The Architectural History of the White House

The countdown to Independence Day has begun! Only 3 days until we come together for family barbecues, parades, concerts, and setting off fireworks in the backyard. Of course, these are activities we only get to enjoy because of the freedoms we were granted on that historic day in 1776. The Fourth of July is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress, declaring that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

When you think about the United States of America, what is the first building that comes to mind? The White House, right? That’s the first building that pops into my head! I remember my first trip to Washington D.C. when I was only 7 or 8 years old. My family did the public tour of the White House. I saw Socks, the Clintons tuxedo cat! It was so neat to be in the same room where so many great presidents had been before. So, in honor of the upcoming Fourth of July, I want to explore the history of our great Nation’s famous White House.

The White House is the official residence and primary office space for the President of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW in Washington D.C. It has been the residence of every U.S. president since John Adams was in office in the year 1800.

jamesWhile on his “Southern Tour” in May of 1791, President George Washington visited Charleston, SC and saw the under-construction Charleston County Courthouse designed by James Hoban. The President met with Hoban and summoned him to Philadelphia (the nation’s capital at the time). In 1972, Washington met with the federal city (aka Washington D.C.) commissioners to make his judgment in the architectural competition that had been established. He selected Hoban’s design but requested that the design is changed to a two-story home with an 11-bay facade.

The White House was built between 1792 and 1800. It was built with white-painted Aquia Creek Sandstone and inspired by the neoclassical style. Neoclassical architecture is an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid 18th-centurty. In its purest form, it is a style principally derived from the architecture of classical antiquity, and emphasizes the wall rather than contrast and maintains separate identities to each of its parts. This form of architecture came to life because of a desire to return to the purity of the arts of Rome and Ancient Greece.

Thomas Jefferson moved into the White House in 1801. Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe and Jefferson added low colonnades on each wing that concealed stables and storage. Today, Jefferson’s colonnades link the residence with the East and West Wings.

fireIn 1814, during the War of 1812, the White House was set ablaze by British troops during the Burning of Washington. Only the exterior wall remained, and even they had to be torn down and mostly reconstructed with help from Fusion Exteriors because of weakening from the fire and subsequent exposure to the elements (except for portions of the south wall). After the fire, both architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe and Hoban contributed to the design and oversight of the reconstruction, which lasted from 1815 to 1817.

As the years went by, and new Presidents lived in the White House, many things were changed. Theodore Roosevelt had all work offices relocated to the newly constructed West Wing in 1901. Eight years later, William Taft expanded the West Wing and created the first Oval Office, which was eventually moved as the section was expanded. Under Harry S. Truman, the interior rooms were completely dismantled and a new internal load-bearing steel frame constructed inside the walls.

The modern-day White House complex includes the Executive Residence, West Wing, East Wing, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and the Blair House (guest residence). The term “White House” is often used as a metonym (substitute) for the Executive Office of the President of the United States and for the president’s administration and advisors in general, as in “The White House has decided that…” The property is a National Heritage Site owned by the National Park Service and is part of the President’s Park. In 2007, it was ranked second on the American Institute of Architects list of “America’s Favorite Architecture,” behind the Empire State Building.

American Memorials & Cemeteries

Architecture can be very powerful, especially when given the honor of building a memorial. In honor of Memorial Day in a few weeks, I want to explore the different memorials and cemeteries in the United States dedicated to those who gave their lives to make this country what it is today. My father and grandfather were both in the military, so I have been lucky enough to visit most of these beautiful places.

cemeteryArlington National Cemetery, Virginia – Arlington National Cemetery is a United States military cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. 624 acres have been dedicated to the dead soldiers of the nation’s conflicts, beginning with the American Civil War. The cemetery was established during the Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, which had been the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s wife Mary Anna (Custis) Lee (a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington). The cemetery, along with Arlington House, Memorial Drive, the Hemicycle, and the Arlington Memorial Bridge, form the Arlington National Cemetery Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in April 2014. Like nearly all federal installations in Arlington County, it has a Washington mailing address. Some other fun facts: President Herbert Hoover conducted the first national Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, on May 30, 1929; Beginning in 1992, Morrill Worcester donated thousands of wreaths around the end-of-year holiday season to be placed on graves at Arlington. He has since expanded his effort, now known as Wreaths Across America, and supplies wreaths to over 230 state and national cemeteries and veterans monuments across the country.

koreonwarKorean War Veterans National Memorial, Washington D. C. – Located in Washington, D.C.’s West Potomac Park, southeast of the Lincoln Memorial and just south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall, The Korean War Veterans Memorial commemorates those who served in the Korean War. The Korean War Veterans Memorial was confirmed by the U.S. Congress (Public Law 99-572) on October 28, 1986, with design and construction managed by the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board and the American Battle Monuments Commission. The initial design competition was won in 1986 by a team of four architects from The Pennsylvania State University, but this team withdrew as it became clear that changes would be needed to satisfy the advisory board and reviewing agencies such as the Commission of Fine Arts. A federal court case was filed and lost over the design changes. The eventual design was by Cooper-Lecky Architects who oversaw collaboration between several designers. President George H. W. Bush conducted the groundbreaking for the Memorial on June 14, 1992, Flag Day. The companies and organizations involved in the construction are listed on the memorial as: the Faith Construction Company, the Richard Sherman Company, the Cold Spring Granite Company, the Tallix Art Foundry and the Baltimore District of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The memorial was dedicated on July 27, 1995, the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the war, by President Bill Clinton and Kim Young Sam, President of the Republic of Korea, to the men and women who served during the conflict. Management of the memorial was turned over to the National Park Service, under its National Mall and Memorial Parks group. As with all National Park Service historic areas, the memorial was administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on the day of its dedication.

wwIImemorialNational World War II Memorial, Washington D.C. – The World War II Memorial is a memorial of national significance dedicated to Americans who served in the armed forces and as civilians during World War II. Consisting of 56 pillars and a pair of small triumphal arches surrounding a plaza and fountain, it sits on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on the former site of the Rainbow Pool at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Opened on April 29, 2004, it was dedicated by President George W. Bush on May 29. The memorial is administered by the National Park Service under its National Mall and Memorial Parks group. As of 2009, more than 4.4 million people visit the memorial each year. A nationwide design competition drew 400 submissions from architects from around the country. Friedrich St. Florian’s initial design was selected in 1997. On WWIIpicSeptember 30, 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed a 12-member Memorial Advisory Board (MAB) to advise the ABMC in picking the site, designing the memorial, and raising money to build it. A direct mail fundraising effort brought in millions of dollars from individual Americans. Additional large donations were made by veterans’ groups, including the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge and others. The majority of the corporate fundraising effort was led by two co-chairs: Senator Bob Dole, a decorated World War II veteran and 1996 Republican nominee for president; and Frederick W. Smith, the president and chief executive officer of FedEx Corporation and a former U.S. Marine Corps officer. The U.S. federal government provided about $16 million. A total of $197 million was raised. Over the next four years, St. Florian’s design was altered during the review and approval process required of proposed memorials in Washington, D.C. Ambassador Haydn Williams guided the design development for ABMC.

marinecorpsMarine Corps War Memorial, Washington D.C. – The United States Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial) is a national monument in Arlington, Virginia, United States. Dedicated 62 years ago in 1954, it is located in Arlington Ridge Park, at the back entrance to Arlington National Cemetery and next to the Netherlands Carillon. The war memorial is dedicated to all U.S. Marine Corps personnel who have died in the defense of the United States since 1775. The memorial was inspired by the iconic 1945 photograph of six servicemen raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. It was taken by Associated Press combat photographer Joe Rosenthal. Upon first seeing the photograph, sculptor Felix de Weldon created a maquette for a sculpture based on it in a single weekend. He and architect Horace W. Peaslee designed the memorial. Their proposal was presented to Congress, but funding was not possible during the war. In 1947 a federal foundation was established to raise funds for the memorial. Created By Felix De Weldon, And Inspired By The Immortal Photograph Taken By Joseph J. Rosenthal On February 23, 1945, Atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands.

libmemorialLiberty Memorial, Missouri – The Liberty Memorial, located at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, is a memorial to service men and women who served in World War I. Fundraising began October 1919 and groundbreaking commenced on November 1, 1921, when the city held a site dedication. The memorial was completed and dedicated on November 11, 1926. On September 21, 2006, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne declared Liberty Memorial a National Historic Landmark. On December 19, 2014, President Barack Obama signed legislation recognizing the Liberty Memorial as a national memorial. he national design competition was managed by Thomas R. Kimball a former president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) according to National AIA rules. A disagreement between members of the Kansas City Chapter of AIA and Kimball over the rules, caused almost half of the local members to resign in April 1922. They immediately went on to form the Architectural League of Kansas City, which was merged back into the AIA in the early 1930’s. Unlike the AIA at the time, the Architectural League of Kansas City provided membership to less experienced architects and draftsmen and provided social and educational opportunities as well. Regardless of the controversy, many local architects submitted entries including those who resigned from the AIA. The jury, however, was unanimous in their decision to award the contract to New York architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle.

archNational Memorial Arch, Pennsylvania – The National Memorial Arch is dedicated “to the officers and private soldiers of the Continental Army December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778”. The Arch is situated at the top of a hill at the intersection of Gulph Road and Outer Line Drive in Valley Forge National Histroic Park, Chester County, Pennsylvania.The Arch was erected in 1910 by an act of the 61st Congress. Initially, in 1908, it was proposed to erect two memorial arches in the park, but the bill was amended to create a single arch to save money. It is modeled on the Arch of Titus in Rome. The architect in charge of the arch was Paul Philippe Cret, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. The arch was criticized by the Philadelphia Record who observed that arches are typically urban structures and questioned its location in a rural setting. The 60-foot high arch was dedicated on June 19, 1917 in a ceremony attended by a number of U.S. Congressmen. Paul Cret did not attend as he was then en route to France where he served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army

wwIImuseum National World War II Museum, Louisiana – Formerly known as the D-Day Museum, the National WWII Museum is a military history museum focusing on the contribution made by the United States to Allied victory in World War II. It was designated by the U.S. Congress as America’s official National World War II Museum in 2003 and maintains an affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution. The Museum opened on June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of D-Day, and has since undertaken a large-scale expansion project which is still ongoing. In addition to the original building, known as the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the Museum has since opened the Solomon Victory Theater, the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion, the U.S. Freedom Pavilion, the Boeing Center, and the “Road to Berlin” portion of the Campaigns of Courage pavilion. There are further plans to construct what will be called the Liberation Pavilion.

These memorials are an important part of our American history, and only a small “thank you” to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our Country. There are other ways we can honor Veterans this Memorial Day. Donate to the Wounded Warrior project, donate an old cell phone, send a care package, help build homes for injured veterans, drive a veteran to an appointment, or help a veteran heal with an animal companion! Even a simple “thank you” will make their day brighter.

Coming Soon to St. Petersburg…

blogpicIt is not hard to see that this city is growing, rapidly. At almost every corner downtown there’s a new building popping up! Here’s some good news: The number of permits issued, permit revenue, & construction value have all increased from a year ago reflecting the feeling that many residents and visitors have – there’s a lot going on in St. Petersburg! To date in Fiscal Year 2016, there has been $3,234,025 in total revenue to the city. In comparison to this time last year, which saw $2,663,413 in total revenue, this is a 21.42% increase. That is good news for my boss and to the citizens of St. Petersburg! So what can you expect to see in the near future of our beautiful city?

Restaurants: It is nearly impossible to keep up with all of the new restaurants opening in this city. We saw 18 new restaurants open from February to June of 2015. And now, in Spring 2016, we are expecting 9 more new restaurants! And that doesn’t include the more than 30+ opening in the Tampa Bay Area. This city is a foodie paradise! Be on the look out for the following openings: Wooden Rooster, Central Melt, Urban Creamery, Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria, Hawkers St. Pete, Pei Wei, Burger Monger, and Fresh Kitchen/Daily Eats. YUMMY!

Apartments/Condos: Everyone wants to live in St. Pete! With the influx of new citizens, the city is accommodating with new apartment buildings and condominiums! For example, Aspen Venture Group has begun pre-construction sales for 801 Conway, a 35-unit townhome project at 801 Burlington Ave. just west of Mirror Lake. Prices start in the high $200,000s for two- and three-bedroom units ranging from 1,330 to 2,463 square feet. Kolter Group, based in West Palm Beach, recently broke ground and began construction on “ONE St. Petersburg,” a 41-story condo tower in downtown. The tower will hold 253 units, making it the largest condo tower in St. Pete, so far.

Hotels: St. Petersburg has been on several national lists this year! It’s no wonder why so many people are vacationing in our city. So, to accommodate these tourists, new hotels are popping up all over the Tampa Bay Area. Treasure Island Beach Resort (Ocean Properties), the new 77-room hotel with its sweeping, unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico, a unique restaurant with a craft cocktail-inspired bar and one-bedroom and two-bedroom units that include kitchens. The new resort, which sits on a 1.5-acre lot, is the first new hotel development to open on Treasure Island in about a decade. Although this next one is technically not located in St. Petersburg, it is still a massive addition to our area. Opal Sands Resort recently opened in Clearwater Beach. The 25,000 sq. ft. hotel includes 230 guest rooms and suites, which are ALL oceanfront, with private balconies offering spectacular views of the Gulf.

So if you are planning your next vacation, or next city to live in, you might want to consider the beautiful and budding city of St. Petersburg, Fl!

A Plethora of Pre-Bid Meetings

Business PresentationLarry has been very busy! Several sets of drawings are scattered across the conference table, covered in red lines and notes. We have a healthy number of projects on the books at the moment, and I have been getting more and more involved in the process. This week we have two pre-bid meetings, and I am attending both! I like to be prepared, and since I have never been to or even heard of a pre-bid meeting, I headed straight to Google and started my research.

Pre-bid meetings are usually held during the bid/proposal preparation period. Typically an ad is placed in the newspaper to announce the meeting to local contractors. The purpose of a pre-bid meeting is to clarify any concerns bidders may have with the solicitation documents, scope of work and other details of the requirement. Pre-bid meetings are conducted by the client requesting the project, at an agreed upon venue. They prepare the agenda for the meeting, sometimes with help from the architect. Attendance is not always mandatory, but it is a good idea for prospective bidders to attend. Pre-bid meetings are held to interpret the technical and procurement aspects of the solicitation documents. This gives potential bidders a chance to voice their concerns. It is very important that the provided solicitation documents are clear, comprehensive, and non-restrictive. During a pre-bid meeting, these concerns are taken in consideration to help improve the solicitation documents. Pre-bid meetings are held with the hope to give bidders all the proper information needed to assist them with submitting a bid or proposal that responds to the requirements. Pre-bid meetings are typically held one week or more after the announcement of the invitation for bids or request for proposals. This allows prospective bidders to have plenty of time to prepare. They are able to read and study the solicitation documents, and produce a request for clarification, if they have one. The venue of the pre-bid meeting should be easily accessible to the target market.

I attended my first pre-bid meeting on Tuesday. I learned that government and school projects typically need at least three contractors in attendance to proceed. This particular meeting was for the City, and was not mandatory. A woman from the City office conducted the meeting, reading through the solicitation documents carefully. Once she finished reading, she answered questions from potential bidders. It was a quick, but informative meeting. At the conclusion, everyone walked out to the project site to take photos and get a better idea of the scope of work. My second pre-bid meeting is this afternoon. It is a mandatory meeting. Pretty soon, I will be a pro at these meetings!

5 Ways to “Go Green” in Architectural Design

recycleEarth Day is on April 22nd, so I thought I would get the “go green” awareness started a little early this month! With the amassing chatter around the world about global warming, we have seen a rising trend in doing things that are good for the environment, or, as we like to call it, “going green.” Even in the world of architecture, firms are beginning to specialize in sustainable construction or other environmentally friendly practices. Sometimes called “building green,” this type of construction utilizes responsible and efficient materials. These materials are better for the environment and, in many cases, are also better on the budget for people or organizations that construct them. Here are 5 ways that architects can incorporate “going green” into their design:

  1. Use of Sustainable Materials – Sustainable products are those products that provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal. Some examples of sustainable materials are bamboo, clay, adobe, hemp, recycled rubber, cork, straw, coconut palm, timber, and textiles. Many home improvement stores offer these types of materials for different projects. A great example is refurbished hardwood flooring! Cork is a great accent wall for a kitchen or office. It basically becomes a giant bulletin board where you can display photos or notes.
  2. Use of Biodegradable Materials – Biodegradable substances are capable of being broken down (decomposed) rapidly by the action of microorganisms. These include food scraps, cotton, wool, wood, human and animal waste, manufactured products based on natural materials (such as paper, and vegetable-oil based soaps). The most commonly used biodegradable material used in the construction field is insulation. Greensulate is a great example of this innovative material.
  3. Incorporating Natural Lighting – Homeowners spend big money to power the lights in their homes every day. Each time you turn on a light, kilowatts are being used in order to provide you with that light – and that means that the electric company is using valuable resources such as oil and gas. The best solution to this problem is to incorporate as much natural light as possible through windows and skylights.
  4. Purchasing “Energy Star” Appliances – ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency. In order to earn the label, ENERGY STAR products must be third party certified based on testing in EPA-recognized laboratories. In addition to up-front testing, a percentage of all ENERGY STAR products are subject to “off–the–shelf” verification testing each year. The goal of this testing is to ensure that changes or variations in the manufacturing process do not undermine a product’s qualification with ENERGY STAR requirements. Appliances range from refrigerators, dishwashers and washer/dryers to ceiling fans, light bulbs, and pool pumps.
  5. Creating an Outdoor Space – Finally, you want to incorporate outdoor space within the architectural fabrication design. You may want to have an open-air lobby, a large patio or in the process of finding the right deck contractor in Los Angeles CA to manage your backyard. Adding trees and other plants to your yard is one of the easiest ways to help the environment!

Obama, Baseball & the Architecture of Cuba

President Obama made history today by being the first president to visit Cuba since 1928. “The history-making trip is designed to cement the Administration’s diplomatic outreach to Cuba, making it hard for any future president to return to the half-century old policy of isolation that Obama and his team consider a failure,” NPR writes, in a recent article.

The Tampa Bay Rays also landed in Cuba on Sunday to play an exhibition baseball game against the Cuban national team this Tuesday. “The contest is a nod to the popular past-time the two countries share, and comes as Major League Baseball is negotiating a deal to let Cuban ballplayers sign with big league teams without having to defect,” NPR writes. The team was picked at random from a lottery of teams that volunteered for the trip.

So, in the spirit of the U.S. and Cuba finally getting along, and with promises from airlines to start scheduling more flights to the Caribbean country – here are some beautiful architectural sites to visit!

It has been said that traveling to Havana, Cuba is like traveling back in time: the weathered buildings, the old classic cars and the rich, almost mysterious history of a city that so many Americans have not been able to travel to for so many years. It’s less known however, that at the beginning of the 20th century, Havana underwent an extraordinary boom period, bringing an enriching architectural movement with international influences such as art nouveau, art deco and eclectic design.

Barcadi Building

Maxfield Parrish reliefs grace the Art Deco Bacardi Building in Old Havana.

Capitol bldgHavana’s domed capitol dominates the historic heart of the city.

Cristobal Colon Cemetery

Cristóbal Colón Cemetery.

garden room

The garden room at Casa de la Amistad, a 1920s house in the Vedado neighborhood that is now a restaurant and bar.

Havana streetscape

Standards of the Havana streetscape—arcaded pastel buildings and brightly colored pre-1960 American automobiles.

Hemingway Museum

The Hemingway Museum at Finca Vigía, the Havana-area farm where the novelist lived from 1939 to 1960.

Hotel Habana Riviera

Original furnishings lend a Mad Men vibe to Hotel Habana Riviera, which U.S. mobster Meyer Lansky opened in 1957.

Hotel Sratoga's Bar Mezzanine

Hotel Saratoga’s Bar Mezzanine.

La Guarida Hotel

At the grand entrance to La Guarida restaurant in Old Havana, a hand-painted revolutionary speech joins a headless statue.

Museum of Dec. Arts

The staircase of the Museum of Decorative Arts, a former sugar magnate’s mansion dating from the ’20s.

Revolution Plaza

Enrique Ávila Gonzales’s sculpture of Socialist hero Camilo Cienfuegos dominates a building on Revolution Plaza; it bears the famous Cienfuegos comment YOU’RE DOING FINE, FIDEL.

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba, completed in 1930, is a work by the American architecture firm McKim, Mead & White.

Unv. of Arts

African villages inspired one section of the National Art Schools (now the University of Arts of Cuba), a 1960s masterpiece by architects Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi, and Vittorio Garatti.

If architecture isn’t your forte, Cuba is also known for its white-sand beaches, rolling mountains, cigars and rum! And don’t forget the dancing! Salsa emanates from the city’s dance clubs and cabaret shows are performed at the famed Tropicana.

Photos and descriptions provided by Architectural Digest.

The St. Petersburg Pier Project – My 2 Cents

*UPDATE 04/15/16* Today we received an email from the City of St. Petersburg containing a link to a virtual tour of the new pier design. Previously, as you can see below in my original blog post, I did not feel great about the new pier design. I felt even more worried after they announced that the design did not fit in the budget and they were planning on eliminating most of my favorite design elements to keep it in budget. Well, today I am filled with hope and happiness for our landmark. The email stated, “On Thursday, April 7th, the St. Petersburg City Council passed resolutions approving both the schematic design and funding for the new St. Petersburg Pier. The votes authorized city staff and the design team to proceed with the next phases for design and construction for the Pier.” The article states that initially, funds were allocated for the development of a new Pier, from Spa Beach to the end of the Pier Head. However, an additional $20 million to develop the Pier approach became available through TIF funds from the downtown tax district. This is very exciting news because now there is enough money to incorporate ALL of their designs. Although I am still a little skeptical of the overall design, and feel that it still lacks excitement, I feel a lot better about it now after this news, and taking the virtual tour. See for yourself here


The Pier has always had a special place in my heart, since I grew up here. Every year until age 15 we would go to the Pier for ice cream on my birthday. I have countless memories playing put-put golf, attempting to fish (with no luck), exploring the aquarium, and even singing karaoke at Cha-Cha Coconuts, the rooftop restaurant. I was absolutely devastated when I heard the news of demolition. But after some thought, I realized that it wasn’t the end of the Pier… just a new chapter and growth for our cities biggest landmark.

As most people who live in St. Petersburg know… the process of creating a new Pier has been rocky, to say the least. We have seen concept after concept from the architects and eventually we all finally voted on one and most people seemed happy with the choice. Well now it seems like that was all for nothing because the Tampa Bay Times published an article yesterday depicting the NEW schematic design for the Pier… and people are outraged (including myself)! Take a look at this:

new pier concept vs old one

It went from a very unique and standout structure to some rich retirees house in Malibu. There is nothing about this new concept that makes it a destination spot for our city. I rather have the old Pier back than waste $46 million on this garbage. Don’t get me wrong; it is a beautiful design – for a house. This is supposed to be our world famous Pier! The inverted pyramid drew millions of tourists to our city every year. I doubt this new Pier will draw even thousands. Not only is the actual architecture lackluster, but the amenities are also blah. Here is the basic layout of the entire project (for a better look, open their Design Plan PDF):

pier layout

The only 2 things that stand out, in my opinion, are the education center and the event plaza. Everything else is so boring! One tiny restaurant? One bar? No ice cream shop? Oh, there is a wading pool for hot tourists to dip their feet in when they feel faintish – yay! But according to the Tampa Bay Times article – that fun feature may be put on hold. Go figure. It feels more like a walking path of “coastal thicket” to a giant pad of concrete steps for you to sit on and look out at the water. I can go to the beach and watch the sunset. The Pier is supposed to be something that puts St. Petersburg on the map! We need more WOW factor! We need more shops and restaurants and things to DO! I am looking forward to having an event plaza where we would possibly hold some great concerts – but other than that… I rather spend my tax dollars on a highspeed train from Tampa to Orlando.

My Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival Experience

Photo by:  Terry Beeman

Photo by: Terry Beeman –

Being an Architect’s assistant has its perks – one being that my boss is very lenient on vacation time. Last Wednesday, my boyfriend and I packed up our Kia Soul and headed down to Okeechobee, Florida for the inaugural Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival. The three-hour drive consisted of one-lane roads and the most cows I have ever seen! I also saw donkeys and goats! The city of Okeechobee has a population around 6,000 according to the 2013 census. It was the perfect location for a music festival with its acres and acres of flat land and small bodies of water dotted throughout. The festival was expected to bring around 30,000 people – almost 5 times more people than the entire population! The lineup was massive, especially for a first year show, with big names like Kendrick Lamar, Mumford & Sons, Skrillex and more!

Late Wednesday afternoon we arrived at the check in to pick up our credentials. We chose to volunteer for our ticket in order to enjoy the show for free, besides working our allotted shifts. The program was called WET – work exchange team. We had never volunteered at a festival before, but figured it couldn’t be that hard! So far the process had been smooth. After getting our credentials we arrived at our camping spot and started to set up our tent and other essentials. We were done before the sun set! General Admission people could not arrive until Thursday, so that night, all of the volunteers hung out at the camps – music blaring and food cooking on little grills. And did I mention that the weather was perfect?

Thursday I woke up to a light sprinkle – thank goodness it only lasted about 10 minutes. I thought I had jinxed us there for a minute!! After a light breakfast, we decided to walk around and check everything out – like figure out where the bathrooms/showers were and where we could buy ice. Volunteers were to share the bathrooms/showers with festival staff. Lucky for us the showers were free (GA had to pay $10 – which is actually a normal festival price for a shower). Unlucky for us however – the bathrooms/showers were pretty far away. But that is just something you have to take into account and remember, “Hey, I can’t wait till the last second to go to the bathroom” because it is a bit of a walk. Not a huge deal. We continued past the bathrooms/showers, still in search of a spot to purchase ice (the ice in our cooler had already melted and our food needed to stay cool). After walking around for a good hour and asking about 5 Staff members where to go – we still hadn’t found it. That was very frustrating, and kind of a big deal. This is South Florida. It gets hot! We need to keep our food and drinks at least somewhat cold! A few hours later we finally found the “General Store” – which was about a mile away from our campsite. Not to mention, it was one of only two places to buy ice… for 30,000 people!!! What the…? I am not sure whose brilliant idea that was, but they are definitely going to be receiving a complaint from me! At Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in June in Tennessee they have ice about every 50 feet for sale! We were buying 2 bags a day because of how hot it was during the day! Okeechobee needs to correct that next year!

Thursday night they opened two sections of the festival – Aquachobee Beach and Jungle 51. Aquachobee Beach was on a lake and provided festivalgoers a place to swim. This area also included a Ferris wheel, a stage, and food trucks. They describe the area like this: “A bona fide tropical haven where festivalgoers can swim, soak up the sun, or just chill out to live music from 9am to 9pm. An oversized Ferris wheel will offer epic vistas while the Aquachobee bar will supply libations of all kinds, from fruit smoothies to delicious cocktails.” We sat on the beach and listened to performances by Jan Blomqvist, Okeechobee Allstars, and Big Wild. At 9pm they opened up Jungle 51. They describe it like this: “Rumor has it an Unidentified Blasting Object (UBO) has crashed in the forest just outside the main area. There has been PULSES of SOUNG coming from it at ALL TIMES OF NIGHT. Come TRANSPORT YOURSELF into a ROARING DANCE PARTY that keeps going until sunrise… and THEN SOME!” This area felt a little bit claustrophobic for me – but it was cool that they had music all night! We listened to/watched Driss Skali, in owe of the light show and the intensity of the sound. At that point in the night they had finally opened up ChobeeWobee Village and Yogachobee (it was supposed to open around 2pm but they were REALLY far behind in set up – these things happen!) We checked out those areas as long as we could before my legs gave out (I think I walked 100 miles in 4 days).

Friday we worked our first volunteer shift. We were assigned to be Videographer Assistant’s for a company called Cinesthetics. How cool is that? We were very excited to get to work! Our shift was from 10am – 4pm. Well… it seems that videographers are not very active during the early part of the day. We literally chased shade (sat in chairs and moved with the shade) for our entire shift. But hey – it could’ve been WAY worse. Once clocked out, we headed back to our tent and ate dinner and got ready for the first night in The Grove – the main stage area with the BE, HERE, and NOW stages. They describe this area like this: “Nested in the heart of the land and encircled by delicious eats & treats, and a subtropical tree-line, The Grove is where our 3 main stages live.” We saw performances by Grace Potter, Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters, Classixx, Twiddle, Daryl Hall & John Oates, RL Grime, Bassnectar, Portugal. The Man, and Lettuce! It was such an epic night – one that I will never forget. I even ran into my old editor, Jay Cridlin, covering the festival for Tampa Bay Times.

OMFSaturday morning I did something I have never done at a festival – take a shower! It was free so I couldn’t pass it up. Not to mention there was NO wait! The GA shower lines were 70 people deep! We had to work a night shift that night, so we made our way over to the stages early. We saw performance by Michael Christmas, Deer Tick, Shabazz Palaces, Dr. Dog, and Lotus. After a quick bite to eat we headed to our second shift as videographer assistants. We were hoping that the night shift would be more exciting – and boy was it!!! We immediately left the trailer with backpacks full of batteries and lenses and made our way to BE stage for Miguel. We were standing in the photo pit – I was touching the stage! I have NEVER been that close to a stage at a festival. I could feel the energy from the crowd pulsing over my head. It was electric! From there we were lucky enough to go backstage for Big Gigantic, Kendrick Lamar, the PoWoW!, and Skrillex! If we weren’t backstage we were out in the crowd, chasing after our ninja-like videographers with their stuff – praying that we don’t lose them! It was an exhausting but thrilling 6 hours! Needless to say that by the time our 2am clock out came around, I was ready to sleep.

My eyes slowly open to the sun peeking through our tent. Sunday always arrives too soon. I wasn’t ready to go back to reality – but at least I still had one more day to enjoy. We woke up late and basically went straight to our last shift (11am – 5pm). During this shift we shot a lot of filler videos – people doing yoga, groups of friends sitting on the ground clinking their beers together, couples walking hand in hand taking in the scenery. During this last shift, we really got to know the guys we were working for. It was such an amazing experience, especially since I am in school for Graphic Design and could potentially have a job like that one day! I have always said “it’s all about who you know,” so whenever Gabe and I get opportunities like that, we really make them count and form relationships with people that could be great connections in the future. They liked us so much that they asked us to work a little bit longer! We couldn’t say no and stayed an extra 45 minutes. But once my stomach started protesting we headed back to camp for our last festival dinner. We had to leave directly after Mumford & Sons – so we quickly packed up the Kia again before heading the The Grove one last time. We saw amazing performances by Ween, Shpongle, Big Grams, Gramatik, The Avett Brothers, Odeza, and last but definitely not least, Mumford & Sons.

This was such a beautiful experience – the venue, the music, the people. Once they post their official photos, I will add them to my blog post for you to enjoy! They definitely have some improvements to make next year, but I plan on doing it all over again in 2017!



Two Tape Measures & a Bunch of Kids

Photo on 2-15-16 at 12.48 PM #3

We have been very busy around here lately! Larry recently took on several projects that need to be finished around the same time. One of the jobs he acquired from the Pinellas County School Board was to build a new electrical room for Seminole Elementary School. So last Friday, he brought me on site to help him take some measurements. I was excited to get out of the office and learn something new! So we packed up two tape measures, a ruler and a pad of paper, and made our way to the school.

We arrived at the school a little after 2pm. The maintenance man warned us that school got out in about 30 minutes. I’ve never been a big fan of children – I don’t even want to have any of my own! Don’t get my wrong, I love my nieces and nephews, but other kids… especially an entire school full of them… made me nervous. And I got the feeling that Larry was not in the mood for kids that day either, so we quickly got to work!

I am not a handy girl. I can’t change a tire, hang a shelf, or repair anything. I am clumsy and get nervous when I have to do anything that involves numbers (math makes me queasy). So, needless to say, I felt a little anxious about helping Larry get the dimensions of the existing buildings. Section by section, wall by wall, we measured and Larry sketched. I fumbled with the tape measure, like a buffoon, but managed to not break it or hurt anyone. And then, just as I was getting the hang of it – the school bell rang.

Larry and I both froze and locked eyes. We silently illustrated a look of horror. Within seconds there were kids running down the halls, screaming and laughing. Did I mention that it was the Friday before Valentines Day? Well, it was, so they were all cracked out on candy. We tried to continue what we were doing, but the noise and some curious kids were very distracting. “What are you doing?” was the question of the day. I replied, “He is an architect. He is going to build a new building at your school. We are taking measurements”. I even saw a kid talking on a cell phone. A CELL PHONE! Being at the elementary school, and seeing all of the kids with their Valentines cards and candy was nostalgic, but also made me feel old!

The madness only lasted about 10 minutes. We took the last few measurements and were ready to go by 3:15pm. It was an educational and very interesting experience. And I can now say that I am much better with a tape measure!

My Bosses Art Collection


This gallery contains 13 photos.

Architects are artists, without question. Sometimes I look around the office and feel like I work at an art gallery – and not only because he has some of his favorite projects proudly hanging on the walls. My boss has … Continue reading