Raising the Bar

In a profession proliferated with aggressive deadlines and strict budgets, it can be easy to let one’s love of design fade. One becomes consumed with staying within budgets and parameters, meeting codes, and designing under pressure with limited time.

There is an interesting transition that happens from the university to the professional level. During studio there is a freedom that transcends any budget or code. And as for deadlines, well, you don’t sleep if you have to. Design happens in iteration after iteration with countless meetings with professors and peer reviews. You have an entire semester to explore options and perfect your design.

But in the profession, time is money and dictates how much of it we can spend on a project. When reality sits in, it is easy to get stuck in a box, to design the normal, and to forget what it is like to invent the extraordinary.

At Trivers, we do a great job of coming up with intriguing concepts and pushing boundaries. We consistently challenge ourselves. If, due to the constraints of assumed practicality, our ideas do not flourish as we had hoped, we can still say that we put our best foot forward and pressed for something new, different, and exciting. Our clients know that they are not only working with Design Professionals, but with passionate individuals who deeply care about what they do.

So how does one continue pushing to keep their love of design alive outside of the normal work day, and fight against the restrictions of normality that can infect the spirit with complacency and mediocrity?

There are a plethora of design expressions in our profession. Every person is unique in how they keep their design vigor alive. Some renovate personal property or flip houses. Others obsess over precedents or read extensively. Whatever keeps that passion going, keep doing it! It is those interests outside of work that help to fuel our drive within the profession and push against normality.

For me, I like to design for fun. When office tasks focus on construction documents, reviewing submittals, taking meeting minutes, and consultant document coordination, a creative spark ignites in my soul that comes to life when I am home. The desire to create must be met one way or another.

Below are a couple of projects I have worked on as a hobby. The first is the Double-Bar House, which inspired the deliciously cheesy double-meaning of the title “Raising the Bar.”


Both projects are a “double-bar” concept. This house is a single floor with a living space bar and a bedroom bar. Between the shifting bars is a reflecting pool and a swimming pool. The reflecting pool serves as a more intimate space at the back of the house while the pool serves as the centerpiece to the more public entertaining portion of the house.


The second house consists of two stacked bars delved into the face of a cliff. Below is the living space and entry while above are the bedrooms and a carved outdoor space.


The screen gives the home dweller an ever-changing view of the landscape. From an angle, the extended mullions shield the view, especially where they are more dense in the variation of the design, while directly on one can see clearly out.


The screen consists of corten and wood panels, which complement the exposed stone and help the structure blend in with the façade.


The conception of these projects brings me simple joy and keeps my creative spirit alive. They remind me of why I chose Architecture; because I love to design. Keeping that interest alive is crucial for all of us. Remember why you chose this profession, and keep the spirit alive that created all of those wacky, impractical, but absolutely wonderful things at the university.

If we do not raise the bar for intriguing, quality design, who will?

So keep raising the bar and raise it high. Let the passion that lured you into architecture stay alive, brilliant, and beautiful.

Posted by Matthew Skinner, Architectural Designer

One Plus: St. Louis ArtWorks

My dad once told me that he became a civil engineer because he wanted to help make the world a better place to live. I’ve never forgotten that and have tried to use my career as an architect in the same way.

I initially heard about St. Louis ArtWorks (SLAW) from one of the other Principals at Trivers, Joel Fuoss. At the time, he was the Board Chair of the organization. I had been frustrated for years by the lack of awareness that some young people have about good opportunities; opportunities to be active in the community, opportunities to express themselves, opportunities to earn money, or opportunities to earn the respect of others. It has always been obvious to me that we’re all born into different situations, and that at an early age a little support and exposure to better opportunities is all some people need to really thrive.

I met Priscilla Block, the Executive Director of SLAW, while we were both participating in Leadership St. Louis. Our discussions led me to believe the organization provided much of what I mentioned above. The mission of St. Louis ArtWorks is to broaden educational and career opportunities for youth in the St. Louis Region through apprenticeships in the arts through community collaborations. They strive to create positive educational opportunities for youth through paid artist apprenticeships. While participating in the program, students also learn business and social skills through partnerships with professional artists in a variety of media. Eventually, Priscilla asked me to join their Board of Directors, and I gladly accepted.

When I joined the Board, one of the first issues to be dealt with was the need to find a new home for SLAW. At the time, they had space in the Centene Center for Arts and Education in Grand Center, as well as a satellite location in a storefront in the Old North neighborhood. Both were good locations, but the spaces were too small for the growing organization. Additionally, despite some synergy with the other arts organizations in Centene, SLAW’s program often didn’t fit in well. High school students who are creating art are sometimes noisy, and usually messy. With the end of the lease approaching, the Board made the decision to start the process of finding a new space.

People often talk about offering time, talent, and treasure to a worthy cause, and that is exactly what Joel and I decided to do. A committee was formed and we developed a program for the new space in order to better focus our search. In addition to the spatial requirements, which were easily understood, we also thought a lot about where this new home should be located. The main priorities included accessibility for the people who participate (near mass transit and geographically close), and visibility for the people who support the operation. The Delmar Loop area emerged as a strong candidate. When the building at 5959 Delmar became available, we realized it fit our program very well. It was being used only for storage and had been an industrial building throughout its life, but the large spaces, generous daylighting, and durable nature of the construction were perfect for SLAW activities. The Board and Priscilla moved quickly and a lease was negotiated.


5959 Delmar- Interior Before Renovation 


5959 Delmar- Exterior Before Renovation 

About this time Trivers joined “The 1%” (now known as “The 1+”) and committed to donating at least 1% of our time annually to non-profits that needed design expertise. We easily chose SLAW as our first recipient and completed the construction documents for the buildout of the new space at no cost to the organization. We assisted with bidding, applied for the permits, and negotiated the award of the project to Raineri Construction. They proved to be a tremendous ally by understanding the mission of the organization and by helping make what seemed to be an impossibly low budget work for the project. We relied on many favors, a lot of donated time - which included a lot of “sweat equity” from the Board - and donated materials to get the project done. There was also a “Hard-Hat Breakfast” fundraiser during the construction process that raised additional, much needed, funds.


Board Members and their families pitched in to help paint

Today SLAW has a new home and continues to expand their programs allowing more young people to have the opportunities they deserve. In November 2016, St. Louis ArtWorks received the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, which was given during a special ceremony hosted by then First Lady Michelle Obama. This well-deserved award is the product of St. Louis ArtWorks’ continued commitment to growing their programs and empowering youth through the arts.


Apprentices working in the new space


Mayor Slay's visit 

As the pilot project for our 1+ commitment, I can’t think of better outcome. We are actively considering our next endeavor and look forward to hearing all the great stories from the alums of St. Louis ArtWorks. You can learn more about SLAW by visiting their website.


5959 Delmar- Exterior Today


Posted by Joe Brinkmann, AIA, Principal 

What do you think?

Clients, colleagues, and friends have inquired regarding my thoughts on the proposed Studio Gang project, One Hundred, revealed this past week. While still in the early stages and much can change in the design process as projects develop, my response has been consistent. At Trivers, we strive for all of our work to be contextual, yet modern in its place in time. Some may argue that One Hundred is an anomaly, that it is too different for its site or St. Louis. It is frustrating as a non-native that I often hear “well, it’s good enough for St. Louis” or “do you think people here are ready for that”. I ask, were the people of St. Louis ready for something as bold as the Gateway Arch, the Lambert terminal, or the McDonnell Planetarium?

My position is that it’s quite right for this site. Something of this height, this scale, this atypical massing is appropriate for a site that affronts the country’s best urban park where the building can be viewed from afar, peering over the park’s tree line. The grand scale of Kingshighway affords the building to breathe as structures along Michigan Avenue affront Millennium Park or the street wall of 5th Avenue adjacent to Central Park. The proposed building has both historic and modern neighbors along Kingshighway and within the Central West End that complement its height and more massive scale.

Our firm is always pushing for our work to be more provocative and we feel consistently that St. Louis is hungry for more contemporary architecture which needs to be delivered by clients and designers alike. As a member of the architectural community, we keep pushing the advancement of architecture. The beauty of a city lies in the continual improvement that reflects the needs and desires of the community at that time. We must ensure that those needs represent the values we wish to convey to future generations. I applaud Studio Gang for creating some noise not only within the City but also internationally with their proposal, and I am delighted of the primarily positive responses from our community at the well-attended unveiling held this past Monday.

I’m reminded of a lecture delivered by Tony Fadell (a designer of the original iPod) during which he emphasized that we all have the power to improve the world around us, through design. Everything we touch that is not of the natural world, someone had a role in its existence. Our built environment is a reflection of who we are as community. We need to use mindset to move us toward environments that are reflective of the 21st century and the generations to come that will want to call St. Louis home. One Hundred could be a welcomed addition.

Posted by Joel Fuoss, AIA, Principal


One Hundred, Courtesy Studio Gang