How the Windy City Is Also A Smart City – Publication 02.27.17

02.27.17 Chicago Cityscape publication link

Image for post
Tom Schenk, one of the panelists at a recent USGBC event, talks about the City of Chicago’s use of data. Photo: Dan O’Neil

How do you check out the food inspection ratings of restaurants? How can you check out recent vandalism scores of neighborhoods for someone-who-has-never-seen-the-snow-before who’s apartment-hunting? Government officials and industry execs in Illinois are working together to get this kind of information out there.

At a panel presentation last week about how to become a smart city, three technologists including two municipal executives discussed the different ways governments are pushing the idea of “smart cities” through independent ventures, and business partnerships.

The panel, organized by the Illinois chapter of the U.S. Green Building council, comprised Tom Schenk, the Chicago chief data officer, Hardik Bhatt, head of the state’s IT department, and Steven Fifita, executive director of City Digital, part of the UI Labs organization.

The moderator, Joseph Svachula, ComEd’s vice president of smart grids and technology, shared some current initiatives in cities around the United States, and then brought up the micro-grid being developed in Bronzeville and on the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Bronzeville, he noted, is a “community of the future”. Commonwealth ComEd, the largest electric utility in Illinois, received federal grants to build a smart, “micro” grid system that gives residents and business owners more options and control with their utilities.

Hardik Bhatt, Secretary Designate of the IT Department of the State of Illinois, discussed a smart strategy, under challenging constraints. He pointed out that the plan for the State is to transform the operational organizing of IT businesses and customer service by digitally connecting these into a “smart” national model.

Tom Schenk, from the City of Chicago, discussed examples of user-friendly, open data extracted from the daily work of city employees. Schenk is in charge of the city’s data portal, which Chicago Cityscape uses extensively. In addition to datasets listing building permits, violations, and building violation court hearings, the portal has information about Divvy locations and station usage, towed car locations, and street sweeping schedules. Some of this information is as much for city workers to take advantage of as it is for citizens.

The portal puts data onto more devices, and into the hands of more city workers. City officials can start to predict patterns — say, about where rat populations will grow, or when e.coli. levels at the beach are expected to rise— rather than wait for residents to send complaints.

Predictions could help city inspectors discover violations faster, or improvise deployment of police officers at city events. It doesn’t hurt that it also makes Chicago an example for other cities to follow.

Steven Fifita of Citi Digital, a subsidiary of UI Labs, explained how the company plans to close the gap between innovation and commercialization by solving the challenges with cities and governments as partners.

He emphasizes the fact that Citi Digital needs to unlock meaningful value in every stage of work. An example was “smart green pilot teams” monitoring with tech companies that included Microsoft and AECOM. Better solutions resulted in underground infrastructure mapping which improves traffic and digital imaging and processing which lead to efficent results.

The Windy City has been noted as one of the most aggressive cities in adopting a user-friendly, predictive data portal for improving safer, cleaner, and smarter infrastructural measures, and each of the panelists is playing their part to motivate the city and state to utilize more partnerships to address current challenges and adapt to future ones.

“Apres Ski” Version of Outdoor Dining in Chicago’s Winter

A few summers ago, I interned at the City of Chicago with the Department of Buildings, Easy Permit Department, and the Electrical Signage Permit Department. As I electronically processed applications and forwarded them to the appropriate department advisors for approval, the number of outdoor permit requests was not deemed as urgent priority for the restaurant industry.

Since the world has turned upside with such bizarre, unpredictable circumstances, restaurants have been trying to do everything to stay above the shallow line. Not only are permit approvals for outdoor dining desperately needed, but also permits are needed for tents, overhangs, signage, and curbside pickup, as well as extending permits into winter.

As we shudder at the thought of “the windchill advisories”, I can only imagine the mayhem at the City Hall. This would be like imagining the elevation level of the snow capped Rocky Mountains in Aspen rising nonstop, with papers flying everywhere.

As a downtown city dweller, I am pleased to learn of such a magnitude of sponsors, partnerships, and collaboratives working with the city of Chicago, the Illinois Restaurant Association, and other local non-profits.

On August 6th, a webinar Maximizing Your Guest Space, was organized by architects and planners with the Illinois Restaurant Association and City Open Workshop on the focus of reopening restaurants in Chicago for summer 2020.

In compliance with the current CDC standards for the city, Chicago’s “Cautious” Guidance as of 09/18/20, the spacing out of tables with the backs of chairs at six feet, mask and glove-clad staff, temperature checks, and outdoor hostess stands, are guidelines currently or at least attempting to enforce.

This webinar continues with concerns on how can the city leverage open space for equity and community opportunities, while complying with the most updated guidelines as we move forward.

Curbside pick up and take home kits became excellent approaches to keep patrons happy and help generate profits for the industry. This is still currently ongoing for the city of Chicago.

Full street closure plans require tables at at 6 foot in between, then 14 foot min. space between two main sections of tables for pedestrian, biking, and emergency access.

Partial street closures require all of the same above but allow for flexible posts to protect a bikers lane from cars, narrow the field of vision for drivers, and to slow down traffic.

Applying, purchasing, and receiving approval from the City of Chicago for sidewalk permits as well as paying more for extending the time period requested is of major concern today.

ADA access considerations of at least 8 foot clear path in through ways, maintaining constant traffic, leeway for curbside pickup, and unpredictable weather conditions were also thoughts to ponder.

For further viewing of the webinar, please kindly view link.

As we go through a pilot program, we learn, we collaborate with other industries, and we try to do better, no matter what scale.

The next part of this commentary includes locally published articles on where the restaurant industry is at right now. The timing is crucial as we approach season changes and perseverance.

One of the articles below includes guidelines to consider for the future for fire safety outdoors. Another article discusses the challenges of investing in enhanced air filtration devices for tables. Lastly, the idea of “apres ski” is an excellent example of extending outdoor dining into the winter with fire pits and heated benches.

Again, I am pleased to see how much effort the city and the Illinois Restaurant Association both have invested. Hopefully, all this will be a positive example for other cities for a safer, positive path towards the light at the end of this tunnel.

My best of luck! Enjoy for further reading!

Dining With Heaters, Plastic Domes, and Blankets? 08/12

How to Make the Best Out Of Covid Winter 09/11

Uneasy Dance With the Landlord 09/18

Chicago Releases Outdoor Dining Guidelines, But Some Restaurants Worry 09/21

Nonnina, my all time favorite Italian style restaurant 10/02

Winter Design Challenge Winners Announced 10/08

West Loop Restaurant Adds Air Quality Improvements as Temperatures Drop 10/010

2020 NKBA MN Design Competition – Judging

I was honored to be selected as one of the eight judges to cast ballots for 43 entries in the 2020 NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association) Design Competition for the Midwest Region, Minnesota Chapter (NKBA MN Chapter). Midwest Home Magazine annually partners with this chapter on this competition. Awarded projects will be published in the November issue, on the magazine website, and as exposure on the NKBA Minnesota Chapter website as well.

Members were given an opportunity to showcase residential projects completed within two years ranging in categories:
-Category A: Small Kitchen (less than 150 sq.ft.)
-Category B: Medium Kitchen (150-350 sq.ft.)
-Category C: Large Kitchen (more than 350 sq.ft.)
-Category D: Powder Room
-Category E: Small Bathroom (less than 55 sq.ft.)
-Category F: Medium Bathroom (55-100 sq.ft.)
-Category G: Large/Master Bath (more than 100 sq.ft.)
-Category H: Other Residential Rooms
-Category I: Best Use of Artisan Materials

– – Subcategory: Budget Friendly Kitchens

Each ballot form for all 43 projects was judged on the following criteria:
Creativity/Design Solutions: were there unique and interesting solutions to the design challenges? Were all challenges met?
Elements and Design Principles: Line, form, balance, color, scale, etc.
Presentation: Was the scope of design clearly represented in the drawings? Were the drawings scaled correctly as requested? Plans and elevations as requested? If new construction, only “after” drawings. If existing, “before” and “after”. Were the “before” and “after” photos clearly visible? Professional photos?
Basic Safety and Ergonomics: Refer to 2014 NKBA Planning Guidelines. Judges have authority to disqualify any project (s) that obviously do not comply with the healthy, safety, or welfare of the client.
Visual Appeal: Was there a “WOW” factor? How does the overall space look? How are the details played out? Is the overall appeal a “WOW’ or an eyesore when a client first walks in?

All these points were scored on a scale from 1 to 10, with commentary, and a grand total of points tallied.

Good luck to all!

2020 Architecture and Film Symposium – Submittal

As I subscribe weekly to bustler e-newsletter, I came across another competition entitled 2020 Architecture and Film Symposium that peaked my interest. During these days of Netflix and Amazon Prime, I recently watched a documentary and a movie that both creatively alter and or represent our perception of the built environment, in traditional, realistic, or futuristic ways.

Please kindly view my story with attachments.

Tradition and Imagination

When architecture professors attend a midterm review, their perception of a student’s work is built on observing the dialogue, presentation skills, generated models, and scaled drawings. When an audience is seated at a movie theater, their perception of a film is built on watching on a large projector screen from start to finish. These activities show how human beings use their senses to build a perception, due to tradition or manipulation. 

Surrealism is a media of art that manipulates our perception of past, present, and the future in the built environment by juxtaposing imagery with realism.

An example of surrealistic perception is the Hudsucker Proxy movie, which is set as old Hollywood, during the Art Deco 1930’s with 1950’s scenery. The movie begins with a very dense lineup of skyscrapers and iconic buildings of New York City and Chicago as a miniature-scaled, fantasy cityscape of New York.

The main setting takes place inside the Hudsucker building, which is a manipulated, tall version of the Merchandise Mart. Paneling details of the exterior facade still hold onto the past of the Art Deco era.

Furnishings in the office interiors were filmed as miniature scale while full height ceiling windows and the backdrop of towering skyscrapers were filmed as “tall and narrow, unfixed dimension” surrealistic scaling.

A corporate executive falls to his death by jumping out of a full height ceiling window. This scene freezes into time-lapsed fragments as if the setting’s building height was one hundred stories. This causes the audience to question and conclude with a best educated guess on how long it realistically takes to fall from a high rise under fifty stories.

Human dimension, ergonomics, and common sense are deemed as satire and as perceptive roadblocks in the Hudsucker Proxy movie. 

Another movie that filters and represents our perception in the traditional, present, and future in the built environment is a Netflix documentary, titled Chef’s Table, Season Two, Episode 1. This is a story on a creative, high sensory dining experience at a Michelin restaurant in Chicago, named Alinea. This surreal experience alters the audience’s perception of how we presently and traditionally eat and occupy the spatial needs for dining in a restaurant space.

This documentary experiments very well with futuristic imagery as the chef, Grant Achatz asks, “why does one have to eat on a plate with a fork?” The stage setting begins with him observing abstract art in an art gallery. He then designs a wild painting of varying scales of food including molecular sizing on a dining patron’s table, as his masterpiece.  

This defines another example of how a viewer perceives a built environment with restaurant zoning and program requirements involving the function of eating traditionally. As the audience absorbs this as unfamiliar territory, they try to process and see if this futuristic experience is adaptable.

Filming shows how it can alter, represent, inform, and misinform our perception in ways we view the past, present, and future in a built environment, as much as being present in a space.

Creative Culinary Art Website


Draw, draw, and draw until precise as my mentors from art and architecture school shared with us as a daily reminder post-it. 

The drafting table of Nat’s Noshes is set up with a Moleskin-ruled notebook and a Sharpie pen. Brainstorming develops for food pyramid-compliant and well-cup-measured clean foods.

These culinary pieces of art are all homemade and not pre-packaged. Berries used in these stories came fresh from the orchard farm and pomegranates came from the produce aisle, rather than pre-packaged. 

Since mid April, I have been channeling my passion for art and design into creative baking and cooking, via colors, textures, scents, visuality, plating, and presentation.

I designed a website from the start and have been documenting short stories inspired from childhood memories, adventures during the pandemic, and positive experiences into creative, noshable goods. This website has morphed from zero to over 3.5K views in just over three months, along with a high presence in social media. 

Please help yourself in viewing samples of creative culinary art for healthy inspiration, social distancing dinner party ideas, or as creative ways to reset and enjoy summer, as normal as possible. 

*Basically “clean” foods under 5 ingredients.

Nat’s Noshes

Navigating What’s Next… Post-COVID Workplace

What is next? This webinar was an interesting listen in different perspectives with a “first wave” of professionals on the impossibilities to predict what is next. Steelcase sponsored this discussion involving topics on design considerations and safety guidelines. Bar graph statistics were shown on how low percentages were for “pre-COVID” workplace employees on being “mobile”. Twenty percent or less was the highest percentage of employees in this group of demographics. Twenty percent or less. This percentage range shows us how our traditional and “comfort zone” mindsets are not immediately prepared to predict what will happen next for the future of our companies, clients, colleagues, and employees.

When returning to the workplace, without even referring to the bar charts of this webinar, the fact that there will be the same number of people in the building at the same time, will cease and desist. Thus, we have no choice but to allow for flexibility in our work schedules for staggered time periods for employees, clients, deliveries, and visitors to enter and exit, for those that choose to do so. Thus, the “work from home” phenomenon will surface more and more and become more of the daily norm.

While we watch the “work from home” phenomenon become a phenomenon, we also need to take action immediately, prepare, and strategize the increasing needs for safety in the office spaces. Our new strategy would also be based on adapting to the interior health and safety standards for each person entering, utilizing, and leaving common, shared spaces. These would not only include workstation cubicles, offices, but also the breakroom, corridors, stairways, fire escapes, lobby entrances, restroom spaces, etc.

Overall, our workplace needs to actively take action, become more resilient, offer accommodating standards proved legal by the city and state codes, abide all safety protocols, and training for still managing public office spaces for those that still prefer to work at-office or are deemed as “essential” workers. Basically our workplace during the “first wave” would probably deem as collaborative forces working together to make the environment safer.

Also, our workforce will need to be “fluid” and be open for new technologies and corporate advances to help improvise the wants of those that prefer to work “in-office”. The idea of struggling with work productivity and communication at home comes up as another topic. This webinar broadly covers practical ideas in all these areas to ponder, as this is all open-ended as an ongoing “project” to brainstorm.

Our competition for better health, safety, and wellness begins right now, just as architects practice architecture abiding health, safety, and welfare (HSW) codes, legally and in compliance.

Webinar Link

Bid for Proposal on CSI Division 05700 Decorative Metal, Brass

Starbucks Roastery Build Out: Bid for Proposal: Independent Contractor with Toledo Twisted Iron, Industrial Designer in Toledo, Ohio
Chicago, IL January – March 2019

Comprehensive research on all items to bid pertaining to CSI Division 05700 on Decorative Metal, specifically Brass. Materials to be bidded included, brass wall bases, steel shelving tubes with brass finish, afterburner flue brass cladding, brass inlay material for floors, corner guards, and facia panels, etc.

Following the bid list of items, a 4-page 11×17 comprehensive spreadsheet was developed. All measurements, details, and data were extrapolated into categories identifying length, width, circumference, height, perimeter, and specifications of each item using calculations, CAD drafting, architect scale, and cross referencing via detail sheets in the drawing set.

The Life Cycles of Women in Architecture Submittal

As I subscribe weekly to bustler e-newsletter, I came across this competition and entered as I felt a deep connection with my “life cycle” as a woman in the architectural field. The Life Cycles of Women in Architecture Competition, sponsored by WOMENWHODESIGN.ORG

Please kindly view my story with attachments.

The first image shares a conceptual idea using grid paper to initially align the organizational skills and mindset of the traditional employment ratio of men to women in an architecture firm. First image shows female architect as “behind” a “flat” wall.

The second image shows all of the wild and freehand colors of breaking the norm with loosened possibilities.

These images display a graphic collaborative of life cycles from a female architect’s perspective. 

Both graphic stories share different time periods that mold the cyclical status of a woman in a “man’s profession”, which still abides today, with some firms that choose not to progress with society. A female student endures the strenuous of the most strenuous days in architecture studio in just as much as a male student. 

All professions have obstacles and social issues are natural happenstance. The idea of a female in architecture school traditionally is assumed to pursue a career as a decorator or a specialty not directly involved with architects and contractors. The ratio of women to men and was low when I was in school and within the next decade of firms. However, a slow increase in improvement has developed and still is developing as the profession becomes more modernized.

My first employment was an internship with a highly-reputed architect. The first day, my higher up gave me an apron and kitchen utensils for carving pumpkins for Halloween. This was a shock and hard to process as I was still mentally recovering from all-nighters in studio. Welcome to being a female intern fresh out of college!

After finally nosediving into projects involving model making, sanding, and gluing by hand, my next assignment was to bake cookies! The next day, my higher up hands over the apron again, baking utensils, and a cooking sheet for cookies as it was one of our employee’s birthdays. This turned into a cyclical pattern mixed in with very rewarding architectural roles as I started to build my resume and gain more experience.

Not only this ongoing obstacle in the profession but another turning point in the cycles of a female architect is the unfortunate current state of mind this world is in right now. 

The key word, “traditional” has been famously stamped for centuries in this profession for the male to female ratio but also applies to working in an office setting.

This is the trick as the profession is trying to recover, no matter what the ratio of male to female is, but with a safer approach.

All in all, us female architects, are in hopes that our traditional social status will be revamped into more modern, mainstream, open-minded, and creative ways in order to preserve our ancient profession and withstand the next fire, together with all sexes.

Please enjoy these quotes from famous architects:
~Alvaro Siza, “Tradition is a challenge to innovation.”
~Walter Gropius, “The mind is like an umbrella – it functions best when open.” ~Zaha Hadid, one of my most admired, “There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?”

2nd Ward Alderman’s Weekly E-Newsletter Brief Submittal

Brief submittal to the 2nd Ward Alderman’s weekly e-newsletter Chicago Strong E-Newsletter: Fifth Edition. *Scroll to the bottom to Smiles and Laughs: A 35th Anniversary Surprise for Two CPD Officers.

A 35th Anniversary Surprise for Two CPD Officers

“I watched a recent episode on Celebrity IOU, a new HGTV show with Property Brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott, starring the fabulous Melissa McCarthy.

Melissa surprised her aunt and uncle, who were Chicago police officers for more than 30 years, with a complete home redo for their 35th anniversary.

Melissa said, ‘They’ve given so much to Chicago’ that she and her cousin wanted to give back something to them. Melissa’s uncle said, ‘After living in the line of duty with his wife for so long, he still wants to dance with her after 35 years.’ Beautiful moment to watch in our hometown!”

Nathalie, River North

Marketing Proposals for Religious Projects

Marketing Proposals
Coordinated and wrote up bio statements and project summaries for potential future project clients on a religious sanctuary institution in Northern Illinois.

Anshe Emet Synagogue: Team-coordinated an updated look for mailer marketing postcards on a completed Harding Partners project to mail out to hundreds of Jewish institutions, private sectors, and non-profit organizations supporting the Jewish community. Set up a comprehensive spreadsheet directory on all these institutions and organizations within a 200 mile radius from downtown Chicago. Researched and updated a very outdated directory of general contact info, address, email/website link, and executive director and clergy staff contact info.

Residential Design Development, Construction Document, Bid Submittals to General Contractors

Studio Spicuzza: Architectural Design Independent Contractor,
Merchandise Mart, Chicago

Residential 3 story, Navy Pier Townhouse Residence 

Wine Bar/Restaurant, River North Wine Bar/Bistro Restaurant

Residential 68 story, North & South Towers, Gold Coast 1212 N Lakeshore

Residential 4 story flat, Lakeview Edgewater on the Park Residence 

Residential 2.5 story brownstone, Lincoln Park West George Residence

Residential high rise, Gold Coast 1000 Plaza, Gold Coast Residences *3 units

Residential 1 story flat, Lincoln Park Commonwealth on the Park Residence 

Project Administration

Joint Venture projects with Smith and Smith: Worked with partner on updating invoices, documents, and answering comments online via E-Builder software.

Harding Partners projects: Scanned, e-filed, and filed all direct and indirect invoices to and from Harding Partners to clients and consultants, dating from 2015 to present. Re-organized entire filing cabinets and online filing management system into subfolders for invoices, contracts, agreements, and supplemental information. Set up a master spreadsheet for the office on unpaid invoices for 2018 and 2019.

Skokie Central Synagogue: Set up invoice master spreadsheet for invoices per phase, expense reports, and an internal spreadsheet on employee hours, expenses, direct/indirect reimbursables and hourly rates for Harding Partners to and from clients and consultants. Emailed to client an outgoing invoice with a Construction Payout Request attached for review.

Public Building Commission- Corliss High School: Set up invoice master spreadsheet for pending project invoices per phase for Harding Partners, Mode Architects, and for the Joint Venture.

Lloyd Lewis House, CHA Altgeld Gardens, CHA Artesian, and St. Gertrude Church Exterior Facade: Set up and constantly updated project summary spreadsheets for all architect, client, and consultant invoices for Harding Partners, Smith and Smith, and for Smith Harding Joint Venture.

Chicago Housing Authority- Alfreda Barnett Duster Apartments: Set up a full comprehensive package for Schematic Design phase, Design Development phase, and Construction Document phase. These packages were to be submitted to CHA and enclosed was Request for Payment, Waiver of Lien, Fee Payment forms, contract documents, all direct, indirect, reimbursable expense reports from all parties and consultants, and calculation spreadsheets per project phase, on behalf of the Joint Venture. Organized and researched open invoices from all consultants into a calculated, tabulated spreadsheet.

Chicago Housing Authority- Altgeld Gardens: Coordinated and updated Fee Analysis reports and supporting documents for pending fees.

Chicago Housing Authority- Vivian Carter Apartments: Coordinated Word documents to send to clients on overdue project phase invoices. Updated all invoice summaries dating from the start of project to finish.