Working out of the Box is a series of features presenting architects who have applied their architecture backgrounds to alternative career paths.
Are you an architect working out of the box? Do you know of someone that has changed careers and has an interesting story to share? If you would like to suggest an (ex-)architect, please send us a message.
Archinect: Where did you study architecture?
Peter: Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, E’cole DE’Beaux Arts – Tours France, and the University of Adelaide in South Australia. I must admit that my interests while studying were very broad, from photography to supercomputing and robotics as well.
Eric: I have a Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon, with a minor in Business Administration and Marketing.
Eugene: I studied Industrial Design and Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University.
Ashwan: I have a Bachelor of Architecture from Sushant School of Art & Architecture in New Delhi, India and an MS in Informatics & Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York.
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At what point in your life did you decide to pursue architecture?
Peter: My junior year of High School, while I was taking a class that incorporated bridge building. It didn’t seem like enough to just build a bridge that held up, I wanted it to make sense and provide some aesthetic benefit to whoever might see it someday. The arts were always important to me all along the way, music, fine art, and design – my father was always a great sketch artist and my uncle builds stringed instruments for a living [an amazing talent and not an easy thing to do] so they both influenced my decision to be involved with the arts.
Eric: Pretty early on – around the ninth grade. Being good at both art and math and sciences, I was told by several people at the time that architecture was a logical career path. I took a class in architecture, a real studio class, while I was in high school and a 10-week summer session at Carnegie Mellon before my senior year in high school, so I was pretty sure.
Genentech’s BioOncology touch screen application in use at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.
Eugene: Never… Well ok since we are being truthful there was a brief moment back when I was in school and I saw this show called Seinfeld. Anyway since I am sure that you probably have not seen it as it was not that popular I will explain the situation. There is this character named George who was having a tough time picking up the ladies. So in all his infinite wisdom he decided that when he was out and a woman asked him what he did for a living he would simply say that he was an architect. The next scene was of him waking up in bed with the woman. I thought to myself if this guy could get lucky by claiming to be an architect then what would happen if I was an architect. So I signed up and quickly realized the error of my ways when I suddenly had an additional year of school to complete the degree and spent the whole time in the studio without sight of a woman.
Ashwan: In high school I was very interested in design and technology and around the same time I was involved in a small construction project. Meeting with the architects and being on the site really helped me in deciding my future career path. I decided to take on Mechanical Drawing as a subject in senior high school with additional focus on science and computer technology as well. To be really sure, I did get into an economics program after finishing school, but that didn’t last very long. I was very happy when I moved into the architecture program.
Screenshots of the custom touch screen application created by IOMEDIA for Genentech BioOncology.
When did you decide to stop pursuing architecture? Why?
Peter: It didn’t come as part of a plan or anything calculated, I engaged the architecture profession whole heartedly and worked with some great people right out of school. Cambridge 7 was a fascinating place to work, talents like Peter Chermayeff and Peter Sollogub while I was there were amazing conceptual designers- though what I really took away from working with them was more of their entrepreneurial spirit, something that I can’t see myself ever letting go of. Moving to New York was amazing, changed my whole perspective on the profession. I worked with Chris Choa at HLW International, another entrepreneur at heart-- after he left the country following his global aspirations; I decided it was time for me to do my thing as well. My education was amazing, the people I worked for were truly inspirational, and in 1997 the profession wasn’t developing that quickly within digital communications, so I took the opportunity to start IOMEDIA and try to make a change. I had the opportunity to marry the two things I enjoyed most as a professional – the arts, and technology.
Cardinal Health - Product and Information Flow
Eric: While I was pretty certain that I was going to be an architect – there was no doubt in my mind really – by the time I finished my first year at Carnegie Mellon, I’d already had the equivalent of 4 semesters of freshman architecture studio. So, that’s pretty much what my perception, at that early age, of what the profession was based on these experiences – problem solving exercises based upon relatively short design charrettes and the visual representation of that design solution. As things got more “real” – about half way through the 5 year program, I started losing interest. I also felt that while the curriculum was meant to be very well rounded, it was also very confining and because of all the required classes, it left little room for exploring other interests, which I felt was key to developing my identity as a designer and keeping things interesting. I also felt it was completely irresponsible that it wasn’t until our 5th year that we had a “profession practice” class – where we learned what architecture, the practice of versus the study of, was all about. This only after 4 years of study and half of the class had already dropped out . . .
I did however practice for 3 full years after graduating, hoping that architecture practice might hold something for me that in the end architectural study didn’t. Unfortunately, as a junior architect, what I found instead were stair details, exiting diagrams, redlines and lots of AutoCAD – so not exactly what I was looking for in order to sustain my interest. I’ve always had a somewhat short attention span and really just didn’t have the patience for projects that lasted years (after 3 years, nothing that I worked on was built, which I now know is not uncommon). Maybe if I’d gotten over the initial hump of being a junior designer, but probably not. At IOMEDIA, most projects last a few weeks to a few months, although in some cases we are involved periodically or off and on throughout the project’s life-cycle. With computer visualization there is just much more immediate feedback and (relatively) instant feedback.
Screenshots of the New Yankee Stadium Interactive Seat Selector application created by IOMEDIA.
At Carnegie Mellon, I did get a very solid and early exposure to computer visualization and from day 1 through my 3 years in practice I actively pursued 3d Viz until I felt I couldn’t go any further within a conventional firm (at least not one at that time). I spent all of my free time honing my 3d skills and learning everything I could about the industry as well as immersing myself in film and animation. Right before I left architecture, I took an intensive class in 3d graphics at NYU’s Center for Advanced Digital Applications.
I don’t however regret for a minute having studied architecture or where I studied it as it definitely gave me the tools to do what I’m doing today and there was really no course of study for design visualization, so I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
Eugene: See previous answer.
Ashwan: After finishing my five year course in Architecture, I worked for about a year as an architecture intern, working on design, drawings and construction as well. Though I found this somewhat fun, it did not really satisfy my technology bug. Around the same time I started ‘dabbling’ in architectural visualization which helped fulfilling that void to a great extent. I wanted to pursue a stronger relationship between computer technologies and architecture, looking around I found RPI was offering a Masters program that was exactly that. I applied for the course, got accepted, packed my bags, embarked on my first trip to the US and moved to Troy, New York from New Delhi. At RPI, I found the program exactly what I was expecting, it was set within the Architecture school and the focus was advanced computer technologies; ranging from visualization to developing software programs that helped design processes. I decided to research the field of soft computational technologies such genetic algorithms and neural networks and their applications to urban design. As RPI had a strong computer science department, I was able to pick up concepts in programming and write code. Finally, I was able to effectively work on design and computer technology at the same time!
The Premium Seating Sales Suite for the New Yankee Stadium designed by IOMEDIA.
Describe your current profession.
Peter: President and Founder of IOMEDIA. Honestly, my role is to guide our Creative Agency into opportunities that match both our current creative and business needs. I say guide, because our staff is full of talent; people who are much like me, they can do it all. Balance art, technology, and business structure – not something that just comes naturally. I completely enjoy taking on the challenges that our clients/partners or prospective opportunities bring to us. It’s rarely the same thing, you learn as you go along and you find how to connect things to solve the challenges. Operationally, our company is so many moving parts that you cannot always predict the best outcome, I believe in surrounding the issues with smart people, people who are respectful of one another, and who strive to better the organization. With that said I spend equal time between developing prospects, finding artful solutions, and working with our leadership team in building a great organization.
I am passionate about learning new things, like all of the science behind our Healthcare solutions, and obsessed about improving things, like the use of digital communications in Real Estate and Design. I find myself right back to accomplishing the objectives I set out for myself many years ago – balancing art with functional outcomes [my high school bridge project].
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Eric: I’m the Creative Director for the Architecture Studio at IOMEDIA. My role encompasses business development and client or account management, as well setting the visual direction and overseeing all work output by the studio. As IOMEDIA has grown from solely being an architectural visualization company (still renderings and animation), to having independent Architecture, Healthcare (Medical), Interactive and Video studios, I’ve filled just about every role along the way – as a 3d animator, Photoshop artist, motion graphics artist, video editor and even medical animation director – so I’m well acquainted w/ every step of the process and draw from all of those experiences in every stage of the work we do.
In the Architecture Studio, we have as a diverse an array of projects types, clients and deliverables as exists in the building industry. We have never focused on just one building type (say high-end condos), and work with architects, developers, construction managers and marketing agents, across all levels of the design process. I feel that it is this diversity that keeps things interesting and informs each project and keeps the output from getting stale. While we certainly do plenty of still renderings, we do even more animation, video and interactive work, where the product and the process aren’t always clear up front. Due to the nature of the work we are representing and the fact that we are always trying to move things forward in terms of the quality and kind of work we are producing, there is substantial “design” work done up front in order to determine how best serve a particular client or project. Our clients seem to come to us as much from this kind of creative up-front thinking as they do for the quality of the work we produce.
Meadowlands Xanadu Sales Office with Interactive features designed by IOMEDIA.
Eugene: Currently I am the VP of Production here at IOMEDIA. My main responsibility is to oversee all production efforts within the company. This consists of work produced within our Architecture, Healthcare, and Interactive Studios. I oversee the staffing of all production personal in addition to developing pipelines for producing the work within the different groups. I have been here for 8 years and have been a part of the different groups along the way. Starting out in the capacity of a 3D artist and evolving to my current position.
Ashwan: I am the VP of Research & Development at IOMEDIA and also lead initiatives in the Interactive Studio. I started at IOMEDIA as a visualization artist, my skills (or lack thereof) within this group were quickly recognized, and I promptly switched gears and became the interactive group. Over the years, the interactive studio has grown and has produced some remarkable technology solutions for our clients. We have had the opportunity to work with a diverse range of clients at IOMEDIA such as architects, developers and healthcare professionals. This has allowed me to apply a vast and creative mix of technologies to their complex problems. Websites, mobile applications, virtual reality applications, bizarre exhibit media installations, we have done it all and will be doing more for sure!
Screenshots of the custom sales & leasing tool created by IOMEDIA for Meadowlands Xanadu.
What skills did you gain from architecture school, or working in the architecture industry, that have contributed to your success in your current career?
Peter: Surrounding a challenge with potential solutions, evaluating them, and then executing. It’s really not beneficial to be too quick to the conclusion in our business, it’s equally detrimental if you ponder about things too long, and there is no place in business for us if we can’t execute on anything. While studying, I learned how to practice these concepts and now overlay them on our particular challenges in building a great organization, it could be for a project, or evaluating staff – the skills you learn in balancing these principals are what is key.
Eric: I’ve always said that my role, in spite of all the changes that it’s undergone over the past 10 years as IOMEDIA has grown from an 8 person to a 50 person company, comes down to visually creative problem-solving – breaking down a set of criteria and coming up with a unique and compelling visual representation where one didn’t exist before. This is a direct result of having gone through 12 semesters of design studio and I can’t think of another way I would have better developed this specific skill or way of thinking. That and understanding the needs of the client and/or end users needs and desires and speaking to those needs and desires through all levels and aspects of the product we are producing.
Also, the process of critique and collaborative design discussion were essential skills that were developed over the course of architectural study. Oh, and of course computer graphics.
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Eugene: While I have had a brief foray into the field of architecture and industrial design there is one thing that I am truly grateful for. That is simply the problem solving mentality that is inherent in these fields. It has enabled me to help develop processes and look at alternative solutions to problems that we face every day within the production environment.
Ashwan: Looking back, I believe that my study and practice of architecture design built a strong foundation to think creatively even when I am in the midst of highly technical problems. It also helps me in explaining and putting forth technology solutions to our design oriented projects. Most importantly, without my architecture experience I wouldn’t be able to wear my clichéd black turtleneck, introduce myself as an architect and sound cool at a bar.
Do you have an interest in returning to architecture?
Peter: On a small scale, as an art form – not as a business.
Eric: No. I’m perfectly happy doing what I’m doing and my role, the work that IOMEDIA produces and our industry as a whole has been constantly changing and growing. I honestly can’t see the same fitting within one architecture firm.
Eugene: Well now that I am married and have a beautiful wife and 2 children, there is really no need for me to return to architecture.
Ashwan: My ‘Second Life’ avatar will be an architect.
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