The Normal, IL Corn Crib Revisited

Natural Birth – From Lines to Final Design

If you’ve never designed a building that’s actually been built, the closest thing I can liken this process to is the birth and rearing of a child.  While in most cases you had a great deal of fun making the baby – there’s always that anxious anticipation that exists while you wait nine months for it to finally reveal itself to the world.  Prior to the birth of my first son I remember constantly wondering: what’s he going to look like? What are people going to say about him? Is he going to be healthy…with all his fingers and toes? Am I even worthy of the privilege of being a parent?  The reality of the matter is there’s quite a few variables that contribute to how things will ultimately turn out – some in our favor and others that challenge us as individuals.  Either way as parents we learn to shoulder that responsibility and forget about excuses.  As a father of three (two boys and one girl), I can truthfully say that each of my children are unique with their own little quirks and temperaments; what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other, and they certainly test my patience from time to time…well, actually on a daily basis.  Be that as it may, in my eyes they are adorable – I’d do absolutely anything for them and although the existence of those “little personality quirks” are trying and sometimes less than appealing in public, they are my kids and I love them to death.

The same is true with buildings that we as architects design.  We invest countless hours during pre-development in pursuit of being selected for the project.  We then spend months conceptualizing, studying the site, responding to existing context, interpreting code requirements, attending public meetings, and pitching design ideas to owners, all while attempting to balance the ever-changing variable we loving refer to as the budget.  We fight in behalf of sacred cows (key design elements) that often get slaughtered, we passionately debate scope, and we ride the tide of political will…something we as architects were never prepped for during the college years.  Finally at the end of six to eight months of design/documentation and ten to fourteen months of construction it’s time for opening day at the ballpark.  There’s no tell-all journal published that outlines the arguments over additional services, change orders, screw-ups in the field, or squandered design opportunities; on occasion we actually show up to opening day with a few scars…but that’s our job as the architect, we shoulder the responsibility and forget about excuses.  While there’s always things we wish we could go back and change, there’s always that one thing that we adore about our design – until someone decides to knock the building down, no one can take that away from us.

The Return Home

In 2008, when Pendulum Studio was commissioned to design a $9,000,000 multi-use ballpark on the Heartland Community College Campus, we knew going in that the budget was tight, so our strategy was simple…keep it simple.  Now that the facility is complete and in the midst of its second full season of operation we were invited back to lead a tour for 50 fans interested in the inner workings of the facility.  To be honest, this process was as informative to us as it was intended to be for the fans – this kind of exercise is a great way of gauging if we were successful in executing what we set out to accomplish; aside from operational feedback from the team, who better to hear it from than dedicated fans?

One of my favorite things about this ballpark is the surprise that’s unveiled when you walk through the gates in the outfield and up the stairs, or from the sidewalk through the main gates behind home plate and catch your first glimpse of the playing field.  It’s a great feeling when you realize that even though from the street the exterior facade is not extravagantly ornate, the openness of the outfield concourse and the deliberate break in the press box building mass behind the bag forms a view corridor that immediately sends a signal to your brain that says “this is going to be a great place to watch a game.”

The main entry concessions behind home plate are flanked by keg storage rooms and adjacent open patio areas that were originally intended to serve as beer gardens with tapped counters and bar stools.  Although the beer gardens were not executed in the initial build, beer lines and power has been stubbed up in the appropriate locations for future use.  In the interim both areas have been landscaped to offer a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the busy main concourse.

As you work your way down the first base concourse toward the outfield entry there’s no shortage of grass berm seating – room for approximately 1,500 down each line – 3,000 total.  We engineered the slope at grade identical to the seating bowl to allow for future expansion of additional seating sections, group decks, and party areas as demand rises and funding becomes available.

The outfield wall was intentionally designed to be low and deep to create great lines of sight even at the lowest points near the base of the wall.  There’s a future opportunity for the installation of drink rail and sponsor advertising at the top of the berm along the concrete walk – the picture below illustrates this vantage point from the top of the berm; the only thing that would make this experience better is an ice-cold beer in your hand.

The scoreboard below is positioned just in front of the locker room facilities in right-center.  When the home team takes the field, they walk directly out of the locker room under the scoreboard, then down through the corn to the playing field surface.

The Future…Room For Smart Growth

Phase one of this project involved a great deal of pushing and pulling.  We stretched our dollar pretty far and created a nice starting point for where we’d like to see things ultimately go a season or two down the road.  The future addition of concourse roof covering, drink rails in the outfield, group decks, outfield entry roof to match home plate, the installation of our original 20′ x 40′ drive-in movie screen and finally a pedestrian bridge to connect both ends of the concourse will help the facility to fill out a bit and grow to full maturity.  It’s going to take time to get there, and the $1M that’s required to make it happen is not going to be easy to obtain but as my father always says, “timing is everything”.  With an announced 3,100 in the crowd and an actual attendance of approximately 2,500 on a friday night (7/8/2011) and with the expectation of 5,000 on Saturday for the game followed by their first concert, I’m confident they will make it happen sooner than later.

As I mentioned at the outset of this post, designing and constructing a building – in this case a ballpark, really is like birthing and rearing a child.  There’s a lot of give and take, a little sacrifice here and there but as designers, architects, “parents”, we shoulder that responsibility.  At the end of our day at the ballpark, there were two things that happened that were pretty fulfilling: 1) post tour – the fans told us how much they sincerely enjoy attending ball games at this facility, 2) for the first time I got to sit in the stands with my business partner and our families and just relax and enjoy.  We are proud of our work.

East Village Redefined


Although we previously posted information about the start of phase one of the East Village project, we did not outline the complete vision for the overall development.  With the multi-family housing and adjacent parking garage making rapid progress toward completion in October of this year, we eagerly anticipate the proposed additional phases outlined in our master plan.

Green Bay Bullfrogs on the boards…literally

My Design Process

The first thing my oldest son asks me when I get home is: “what did you do at work today – did you have fun?”  With exception to the days that I spend in meetings or on the road my typical answer is: “I sketched most of the day…yep it was a good day”.

Just over a year ago we were cranking away on the Green Bay Bullfrogs’ new stadium and something inspired me to start taking video of our design process for just about everything I do.  Needless to say, I’ve got hours of video – this one being the first of a series that features me on the boards with my favorite triangle and circle template.

Based on the wardrobe changes in the video this was a three-day sketch.  Although I pushed the speed to 8x in editing, we spent quite a bit of time thinking about how best to tie into existing site context (Fox River & downtown to the east, arts district to the west), blur the site boundary lines (outfield boardwalk & playground), and maximize revenue generating potential (everything inside the secure line).

Green Bay Bullfrogs New Ballpark Update

Downtown Community Green Space

Our message at the 2010 Baseball Winter Meetings was pretty direct – “The ballpark of the future will be smaller, multi-purpose, economically and environmentally sustainable.”  The proposed new ballpark for the Green Bay Bullfrogs is all of the above.


When Pendulum Studio was selected by the Bullfrogs to design the new ballpark, the first order of business was choosing a great site.  Although there were a number of sites in consideration, when we arrived at this tiny six acre brownfield parcel in downtown Green Bay, we knew our search was over.  The site is bordered by the Fox River to the East, a 200-foot wide river inlet to the North, and Mason Street bridge to the south.

The ballpark design focuses on “right-sizing” the facility to maximize natural site amenities including views to the Fox River and the downtown skyline from inside the ballpark.  The incorporation of a generous double-sided grass berm, kid’s fun zone, plaza level wood deck, and a second story banquet pavilion encourages community use during game day and non game day events at the river’s edge.  The left field river inlet will feature boat slips in a second phase to accommodate game day boat traffic and a “boat-up” drive-in movie screen attached to the back of the scoreboard.


Fox River & Inlet Aerial View
Aerial View Above Mason Crossing The Fox River
Left Field Power Alley/Grass Seating Berm
3rd Base Entry View
Outfield Entry - View To Playing Field

Small Ballpark With Big Features

As fans pass through one of three secure entry points pictured above, they will have the option of enjoying ballpark features that include the bullpen bar down the left field line, loge boxes behind the left field dugout, dugout club seating behind home plate, and the Bullfrog upper deck down the right field line.  Rather than focusing on maximizing the number of fixed seats like most traditional stadiums, our design focus is on maximizing diversity in seating inventory which increases team revenue potential.  Although we have incorporated a number of traditional ballpark features in our design, our site specific and contextual approach to this ballpark makes it far from cookie cutter, it will be one of a kind.


Bull Pen Bar - Left Field Line
Loge Box View - Concourse Approach
Field View Of Loge Box & Dugout Press Box
Right Field Upper Deck View
Right Field Plaza View
View From Field - Home Plate
West Entry Elevation

South Kansas City Health Clinic, Open for Business


Initial Site Visit - Existing Conditions


Inner City Health Care – Modern, Modular, Affordable

When Swope Health Services approached us about transforming a former night club located at 8825 Troost into a community health clinic, we were pretty excited about the potential to have an impact on the community through design.  Although the existing condition of the building (as illustrated above) provided us with a strong dose of reality, i.e. there was quite a bit of work to be done in a short period of time; we were encouraged by the enthusiasm and leadership of our client who stated: “We want this facility to be the benchmark for our new clinics.”

We responded to our clients call to action by first setting a baseline for their design expectations through a series of charrettes with administrators, doctors, and operations staff.  We then narrowed our approach to three simple characteristics: clean, warm, and colorful.  The images below illustrate our final solution.

New Reception/Waiting Area
Waiting Area - Alternate View
New Exam Room
New Break Medical Staff Break Room

In addition to Pendulum Studio’s interior design, our subsidiary brand Modular Products LLC designed and fabricated a 9′- 0″ long check out counter and a 13′-0″ long reception desk.  Both elements feature aluminum construction with a powder coat/clear coat finish, backlit accent panels, and integrated filing system by Square One Interiors.

Modular Check Out Counter

General Project Information

Client:                Swope Health Services

Size:                    5,000 SF Tenant Improvement

Budget:               $350,000.00

Architect:           Pendulum Studio

Interior:              Pendulum Studio

FF&E:                 Modular Products LLC

MEP:                  BGR Consulting Engineers

Contractor:       Zipco


East Village Phase One Breaks Ground

Pendulum Studio - Aerial Rendering

New market rate urban housing takes form in downtown Kansas City’s East Village

East Village is a new residential/mixed –use neighborhood located at the northeast corner of the downtown loop in Kansas City, MO.   Swope Community Builders retained Pendulum Studio to design an urban master plan aimed at revitalizing this nine-block area currently dominated by surface parking lots. The first phase of this development is the East Village Apartments, a fifty-unit, four-story residential building designed to attract citizens that work within the loop to live downtown.

The exterior design aesthetic of this building is driven by the desire to diffuse the negative connotations typically associated with market rate urban housing – i.e. unsafe and low-income.  The series of brick panels along the main entry façade work to establish an overall sense of security at the pedestrian level.  Graceful outdoor decks on levels two through four allow residents to safely connect with the outdoors from within their living unit.  The stucco reliefs set behind the brick panels are intentionally soft in color and texture adding hierarchy and shadow to the building façade.

General Project Information

Client:                         Swope Community Builders

Budget:                        $8,000,000.00

Finance:                     U.S. Bank/MHDC

Architect:                   Pendulum Studio LLC

Structural:                  Dubois Consultants

Civil Engineer           Taliaferro & Browne, Inc.

MEP Engineer:         BGR Consulting Engineers

Contractor:                 JE Dunn

Construction on this project began in November of 2010 and is scheduled to be complete by the fall of 2011.  We will post photos of the building progress on this blog monthly.  If you are interested in tracking the stages of building construction please subscribe to our blog by clicking the button in the upper right column of this page.

Pendulum Studio - Main Entry Rendering
Foundation Walls and Drainage Tiles Under Way


Rooftop Hospitality

Although “there’s no place like home” – the thought of using a public toilet facility doesn’t seem so bad when it’s in a smart design with clean lines surrounded by beautiful landscape.

10 East 13th Street Kansas City, MO 64106 - 6th Floor

Although “there’s no place like home” – the thought of using a public toilet facility doesn’t seem so bad when it’s in a smart design with clean lines surrounded by beautiful landscape.

Green roofs in Kansas City are impacting the economy as well as the environment in a positive way. In early 2009 the City of Kansas City, MO expressed interest in converting an existing green roof in the Power & Light District above Constantino’s Market parking garage into a revenue generating multi-purpose outdoor event space.  Although sedum fields and concrete walking paths were installed during the initial build, pedestrian lighting and public toilet facilities were not in the budget.  The lack of these features made the City’s proposed enhanced use of the green space difficult to achieve due to code regulated occupancy requirements.

Pendulum Studio was retained by the Cordish Company and tasked with developing several concepts that would comply with code requirements, accommodate heavy daily use, and be ready for occupancy by the spring of 2010.  Our initial design methodology was geared toward a partially off-grid modular solution – constructing the building in two pieces off site then hoisting them into place by crane.  Although this approach was intriguing to all parties involved, it was decided that a more traditional “bricks & mortar” approach was most appropriate for this application.  One of the keys to our design solution was the selection of materials and colors inside and out that would withstand public use but avoid looking institutional.  We achieved this by incorporating SIL-LEED cementitious board on the exterior.  It’s gold color contrasted by the adjacent dark metal cladding compliments the limestone and glass buildings in the background.  The use of soft colored subway tiles accented by charcoal banding and strategically placed lighting on the interior gives off a warm and inviting vibe.

Next Steps…
Although we did not implement our modular concept on this project, we have not given up on our quest.  In fact, this rooftop project is really a predecessor to our shipping container based modular toilet facility soon to be completed.  We are now working toward the delivery of four new off-grid modules equipped with solar cells, battery storage, and rain water collection for a municipal client at 50% of the hard construction cost of the traditional “bricks & mortar” method.  Stay tuned for more info in an upcoming issue of Pen & Ink.

Photographs by Iiams Images

The Beginning…June 9, 1990

This month I’m celebrating my twentieth wedding anniversary with architecture (June 9, 1990). Like most relationships we have our ups and downs – good times and bad times, sickness and health. Every time I think about walking away from her, I follow my heart and honor my commitment…the fact is I love her – and I always will.

When people ask me “What made you want to become an architect?” the long version of my explanation is a bit complicated. To be honest, I had no idea what the profession entailed prior to getting serious about choosing my major (junior in high school). This is a disturbing reoccurring theme amongst “disadvantaged/minority” youths across the nation – an overall lack of awareness and exposure when it comes to the design professions.  I was reminded of this painful truth just a few weeks ago when I participated in a career day at a local high school where the racial demographic was approximately 60% Latino, 35% African-American, and 5% caucasian.  Amongst all of the students I spoke with that day (approximately 50 freshman), 95% of them had no clue what an architect is or does – and frankly, showed very little interest in learning more.  They all seemed rather put off by five years of college, three years of apprenticeship, and a $34k starting salary.  It’s funny to me because I’m sitting in front of these kids as an advocate for hard work and dedication to the profession and they are looking at me as if I’m totally nuts – I actually started to question my own motives…maybe I am nuts.  Why did I choose this profession?

I chose the architectural profession because I was born with a pencil in my hand so to speak.  I’ve always had a magnetism toward visual expression of my thoughts and ideas – however I was accustomed to channeling my talents toward fine art and illustration.  In high school I won a regional NAACP ACT-SO award for painting (, which led to a several commissions as an illustrator for a greeting card company; at 16 years old I thought I had it all figured out.   During a family gathering 24 years ago my older cousin Vicky asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I told her that I planned to be an artist.  She responded by informing me that if I wanted to secure “gainful employment”, the architectural profession would be a much wiser pursuit (there’s actually irony in this advice – but we’ll address that later).  So I did a little research on architecture, then submitted applications to several universities and was accepted by the California Polytechnic University, Pomona School of Environmental Design.

I remember it like it was yesterday, one Saturday afternoon a woman by the name of Alice Blue Lee representing Cal Poly’s  Minority Outreach Program called my parent’s home and asked to speak to me.  She said that although there was an overwhelming demand for entry into the school of architecture (at that time one of the top architectural programs in the state), she had two positions that were to be filled by “disadvantaged” applicants.  She called to offer me one of the slots on one condition: “Jonathan, you have to promise me that you will work hard and become a graduate of this program…Do I have your word?” (kinda reminiscent of the scene from the Bourne Ultimatum).  Fast forward twenty years, there are two things that are certain: Yes, I am a product of “affirmative action”…and yes, I kept my promise to Alice Blue Lee…plus some.

So, when did I fall in love with architecture?

My infatuation with architecture began in 1990 as a freshman in design school on a trip to the Louis Kahn designed Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.  While standing in the main view corridor watching the concrete plaza disappear into the horizon, it was then that I first realized the impact of the built environment on human emotion – if you haven’t been to the Salk Institute and experienced the view in person (shown above on the left), I guarantee it will change your life.

I fell in love with architecture in 1993 as a junior in design school on a trip to the Yucatán Peninsula to see the pyramids of Chichen Itza (shown above in the middle).  It was then that I began to understand that the world is larger than my immediate surroundings.  I realized that the built environment should do more than just cater to our daily needs; it is in fact a part of our cultural and spiritual expression – in many ways it contributes to the definition of who we are and confirms that there is more to us than just “us”.

I “popped the question” so to speak in 2003 when I traveled to Barcelona, Spain and stood at the base of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.  I got off the train walked out the station and I remember telling my wife – “I don’t care what we do while we are here but we have to see the Sagrada Familia”.  I had no clue where it was or how I would find it, then I turned my head and there it was!  I was awe struck by this incredible masonry structure  that resembles melting candles (shown above on the right).  Take a second to give this a little thought; how did Gaudi pull that level of craftsmanship off way back then when in contrast to today (in the age of Avatar for goodness sakes), we can’t get a contractor to build a traditional one story parking garage with simple stick framed construction above without melting down the entire project budget?  Seeing The Sagrada Familia in person was my moment of clarity, the point in time that I knew what I would do and what I would be – I was hooked.

This month I’m celebrating my twentieth wedding anniversary with architecture (June 9, 1990).  Like most relationships we have our ups and downs – good times and bad times, sickness and health.  Every time I think about walking away from her, I follow my heart and honor my commitment…the fact is I love her – and I always will.

Hello world!

The Month of May is special for Pendulum Studio – my business partner and I decided to hang our own shingle on May 18, 2007 (Incorporation Day), My wife and I tied the knot May 30, 1998, we’ll move into our new office space May 2011.  As we continue to reach new milestones in our careers it only seems appropriate to launch our blog in our favorite month of the year.

We’ll save random thoughts for our twitter posts and instead “break ice” with dialogue centered around issues we encounter while practicing architecture during troubled economic times – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It’s been reported that there are over 400 unemployed architects in the Kansas City metro alone and the numbers are climbing. Firms that have been considered household names for the past 25 years (affectionately referred to as the 800 pound gorillas) have started to bleed – there’s just not enough bananas to go around.  Principal Owner’s of these firms are adopting guerilla warfare tactics just to stay alive.  The “client pool” is becoming harder and harder to secure on the long term – fueled by the desperation of the profession.  The “client pool” treats “us” (architects in general) as second class citizens because guess what…”if we don’t like it, there’s always another architect out there willing to do the work and live to die another day” – which says something about “us” (yet another topic for discussion).

As my business partner often says  – “It’s tough out there”, yet we are still aggressively optimistic.  We are living in the era of the “market challenger” – it’s time for us to be smarter,  faster and more agile while conducting better business in general.  It’s time for all of “us” to ingest a healthy dose of “get right” (as my father often says), and bring value back to this devalued profession.

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