Small Steps

It’s undeniable that change takes a while. Whether it is changing a cultural norm or an aspect of the profession, it may take years and thousands of people dedicated to the cause.

I am often asked why volunteer so much time to the AIA or architecture in general. Some days I question whether or not my efforts will result in real change, whether it is passing the NDSA legislation or a certain design battle at work. It is easy to let the overwhelming defeat time and time again drag you down and realize that maybe spending your free hours on the weekend are better spent with friends.

Recently, I read a book about the first two women on the United States Supreme Court titled Sisters in LawSisters in Law. The book outlined the early beginnings of the lives and careers of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. By all definitions, these are not ordinary women. They rose to the highest level of law within the United States. However, it didn’t come without its trials and tribulations, especially in a world where women were seldom considered for professional positions, whether it be law, architecture or business. What struck me most about the content of this book was the meticulously planned journey that both these women followed, knowing very well equality for women was not something that would change overnight. Ginsburg and O’Connor pinpointed small steps and strategic wins that eventually proliferated into the equality we experience today.

This is an interesting lesson when it comes to the architecture profession. We still have a disparity between men and women in the architectural field, as well as a distinct lack of minorities. While great efforts have been made, there are still many small steps we need to take. But this lesson of small steps and strategic achievements to eventually create massive change is why it is important to maintain passion and stay dedicated to the cause.

When I lose sight of the big picture I try to come back to the small steps. It may be a small battle within your office on a design decision. Maybe it is the implementation of a new program at your AIA Chapter. If there is something you are really dedicated to and eager to change, think about the small wins that can help you get to the ultimate goal. These big wins are not tasks that can be done alone and in a short amount of time. It takes many people and members of our profession making small steps each day that leads to the change.


Adventures in Real Estate; An Update from Meg Hohnholt, AIA Colorado EP Blog Founder

Hohnholt recently made the leap from architecture to real estate

Hohnholt recently made the leap from architecture to real estate

And I Jumped Right In. 

It was a year ago this week that I stopped staring at the edge of uncertainty and I jumped right in. Initially, the experience was exhilarating and liberating. Now it’s turned into an adventure that’s exciting yet uncomfortable, clear yet frustrating, constant yet evolving.

Hello again AIA EP Blog community! It’s Meg Hohnholt. I’ve missed you.

What’s this jump you ask? A year ago I left the traditional practice of architecture and began my journey of a career change. And now I am a business owner doing residential real estate brokerage.

How I got started:

So why real estate?

I was looking for a career path that would be a great fit for my personal strengths, utilize on my architecture knowledge, and have great potential to capitalize on those assets. So far real estate has fit the bill beautifully.

What was the process to get started in real estate?

I attended Armbrust Real Estate Institute full time for a month to get the amount of education required by the State of Colorado DORA. Then I sat for the state and national real estate brokerage exams, which I would say combined were comparable to one ARE test. After I passed the exams (first try Baby!), I had to select a brokerage firm to “hang my license at”.

In the State of Colorado, new agents are required to be with a brokerage firm for their first two years before they can go on their own at start their own firm.

After all the the necessary paperwork and fees were paid then it was time to build my business plan, develop my marketing and get some clients!

So what business do you own?

All real estate agents are independent contractors for their brokerage firms, so technically real estate agents are all small business owners.

What I’ve learned (so far): 

Marketing is constant – from the clothes I wear, to my Facebook posts (both on my personal and my business page), to the events I go to – I am always on. This doesn’t mean I’m all business & no fun – I met two of my clients at a party where we played Cards Against Humanity together. But I am always ready to share my knowledge about real estate and architecture, and help people with excellent service.

Life Balance is more like a Life ‘Counter-balance’. Life is rarely balanced…I’m learning it’s more like a seesaw where you’re standing above the center fulcrum. When I start feeling like I’m dipping too much into the work side of life, I need to put more energy on the life side of life to get things counter balance, and vice versa.

Where you can find me: 

Here’s where you can find me at should you want to know more about what it was like to take on a career change, how architects are positioned to be awesome in real estate, or generally what I’m up to next!

I’m still blogging now at where I write about the downtown Denver lifestyle, architecture, and real estate.

Want to say ‘Hi’? Shoot me an email at

My company’s website is & we are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram too.

Take Care! -Meg

Live from New York City- Katie Donahue Talks About Her Recent Award-Winning Installation, “The Pulp Canopy,” and Where You Can Find 800 Rolls of Toilet Paper


Pulp Canopy @ the Boston Society of Architect’s, Courtesy of Katie Donahue 2015

Wait, so is this art or architecture?” Someone asked me as I was dangling from a ladder trying to figure out how several thousand bright blue modules would be suspended in mid air. My colleagues and I had just won a competition to design and fabricate an installation for the Bigger than a Breadbox, Smaller than a Building exhibition at the Boston Society of Architects’ Space Gallery, and we were scurrying to figure out how to actually produce it in just a few months. The show, which is currently on display, curates installations that have been critical to BSA architectural history (from that of Coop Himmelblau to MoMA PS1) and also showcases current solicited pieces like the Tensile Vault by NADAAA which was built like a dome, but upside down, and Microtherme, a space onlookers can climb up into that produces variations of heating and cooling effects, created by Matter Design.

The question about art or architecture was a fair one, and to borrow from Hans Hollein’s seminal 1968 Bau Journal text “Everything is Architecture” I would posit just that – ‘If architecture is spatial practice, then anything with a consequence for our physical environment could be architecture.’  There’s a long list of things that affect the way we experience space and the profound impact a place can have on us, and it’s not limited to walls and doors and floors. The scale of installation is an ideal way to explore all those other things inbetween. Khora, the exhibition curators, stated that “As a medium, installation serves a unique function in the architect’s toolbox… it allows designers to bridge the gap that exists between the conceptual and physical practices of architecture. It introduces new ideas and methodologies to the design process, questioning long-held notions regarding the nature and purpose of architecture.”


The Pulp Canopy was the second project in a body of research that investigates potential applications for reconstituted cellulose fiber, or paper pulp, in architecture and design (the first was the Pulp Wall ). It explores texture, color, light and movement in more than 4,400 modules and considers how something as everyday as discarded paper can be transformed to provoke new experiences and alternate forms of interaction. The unique process of creation, the trial and error, the collaboration and improvisation, was one of the most fruitful aspects of the work.

The team at work in Denver

The team at work in Denver

Over 800 rolls of toilet paper were collected from the Denver International Airport that discards hundreds of pounds of partial rolls each week (as is common practice in many businesses with large facilities that find it more economical to replace and refill all rolls at once rather than employ labors to check more frequently –who knew?!). This remnant paper was broken down into its fibers, pulped, and reconstituted with a combination of digital and hand-craft techniques that required pouring and molding – best done on concrete under the Denver sunshine where they can dry quickly. When unprecedented storms flooded the city day after day while we attempted production, we were saved by a team of incredible volunteers, some in architecture, some just curious, who helped us completed adopt a new methodology indoors.

In the end, what we’re learning is that the scale of the architecture installation is soft and pliable. It allows us to ponder implications of fineness and detail as well as systems and infrastructure, straddling the two scales so as to be nimble, investigative and provocative. It permits us to shift our weight ever so slightly and ever so quickly at the sight of new ideas worth testing. It rewards curiosity.

Thank You to Volunteers/Supporters: Greg Behlen, Tim Holk, Boyao Jiang, Whitney Liang, Jonathan Miller, Liz Pettit, Caitlin Pfarr, Stephanie Sammons, Ian Redmond, Alfred To, Lia Giannosa, Levi Jette, Emelia Jost, Ashley Rawling, Adam Torres, Zach Zemljak. And also EVstudio, Jonathan Ochshorn, Professor at Cornell University, Clark Thenhaus, Director of Endemic and Lecturer at University of Michigan, Taubman College, Denver International Airport, and University of Colorado-Denver, College of Architecture and Planning.



‘T’ is for Tourist!

The term ‘tourist’ is usually not a term that some one wants bestowed upon them. How many times have you heard the term tourist, but heard it preceded by some colorful language? As in, “Sorry I’m late. There were a bunch of #!$@*% tourists blocking the sidewalk in front of the building…”. The answer is probably more often than you have heard it used in a positive light.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Seattle and be a tourist. Since we were only there for a few days, we stuck to mostly the ‘touristy’ sorts of things (Pike Place market, strolling along the water, the Seattle underground tour, the Central Library by OMA, the Space Needle, etc). Often, locals will rarely go to these places “just to check them out” or will avoid them altogether. However, when people are only in a city for a few days, they will, more often than not, want to see the highlights and do the tourist things.

As annoying as tourists can be to locals, there is another angle to view them that speaks to a larger urban identity. When only given a few days to see the highlights of a city, people will often be drawn to the same things over and over again. These highlights of a city are often what help to identify a specific urban setting and, therefore, act as a certain type of branding for a city.

For instance, much of the branding for Seattle is based on the waterfront and the history of the city as a logging town. Similarly, the branding and identity of Chicago is based heavily around the lakefront/river, Michigan Ave., and the mass amounts of skyscrapers and museums. People who live in these places will, undoubtedly, scoff at such claims. That is because they LIVE there and are exposed to much more of the city in their day-to-day lives that most people will never experience. The small amounts of the city that is able to be experienced by outsiders in a brief amount of time, therefore, becomes the primary barometer by which the city is remembered and judged,

Most people associate Denver with the mountains, but would be surprised upon arrival at the need to rent a car to get out to even the foothills. So where do tourists go when they come to this city? Some of the first things that come to mind are the 16th St. Mall, Union Station, Denver Art Museum, the mint, going to a nearby brewery, and generally just strolling about downtown. Most people will tell you that that is just a small portion of Denver and they would be right. That being said, all of these things can be experienced in a single day or a weekend at most.

Much of our history and character was wiped out of downtown in the 1960s and 1970s via the  DURA (Denver Urban Renewal Authority) movement (see images below). This incredibly unfortunate planning blunder marred Denver for years and the city has still not fully become what was envisioned (or it has and everyone is just underwhelmed by the result). Twenty-seven blocks (sic) of downtown were leveled and replaced with parking lots and office towers in order to turn Denver into a “modern” city. Today, this would cause an upheaval that would register on the Richter scale. But, the damage has been done. So where do we go from here in order to brand this city in a way that is memorable and something that takes more than a busy Saturday to experience?

downtown aerial - clocktower 1976     downtown aerial 1976

Above images: effect of DURA on downtown Denver circa 1976

There are no easy answers to this question; otherwise we would have already done them. We, as architects and emerging professionals, should take these issues to heart when we decide how our buildings are going to shape the urban fabric and affect thousands of people on a daily basis. I’m not advocating that we build our own Space Needle, but I do think it is important to see this city from an outsiders perspective every once in a while instead of some one that lives their daily life walking down 16th St. Mall and catching the light rail from Union Station. If we take the time to consider how others are experiencing our city and reflect on how we can be better hosts, we will in turn become better and more thoughtful architects and designers.

In the mean time, the next time some one abruptly stops on the mall to take pictures of the clock tower, kindly avoid cursing them under your breath and simply step to the side to avoid their camera.

*Steps down from soapbox to take selfie in front of Union Station sign*