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

02.27.17 Chicago Cityscape publication link

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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.

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.

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?”

Chicago Art Deco Society

Communications/Graphic Design Director
Chicago Art Deco Society
2016 – Present
Email Campaigns + Social Media Strategy + Market Research + Print
Responsible for monthly newsletter/email campaign blasts, research potential outreach efforts.

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