Exploring The Built Environment: Always Look Back

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

Recently, my wife Patty and I visited the High Line, an elevated park running along Manhattan’s west side. Converted from a historic freight rail line, the High Line is an extraordinary and popular public space. As we walked north, we were reminded of the following:

  • Even in a major city like New York, there is always a different perspective from a pedestrian eye.
  • Urban oddities create visual stimulation and unique moments that provide opportunities in our lives for creativity and enjoyable experiences.
  • Always look back. As we walked past buildings and saw what was in front of us, we often turned around and looked at what we had passed. When we did, we saw completely different shapes, moments, and spaces.

What fascinated me the most about the High Line was the experience that this park provides pedestrians:

  • The opportunity to sit over a roadway and watch cars go by, like birds sitting on a wire.
  • The view between two multi-story buildings of wires, cables, ductwork, and windows creating a quilt-like patchwork of shapes and lines.
  • A peek into the mind of an architect or sculptor or an artist about how they chose to express an aesthetic, not at eye level, but at 30 feet above grade.

The question for me is: How many amazing experiences are out there in other cities that we are either missing, or could create?

Fun sculpture on a roof

Modern architecture juxtaposed with a 20th century building. Seeing it at 30-ft. above grade lets you truly experience the two styles.

Space between two buildings

Modern glazing juxtaposed with old, industrial building mass

I shot the photos above as we walked in the High Line. To glimpse other views from the park, visit the Image Galleries section on the official High Line website.


The High Line

Build Well for Environmental Wellness

By Barron Schimberg, AIA, LEED AP

Barron SchimbergA well-designed, well-built building is not just structurally sound. It should also be environmentally healthy.  Professional architects, designers, engineers and building contractors have expanded the concept of “building well” by learning how to do what is right for the environment.

In my opinion, architects have a moral and ethical obligation to learn how to keep the built environment healthy and well.  According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings in the U.S. are responsible for 40% of the energy consumption, 39% of CO2 emissions, and 13% of our nation’s water consumption.

Because I care about the quality of life for my family and community, I am a proud member of the U.S. Green Building Council and became a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) in Building Design and Construction.  (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)

Although many clients aren’t yet ready to adopt LEED’s whole-building approach to sustainability,
our design team can always recommend ways to make your building projects more environmentally sound. We can find ways to improve energy efficiency, control stormwater runoff, and/or reduce water usage, soil erosion, light pollution, and construction waste.  Plus, we can suggest ways to help maintain the air quality inside your building.

Here are just three practices we routinely follow to design environmentally well buildings:

  • During master planning, we consider the environmental impact of the building’s orientation, its relationship to the site context, and adjacent structures.
  • When designing a shell building, we provide as much natural daylight as possible through glazing, translucent panels, or skylights.
  • In designing interiors, we recommend using less environmentally harmful materials and finishes, such as recycled glass tiles, low VOC paint, or FSC-certified woods.

At The Schimberg Group, we like keeping up with the newest options for designing environmentally healthy buildings. And, we are always happy to share what we’ve learned.

You might be surprised to discover that many environmentally friendly options have become more affordable, more accessible, and more aesthetically appealing.

Personally, I am impressed that more clients are interested in using materials made from recycled products, or materials that were manufactured locally instead of being shipped from overseas. I look forward to the day when solar panels are sufficiently affordable for use on the roofs of the average construction project in Florida and society is truly ready to construct buildings with zero carbon footprints.

If you have any questions about sustainable building sites and environmentally healthy building designs, please do not hesitate to call us at 941-894-6888 or email us at info@tsg-fl.com.


About the U.S Green Building Council

What LEED Is

Are Apple Stores Too ‘Pane-ful’?

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

In his biography “Steve Jobs,” Walter Isaacson devotes an entire chapter (Chapter 29) to describing Steve’s involvement in the design of Apple’s retail stores. According to the book, “the architectural firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson designed the signature stores, but Jobs made all of the major decisions.” He wanted the store to “become the most powerful physical expression of the brand” and control the customer experience of buying an Apple product in a store.

Isaacson reports that in the newest stores Jobs insisted on replacing 18 smaller panes of glass with four huge panes made from newer technology. He says design-team member Ron Johnson told him that Steve’s goal was to build a glass box with fewer elements, because “it’s better, it’s simpler, and it’s at the forefront of technology. That’s where Steve likes to be, in both his products and his stores.”

Recently, an 83-year-old woman sued Apple for $1 million after she broke her nose walking into the door in an Apple store in Manhasset, Long Island. According to news reports, her lawyer is blaming modern high-tech architecture.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIez3iwZ92s?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

This incident surely wasn’t the type of customer experience Jobs was envisioning.

Blaming the architecture is absurd.

In my opinion, this is simply a reflection of our litigious society. PR-conscious, financially healthy companies such as Apple seem to attract an unusually high share of frivolous lawsuits.

What’s your take? Should modern architecture be blamed for an accident that could just as easily happen in any building with sparkling clean glass doors?


CNET: Women breaks nose on Apple store, sues for $1 million

“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

Architects + Contractors = A Better Result

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

Barron SchimbergIn recent years, there has been a noticeable improvement in collaboration between architects and construction firms.  Relationships between the two, often adversarial, have evolved into a more positive working experience.  Due to the current economy, clients naturally expect to bid projects out in order to get the best possible price.

We have found that including a contractor or builder, negotiated up front, during the design process provides a more efficient and cost effective result. By requiring the contractor to have an open book policy and bidding the trades to multiple subcontractors, it still allows for a competitive and cost-conscious project.

It has been encouraging to see that many contractors recognize the value that a collaborative architect can bring to a project.  Improving relations between architects and contractors will hopefully continue into the future.

Our built environments can only benefit from architects and contractors working together to make our visions as designers reality and cost effective.


Working Construction Let Me See Architecture from a Different Perspective


Improving the Relationship Between General Contractors and Architects/Engineers

Marina Bay Condominium Buildings Get a Makeover

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

How a building looks from the outside matters more than ever.  Many future owners of Florida homes and condominiums start looking for potential properties online, and a strong visual first-impression can really catch their eye. However, if the exterior of the building looks dated, buyers might conclude that units within the building have not been kept up to date.

That’s why we are proud of the modernization project The Schimberg Group recently coordinated in collaboration with residents of The Marina Bay luxury condominium complex on Longboat Key.  In addition to updating the exteriors of the buildings, we modernized the entryways, lobbies and landings.

A 12 x 24 modern porcelain tile replaced pink marble flooring.  Walls connecting lobbies were finished with a contemporary Porcelanosa wall tile. Old, inefficient light fixtures were updated with new, energy-efficient, modern-looking sconces and pendants.

While improving the ambience for current residents, the upgrades give visitors a first-class, first impression of the property. For residents that put their units on the market, the aesthetic enhancements to the building’s exterior provide real-estate buyer’s visual interest when exploring their options online.

BEFORE: Entryway to a Marina Bay condominium building before the renovation

AFTER. The entryway to a Marina Bay condominium building after the renovation.

The upgrade project started in January of 2009 with the development of our 360-degree master plan. During the first stage of this process, we gathered input and ideas from board members and homeowners of the 60 units in the complex.

Then, we consulted with contractors, subcontractors, and other building-renovation experts to propose a holistic, cost-effective plan for making improvements over time as their budget allows. Now, residents are confident that additional upgrades made each year will contribute to a more harmonious end result.

Due to so many people involved in the final outcome, this condo-complex modernization project required dozens of meetings to discuss hundreds of different ideas and opinions. The communications challenges were far more complicated than a typical commercial or residential job. However, everyone involved learned from the process, and we are all proud of the results.

According to a local real estate agent, a new recent buyer of one of the units “would never have bought in Marina Bay if they had not been upgraded…the lobbies and entries are spectacular.”

The Marina Bay residents should be commended for caring so much about preserving the appearance of their property and the appeal of Sarasota as a great place to live.

If your homeowners association would like to learn more about how The Schimberg Group could achieve similar results for your complex, contact us at: info@tsg-fl.com or give me a call at 941-894-6888.

During the renovation project of the Marina Bay condominium complex, we updated the look of the lobbies of each buildling. Shown here is the lobby of Bldg. 1 before the renovation (above) and after (below).


Take a 360-Degree Look at Your Next Building Improvement Project


Sarasota Magazine: On the Homefront by Carol Tisch


Take a 360-Degree Look at Your Next Building Improvement Project

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

Barron SchimbergAt some point, every building should be updated–either to adapt its functionality or preserve its economic value as the real-estate market changes.  For example, to make the Marina Bay condominium complex more appealing to prospective residents, The Schimberg Group coordinated a lengthy, collaborative project that enhanced the existing buildings while modernizing the entryways, fountains, and lobbies.

We kept the cost of the project under control by implementing a 360-degree approach to architecture. This approach is nothing new. In fact, it’s widely used by architects and professional building managers.

But we’re explaining our 360-degree approach on this blog, because I don’t think the 360-degree master-planning concept is fully understood by individual homeowners, office managers, or condominium associations who ask The Schimberg Group for help with renovation projects

Taking Off the Blinders

Basically, with our 360-degree approach to architecture and interior design, we look beyond your immediate needs to help you take a more holistic view of your project.

For instance, if you want to upgrade your windows, have you considered how that might affect the overall look of the building? How will changes to the exterior of your building affect landscaping requirements?

Instead of calling in various contractors and making piecemeal decisions for improvements as your budget allows over the years, The Schimberg Group encourages you to develop a master plan first.

Even though you may not currently have the budget needed to tackle all of the upgrades your building might require over the next few years, a master plan will give you a clear vision of what all of the building improvements will look like as a whole. In other words, each improvement you make each year will take you one step closer to a more harmonious end result.

Starting with a master plan also decreases the risk that each contractor who works on a specific improvement will encounter technical difficulties caused by the work of a previous contractor.

Expanding the 360-Degree Planning Concept

At The Schimberg Group, we take the concept of 360-degree architecture further than most architecture firms. We firmly believe that a master plan for a building renovation can be infinitely more successful when we ask contractors and subcontractors for their ideas early in the planning process.  For example, instead of just seeking ideas from a landscape architect, we have also sought the expertise of the subcontractors who specialize in building retaining walls.

Many construction experts we consult with are pleasantly surprised when we ask for their ideas. Often, when a contractor shows up on a job site, they realize that the project could have been built so much better and for far less money—if only they had been asked for their opinion while the project was still being designed.

When The Schimberg Group develops a master plan for a client, we gather insights and expertise from the most appropriate contractors and subcontractors for a renovation project and incorporate the best ideas into the plan.

To learn more about how our 360 degree master-planning process might benefit your next building renovation project, give me a call!

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 4: Interior Design

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

In a recent post on this blog, my wife and business partner Patty outlined “Eleven Things I Did Learn in Interior Design School.” She explained why it’s smart to make many interior design decisions well before the drywall is in place or concrete has been poured.  Otherwise, you may need to limit your design choices or make expensive changes to structural elements, such as ceilings and walls.

There are a number of reasons why the interior design layer of a building should be created in sync with the architectural “bones” of the building.

For example, to create the most effective lighting layout, the location of furniture should be incorporated into the overall design. Coordinating the furniture plan with the architecture can also help with the location of windows, electrical requirements, and other interior elements.

Choosing flooring early on with an interior designer allows for proper slab design, thresholds and acoustical treatment.

When defining interior architectural details, an interior designer can address spatial challenges such as unusually high ceilings in a small room. Appropriate detailing can be added to make the room feel more proportionate.

TSG recently completed a renovation project updating the Marina Bay condominium complex on Longboat Key, FL. By including Patty’s interior-design expertise early on in the project, all of the buildings’ lobbies are coordinated and have a cohesive aesthetic.

During the renovation project of the Marina Bay condominium complex, we updated the look of the lobbies of each building. Shown here is the lobby of Bldg. 1 before the renovation (above) and after (below).

To avoid costly construction changes, consider hiring an interior designer well before the decorating stage of design.  Once the project begins, both the architect and the interior designer can coordinate the architecture with the interior spaces in a collaborative effort.


The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 1: Overview

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 2: Architecture

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 3: Space Planning

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 5: Interior Decoration

Eleven Things I Did Learn in Interior Design School

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 2: Architecture

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

Sometimes, the word “architecture” is associated with information design, sculptures, computer technology, and other things. To me, the word “architecture” refers exclusively to the built environment.  In fact, the word “architect” comes from the Greek word for “chief building/mason/carpenter.”

Certainly, activities such as master planning and space planning do require architectural knowledge. But until a plan becomes a physical structure, it’s not really architecture.

From my experience, I believe that architecture extends well past the conceptual, design, and drawing stages that so many people associate with architecture. Architecture in the fullest sense of the word includes understanding and coordinating the tens of thousands of tasks and details required to convert a concept for a building into a physical reality. This includes a whole host of business skills, technical knowledge, and management activities, such as:

  • interacting with clients
  • programming the scope of work
  • managing project timelines and budgets
  • coordinating the work of contractors and subcontractors
  • choosing the right building systems and materials
  • keeping up with building and safety codes
  • making sure the building is properly oriented on its site, and
  • collaborating with interior designers

A good architect not only knows how to design beautiful and functional buildings, but also how to create buildings that will stand the test of time. For example, I can incorporate certain details that will enable a building to be used for different purposes in the future. Or, I can recommend systems that will enable you to better manage your heating, air conditioning and lighting costs over the life of the building.

Here are three tips to consider:

  •  When you interview architects for your next project, don’t just look at their designs and drawings. Look at the buildings they have actually completed.
  •  Notice whether the architect is really listening when you talk about what you need and want from the building. If an architect seems more interested in projects that will elevate his or her own image, you may be asking for trouble when it’s time to get the job done.
  • Choose an architect who will be with you through every step of the process.

If there are any specific questions you would like to see addressed in this series, please let me know. Feel free to e-mail comments to me or drop me a note on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.


The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 1: Overview

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 3: Space Planning

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 4: Interior Design

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 5: Interior Decoration



The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 1: Overview

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

Barron SchimbergIf you want to save money and time when working with an architect and interior designer, it helps to see the building-design process from a different perspective. Instead of viewing the process as a sequence of steps on a bid- design – build – occupy timeline, let’s peel back the “layers” of a finished building and examine each layer one by one.

The four layers of building design are:


Space Planning

Interior Design

Interior Décor

The first layer — architecture — is actually the broad, overarching discipline that takes into account the myriad of details that go into designing, constructing, and completing a building.  An architecturally solid design provides a well-thought-out framework that optimizes the use of space, integrates multiple engineering systems, and supports creativity in interior design.

Space planning determines how rooms, corridors, storage areas, aisles, fixtures, and other elements should be configured within the building. These elements can all affect the efficiency, productivity, and profitability of operations within the building.

When choices about lighting, furniture, and other elements of the interior design layer are made early in the design process, we can make smart choices about where windows should be placed and what types of ceiling materials can be used.

The final layer of building design—interior décor—is the icing on the cake.  Décor includes those oh-so-important finishing touches such as draperies, rugs, and accessories that add so much style, personality, and warmth to your building.  If interior décor isn’t considered part of the process, your finished building may look unexpectedly cold and sterile—like something important is lacking.

In the next four posts in this series, we will examine each of the four layers in more detail.  By the end of this series, I hope you will have a much better understanding of how all four layers of building design fit together to produce a cohesive, unified whole.

You will also see how the decisions you make with regards to one layer of building design can positively or negatively affect the overall look and cost of the other three layers.

If there are any specific questions you would like to see addressed in this series, please let me know.


The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 2: Architecture

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 3: Space Planning

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 4: Interior Design

The Four Layers of Building Design, Part 5: Interior Decoration


Eleven Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

IBarron Schimberg absolutely love being an architect. Many people tell me they wish they were architects too. The truth is the popular view of what an architect does has been romanticized. In reality, successful architecture mixes art and creativity with healthy doses of business smarts, client psychology, and financial limitations.

Looking back on my five years of architecture school, I can think of 11 lessons that would have better prepared me for the success The Schimberg Group now enjoys in the real world. Here are 11 things I have learned in the years after graduation.

1.    Money is always a factor.

Whether it’s a commercial, public, or residential project, budgetary limitations must always be considered. Sometimes, the challenge to design something extraordinary within a limited budget stimulates the most creative thinking.

2.    People skills are essential.

Every client is different and each client has their own vision of the finished product.  Emotions are always present, including passion about the success of the project and the desire to contribute ideas. Sometimes, a husband and wife may each have different priorities for their new home.  Sometimes, design decisions are made by a committee representing a multitude of condominium residents. Or sometimes, corporate teams have input on design.  As an architect, my job involves delivering designs that will please as many people as possible, while clearly explaining the logic behind certain design decisions and achieving the client’s ultimate goals.

3.    Commercial and residential projects are different, but both are rewarding.

Architecture schools focus mostly on commercial and public projects—probably because they tend to be larger and more visible.  But designing, building, and renovating homes can be equally creative and satisfying. Homes have so much personal meaning and can contribute to the overall character of a community.

4.    Efficient project management really matters.

Every project reaches a point when it’s time to stop designing and let the builders do their jobs. If design changes are made throughout the project, the result can be unexpected costs and delays.

5.    Getting interior designers involved early yields more beautiful results.

Making decisions about lighting, flooring, doors, wallcoverings, furnishings, and cabinetry while the shell of the building is still being designed gives you more choices in how the finished project will look. When interior design decisions are made after a building is designed, you may be limited in furniture selection, types of lighting, or even incur extra costs for structural changes.

6.    Seeing projects through construction to completion is vital.

Dozens of unexpected challenges crop up during construction. As an architect, I can suggest creative solutions that won’t compromise the final building aesthetic.

Construction in Progres

7.    Entrepreneurial skills are necessary to get an architecture firm up and running.

In addition to keeping my architectural skills and knowledge up to date, I have had to learn about all phases of small-business operations, including cash flow, marketing, accounting, and personnel management.  Starting a business requires time and money.

8.    There are building codes to deal with.

It’s great that architecture school equates creativity with freedom of imagination. But some wildly creative ideas and material choices aren’t always practical, due to building codes. Part of an architect’s job is to stay up-to-date on these codes.

9.    In order to win a project, you must write a convincing proposal.

Every architect dreams of being awarded high-profile projects that can help them earn public recognition.  But this dream can’t come true unless the architect knows how to write competitive proposals.

10.  Professors don’t know it all.

In architecture school, students may feel intimidated by professors with superstar backgrounds and strong opinions. After graduation, it doesn’t take long to understand the subjective nature of architecture.  Every expert, critic, and client has different tastes, theories, and backgrounds.

11.  It’s not about the architect, it’s about you—the client.

One of the most pervasive myths about architecture is that the finished building should reflect the architect’s vision and artistic talents. But the funding for projects comes from the client. Thus, the architect’s work should always serve the needs and desires of the client. From experience, I have learned that the most successful projects are collaborations. By blending the talent, training, skills, and experience of our architects, interior designers, contractors, and construction crews, we can exceed the expectations of our clients.

Collaboration at The Schimberg Group