Office Party!

Posted by on Mar 28, 2012 in Company Culture | No Comments

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There are plenty of things to celebrate these days (including this beautiful Spring weather!), so this past Friday night those of us at Open Air Design and our spouses came together to celebrate.  With individual pizzas on the grill and a plethora of toppings we all made our own masterpieces.  We also celebrated two March birthdays – Amir and Patrick.  Its great to love your work, but even better to really enjoy those you work with!  A great time was had by all.

Web Conferencing…so many options!

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Web conferencing.  We do projects all over the United States, currently our main focus being a camp at Lake Whitney Ranch outside of Dallas, TX.  Working remotely makes conferencing with the client extremely valuable.  Phone conferencing is sufficient, when you are only exchanging words.  We are almost always exchanging visual ideas however, and need to be able to share these ideas.  In this process we have looked at four remote conferencing services:




Go ToMeeting

In past projects we have used Skpe, however without a desktop sharing service and unreliable connection we have learned Skype is not for us.  Cesar discovered iMeet and although the interface is clean and extremely user-friendly, the program lacks a desktop sharing service.  If you are looking for a upscale Skype, this may very well be the perfect program for you.  For our office we were now down to WebEx vs. Go ToMeeting.  After reading a decent review here: we still felt at loss.  Both programs seem very comparable – both are $49/month, both have video and audio features and have desktop sharing capabilities.  Go ToMeeting is a tad bit more user-friendly, but WebEx offers an option to chose which windows  on your desktop your client sees (i.e. your Facebook and personal email windows can be hidden if wanted).

We have started using WebEx and are mostly pleased, except that the computer audio connection often cuts out.  This is very distracting in meetings and often leads us to use our cell phones as audio, defeating part of the service we are paying for.  We are unsure if this is our personal internet problems, or if we need to switch to Go ToMeeting.  We sampled Go ToMeeting this morning and although the audio was having some problems, we are willing to give it a go again.  One bonus in Go ToMeeting is that the video quality was far superior to WebEx.  If we can figure out the audio with Go To, and work around the window-sharing privacy portion then we may become a Go To office.  We should have this figured out in the next few days…stay tuned!

Briarwood Retreat: Project Complete

Posted by on Dec 20, 2011 in Briarwood, Master Planning, Projects | No Comments

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For the past seven months Cesar and I have had the privelage of working alongside an amazing Design Development team comprised of Briarwood Staff and Northern-Texas, Norhtern-Louisianna (NT-NL) synod (part of an initiative called DiscipleLife Alive!) as they collaborated on a Comprehensive Master Site Plan for their property.  Briarwood Camping and DiscipleLife Alive have come together in collaboration on a site plan that will eventually bring both of their ministries together.

The current camp sits on 7o acres of heavily wooded central-Texas land.  Upon entering the camp one drives by staff housing, followed by the maintenance yard before reaching the bus turn-around.  During one of our visits Cesar compared camp property to one’s house.  He stated that when you invite a friend to your house you do not bring them through your garage, through the laundry room and then through your bedroom before arriving in the living room.  Of course not!  You bring your friend through your public spaces, the living room and perhaps the kitchen, keeping the private spaces, private.

Open Air Design’s proposal to Briarwood is to have a “Camp Welcome Center,” a place where you “arrive” at camp and immediately feel welcomed.  We propose a new entrance that diverts away from staff housing and leads directly to a bus turn-around with new Briarwood and NT-NL office buildings.  The other major proposal we have made is to bring the roads, parking and cars to the perimeter of the property, allowing only activity on foot to happen throughout the center of the property.  This “Green Belt”  will help maintain experiencing the beauty of being in the woods.

A series of new buildings and even a new Senior High village will help support Briarwood and the DiscipleLife Alive! mission to “Sow and Grow Disciples of Jesus” – (  The final plan shown below outlines the final desired outcome of Briarwood property.

Broken into phases, Phase One is the initial phase that will focus on creating a new welcoming entrance with appropriate office buildings and welcome-center buildings attached to.  The current maintenance yard will be moved out of the center of camp at this time to make way for the new entrance.  Some of the existing buildings will also be renovated at this time.

Phase Two will start the perimeter road, including the creation of parking outside the center of camp.  The current dining hall will be renovated in this phase along with a new lodge for sleeping will be built to accommodate more guests.

Phase Three is the final phase in this Master Site Plan breakdown.  This phase will complete the perimeter road and will also eliminate the current road that runs through the center of camp.  The moving of the road will allow for a “green belt” to run the center of the property, connecting all of the program.  A final Senior High Village will be built to accommodate the growth in camping ministry.  The existing pond will be removed and replaced with a larger, more iconic pond in the center of the property.

Art, Architecture & Appetizers

Posted by on Dec 16, 2011 in Community, Company Culture | No Comments

Sounds fun, right?  That is what I thought when I heard about this AIA-North sponsored event that took place a few weeks ago at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder.  Right down the street from our office, I thought this would be a fun event for a few of us to go to and bring our spouses along to learn a thing or two.  Each of the five speakers were given ten minutes each to speak on topics that ranged from how to succeed in a down economy to ink-wash design.  The architect who addressed the art of succeeding in a down economy spoke of how his small, struggling firm decided to start collaborating with other local, small firms on a competition.  This effort to keep busy worked out well for them because their conglomerate firm was awarded a large, LEED accredited residential project to keep them occupied for a portion of the economic slump.



1: to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor

When working together we can do so much more than we can on our own.  I recently read an article written by a teacher friend.  She spoke of how one day she taught her third graders the lesson of power in numbers.  She gave each of the kids $500 in play money.  She had one student come to the front of the room and asked them, if their money were real, how would they spend it to help the world?  The teacher then asked the student to invite one of their friends to the front and asked how they would jointly spend their money.  Then each student was told to bring another friend up, how could they spend their money now?  Each asked another friend to come up, and so on.  The students quickly realized that alone they could do a little, but as soon as they joined forces they could make a serious difference.  Collaboration, the art of working together and multiplying forces.

Open Air Design would not exist if not for collaboration.  We collaborate with our contractors; Engineers, Interior Designers, other Architects, just to name a few.  We also collaborate within the office.  We all have different gifts and work the best when we can bring our individual gifts to the table.  Another aspect of collaboration is community.  We are not meant to live alone, we are meant to exist in community.  Not only do we share office space and work duties, we share our lives as well.

Coal Creek Canyon Community Park Center Presentation

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Last night Open Air Design was given the incredible opportunity of presenting a Community Park Center proposal to the Coal Creek Canyon (CCC) community.  CCC asked us, along with two other Denver architecture firms to design and present a community center based on program needs provided by the community.

Given a hypothetical site (the real site has yet to be purchased) we designed a community gathering space, focusing on different “scenes” throughout and what it might feel like to be in these spaces at different times of the year.

The night was full of energy as canyonites snacked on an assortment of finger-foods and browsed the different booths.  If one were to get too tired they could comfortably take a seat in one of our orange blow-up couches!  All in all we feel this was a successful and exciting night for all!

For images of the actual presentation click here: (you can also find images under “Create”)

Ribbon Cutting at Sister Carmen!

Posted by on Jun 30, 2011 in Projects, Sister Carmen | No Comments

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Last night we were honored to attend the ribbon cutting for Sister Carmen‘s new food bank facility.  The construction on the interior remodel, by Van Matre Construction, is finished, and the new East Entrance, by Milo Construction, is nearing completion.  We feel privileged to have had the opportunity to partner with such an incredible community organization!  Several hundred people came out to support Sister Carmen, partake of refreshments, and participate on tours of the new building.  Congratulations Sister Carmen!

Construction at Sister Carmen

Posted by on Jun 28, 2011 in Projects, Sister Carmen | No Comments

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The new Sister Carmen Center is well on its way to an upgraded facility.  Milo Construction is busy building a new front entrance and exterior site work while Van Matre Construction spruces up the interior of the building.

Pens in the Hands of Those Who Least Expect It

Posted by on Jun 2, 2011 in Briarwood, Master Planning, Projects | No Comments

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Spending the night in baggage claim due to tornadoes, with Cesar and two contract engineers I met that morning was definitely not how I imagined my first work trip ending.  Up until our delayed departure from the airport, our site visit to Briarwood Retreat Center in Copper Canyon was wildly successful.  We had the pleasure of meeting with multiple pastors, Briarwood committee members and Disciple Life Center for Mission leadership.  Briarwood Retreat, a lovely, wooded retreat and camp is considered “holy ground” and loved by many.  The Mission Leadership has decided to move their offices to the camp, to create a more centralized hub, asking Open Air Design to create a Master Plan to help facilitate this merge.

In my opinion the most successful moment of the trip was the last afternoon we were in  Briarwood.  Cesar and I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives from all sides of the merge.  Sitting around a large conference table, with an inclusive site aerial between us, Cesar encouraged everyone to voice their hopes and desires for the new vision.  Timid at first, most were nervous to pick up the pen and sketch an idea.  “The pen’s are for the architect!” I could almost imagine them thinking.

After some encouragement, one pastor in particular started to sketch, quickly gaining confidence and excitement in his newfound ability to voice his desires via a pen and paper.  It was this work session that I truly feel we were able to facilitate true collaboration and thus understand more fully the vision of our client.

Building Community Through Fire Mitigation

Posted by on May 22, 2011 in Community, Volunteer Work | No Comments

With the news of all the recent fires, residence of Coal Creek Canyon organized a neighborhood workshop called “Saws and Slaws”- short for chainsaws and coleslaws.   The main idea was for canyonites to work  for about 4 hours then enjoy a delicous potluck meal together.  May 1st, over 20 adults participated and collectively logged in 80 hours of volunteer time!

Thanks again to all the volunteers.  There is always room for improvement so please give us your feedback.  Tell us what we should;
START doing…
STOP doing….

How will the value of your days be measured?

Posted by on Dec 14, 2010 in Company Culture | No Comments

I recently watched a movie on Netflix entitled “The Beautiful Truth” It is about a boy who goes on a journey to discover and learn about the Gerson Therapy which claims that the foods you eat plays a major role in your overall health, including the ability to help fight cancer. Now,  I’m not posting this to debate its claim. But what grabbed my attention was what was said at the very end of the movie.

Quote from the movie “The Beautiful Truth”

For each of us eventually whether we are ready or not, someday it will come to an end. There will be no more sun rises, no minutes, hours or days. All the things you collected whether treasured or forgotten will pass to someone else. Your wealth, fame, temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or owed, your grudges, resentments, frustration, or jealousies will finally disappear. So to your ambitions, plans and to do list will expire. The wins and losses that once seem so important will fade away. It won’t matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived at the end. It won’t matter if you are beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant. So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured? What will matter is not what you bought but what you built. Not what you got but what you gave. What will matter is not your success but your significance. What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught. What will matter is every active integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice, that enriched empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example. What will matter is not your competence, but your character. What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting lost when you are gone. What will matter are not your memories but the memories that lived in those who loved you. A life lived that mattered is not of circumstance but of choice.

At the end of the day at Open Air Design, we would like to think that we left lasting legacies and stronger communities.

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