Laurentian Library


Rem Koolhaus shares his thought about Micheangleo’s Bibilioteca Laurenziana. I had visited this place while studying abroad in Italy. We had studied this building in architectural history. I recall thinking it was great to see a building I learned from books and lectures. Seeing this installation inspired me to return to this building and experience this building again.

(The following is a transcript from the installation. Compared with the others, the star men was adhered in the floor and very wide. I could not take a picture of in its entirety and be able to read it so I captured it in three segments and switched back and forth between each photo.)

* * * * *
“In the fall (of) 2006, I felt a sudden urge to revisit, or visit for the first time, the Italian Renaissance. Once I began ,my life in architecture’, just out of school educated by graduates of the Courtauld and, once, even by Anthony Blunt himself. I was confident that I had a relatively good understanding of its intent, repertoire, and effects. But that confidence was deflated by each physical confrontation with its artifacts.

Twenty-five years of this deflation produced a sense of almost complete de-familiarization. With each encounter ‘the Renaissance’ became more perplexing. So in 2006, I went to Italy again, in an ultimate effort to understand. By far the most disturbing space I experienced on this journey was vestibule of the Laurentian Library, by Michelangelo. The space was terrifying, almost like a nightmare. Nothing worked, everything was ‘wrong’. But the sum of all it’s dysfunctionalities was gripping. It was as if the outside skin of a palace had been stripped off and used to line an inner courtyard – folded, condensed, even crumbled. All proportions were off in this heavy-handed compression.

It’s space was blatantly an interior, but strangely it offered the experience of an exterior, defined by four different facades through which you could enter four different destinations. Can you compare the violence of the artist Michelangelo’s intervention in architecture with some contemporary artists’ more timid involvements in the discipline? Michelangelo takes each architectural element and forces it into new shapes and relationships. He respects no rules and ridicules the ‘lessons’ architects have applied to their own profession. He breaks down and re-imagines the wall, the window, the door in an area not bigger than a living room, dominated by a huge sculpture that pretends to be a staircase.

For contemporary artists and architects the lesson of the Laurentian Library is perhaps that mannerism is a dish best eaten cold and in small doses. To convey this ‘brutal beauty’, I invited Charlie Koolhaus to record as photographer and interpret as a sociologist two kinds of sacrilege – Michelangelo’s of architecture, and the visiting tourists of Michelangelo’s.” RK

* * * * *

Have you traveled to Italy and visited this building or perhaps studied it? What were your impressions of the Library? Do you agree with Mr. Koolhaus?


Moleskine boutique

I was out and about during my lunch hour in Soho and noticed a new retail store.


I quickly popped into the boutique and as you can imagine they had every Moleskine product in their shoppe. If you’re not familiar with Moleskine, they’re known for the notebooks and sketchbooks. Their books are popular among artists, designers, and architects. The sketchbooks come is a range of formats, colors, and sizes.

The product that caught my attention and was of interest to me and to you were their monographs featuring contemporary architects called, Inspiration and Process in Architecture. As the title suggests, each book features the creative process of each architect through their hand drawings, sketches, and doodles. The series currently feature 6 architects. For more information on the monographs, click here.



Just in time for the holidays. I will be preparing a list of gift ideas for an architect, or someone who is interested in architecture. Check back soon, or better yet subscribe to the blog.

If you’re in NYC, you can find Moleskine boutique in Soho on West Broadway (cross street: Prince Street).

ICFF 2013

I attended the International Contemporary Furniture Fair this year, held every year at the Jacob Javits Center. Apparently, the last time I attended ICFF was in 2011. You can view what interested me during ICFF 2011, here.

It was in 2011 that I first saw these corrugated pendants by Graypants. I like the idea and look of the fixtures. The light is filtered/obscured through the corrugation, which provides an ambient quality of lighting. The design makes it a great feature in a room, whether ganged in a group of three or more, or as a single unit. I can easily see these fixtures in a conference room of an upstart or earth friendly or tech company.

Corrugated pendant fixtures

Corrugated pendant fixtures

Compared with my last attendance of ICFF, my focus seemed to be on lighting fixtures, and less on furniture although there was one chair that stood out. A couple of materials and accessories also caught my attention.

Iacoli & McAllister designed these attractive geometric fixtures. I especially like the clustered boxed lights in copper plated frames and the way the light is intensified by the reflection of the polished finish. Very modern and a great feature over a highly lacquered black colored dining table – perhaps one that is elliptical in shape.

Cluster lighting

Cluster lighting

While walking up and down the aisles, this spherical shaped lighting fixture by moooi caught my eye. It reminded me of an allium flower. The fixture made me smile. The fixture is lit by peg-like light bulbs – kinda like twinkle lights wound into a ball but with intention. The black backdrop accentuated the brightness, making the fixture illuminate like a bright star.

Pendant lighting

Pendant lighting

Pendant lighting

I was surprised upon realizing I liked these decorative lighting fixtures by Serip (organic lighting). The fixtures are very ornate, and not something I would normally give a second glance at but as I began to walk away, my eyes stayed fixated on the organic lighting structures that either hugged the wall or suspended from above.

Serip: organic lighting

Serip: organic lighting

Serip: organic lighting

Serip: organic lighting

Serip: organic lighting

The chair that caught my attention as well as other attendees is the Parabola Chair. The web-like chair is designed by Carlo Aiello. The general structure is comprised of geometric shapes, a triangle and a square, which are slightly manipulated.

Parabola Chair

The two dimensional “square” has a wire-frame, which is then pulled back to create the seat as well as the rear leg support. The chair is fabricated with metal rods that are welded to the main “square” frame. I sat in the chair and thought it was comfortable – in the sense that I was only sitting in the chair for a few seconds. I’m not sure how well the chair will sit with me over a longer period of sitting in a hard net. What I did appreciate about the chair is it promoted an upright seating position as opposed to a chair for lounging – in my opinion.

Parabola Chair

Parabola Chair

Parabola Chair

Parabola Chair

A couple of finish materials stood out for me at ICFF, and those are the ceramic tiles by Stonepeak and the mosaic woods tiles by Materials, Inc. I thought these materials are exceptional because they are an interesting alternative to typical materials used in a given project or space. For instance, Stonepeak offers an alternative to stone with their ceramic tiles that are fabricated to look like stone without the associated cost. One of the Stonepeak reps informed me that high quality photos of stone slabs are captured, and then printed onto ceramic tiles. Some of the ceramic tiles are also fabricated with textures typical of stone. The faux stone ceramic tiles looked very convincing as stone especially when polished! It’s only when you look close up that you realize it’s not stone.

Ceramic tiles

Ceramic tiles

Ceramic tiles

Ceramic tiles

Wood is typically not used in areas like the kitchen or bathroom until now*. As I was finishing up my walk through of the booths at ICFF, I came upon these mosaic wood tiles by Materials, Inc. The sales rep explained the mosaic wood tiles were designed for application in wet areas. He added that the wood pieces are laminated to a resin back with mesh, which allows the mosaic wood pieces to be used as a wall and floor finish in wet areas. The resin backer helps to reduce movement of the wood pieces in wet locations. (Wood tends to expand and contract in humid and wet locations.) An epoxy based adhesive and grout is used to install the mosaic wood sheets, which also allows the wood pieces some flexibility.

Wood mosaic

The best booth at ICFF is Jan-Kath’s oriental rugs made by hand in Nepal and Turkey. The rugs are beautiful! The designs of the rugs are such that it appears to look like antique oriental rugs that have been worn away by centuries of foot traffic. Silk and wool are used to create these luxurious rugs. The areas of the rug that appear to worn away are knotted with silk because of its inherent sheen.





If you attended ICFF 2013 feel free to leave a comment. It can be your thoughts about the show. Perhaps there was something that you liked at the show that I should take a look? Looking forward to next year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and sharing my thoughts with you.

(*)This product may have been around before I learned about it during ICFF 2013.

The future is bright

Some of you may know I’ve been unsatisfied with my current job, and I’ve been seeking an opportunity where I’d be challenged, and my experience and skills as a project architect/PM lite would be utilized to its full capacity. The ideal position I was seeking is long term with growth, structured, and supportive of my professional endeavors.

18 months later, I am happy to report that I am resigning and joining a reputable architecture practice. They specialize in high-end residences. Their work is quality and of high standards. The finished projects are beautiful. They have a great attitude towards compensating and rewarding employees for their hard work and contributions. I am ecstatic to be part of their team!

Upon receiving the job offer, my whole being lit up. I felt the heavy shackles break and drop to the rotting wood floor. I was freed! The dark cloud that has been hovering over me for the last 18 months dissipated like the sun appearing after a storm. In fact, I think the afternoon sun was shining over the building across from our office and into my corner when I read the good news. I could see the path to my future again, and it is bright!

Gifts for architects 2012

It seems this year, the holiday shopping season came a bit early. I want to say it started a week before Thanksgiving. I know the outdoor holiday market in Union Square was set up and operating the weekend before people filled themselves with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. And as with every holiday shopping, people are scrambling to find that gift fitting of the person they’re giving.

I know I haven’t posted much to my blog but ever since I started La Femme Architecte, I’ve put together a list of gift ideas for architects for the holiday season. It’s become an annual tradition, and something I look forward to putting forth because I enjoy the search and I have fun writing it.

When I was a little girl, my mom bought me a memory game. I didn’t think much of it at first but ended up loving it and enjoyed the challenge. Of course, exercising the memory is not just children’s play. Memory games are fun and useful for all ages. Here’s a memory game that features architecture. It’s a great way to unwind after a grueling day in the office. And let’s not forget there are many architects who have families with children of their own. This would make a great activity for the architect and their child/children to share and bond over. Warning: this may lead children to a path of a career in architecture.

memory game

I did not have a dollhouse growing up. What I did have was a child sized bookshelf that my dad built, which I played with as a dollhouse. You can imagine that each shelf was a floor in the house and the spaces between books created the rooms.

modernist dollhouse

Many of you are already familiar with Lego’s Architecture series. I personally have recorded a set yet but I would love one of the Villa Savoye. I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting this modern home while studying abroad in France.

villa savoye lego

A classmate highly recommended this book, and I am highly recommending it to you now. It’s a fascinating read of the famous dome in Florence. The description of the period and the accounts of the events that occurred places you there as the dome was executed.


I happened upon these while at a bookshop and thought these would make fun and useful stocking stuffers.

Most of us in the industry are practicing with computers and using advanced software to generate complex drawings and sexy renderings. However, there are still some architects who continue to draw by hand and with a pencil; typically a mechanical pencil. Along with a packaged present of a sketchbook and a mechanical pencil or lead holder, add an eraser or erasers like these shaped as buildings!

Or for the architect who has to have the latest tech gadget that plugs into a USB port, why not stuff their stockings with these building shaped USB ports?

And if you’d like more ideas, take a look at previous posts for gift suggestions here, or here, and here.

One year anniversary

It’s been a trying year for me. Though I’ve been fortunate enough to land this current job (since last year) and still have it, I wonder if I might have been better off had I not accepted the position?

The work is not interesting. I’m not gaining useful professional experience. I work with an architect who has little or no interest in designing. He’s only interested in being the few who is providing a service that no other architects are interested in taking on. He has convinced gullible clients that he is connected to authorities with power to approve projects. The truth is, he has no influence over these bureaucratic figures. He may know them and he may have a rapport with them but his familiarity with these people has not by passed the bureaucracy machine of getting projects approved. He also wants to churn out work based on a template or standard drawing information.

He also relies on an individual in the office who has no degree or passion for architecture. He may have experience but he’s not inspirational. He’s not fit to lead nor does it seem like he has an interest in taking on more responsibility than what he’s accustomed to, which is not working with others.

I try to stay positive but it gets more and more difficult. There’s just no hope for this office, or for the people who strive to be architects. This is not where architects are made.

I’m professionally stunted, and that’s not good. Time moves on. Each year I’m not working on a new construction project is another year wasted. I’m not pleased that I’m venting this out but I am so frustrated.

However, I’m not without a means of escape, or at the very least – trying to create opportunities for myself that may lead to a better future.

Gifts 4 architects x architects!

It’s that time of year again, when people are fretting over what gift to give an architect. I personally have been thinking about this year’s list of suggestions, and came up with a very modest list of gifts for architects by architects.

I admire architects who pursue creative endeavors and expression outside of their profession. I suppose one of the first people who I met who did this was the late Jon-Marc Creaney. His photographs are/were inspiring. If you are not familiar with his photography, I encourage you to check it out.

I have met a couple of more architects since Jon whose creative products I have come to admire, and I think will make excellent gifts or stocking stuffers for the architect.

If you follow me on Twitter, you will know that I like to RT @Archimatects. I am a fan of the comics. In fact, I was asked by the creator to write a foreword for Volume 3, which is the latest volume of the Archimatects series. It’s about the profession of architecture – efficiently illustrated with clip art and witty dialogue. The books are available for purchase here and are currently marked down 20%! That’s a great deal! Any one, or all three of these books would make a great addition to any architect’s library.

Another architect’s work who I learned about recently is from Glasgow, Scotland. Allistar Burt is one half of Hole in My Pocket. The work that interests me are the whimsical illustrations and sense of graphic designs, which are produced as cards, posters, books, clothing, and other objects as well. Some of my favorites are the Scottish sayings featured against tartan like the one below:

And by chance, I had encountered a chocolate shop while on a holiday getaway in Portland, Maine. The chocolatier is an architect. In fact, his office is above the chocolate shop. If you have the September 2011 Architect magazine, you’ll find an article about Dean Bingham, Career Sampler. I enjoy chocolate but have only appreciated fine chocolates because of him! His truffles and flavor combinations are amazing. It’s more than just chocolate; it’s pure decadence in your mouth! Some of favorite flavors include cayenne, chocolate stout, and scotch.  I don’t think any architect who receives a box of Dean’s Sweets would complain. If anything, they will moan with delight!

And if you would like more ideas, you can also check out the suggestions from 2010 and 2009.

One year later, part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I was made redundant towards the end of September in 2010. I was hopeful about 2011 and my prospects of returning to work within the second quarter. But the reality of the economic situation continued to be harsh. As autumn approached, I was starting to get depressed.

And then one day I received an email requesting an interview. There was something prospective about this email because the architect contacted me a day after I sent in my resume. The other interviews that I went on were arranged weeks and months after I responded to the job listings. I had a good feeling about this one.

The interview went well and in fact, the architect was familiar with a couple of former employers, and a project I had worked on. He explained to me the type of projects that the office does, which clarified some of the projects I noticed on the website. At the end of the interview, the architect advised me to take a day to think it over and to send him an email of my interest and then a second interview would be set up.

I didn’t really need to think it over. It was employment; an opportunity to return to an architectural office environment. A second interview was set up the same week. An offer was made. I accepted, and I started on Monday.

I’m glad to be back at work, and thankful to have this opportunity as there are many others who are still unemployed. I was plucked out from hundreds who have applied for the same position, and the architect hired me.

I feel whole again and to be a contributing member of society. The next step, becoming a license architect.

Times are tough, part 1

I’ve been without full-time employment for almost a year. I had a few freelance and commissioned projects to keep me occupied during that time, which was good but I wanted to return to full-time work.

The job hunt was exhausting and discouraging. Even though there were opportunities listed in the classifieds, there were few call backs. The lack of response after I had submitted my resume was discouraging especially when the position I applied for was re-listed weeks later.

It is an employer’s market. The search for the right candidate has to not only be experienced with specific project types but they must be proficient with many computer software skills especially as it pertains to 3D modeling and BIM. Employers were also seeking candidates who did not require assistance or training.

I went on a few interviews that did not result in job offers. One interview turned out to be a freelance position with the possibility to become full-time even though the position was advertised as a full-time position. When I asked, he did not give me a duration of when the position would be offered as FT. Instead, the architect told me it would be a quick decision because it was about how people got on with each other. That made no sense to me and I had a feeling the architect was not being honest about the employment situation. The architect who i interviewed with explained he had joined the architectural practice (I was interviewing at), and was bringing in retail projects. There was a potential project that was coming in that he needed help with. What appealed to me about this position was the opportunity to work on diverse projects, which included new construction.

My last unsuccessful interview took place in the summer. The position was for a project architect that was experienced in hospitality, retail, and residential – particularly in new construction. The architect who I interviewed with seemed pleasant and sincere but the conversation that took place was discouraging. In fact, it was discouraging from the start when he sent me an email to set up an interview four months after i originally submitted my resume.

The architect explained why he was hiring and his expectations. He had relieved his project architect who he had hired three months ago. The architect claimed it wad a mutual agreement. He further explained the project architect could not handle the demands and stress of the job.

I was still interested in the opportunity after he explained the position and his expectations, and despite the conversation having turned into putting doubts in my head about what I wanted to pursue with my architectural career. I had vented about this on Twitter, and I appreciated those who paid attention and share their thoughts.

Two things annoyed me about that particular interview. I did not appreciate the architect making assumptions about my architectural career. Or rather, he did not appreciate some of my project accomplishments and career decisions. And although we discussed my professional history, and explained I wasn’t where I wanted to be career wise because of circumstances that were not in my control – canceled projects.

I also did not appreciate how he handled our conversation when it turned to salary requirements. I am aware that we are in an economic slump and the value of money is not the same. He even explained that clients are not paying architectural fees for the same services provided a few years ago. Fees are getting smaller but the amount of work is the same and it needed to be done in less billable time. I was prepared to take a salary reduction if the right opportunity came along. And although this architect had informed me he could not pay my salary request, he was not prepared with a figure of what he would be able to offer. It made me wonder if he had any intentions of offering me the position.

These are difficult times, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better any time soon. Just recently, a friend who is an engineer was made redundant. It’s not a good sign that people continue getting laid off let alone not being able to find employment in this terrible economy. Many recent grads are also having trouble finding work, too. In this market, we are over saturated with architects of various experiences.

It seems landing a job has more to do with chance, luck, and skill – in that order. You have to imagine that employers who list a position to fill are inundated with resumes in their emails. They have to print them and read through them. Sometimes they don’t even bother. When they do single out the few to interview, it’s because something in the resume caught their attention.

I was fortunate enough to have grabbed an architect’s attention.

…to be continued…

Freelance project: Completed

I completed my first freelance project last month. This project was through a former employer. It was for a commercial fit out with massive storage facilities. I was brought in to do the construction administration, a talent which I have developed over the years. It wasn’t a challenging project but a good project to test the waters of freelancing.

The experience of sort of returning to work for a former employer was a mixed one. Returning to the office and having to work in that environment was familiar and at the same time disappointing. Everything was as I had left it except a bit more cluttered. My desk was still vacant, and the computer was useless so I had to desk hop around to complete my tasks. I thought the lack of preparedness on their part was unprofessional and disrespectful.

The project itself went smoothly and completed without complications. The client/tenant was pleased with the finished product. As I mentioned, the project was a commercial fit out with storage facilities. The original raw high ceiling space was drastically transformed to a bright and well lit office space that had splashes of color. I was pleased with the colors and finishes. I missed these moments where you spend each week looking at rough construction and then comes the day when you walk onto a pleasing finished space. A smile would overtake my face. A feeling of pride would sweep over me, and I would be happy, almost giddy.

I can certainly see myself doing more freelance work although perhaps keeping it specifically to construction administration, and I would pursue this service with new architectural practices. I’ll have to see if there is a demand to do just construction administration. If you know anybody in the NYC area who needs help with construction administration on projects, let me know. I may even entertain working abroad if the fee is right.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment if you are compelled to share your freelance experience or comment about mine.