architecture blog

2014 Modative Year in Review

Posted by Krystal Navar on Wed, Jan 7, 2015 @ 06:01 AM

2014 was an eventful year for Modative. Two projects were completed, construction began on six projects (two of which are Modative Build projects), and five projects are currently in the entitlement process. 2014 also saw the birth of Modative founders’ third company: Modative Development. 2015 is going to be a big year!

01: Bento Box almost Complete

Construction continues for Modative Build at our West-Hollywood-adjacent, 5-home small lot subdivision project. This week, we are applying the 3-coat stucco and continuting with interior finishes. Construction is slated to be complete the first quarter of 2015. 

Los Angeles Modern Homes

Rendered view from corner of Romaine and Crescent Heights

Bento Box Small Lot Subdivision

Cement board siding visible through the scaffolding

Hollywood Hills Modern Architecture

View of the Hollywood Hills from the roof of Home 1

West Hollywood Modern Architecture

Marble running bond tile installation in master bathroom

02: Roberts Ave under Construction

As you may have read in a past blog post, construction began on this 3,600 square foot single-family home in Culver City in 2012 then stopped after the slab was poured. But, in 2014, it went vertical. It is now fully framed and is scheduled to be finished the second quarter of 2015.

Culver CIty Modern Home

Rendered view

Modern House Architect

Home during framing stage of construction

Culver City Modern Architects

Wall of glazing at second floor living level

03: Fay Ave Phase III Complete

This project has been in our office in one form or another for nearly 7 years. It was originally conceived as a 7-home small lot subdivision project. Due to delays caused by a down economy, it was built in 3 separate stages. The third and final phase was completed in October of 2014. All phases were constructed by Modative Build.

Fay Ave Small Lot Subdivision

Rendered view of the front unit of Phase III

Art District Dwellings Modern

Photo of completed front unit (check out how closely it resembles the rendering)

Modern Kitchen Architect

Kitchen and living room

Los Angeles Modern Yard Architect

Covered outdoor living room and backyard of front unit

04: Cardiff Cubes Construction

This 3-home small lot subdivision in Palms, a stone's throw from downtown Culver City, began construction around the same time as our Bento Box project. We're in a friendly race to see which project will finish first. 

Los Angeles Small Lot Culver City

Rendering of street view

Palms Small Lot Construction

Framing stage (like the Bento Box project, it is four stories tall)

05: Formosa Fusion under Construction

This 10-home small lot subdivision project is located just northwest of La Brea and Melrose and began construction in December of 2014.

Small Lot Community Architect

Rendering

Small Lot Foundation Construction

Footings and formwork

06: Hangar Homes Construction 

Modative Build began construcion on this 4-home small lot subdivision project in December of 2014. These homes are located just north of Santa Monica Airport on Ocean Park Blvd. and took inspiration from the aircraft hangars once located nearby.

Los Angeles Small Lot Santa Monica

Rendered View

Ocean Park Modative Build

Photo at twilight after demo and grading

07: Pettis Ave Complete

This 2,400 square foot single-family residence, located in Mountain View, CA, was completed in March of 2014. This home sold for $2.35 million.

Single Family Modern Architecture

Rendering of street view

Mountain View Modern Architecture

Photo of completed street view*

Modern Residential Architecture Pettis

Photo of rear view and backyard*

Bay Area Modern Home

Photo from master bedroom*

*Listing photos courtesy of Rob Mibach of Intero Real Estate Services

08: Strata Homes Construction

This 10-home small lot subdivision project is located in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles on Yosemite Dr. and takes its inspiration from the nearby Eagle Rock rock formation.

Los Angeles Small Lot Architecture

Rendered view from street

Eagle Rock Small Lot Subdivision

Footing formwork for Homes 5-10

09: Foothill Blvd Live + Work Zone Change Approved

Foothill Blvd. Live + Work is a 6-home subdivision in Cupertino. Our application for a zone change was approved in Septemeber 2014, changing the existing Commercial zoning to Commercial and Residential. This allows the current abandoned gas station to be redeveloped into six homes with office spaces facing Foothill Blvd. We submitted for permit at the end of 2014 and construction is expected to begin in 2015. 

Cupertino Modern Home Architect

Rendered view from Foothill Blvd.

10: New Projects in 2014

a. Alvarado is a 46-home project in Palm Springs, CA currently in Planning-approval stages.

Palm Springs Modern Architecture 

Rendered view from North Palm Canyon Drive

b. Hyperion is a 8-home small lot subdivision project in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. It is also currenly in Planning-approval stages.

Los Angeles Modern Home Architect

Rendered view of street elevation

c. Ave 57 Art Walk Homes is Modative Develop's first project! It is a 5-home small lot subdivision project in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles and is in the early stages of design.

Highland Park Small Lot Developer 

Early Site Plan

d. Edinburgh is a 8-home small lot subdivision project is just northwest of Fairfax and Melrose. It is in early design stages.

Los Angeles MidCity Small Lot

Early Site Plan

e. Flores is an 11-home small lot subdivision project is located southeast of La Cienega and Beverly. It is also in the early stages of design.

Beverly Center House Architecture

An early collage expressing the design intent for the internal driveway / courtyard

11 Staff Updates

a. Both Katherine Costa and Krystal Návar earned their Real Estate Sales Person License in 2014. Do I sense a fourth Modative company in the near future?

Modative Real Estate Sales Person

b. Modative began a Health + Wellness program in 2014, which encourages employees to live healthier lives by incentivising physical and mental respites throughout the week. 

Modative Health Wellness Baldwin Hills

Photo from group outing to climb the Baldwin Hills stairs

c. Modative also began an Education program to encourage well-rounded professional development in employees. A stipend is granted to each employee to be used that year toward a personally valuable and professionally enriching activity.

Spanish Eduction Architect LA

One employee used her fund to purchase Rosetta Stone Spanish for the office

d. Summer, our Office Manager, and Jesus, a Project Manager, became engaged at the end of 2014. How exciting is that?!

Jesus Summer Architecture Modative Love

I mean, seriously. How cute! 

e. Modative Development, Inc., the third company from Derek + Christian, was born in 2014. 

Los Angeles Small Lot Developer

Modative Development logo

f. Modative and Modative Build hired six people in 2014. Brad Benefield and Steve Knight were brought on with Modative Build. Alan Dana was hired to project manage for Modative. Kenny Lee and Deborah O'Connell came on board as interns for Modative. And Stephanie Garcia was hired to assist Summer with office management duties.

Modative Build Happy Employees

From left to right: Brad Benefield and Steve Knight of Modative Build

Modative Happy Employees

From left to right: Kenny Lee, Alan Dana, and Stephanie Garcia of Modative (Deborah O'Connell not pictured)

Tags: Los Angeles, Modern Design, Residential, construction, Small Lot Subdivision, Development

Modative Featured in Fox News Story on Small Lot Subdivision

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Fri, Nov 1, 2013 @ 16:11 PM

On October 17, Modative was fortunate enough to be featured in a Fox News National TV story on small lot subdivison in Los Angeles. Christian and I really enjoyed spending several hours with producer Laura Prabucki and her team, touring a few of our projects and conducting interviews with the two of us as well as a few of the residents that live in the projects we designed. 

Modative Fox News Small Lot Story

The story isn't really about architecture, but rather the larger impact that this trend has on society and the economy. We were really happy with the final cut and are thankful to the the residents that made themselves available for tours and interviews. The story was featured on Fox News (national) several times on October 17 and has made a few appearances on local news affiliates around the country. If you weren't able to catch it on TV, click the link to watch it online - Tiny homes trend: Narrow houses built on smaller lots

modative small lot subdivison fox news tv

 

Projects featured in the story include 726 California Ave (project in the opening live shot in Venice), Cullen Street Homes (project with the open wood stair in the living room) , Fay 2X Homes (interior shot above) and Fay 3X Homes (project under construction in the video). 

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Announcements, Small Lot Subdivision, small homes, Small House

Modative Featured in LA Times Article on Small Lot Subdivision

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 @ 12:07 PM

On Sunday, July 14, The Los Angeles Times featured an article on the front page about the growing popularity of Small Lot Subdivision in Los Angeles. We were lucky enough to be included in the article along with Planet Home Living (our client on the Artis @Echo Park project) and the Heyday Partnership.

Los Angeles Times Small Lot Subdivsion Architect Modative

Sunday Los Angeles Times Front Page.

LA Times Small Lot Home Architects Modative

And the Rest of the article. The images are from our Artis @ Echo Park project.

Modative has been focused on Small Lot Subdivision since our founding in 2006 and we are glad to see this innovative ordinance gaining in popularity in Los Angeles (and hopefully some other cities soon).

To read the article onlinehttp://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-small-lot-homes-20130714,0,563473.story

 

To learn more about developing Small Lot Subdivision Projects, we recommend downloading our free guide here. 

We also have a free Small Lot Subdivision Information Packet.

A list of Modative's Small Lot Subdivison Projects.

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Small Lot Subdivision, small homes, Small House, Housing

Modative Architecture's 2012 Year in Review

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 @ 06:12 AM

Fortunately, 2012 has been a very busy year for us, which is why there's been little time for blog updates. So we thought we'd let you know about four important things that happened at Modative in 2012:

1. Cullen Art District Homes Sold

Cullen Art District Small Lot Subdivision

Our three home, small lot subdivision project on Cullen Street sold very quickly at the following prices.

Home A (Front): $650,000

Home B (Middle): $650,000

Home C (Rear): $675,000

Small Lot Subdivision Los Angeles Plans

The Cullen Street project was initiated by our client during a very uncertain economic time so it's great to see this project's ultimate success.

2. Modern Homes Under Construction

We currently have four residential projects under construction:

726 California Ave

A three-home small lot subdivision in Venice, CA. This project is currently wrapping up stucco, siding and interior finishes and should be complete by March 2013.

Venice Small Lot Architects Modern

Rendering

modern home venice architects 726 CA

Home A along California Ave. Stucco and siding going in on 12.21.12.

Venice small lot architects modative 2012

Home C from the alley.

 

Artis @ Echo Park

Construction of Phase I (8 homes) is underway on this 15-home small lot subdivision in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Artis is currently in framing and the first set of homes should be complete in the spring of 2013. Artis @ Echo Park was posted on Curbed Los Angeles earlier this week.

Artis @ Echo Park Modern Architects

Rendering

Echo Park Modern Architects 2012

First floor framing on 12.21.12.

Artis Echo Park small lot subdivision 2012

Phase I includes building the first eight homes.


Roberts Ave Residence

A single family residence in Culver City, CA that overlooks a public park.

modern culver city architects

Rendering

culver city residential architects contractors

slab pour


Fay 3X Homes

Three townhouse apartments. This is Phase II of III of the Fay Ave Art District Dwellings (a future small lot subdivision). Phase I, the Fay 2X Homes was complete in late 2011, featured in the Los Angeles Times in February 2012, and are still occupied by the original renters. Here's a bit more info on the design of the Fay 3X Homes. This phase is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2013. Also of note, Modative Build is the contractor on this project. And we will be building even more of our projects as we push into 2013.

fay 3x modern home architects

Rendering of 3X homes (left) next to the existing 2X homes (right).

Fay 3X modern los angeles apartment framing 2012

Framing started at Fay 3X Homes on 12.19.12

modern apartmnet architects fay 3x framing 1

And this is what it looked like a day later on 12.20.12

 

3. New Projects in 2012

2012 brought a lot of great new projects into the office. Here are some highlights:

Cardiff Cubes

We signed up this project in the first week of 2012; a great sign for the year. Cardiff Cubes is a three-home small lot subdivison near downtown Culver City. This project is approved by planning and is currently in the permitting phase. Construction start expected in spring of 2013.

 

cardiff cubes small lot subdivision los angeles

 

Fay 3X Homes

As mentioned above, this project is under construction.

fay 3x homes culver city arts district

 

Venice Boulevard Live/Work - Eight live/work apartments in Los Angeles. The likely future Modative and Modative Build world headquarters.

venice blvd modern live work los angeles architects

 

Ocean Park Hangar Homes

A four-home small lot subdivison in Los Angeles inspired by the nearby aviation and hangars of the Santa Monica Airport.

santa monica modern home architect ocean park

 

Milwood Avenue Residence

A single family spec home in Venice, CA. Scheduled to start construction in a few months.

Venice Modern Residence Architects

 

Vernon Avenue Residence

A single family spec home in Venice, CA. Scheduled to start construction in spring or summer of 2013.

Vernon Ave Residential Modern Architecture Firm Venice

 

 

Pettis Avenue Residence

A single family residence in Mountain View, Ca (that's up North). Scheduled to start construction in 2013.

Mountain View CA Modern Architects

 

4. New People in 2012

The new projects enabled us to add three new staff to our existing team of four, bringing our total to seven. We were very happy to welcome Dena, Jesus & Jesse to our team this year.

Modative Architecture Staff Add 2012

We didn't even ask them to smile. They did it on their own because they love working here.

 

Happy Holidays. See you in 2013!

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, website update, Architectual Practice, Residential, construction, Small Lot Subdivision, Cullen Street Homes Construction

Modative Featured by University of Southern California

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 @ 15:10 PM

Earlier today, USC posted an article by Allison Engel on our firm, USC Architecture Alums Make a Big Splash by Going Small. It goes into some detail on our background, founding, Small Lot Subdivison projects and surviving the recession. The three Modative founders (& Krystal) all attended USC's School of Architectureand feel very honored to be featured in this piece by the University.

usc architecture firms modative resized 600

Modative's founding partners in front of the Fay 2X Homes. Photo by Dietmar Quistorf

Many thanks to Allison and Dietmar for coming out to interview and photograph us for this piece.

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Architectual Practice, modern architecture firm, Starting an architecture firm, Small Lot Subdivision, Housing

Modative Job Opening: Junior Architecture Position in Los Angeles

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 @ 09:08 AM

We've had a busy year here at Modative and it's time to add to our team. If this looks like the position for you, please apply. If you think someone you know may be interested, please pass it along.

modative architecture job 2012

What you'll be working on

You'll be working under a project manager on design and construction documents (using ArchiCAD) on a few modern residential projects in the Los Angeles Area. You will gain extensive hands-on experience in what it takes to put a modern building together. This is a full-time position (40 hours/week), but is temporary, lasting about six months. If the project load in our office was to remain the same, this position could become a permanent position.

Mandatory Qualifications

1. Must have ArchiCAD (not AutoCAD) experience and be ready to be productive using this software from day one. Our office is currently using ArchiCAD 15 & 16.

2. Degree in architecture
3. One to three years of professional experience in the architecture field using ArchiCAD for construction documents.
4. Only persons currently residing in and able to legally work in the US will be considered. No international applicants for this position please.

This is a a very focused position. Applications not meeting the outlined criteria will be disregarded. Since this position is temporary and needs to be filled quickly, preference will be given candidates currently residing in the Los Angeles area or those able to relocate very quickly and on a short-term basis.

How to apply

Send us a resume, portfolio and whatever else makes you look good to [email protected] . We're too busy at this time to take calls on this position. Please keep your email attachment sizes reasonable (under 5 MB or send us a link to download).
To avoid spam, and test of your ability to follow directions, please include "Modative Junior Position" in the subject line.

Schedule

Applications will be accepted until 11:59pm PST on Monday, 08.27.12. Applicants must be available for an in-person interview on either 08.30.12, 08.31.12 or 09.04.12. The job will start the week of 09.10.12.

Click here to see this job posting on our site.

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Announcements, Architectual Practice, Architecture Experience, architecture job search

Phasing a Future Small Lot Subdivision: The Fay 3X Homes

Posted by Michael Scott on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 @ 18:07 PM

As we started design work on phase two of the Fay Ave project earlier this year, we had to keep in mind that the project’s overall mission was still the same: affordable, interesting, modern housing that pencils out as rental apartments or for-sale Small Lot Subdivision homes.  

Keeping that in mind, whenever we start a new project, we like to take a fresh look at things. This is no different for a phased project. So, we hit the ground running, establishing the following new project goals.

  • Decrease the number of phases from four to three in order to reduce the nuisance of construction for the neighbors and take advantage of economies of scale in construction pricing.

  • Incorporate improvements from feedback received from potential end users (the tenants of phase one) and subcontractors.

  • Retain ideas and elements that were successful from the first phase.

Modern Apartment Site Plan Los Angeles

One of the best things about a phased development is that we were able to analyze and learn from round one (Fay 2X Homes) and incorporate the new knowledge into phase two. Outside of internally looking at the project through a critical eye, we also received feedback from potential renters of the first phase. The Developer and Modative both talked openly with prospective tenants about what they liked and, more importantly, would like to see improved. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, but  as problem solvers, we focused on the areas needing improvement. Slightly larger bedrooms, increased storage, more yard space, and a master suite topped the list of most-desired improvements.

For us, the project working in a spreadsheet is just as important as it working in architectural plans. Phase two wasn’t going to happen if it didn’t make financial sense.

To keep costs down, we knew that we only wanted to add square footage where we needed it. Most of the spacial concerns were in the private rooms, so we knew that the additional area should be on the second floor. We accomplished this by cantilevering above (front unit) and bridging across (rear units) the carports. This move shifted the spacial balance, which was essentially 50/50 public/private in phase one, to lean towards the private space. We offset this shift by connecting the ground level living areas to large (by urban standards), usable outdoor spaces, creating a nice indoor/outdoor flow.

Small Modern Homes Diagram


Upgrading one of the bedrooms to a master suite was another high priority item. This meant a larger bedroom area, an upgraded bathroom and a walk-in closet.  At the minimum, we wanted the upgraded bathroom to have a dual sink, but we were also able to fit a larger shower and a linen closet. We also placed the wet walls back-to-back, a move that will make the plumbing subcontractor very happy.

Modern Small House Plans Improvements

So, after adding all this area to the bedroom level, we crunched the numbers and found that  the master bedrooms are 32% larger and the secondary bedrooms are 11% larger in phase two than phase one. While the walk-in closet naturally increased the master storage, we also grew the storage in the second bedroom by over 50%.

Homes Modern Apartment LA Fay 3X

We kept the elements people liked from phase one: simple forms, interesting facade treatments and a cost-effective building design.

Phase two has three units and three door and window types, thus earning it the nickname 3X Homes, which is a spin-off of the 2X Homes concept of phase one. Construction on this phase will start in the fall of 2012 with construction completion scheduled for spring 2013.

Post by Michael Scott. Contributors to this post include Krystal NávarDerek Leavitt and Christian Návar.

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, modern architecture firm, Small Lot Subdivision, small homes, Small House, Development, Fay Ave Art District dwellings, affordable modern architecture

Small Lot Subdivision Branching Out of Los Angeles?

Posted by Christian Navar on Thu, Apr 26, 2012 @ 06:04 AM

Derek and I recently spoke at a mobile workshop on LA's Small Lot Ordinance at the American Planning Association's (APA) National Conference in Los AngelesAt the conclusion of the workshop, we were asked, by an attendee of the workshop, a question about affordability (we like to use “attainability” because when people hear “affordability” they tend to only think of low-income housing). The attendee who asked the question turned out to be a City Council member from the capital city of a state, outside of California, with a population of over a million people (for the sake of privacy and the future of this person’s political career, the person and the city will remain nameless in this blog entry... for now). 

At the conclusion of a very brief back-and-forth dialogue with the councilman, I offered an open invitation to discuss the issue in greater depth. I suggested modative help him figure out if the economics within his district warranted what we feel is one of the greatest city ordinances in the United States. He gave me his card and asked that I get in contact with him. 

In today’s blog post, I would like to share with everyone my initial e-mail to the Council District  representative in an attempt to follow up and get this innovative planning method and practice into another great city: 

 

Hello [City Council member], 

I hope the rest of your stay in Los Angeles and your travel back to [your city] was great!  It was nice briefly meeting you on the APA Small Lot Subdivision tour. Thank you for joining us and I hope you enjoyed our brief presentation regarding a few of our Small Lot Subdivision projects. 

Your question regarding "affordability" was a fantastic one and I would love the opportunity to discuss it further with you. Here, in our office, we utilize Small Lot Subdivision as a means to practice architecture and construction. However, our true passion lies in better understanding the economics involved in the ordinance's implementation. 

Our goal is to develop these projects and provide an attainable housing alternative that will help stop the mass departure of our own friends from Los Angeles. All of us at Modative attended the University of Southern California. Our friends and colleagues from USC are now Architects, Engineers, Lawyers, Doctors, Professors, etc. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of housing in Los Angeles, homeownership is no longer attainable, even for those who practice in top-tier professional fields. Many of our closest friends can no longer afford to live in the city and state they grew up in. We are tired of attending going away parties for friends and family moving to more affordable cities like Portland, Austin, Denver, and Phoenix. We see the potential in the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance to solve this problem. 

Our involvement in the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance has been a great experience thus far. We have become experts in this ordinance and have ideas about how it could be modified to better achieve what it was originally intended to do. We are still firm believers in this housing alternative and think that, with a few small changes or by thinking a bit out of the box, we will soon be able to develop a housing stock that keeps L.A.'s professional class from migrating elsewhere. 

From your website, I gather your city is experiencing some growth and you are very interested in future planning while providing opportunity that is mutually beneficial to your constituents and those looking for new possibilities. We believe [your city] would be a great place to adopt a similar ordinance and provide a better, attainable housing alternative. After an initial quick glance at your Planning and Zoning website, it looks like your [medium density residential 1] through [medium density residential 2] zones would be ideal zones in which to implement a Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance. 

Reviewing some aerial maps, I found a project at the termination of [This] St. and [That] St. that looks to be an approximately 15-unit residential project with "adjoining walls". This may have been a perfect opportunity to provide a "fee-simple" alternative to new home ownership (see below). 


Small Lot Subdivision Illustration

 

When are you available to talk more about the economics of this type of project? Please let me know when you are free to schedule a follow-up phone call.  I look forward to talking to you soon. 

Here is a link to a page on our website where you can access the guide we developed regarding developing small lot subdivision projects in Los Angeles. 

Small Lot Subdivision Guide - Free Download

Here is a link to a page on our website where you can access useful documents from the City of Los Angeles pertaining to the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance. 

Free Download of Small Lot Subdivision Information

Thanks,

-Christian

 

On a side note, if you are a City Council member or city planner, have come across today’s blog post, and are interested in discussing or adopting a similar ordinance in your community, feel free to contact modative. We would be happy to help you draft a similar innovative planning policy or conduct a Small Lot Subdivision housing needs assessment for your city. It is possible to provide a creative “attainable” housing solution that will help create better living environments for you and your community. 

For any developers, architects, or concerned citizens out there who feel there is inadequate attainable housing in your city, feel free to contact us as well. Or, use my letter above as inspiration to contact your own City Council or planning representative. 

We will keep you updated on the Council District representative’s response!

Post by Christian Návar. Contributors to this post include Krystal Návar, Derek Leavitt and Michael Scott.

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Property, Residential, Small Lot Subdivision, Development, Subdivisions, Housing, Planning

7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm - Tip 07: Plan It Out

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 @ 09:03 AM

This post is part of the How to Start an Architecture Firm series.

In February 2006, Christian, Michael and I went to work on forming our own architecture firm. The following is tip number seven of seven in our start-up strategy.

Side Note: After an almost two year break between Tip 06 and Tip 07, I thought it was about time to wrap up this series. We've had an interesting two years, surviving the recession and emerging as a viable and busy architecture firm. Enjoy!

Tip 07: Plan It Out

Architecture firm start up plans

photo credit

When architects dream of running their own firms, they often flash right to the fun stuff:

What types of buildings will we design?

What will our design philosophy be?

While these are important questions, it's important to design your business with equal thought. When I think back to Modative's founding, I don't think as much about that actual first day of being out on our own as much as the six months leading up to the launch. During this time, we met once a week to hash things out while still working our day jobs for other architecture firms. Because the three of us lived in the three corners of Los Angeles, we would either meet online (thanks ichat) or we would drive to USC at night (where we all had gone to school) and sneak into a classroom at the VKC building.

VKC USC Architecture Start Up Classroom

The VKC @ USC. Photo taken by Bobak Ha'Eri, on May 27, 2007

It was important to determine certain things before we all quit our day jobs. We didn't meet to create some exhaustive business plan that no one would read, but to determine general goals and strategies for the company. If you don't establish a grander vision from the start, two things are likely to happen:

1. You'll get too busy doing actual work (projects) and your firm will operate without a vision. This is like designing a project without clear goals or concepts: it can be done, but it doesn't lead to a great product.

2. You'll have no way to measure at whether you've been successful in achieving your goals.

One of the ways we got organized was to develop a strategic plan. The first step in that process was a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Here was our original SWOT analysis from 2006:

SWOT Analysis

Internal

External

Strengths

Opportunities

1.creativity

2. team approach

3. design ability

4. “technology”

5. organizational ability

6. diversity

7. presentation

8. leadership

9. network

 

 

 

 

 

1. former employers

2. large/ diverse residential pool

3. location - los angeles

4. network-friends and family

5. real estate agents, contractors

6. development projects

7. building possibly

8. “non-architecture” projects

9. diversity of los angeles

10. money in los angeles

11. music, movie, sports industry

12. “housing buble” burst

13. having lower fees

 

Weakness

Threat

1.not having “own” portfolio

2. no professional license

3. weak “field” const. experience

4. no infrastructure (equipment)

5. other than type “V” construction

6. staff quantity

7. experience/ age

8. inefficient staff-to-principle ratio

9. publicity

10. financial resources

11. credit worthiness

1.other capable firms

2. “housing bubble” burst

3. # of firms in los angeles

4. general misperception of no need for architect

5. major markets outside of los angeles

6. having lower fees

7. lack of credit and cash

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back after six years of being in business, many of these initial SWOT assumptions were correct. Over the years we've been able to take advantage of our strengths and opportunities, while reducing the weaknesses and threats. In the end, developing a strategic plan was easy -the final document was only five pages long.

Choose Your Partners Carefully

If you have business partners, this planning process is even more critical to determine if you and your partners share the same values. We all knew each other since our early days at USC, but just as important, we had overlapping work experience prior to starting Modative, meaning that we had worked together professionally prior to starting our firm. Here's a diagram we posted on our website back in 2006 showing our experience overlap.

modern architecture firm partners experience path

Now that we've shared Modative's founding story, it's time to begin your story.

 

Use the navigation below to get caught up on all of our 7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm.

los angeles modern architecture firm

7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm

00   architect firm

00 Bootstrapping

Not a tip, but a critical theme in our start-up adventure.

posted 12.03.09

01   architect firm

01 Be Cheap

posted 12.08.09

02   architect firm

02 DIY (Do It Yourself)

posted 12.18.09 

 
03   architect firm

03 Get Advice

posted 12.22.09

04   architect firm

04 Learn from the Bad

posted 01.22.10 

05   architect firm

05 Start and Stay Small

posted 03.03.10 

06   architect firm

06 Stay Flexible

posted 04.05.10

07   architect firm

07 Plan It Out

posted 03.13.12

The bad news is that this is the last of the 7 Tips to Starting an Architecture Firm.  The good news is that we're learning and posting new tips all the time.

Stay up-to-date by subscribing to this blog by adding your email to the subscribe form. Or, if you're a technocrat, you can grab our rss feed.

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, Inspiration, Communication, Architectual Practice, architecture resorces, Starting an architecture firm

Fay 2x Homes - Future Small Lot Subdivision Construction Complete!

Posted by Krystal Navar on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 @ 06:02 AM

In November 2010, we posted about our cost-effective solution to reviving a project that had completely stalled due to the housing bust (see: Modative Architecture Provides Stimulus Package.) Well, since this last post, our sister company, Modative Build, has completed construction of Phase One of this new Fay Ave. project! 

To recap, the “2x” concept came out of finding a simple, creative, cost-effective solution to this goal: to re-imagine a pre-housing-bust development for a much different market. Fay 2x Homes is the reincarnation of the Fay Ave Art District Dwellings, a seven-home Small Lot Subdivision project, which was designed before the real estate market crashed. Our challenge, as architects, was to reinvent this project for a changed economy. 

The seven-home project would ultimately utilize three adjacent lots; however, the center lot was sitting vacant, and, as such, was not providing any income for the owner while the development stalled. Our client asked us to propose a simple, cost-effective design that would add immediate value to this vacant lot and start generating rental income. We decided to drastically simplify the design of the homes and to phase construction in a way that made the most financial sense for our client. The two homes pictured make up Phase One of a four-phase project. 

While the modern design of the project was inspired and influenced by its’ location near the Culver City Arts District, the straightforward design is a direct result of providing a cost-conscious solution for our client.  We decided to limit certain building components to only two variations as a way to minimize the overall project cost. This self-imposed limitation is evident throughout the design of the homes: phase one consists of two homes, each utilizing just two exterior materials, two interior materials, two colors, two window sizes, and two door sizes. Further emphasizing the “2x” concept, each home contains two bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms on two floors, for a combined total of 2,000 square feet. These smaller, more affordable homes are being rented as apartments until all four phases are complete and the properties are ultimately subdivided into seven lots/homes per the Los Angeles Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance.

As a burgeoning design/build firm, we were also able to act as the General Contractor on this project. This helped to keep the cost of construction down for our client by drastically minimizing the cost of change orders that are typically a part of a traditional architect/contractor construction project relationship.

Phase One of this project was completed December 2011 and is now fully occupied.

Here are some photos of the first completed phase of the Fay 2x Homes. Enjoy!

small lot subdivision architects modern los angeles fay

The simplicity of the Fay 2x Homes allowed the property owner to start earning rental income ASAP.

small lot subdivision los angeles cement board siding fay

The wood 2x vertical fins, while hiding the connection details of the cement board siding, also create a graphic pattern on each building face. The patterns are dynamic and change with the time of day, especially on the south walls.

small lot subdivision LA fay ave 2X

A view of the back of the property. Check out all that vehicle back-up space required by the city! It's a crazy amount of space dedicated to the car, but I could throw a mean bbq shindig back there, so it's not totally wasted space.

small lot subdivision modern architect cement board siding

The home entrances are punctuated by bright green doors. 

small lot subdivision modern interior architecture

The concrete floor, plywood ceiling, and IKEA kitchen were all cost-conscious moves to keep the homes relevant in today's market.

small lot subdivision architect modern home

The front home's living area opens out onto a ground-level patio that engages Fay Ave.

los angeles architects small lot subdivision interior

The back home's living area is on the upper level, taking advantage of views toward the Baldwin Hills and the Helm's Bakery sign.

small lot subdivision modern bathroom architect

The bathroom finishes land just below custom-home level, but well above apartment-grade on the finish quality meter.


Post by Krystal Návar. Contributors to this post include Christian Návar, Derek Leavitt and Michael Scott .

Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, culver city, construction, Small Lot Subdivision, small homes, Small House, Fay Ave Art District dwellings, contractor