An Extra Mile for Another T.I. ...

An Extra Mile for Another T.I. ...

With all the abbreviations that were new to me, I can almost hear those around begin to correct what a T.I. is -- “Mo-der-ni-za-tion”. Others may even cringe at past projects of tenant improvements where planning is not always part of the process. Why should we (Architects/Designers, et al.) give above and beyond for such projects? Reasonable question but none one of which I’m referring to. What does a TI have to do with hiking?

Preconceived Notions

Have you ever had a preconceived notion and were surprised and regretted that you had ever had it?

We are human and all possess preconceived ideas based on fact, hearsay, and personal experience.  These preconceived feelings and thoughts help us make decisions throughout the day and throughout our lives; decisions as to where we may travel, events we attend or don’t attend, people we meet or decide not to meet.

Recently, I prepared for an interview with a client with whom I was unfamiliar.  With only a week to prepare, the pressure was on.  Public speaking has never been my forte.  I researched the client, read their Request for Proposal, and studied numerous emails to make sure I understood exactly what they were expecting.  I gathered images of projects that best suited the scope and program and I laid down a rough outline of the speech.  Name, title and where I work.  Check.  Talk about firm history and why we are the A&E team to best partner with for the project.  Check.  Feel lots of anxiety.  Check.  I couldn’t sleep well the night before and I was edgy.  After refining many renditions of my presentation, my team went to the show.  I was very nervous and the weather was too warm for my black suit and tie.  I thought, “Great, they can’t blame me for being nervous – it’s the heat.”  The interview ended up being very casual; and the client, a nine-person panel, was accommodating, engaging, interested, curious, and made us feel at home.  The pressure let off and I think we did a marvelous job.  In retrospect, my preconceived notion was erroneous and what resulted was a positive outcome.

Recently, an opportunity to battle yet again with my preconceived notions occurred.  Several months ago, our firm was contacted by an organization seeking to allow a young student interested in a career in architecture to “job shadow” someone in our firm.  Our firm has been asked to job shadow before on several occasions so this was nothing new.  However, the student came from a “disadvantaged” background.  Some details were explained, but nothing on a more personal level, and I politely did not want to pry.  I admit that I’m only human and imperfect and a preconceived notion did arise in my mind.  When the student showed up that morning, on-time and dressed professionally, upon finally meeting face-to-face, I was embarrassed for having thought what I had.  The young person standing in front of me was a gentleman and proved in the end to be much more.  If I hadn’t heard the word “disadvantaged” maybe those preconceived notions would not have grown in mind. 

It doesn’t matter where we come from, but where we’re going.  This young man was already on an upward trajectory.  I advised him to continue improving his AutoCAD skills and to be diligent in his studies, because we would be interested in hiring him as an intern… and maybe someday as a full-time employee.  Who knows, someday he may become an architect and possibly a firm partner?

I have so much to learn!  Preconceived notions made me prepare for the worst-case scenario in the interview and a single word was fertile ground to grow an idea about someone that was not anything close to reality.  I regret that, especially in today’s climate of political correctness.

We must believe in, look for, and focus upon the potential within everyone, realizing that we ALL have something to share, an opportunity to mentor and a responsibility to guide. We must make up our minds to practice how to humbly and intentionally question our preconceived notions before – and I say this now with certainty - the next situation encountered or the next unlikely individual across our path turns the tables on our thinking and teaches us something about ourselves.

Lis Zuloaga Promotion


PCH is pleased to announce the promotion of Lis Zuloaga to the level of Associate in the firm.

Over the past three years and especially within the past few months, Lis has shown exceptional tenacity and flexibility in performing construction administration for a civic project in addition to her usual focus on K-12 educational design.  She is dependable, a pleasure to have in the office, and works very well with clients, co-workers, consultants, and increasingly with contractors. 

It is admirable to be exceptional at what you do; it is even more admirable to venture past the boundaries of job description and achieve what is beyond expectations.  Lis has accomplished and conquered.  PCH is grateful for Lis’ efforts and exemplary hard work.

Congratulations Lis!       

Just Plain Ole Ralph


In recent correspondence with my colleague, Ralph Pacini, he signed off with a valedictory “Just Plain Ole Ralph.”  I had to smile.  Those words were so customary and recognizably predictable for the man and yet, were paltry and the antithesis to the hands that I knew typed them.  The fact remains, Ralph Pacini is anything but “plain” and “ole.”


Ralph Pacini is a “Renaissance Man”, a polymath, a person with an interest and expertise in a wide variety of topics and talents: master architect, avid long-distance cyclist, hiker, golfer, adventurist and a voracious reader.  It is not surprising to me that Ralph has provided sure and steady leadership to PCH for the past 32 years. 


There is a disarming regularity and economy to the man.  In today’s world through which many people frantically dodge to and fro, Ralph remains wholly approachable, walking at a knowledgeable and assured pace, with unusual patience taking time to answer questions about work, to enjoy the friendly competition with the office NFL pool, and typically visiting the local grocery for a salad after regularly cycling at lunchtime throughout Redlands.  Where many professionals rely on excess and over-designing as a solution and safeguard, professional experience allows Ralph to do his work economically and skillfully, knowing the project requirements while avoiding the weight and hindrances to completing projects on-time and under budget.  Knowing when to be resolute and when to compromise, and wielding the double-barreled weapon of the right amount of self-deprecating humor and loads of common sense – Ralph commands an enviable amount of professional knowledge – the type of office resource who always has an answer.         


A former California governor was criticized for his predictability:  always wearing a dark suit, daily treadmill workouts and for eating the same lunch every day.  Upon closer inspection, these habits actually save time and free the mind to focus the professional on what’s truly important:  serving the clients and keeping them happy.  Ralph Pacini epitomizes the successful meeting of both goals.   


The recent Christmas season was a segue to exciting changes at PCH.  Ralph Pacini, the “P” and founding partner of PCH, was taking yet another step closer to retirement.  He admitted, thank God, that he’d be around PCH another year or so.  We would like to selfishly keep Mr. Pacini forever at PCH.  We will eventually miss his daily greeting, “How are you on this fine, salubrious morning?” which was soon followed by “Is it lunch yet?”  But we want the best for Ralph and his lovely wife, Christine.  And if fewer hours in the office are the reward for a lifetime of hard work, so be it.


I have found that it is indeed possible to simultaneously envy and gratefully applaud someone.  I am giving “Just Plain Ole Ralph” a standing ovation for a career well-done and for a life that has been anything but “plain” and “ole.” 


Well played, Ralph.  Well played.       

Transitioning Well

I don’t like change.  I suspect that nobody does.  But life is change and I’d like to suggest that change is always a good thing.


Changing circumstances keep us sharp; change causes us to hone our skills; change keeps life fresh and it can re-energize you while undergoing a bad case of project boredom or exhaustion.  In short, change causes growth and bestows many blessings affording an opportunity to start anew, to walk down an alternate path, to harmonize with life in a different octave.      


December 28 marked the “transition” of Greg Chapman, the “C” of PCH, into a different stage of life: a full-time career as an artist.  Note that I did not use the word “retirement” for a reason.  True to form, a great creative mind cannot sit idle, not even for a season, but it always transitions into a different means of expression. 


What is Greg’s [not so] hidden talent?  He is a gifted artist and extraordinary painter, merging architecture with art, creating paintings that possess an eye-popping, bold quality of color complemented by the sharp line, yet observantly respectful of the inconsistencies found in organic forms.   


Many famous people are actually multi-talented; in the theater, they are referred to as a “triple threat”, one capable of acting, singing and dancing.  Greg Chapman is an architect, artist and administrator.  Not only did he found an architecture firm, but he successfully managed it for over 30 years.  And now, it’s time for a change. 


I have noticed a set of personal qualities consistent through all of my best bosses; a calm, cool demeanor that acknowledges the difficulties of being an architect yet expects the pursuit of excellence - not perfection - in the work you do.  Good bosses are generous: monetarily and professionally; they trust you to handle challenges; they forgive you when you mess up; they don’t judge you because they are secure enough to admit that they encountered similar struggles in their careers; they dig deep alongside you on difficult projects; they let you work, letting you run with a project as far as you can without hovering; they let you excel.  Greg Chapman has been such a boss. One of the best.  And best of all, clients and consultants love him, too.


I admire folks (actors, writers, performers) who, almost unexpectedly, walk away from their lucrative, memorable and popular contributions to the surrounding social, media and cultural landscape while still at the height of popularity.  They transition, leaving ubiquitous pleasant memories in the hearts and minds of their admirers, stoking endless nostalgia, hunger and television re-runs.  I think of “The Far Side” comic strip, M.A.S.H., Jerry Seinfeld, Greta Garbo, Steven Perry from Journey – all of whom left us thinking, “but we’re not finished enjoying you yet!”


My grandmother and I had this vacation to France planned that we never took.  After my son was born, she laid the mantle for embarking on this trip upon him, and after she passed, I inherited her sewing machine that had never been operated, because she was going to “one day learn to sew.”  I admire the spunk of people who always have a goal, a destination, a skill to develop, a trip not yet taken, a future plan to look forward to.  Such forward thinking is wonderful and inspiring.  And Greg Chapman embodies this same spirit of adventure and “trips not yet taken.”


It’s been said that profound and lasting change in our lives, from year-to-year, is best produced by

the books we read and the people we meet.  The latter has been most poignant to me lately.  I have been changed for the better having worked for Greg Chapman, counting him as a friend and optimistic encourager over the past few years.  Heavens, the entire architectural community has been changed for the better! 


Good luck and God bless you, Greg!  I will miss you. 




This past September, Norco Elementary School, one of our two projects with Corona-Norco USD, was completed.  A two-year labor of love from design through approvals and finally, through completion. With the holidays fast approaching, we were reminded that the year was quickly coming to a close and that many of our deadlines still loomed.  It is sometimes difficult to enjoy the moment; to stand still for a brief time and look back at what we have just experienced and have accomplished. It’s easier said than done.


In mid-October, PCH was invited to the Rededication Ceremony for Norco Elementary School.  We had been tasked with providing a new campus façade and image, to remove a classroom wing - which included a tiny MPR and kitchen - an undersized administration building, a dilapidated wooden lunch shelter and a portable staff lounge, all while garnering positive input from the Owner, administrators, educators, staff, community, the students and the parents.  In short, we believe this project was successful.


I began to think about the term “Rededication.” The School Principal and one of the CNUSD Board Members explained it well by stating, “We are not only rededicating the newly-constructed buildings, but the public resources, the equipment, the technology, the environment and the personnel as well, back to our students, community, educators and parents, investing in the future and providing the tools to achieve success.”


The ceremony continued with the Student Honor Band christening their new stage in their new Multipurpose Building with beautiful music.  The acoustics and lighting were as vibrant and bright as the smiles on every face in the room that morning.  I began to think that for a brief moment, we could stand still and not think about the immense workload awaiting us back at the office.  I thought about the reason we had dedicated our lives to our craft and career; about the comfort we derive from and the justification for why we do our work each and every day.  Our profession does make a difference in the lives of our community.  So, let’s be sure to take a moment to stop, look back, and savor all the good work that we have accomplished and to rededicate ourselves to our craft.

I would like to thank the following people, and the many hands that helped with the success of this project:


Corona-Norco USD: for giving us the opportunity to participate in this wonderful endeavor.

Lynne Murray: for her great leadership and fortitude.

CNUSD Board Members: for their dedication to educators, to the students and to the community.


School Principals Marcie and Russ: for looking out for the interests of their educators and students.

Aaron, Souky and the team at West Coast Air: for conducting a vast ensemble of contractors to take a set of sheets and turn them into a reality.  Bravo!

All at PCH: for making possible what seemed to be impossible.


Greg Chapman and Ralph Pacini: for their friendship, mentorship and over three decades of dedication to our craft as Architects. God bless them. Love you guys. Truly.


Not-So-Hidden Talent

As the lights dimmed, the gathered crowed hushed and my heart-rate quickened.  I love live theater.  The movement, dances, songs, and story-telling are magical and fire my imagination. My attention is riveted where the spotlight shines.  I am absorbed, engulfed, immersed.

I marvel at talented folks who can be on stage, in the spotlight, seemingly without fright. Fearless, bold, laying their souls bare in the “instant” that is live theater.  One shot.  One performance.  In a word:  Thrilling.

My wife and I had the opportunity to see an original play at LifeHouse Theater in Redlands.  A small, faith-based, community theater showcasing local talent.  While LifeHouse Theater also presents Broadway-type plays:  Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Phantom of the Opera, etc., they also present dramas and musicals with a religious message.  The play we saw was an exceptional, one-of-a-kind, rendition of the 2000-year-old tale many of us already know; told from the unique perspective of the disciples that lived with Jesus.

Our friend and PCH Architects business partner, Rick Arias, wrote the screenplay, music, and lyrics.  It took him almost a full year to see his vision brought to life by a truly talented cast.  Quite an accomplishment for an Architect with a full-time day job.

Rick also performed, lending his uplifting voice in song and speech to a variety of different parts.  We’ve seen Rick perform before and each time is absolutely stellar. 

Once again, we are amazed that our neighbors or co-workers are never fully revealed to us even though we interact with them on a daily basis.It is a blessing when they are bold enough to share their not-so-hidden talents with us and the world.

Drew Schoening, PCH Architect's newest Summer Intern


PCH Architects is a firm believer in helping young students pursue their dreams of becoming licensed and holding the noble title of “Architect.”  We have a history of offering opportunities for student interns to work on a myriad of projects of all sizes and in the various phases of design and construction.  They are encouraged to participate and shadow our Architects and Project Managers during site visits and client meetings, providing a glimpse into the daily activities of their chosen profession.

Ms. Drew Schoening (pronounced “Shay-ning”) is our newest Intern, having just graduated from Santiago High School in Corona, California.  Drew started drawing floor plans at a very early age subsequently triggering her awareness of Architecture.  Her interest in the profession intensified while studying with Mr. Bill Brown, a renowned teacher of architecture within the Corona-Norco Unified School District.  Her abilities include working in Revit, a Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, and she collaborated on several projects with her classmates while in high school. 

Drew has been accepted to Cal Poly Pomona’s School of Environmental Design where she will begin her adventures this Autumn.  Her areas of interest include residential architecture and interior design. 

During her brief tenure with PCH this summer, her BIM capabilities are being put to the test on several important projects.  Ms. Schoening’s pleasant demeanor, work ethic, and verbal eloquence have enhanced our office and will take her far in the profession.

PCH is extremely happy to help begin her journey, offer guidance, and provide exposure to the exceptional profession of Architecture. 

The Trails

San Bernardino National Forest

San Bernardino National Forest

For example, Rick had spotted a Snow Plant, a vibrant red bloom in a sea of soil and plant remnants. I first thought it to be a piece of trash or plastic toy forgotten by a recent camper’s child.  It turned out to be a parasitic and non-photosynthetic plant – without chlorophyll – that sprouts in the late spring under conifers of the Pacific-Southwestern states.  However, caught in between, I also saw the results of what certain infestations have wrought: tree carcasses in their last rest after years of being upright to extend and catch the rays of light above the rest. I’m not sure if this is just a natural occurrence in the whole scheme of things. Maybe this is how nature thins out and replaces its mountainous landscape.


Hello there, familiar friend. It has been a year since we last had the pleasure and we are another year older. To some, that does not make much of a difference to their personal physical amplitude. I look around and see how the climate has rendered our vision of your ethereal flora, draping the ridges and valleys.

Sherie and baby

Sherie and baby

Nonetheless, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to get out with great friends and hike through our local natural treasures. This past Sunday, we strolled in perfect weather from the Foresee Trail head to John’s Meadow.  We were a unique bunch: one in our party had four-feet, Moriah, Ralph’s pet “labra-doodle” and the youngest was a two-month old baby!  Cushioned in a comfortable front harness/carrier, Sherie’s daughter was lulled to sleep by her mom’s rhythmic strides, up and back from our mountain meadow.  We were all impressed with Sherie’s athleticism as were other hikers who smiled with admiration as they passed by a mother with a baby on the trail. What a workout!  


Yes, it is time again to train for our next goal: to summit San Gorgonio Peak. Last year, we topped San Jacinto. It was fun, especially since we went via the Palm Springs Aerial Tram. This year will be a new challenge as compared to last year.  Even though we have scaled these peaks numerous times, the conditions can be slightly different -- like our bodies. (I’m referring to myself, of course.) Hence, the training hikes. We plan to hike the Wild Horse, Slushy Meadow and Manzanita Flat trails through this next month.

Feel free to join us. Hike on!

2018   Training Hike 1   Forsee Creek - John's Meadow

2018   Training Hike 1   Forsee Creek - John's Meadow

Crits and Fear Factor

The TV game show “Fear Factor”, debuting in the early 2000s, once did a segment on public nudity. It’s a ubiquitous, cultural taboo, so ancient that even the Bible mentions it. The brave contestants were willing to perform myriad feats – many involving the use of gruesome insects – most of them pushing against the tide of social norms.  But in order to win the prize, the competitors willingly participated.

Many of us will never publicly and willingly expose ourselves in that manner, but whenever an architecture student pins up their design solution for all to see  -- sheets representing hours of toil, weeks of internet research, ideas wrung out of a sleep-deprived brain, verbal presentations fueled by adrenaline and caffeine -- I see some similarities between what occurs during a critique (or “crit”) and what we see on Fear Factor; it is an emotionally challenging experience, exposing your thoughts and opinions, a price to pay, in order to move onto the next level toward the goal of graduation and entering a noble profession. 

Recently, Redlands architect and long-time friend Xavier Adrian, asked me to be a guest juror on final crits at a design studio he teaches at Cal Baptist University.  I agreed before even checking my calendar.

I arrived ½ hour early, met Xavier and together we entered the classroom. Only a few students were pinned up. I could feel the urgent tension in the nearly empty room. When I returned after a lunch of catching up and meeting a fellow juror, those old butterflies began to turn in my stomach. I hadn’t felt those in decades. The students were welcoming and surprisingly calm -- all were hardworking based on their study models and the work pinned up around the room. For a moment, I subconsciously traded places with these students, as if I was about to pin up as well, to have them critique me on my critique. 

The crit began. I was transported back to my university. A variety of practicing jurors were sitting, focused, legs crossed, holding white Styrofoam cups of coffee, offering their suggestions to the students. I remember the “cool” jurors: excited, energetic, smiling, encouraging, the ones who picked out all the silver linings in my project and made me grateful to bask in their unconditional positive regard. I also remembered the harsh critiques I – and sometimes my fellow students – endured. I remembered the disarming disappointment of an instructor critiquing aspects that they had never before mentioned. I remember the pride I felt at inviting my wife to my crit and thankfully, receiving extraordinary feedback. I remember the sigh of relief when it would be over – an alternate path to explore, the bullets dodged.   

The CBU assignment was incredibly provocative: design a facility on a prominent, downtown Riverside corner, where people of all ages could enjoy and read poetry.  Inaugurated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month occurred last month, April 2018, and this project no doubt paid homage to the occasion.

The student work I saw was inspiring and my fellow jurors were Argus-eyed and encouraging. We reviewed nearly 20 projects within a 3-hour span of time. The students were articulate and intelligent, their enthusiasm for the profession visually evident in their projects. Some had done much research prior to beginning design; some were incredibly gifted in graphic presentation, and in the use and application of color; others were great model-builders. The variation kept everything fresh. 

Half-way through the afternoon I realized that my pulse had slowed, and that the students were laughing and cheering each other on. They were incredibly relaxed, and so was I.

I look back at my education with great fondness and appreciation. The crits were not easy, but necessary, giving me confidence and causing me to see my strengths and areas needing improvement, helping me to hone verbal presentation skills that serve me well in many venues of life today.