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

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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.   

It's good to be back

“It’s good to be back.”

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I am sure those words have been uttered by many people over the centuries.  In most cases, they are spoken with a smile, exhaled in a relieved, relaxed sigh that connotes once again being surrounded by the familiar and comforting.  If you’ve ever experienced a homecoming or the rekindling of an old friendship, you can relate.  It feels great.  It keeps you grateful. 

Although roughly 15% of all U.S. architects live in California, I am often reminded of how “small” the Southern California architectural community can be.  I began my career in 1986 in another Inland Empire firm “paying my dues” by emptying everyone’s trash cans, installing Borco on drafting boards, and running blueprints in the back of the office in a noxious cloud of ammonia.  Now, 30 years later, I often run across people in the IE with whom I’ve worked in the past.  You don’t burn bridges, you attend AIA meetings, you help out when and where you can, and eventually you run across a familiar, friendly face.

This month marks the second time I have worked for PCH Architects.  I first met the principals in May 1999 when I decided, for my young family’s sake, to trade my lengthy 100-mile per day commute to an Orange County architecture firm to work closer to home.  It wasn’t just any city, it was Redlands.  A jewel in the Inland Empire, Redlands is an art colony that is home to not only a prestigious, private university but a community of involved citizens bursting with conservative tradition and a high degree of civic pride: the Bike Classic, the Redlands Bowl, and the Holland Festival are examples of that.

Practicing architecture is a noble endeavor.  I can’t count how many times my kids came home saying ‘I told someone at school you’re an architect and they thought it was cool.’  Or the number of Career Days I’ve attended in an attempt to explain our profession to elementary, middle and high school students. 

Why did Seinfeld’s George Costanza lie about being an architect?  Because he wanted to impress others.  Why do we practice architecture?  Some of us are altruistic, desiring to enrich the lives of others through the medium of the built environment.  Others chose the profession because they excelled in drafting or three-dimensional thinking.  Others inherited the passion for design from a parent or grandparent or other relative.  And others, like me, just thought that being an architect sounded interesting, explored it and decided to pursue it.     

An architect recently told me, “You aren’t really an architect until you’ve built something.  Several million square feet at least.  Not until you lay awake at night trying to resolve a design issue in your head, worried sleepless about whether or not that roof will support the extra weight of that equipment.”  I suppose there’s a lot of truth in those criteria. 

Regardless, is there any other profession we’d rather pursue?  Not a chance.             

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Fight On!

Got to thinking about next year’s 2018 high school graduates and the future of the Architectural profession. PCH Architects provides annual scholarships to several local high schools for students interested in pursuing a career in Architecture. 

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My partner asked that I start to think about the scholarships for this upcoming year. How time flies? I can recall just giving a speech at M.L. King High School prior to presenting a scholarship to a praiseworthy high school senior planning to major in Engineering.

Now, I have nothing against Engineers. We need more of them. But, where are our aspiring, next generation of architects? Unfortunately, the profession is still seeing the drought of talent that was wrought by the Great Recession. Maybe the blame cannot be placed entirely on the economy however.

Even in my generation, I heard the same excuses. “It’s too hard!” “Why should I get my architectural license?”  “I got my Bachelors or Masters of Architectural degree.” “I’m too old or too busy.” All the myriad of challenges that architectural candidates have to contend with.

I feel our profession is slowly depleting. The passion, the drive, may be a little lacking. Maybe it’s the current Public School curriculum that puts enormous emphasis on science, mathematics and technology, leaving behind art and creativity. I am not saying that is wrong or bad. I’m just trying to understand and maybe create a discussion on how we can help carry, pass along, and/or keep the torch lit for our next generation of architects.

If you have put in the time and hard-earned money to go to college, then why not complete your journey to licensure? Maybe the process is quite trying. The hours that one has to document and get approval for seems tedious.  The testing is definitely taxing. Nonetheless, as the People of Troy Shout, “Fight On!” Don’t give up or make excuses. If you say you want to, or say you would like to: Just Do It. Sounds like a commercial?

I hope, we can continue to encourage our fellow designers, drafters, CAD technicians, project coordinators, job captains, etc. to make the leap and become a licensed architect in the states where each resides.

It all comes down to you. No one will be more responsible for you than you. There should be no regrets. It’s a personal fight and struggle to please and satisfy only you.

I wish you great success as you leap along the fiery path that leads to becoming a licensed architect. Cheers to those who recently passed their last AREs or the California Supplemental Exam! Job well done!

 Rendering of an entry court for a local school, by PCH Architects

Rendering of an entry court for a local school, by PCH Architects

30 Years In The Making!

PCH Architects celebrates its rich heritage of exemplary design with a contemporary new look and re-dedication to the principles that make us unique among architectural firms. 

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Our clean, modern branding will announce our identity throughout all aspects of our relationships.  Building on a solid and established foundation, we picked a bold navy background with our distinctive white logo overflowing the boundary signifying strength, awareness, possibilities, and our resolve to move forward with new firm leadership.  Our vision of enriching lives through unique solutions that create healthy, stimulating environments remains steadfast. 

Elevating the perception that good design matters, we will continue to be true collaborators, crafting projects that exceed expectations, are sustainable, and improve the lives of everyone entering therein.

  • Our goal is for our projects to leave every user, client, and community better than we found it. 
  • Every project is important. 
  • Every day is an opportunity to do good things.
  • Every relationship is personal. 

Contact PCH Architects today and experience our unique brand of quality services!

2017 PCH Bonding Trip

 Six hearty souls

Six hearty souls

Another year’s PCH backpacking trip is in the bag!  This year’s trek took us to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. 

Our group of six hearty souls left the office and, after a sumptuous breakfast at Gramma’s in Banning, soon arrived at the lower station of the world-famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  The Tram is a great option to explore the high country without the arduous climbing.

 Aerial Tram at bottom station

Aerial Tram at bottom station

 A view of our way up

A view of our way up

After disembarking the tram at 8516 feet elevation, the 70-degree pine-studded mountain environment cooled our faces after the 100+ temps of the desert below.  We registered our permit with the Ranger Station, shouldered our heavy backpacks, and were soon trekking through the clear air and wilderness solitude. 

 The beginning of the hike to camp, and 30º cooler

The beginning of the hike to camp, and 30º cooler

The 2-mile, well-marked trail climbs steadily along the banks of a small streambed and up several sets of switchbacks.  Soon, we were sweating profusely and huffing from the strong sunshine and the thin air.

Our initial destination was Round Valley Campground in the Mt. San Jacinto State Park.  Situated at 9100 feet in elevation, the primitive campground winds its way in and around majestic rock outcroppings and ancient stands of 100 ft tall pine trees.  Being careful to stay well away from the sensitive vegetation of Round Valley Meadow, the campsites are spread about a large area, giving the impression of being isolated from fellow campers.  Only the playful shouts of a nearby Boy Scout Troop and hollering of several disturbed Steller Jay birds pervaded the camp’s silence.

 Round Valley; Elev. 9,100

Round Valley; Elev. 9,100

 Typical wooded, rocky terrain around the campsites

Typical wooded, rocky terrain around the campsites

Once tents were erected, the relaxation that comes from being “unplugged” outdoors began to permeate our psyche.  Dinners are a good time of fellowship and, as always, Mr. Pacini’s gourmet camp meals are a sight to behold.  Afterwards, our good friend Jack Daniels, accompanied by another gentleman from Knob Creek, stopped by for dessert ensuring lively chatter long into the evening.

 Lis getting situated

Lis getting situated

 Base Camp

Base Camp

 Mr. Pacini in the midst of preparing a gourmet meal

Mr. Pacini in the midst of preparing a gourmet meal

 ...not kidding about the gourmet meals

...not kidding about the gourmet meals

Up with the Saturday morning sun, we were all eager to start the climb to the summit.  After the first strenuous mile, the trail becomes exposed on the peak’s eastern flank giving an unforgettable view of the low desert, upper tram station, and Round Valley meadow.  At 10,000 feet, the trees thin and the air thins even more.  Rocks congest the trail, punishing our knees, ankles, and feet.

 Crossroads, at the saddle; Elev. 9,700

Crossroads, at the saddle; Elev. 9,700

 A view from the saddle, looking towards Idyllwild

A view from the saddle, looking towards Idyllwild

Soon however, Summit Saddle is reached with the peak being a short 3-tenths of a mile away.  There is an emergency cabin built from local stone by the California Conservation Corps.  Bunk beds and shelter are available should Mother Nature turn nasty. 

 Stone cabin

Stone cabin

San Jacinto peak is a rugged rock-scramble to the top.  At 10, 834 feet above sea level, both the Pacific Ocean and Salton Sea can be viewed in opposite directions on clear days.  Across the Banning Pass, the imposing ridge of Mt San Gorgonio (“Old Grayback” to locals) looks to be roughly the same height although it is 665 feet higher. 

 Atop San Jacinto Peak, with a view of "Old Grayback"

Atop San Jacinto Peak, with a view of "Old Grayback"

 Everyone made it to the peak; Elev. 10,834

Everyone made it to the peak; Elev. 10,834

Ominous gray clouds started building during our short lunch at the peak.  Nicknamed “Icarus” after the doomed Greek aeronaut, we were certain to be drenched from the pending downpour.  Fortunately, we reached camp just before a gentle rain peppered the ground, trees, and rocks with large splashes of drops.  The musty odor of damp forest weighted the air and increased humidity drastically.  The rain did not last long however, the clouds scattered, and our camp dried quickly. 

 A shot of the earliest incarnation of the cloud, Icarus

A shot of the earliest incarnation of the cloud, Icarus

On a large flat rock, impromptu yoga instruction stretched tight, tired muscles in the warm sun.

 Yoga happens here

Yoga happens here

After another scrumptious dinner, Mr. Pacini regaled us with ancient stories from his youth.  The gentleman from Knob Creek and Mr. Daniels again joined us as we settled into the quiet mountain darkness for the evening.

 Aerial tram, as seen from the top station

Aerial tram, as seen from the top station

Sunday morning’s trip down the Tramway and the drive home was thankfully uneventful and everyone made it home safe and sound.  Stories and memories will last a lifetime from our wonderful adventure to the top of Mt. San Jacinto peak!

July's Training Hikes

It’s that time of year again.  The dog days of summer have returned.  Not my favorite season. However, I look forward to hiking through the local mountains in preparation for our annual PCH Bonding Trip.  This year, at the end of July, we plan to summit San Jacinto Peak.

This past Sunday, our group hiked the Foresee Creek trail to Johns Meadow in the San Gorgonio wilderness, for the first of two training hikes.  

Last week, during the first of several heat waves yet to come, I noticed dark clouds surrounding the San Bernardino Mountains.  Like walking mid-day through a desert in the middle of summer and seeing a tropical body of water or mirage, I wondered what it would be like to be under those voluminous clouds.  Surely, it must be cooler than the 100+ degree temperatures in the Inland Empire.  

Well, I tell you, it was AMAZING.  During our Sunday morning hike,  the trails came alive.  I am not speaking about the sounds of our labored breathing, neither the souls of our shoes stepping over the earth nor our occasional chatter to each other.  Instead, we heard the sky growl and the trails chime with barely visible droplets of precipitation that thrummed on the foliage in nature’s concert hall.  I tell you again, the trails came alive like a philharmonic tuning up before beginning to play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565.  

We had concerns that the elevated temperatures would follow us up the mountains and make the hike a hot, muggy slog.  However, to the contrary, the cool moisture that came down from the clouds was refreshing.  The damp ground absorbed the sound of our footsteps further elevating the vibrant acoustics of the tree leaves applauding as we walked by.

After  completing the six-mile hike, with just over 500 feet of elevation gain, everyone felt good for our first training hike.  There were not too many aches to fuss about.  For our well-deserved celebration afterwards, we were treated to ice tea, beer, chips and homemade salsa at the Pacini’s.  Ralph makes a good salsa, sort of a tradition.  The training hikes most often begin and end at the Pacini’s mountain residence.  What a great half-day to spend with good friends.

As our sore feet rest and our haunches recuperate, we look forward to next Sunday’s training hike following the San Bernardino Peak Trail up from Angeles Oaks to Manzanita Flats.  It will be around 8 miles round trip with just over 1,500 feet of elevation gain.  Definitely a great test for the old knees and glutes.

Looking forward to it.  Keep climbing!

ENCOURAGING FUTURE ARCHITECTS

End of the school year is always a busy time in the office.  Construction projects are primed to begin work during the summer season when school is out of session.  Staff members have children graduating, promoting, and receiving awards.  It is a time for both past reflection and anticipation of a future that has not yet presented itself.

Since the early 1990’s, in the spirit of “giving back” to a profession that has enriched our lives, PCH continues to bolster young people interested in pursuing a career in Architecture.  This week, Pedro and I presented our annual scholarships to admirable students at our local high schools.

At the local Redlands high schools, we have sponsored the PCH Architects/Stephen J. Lenholf Memorial Architectural Scholarship.  Initially, awards were presented at Redlands and Redlands East Valley High Schools.  A few years ago, Citrus Valley High School, was added when it opened.  These scholarships are presented to deserving students intending to pursue a career in Architecture.

Mr. Stephen J. Lenholf was a well-respected drafting and architectural instructor for many years at Redlands High School.  His memory as a trusted friend and excellent teacher lives on as an encouragement to the younger generation of Architects.  For many years, his wife assisted with presentation of the awards.

For the first time this year, we are pleased to sponsor the PCH Architectural Scholarship at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside.  It is presented to a deserving student of good character who will be pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture degree at an accredited college or university.

Initial student candidates are screened through the Redlands Community Scholarship Foundation (RCSF) or the Riverside Educational Enrichment Foundation (REEF).  Candidates’ transcripts and essay compositions regarding their interest in Architecture are personally reviewed by the Principals of PCH Architects prior to making a selection.

While the amount of the scholarships has varied with the uncertainties of the fluctuating economy, we are proud to have awarded individual scholarships to over 65 praiseworthy students throughout the years. 

In keeping with the principles of PCH’s Vision and Mission Statement, we believe that “giving-back” to the future generation not only enriches their life but that of our Team as well.