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NEWSLETTER ARTICLES From the archives...

feature 15

Architecture, as a profession, is a study of representation. As Architects, we like to think of ourselves as builders of grandiose palaces, intimate homes, bustling workplaces and thriving cities. In reality, we face a common struggle in how to most efficiently convey our ideas of these great places to others, and until that point, our ideas can only exist to ourselves. This leads us to not only design the architecture we wish to see, but to carefully select the method in which we will convey the ideas behind the architecture.

A recent project at KMA brought this reality front and center to our design process. Over the past several years, we had become extremely proficient at using three-dimensional modeling software applications. However, the danger in this is that while 3D software represents certain ideas well, it falls short in others. For this project, we needed to find alternative methods of representation to most effectively convey the design ideas we had developed, which in this case reverted back to traditional model building.

Our core struggle was the limitations of what one tool allowed us to generate. To overcome this challenge, we turned to the inspiring words of Architect Andrew Kudless at the Monterey Design Conference in 2010, who described his work as one in which the tool cannot dictate the design; the design must determine the appropriate tool. At KMA, we knew that we needed to break the mold of trying to force the tool, 3D computer modeling software, to represent our intended design ideas in the manner we wanted.

The amazing part of this process was how easy it was to convey our ideas with the appropriate tool. Physical models of wood and cardboard had the magical ability to grab our audience’s attention at a level with which our 3D computer model could not compete. By holding the model and putting their heads into it, our client could understand exactly the experience we wanted to create with our architectural design. By the end of the process, we had arrived at a mutual understanding of the intended design.

As the design process moves forward on any one project, there is a vast array of tools at our disposal from traditional hand sketches and physical model building to computer-generated graphics. Our greatest skill as Architects is utilizing all the tools available to us so that we can effectively convey our design ideas to others. In doing so, we can bring others to understand our ideas and move toward developing actual buildings.


team 15Over the last several months, the KMA team has had the pleasure of getting to know one of its newest members, Elizabeth Moll Fisher. Better known as “Liz” to her family, close friends and colleagues, the Ojai, Calif. native recently migrated south to San Diego, where she joined KMA in November 2011 as a project architect. Inspired by the firm’s unparalleled collective desire for individual pursuits of design and concepts, Liz has found a new haven for exploring her passion for architecture.

“I thrive in a professional environment where collaboration between all members of the office is encouraged during the design process in order to create a well-refined and conceived product for the client,” said Fisher. “With the help of my peers, I hope to expand my knowledge of the latest building technologies and learn how to integrate those into my own designs.”

Fisher attended the prestigious Thacher School, which provided her with the rigorous academic training needed to pursue the next step of her education at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She was exposed to a wide variety of architectural studios from designing wineries and libraries to community centers. During this time, she also pursued an opportunity to participate in an exchange program with Florida International University which included a semester abroad in Rome, the epicenter of architectural history and tradition. In 2002, she graduated with KMA’s own Rich Guerena from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Architecture degree.

Her first experience in the architectural workforce was a position with Togawa & Smith, Inc. in Old Town Pasadena. Here she was first exposed to the world of multi-family residential development and the design and construction process innovated by Glenn Togawa and Tim Smith. Fisher’s initial job duties focused on design, but before long, she moved into the production arena, where she learned more about construction and architecture as a medium. In 2005, the firm merged with AC Martin Partners to become Togawa Smith Martin Inc. and continue their pioneering in multi-family residential development at a larger capacity and with greater flexibility.

“I had the honor of being mentored by Glenn Togawa and Tim Smith who are industry leaders,” said Fisher. “In my time at the firm, I came to respect construction knowledge and how it enables architects to convey their visions to colleagues and clients. I hope to carry that forward in my career.”

She places great value on teamwork, and she takes great pride in her ability to manage and successfully coordinate teams that stay true and often improve upon the original design concept.

In 2010, Elizabeth married the “love of her life” Dr. Nicholas ‘Neko’ Fisher, and the world began to shift for them personally and professionally. Her husband found a dream position for himself in San Diego at a company called Intellisis Corporation, and the couple made the move from Los Angeles to San Diego. As fate would have it, a timely employment opportunity became available at KMA following the difficult decision to leave Togawa Smith Martin. She enjoyed meeting with the office staff for interviews and really appreciated the thoughtful consideration applied by the entire office in their selection of new teammates. She began working at KMA toward the end of 2011 while remaining good friends with her colleagues at Togawa Smith Martin. She and her husband have since adopted the city of San Diego as their new home and are really enjoying their new lifestyle and work.

“One of the elements about KMA that I admire is their commitment to working in a collaborative spirit, and I’m thrilled to work with such a great team of skilled and intelligent designers,” said Fisher. “It’s been invigorating for me to challenge myself and adapt my architectural skill set to projects outside of my previous expertise, such as tenant improvements for commercial/office use and a design proposal for an elegant and modern hangar for the military.”

Fisher has thoroughly enjoyed her past year working and flourishing at KMA and looks forward to building her knowledge and passion for architecture.

“There is still a lot to learn and so many different approaches to our skill that the learning will be eternal. I really look forward to my future years of work here and the great things we can accomplish in the built environment for our clients,” she said.

eco top 15

KMA Architecture and Engineering has been honored to work on many projects that are utilized by the U.S. Military on a daily basis. KMA applies and successfully integrates green design principles into these projects while still adhering to the needs of the government and budgetary constraints. While most people seem to see these types of projects as prototypes with little room to be creative and environmentally-friendly, KMA has proven that this is simply not the case.

One of KMA’s current projects, the new two-story Education Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., is a prime example of how smart and innovative designs work to improve the quality of life for its occupants.

“Vandenberg is the third largest U.S. Air Force Base in the United States, and the new educational facility plans to serve more than 1,360 personnel daily, with an average of 600 students annually via distance learning,” said Heather Mertes, LEED AP BD+C and Associate at KMA Architecture and Engineering. “Our goal is to design an indoor and outdoor environment that enhances occupant well being and performance.”

To put the 38,376 square-foot structure on track to achieve LEED® Silver Certification, the team is incorporating sustainable design elements such as natural day-lighting and enhanced building envelope performance. Some of the proposed design features include solar shades at windows and permeable pavers on site. The landscape architect is planning on incorporating drought tolerant/native plant species into the landscaping. In addition, occupants who drive low-emitting vehicles, or those choosing to carpool, will have special designated spots in the parking lot. Bike storage will also be available for those who prefer to pedal to work. Materials that use recycled content and are locally sourced/manufactured will be used wherever possible.

“Truly sustainable design takes into account not only the use of eco-friendly materials, but also measurable results and the impact that the use of those elements has on the environment,” said Mertes. “The efficient building envelope and MEP systems we are looking at are aimed at improving energy efficiency by 30 percent and reducing potable water usage by 40 percent.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2012 with completion estimated for 2013.

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perpendicular 15For centuries, Europe has been a source of inspiration for some of history’s most famous architects. One member of the KMA Architecture and Engineering team, Heather Mertes, recently found herself in one of the continent’s culturally-rich melting pots of design, Andalucia, Spain. From its architectural intrigue to its hole-in-the wall eateries, Mertes gives us a candid recap of her journey.

What elements of Spanish architecture set it apart from other styles? Some of the elements prevalent in early Andalusian architecture include: the horseshoe arch; multicolored tile work with foliage and Arabic calligraphy patterns; the arrangement of rooms around a central courtyard with water features and gardens; and muqarnas, three-dimensional plaster carvings that look like stalactites which are found in domed ceilings or arched forms. You can really see Moorish influences in the architecture of southern Spain, which undoubtedly resulted when the Moors from north Africa took control in the early 700s AD.

Do you see the influence of other architectural styles in Spanish architecture? Many of the buildings within the Alhambra in Granada reflect elements of Roman and Greek domestic architecture, which is evident in the open-air central courtyards with water features and colonnades surrounding the perimeter.

How has modern design impacted Spain’s architectural footprint? Much of modern Spanish architecture turns its back on traditional Andalusian architectural elements and embraces a modernist aesthetic. There are architects like Rafael Moneo who successfully modernize historical architectural elements, as seen in his design of the Seville Airport, which incorporates flared column capitals, arches and domes. I also saw many buildings in Spain that honor and preserve the work of their predecessors. The newly constructed Metropol Parasol, located in one of the old quarters of Seville is an example. During construction, parts of a Roman town were discovered below the site, and a decision was made to incorporate them into the project. The columns of the new structure were strategically placed among the Roman ruins, the archaeological finds were preserved, and a museum called the Antiquarium was opened below the Parasol allowing public viewing of the discovered remains of Roman houses, mosaics and fish salting vats.

What building did you find to be the most inspiring and why? The Sevilla Cathedral, which I believe is the largest Gothic Cathedral ever built. When I entered the cathedral, the shear height of the structure took my breath away. You cannot truly understand the immensity of it just by viewing it from the ground outside. I also had a chance to check out one of the cathedral’s unique exhibits, an enormous wood brace that was carved in the 1990s and used to stabilize one of the immense stone columns in the cathedral during repairs. We climbed the adjacent Giralda tower, too, where you can see the roof of the Sevilla Cathedral and the immense buttresses needed to support the height of the structure.

What was the most unusual building you came across in your travels and why? The Banos Arabes in Ronda, which is the most well-preserved Arab bath on the Iberian peninsula and dates back to the 13th or 14th century. Designed as a place for meeting, resting and cleansing, it was built adjacent to the river Arroyo de las Culebras in order to have a steady supply of water. Travelers were required to stop at the baths before entering the city. Over the last five to six hundred years, silt was deposited at the banks of the adjacent river, covering the entire bath complex. It remained encased and well-preserved in this manner until it was excavated.

Heather’s Travel Tips:

  • Translation Tip: “Parking Libre” means “available parking”... NOT “free parking.”
  • Best Accommodations: Hotel Casa 1800 in Seville
  • Best Hole-in-the-Wall Eatery: Las Columnas, around the corner from Hotel Casa 1800 (Heather recommends their delicious tapas!)
  • Favorite Dessert: Cortadillo de Cidra, a small cake filled with candied melon and sprinkled with powder sugar

quick left 15While many measures are taken to prepare for California’s annual wildfire season, your property is at risk for fires all year. Whether the cause stems from an electrical problem, arson or tenant negligence, you can help minimize potential damage by properly planning and ensuring that your building is up to code.

To get you started, here’s a quick list of things you can do to ensure the safety of all those who occupy the building:

Construction: Building construction type and fire resistive rating should be consistent throughout the building and maintained in good repair. All structural members should be fireproofed, and proper interior and ceiling finishes should be used. Fire doors should be checked to make sure they operate properly, and vertical shaft enclosures should be in good repair.

Exits: Proper corridor construction and opening protection should be provided. On each floor, there should be at least two separate means of exiting the building that are clearly labeled, unobstructed and free of storage. Exit ways and exit signs should be visible and properly illuminated. Corridors are not used as part of the air distribution system.

Mechanical/Electrical: Regular testing and maintenance of fire dampers, smoke detectors and similar devices is essential, in addition to frequent checks of the heating, cooling and ventilation equipment. Areas designated for removing combustible products should be well-ventilated, and building air circulation systems should be equipped with override switches in locations that allow for manual control. All electrical wiring, fixtures and appliances should be safely and properly installed.

Fire Extinguishing: All first-aid firefighting equipment should be properly located, and fire extinguishing systems should be maintained. Water supply controls should be unobstructed and either locked or supervised. When your building is undergoing a renovation, take care not to obstruct sprinklers or create unprotected spaces.

Fire Alarm/Warning Systems: Testing and maintenance of fire alarm and warning systems, as well as occupant voice notification and fire department communication systems should be performed regularly.

Miscellaneous Tips: Elevators should be equipped with fire department recall, and sensing devices should be checked periodically. Elevator lobbies should be separated from the corridor and the remainder of the building. If the building has a kitchen, any range hoods, vents, fans, ducts and filters should be cleaned and kept free of grease. The kitchen should not be used as a space for excess storage.

For more tips and information on how to protect your property, visit the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection or your own state’s fire protection agency.

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Back in March, we were thrilled to learn that our client, KMA Architecture & Engineering, had been selected as one of San Diego Metropolitan (SD Metro) magazine’s “Most Trusted Brands” for 2012. Aside from the well-deserved recognition for KMA, the award served as a victory for the amount of time that’s spent scoping out award opportunities and completing what is oftentimes a daunting nomination progress.

What makes this award so coveted by the area’s top companies?

San Diego’s “Most Trusted Brands” awards, as defined by SD Metro, represent companies, organizations and institutions that have earned trust and loyalty by adhering to high standards of professionalism, integrity and accountability. Unlike many other distinctions, the scope of this award touches on a company’s character, which to clients and prospects is just as important (if not more so) than the physical skills or services that they provide.

In addition to addressing these important factors, the fact that the award is presented by a local publication is of great significance. We live in an Internet-savvy world where customers, clients and guests have a means of sharing their two cents with the rest of the cyber community at any time, and the mix of authentic and self-congratulating reviews can leave the public confused about the true quality of products and/or services. Publications and their reporters, however, have had a chance to gain an in-depth knowledge from years of interacting with industry experts, which gives their opinion more credibility and weight.

It is therefore with great pride that KMA acknowledges its place with other San Diego companies of the same distinction. Their work in and around the city has earned them the respect among clients and colleagues, with projects ranging from SeaWorld’s Shamu Stadium, One America Plaza and the office buildings at Liberty Station to the El Cajon Public Safety Center and Camp Pendleton Infantry Center. We admire their commitment to serving the community through the use of the latest technologies and sustainable design and look forward to seeing their continued participation in the building of America’s Finest City.

Congratulations to KMA on being one of San Diego’s most trusted brands!


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