Andrew Knox Named to AIA College of Fellows

Knox_AndrewEach year, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) elevates selected candidates to its prestigious College of Fellows. ESKW/Architects’ Partner Andrew Knox was among the 116 members honored for 2020.

The Fellowship program was developed to elevate architects who have achieved a standard of excellence in the profession and have made a significant contribution to architecture and society on a national level. Advancement is granted for achievement in design, preservation, education, literature, and service.

Eighteen members from AIA New York were selected, and we sat down with our very own Andrew Knox to discuss the honor.

ESKW/Architects: How long has Fellowship been a goal and why is it something you wanted to pursue?

Andrew Knox: I have to be honest: when I went to school, the AIA wasn’t considered very edgy, and so as a self-important student, it was not really an important goal for me. But then I moved to the city (almost 30 years ago) and started working in the field of housing. I started attending the AIA Housing Committee meetings and met some AIA Fellows. Their knowledge and commitment to architecture for housing was intense. They had been doing that kind of work for years and were a fabulous resource. I learned all sorts of specifics like zoning strategies and contract negotiation maneuvers. I realized that the people who were Fellows were exemplars and mentors in the practice. So then on top of that, when I started to see some of my graduate school classmates becoming Fellows, I realized, “Hey, I want to be in that group as well!”

ESKW/A: What did the submission process entail? How challenging was it?

AK: It’s certainly a process. It really started with taking what were effectively the more accurate “we” statements from our marketing and turning them into “I” statements. That was the hard part, because our work is so collaborative—not only between the partners and junior staff, but also among the clients, individual tenants, and end users of our spaces, all of whom teach us what works and what doesn’t.

Working together with input from so many, it’s rare that I can look at a completed project and say what part came from whom. And yet the format of the Fellowship application requires that the work be identified as if it were a single person’s efforts. So I had to get over that self-aggrandizing resistance, as our work has always been deeply collaborative.

ESKW/A: In that light, what does this achievement mean to you and your career, but also to the firm? This was your second year applying for Fellowship, correct?

AK: It was interesting not getting it the first time for “Design” and instead getting it the second time for “Service to Society” because it’s actually a more accurate assessment of what I feel I, and we as the office, have done to advance the profession. We feel we’ve done lots of great design work, but it’s very much hand-in-glove with serving these groups of clients, and sometimes it’s hard to read that strictly on an aesthetic, formal, or inventive basis. But you can definitely see it in terms of how the client groups react to the spaces we design.

Recently I was out at our St. Vincent’s Chait Residence in Staten Island, and a couple residents were out front. One man relaxing in his pajamas asked what I was doing there. I told him we were the architects of the building, and we were checking out how the building had aged the past few years. He became very animated and said, “Oh man, this is greatest place ever. I’m so incredibly happy living here: I’m safe at night, I can get my medicine here, there’s a clinic that I can work with, I have a safe bed to stay in. This place is just the greatest.”

Through interactions with people who actually live in our buildings, you realize that our work is a service, and what we make is the right thing to do. It is an honor to have our work in this field recognized as a standard of excellence.

ESKW/A: What’s next for you and the firm?

AK: We hope to continue to make deeply innovative, humane spaces for those who need them the most. I personally am looking forward to mentoring our staff to achieve that. As the office is getting bigger, I find myself more and more in the position of teaching and showing other people how to think of the problems and how to approach the work. So it’s sort of like becoming a professor at this point. I feel like I need to further that side of my personal growth and figure out how to pass it on to others in the office. 

I am proud of helping develop a firm that is able to focus on serving the needs of the underserved in our community, and I am happy to do so while expanding what is achievable in the quality and experience of those spaces. Becoming a Fellow of the AIA feels like a validation of that growth.

For more on Andrew, see him as this month’s Featured Member on AIANY’s website.

#AskAnArchitect with Kimberly Murphy

The American Institute of Architecture Students stopped by recently to kick off the second season of their #AskAnArchitect series. Kimberly talks about work-life balance, gives advice about how to find the right firm, and reminisces on her own college days. Thanks, AIAS!

LEDucate Yourself

By Michael Walch, AIA

When I attend a conference, I have three objectives: see a lot of new products, learn from experts, and enter raffles. This year’s LEDucation exhibition did not disappoint.

Things I Saw

Dim to Warm Capability. At last year’s LEDucation the hot thing seemed to be “tunable white” LEDs—one fixture with very warm (2700K) and very cool (3500K) LEDs side-by side so you could select how cool or warm you want the fixture. It’s a great thought until you realize you’ve pretty much doubled your controls, so this year the phrase “tunable white” was regularly accompanied by sighs and grumbles. It’s not exactly the same, but a lot of manufacturers are offering “dim to warm” LEDs which are a more practical, don’t-have-to-think-about-it solution. As the LEDs dim down, they auto-magically get very amber, more like a traditional incandescent bulb. It’s a nice upgrade.

Dim to Warm

Oxygen LightingThis manufacturer makes very simple, solidly built fixtures. They work well for our projects because they blend well between commercial and residential spaces. The form factors have just enough decorative interest, and they are offering bronze and brass finishes on more fixtures. We used Oxygen recently for the bathrooms at Chait Residence in Staten Island (see photo below).

Bruck by Ledra. This line includes decorative, pendant, and track fixtures. They are very budget-friendly so it’s nice when you find something like this sconce. It’s an open metal loop with a gold finish inside—a really nice accent.

Nuvo by Satco. These fixtures are well-made and budget friendly. We’ve used their fixtures on a few projects, because they’re a good source for simple forms.

Justice Design Group. Bring that alabaster realness! Yes, Justice Design Group is on the ornate residential side of the spectrum, but I was happy to see their line because almost all their shades are made of resin or acrylic, so if you’re looking for a glass alternative with some visual interest, they have good options. They’re also relatively affordable.


Things I Learned

This is my third year in a row attending Marty’s lecture (see slides below, click to expand). Can’t stop, won’t stop. Let’s be clear: it’s not the most fun topic, but the choice in energy code compliance paths (IECC or ASHRAE 90.1) is critical not just for lighting but on your whole project. Marty is a code expert and lighting designer so each year she can both update attendees on the code language differences, as well as consider real-world examples.

Exceptions make the rule, right? They also each have a story. Imagine you’re developing the new energy code and one of your esteemed colleagues arrives to a review meeting with a new outfit, which they’re obviously excited about, but it just looks terrible on them. I presume this was the initial spark that led to exempting mirror lighting in dressing rooms from the limits on total interior connected power under both model codes. Regarding those “nonhuman life forms” (we all see those cats in the upper right of the slide): I love my cat, and she needs light.

Parts of the energy code (ASHRAE 8.4.2 “Automatic Receptacle Controls” in this case) seem designed purely to annoy us. Perhaps the annoyance is a happy side effect but it turns out that while the energy use of lighting, proportionately, has drastically reduced in the past decade, other uses have stayed the same or even increased, and those uses tend to be plug-in devices. So, under ASHRAE 90.1, in some spaces plugs are required to be on a timer to reduce that.

Moving on: what’s flicker (see slide below)? It’s a blinking light source that’s perceptible and annoying. What’s an acceptable level of flicker? That definitely depends on the application, and probably on the individual observer. Now you might be saying to yourself, “These expensive LEDs flicker?” Yes, inherently! Unlike incandescent sources, LEDs have no partial-on state, so dimming is achieved by rapidly cycling them on and off so that you perceive them as dim. This is handled by the driver; it is often a challenge at lower light levels, and different drivers (even from the same manufacturer!) will perform differently. It’s an ongoing challenge and all the more reason to round up sample fixtures for everything on your project.

Let’s say you have a fabulous all-LED installation of about 100 fixtures. But one dies. Unfortunately, we are back to the classic “re-lamping” issue where you may need to replace all the lamps if you want them to match color or dimming performance. LED lighting is evolving at the pace of the semiconductor industry, so LED chips you purchased a year ago are probably not made anymore. It’s important to select fixtures that use swappable LEDs or can be wholly replaced themselves.

Dimming: it’s universally a nice thing to have. The good news is that since all LED fixtures require a “driver” that steps the AC power to DC, almost all fixtures offer some form of dimming option. From there, things get a little crazy. In a nutshell, every component of the system from the diodes all the way back to the controls has to be compatible and even then, like the diagram below shows, different fixtures will behave differently as you move those sliders or spin those dials. All to say: check compatibility all the way across the system and get a sample or mock-up of every fixture type, with a control on it, to understand how it will behave.

If you have a thing for vintage lighting controls, fear not—you can generally use them with LED light fixtures. However, especially where the energy code or program requires more complex zoning and controls, traditional components end up with very complex wiring schemes that are rife for error and inflexible for future changes. Digital controls offer the trade-off of possibly more expensive components but a more simple and flexible physical installation.


Things I Won

Nothing from the raffles unfortunately. But at least I got the takeaways above.

Michael Walch, AIA, has been with ESKW/A since 2011. In addition to being our resident LED-enthusiast, he is currently the project architect on the School Street Residences in Yonkers for St. Joseph’s Community Medical Centers and project manager for the Rockaways Retail and Community Development. His past projects for ESKW/A include Sister Jane Manor (also for St. Joseph’s), DF Mavens Store, and Ocean Wonders: Sharks! (for which he was our shimmer wall expert, among other duties).

Awards Season!

nscc and 4380

Not to toot our own horn too loudly, but we’re proud to announce that recent ESKW/A projects have been honored with awards! New Settlement Community Campus, submitted with Dattner Architects, received an Excelsior Award, a new program from AIA New York State honoring outstanding Public Architecture.  Our men’s homeless shelter for Project Renewal at 4380 Bronx Boulevard was recently completed and received a Boston Society of Architects Housing Design Award.

We wanted to take this opportunity to share some of our favorite detail photos of each project which don’t often get promoted. Thank you to AIA New York State and Boston Society of Architects for recognizing our projects.

New Settlement Community Campus

4380 Bronx Boulevard

 

The Ratensky Lecture

Carlton Brown

Carlton Brown, a developer who has been deeply involved in furthering affordable, sustainable housing in New York City; Jackson, Mississippi; New Orleans, Louisiana; and throughout Africa, was recently honored at the Center for Architecture’s 2013 Ratensky Lecture.

Due to our office’s history of involvement in affordable and sustainable projects, Mr. Brown’s stick-to-itiveness and enduring vision were especially resonant and inspiring. Andrew Knox, Partner, ending his five-year tenure as co-chair for the Housing Committee, helped introduce Mr. Brown. Claire Webb, Marketing Director, wrote about the lecture for the e-Oculus Magazine:

Carlton Brown is a man of big ideas and grand ideals. Honored last week at the Ratensky Lecture at the Center for Architecture, Brown talked about how his upbringing in the Civil Rights Era South shaped his philosophy of inclusivity and the importance of sharing resources equitably. Using four touch points, Brown harnessed a mantra that has shaped his role as a developer: “Generate more energy than we use, include more people than we exclude, use more waste than we create, and create more wealth than we consume.”

Read the full article here, and watch Mr. Brown’s lecture here.

Photo and video credit: The Center for Architecture, AIA New York Chapter

Senior Housing Presentation

By Andrew Knox

Andrew Knox and Judith Edelman, Partners, presented at the AIANY event, New Approaches to Advance Housing for Seniors, sponsored by AIANY Design for the Aging Committee.

The event was an opportunity to discuss the evolution and directions in the design for the senior residences. Knox and Edelman’s presentation focused on federally funded HUD-202 projects where our firm did the original construction 20 years ago, and were then given the opportunity to renovate the same buildings under the recent Hud-202 refinancing program.

You can see some of these projects and photographs on our website:

ECHO Apartments

Helen Harris Seniors Housing

Phelps House