Babble Interview: Katrina Evans

You all know that I love providing great interviews with women in design here on the Babble. I have such a fun interview to share with you this month.  Katrina Evans has been high on my list to interview for a while, and I’m so glad our schedules finally worked out because I’m able to publish this post on her birthday of all days.  Happy Birthday, Katrina!

Katrina Evans

Katrina Evans

I first met Katrina and her husband Chris when we moved to Athens, Georgia back in 2008.  Though their business (E+E Architecture) was just starting up, she took me in as their first employee.  I couldn’t believe the number of projects she had going at once.  Katrina managed to not only keep her business afloat during the worst of the recession, she’s such a (forgive this choice of words) hustler that they made it through a shining example of success.

I admire Katrina’s work ethic and drive, her down to earth nature, her functional creativity.  She’s patient while at the same time demands excellence from those she works with.  I learned a lot from Katrina during the short time I worked with her (we relocated to Virginia in 2009) and do wonder what life would be like had we stayed in Athens.  She taught me how to respect clients’ wishes and still keep the project rolling along.  It’s the same attitude she applies to her family, making the whole work/life balance look effortless.  Katrina and her husband Chris recently designed and built their house in Athens, and she’ll talk a little about that in her interview.  Let’s get to it.

Tell us a little about yourself- where you’re from, where you went to school, what you are doing now, etc.

 I am originally from a smallish town in Iowa called Cedar Rapids. I studied architecture at Iowa State University. I was lucky enough to study abroad in Rome for a semester and had some perspective knocked into my wholesome Midwest background. I graduated and stomped around as a young professional in NYC, later moved to Atlanta. After a few years working at a great firm, Perkins & Will, I had the opportunity to work as a staff architect for a hospital in Athens, GA. My husband, Chris (also an architect) and I jumped at the chance to move away from Atlanta into our charming college town.

Present day, my husband and I have our own Architecture / Interior design firm with a few capable employees. E+E Architecture started in 2007, right before the economy tanked but somehow we’ve grown each year and have a solid reputation with some cool projects under our belt.

How did you get interested in architecture?

 I think I got interested by one of those super basic classes in early high school where you draft out a house. I poured myself into the project and proclaimed that I would become an architect. As a bonus, I liked that upon earning a degree, you practiced architecture versus aimlessly wandering around in the business world. This is of course not really true since folks trained as architects branch into a million directions.

At what point did you decide to go into business for yourself?

Chris and I had a few side projects and formed E+E in 2006. We both had full time jobs but out of the blue the hospital I worked for cut my position.   I freaked out for a couple hours and decided by the end of the day that I would ramp up E+E full time. Chris joined two years later.

Tell us a little about your home and work schedule.  How do you make it all work with a shared business, two kids and a dog?

 Ha! I suppose we make it work because we work our tails off. It definitely helps that Chris and I have shared goals: a healthy business and happy home with our kids. We split up all duties and divide and conquer as much as possible. I used to be the type of person where I could waste away a whole weekend doing very little of anything. Now, we are always on the go or doing something which helps. Balancing both family and work can definitely be overwhelming for us. We try to remember a mantra “work to live, not live to work”.

Tell us a little about the house that you and Chris Evans designed for your family: the property, the process, some of the trials, and what you are most proud of in the house.

 We had been looking for an in-town lot for a while and made a few unsuccessful attempts at buying one or two. When we found our current property, it took about two weeks of marinating on the thought because the house was just gross. Our friends called it the “flophouse” and it had been vacant for years. Ultimately, the street, schools, location and the wide double lot sealed the deal.

Before the renovation and expansion

Before the renovation and expansion

 

 

We established our goals: open floor plan, tons of light, a big screened porch and ultimately, a house that reflected exactly how our family lives. It was a little tricky to find the time to do our drawings since we were busy but we finally went on vacation and found time to lay it out. Elevations quickly followed and the entire process was pretty easy considering we are both hands-on dueling architects / spouses. We definitely disagreed on some parts here and there but overall, it was shockingly painfree.

Challenges were really about staying within our budget. A realization to us was that appraisers are not necessarily great at reading drawings and that “cool” elements don’t always translate into a higher appraisal. Once the home was complete, we did ask our appraiser to come out and walk the actual home and the number went up dramatically.

Completed house

Completed house

 

We also decided to GC it ourselves, which… is a lot work.   Fortunately, we worked with a friend / GC who helped us through site work, foundations and framing and then we tapped into the pool of wonderful sub contractors in the area. I think we may have worn a few folks out but we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them again to any of our clients.

 Describe some of the unique features you included. 

We are very happy with the quantity of windows. Every room has a generous amount and it fills the house so well with light. A bonus is that we can see our children in the front yard / back yard with ease.

Playroom window

Playroom window

Day-lit living space

Day-lit living space

I guess the standing seam vertical panels are somewhat unique. We love the way the panels fold up the connector and bridge from the original home to the addition.

In general, we kept the palette very clean –white walls and dark floors and intended for the light fixtures to be the only semi-permanent feature that jumps out. We found some great old fixtures, had a few custom made by the local lampsmith and we made the string lights upstairs. I love them all. It’s especially interesting to see the shadows the lights cast.

Handmade light fixture

Handmade light fixture

Custom designed and built light fixture

Custom designed and built light fixture

Other design details we like are the stair railings. We wanted something that had interest, was economical and safe. They aren’t exactly code compliant so we had plywood up at our inspection and then installed the rope. I think it plays well with the light fixtures.

Lights and custom handrail

Lights and custom stair rails

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

What projects are you working on now?

 We are working on a mix of projects right now. We just wrapped up design on a new restaurant, Seabear, an Oyster Bar. We are also doing a childcare center, a new office building and an open-air pavilion for the UGA Ropes Course program.

Designed and built by E+E architects Katrina and Chris

Designed and built by E+E architects Katrina and Chris

Recently completed outdoor dining table

Recently completed outdoor dining table

Child photo-bomb!

Child photo-bomb!

 

What architect (or architects) inspire you and why?

Lake Flato. They are very successful at merging vernacular architecture with modern, clean design. They also choose materials that have integrity and let those materials guide the design. They also work on various scales and budgets but still create spaces and places of beauty. I’m a fan.

Since you are currently teaching a course at UGA, what, if anything, would you change about architecture education?

 There are lots of flaws. Most basically, I think that there is so much emphasis put on design and theory, it leaves very little room for any practicality. Some programs around the country have a construction element built into their program and I think that would be invaluable. At Iowa State, which has a great program, it was deeply theoretical. A slightly more rounded approach would benefit students and the professionals that will work with them.

The class I teach, Building Systems for UGA Interior Design students, has a goal of teaching the students about how a building comes together by real-world examples and whenever possible, by getting out in the field.

Lastly, what is your favorite thing about being an architect?

 My favorite thing about being an architect is creating buildings or spaces that have a direct impact on people. Good design really does matter… and now research is backing up the egos of countless architects …

Examples: Being intentional about natural light can lead to improved outcomes in healthcare settings, lower pain medicine usage for patients. Staff will even sleep better with high exposure to natural light. Efficient, deliberate layouts of offices can increase productivity and decrease employee absenteeism.

I could geek out about this for a long time. Good design really is good business.

Upstairs

Upstairs

I hope these words and images inspire you like they do me.  I love when she shared her secret to success: work your tail off.  And those orange kid-proof chairs- I totally see where she’s going with that! She forgot to mention the astro-turf they installed in the kids’ playroom. Seems like they thought of everything.

Thanks for letting us take a peek into your life, Katrina.  And Happy Birthday!

 

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Little Sister arrives!

We did it!  We had our second child just 10 days ago: Sawyer Jennifer DeBacker.  Here we are introducing Mark to his little sister.

family

Sawyer.

Sawyer

Sawyer has been an incredible addition to our family and already I can’t imagine life without her. 

I know I haven’t posted much in the past few months.  Life has become ridiculously full and busy, but I still think blogging is a worthwhile pursuit. I hope to

be more consistent with it once we are more settled.  I did want to share one thing (in addition to the baby announcement!) that Dr. Jay showed me this morning.  He has become an avid (and talented) photographer over the last year or so, and has recently started posting more to Flickr.  Today, through Flickr, he found an interview Moby gave to 1883 digital magazine about his blog about L.A. Architecture.  Los Angeles has been on my list to visit for quite a while.  I’ve been to California three times, and only really to Northern California and I know Southern California is like an entirely different country.  Anyway, I just love hearing Moby talk architecture in Los Angeles. He travels quite a bit and has a very interesting take on what he finds to photograph in L.A. 

Gives me the itch to travel there.  But I’ve got enough travel on my plate for the summer.  We move in a few short weeks and even fewer boxes have yet been packed.  I hope to be able to blog, but know I haven’t forgotten about you.  I just have to figure out how to juggle.

Thanks for sticking with me.

 

January Interview | Charlotte Barrows

me

I’m excited to introduce you to Charlotte.  She’s another friend from my undergraduate days in the architecture school at UVA.  In fact, she’s one of my first friends in architecture.  An impressive gal I’m proud to stay in touch with and see almost every year since college.  Charlotte is not only incredibly smart, she’s also super sweet and modest.  She lives and works in Boston, one of my favorite cities.  While being a very fun (and funny!) person to hang out with, she’s also very serious about her work.  Sometime after working in architecture for a while, Charlotte decided to turn her focus towards landscape architecture.  And while I don’t consider myself completely ignorant of this field, there are a lot of nuances I’m not familiar with.  This interview was absolutely eye-opening to me as far as what a landscape architect deals with over the course of a project.  Just as I know a strong building comes together as a result of a team of folks working together to solve all the issues, so does the landscape that surrounds it.  I can’ appreciate a well-conceived landscape design, and I hope after reading what Charlotte has to say, you’ll think a little bit differently about the way the environment around you is put together.

I’m proud to bring this interview to you not only to share a good friend with you, but to share the point of a landscape architect with you.  I think you’ll love hearing her perspective and I know you’ll learn a lot- I did!

Tell us a little about yourself- where you’re from, where you went to school, what you are doing now, etc.

Thanks for asking me for an interview, Rachel! I was born and raised in Northern Virginia. I attended the University of Virginia, where I received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 2002. London was my next stop — I was hugely lucky to be able to spend two years working as an architectural assistant there. In 2006 I got my Master of Landscape Architecture from the GSD at Harvard, and I have since been plugging away at Landworks Studio in Boston, where I have recently been made an Associate.

How did you get interested in architecture?

My brother tells me that when I was little I told everyone in earshot that I was going to be an architect. It’s hard to put your finger on these things — I did a lot of drawing, making things, building Lego-lands. Architecture (in its broadest terms) seemed to be the inevitable focus of my studies and career just because it applied to so many of my interests as a kid.

What projects are you currently working on?

At Landworks I am fortunate to be working on a wide range of projects (and a lot of them) — from the planting of a large highway ‘gateway’ on the Cape, to a small and sleek plaza at Northeastern University.

1 Landworks Studio -- Hyannis Gateway Concept Diagram

Hyannis Gateway Concept Design

2 Landworks Studio -- Concept Site Plan Study #3 Worcester Visitor Center

Worcester Visitor Center, concept site plan study

3 Landworks Studio -- 11 West Broadway 1 context

11 West Broadway context

3 Landworks Studio -- 11 West Broadway 3

11 West Broadway

4 Landworks Studio -- Boston Design Center Entry Court

Boston Design Center Entry Court

5 Landworks Studio -- Fire Pit at Harbor Hotel Provincetown thanks to Turnstone Property

Fire Pit at Harbor Hotel Provincetown

What do you think is the biggest misconception about landscape architects or landscape architecture?

Landscape architecture has a bad rap. Or no rap at all! While most people generally understand the profession of architecture, ‘landscape architecture’ often draws blank stares or excited outcries like ‘oh you are so lucky you work outside!’ Well, my colleagues and I are hardly ever outside — I’m outdoors as much as an architect.

I think of landscape architecture as a very broad discipline, with the natural sciences, social sciences, and the arts as its umbrella. Most landscape architects I know can apply their skill-sets, and design-thinking to large and small scales. They know about ecology, urban infrastructure, and cultural issues on one hand, and they fret about expansion joints, bark mildew, and design fees on the other!

What’s your most memorable project?

A border-crossing located in Maine on the Saint Johns River. It hasn’t made it into Construction Documents (long story) but for me those months of work meant a sharp learning curve, a complicated project team, and a clear illustration of the importance of a strong landscape proposal. We worked hand in hand with the architect and the rest of the team to locate the building and organize traffic and inspection areas while presenting the public with a welcoming image — all within the constraints of high security. The building and landscape in this case have to work together seamlessly.

site-plan-WORKING-CS3

 

What landscape architect or architects inspire you and why?

There are so many inspiring landscape architects hard at work right now! West 8, Field Ops, MVVA to name a few of the big ones. They are not only doing a killer job at what some people would consider the traditional work of landscape architects, they, in collaboration with some inspired clients, are expanding the realm of the profession; they are using landscape strategies to inform the design or re-design of huge urban areas.

What is your favorite city for landscape architecture?

Again, I can’t choose just one. How about London for its humongous urban park network located smack in the city center; Amsterdam for its trains/bikes/parks/trees thanks to its centuries-old tradition of city planning; and Paris because it’s just so damn pretty — and it’s got some good examples of contemporary landscape architecture to boot.

What work of landscape architecture would you most like to visit?

Toronto’s waterfront is undergoing some major changes right now… I would actually love to be a part of any of these revitalization projects. One day that waterfront is going to be a major destination for tourism, business, recreation — and a great example of contemporary landscape design.

If you weren’t a landscape architect, what other career path would you have taken?

I love the US mail system (see Lego-land, above — it’s all related somehow) — I would have tried to become the Postmistress General.

What, if anything, would you change about landscape architectural education?

In general I think landscape education in this country is getting more and more interesting as the profession evolves. I do think that its possible though that schools are putting too much emphasis on design tools rather than helping students learn to think critically. The fact that so many students are leaving school with digital skills and little hand-drawing skills makes me think that they are not being asked to think through a problem through drawing. And the fastest way to think through drawing is by hand.

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Thanks, Charlotte!  So good to hear from you.