Employee Spotlight: Amanda Lunger

February 8, 2024
A Q&A with Ankrom Moisan's Newest Sustainability Advocate

Amanda Lunger wears many hats and has lived just as many lives. Recently, she was promoted to the role of Sustainability Advocate. Reflecting on her journey to this new position, Amanda sat down to discuss sustainability, career advice, and how her final studio project at the University of Oregon – a passive house affordable housing project – led to her being recruited to work at Ankrom Moisan.

 

Amanda Lunger outside the PDX office

 

Amanda outside of Ankrom Moisan’s Portland office.

 

Q: You were recently promoted to a sustainability role within the practice team. What can you tell me about that?

 

A: Well, we’ve had different groups in the office before to try and push sustainability initiatives and ensure there is adequate education about the topic, but now we’re taking the extra step of having a dedicated role that’s responsible for setting and executing goals and initiatives related to the sustainability of the firm. In this sense, I work in an overhead capacity to develop internal processes and education opportunities to further our sustainability efforts, and then also support projects as the need arises. It entails helping people set sustainability goals, research different technologies, and assisting with the selection of appropriate sustainability certification programs for projects. Eventually, I’ll assist with business development, telling the story of Ankrom Moisan’s sustainability expertise on our website and in RFPs, helping designers feel prepared to talk to clients about sustainability.

 

Q: What does sustainability mean to you?

 

A: I think to me, sustainability is recognizing the interconnectedness of all the decisions that we make as humans and understanding that those decisions have implications for all the other living things on this planet, as well as for future generations and even our future selves. Personally, my values and beliefs around sustainability are inherently tied to my spiritual beliefs, because I believe that all life has intrinsic value and that we have a moral obligation to look out for the wellbeing of all living things on this planet.

 

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?

 

A: I hope to help create and push forward a culture at Ankrom Moisan where sustainability is just part of everything we do. Many different things might have to happen to get us there, but if Ankrom Moisan can be known as a firm with expertise in sustainability, and if our staff can really feel that, then that’s a good sign of success to me.

 

Luckily, firm leadership has decided that this is the year to really start prioritizing sustainability. I am so excited to be a part of that effort and to help with that push while we have the momentum and support of leadership. It feels like a good time to be stepping into this role.

 

Q: Aside from sustainability-driven efforts, what is your favorite type of work to do? Why?

 

A: I really love the work I’ve done here at Ankrom Moisan with our mission-driven nonprofits. Specifically, working on affordable housing with REACH has been very rewarding because I really respect the mission of those clients. What they’re trying to do is better the lives of the people they serve.

 

I also enjoyed being in more of an overhead support position with the transition to BIM, and now again with my new sustainability role. I’ve realized over the course of my career that I get the greatest fulfillment from helping my coworkers and making their lives easier. I feel very appreciated in those kinds of support roles – they’re what I enjoy most.

 

Q: How long have you been at Ankrom Moisan?

 

A: I’m a boomerang employee. Initially, I worked here for two years – from 2013 to 2015 – as an architect, but then left Ankrom Moisan to work at a few other offices. I came back in February of 2019 to work as a BIM specialist because I wanted to make a lateral switch in my career. For this go around, I guess I’ve been here a full five years. I’m entering my sixth year.

 

Q: What brought you here?

 

A: This is a fun story. So, I was at the University of Oregon in my final year of the architecture program. I was doing a terminal studio, which encourages students to focus their final project on an area that’s of special interest to them. At the time I had gotten really into sustainability and passive house because of one of my professors, Professor Alison Kwok. I went through a whole intensive passive house training program and got my Certified Passive House Consultant Accreditation (CPHC). For my final studio, I was looking specifically at the applicability of passive house to affordable housing and how mission-driven nonprofits could really benefit from the deep energy savings of passive house, since they’d be able to save money on building operations and funnel those funds back into their programs for clients and the people who live in their buildings. So that’s what I designed. I picked a site in San Francisco and a fake client – a nonprofit affordable housing developer – and I ran an energy model on it, demonstrating how it could meet the passive house standard.

 

Isaac Johnson ended up being one of my reviewers during my final review. I was really interested in Ankrom Moisan at the time because of the work the firm was doing with affordable housing. Well, after graduation I was working with another firm when I got a call out of the blue from Isaac Johnson. He said something like “Hey, so I remember reviewing your final studio project, and we basically have that project at Ankrom Moisan now. Do you want to come work for us?” He was talking about Orchards at Orenco which is a REACH Development affordable housing project that was pursuing passive house standards, so obviously I said yes. It was really cool coming out of college and working on a project with the exact same sustainability goals that I was passionate about.

 

Orchards at Orenco

 

Orchards at Orenco.

 

Q: What was it like when you first started out?

 

A: We were still on Macadam. It wasn’t the nice office we have now. I remember it felt a little more hodgepodge, but also like there were distinct families within the office. I worked in the basement – there were very few of us down there. We had our own kitchen and conference room; it was like our whole world. It was a very tight-knit group of people because of that. A lot of the young professionals were also recent college graduates like me. It was really nice having that community to commiserate with and co-mentor together.

 

I was part of two distinct families. There was Jeff Hamilton’s team in the basement, and then there was the recent college graduate family that was spread across different project types. Elisa Zenk and Stephanie Hollar started around the same time I did and were part of that cohort. We became really close friends, along with Elisa’s now-husband who was also part of that cohort. It was a cool way to learn about stuff that was happening across the office, because Elisa would be working on student housing, Tim on something else, and Will on something completely different as well. It made us feel more connected to the firm.

 

There were also a lot of recreation opportunities. We had a volleyball team; we would play soccer during lunchtime out at the park. It was a great community.

 

Amanda, Elisa + Stephanie on the PDX roof

 

Amanda with Elisa Zenk and Stephanie Hollar on the rooftop of Ankrom Moisan’s Portland office.

 

Q: Since starting here, how have you grown professionally?

 

A: My biggest area of growth has been figuring out how to collaborate with other people. You can’t just rely on yourself. You have to work with other people if you want the best results. Knowing your coworkers’ talents and who to reach out to is a very soft skill that nobody really talks about, but I think it’s so critical to the success of the work that we do. As buildings get more complex and we want to use more and more data to inform our designs, having good collaboration becomes all that much more important.

 

Q: Since you started here, what has the biggest change in the firm or industry been?

 

A: It has to be the COVID-19 pandemic. That changed the way we work and the way that we collaborate. It also changed the culture of the firm a bit. I think one of the good things that come out of it is that there’s a greater understanding of work-life balance and mental health, and a greater awareness that those things should be prioritized. Sometimes it can feel like the division between work and home doesn’t exist as much, but I think in general, we’re just more flexible about how we work.

 

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working here?

 

A: My favorite thing about working at Ankrom Moisan is the people. I’ve found the across the board, in all echelons and experience levels, in all project types and studios, we just have great people. There’s so much support from everyone, not only because of what you can do professionally, but also just because of who you are as an individual. The people I’ve worked with have been excellent coworkers who take a personal interest in you.

 

Q: What inspires you?

 

A: It’s definitely nature. I know that sounds cliché, but you won’t find any better designs that what is found in nature. Any system you’re trying to optimize has been done in nature.

 

My favorite natural space is probably Milo McIver State Park on the Clackamas River. My husband and I are avid disc golfers, which is probably one of the reasons I love that place so much. It’s so lush and green and has such tall trees. There’s also the river there, which is very pretty. It’s so cool to see how the flow of the Clackamas changes seasonally.

 

McIver State Park

 

Milo McIver State Park throughout the seasons.

 

Q: What advice do you have for young professionals who are just starting out in their careers?

 

A: Don’t isolate yourself. Find your tribe. Find your support system of both other young professionals and more experienced people who you can learn from. It makes a huge difference. It helps keep you motivated and wanting to improve yourself. It also helps with mental and emotional health, knowing that you have a support person who you can grab coffee with or step outside to talk about the rough day you’re having.

 

Get in the habit of taking a personal interest in getting to know your coworkers. Don’t be that person who looks the other direction when you’re walking down the hallway who tries to avoid saying hello. If you’re genuinely interested in your coworkers, it’s a lot easier to pick up the phone and call them about something or send them a random message on Teams. It can even become something that you look forward to if you have coworkers that you enjoy chatting with.

 

Lastly, I would say, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Nobody is expecting you to be an expert. Take advantage of that by asking questions and learning from people.

 

Black and white headshot of Jack Cochran, the author of this blog post.

 

By Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator

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Employee Spotlight: Dani Murphy

November 28, 2023
Curating an Inclusive, People-Forward Culture

When it comes to fostering inclusivity and community, Dani Murphy knows the significance of a welcoming culture firsthand. Though she is still fairly new to Ankrom Moisan (she just celebrated her one-year work anniversary in November), Dani has quickly become a cornerstone for the firm’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) and culture efforts, making significant strides to ensure that everyone in the firm feels welcomed, accepted, and appreciated.

 

Dani Murphy PDX Office Rooftop Portrait

 

Dani on the roof of Ankrom Moisan’s Portland office.

 

She wasn’t always involved with DEIB initiatives, though. Born and raised in Irvine, California, Dani graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Political Science. Now, she’s an HR Data and Systems Analyst. “I came into this field a couple of jobs back, purely from an analytical standpoint. I was asked to partner with the newly established DEIB team, and they asked me to do some analytics for them to report back to leadership,” Dani explained. “That’s kind of how I got interested in this field. I’ve slowly pivoted to DEIB programming since then.”

 

It’s been a great match so far, as DEIB programming is relatively new, according to Dani. “It isn’t something that’s been around forever, but it’s very, very important when creating an effective organizational culture.”

 

Since these programs are people-focused, it’s no surprise that Dani encourages planning and organizing them by starting with the people that make up Ankrom Moisan’s team members. “It all comes together mainly by communicating with people around the office, hearing from them and discovering something they want to learn more about,” Dani said. She stressed the significance of listening to coworkers, stating that “there’s no one-size-fits-all for programming. It’s all pretty specific to the people who make up the company. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t is half of the [struggle]. When it all comes together and works, I feel extremely accomplished.”

 

DEIB Council Group Photo

 

Dani and the rest of the DEIB Council on the roof of Ankrom Moisan’s Portland office.

 

Through her many conversations with her Ankrom Moisan coworkers, Dani came to realize that people are “far more dynamic than who they are in the workplace.” She credited Principal-in-Charge Laurie Linville-Gregston and Senior HR Business Partner Charlene Brown as being the inspiration for that epiphany, explaining how she discovered that Laurie is a beekeeper who jars her own honey, and that Charlene rides a motorcycle. “I was like, oh wow, those are cool facts. I want to know more!” she said.

 

Dani organized an event for Ankrom Moisan employees to show off their hidden talents and be their authentic selves, remarking that “there’s a lot of amazing people here, but I haven’t even met like a third of them. Who knows what other secrets and hidden talents lay out there?”

 

The Women’s Walk event started off as a way to highlight the unique achievements and hidden talents of the women at Ankrom Moisan by walking around the office and speaking with them about their work and passions.

 

2023 Women's Walk Event

 

2023 Women’s Walk event.

 

The first AM Women’s Walk event was a major success. “There are some amazing things that were brought in. We work in a very creative industry, so it’s no surprise that there are a lot of great artists working alongside us,” Dani remarked. “Who knows if that’s what the event will be like in the future. It might be the same, it might be different, but the act of getting people together and showcasing a little bit more about who they are, I think that’s really something special to continue.” Alongside planning the Women’s Walk, Dani also contributed to the success of Ankrom Moisan’s Women’s Month programming, organizing the Women Rising Panel that featured five incredible female leaders from across the architecture, engineering, and construction industry.

 

Guest speakers at the 2023 Women Rising Panel

 

Guest speakers at the 2023 Women Rising Panel.

 

The Women Rising Panel aimed to provide perspective about the lived experience of being a woman in a leadership role in a male-dominated industry, and gave Ankrom Moisan Employees a chance to as these women questions, as it’s not very often we can hear from voices like these in a non-work environment. To make the event even more impactful, Dani did hours of research beforehand to formulate the most thought-provoking questions for the women on the panel. The composition of the panel was thought out and unique – Dani wanted to make sure that the women we heard from were not limited to being CEOs, presidents, or executives. In Dani’s eyes, it was integral to include all levels of leadership, because being a leader manifests in many ways, whether it’s for an entire company or a single team. Overall, the event was a huge success. The women who participated as members of the panel left celebrating the inclusive sense of camaraderie that they felt with one another.

 

Dani emphasized the immense importance of inclusivity in this sense, declaring that “when people feel comfortable and valued and heard, they’re able to be their authentic selves. Getting to know someone’s authentic self is very rewarding.” Furthermore, when people feel they can be themselves, they are more likely to share their true thoughts and opinions, leading to a greater sense of belonging within the company. As Dani puts it, “we need to understand each other and what we all value in order to create something that is worthwhile for all of us.”

 

“From a company standpoint, it makes so much sense to support initiatives [and programming like the Women’s Walk],” Dani continued. “When people feel that sense of community and inclusion at work especially, it has been shown to lead to higher levels of performance improvement, of retention, and it attracts candidates when prospective employees see that a company is dedicated to getting diverse groups of people together and making them feel included and supported; it just naturally builds community.”

 

To further bolster the supportive company culture of inclusion, community, and diversity, Dani sat down with Ankrom Moisan President Dave Heater during Pride Month to candidly discuss how his identity as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community has influenced and impacted his career in architecture. “It’s valuable to hear the wisdom of someone who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community and successful in this industry,” Dani explained. “It’s very similar to the Women in Leadership panel. It’s not easy to be vulnerable about the issues that affect marginalized communities in this field.”

 

 

This effort connects to Ankrom’s HOWs in the sense that by supporting and encouraging people to be their authentic selves and share their thoughts and opinions openly, Ankrom Moisan Employees are empowered to explore beyond the expected and make our firm the best place to work.

 

At the end of the day, Dani believes the people are the best thing about working at Ankrom Moisan. “We have a group of very passionate and creative people, and the more I talk to and meet these people, the more I realize how much [events and programming like] this means to some of them,” she stated.

 

Extremely modest about the depth of her involvement with the DEIB Council, Dani emphasizes how it’s never a one-person effort. “I want to hear input and create something meaningful for everyone,” she said. “I can help do it and help push [programming] in the right direction to make sure things get done, but at the end of the day it’s a group effort. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

Dani’s work extends past programming and into extracurriculars. Events like Women’s Month or Hispanic Heritage Month – which honored the existing community of Hispanic and Latino people at Ankrom Moisan by discussing how their background influences their work, and by celebrating their respective cultures through the rich, shared tradition of empanadas – are just one piece of the pie when it comes to the organizational culture Dani champions. If she can’t plan an event or put together programming, Dani does her best to compile a list of resources to help educate and celebrate any cultural celebration, from Black History Month to Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. These lists often include book, movie, and podcast recommendations, museum exhibits and other local events to attend, and minority-owned businesses to support, among other volunteer opportunities.

 

“There’s a ton of different initiatives and policies that the DEIB Council is going to be focusing on,” Dani revealed. “There are educational and volunteering opportunities, both of which connect us to the community at large. There are a ton of avenues for education.” That’s really what Dani’s position is all about: providing her coworkers with ample resources and opportunities to be themselves, embrace their passions, learn more about topics that pique their interest, connect with others, and show off the hidden talents that make them unique.

 

As for Dani herself, her hidden talents are her athleticism, artistry, culinary skills, and green thumb. During the pandemic, she punch needled an 8-piece solar system that she showed off at the AM Women’s Walk. “At the time it was a combination of what I was most interested in; space and punch needling,” she shared.

 

Dani with her punch needle solar system

 

Dani with her punch needle solar system at the Women’s Walk.

 

It’s clear that Dani’s efforts as both an individual and as a member of the DEIB Council make her a cornerstone of Ankrom Moisan’s company culture. She is always eager to meet new people, listen to their thoughts and feelings, and lift them up in ways that continue to make Ankrom Moisan the best place to work. After all, in her own words, it’s the people that make this place so great.

 

Black and white headshot of Jack Cochran, the author of this blog post.

 

by Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator

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Summer Travel

November 20, 2023
A Q&A with the Workplace and Healthcare Teams

The summer has wrapped, and wintery weather has found us once again. Our Workplace team had some interesting travels this summer, and they’ve recalled some of their favorite summer travel design inspiration.

 

 

 

Clare Goddard, Senior Associate

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: The beauty of what nature has designed. From Gifford Pinchot to Sisters, OR to Rocky Mountain National Park, from lakes to mountains to tundra and trees, our natural world is so filled with beauty. Beauty that is not perfect or repetitive, that takes you out of the mundane of the day-to-day to appreciate the here and now.

 

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: That not everything has to be perfect and that those elements of surprise are what set a design apart from the boring.

 

 

 

Q: If you worked remotely while on your trip how & where did you work (desk, cafe, balcony with an ocean view, etc.)? 

 

A: I worked from the kitchen table in Sisters, OR and from my in-laws home office in Colorado. No views, but really nice to be able to wrap up work for the day and go on a hike or to take Millie on a different evening walk 😊.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kay Bates, Interior Designer

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: I went to Charlotte, NC for a friend’s wedding. One of the days, my friends and I visited Camp North End. This space has deep history. In 1924, its first intention was for a Ford Motor Company factory. During World War II, the site added 5 massive warehouses to store supplies for soldiers at basic training camps throughout all the southeast. When the Cold War hit, the site’s primary production moved to missile development. Once national threats neutralized, the complex was then sold to a pharmaceutical company. Then in 2017, the 76-acre lot was purchased and opened to the public where 500+ artists, startups, chefs, retail, and cultural festivities now home in this community to express their creativity and collaboration.

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: One of the main reasons why I love this industry is because you can truly bring a community together through design. It was a huge inspiration to me to see such a wide range of demographics in one space. There was something for everyone to enjoy. There was a sense of community. Elements from here I can translate into design work would be creating a safe space where communities help each other out instead of a “every-man-for-themselves” mentality. I also admire how they kept many features of the original history while modernizing it for today’s audience.

 

 

 

Q: If you worked remotely while on your trip how & where did you work (desk, cafe, balcony with an ocean view, etc.)?

 

A: I stopped in Atlanta before going to Charlotte and did work from home. I stayed at my parents’ place, and they set me up in my childhood bedroom, which was strange to be back in. We did not have a second monitor, so my mom brought a huge 50” TV I then connected my laptop to. It was super sweet and throughout my workday she would pop her head in and bring me food. Nothing beats a mother’s love. 😊

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aaren DeHaas, Associate Interior Designer

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: The most captivating design elements I saw while in Italy were the seamless balance of new and old elements and the intricate details that were used to create such giant marvels. With such a long and rich history there are so many layers to every aspect of the country, everything from its architecture to the customs are influenced by generation after generation of change and growth.

 

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: One thing this trip reminded me of is how important the details truly are in design. The design as a whole will catch people’s eyes and cause intrigue, but it’s the details that are created up close that hold the attention and make things much more exciting and unique. It’s also important to remember to work with what you have. New, cutting-edge design can be exciting but there are so many stunning creations and forms that have been around for centuries, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. A place’s history is something to be cherished and celebrated, bringing in elements that speak to the history of your project will only make it that much more special in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica Kirshner, Associate Interior Designer

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: Chicago is such a fun city to live in, especially as an interior designer. I always stop myself or my friends from admiring the greystones, retro style, gothic revival, etc. To be able to surround yourself with design inspiration every day is a game changer.

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: Overall, the architecture in Chicago sets a very different tone than what I’m previously used to in Portland. On any given day you can explore multiple different neighborhoods and see completely different styles. This wide range of architectural styles has begun to heavily influence my personal design style. I can appreciate the historical aspects of building and want to pull those elements into a project while creating a more modern and suitable design that will fit our client’s needs.

 

Q: If you worked remotely while on your trip how & where did you work (desk, cafe, balcony with an ocean view, etc.)?

 

A: I am now fully remote working out of my apartment, with AM allowing us to explore a more hybrid approach to our working style this created an easy transition. It doesn’t hurt that I have a gorgeous view of the city from my apartment as well!!

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Feicht, Interior Designer

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: I was really intrigued by the varieties of scale that I saw in Nashville, the lighting design and signage on the main road was incredibly unique, and how the city integrates the new and the old so seamlessly. Also, there is a “stage” everywhere, even at the airport and the botanical gardens, the vignettes of performance space were remarkably interesting.

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: Nashville is such a fun and lively place, it is encouraging to see designs that could be considered too kitschy, but this city reminds you if it is bright and entertaining, even over-the-top it has personality. I would like to nickname this the “Dolly Parton approach.” Especially because I went twice to the Dolly Parton-themed bar, and that had personality down to the drink garnishes and the beer taps.

 

 

Q: If you worked remotely while on your trip how & where did you work (desk, cafe, balcony with an ocean view, etc.)?

 

A: Many people outside of the interior design industry are unfamiliar with the opportunity that we get to go on factory tours to tile, furniture, flooring, lighting, etc. manufacturers to learn more about their products. The second part of my trip was focused on Crossville Tile, in Crossville, TN where we learned about their tile manufacturing process and sustainability initiatives. So, while I was not on my laptop, I was out in the field spending time with other designers for continuing education and in an educational environment. These trips are a great way to make connections with designers both in Portland and around the US.

 

 

 

 

 

Beth Mahan, Interior Designer

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: Design?! It was all about the food!! We were staying in Geneva, Switzerland, for the summer, and did a day trip with friends to the north end of the lake where we visited Le Corbusier’s Villa “Le Lac.” It was the summer home he built for his parents, right at the water’s edge; narrow and streamlined with an open floor plan, one of the first examples of ribbon windows, and beautifully framed views. It was extremely innovative and has stood the test of time.

 

Additionally, we visited the EPFL University campus, a prestigious university in Switzerland, with a campus full of famous architecture. My favorite was the Rolex Learning Center with its cascading design, sweeping over and around the user, through its organic forms and sloped interiors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: Working in healthcare we don’t have a lot of opportunities to take creative risks, however it’s always important to remember that we can include moments of intrigue and interest. While there isn’t a direct correlation between what we visited and my current design work, the inspiration is always welcome.

 

 

 

 

Q: If you worked remotely while on your trip how & where did you work (desk, cafe, balcony with an ocean view, etc.)?

 

A: I worked remotely while we were abroad, based out of my husband’s apartment in Geneva. Luckily, it meant I could set up my workstation and leave it intact, whereas when we travel and work out of hotels it can be laborious to get yourself set up each day and find a good workspace that is not going to leave you with shoulder pain. My recommendation is finding the pillows you need to get yourself at the correct seated height, and I always travel with an external monitor so I can have two screens. Two screens are a must! And there are lots of options for lightweight travel monitors. Otherwise, of course a nice view and a pleasant breeze are a bonus! The other tricky part when you are working and traveling is getting food for the day, so if you can find a hotel with a mini fridge that helps. And then of course identify your favorite croissant and espresso spot.

 

 

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Defining Our Vision and Values: Part 2

September 15, 2023
Setting Our Sights Toward Our Hows

This is part of a series of the origin of Ankrom Moisan’s mission, vision and values. Read Part 1 here.

 

During the Great Recession we began a decade-long deep dive to define and refine AM’s mission, vision, and values. A diverse mix of leadership and all offices and departments embarked upon the pivotal retreat in 2018. From there, smaller groups met to filter through the stories and uncover our shared values or “Hows”. Along the way, small groups engaged in the Why and How sessions telling stories to show how they were individually connected to the firm’s greater purpose.

 

According to Simon Sinek’s process of finding your Why, Hows aren’t aspirational. Rather, they are how you behave on your best day, and what you wish to do more of in pursuit of your Why / greater purpose. These action words needed to be grounded in the behaviors that make us great and occur often.

 

Throughout 2018 a representative group of twelve from the initial retreat kept meeting over and over to sift through all the stories and values both old and new to determine what really represented Ankrom Moisan at our best and the behaviors we most wanted to replicate each day. Each meeting involved telling each other stories that represented the words that were emerging as our How’s. If there weren’t enough stories then the word or value was left behind or merged with another idea that was supported by past examples.  There were too many words at first, and our intention was to fine-tune the list until just five values remained. Over time it became evident that in the shared stories were core themes, and these themes became the criteria for defining our values: they ought to represent how to behave, and they must be actionable. We were able to narrow our shared values down to six.

 

 

Lead with our heart. Share openly. Embrace change. Have fun with it. Be yourself. Trust.

 

 

Jason Roberts, a Managing Design Principal that participated in the How sessions, shares his recollection, “The group word-play exercises and stories were so much fun, there was tons of whiteboard writing, scratching off, editing down, and we’d come back and realize we missed something, and continue to fine-tune it all. And despite the number of people involved, the challenge of defining words and phrases that includes everyone was successful. The results really do speak to how we do our work together.”

 

 

The next step was to engage everyone at the firm – how to do that? We came up with multiple ways, from all office meetings to small group discussions. In every meeting the participants would tell two-minute stories to each other, to make connections to our Hows and our Why:

 

Inspire and empower people to explore beyond the expected.  

 

The meetings included a five-hour deep dive where groups were led through a mini Why retreat, to 1-hour lunchtime activities, to Management Team listening sessions, to fun games like building gingerbread houses that represented one of our Hows. During most of these gatherings people got into groups of six, with President Dave Heater who asked the participants to, “Tell a story about a time you felt inspired to explore beyond the expected.” Then an elected spokesperson would relay their Why or how story back in the larger assembly. The raw reactions of leadership hearing these poignant details was powerful. These shared vignettes solidified our commonalities, broke our hearts open and emphasized how we were a community, and how we inspired one another.

 

According to Jenna Mogstad, Associate Interior Designer, who participated in a few of the early sessions, the group would go around the room and each person would share an anecdote of how the values applied to their own lives; how AM is living up to the stated mission, purpose, and values. During one round, participants gave examples of how leadership supported them personally, which speaks directly to lead with our heart. Jenna shared that over the course of the time she had been at AM, leadership had supported her through multiple family emergencies. She could tell leadership about these challenges and was always met with compassion, and told to ‘go home, be well, we got this, don’t worry about work’. Her supervisors have been incredibly supportive during these personal challenges. As Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Managing Design Principal, affirms, “We care about each other that much.” These powerful stories resonated. We were creating shared connections and experiences that deepened our understanding of AM’s place in the world.

 

Approaching embrace change, as Jennifer puts it, “We are about listening and solving in a unique way, and we don’t treat the design like a precious thing. When we embrace change, one can solve in different ways, and offer creative alternatives.” On top of that, Jennifer continues, at AM “we’re all a little quirky, and accepting of people’s eccentricities and what makes them awesome.”

 

Be yourself is a tenet that we encourage because those eccentricities are often what make our designs and work stand out. Jason shares a situation where be yourself shined through in a real way. He once came away from a client meeting bothered by something that the client wanted, thinking, “this is the worst!” It was the sort of thing he couldn’t work with, and with Stewart Ankrom’s blessing he was able to back out of a project that he didn’t believe in. At AM we encourage people to stay true to themselves, and we support one another, especially when it matters the most.

 

 

Identifying with share openly, Jason does so in his role as Managing Design Principal, “to not only do design work, but to talk about it and to share with coworkers – the more we share, the better it gets. Isolation can be inefficient, and I think work is best when more people are involved. Have fun with it goes right into that; fun is important to creative work.” Furthermore, “Trust is always important, the need for it goes through all channels, and AM trusts me, so I try to do my best. As a team leader I need to make sure I’m trustworthy – there are always going to be issues, and trust wins the day. The Hows wrap together, they are interdependent, and we must always work at it.” That our Hows have this quality of interdependence speaks to how interconnected we are; our values surfaced through the narratives that we all could relate to. We are all works in progress, and we apply our Hows to continue to improve and grow.

 

 

Jenna shares that, “it’s cool to see the people of AM make up our Why and Hows; we are the embodiment of each of these values, each person has an example of an experience that backs that up.” Over time we observed that we tend to go the extra length to hire the people who personify our Why and Hows, that our people match the culture that we have created.

 

 

 

by Kerstyn Smith Olson, Content Coordinator

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Getting Involved in the Interior Design Industry

August 1, 2023
The Benefits of Joining the IIDA

Three members of our interiors department, Roberta Pennington, Clare Goddard and Jessica Kirshner, discuss their experience with the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and how their involvement in the organization has propelled their professional careers. 

 

 

Left to right: Jessica Kirshner, Maddy Gorman, Clare Goddard, Roberta Pennington, and Jenna Mogstad at an IIDA event

 

 

Q: What’s your experience with IIDA? How were you involved?  

 

Roberta: I have been an IIDA member since graduating (the second time) in 2001. My first event was an awards breakfast at the Governor Hotel in PDX also in 2001; I didn’t know anyone, but the Members were super friendly and welcoming.  

I attended MANY events consequently then stepped up my volunteer time to the Board in 2009. I dove into the President Elect role during a time when Members, including myself, did not have jobs. IIDA gave me the stability and connection I was missing during the year I was unemployed.  

After my Presidency, I stayed on as a Chapter Advisor and most recently came back to serve on the Board with the Advocacy team. I’ve been involved in one way or another with finding legal recognition for commercial interior design in Oregon since 2003, and I want to continue to be a part of the momentum gaining speed nationally. It’s an exciting time for interior designers on the legal front. 

 

Clare: I have been involved on the board for a little under 5 years (started October of 2018) first as the VP of Communications and then moved into President-Elect/President/Past President roles.  

 

Jessica: I started with IIDA in college, I was on the student board as the fundraising chair. Once I graduated and was hired on full time at AM, I joined the Oregon Chapter Board as the Director of Social Media and I have held this position for the past 2 years.  

 

 

 

 

Q: How did membership in IIDA benefit you professionally? 

 

Roberta: Networking! I can go anywhere locally and nationally, and a complete network of design leaders are available to tap.  

I became much more active during the Recession in 2009 when I stepped up to be President-Elect. The network of people on the Board were instrumental in getting my name to the top of a list of persons to hire when firms were not hiring. I’m very grateful to this group. 

I also got to know women in the profession who were and still are my mentors and friends. Their experiences showed me having a child does not mean the end of my career. Women don’t have to “act like a man” to be taken serious. Speaking my mind does not make me a “bitch.” AND: I’m a very entertaining public speaker. Very liberating. 

 

Clare: Prior to joining the board (and when I was in San Diego), I credit IIDA with connecting me to potential employers and creating a sense of community in a city where I knew no one. Joining the board here in Oregon has greatly improved my leadership and delegation skills. It has also helped me to create a sense of community here in Portland, beyond AM. I consider it a privilege to have served this design community on the board in helping to be the face of interior design for the state of Oregon. Being part of the board, in any capacity, is how I give back to the profession that I am so passionate about.  

 

Jessica: I have been able to attend countless events that have both inspired me and helped me professionally. These ranged from forums to socials. Each event hitting on a different and important topic in our industry. It has also been a great networking opportunity that has allowed me to connect with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.  

 

 

 

 

Q: What’s your most memorable moment from your time in IIDA? 

 

Roberta: A standing ovation at the Annual Celebration 2010 at Ziba. I delivered my incoming President speech. I wasn’t sure I was coming in with the right message; that being “We’re not dead; we will get thru this Recession somehow.”  When the room of people stood up, clapped, and cheered, I knew I was going to be okay. The CEO of IIDA National was there and told me she would never go on after me again. A real head-swelling moment. 

 

Clare: That has to be the CLCs (Chapter Leaders Conferences) held in Chicago and regionally. I love getting to connect with leaders from other chapters across the US! It was amazing to learn from others and to make new friends. The CLCs will be what I miss the most post-presidency. 

 

Jessica: I don’t necessarily have a specific moment but getting to serve on board with such amazing people has been so motivating. It’s helped me to grow in so many ways. I’m so thankful to have been on the board.  

 

 

 

 

Q: How did AM support your involvement?  

 

Roberta: In my Board involvement, AM has reimbursed annual dues as well as allocated time for volunteering. My current role as VP of Advocacy means I’m spending time meeting with committees, legislators, consultants, and peers often. I can keep my PTO for actual vacation time. 

AM has also been an annual sponsor to the Chapter every year an employee has served on the Board. That sponsorship is instrumental in keeping the Chapter going. 

Leadership has also written letters to legislators during recent pushes for legal recognition of interior design. This small act shows the value AM places on my education, experience, the NCIDQ, and what I bring to the table as a commercial interior designer.  

 

Clare: AM is one of the more supportive firms in the state. They not only encourage employees to be on the board, but back up that support by paying for IIDA membership and providing 2 paid hours per week for board tasks for those serving on the board. I count myself very lucky to have such a supportive firm.  

Also, I think because of that support, Ankrom has had consistently the highest number of people serving on the board (this past year, there were five AM’ers on the board). We always joke that House Ankrom is taking over. Additionally, not only has AM supported individual board members, but they have also lent us the office for multiple board retreats and board events. 

 

Jessica: AM was completely supportive throughout my time on the board, as well as everyone else in the interiors department who was on the board. The interiors leadership team encouraged us to attend IIDA meetings and events and would even show up to events in support.  

 

 

 

 

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Discussing Pride with Dave Heater

August 1, 2023

AM President Dave Heater talks to Dani Murphy about Pride.

 

 

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Get to Know the AM Student Housing Team

July 25, 2023
A Q&A with Alissa Brandt & Matt Janssen

Two of our Student Housing studio leaders, Alissa Brandt and Matt Janssen, give us insight into the unique joys and challenges of designing student housing. They touch on Gen Z expectations, trend forecasting, sources of inspiration and what’s next for student housing.

 

 

 

 

Alissa Brandt, Interior Designer, VP of Interiors

 

 

Q: What do you like best about designing student housing?

 

A: This particular market is always evolving based on what is happening in the world and how these influences affect them personally.The research is fascinating; students’ wants and needs are highly reflective of the current economic trends, environmental challenges, and social justice structure of their communities. They are pushing back on the status quo and are committed to making a difference for themselves and for others. They demand sustainability, are financially savvy and want real authentic design, not products that mimic the real thing and they are so openminded and fluid. 

 

 

 

Verve Bloomington

 

 

Q: What’s something that has you excited about future work in this sector? What trends are you seeing?  

 

A: Design remains on the cusp of what is next. Gen Z doesn’t want what everyone else has, they want what comes next. They are clever and creative and so multi-experiential.Designing for Gen Z requires you to consider all of the possible ways different people may do the same thing and tailor a design to allow each person to embrace spaces as their own. It is about creating opportunities for connection, engaged active behavior, solo thoughtful work, and everything in between for EACH person. One size does not fit all, and their lifestyles require flexibility be built into their environment. Wellness is a major consideration in designing for Gen Z. This generation prioritizes the need to take care of themselves, they crave access to nature, and they think about their health holistically not just physical wellness, but emotional, spiritual, and psychological well-being are all equally important.

 

 

Q: What’s uniquely challenging about designing student housing? 

 

A: The obvious answer is timing. Everything revolves around the opening date. You simply don’t have any flexibly in delivering this product as students have signed contracts and school is starting, but that is more logistics and process.  

 

The more interesting challenges are understanding what students wants are specific to the University location. What drew them to this particular college/university? You have to dig in, research, and understand the regional and local context in order to find ways to celebrate those, while also being mindful to not over commit to this as a concept as not everyone finds the same idea appealing.   

 

The other fun challenge is staying relevant and up to date on trends, what does the demographic want and expect right now? And even more important, anticipating how these desires will morph over the next 2-3 years while the project is in design and construction. There is a delicate balance between being trendy and being relevant. That is the job of the designer to decipher and implement and anticipate the future needs and wants of the residents. 

 

 

Union on Broadway

 

 

Q: What inspires you?

 

A: Creating spaces where students begin the next phase of their life. This is the first time many are away from home, family and friends and there is uncertainty but there is also tremendous excitement around what the future might bring and what opportunities they will find. Many will have experiences that they look back on for many years. This time in their lives shapes who they become. They develop lifelong friendships and find their own voice. It is really important to me that the design we provide elevates the experience these students have.Connection to the community, the university and to each other are so important to having a successful experience and we, as designers, have the opportunity to design these opportunities into these buildings.We research trends, demographics and psychographics so that we can provide spaces that are experiential, flexible and adaptable to the ever-changing needs of the residents. We get to consider all the types of people and personalities that will use the space and work to create design solutions that appeal to everyone. We always aim to create spaces that evoke emotion and feeling while also making them feel safe and secure. 

 

 

 

 

Matt Janssen, Architect, Design Principal

 

 

Q: What do you like best about designing student housing?

 

A: Designing a building which becomes “home” for someone leaving their family for the first time, or living in their own apartment for the first time off campus, while they pursue an education which will change their life forever, is invigorating. It is exciting to imagine the effect a place or space you design will have on student success and on an overall campus community.

 

 

Q: What’s something that has you excited about future work in this sector? What trends are you seeing?

 

A: There are two areas which I am very excited about right now: the effect design can have on student wellness, both mental and physical, and the ability for design, and the design process, to open up and create an environment of community inclusion and a sense of belonging wherein all are heard, all are seen, and all are appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the table. The developments in green technologies, including mass timber systems and the inclusion of biophilia in student housing, is exciting especially when thinking about student wellness.

 

 

Cadence

 

 

Q: What’s a memorable moment from your career?

 

A: When the Cadence first opened, seeing the two buildings greet us coming into downtown Tucson surrounded by the new streetcar, bikes, and pedestrian activity, it was exciting to see the realization of everyone’s hard work to bring this vibrant, mixed-use, urban experience to this gateway location. That being said, the opportunity for my daughter to move into The Standard at Seattle this upcoming fall is going to be quite memorable. Having her live in a building I designed is both exciting and nerve-wracking.

 

 

The Standard at Seattle

 

 

Q: What’s uniquely challenging about designing student housing?

 

A: Universities run on an annual schedule which does not change. As a result, projects must open on time and ready to go, typically by fall term. This creates an environment wherein decisions must be made quickly and efficiently. Being able to pivot, strategize, and problem solve when change happens is invigorating. Communicating with multiple stakeholders to understand everyone’s point of view, what their needs are, and how we can symbiotically mesh the various uses (residential, learning, offices, amenities, …) into a singular, holistic design which helps support student success is as rewarding as architecture gets for me.

 

 

Q: What interesting changes have you seen in this sector over the years?

 

A: It is exciting to see conversations of community and pedestrian activity be more of a topic of discussion rather than automobile parking. More and more, the design of alternative means of transportation in and around campuses, and how student housing ties into and supports those systems, will be critical now and in the coming years.

 

 

 

Vi Hilbert Hall at Seattle University

 

 

Want to get to know more of the Student Housing Team? Learn about Jason Jones and Cindy Schaumberg here. 

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An Interactive Timeline of Ankrom Moisan’s History

July 24, 2023
Celebrating 40 Years of Exploring Beyond

 

In celebration of Ankrom Moisan’s 40th anniversary this year, we look back and reflect upon the firm’s explosive growth, gathering the most significant and noteworthy projects and moments from AM’s history and culture. The result of all our hard work of digging, interviewing, and assembling information is an immersive, interactive timeline of milestones.  

 

 

Take a walk down memory lane, reminisce, and celebrate 40 incredible years of Ankrom Moisan exploring beyond the expected. For the best experience, use Google Chrome on a desktop computer to view the timeline. If trouble scrolling is experienced, use arrow keys to navigate the milestones.

 

 

 

 

 

Filo Canseco headshot   Black and white headshot of Jack Cochran, the author of this blog post.   

 

Graphic Design by Filo Canseco.

Research and Copy by Jack Cochran and Mackenzie Gilstrap.

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Meet Our New Materials Library Coordinator

June 5, 2023
Get to Know Rian MacLeod

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your professional experience? What are you passionate about?

 

I have always been in design one way or another my whole life. Starting out my career at a design firm in Corona Del Mar, CA. I mostly worked on model homes for large builders in northern and southern California. Moved back to Seattle and spent many years working at Nordstrom as a fashion coordinator, producing fashion shows and trend forecasting for in the northwest and southwest region. Returning to my roots, I started an interior design business which I focused on private residential design in 2019. I am a service-oriented person with a passion for making people and surrounds feel welcoming and beautiful. It’s important to me that I’m resourcing from the best reps in the industry to provide quality products to our architects and designers at AM.

 

 

 

 

What’s most exciting about your new role? What impact do you hope to have?

 

I’ve been working from home over the last few years and really missing the energy of being around creative people. It’s invigorating for me to be a part of a prestigious group of designers and architects at Ankrom Moisan. I hope I can have a positive impact on the Seattle materials library by becoming a trusted resource among all the groups here at Ankrom Moisan.

 

 

What are some materials you consider particularly relevant right now?

 

Mindful materials. Thoughtfulness in how and where products are manufactured, the life cycle of the material and how it effects not only the environment in production but also the end user’s environment.

Product innovations post-pandemic. Touchless technology in kitchens, stylish wallpaper with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, switchable privacy film for windows or glass partitions for interior spaces instead of blinds or curtains. There are too many innovations to list!

 

 

How do you curate a materials library that can support the variety of project types AM does (from urban living to healthcare)?

 

It’s a dynamic balance. The most critical element is open communication with the design team and knowledge of the resources available, both digitally and locally. It helps to know which product types the designers want at their fingertips in the library and which ones they can order online or through a rep and can be delivered quickly. It’s important to be responsive, flexible, and open to changing it up as needs evolve.

 

 

How do the materials needs differ between project types?

 

There are several factors that play into this, and it touches on everything from codes and standards to end user needs to project material goals. The requirements for flooring in a healthcare setting are going to be different from those in a hotel or a workplace lobby. The furniture and finishes we select for a senior living project need to be safe and comfortable for seniors and that often looks different from what we select for a student living project.

 

 

Any products or design trends that you’re currently into?

 

Quiet Luxury. Approachable luxury design with a focus on a mixture of contrast textiles like leather, boucle, wool, mohair, linen, and silks in hushed warm tones and ambient light. This creates an environment not only visually pleasing and alive but also tactile.

 

Curves. Juxtapose the squareness of a building or room, curved furniture is making a strong presence in design. A throwback to the 70’s but in updated fabrication and colors, the soft rounded and comfortable edges are a new way to add drama and ergonomics to a space.

 

 

 

Rian MacLeod, Materials Library Coordinator

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How Architects are using Artificial Intelligence in the Design Process

May 22, 2023
A Q&A with Michael Great and Ramin Rezvani

Revolutions in digital tools and technology are rapidly changing the landscape of many different industries across the globe. One of the latest innovations in digital technology is the widespread use of Artificial Intelligence, or AI. Two Ankrom Moisan architects, Michael Great and Ramin Rezvani – Director of Design Strategy and Senior Project Designer, respectively – have recently begun to incorporate AI software into their design process, receiving encouraging results.

 

Before the advent of Artificial Intelligence software, precedent images sourced from Pinterest or similar could be used to establish the initial aesthetic direction of a project. Because not every feature of an image would be relevant for a certain project, these images were often cropped and/or collaged together, leading to unnecessary confusion if clients became attached to specific features in precedent images that were never intended to be a part of the final design. AI-generated images have the potential to circumvent that issue, providing inspiration imagery that is specific to a particular place, project, client and design.

 

Example of an AI-generated precedent image.

 

Example of an AI-generated precedent image.

 

Recently, Michael and Ramin have been using AI to create precedent imagery for their projects. In their experience, renderings created by AI software such as Midjourney assist in streamlining the design process and ensuring that clients are on the same page as designers when it comes to project design and direction.

 

For many, Artificial Intelligence still represents an enigmatic, complicated technology of the future, reserved for the plots of science fiction movies. However, recent developments in technology have made AI and its uses more widespread and accessible than ever. To explain how AI can be utilized to generate unique outcomes and facilitate a cohesive design language for a project, Michael and Ramin sat down to answer some questions about how Midjourney is integrated into the projects they work on and to dispel common misconceptions about the technology.

 

Michael and Ramin in the Portland office.

 

Michael and Ramin together in the Portland office.

 

Q: When did you begin incorporating AI into your approach to project design? Why was this something you decided to do?

 

Michael:

Our adoption of AI software has aligned with the technology’s continual improvement. Initially when we started experimenting with architectural imagery, it was giving us broad stroke building concept imagery. These were by no means a “design” but it got Ramin and I thinking, ‘Oh, this technology might be evolving to a place where we could utilize it more in the design process, let’s trial this a bit and see what we can get out of it.’

 

Part of my interest there is that historically architects have used precedent imagery to describe things that don’t exist yet, or to get clients aligned to what the design intent might be? Language doesn’t often get us to a full understanding. So, I think architects have always used imagery, whether that’s precedent imagery or rough sketches to just get alignment about the direction of a project aesthetically. Both Ramin and I have always thought it was strange that in this process you are often using existing buildings to convey new ideas. I think the advantage of using Midjourney and AI is that we can accomplish the same general task of conceptual alignment but show clients unique imagery that is specific to their project, place and aesthetic.

 

Ramin:

We just started playing around with Midjourney when it came out. It was really exciting and interesting, and we had no idea what it was, or what it could do, or how powerful it was the first couple of times we were testing it out. Then we tried to make it do something specific, and that’s where it started getting fascinating, because it’s potentially a huge shortcut for certain things- especially with generating concept imagery.

 

We kind of hit a wall with a project where we wanted to be able to quickly visually convey something that didn’t exist. We had some loose ideas influenced by some projects that only exist at a completely different scale than what we were looking at. We thought ‘let’s see if we can figure out how to combine all of these ideas and generate imagery to illustrate to the client where we are going with this.’ Through that process, getting imagery close to what we were trying to do was mind-blowing.

 

Precedent imagery influenced by AI designs.

 

Final project design renders created by Michael and Ramin that were influenced by AI imagery.

 

Q: Ramin, you’ve said that AI is “like a paintbrush or any creative tool, you just need to figure out how to use it,” and Michael, that “it’s a language. You have to learn it, just like any software.” How did you both go about learning to use these tools, and how long did it take you to learn the language, so-to-speak?

 

Michael:

I don’t know how far we actually are on that journey, and I think we have a long way to go. There are a ton of resources out there, though, in terms of helping you learn the language through prompt editing. But this is moving so fast that there is now software that will do your prompts for you. You can just add in a few descriptive words, and it’ll fill in the rest, writing it in the way that the AI software wants to see it. Every time you use it, the more you use it, you learn something about what the output is. The more trial and error you go through, the faster you get at getting to an image you can use.

 

You have to think differently about the words you are using to get the imagery desired. It’s a shift in how you think since you have to use fewer words to get your idea across. You must be specific and pointed while still giving the software enough information. From that standpoint, I feel like the faster you can get your mind into that mode of thinking, the better off you will be as AI continues to develop, because the premise of utilizing language to direct output will only accelerate from here.

 

What we all have to adapt to and learn is how to use language to describe what we want machines to do. But even that is probably a couple years from being obsolete. There seems to be an updated version of Midjourney every month that’s substantially better than the last. Even since we last talked, they’ve come out with reverse-prompt capability. So instead of putting a text prompt and getting an image, you can do the opposite, dropping in an image and getting a prompt. By doing so you can start to understand the language in reverse because you’re dropping in an image and the AI is telling you what it sees in text.

 

Ramin:

I’ve been using it a lot, trying to figure out how to create very specific imagery. Like Michael said, it’s a lot of trial and error. To be able to get usable images, it has definitely required a shift in the way that I think due to the way that the prompts work. I’ve been approaching it almost like a science experiment, changing the prompts slightly with each iteration to see what I get back visually with each update. But also, it’s not like you can master it because it’s changing so rapidly. The next versions will likely have a completely different interface, so the way that you write prompts will likely change too.

 

Q: Can you walk me through the typical steps of using Midjourney to create precedent imagery?

 

Michael:

The process right now that we’ve been utilizing is that we’re trying to plug it in to an existing process. On a lot of our projects, we start by charette-ing and brainstorming, trying to develop a cohesive concept. AI software like Midjourney increases the speed at which we can reach solutions, because we’re not all going in different design directions.

 

What we’ve tried to do initially is take the guiding design principles for a project and feed those words into the AI to see what kind of visual representation it would create with our initial thoughts. So again, trying to accelerate the process a bit and get to visuals through words that we’ve already talked about or discussed to create alignment on design direction. As the technology evolves, there will be other ways for us to utilize it, maybe in final renderings, for instance. But right now, I think coming up with precedent imagery is the best use of it.

 

Visual breakdown of how guiding design principles and text prompts are used to generate new precedent imagery renderings with AI software.

 

Visual breakdown of how guiding design principles and text prompts are used to generate new precedent imagery renderings with AI software.

 

Q: [You’ve] said that clients often don’t know what to make of design renderings when they learn that they were created by AI. What are some common misconceptions or misunderstandings about Artificial Intelligence that you’ve encountered since you began using it?

 

Michael:

The most common misconception that Ramin and I have run into is that the AI-created images are just precedent imagery pulled from the internet. You have to explain that it’s not a search engine, it’s not finding an existing image on the web. Often, I have to describe what it does in shorthand for people to understand it.

 

Ramin:

One of the things I noticed right away was people asking ‘doesn’t this take the creative process out of architecture now that you have this image designed by AI?’ At least for the time being, I don’t feel that way. As a design team, you still have to generate the foundational ideas and coax the AI to output something that aligns with your goals and vision. It’s a quick way to get the team on the same page and discover interesting emergent qualities from concept intersections that you may not have discovered on your own. In our current workflow AI produced visuals are intended to draw from and quickly study a whole bunch of different ideas to curate the most interesting aspects of each, based on what we asked the software to do.

 

Q: Do you have any fears surrounding the use of AI or the rate at which it is evolving, a la Terminator’s Skynet?

 

Michael:

Like any new technology, it absolutely has the ability to be used in various ways. I mean, there’s no way around that. I think there’s many applications of AI that could be negative, primarily in terms of its ability to manipulate people. But in terms of what we do, there’s not much risk if you understand it’s just one tool out of many that we can use. It’s not like Midjourney will actually produce architecture. It produces ideas that a designer still has to understand, edit, and synthesize into a project’s end design.

 

Ramin:

It’s hard to tell right now what is going to change and how much it will change. I’m definitely concerned about it, not just for the field of architecture, but for humans. In general, I feel like no technology has advanced this quickly before and it will continue to accelerate. There are just so many unknowns but I’m sure we will quickly see AI implementation in daily life. I think that we’ll know a lot more in the next five years or so.

 

AI process design results.

 

AI process design results, highlighting the Midjourney-generated concept renderings that Michael and Ramin synthesized and incorporated into the initial massing render for a project.

 

Q: With the rapid speed at which AI changes and evolves, how do you envision the future of AI as it relates to architecture? What about the future of architecture as it relates to AI?

 

Michael:

I think that AI continues a theme that has remained consistent throughout the last 100 years in terms of how architecture utilizes technology. Usually, it’s used to speed up the design process. One thing about architecture that’s so different from a lot of other professions is that it still relies on artistry, but there’s always a ‘hurry-up’ type of attitude, we are often pushed to develop designs and drawings faster and faster because of project economics. So, we’re always looking for tools to speed up the process. In addition, architecture is a broad profession. There are people doing wildly different things in the profession their whole career, and I think that could get streamlined.

 

Outside of Midjourney, there’s a whole slew of AI implementations using other design and construction software that’s meant to speed up how fast we can produce a construction set with fewer people. I think inevitably, that’s where architecture has always gone. 100 years ago, it took 40 people in a room, drawing a set for a high-rise tower by hand. I think in the future, a 40-story tower can probably be designed and drawn by two people. Eventually, the industry will get to a point where one or two people can accomplish that same task in half the time it takes now.

 

I would say that right now, as designers, we are not spending enough time understanding the place, the people using the building, and the environment surrounding a project. We’re rushing through a lot of those elements to get projects built, so I think where you end up by incorporating AI into that process is more thoughtful buildings, because we don’t have to spend as much time crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. We can actually think about the project and the building rather than drawing it, and to me, that’s pretty exciting. Architecture can’t do anything but get better through this process. I don’t think anything gets worse. It just gets better.

 

Ramin:

In my mind, there’s no doubt that any areas of inefficiency in the architectural process right now, some of which will be resolved using AI. It’s going to accelerate and amplify the amount that an individual can do by themselves, so I think it’ll take fewer people to do the same amount of work.

 

I think it will allow us to study way more aspects of a project quickly and, like Michael said, make projects significantly better by understanding more of the site’s parameters. It feels like an amplification to me now, but who knows what will happen in six months?

 

AI-rendered precedent imagery from other projects.

 

AI-rendered precedent imagery from other projects.

 

Compared to other Pacific Northwest architecture firms, Ankrom Moisan is a pacesetter in terms of integrating Artificial Intelligence and other digital tools. Few competitors use AI, if at all. International firms, though, tend to use AI software for design-based research. However you cut it, the digital tools of imagined sci-fi futures are closer than it seems, and may, in fact, already be here. It’s a massive paradigm shift that will take some time to get used to, but the good news is that when the AI overlords take over, we will already know how to deal with them.

 

 

Black and white headshot of Jack Cochran, the author of this blog post.

 

By Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator

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