Indigo Architect

Design Connects When We Connect

Brooklyn Bridge, March snow

Brooklyn Bridge, March snow

  • FIRMNESS (Structure)
  • COMMODITY (Function)
  • DELIGHT (Beauty, the Wow Factor)




“All these must be built with due reference to durability (firmness), convenience (commodity), and beauty (delight).  Durability will be assured when foundations are carried down to the solid ground and materials wisely and liberally selected; convenience, when the arrangement of the apartments is faultless and presents no hindrance to use, and when each class of building is assigned to its suitable and appropriate exposure; and beauty, when the appearance of the work is pleasing and in good taste, and when its members are in due proportion according to correct principles of symmetry.”

~Written by Roman Architect Vitruvius, The Ten Books On Architecture- translated by Morris Hicky Morgan, PHD, Harvard University Press, 1914


I love bridges.  They are majestic.  I marvel at their mighty structures, elegance, and ability to stand the test of time, rising up out of the deep waters or spanning great divides.  It’s intriguing to note what chasm a bridge is crossing: is it a simple road bridge that spans over a winding residential bayou? Or a huge mammoth suspension bridge at the mouth of a ferocious bay that leads to the mighty ocean? Or perhaps a narrow, wooden foot bridge that sways between two barren cliffs…

Whatever the chasm, bridges allow us to keep going on our journeys forward, they keep us connected to what’s on the other side, and allow us to come back to this side when we need to.  They allow us to travel back and forth, to bring goods and services to communities who rely on them, and to travel the world safely, continuously.

In warfare, one of the best strategies is to bomb the enemy’s bridges.  The converse is also true: if we want to make things easier for ourselves, we should want to build bridges that are strong and safe and sound– like this one designed by T.Y. Lin, International:

Hoover Dam Bridge by TY Lin


It’s easy to take good design for granted in our busy days.  But not so when we’re driving or walking over a bridge.  Crossing bridges gives us pause to stop and notice where we are in the here and now. We often become awestruck; their gigantic structures and engineering feats take our breath away as we examine the steel girders, look up at the steel cables, and look out at the wide expanse that standing or driving on this bridge affords.  Bridges give us unique vantage points that no other structures can provide.


What are we doing?  I ask myself: Have I reached out to a fellow architect lately?  Have I mentored someone new, offered some assistance on a tricky project, taken a project manager or principal out to lunch to appreciate them, or called a new job candidate back to let them know, personally, that I enjoyed meeting them…or appreciated their interest in my firm?

What bridges are we building and what new vantage points are we creating to construct stonger connections with others in our field?



“Good design is, and always has been, a necessity.  To value and appreciate beauty- aesthetics- is in our DNA.  Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder; but problem-solving is in the hand of the educated, talented, and experienced architect.”- Tara Imani, AIA, CSI

We all desire to live and work in pleasing environments and to use well-designed products.  Due to the increasing ease of attaining iPhones, computers, high fashion clothing, and art/music/cinema, most of us have come to expect superior design in the homes we live in and in the products we buy, the music we listen to, and the entertainment we watch.   Civilized society has earned the right- through collective engineering expertise and evolution of ideas- to shun the mundane, the ugly, and the chaotic.



I am so excited to visit the newly built Apple store that was just unveiled last week or so here in Houston at the new Highland Village Shopping Center on Westheimer Road.  I can’t wait to try out the latest iPad or select which Macbook Air model I’m going to buy.  My husband’s cousin, a savvy commercial real estate broker and soon-to-be CPA, convinced me that Apple’s customer service and training is the best. Bar none.

What about you?  Aren’t you planning how you’re going to attain the next latest Apple product?



In the tradition of Vitruvius, architecture students earn a liberal arts education (learning about music, philosophy, art, physics, medicine, and the humanities) and are trained in structural and building technologies; graduates are then required to work a three-year internship under a licensed architect and fulfill the training requirements of the Intern Development Program (IDP).  Once an architect has sat for her exams and passed them, she would have spent almost ten years in education and work experience.  Hiring an architect is hiring an expert.

As my friend encouraged me prior to my exams years ago, “If not you, then who?”

We have the rich training in the history of this beautiful art of designing buildings and we have the expertise to construct them.  If not us, then who?

Architects deserve to align ourselves with the highest values and pursue the most challenging projects because we have what it takes.


In the book Problem Seeking, An Architectural Programming Primer, by William Pena and Steven Parshall, the authors describe the early stages of a project and how parties come together to first identify and understand the ‘problem’ and create the buiding program.  I believe in the importance of understanding the problem, i.e. what challenges we face, in order to adequately and successfully address them.  I agree with what they’ve written and I think it applies to our situation now.  We want to know how we can promote ourselves to society at large.  Thus, the title of my post: Design Connects When We Connect.  And how do we do that?  The same way we approach our projects, like this:

“To achieve effective group action, it is important to understand how people think.  Planning a large, complex building project involves many people of many minds.  We are beginning to appreciate the multiplicity of ideas that emerges from the total planning team with its multiheaded client and multiheaded architect: the client group and the architect group.

“The objective is to cope with the multiplicity of thought and to lessen the differences of so many minds.  This doesn’t mean there must be a poor compromise.  But we know this: participants in group action will argue their heads off unless they believe that “together we can do a better job than we can separately.”  Without this maxim, we’re in trouble.” 



Please share your ideas in the comment section below…


*This blog post is written as part of the AIA 2012 Convention BlogOff: Design Connects <=== If you click on the link, you will find a series of links to other blogs written on this theme and posted on the AIA website:


*Brooklyn Bridge Photo Credit:  by j_bary on Flickr



  1. Liz O'Sullivan’s avatar

    Really wonderful post, Tara! The architect is also the best qualified to bring the whole team together!


    1. Tara Imani, AIA, CSI’s avatar

      Thank you so much, Liz! I appreciate your comments and taking the time to read it. :)



  2. Wendy Covich’s avatar

    What a great post! You make some wonderful analogies – building bridges, expecting Apple-level design (and service) from architects.
    …and Liz O’Sullivan makes a great point about how architects can -and do- bring the whole team together.


    1. Tara Imani, AIA, CSI’s avatar

      Hi Wendy,
      Thank you for your post, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      I like the analogy of bridges– especially since the Keynote Address will be given by Speaker and Author, David McCullough (who wrote a book on the Brooklyn Bridge: The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge.”

      As far as architects providing the kind of customer service that Apple provides, that might be a mighty challenge and- forgive the pun- comparing “apples to oranges” as we offer services and not necessarily a commodity/product.

      What I want the profession to aspire to- especially the residential architects- is making design more accessible to the proverbial 99%. How can we do that?

      As artists, we cannot “commoditize” the Sistine Chapel– in that sense, every project, every house, every design is unique and stands alone, relating directly to its site and the program.

      If we can still somehow find a way to fulfill the mission of Transforming Architecture: “Everyone deserves an Architect” come true, then we will have truly bridged the gap in architecture.


      1. Wendy Covich’s avatar

        Hi Tara,
        Cheers to that!


  3. Caitlin Walsh’s avatar

    Isn’t the profession set up so that each architectural firm is an island unto itself? It has become more about the branded perception of the firm, and the weight that the name carries. What if architectural competitions were required to have mixed teams – no single firm could win and the superstars would have to work together? I wonder what kind of proposals we would get then – would it be more responsive and contextual, rather than bold moves that strive for recognition?


    1. Tara Imani, AIA, CSI’s avatar

      Hi Caitlin,
      Thanks for stopping by…it’s an honor to see you here!

      I like your ideas. I think requiring/enabling firms to respond to RFP’s and architectural competitions- where appropriate- in teams would be a great way to increase collaboration in our profession.

      In general, architects could start collaborating by making direct eye contact at the conventions…that would be a step in the right direction… ;)

      As you aluded to it, “No man is an island” and neither can any firm exist/survive/thrive as an island.

      I’ve noticed something here…so far, only women architects have responded to this thread– which is about connectivity. I think that says something about the nature of the competitive spirit.

      Will it be the Women in Architecture that (finally) make great strides in improving this great profession/practice? I think so!



  4. Jess @ Armstrong’s avatar

    Delight indeed! Well said Tara – clap, clap, clap, clap! Where are we without delight? Probably back in the days of cement bunker and concrete block design! We must all strive to aid each other in discovering delight through design. And, in keeping with some of your other insights, I’ll add a few words by DH Lawrence: Design in art, is a recognition of the relation between various things, various elements in the creative flux. You can’t invent a design. You recognize it, in the fourth dimension. That is, with your blood and your bones, as well as with your eyes.


    1. Tara Imani, AIA, CSI’s avatar

      Hi Jess,

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked the post! :)

      That’s a great quote you’ve shared- I’m still pondering it. I hadn’t heard it before, so I looked it up:

      Will you be attending #AIA2012?

      Best wishes,


  5. Tara Imani, AIA, CSI’s avatar

    Follow up to the AIA 2012 Convention in Washington, DC:

    First of all, kudos to the AIA National Staff for making everyone feel welcomed as they greeted attendees upon entering the ballroom for the first General Session, featuring keynote speaker David McCullough.

    Secondly, my apologies to everyone from Twitter whom I did not get the chance to meet as I wasn’t feeling well and therefore did not attend several of the events I’d pre-paid for.

    The highlights of the convention for me were: hearing Author/historian David McCullough speak and then meeting him personally and shaking his hand at his booksigning; participating in EV206 led by Brian Szymanik, AIA, on Thursday afternoon from 4-5pm. This event did not earn any CEU credit, but it ended up being a great small “roundtable” discussion by a diverse group of people; seated at the table were: a Canadian Senior Planning Advisor and Urban Planner, an architect from Saudi Arabia, an educator from Utah, an architecture student from Pennsylvania, and an AIA-Assoc. leader from AIAS. Mr. Szymanik is spearheading the AIA Strategic Alliances & Initiatives unit to “solicit observations on the current state of the profession, where the field may head in the future, and how education should respond.” As the Seminar brochure write-up continues, it says: “Your input will help the AIA to prepare a white paper that presents the membership’s thoughts, concerns, and suggestions in advance of the 2013 National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) Accreditation Review Conference (ARC).” …”Your agenda is our agenda.” says the brochure…”Consequently the agenda for each focus group session will be informed by the respondents who attend.” I have to agree, Mr. Brian Szymanik did a fabulous job listening to all of our opinions, rants, and ideas. I look forward to finding out what others shared when the White Paper comes out.

    Aside from attending the Convention, I loved touring the grounds of The Washington Monument. The day I was there, there was a rally going on and tons of school kids and realtors running around. The rally was called “The Rally to Save the Republic” or something to that effect.

    On my way home, I was thrilled that my taxi driver was so kind to drive me to a park in front of the Whitehouse so I could get a good picture standing in front of it on the way to the airport.

    Unfortunately, I missed the Practice Management luncheon and Phil Bernstein’s talk as well as the Symphony event and dinner at the Kennedy Center due to not feeling well.

    I look forward to visiting beautiful Washington, DC in the future with my family.


  6. Karin’s avatar

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