knowing that it was this sort of large scale ecosystem,
it is the largest estuary in the US that has the sort of subtle
ecological balance between 3600 plant animal and fish species
and yet they all work together to create this home.
So we sort of took that as inspiration and said if the
micro, or the ecosystem can work at this scale,
why can't we design it at the scale of a house.
And create sort of this micro scale ecosystem where the house
is not only producing it's own energy,
but also you know converting it's own waste into nutrients
back into the land where we are not sending our water into
municipal water supplies but rather retrieving on-site and
managing our own storm water run off.
Allison Wilson: So dissimilar from the pictures from that we
started with, our house was founded on the idea of being
embedded in the landscape.
But you know it wasn't just going to sit there.
It was going to be engaged and be an active participant in this
landscape and vice versa that you know the landscape would be
a better part for having the house and the house would be way
better for having the landscape and that dynamic relationship
between them.
Leah Davies: So we started with four primary design
principles which we have kind of already addressed.
Obviously solar energy and technology.
But also using both active and passive design strategies.
So using overhangs to block solar heat gain in the summer
and yet let the heat gain in in the winter when the sun
angle is lower.
By mixing these two, you become a lot more efficient in your
design, so architecture and engineering start to sort of
collaborate and work together.
And then also noticing that sun is, excuse me, technology,
solar panels and things are not the only way to harness the
sun's energy.
But also plant media, is another way to
harness photosynthesis and growing things.
So trying to develop a form that started to relate to these
concepts was definitely a challenge.
And it was a long design process.
But it was also exciting because we were able to sort of say,
now we have those four design principles,
but we also need to make this thing a house.
So the program of a house.
We started with the basically the rectangle
you see on the top left.
Imagine that is our site, that is the limit we can build on.
Then you take your program and you say,
you know the house has private and public functions.
And then from there, you know you want to create outdoor
spaces that you know you can start to visually and physically
connect with the outdoor environment.
So you slide these two programs apart.
And then more importantly, and I am sorry,
but the color didn't show up in this,
but the central access that you start to create,
where you are collecting water in the center of the home as
opposed to shutting it off.
And water becomes the focal central point of the design.
So that slowly turned into an actual architectural design that
was scaled to house where you have living room and kitchen in
your sort of public realm and then bedroom and office in your
sort of more private realm, and the bathroom was actually the
joint between these two pieces of program.
So three dimensionally Alli talked a little bit about how we
have to take this apart.
So initially we weren't sure how,
how we were going to transport this.
Which meant that the roofs might have to come off due to
the height.
So we actually designed it that the roofs, there is a seam,
that the roofs can actually be lifted off of the house.
Which is sort of the diagram you are seeing here.
But again, you see the dynamic relationships between the
outdoor deck spaces and the indoor living spaces and the two
roof forms that are actually inverting the typical gable roof
like this.
And turning it into a way that we are celebrating,
collecting the water as opposed to just shutting it
off the site.
And the roofs also played another really important part.
I mean, obviously one was about collecting water.
And it actually had a green roof on it.
So it helped slow down rainwater as it, as it was raining,
it helped manage the sort of flash flood effect of it just
piling in the center.
Slowed it down and it absorbed some of it.
But the other roof housed our solar panels.
Which actually sort of need to have a specific degree to
maximize their efficiency.
So technology and the water collection all started to play a
role in the form of the architecture of our house.
And we got this really beautiful juxta position between the
technology on our roofs.
A lot of the houses, a lot of people believe that you know
that sustainable design is about taking these technologies and
slapping them on your house.
Well, oh, I get some solar panels, I put them on the roof.
I have a sustainable home.
But we really wanted to teach people that it was the
integration between the design and the technologies and the
landscape and how all of them worked together simultaneously
and were informed by one another and that was what
Watershed was for about.
Allison Wilson: I am getting a little bit more technical
about it in how in the process that comes together.
So the images on the left are examples of the energy modeling
that our engineering team was working through as well.
And I had never seen this before.
At that point I had gone through five years
of architecture school and I had never seen a diagram like
that before in my life.
Which is kind of a travesty actually.
But you start to understand, you know,
what the requirements of your building are from a design
perspective to get those kinds of mechanical
technologies to work.
So you know, air conditioning doesn't just de facto happen.
It happens because you have designed a good building
and that the systems work efficiently within
that building.
And to help do that, through those diagrams our engineering
team gave us a challenge and they said, look,
we need you to create your building envelope from
everything from the outside to the inside that has a thermal
resistance of R40.
We are going to do that.
We don't know, but we are going to figure it out.
And you need to have a roof system and a floor system that
have about an R50.
Leah Davies: A typical home is about R20.
Allison Wilson: Yeah.
Leah Davies: That is it leading value.
Allison Wilson: And we had made our problem
more challenging for ourselves.
This house had a lot of perimeter to it.
And the more perimeter you have, the more leak you have between
the inside and the out.
So we had to develop this system.
So in the diagram on the left, that is kind of a chunk of our
wall and what it's composition was.
So the green roof on the top and the dry wall on the bottom
of the, of that roof sandwich, those are everything that
you can see.
And those are you know what most people,
most regular homeowners care about because that is what they
can see, that is what they can touch.
But it is everything in between that that saves you money.
And that is what you spend your time designing when you are
going through something like this.
And the same thing happens in the wall.
You know that exterior finish clotting and the dry
wall and the inside, that is what you see.
But it is everything in between that really makes a
huge difference on how the building performs.
And we had gone through the process of having drawn all of
these details about how the building went together and what
the different layers were.
But it wasn't until we were installing those layers and
really understanding how they played with one another,
that you know all of a sudden those lines that we were
drawing, they meant something because you know,
that line meant that black layer that you had just spent Saturday
painting on.
And to work with that thermal efficiency,
it also meant trying to understand our
structural system.
And part of this was driven by where we had placed openings in
the building and part of it was also driven by our attempts to
achieve that R40 envelope.
So in the structure typically in a home you would have you know
two by four or two by six studs, wood studs every 16 or 24-inches
on center, right?
And every time there is a stud like that, there are two sides.
And every one of those sides is an opportunity for
air to leak around.
So we said, all right.
We were working with our structural engineer,
we said how can we make this problem less?
What do we do?
How can we have more continuous insulation?
And he is like, all right, well, what if we start to think about
it as these frames.
So we had these triple two by six stud locks,
that went together.
And as a result, we had fewer edges, fewer seams.
And fewer seams meant we had more continuous insulation which
meant our envelope performed better than it could have.
So we had this 13-inch wall from outside to inside that
incorporated a ton of insulation and that also had an efficient
structural system so that the envelope would work nicely and
allow the mechanical systems that our engineering students
were designing to be as efficient as possible.
And so what did it look like, right?
You know, we kind of showed you everything except the really
beautiful shots of what was it like to be walking
around in this.
So this is standing in our kitchen looking back toward
the living room.
People enter through the doorway on the right, the glass opening.
And this was the public bar.
Where people were supposed to be able to hold their parties,
to socialize.
We actually threw a couple of parties in here for donors and
for people that had helped us along in the process.
And it was a great space to gather in and be a part of.
The ceilings were tall and that let in north light.
Which was kind of diffuse and evenly lit the spaces.
It meant we didn't have to turn the lights on a lot
which was great.
And, you know, in the materials as well,
one of the things that the Eames were talking about was
using office shelf pieces.
And our kind of bent towards the affordability contest was how do
you make an extraordinary home with ordinary materials?
And so we had, you know, there is nothing overly fancy
about this.
It is a whole bunch of two by sixes, it is dry wall.
It is cabinets, which are basically wood.
And concrete countertop.
But because of the way we combined them,
you get this really esthetic environment that sponsors a kind
of life that everybody who was working on this project
subscribed to.
From the opposite end, so this idea of this large volume, that,
you know, there are multiple spaces in here but there's
flexibility, so that you could use this whole volume
as one place.
Or understand it as being more than one as well.
Connections to the -- this one talks about the connections
to the outdoors, through those glass doors.
And the other bar through those glass doors at the end.
These spaces kind of elongated themselves into the landscape
that was beyond them.
It is kind of curious in our house and everyone who walked
through it asked.
We didn't have a bed that you could see.
And people were like where is the bedroom?
Where do you sleep in this house?
And Leah will talk a little bit more about furniture
in a second.
But that table that you see in this image is
the bed and we worked with some manufacturers to produce pieces.
But with our program, the competition allows you to kind
of define who you are trying to sell your house to.
And we were interested in people who lived between Baltimore and
Washington, D.C.
Who could commute from home.
We have some of the worst traffic on the
planet around here.
It is awful.
No one should drive, ever.
And we were saying, well, if you could get some of those
people off of the road, and get them telecommuting
and get them working from home, that would be great.
But not all work could happen at that little office desk on
the right-hand side.
Sometimes you really need like a conference cable.
You know, how many of you have spaces in your architecture
buildings that you walk out and you throw something huge on the
table or you make a model on something larger than your desk.
So we needed this conference space that we developed.
And Leah will talk more.
Leah Davis: So now I wish I had put the bed first,
but table -- yeah, as Alli mentioned,
we also designed the furniture, which was one of the most
exciting parts about the whole house as a student really.
It was another way of saying, let's take a typical dining room
table, it's large, where the heck is it
going to go in our house?
Our house is 900 square feet interior space.
You know, those are restrictions of the competition.
So we had this amazing opportunity to sort of
reinvent what we knew.
So these tables, actually we worked with Herman Miller who
actually manufactured the furniture we designed for us.
And those tables you see actually sit on top of the
birch carts that you see in the corners.
So they just sit right on top of it.
And whenever you need it, you just slide it right off
and take it down.
They also expand in the middle, so they're narrower when they're
up and they're at countertop height space when they're
against the wall.
Then you pull them down and they're at table top
space because they're not lifted any more.
And the bed -- actually, we nicknamed it the taco bed.
It folds up in itself.
So the mattress stays inside the bed and you actually just
fold it up and it turns into a conference table.
So the top of the desk become the legs of the bed.
And I mean Alli can agree, this was really exciting to
watch happen and work through because it was just so different
than anything we knew.
It was actually a really quick short 20 second video that shows
some of our -- oh, maybe there is -- that shows some of our
flexible -- We also designed this media unit with
off-the-shelf parts.
But we sort of arranged it in a way that was flexible and
modular for the house.
Allison Wilson: There's a lot more of this on YouTube,
talking about alternative media.
There's about 15 different minutes of video stuff that
you can find.
Leah Davis: So we've talked about the
sort of two big shed modules.
But really the focal point of the design was
the bathroom which is the connection between two.
On both sides of the bathroom were floor to ceiling glass
which seems a little strange.
And we had some people walk through the house that loved it.
Some people, mainly on the older side,
looked at us like we were crazy.
Allison Wilson: There were blinds.
Leah Davies: There were blinds.
But the idea was that this wetland,
which I haven't gotten to yet and I'll get to in just a second
which are constructed wetlands which is where all the water was
being captured in the center of our house,
was visible in the bathroom at all times.
And these wetlands actually filtered the
greywater from our home.
In case you're not familiar, greywater is all the non-solid
waste water, so dishwasher and sink and shower water.
And that stuff doesn't need to be going to get processed
expensively using a ton of energy.
It can actually just be processed and filtered by
natural plant media, which is what we did.
So when you're taking a shower, you're actually watching the
water drain below you and go out into the wetlands right
next to you.
And so the education factor wasn't just about public
outreach but it was also about the idea that the home
can educate its dweller and the home can serve to sort of
inspire and educate whoever is living inside of it.
Sort of a different way of looking at sustainable design.
But what you see here is sort of a cross-section
through the house.
And the wetlands on the left were rain water collection,
almost an open-faced cistern.
So that water was just drained off the PV roof.
And we collected it.
Then we could reuse it on all our landscaping and irrigation.
And the other side, the stepped one that you see,
is the greywater filtration.
So all that greywater from inside of the house is going and
being filtered into that and then once again used back on
landscape irrigation and taking the band off a lot of our water
in the house.
But we believe that a truly sustainable home does not just
conserve its resources but it also produces its own resources.
So we had an edible deck and garden which once again
could get irrigated with this processed rain water
and greywater.
And we grew a ton of vegetables and plants.
And those green walls, the vines grew grapes and fruits.
Allison Wilson: And we ate this stuff.
It was great.
Leah Davies: We had a dinner party actually at the house.
Allison Wilson: And then to kind of close out our design
stuff, we were working a lot with all of the engineers.
And we've talked about this.
So probably the most exciting part, right, is that, you know,
how many of you go to architecture school or go to
the architecture office everyday and you talk to hundreds of
other architects all day long.
And maybe you talk to an engineer on the phone once in a
while or everyday, if you're in that part of the project.
But what was really exciting for us as students was that,
you know, we had this opportunity to meet people that
we would never have met if it weren't for this project.
So the guy on the right, Jeff, is one of our
engineering students.
And he was working with us on this technology called the
Liquid Desiccant Waterfall.
So the basic concept is, like the packets that come in your
shoes that take out moisture -- Maryland's a really hot
humid place.
And the energy intensive part of air conditioning is actually
removing the water from the air, not changing the
temperature of it.
So we tried to separate those two processes,
the water removal part and the temperature part it.
And what the LDW did was to take in that hot humid air
using a solution.
That solution would pull the humidity out of the air and
eject drier air.
Not cooler but just drier.
And then the air conditioning systems in the house could then
function much more efficiently because they weren't trying to
deal with both water in the air and temperature but
just temperature.
Part of it was also about putting engineering on display.
Leah talked a little bit about how the bathroom was intended to
teach people about life.
And this is our solar thermal wall which used heat energy from
the sun to heat a solution that transferred heat into water so
that all of our domestic hot water was able to use the sun's
thermal energy to get hot instead of using electricity
which is a way more efficient process.
But part of what was also interesting is that this became
an architectural element.
So this deck had a southeast exposure,
which meant it was going to be really hot and nasty to be in
Maryland in the summer.
But when we have this solar thermal wall which needs the
solar access and then we put that in plain to block the sun,
all of a sudden, that deck becomes the world's best place
to be on a summer afternoon because it's shaded,
it's protected, you're using the sun where you want it on these
solar thermal rays.
And really finding a way to find that happy marriage between
architecture and engineering, that the engineering can help
make better architecture and the architecture helps make
better engineering.
So what now?
We've designed this great house.
It went to a competition.
It won.
And then we still have this house.
So what happens?
And we were really fortunate that one of our sponsors, Pepco,
purchased the house and is in the process of setting
it back up.
And it will be publicly visible for tours.
The image in the upper right hand was kind of a conceptual
site diagram that we had developed.
And there's actually going to be a third shed or another module
of the house that we'll be helping or will be creating so
that Pepco has kind of like a lab space, if you will,
to go with this house to run tests and that sort of thing.
So the idea of the shed module really kind of took off with
this particular design and helped us find a way to expand
it for its next life.
So that was us.
Leah Davies: So build a house.
Allison Wilson: Build a house!
Jason Cohn: Hi, everybody.
I'm Jason.
I'm the filmmaker, one of the filmmakers
who made the Eames film.
I'm not an architect.
I don't really know anything about architecture.
Architects to me are like astrophysicists or
something like that.
And when they talk, it's just like whoa,
I have no idea what you're talking about.
But I'm always really impressed.
I'm always really impressed.
I try to follow along.
First of all, I just want to thank the NEH for making this
event happen.
Chairman Leach, Courtney and Claire and Caitlin,
the Cs as we've been calling them, and Jose Santano.
This is really great.
It's really thrilling for me to show the Eames's film to
architects and especially to architecture students.
There's not an audience that I think appreciates it more,
understands the ideas behind it more.
And architecture students are the only ones who laugh at the
part when Jeannine Oppewall says I was happy to be exploited by a
proper master.
Nobody else laughs at that part.
But architecture students seem to think that's really funny.
(laughter) So I also need to thank the NEH of course for
making the film possible because when we were telling people,
you know, we were starting to raise money for the film,
we would tell people that we're making a film about Charles and
Ray Eames.
They would go, oh, okay, so you're going to make a film
about those brothers who made that chair,
that's going to be really interesting.
You know, people didn't -- there was not in the general -- You
know, people out there just didn't really see that there was
going to be a really big audience for it.
But there has been.
And the NEH was really the people who were able
to see that.
And they gave us most of the funding for it.
And they give us early funding for it.
So I just need to say thank you for that.
I'm going to moderate a short panel discussion with Michelle
and Leah and Allison.
Before I do that, I just want to say a couple things about
Charles and Ray just for a couple of minutes.
Can we get the squiggles up there?
Is that possible to get those up?
I'm the filmmaker, but I'm the only one
that didn't -- what do I do?
Audience Member: Next slide.
John Cohn: I don't see anything that says next slide.
I'm the filmmaker.
I'm the only one who didn't bring my own imagery.
Michelle brought this, and I decided that I would use it.
So everybody wanted to know what the squiggles were.
So this is actually a really famous drawing done by Charles.
It's his Venn diagram.
And I think it relates to a lot of what Michelle and Leah and
Allison have been talking about and also what I hope we talk
about when we have our little discussion.
But basically what this is, it shows the various overlapping
interests in architecture or in design.
So you have one squiggly area which represents the designer or
the architect's interest; what do they want to do,
what are they interested?
Then there's a squiggly that represents the client's
interest; what does the client want?
And then there's another squiggly which represents what's
good for society in general; what does the world need?
What do we need?
And what Charles always said was that he really only worked with
a lot of passion when he was working in that area of mutual
triple overlap.
That darkly shaded area in the middle.
And I think that relates to a lot of what Michelle and Leah
and Allison are doing.
And I think it's rally important.
So let me just say something about Charles and Ray.
People always like to use this term, oh, Charles and Ray,
timeless design.
Timeless, timeless.
It's a silly term.
Charles and Ray, their design is not timeless.
It was definitely -- they came from a time.
And all design, all architecture comes from a specific time.
Charles was born in St. Louis in 1907.
He always described himself as a child of the industrial age.
He was interested in trains, in airplanes, in cities,
and the problems of people in cities.
Ray was just a few years younger than him from Sacramento.
But I think that they shared an experience which was the
Great Depression which made a huge impact on the way that they
thought about things.
So, you know, the Depression was obviously -- it was well named.
It was not a time of high spirits.
But there were a lot of people during the Depression who found
it a time almost of optimism because they were able to spend
their time contemplating what the world could look like when
we emerged from that economic malaise of the 1930s.
One of the places where this was happening,
maybe as much as anywhere else, was Cranbook,
outside of Detroit where Charles and Ray met,
like you saw in the film.
So people at Cranbook, they were architects.
They were designers.
They were crafts people.
And what they were thinking about was how can we envision a
new society, how can we recast the world,
basically from scratch, when this is all over?
And what they came up with was this idea that we now
call modernism.
And modernism existed before that,
but they put their stamp on it in a way that was
very important.
Modernism meant that you could unite art and industry together
to create high quality goods, products, things like homes,
and furniture for -- not just for an elite few but for large
numbers of people who had never been able to afford
these things before.
So it was basically a utopian vision at the time.
And think about it.
In the midst of the 1930s when there were no jobs,
there was no money, but people were thinking grand thoughts.
They were devising grand schemes.
And Charles and Ray, of course, were not the only ones.
A lot of their mid-century colleagues were working on
these problems.
But what they basically believed is that design and architecture,
as Michelle said, could save the world.
At the very least, by adhering to a set of ethical principles,
that they could be a powerful force for progress,
for good in the world.
So you know, I said that Charles and Ray's design
is not timeless.
But it has been very durable.
I mean, it still sells like crazy.
You know, Herman Miller Furniture designed by Charles
and Ray Eames is still very, very popular.
And so many people kind of copy Charles and Ray designs.
So people always want to know what is it about their designs
that is so quote, unquote, timeless?
Why is it so enduring?
And my opinion has always been that they did more than just
create designs.
They also created the set of criteria that we now use to sort
of judge what's good design, what does it look like?
They took a lot of the precepts that had come from the bale
house and elsewhere in Europe.
And they added, you know, color, fun, whimsy, lots of choice.
You know, they believed in giving people not just,
you know, one color furniture but 50 colors of furniture with
30 different bases.
And they added a lot of sort of technological sophistication.
So they kind of put an American stamp on it.
And it basically became a template for what good
design is today.
And I don't think that a whole lot has changed since then.
I think we still use most of the same criteria,
except there's one really, really important thing which
is ecological sustainability.
So when Charles and Ray were most active in, you know,
what we call the Eames Era, this was the age of affluence
in America.
It was a time when personal consumption reached unheard of
heights, resources were seen as virtually limitless.
And it was really only late in their career,
in the early 1970s say, when people,
designers and architects really started to take into account
ecological sustainability.
So that's what Michelle and Leah and Allison -- it's foremost in
their minds.
But maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think a lot of architects in the
50s and 60s were really that concerned about it.
So I think that Charles and Ray, you know,
I think that they actually were kind of ahead of their times in
terms of thinking about environmental issues.
I'll throw out a couple of examples.
They wanted to build right here in Washington,
D.C., they wanted to -- they were part of a team that was
going to design a -- what is it called -- an aquarium,
a national aquarium right here in D.C.
And it was going to highlight marine conservation.
It ended up getting defunded.
It didn't happen, which is really a shame.
They also, in 1956 they were thinking about responsible
sourcing for their famous, for the rosewood in their famous
leather lounge and ottoman chair.
I don't think in 1956 there were a lot of furniture designers who
were thinking about, you know, if they were
going to responsibly source their wood.
Another thing that was referred to is the solar
do-nothing machine.
This was something that they designed in 1957 when Alcoa,
the metal company, came to them and said, hey,
we have this exciting new material called aluminum and we
want you to design anything, you can design anything in the
world that you want.
You know, we're going to put it in magazines and
stuff like that.
And Charles and Ray decided to make a toy that they called the
Solar Do-Nothing Machine.
It was this colorful sort of pinwheel whirligig machine that
was solar paneled -- solar powered.
At the time what they said was, well people don't really use
this very much now but we have a feeling some time in the future
this solar power is going to be integrated into a lot of things
that we do.
That was in 1957.
So, you know, what Charles said was that he didn't believe
in compromise.
He was never going to compromise.
But he would always embrace constraints.
And there's just no doubt in my mind that if Charles and Ray
were working today, they would be whole heartedly embracing the
constraint of environmental or ecological sustainability that
Michelle and Leah and Allison have embraced in their work.
So what I'm driving at here is that Charles and Ray, I think,
were very innovative in their time.
And I'm more than happy to talk about what they accomplished.
But I think when we have our talk,
I hope that we can focus more on the future and what
the future holds.
How has that constraint of sustainability changed the way
architects and designers work today?
And how will that change going forward?
I'm going to bring everybody up.
So is this working?
Can you hear me?
Michelle Kaufmann: Is this working?
Jason Cohn: Should I just scream?
Is that on?
So sort of following from what I was just saying,
I want to ask my first question to Michelle.
So if the Eames's era was the age of affluence,
then what are we living in today?
Is it the age of limits or is it the age of possibilities?
Michelle: I would definitely go with age of possibilities.
We have so much right at our fingertips.
We have so much information.
We have these you super powerful systems.
We have computing power.
We have direct access to almost anyone in the world.
And I think we don't yet know how to maximize all of that.
I think it's like we're still in the adolescent stage of figuring
out what it means.
And I think it's just a super exciting time for architects.
I think we have some of the best tools,
based on how our minds work and how we think about things,
that anything is possible for us.
And honestly, I really do think that you're the generation of
super heros for figuring out how to really maximize all that
we have.
Jason Cohn: Leah and Allison, do you feel, you know,
from this generation that, you could easily just feel
saddled with, you know, the problems and the mistakes
of previous generations who are sort of running this feeling
that we're running out of resources?
Do you see it as an opportunity?
Or do you see it that it's just a burden that you have
to live with?
Leah Davies: I think it's really easy
to get overwhelmed at times.
Especially when Michelle brought up that 7 billion number.
That's something that overwhelms me quite frequently.
But I think that it's definitely opportunity.
It excites me more than it scares me.
So hopefully it's the same for all of you.
But yeah, I think that we do have a lot of challenges ahead
of us and a lot of things that we're going to have to
sort of conquer.
But it's sort of nothing design can't handle.
Jason Cohn: How do you feel that the tools that you have
coming out of architecture school prepares you to take on
those challenges?
Allison Wilson: I think later in the film as well there was a
comment that what the Eames' were really selling was their
own ignorance in a subject and their ability to go learn how to
solve it.
And I think, coming out of school,
that's probably the biggest asset you have is you have
absolutely no preconceptions about how the build environment
should happen.
You have nothing to go off of.
And I remember I had probably just started my job,
I had probably been there three or four months.
And I walked into a meeting.
And I said, why don't we do more of this,
why don't we do more sustainable buildings?
Why aren't clients interested in this?
Why don't we do more of it?
Because pretty fundamentally, it never dawned on me that you
could build something other than the way that we built watershed
because we had never done it.
And I think, coming out of school,
that's what your biggest asset is,
that questioning and that probing.
It's finding the right people, wherever you work in whatever
discipline in whatever field you end up with,
that are willing to answer your questions and they're willing to
take the time to help show you why things are the way
that they are.
And then you with your unformed ideas to then be able to create
new ones from that.
Michelle Kaufmann: If I can just add to that too,
because I think it's a really good question,
I think another thing to do is, not unlike the Eames,
be super open to collaborating with people who are very
unlikely characters.
And so, you know, they worked with a lot
of unlikely characters.
They were working with IBM.
And so I think in a similar way, when we start to merge different
ways of thinking is when we have really exciting results.
So for example, you know, look at the transportation industry.
Big carbon emitter.
Not as big as buildings but big.
Kills a lot of people.
Really reduces our quality of living.
And so Google looked at, okay, is there something we can do
using artificial intelligence to look at this problem?
Like not a really likely way to look at it.
Thus, they came up with the self-driving car which makes a
lot of sense.
So it reduces carbon emissions, greatly reduces people who are
going to be killed, and increases our quality of living.
And so in a similar way, are there things that we can be
looking at with artificial intelligence that can actually
help how we think about designing buildings,
how we can think about innovation that I think is
pretty great.
Jason Cohn: What I wanted to ask you,
you mentioned that you showed a picture of a Prius
in your presentation.
And I think that people do have an impression,
a feeling that our problem is really about the cars that we
drive and if everybody just bought a Prius then the
environmental catastrophe would be averted.
So how do you change the subject?
How do you get people to realize that buildings are more of the
problem than transportation?
Michelle Kaufmann: I think there's kind
of three parts to that.
And while I think it's been, you know,
great that what the Prius-ish recycling has done is it's sort
of brought to everyone's attention that there are things
we can do.
But now we need to dramatically switch the conversation to like,
okay, that really doesn't actually matter,
like all those little things.
Like it needs to be big.
But one is awareness, which is why it's so great,
the Solar Decathlon and having really beautiful inspiring
examples that people, you know, are excited about and it can
resonate with them.
So that's sort of one part, is awareness.
The second part is the government and building codes
and legislation.
And you know, it needs to be much easier to
incorporate things.
Like greywater for example, it's just maddening.
And there's lots of people who support it,
but it just takes too long to get there.
And then the third part is to then have really great options
and really great solutions.
Because even if the building codes change and even if there's
awareness, there has to be really great solutions.
So it's those three parts.
And I think that architects can actually be really great at
helping each of those three parts.
And it's kind of our responsibility too to actually
think about all three.
So I think we're going to want to throw the questions out
to the audience in a second.
But let me ask one more.
There's somebody in the audience named xx(fer petrus) who's with
the Library of Congress.
And he's one of the people that we interviewed in the film.
And when I asked him, you know, what he thought Charles and
Ray's biggest contribution or most long lasting contribution
to design was, he said it wasn't any one particular design,
it was the process that Charles and Ray used in terms of how
they approached their problems.
And, you know, so I didn't really understand what that
meant when he first said it to me.
But then when I talked to a lot of other people,
I realized that what the Eames office really was a
research office.
There was a huge amount of effort that went into really
deeply understanding what a problem was before they would
attempt to try to solve it.
So I was very impressed with The Watershed Project.
It seemed like it was really a research project as much.
I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about that.
How did you approach the, you know,
figuring out what the need was or what the problem was?
And then what were the steps that you took from there?
Leah Davies: Alli could probably speak to this even more
than me because she started a little bit earlier.
But it's a really good question because it was really hard
trying to fit our process into a couple slides, you know.
You guys saw how we came up with sort of Part T diagram
of the house.
But that was millions of pieces of sketch paper later.
So it was a big process.
And it started with -- here.
You talk about that part.
Allison Wilson: When we started,
there were three courses; a course of architects,
a course of engineers, and a course of environmental
science students.
And it was all standing around like that one picture,
tossing ideas around on the table and the engineers kicking
it back and back and forth.
And there really was that kind of aha moment.
And there's this really ugly sketch that one of our faculty
members has and I really want it because I want to frame it.
But the team of us were sitting around.
We had to put this thing together at the last minute.
But you spend so much time thinking through this problem.
And, you know, we were all talking and drawing at the same
time and drawing what we're talking about at the same time.
And then all of a sudden there's this really ugly thing that you
wouldn't hang with pride.
But at the same time, it's the best thinking drawing we
probably made in the entire process because it represents
all of the ideas we were interested in.
And then the other part of the process that's particularly
challenging for the Solar Decathlon is that you define
your own problem and then you have to go solve it.
And about eight months after you define what that problem is,
you say man, I made some terrible choices.
And I mean that because, you know, you're designing a house.
But everybody lives in a house of some kind or another.
And you have to define who that person is that you're trying to
sell this house to, who that target market is that you're
trying to appeal to.
And, you know, all back and forth through the design process
we kept going back and forth going,
who are we serving and would you really want this?
Like, would this mythical people that you've created,
would they want this?
And then, separate from these people that you're trying to
serve, will the public actually like this?
And it becomes this kind of challenge back and forth.
So I think a lot of it is conversation in that process.
A lot of it is testing things out and not being afraid of that
and knowing that, you know, those failures really are
lessons in and of themselves.
That it's more of an experiment and some of those things will
go back and forth.
Leah Davies: The biggest learning experience that I can
share with you guys also is draw every idea you have because even
though it may seem like a terrible idea at the beginning,
process is all about getting those bad ideas out at first and
then maybe coming back to a terrible sketch and saying,
you know what, there actually might be something here if we
start to combine this with that.
Jason Cohn: And somebody else can pick up on a bad idea and
turn it into a good idea, right?
Leah Davis: Yeah.
And that sometimes gets lost in all the political building codes
and you get weighed down.
I'm going to apologize to my boss.
He's in the audience.
But you don't always get those opportunities to just get
everything out on paper and share it with everyone.
Like she was saying, sharing is a biggest most crucial part of
design collaboration.
Jason Cohn: So I think we want to get questions from the
audience if possible.
And I actually have a question that I wanted to ask just the
general audience.
So if anyone wants to, instead of asking them a question,
if anybody wants to get up and respond to my question,
you can do that instead.
Here's my question.
Charles Eames was very skeptical of architecture school.
He dropped out of the program at Washington University in
St. Louis.
And he often told his young designers that universities
should be called institutes of higher teaching instead of
institutes of higher learning.
So I'm wondering how you all feel that architecture school is
preparing you for the real world.
And are there things that you wish that you could be doing
that you're not?
So you can either answer that question or you can ask a
question of folks here.
And I think we have a couple.
Yes, sir?
Audience Member: I've always seen Academia as more of an
incubator for students, more along the lines of
allowing them to figure out what they want to do in life and
allowing them to develop the skill sets and mentality for
wanting to accomplish that, whatever it may be.
Because a lot of times, you go into school and you have a
preconceived notion of what you want to do and then you get to
that first class and you're like, this sucks.
Then you go from there.
And it's sort of evolving yourself as a person.
And if you kind of want to figure out at the end if you
want to be that architect and what kind of architect you want
to become, then you can go forth into school and be like,
these are the products I want to do,
these are the professors it to learn from.
And that's how I've always seen Academia,
as less of a static thing and more of a dynamic one.
Jason Cohn: Does that sound right to y'all?
Allison Wilson: Yeah.
And I would always say that process never stops.
I've learned just as much in the last 18 months of actually
working as I did in school.
I still think I'm a student.
And I hope I never stop being a student.
There's so much we can learn.
Architects impact everything.
Like Michelle was saying, architecture and design can
solve a lot of problems, if you're willing to let it.
Part of that is learning what those problems are and how to
solve them. So you just keep doing it and keep learning.
It's fun.
Leah Davies: It would be rare if you knew exactly what you
wanted to do going in or out of school.
When Michelle crossed out the word architect and had all those
other descriptions, that's really what it's
going to be like, you know.
We're changing our role all the time.
So be open to anything.
Jason Cohn: Does anyone else have any questions?
Audience Member: I have a question for you guys as well.
I'm actually a grad student at Maryland.
Allison Wilson: Hi.
Leah Davis: I thought you looked familiar.
Audience Member: Thank you.
I saw that in Michelle's work you've scaled your projects from
single family up on through.
And a lot of times, what we learn in scale has
you know, for watershed, it's a single family home.
How did you scale the technology and the methodologies that you
learn there into your more conventional practices you
could say?
Allison Wilson: That's a really great jumping off point.
We had designed a single family home.
And I was going through thesis at Maryland.
That was the point of my education that I was in.
And I loved watershed.
I loved what I was doing.
And I was at a dinner with a couple faculty friends,
and we were sitting down going, what is Alli going to do for
her thesis?
That was the question.
We started tossing that around.
And at the end of this, you know, really great food,
we decided okay, what I could study and what I could do would
be to figure out how do we take all these principles that we
design for a single family home and address all 64,000
square miles of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,
which was incredibly daunting.
And I ended up designing four buildings,
each of which embraced those same principles but dealt with
them differently.
So starting to take that idea of scaling.
Because obviously, the design that we created was never
intended to be a multifamily dwelling or like a high-rise.
But at the same time, you know, any building could have a green
roof if it wanted to.
Any building could have a constructed wetland
cistern system.
Any building could accommodate solar panels,
those kinds of things.
So the same way that we all do precedent studies in school and
just steal the principles from that to make our own design work
better, watershed became a precedent for all these
other things.
You know, find the principle and then reapply it back to
something of a larger scale.
Michelle Kaufmann: I'm going to go back to working
with unlikely characters.
I was fortunate enough to spend a day with Ivon Shephard who's
Do you guy knows this guy?
Who's the Patagonia guy.
If you don't know him, you should check him out
and read his book.
He created this company that we all know and love.
And it's a really thoughtful company.
People all love to work there.
And I was talking to him about, you know,
some things that he's doing.
And he was working with Wal-Mart.
And this was a couple of years ago.
I was like, Wal-Mart?
What on earth are you doing with Wal-Mart?
And his point was that if he can help Wal-Mart move to
organic foods, that changes the way the world produces food.
And so I think that there's a lot that we can do,
like the Solar Decathlon, you know,
like the work that many of us have been doing,
to work from the bottom up to do proof of concept,
which can be great.
But then to work with people who actually, you know,
are at the top and work from the top down and then have the
two weave together.
I think that's where we can actually -- and it sort of
requires scale at this point to bring those good ideas and
where we can actually make a lot of change.
Jason Cohn: Here we go.
Allison Wilson: Please ask more.
We don't bite.
Audience Members: Being one of the senior
members of the audience, we're here in Washington.
And Washington's about politics.
And several of you have talked about the fact that building
codes are an issue.
What I'm interested in is what role do you see for you and the
other people here in politics, in changing because we hear so
often that new regulations stifle.
And that's exactly what you want to do.
You want to set up new regulations.
And so what do you see your role as politicians, as activists,
to do this and get the point across and not just be
architects who sit and have fun?
And I have to say that I was general counsel for the National
Endowment of Arts and Charles Eames was on the council.
And he was a great, fun guy.
Michelle Kaufmann: Yeah.
I think that's a really good question.
And I think it is our role to not just take the conventional
idea of, you know, we just design buildings and that's our
part and we just receive whatever codes are given to
us but become a part of that process.
And there are lots of great organizations that one can
easily connect with, either in your local community or there's
groups like the Architecture 2030 challenge or like Living
Building Challenge who all have local and state groups that you
can become a part of and also help provide awareness.
And sometimes it does take a lot of leg work too.
And we've done this a bunch of times where we go to do a
house in a place where greywater for example is
not currently allowed.
And then spending the time doing the education,
doing a brown bag lunch for the people that are in the
building department to talk about greywater,
to then help actually change that.
And we've done that a number of times.
And I think that that's exciting.
It's our responsibility.
I don't know if you guys have thoughts there.
Leah Davies: I agree.
But I think it also again goes back to the same concept
that I'm going to go to a thousand times.
And that's outreach and education,
getting people to understand why these policies should be changed
or why we need to move in a certain direction because if
people, you know, the masses are not understanding or are not
aware of some of the challenges that we face in the design
world, then it's going to be harder to get them changed.
Michelle Kaufmann: Let me add to that too.
In sharing, it's kind of great that you can actually use like
lots of cities are being competitive with one another,
like who's the most green city, which is great.
And we can use that to our advantage.
The downside of that competition is then sometimes they actually
don't share their best policies or how they got
there or the methods.
But we can -- like it's public information.
And so that is something that we can also help do.
So if we are finding that if we're working in one county that
there are some really great things that they're doing,
we can use that competition if we're working in the next county
to then share that with them and be like, look,
this is what these guys are doing and they're getting a lot
of credit for it and they're getting a lot of
praise for that.
Where's your deal?
And that's great too.
Jason Cohn: This is something I've always wanted to say.
We're all about to get thrown out of the White House.
But we have time for one more question.
Audience Member: All right.
First off, I want to give a shout out to
another fellow Cyclone.
Jason Cohn: What are the cyclones?
Is this a roller derby club or something?
Audience Member: There's this place called Iowa.
Jason Cohn: Okay.
Oh, yeah.
I fly over that all the time.
I'm sorry, Chairman.
Audience Member: Michelle, you talked about obviously
sustainable buildings and sustainable lifestyles.
You touched on sustainable life meaning taking care of ourselves
and not being that kid who's falling asleep on his desk like
you showed.
And I'm sure there are plenty of people here who would love to
hear all of you guys, especially students who
just made that transition.
How does it go?
(laughter) I mean, you're still alive, so somehow you manage.
But if we're transitioning to this more sustainable lifestyle,
how do you see that being a very,
a personal thing as growing out to your family,
to your community, to your world?
Michelle Kaufmann: And I would ask that of Jason too,
what he sees from his work in looking at the Eames and how
they were able to do all that they did but still have
their lives.
Jason Cohn: My wife and I are, you know,
we have a production company together.
So we're sort of like Charles and Ray in that way and only
in that way.
And, you know, we actually put limits on stuff.
When it's time to pick up the kids, it's over.
You know, we put away the work for a while.
And I think it's important to do that.
But I'll let you guys answer her question because it's really
about the architecture.
Leah Davies: Work hard, play hard.
It's a tough question because in school we all fall asleep
on our desks.
And we all feel like architecture pushes us to
the brink and we have to continually design.
But in all honesty, in some respects,
you learn more from getting out and doing things than you do
sitting at your desk.
So make sure that you take that time to go out and have
experiences because I promise they'll be applicable to the
classroom as well.
I'm being short so I don't get kicked out.
Jason Cohn: Michelle, you like to talk about play and the
importance of play in your work.
That was very important to Charles and Ray.
So how does that fit in?
Michelle Kaufmann: I'm still trying to find that
sustainability in my own life which is a constant piece of
work in itself and sort of designing that piece of work.
But something that -- I think with this idea of sharing,
let's just step back for a minute.
Like it is kind of crazy how much time all of us spend doing
things that have been done a thousand times before.
Why do we all have to design our own toilet details and
structural details that are so similar?
So this idea of sharing that information so no one has to do
it again, so that way we can actually be spending our time at
our highest and best use which is coming up with new cool,
you know, exterior wall systems that not only collect water but
grow food and help insulation that can, you know,
renew itself.
That's something that I'm really interested in right now,
is finding ways to share and sort of reduce the mundane so
that way we can maximize the innovation.
Jason Cohn: Great.
Well, thank you so much, everybody.