Coffee Sketch Podcast

119 - Talking Shephard Fairey and Street Art with Ben Kasdan, AIA

May 20, 2023 Kurt Neiswender/Jamie Crawley Season 5 Episode 119
119 - Talking Shephard Fairey and Street Art with Ben Kasdan, AIA
Coffee Sketch Podcast
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Coffee Sketch Podcast
119 - Talking Shephard Fairey and Street Art with Ben Kasdan, AIA
May 20, 2023 Season 5 Episode 119
Kurt Neiswender/Jamie Crawley

Thank you for listening. We both hope that you enjoyed this episode of Coffee Sketch Podcast. Our Theme music is provided by my brother who goes by @c_0ldfashioned on Instagram and Twitter. Our podcast is hosted at coffeesketchpodcast.com find more show notes and information from this episode. And finally, if you liked this episode please rate us on iTunes and share us with your friends! Thank you!


Buy us a Coffee! Support the Show!

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https://www.buymeacoffee.com/coffeesketch


Music on the Show

CNEIS - https://cneis.bandcamp.com/

c_0ldfashioned - https://www.instagram.com/c_0ldfashioned/ 

Compilation - https://triplicaterecords.bandcamp.com/track/cneis-more-or-less 


Our Links

Follow Jamie on Instagram  - https://www.instagram.com/falloutstudio/ 

Follow Kurt on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/kurtneiswender/ 

Kurt’s Practice - https://www.instagram.com/urbancolabarchitecture/ 

Coffee Sketch on Twitter - https://twitter.com/coffeesketch 

Jamie on Twitter - https://twitter.com/falloutstudio 

Kurt on Twitter - https://twitter.com/kurtneiswender 


On the Web

Website - www.coffeesketchpodcast.com

Kurt’s Practice - www.urbancolab.design 

Contact Me - info@urbancolab.design 

NFT Artwork - https://hic.af/urbancolab 


Coffee Sketch Podcast is on YouTube for extended cuts and more visual content of Jamie’s beautiful sketches. Please consider subscribing!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_lQkY3-OqmHaTl_jdOgtvw 


Kurt’s Practice Urban Colab Architecture, shares about the practice of architecture and is also on YouTube. Please Subscribe to: 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuMXvvQXgrQIVE1uJ8QHxsw 

Support the Show.

Buy some Coffee! Support the Show!
https://ko-fi.com/coffeesketchpodcast/shop

Our Links

Follow Jamie on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/falloutstudio/

Follow Kurt on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/kurtneiswender/

Kurt’s Practice - https://www.instagram.com/urbancolabarchitecture/

Coffee Sketch on Twitter - https://twitter.com/coffeesketch

Jamie on Twitter - https://twitter.com/falloutstudio

Kurt on Twitter - https://twitter.com/kurtneiswender

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Show Notes Transcript

Thank you for listening. We both hope that you enjoyed this episode of Coffee Sketch Podcast. Our Theme music is provided by my brother who goes by @c_0ldfashioned on Instagram and Twitter. Our podcast is hosted at coffeesketchpodcast.com find more show notes and information from this episode. And finally, if you liked this episode please rate us on iTunes and share us with your friends! Thank you!


Buy us a Coffee! Support the Show!

https://ko-fi.com/coffeesketchpodcast 

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/coffeesketch


Music on the Show

CNEIS - https://cneis.bandcamp.com/

c_0ldfashioned - https://www.instagram.com/c_0ldfashioned/ 

Compilation - https://triplicaterecords.bandcamp.com/track/cneis-more-or-less 


Our Links

Follow Jamie on Instagram  - https://www.instagram.com/falloutstudio/ 

Follow Kurt on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/kurtneiswender/ 

Kurt’s Practice - https://www.instagram.com/urbancolabarchitecture/ 

Coffee Sketch on Twitter - https://twitter.com/coffeesketch 

Jamie on Twitter - https://twitter.com/falloutstudio 

Kurt on Twitter - https://twitter.com/kurtneiswender 


On the Web

Website - www.coffeesketchpodcast.com

Kurt’s Practice - www.urbancolab.design 

Contact Me - info@urbancolab.design 

NFT Artwork - https://hic.af/urbancolab 


Coffee Sketch Podcast is on YouTube for extended cuts and more visual content of Jamie’s beautiful sketches. Please consider subscribing!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_lQkY3-OqmHaTl_jdOgtvw 


Kurt’s Practice Urban Colab Architecture, shares about the practice of architecture and is also on YouTube. Please Subscribe to: 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuMXvvQXgrQIVE1uJ8QHxsw 

Support the Show.

Buy some Coffee! Support the Show!
https://ko-fi.com/coffeesketchpodcast/shop

Our Links

Follow Jamie on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/falloutstudio/

Follow Kurt on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/kurtneiswender/

Kurt’s Practice - https://www.instagram.com/urbancolabarchitecture/

Coffee Sketch on Twitter - https://twitter.com/coffeesketch

Jamie on Twitter - https://twitter.com/falloutstudio

Kurt on Twitter - https://twitter.com/kurtneiswender

Kurt:

So normally I just say, Hey, Jamie, but last time we had a guest, he, he teased me and so I'll say, Hey Ben, how are you doing? Hey, Kurt. Hey, Jamie.

Jamie:

Good morning. Good morning. Thank you for joining us. Yes,

Ben:

likewise. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to chat with you.

Jamie:

The, yeah. Welcome to episode one 19 of the Coffee Sketch podcast, season Fives in effect, live, streaming as well. so yeah, this is exciting stuff. Yeah, pretty cool.

Ben:

And I, I'm not, I don't mean it, that's a joke. That's actually really cool. You guys have been this 118 times already. That's awesome. Thanks.

Jamie:

Yeah. When, when we had, we had Evelyn on recently and she, you know, from the promo clip, she was asking about that photo of Kurt and I and saying we looked really young, which we appreciated, but then at the same time we were like, oh yeah, we're getting older. Yeah. But, that photo ironically was, Were purposefully included, I should say. because that's, New York 2018, when Kurt and I came up with the idea, or I should say Kurt came up with the idea and pitched it to me of the Coffee Sketch podcast and you didn't say no and I didn't say no. Right? Haven't said no, haven't said no for a couple years now.

Kurt:

So it was, it wasn't it take, as they say, it takes two to tango or two to podcast maybe. I dunno,

Ben:

I dunno if that's true about podcasting, but, I like the sentiment. It two is better as a podcast. I'll, I'll give you that. Yeah. yes.

Jamie:

Well that was, that was, and I think that was sort of the, the reasoning behind Kurt going, I need a co-host, please.

Kurt:

Here's a crazy idea. I think what was, it wasn't at that picture that the thought came to mind, but I think it was in our tiniest little, hotel room that we, we shared for the conference. New York, right? Yeah. New York in this tiny, tiny, tiny hotel. That was the, that

Jamie:

is the smallest one I think we've been

Kurt:

in. Yeah, it was, yeah, it was, I think it was bunk beds. It was that small Yeah.

Jamie:

We had bunk beds.

Kurt:

I think it was a hostile, technically a hostile h o s t e l, not the other hostel, but The, it was something at like two or three o'clock in the morning when, all the pizza, the, you know, sold by sliced pizza shops were closed. And I was on, on fumes. And I, I said, you know, there was this idea I had Luckily it was, yeah, so as, as per usual, it was well presented by Kurt and well prepared. I just threw it out there and Jamie agreed. But yeah, it's been a, it's just, it's still, it still strikes me how it's been five years. of doing this. And it's still fun, of course, otherwise we wouldn't do it. And, yeah,

Jamie:

it gives us a chance to bring in people that we've gotten to know through kind of the journey of this too. So, you know, we were talking with you a little bit in the green room about our Young Architects Forum cohort and the, the beauty of that group. And, so Ben, you know, just, just for everybody who's listening, can you do kind of a quick, who you are and, and maybe, you know, maybe like subtly hint about West Coast, east Coast, cuz I think we'll talk about that here in a minute. Yeah, thanks.

Ben:

my name's Ben Casting and I'm an architect and I live in Washington, DC right now, but I sort of still feel like a California. so I, I grew up in California. I lived in California. I, I worked in California for the first 15 years of my career and I was serving as the young architect, regional director for Southern California on the Young Architects Forum when I met U2 back in 2014.

Jamie:

2014. Yeah.

Ben:

which is nine years ago, which is amazing cuz it, it sort of feels like I just met you guys cause it doesn't feel like that long ago, but at the same time I can't really remember not knowing you. So that's kind of cool too, like when I think about it, yeah. And so

Jamie:

we're familiar, like we're familiar like that we're just familiar like that. Yeah. Yeah.

Ben:

and, and there was something really special about our group and, and Young Architects Forum in general is kind of an amazing amalgamation of architects from all across the country. And, and, some of my favorite moments with that group is when we would be in some city they're for. Grassroots or, or the conference or, or, or whatever. And we would all take, you know, an Uber ride or a taxi together and the driver would be like, where are you from? And we all the driver's mind every time, like, how are

Kurt:

you all know each other? Yeah. From

Ben:

Michigan and Austin and Southern California in the back of my car together. Like, why are you together? Like, how do you fit? And I think that's really cool how that group brings us all together. But, but yeah, so I, I, I served in, a Orange County and then AIA California. I had the pleasure of being the president of aa California, which was an amazing experience unto itself. And, right on the heels of that, my, my firm asked me if I'd move across the country And, I didn't say no. So, I. I live in Washington, DC I work for this firm called K T G Y. We do housing and, and I co-lead a studio and we do multi-family housing of all, population types and all densities. And, it's funny cuz I was trying to get involved in A I D C and not having a, an easy time of it. No, no. If you think about the timing, a lot of that was during the pandemic, so it wasn't easy to get connected with anyone that you didn't already know. So role now, the AIA DC people know who I am, so it's probably a lot easier to get plugged in.

Kurt:

So how do you like, you know, since, so I, I did my undergraduate at USC in la and so, and now I live in Michigan and, and so, but I'm not native to either, I'm, I'm from Connecticut, right. So I, Connecticut, California, and I'm Michigan. And I spent well with school. I was in LA for 12 years. And so I was, before we got into the formal part of the episode, I was curious cuz you and I hadn't, I don't think we had a chance, well, because of the pandemic to kind of, cause I, you know, in your case the firm brought you over, but for you as a native of California, which there, usually aren't too many true natives, Born and raised. Yeah. A lot of south imports and, yeah. Yeah, like, like myself for a brief period of time. But no, I was just curious. Me too. Oh, true. Probably forget, sorry, Jamie. We're gonna be going back to near your old stomping grounds in the conference this year. Yeah, yeah. Jamie's a northern, Northern Californian

Jamie:

Bay area. Bay Park.

Kurt:

Yeah. Sorry, by way of Montreal.

Jamie:

Well, can you start there? Pardon? Didn't you start there in Montreal? yeah, I was, so, yeah, I was born in Montreal and then, came to the States and, and lived in Atlanta for a hot minute. and then quickly went out hot. Yeah. In hot Atlanta, for a hot minute, and then went, everything's hot. Yeah, everything's hot. and then went to, the West Coast, which was amazing. and, I think my, my folks still kind of. Lament, like, you know, that house that we, we, we, it was the first house we thought we maybe should just keep, you know, as the company moves us around the country. you know, and I think cuz I think for both of them, that would've been the perfect retirement home. you know, perfect climate, perfect. You know, they, they just would've loved it. and it was, it was, it was a neat, neat, neat area, neat, neat place to live and, for me to grow up, grow up there, at least initially, before we moved around some more. I

Kurt:

loved it. But, so Ben, now you're a transplant to dc How do you, aside from I, I hope there's some continuity, like we talked about familiarity, you know, from, from the company side. Yeah. But then, you know, how do you like DC It's, it's, it's definitely different than Southern California. Yeah, some in, in some aspects the density, maybe not the,

Ben:

I I, I honestly love dc I love living here. It's an amazing city. It's one of the, you know, greatest cities in the world, really. And the, all the things that you want to check on the boxes of, of your community, DC has almost all of'em, if not all of them. And, is continually looking for ways to improve itself too. So it's been fun to, be a resident of the district and, and kind of participate in trying to make it better, even in the, you know, short three or four years that I've been here. but a lot of people, you know, it's almost trendy to like move outta California right now for whatever number of reasons. And, and I wasn't one of those in our, our family, I mean, we love California. Like we still kind of consider ourselves California and said, right, we didn't move for like this, like, Statement. Like, a lot of people I do know do that. And, this wasn't the plan and that, that's maybe part of the, the beauty of it too. Like I would've expected we would just like be upward. and it, it all happened really, really, really fast. So, you know, our, our CEO reached out to, it was actually our, you know, my, my, my wife works for k2, I also, so she runs the research and development studio. So, the CEO and kinda the managing principal of the office that we were working on in, in southern California reached out to us and said, Hey, would you consider this in like mid-October? And by the second week of November, we were committed to going. It wasn't on the radar even a little bit so but you don't have any chances to, to really just shake the, at Saskatche and, and start over.

Jamie:

well, no, I mean, and, and, and I, and I think as a kid, you know, for me, like that was what you guys just experienced as parents is what my parents did. Yeah. You know, and, and so I can, I I, I love hearing it. It's like this is sort of, you know, I love hearing it from your perspective related to architecture now, because I mean, even to this day, it's like, you know, I, I mean, I'm in a conversation literally yesterday and somebody is introducing me, to somebody. I'm like, oh, this is, you know, Jamie architect, blah, da da da da. and you know, and they see my Aggie ring, so they're like, oh, you went to a and m, da da da. So there's that whole, you know, Texas thing going on. And then I can tell as I'm talking to them, they, they don't pick up an accent. They're like, they're kind of trying to place me. Yeah. And, and then I, I, you know, somehow it gets into the conversation that I'm, I was born in Canada and they're just like, you know, you could be born in Canada. Yeah. So, yeah. you know, you're an immigrant.

Ben:

immigrants are loud. Yeah. Yeah. At that

Jamie:

point I do not tell them. I, I don't mention to them that I, I, I lived a lot of time in California, so, cuz that would just probably really hurt. I think that helps your case there. Yeah. Really hurt their brains quite a bit. but, yeah, no, but I, but I appreciate you sort of, kind of recognizing that and sort of sharing that. Is that, you know, for, for y'all to, to think about that for your family and for your careers. I think that that's, I, you know, from talking to my dad even now about some of those moves that they made, they weren't always planned. You know, I mean, there was trajectories in the company that he was aware of and then some that he was not. Yeah. And, and some of them are like, Hey, you know, we're gonna move that group to this. We're thinking about moving it to this part of the country, or reentering our efforts over here. Who do we want to have kind of in that group and, you know, do, are they in the right place and oh, well, you know, and, and suddenly you're, you're moving from, you know, the Bay Area to Nashville, you know, it's like, like what? So before Yeah. Way, way before it was cool. Oh, it's way, it's way, way cooler now. So, yeah, tell tell a, tell a, like a, like a pre-teen or like, you know, teenager, like, Hey, you're living in the Bay Area and now we're gonna go to Nashville. It's like Tennessee, Tennessee. Hmm. Not sure. Told that today it'd be cool. Yeah. Today everybody's totally fine. Right? well,

Kurt:

yeah, you got Jack White, right? Settled in Nashville. Right.

Jamie:

Are you trying to get a baseball reference in there? Is that what you're trying to do? Is this another, are you doing another subreddit with Jack White? Jack White. White Stripes? He has, he makes, oh, here we go. See, we are getting into here. It's, it was gonna happen. Like it was gonna happen. Make this happen. No, so, so Jack White, like, has a baseball bat company. He makes baseball bats. Yes. Yes. He's,

Kurt:

I mean, I was thinking of the music, you know, making records and all that stuff. Yeah, that too. Yeah. He's a big baseball. Well, he is from Detroit, right? Ca Castech Original and, well, I wouldn't say original, but you know, a native of Detroit, you know, actual Detroit, not the suburbs.

Jamie:

So, Ben, you've, you've officially crossed from the coffee sketch podcast into the, the, the, the, the subreddit like baseball podcast that Kurt and I occasionally have like a, a, a very short piece of our episodes. I'm here for it. Well, I can, yeah. Oh, I know, I know. You're totally here for it. So I know. So baseball is officially your favorite sport,

Ben:

right? Oh yeah. I love baseball so much. Yeah. Yeah. And it's interesting because I, I passed that love of baseball to my, my older son. he loves baseball perhaps more than me. Ooh. Which is saying something. He knows all the things about all the things in baseball. that's, and then my younger, my younger son, doesn't like baseball. and it's honestly a little bit refreshing that he discovered that he doesn't love it and, he's got something and that's okay too. Yeah.

Jamie:

No, that's cool. That's very cool. so before we forget, since this is the Coffee Sketch podcast, so we do talk, we do talk about the coffee. and so, Ben, what is, what is the coffee deur for you? So

Ben:

my favorite coffee is from this place called Blue Bottle, which is California from the Bay Area Coffee. And we have a couple in DC one that used to be walkable to where our apartment was in Georgetown, which is likely not a coincidence. but you know, at at home we are a little bit sticklers to Italian coffee, so we either drink lava or ili. but I'm a sucker first blue bottle so much. I love it. I like them. not only is their coffee amazing, but. they find themselves in interesting architectural spaces. They definitely have a tenant of their brand that is connected to architecture. And so, when you find a blue bottle, it's usually in a interesting building. often a world class building. So like in downtown LA they're in the Bradbury building in, oh, Brad, oh, New York City. They're in Rockefeller's Center in, there's lots of examples of this. They, they gravitate towards good buildings and they hire good firms to do their interior spaces. And,

Kurt:

appreciate, appreciate architecture. It's a, it's

Ben:

a brand that, resonates with me, and my

Jamie:

family really well. No, that's awesome. You, you just gave Kurt and I like a whole rabbit hole to, to go down when we were in San Francisco, soon. So,

Ben:

and they're originally from Oakland. And, and I was working on a project, and, and I, I was collaborating with designers. I was still living in Southern California, but they needed help. And so I was collaborating with designers in Oakland. And so I'd fly up, we had every other week meetings and we would walk to the site and we'd walk from the k y office in Jack London and we'd walk by. The original blue bottle where they did their roasting at the time and to the site. It was like halfway in between. And we'd like get coffee on the way and we'd get coffee on the way back.

Kurt:

It was awesome. Oh, couldn't be better. Oh no.

Ben:

It was like a dream. I didn't even know how good I had it at the time.

Kurt:

So, Ja. Jamie, why don't you go next? Cuz I think my, I have a, a, a visual aid. That might be a good segue into some of our photos, sketches. Oh,

Jamie:

you go next. so I am, I'm actually, I'm trying, I tried a different one. I, I, I mentioned that I, I might, I picked one up that I would talk about. it's called Stumptown. yeah. And so like, like for some reason, like, like, like they were, like, they were like in a blind spot for me or something. and so, I'd never had them before. and I am like, I. Very impressed. and then got on their website and was like, like went down like a whole rabbit hole. so I, I, I, I've really, really enjoyed, so I've got their homestead roast, that's all. Yeah,

Kurt:

I, I would, I would not be surprised that Portland Portlandia, be good at, not good at coffee. So yeah.

Ben:

So the Pacific Northwest Coffee is awesome. Yeah.

Kurt:

So last week, Jamie and I on our episode talked about, well, we often talk about, I'm going to put my other aimless plug up down below, but locally here, there's a group of guys in, in Flint called Rootless Coffee. And I've done a little work for them, not. not, not, solicited or, you know, I wasn't begging to like, please let me do work for you guys, please. So it just so happened to work out that they needed, a permit to get their, a new roaster into their space. But anyway, so they, the, the fun part about rootless, they're relatively, young company, and I think they rose some great coffee. And I probably will, have to gift you some for being on our show. Oh, Jamie has had some, oh yeah. And so, so he's, he's familiar. Now I need to follow up on my, my guest gifts.

Ben:

I mean, that's awesome. And if I'm not mistaken, maybe you were just joking, but if. Are they seriously gonna name, roast after You, you guys in this

Kurt:

co podcast? Oh, we are, we're in, we're in the, what are the negotiations? Yeah. We're in the

Jamie:

negotiations phase. Yes. I'm

Kurt:

a very slow negotiator. Yeah. But yeah, we're, that's okay. We're working on a, interesting collaboration for the thanks for the Coffee Sketch podcast. but which kind of a good segue. So I brought, I brought the bag of what I'm drinking on right now. Nice. Which is called out of your element, which if you're familiar with the big lebarsky, you see Yeah. That's cool. They are bowling, our bowling friends there. But, I think, like I said, sweet and balanced with the creamy body notes of milk, chocolate and citrus. And so, what, why I thought this would be a fun segue is that every, every flavor that they have, the bag has a. a label that was designed by a different artist. So every, every bag has a, a, a completely different artist that does the artwork and then they, you know, it's like a sticker that they put on the bag. So it has this sort of gorilla tactic to it. And, it's just kind of neat and, I think it's neat. The artwork is excellent, each one that they do. So, do they use a different

Ben:

artist every time or they're kind of repeat, do you know?

Kurt:

I think, let me check. I believe, I think it's different. Yeah. This is a different name. I think each one has a different, different artist attached with a different style, and so Yeah.

Jamie:

Yeah, the vibes, the vibes are a little bit different between each. they're, it's subtle, but, but yeah. Yeah. It's Kurt. Kurt has to get his consumption up before we, we increase those negotiations. So like, that's the, it's like a. It's

Ben:

like one of those,

Kurt:

I think I'm, you know, almost single-handedly, making, making max coffee for these kids. right? But yeah. So we'll, find a, find a nice guest gift full of, some rootless coffee for you. Ben, so I cannot wait. That's very nice of you. The, yeah, so, so the segue, let me, let me turn on the sketches. Let me, let me share our sketches is we, we wanted to tap into a little, a little piece of, Ben's personal passion, right? A fan of PPD Ferry, right. The, the artist that is known for his, obey artwork. You know, the Andre of the Giant artwork, which Jamie is donning his, his t-shirt out. That's an amazing plug. That's cool. Is we try our, our best at theming. here, so I what Elise, I'll start cuz I know Ben unfortunately never got a chance to see this one in person. Not yet. When and well unfortunately. Oh, is it gone? It's gone now because, this is the Quicken Loans building downtown Detroit was, is right in the heart of downtown. You could see down at the bottom the, the monorail also known as the people mugger. I mean, people mover This, this lot to the right is actually being built right now. This is the old Hudson's department store site, which, shop architects out of New York is, has designed like a, a tall hotel and, retail or commercial, oops. Thing at the bottom. Anyway, but that's not the main event. This mural here on the backside of the Quicken Building was, was a Shepherd ferry. commission. And you could see if I zoom in even farther, you can kind of see the hints of, the obey, you know, logo in there. but yeah, unfortunately they, they actually built out the rest of this, like the courtyard space. So, so now there's no wall, you know, the wall's gone. It's kind of sad, but I guess, you know, square footage and I, I think it was all done. It might have been done by the time we had that grassroots conference because, I mean, during the pandemic, I doubt they needed more square footage, in, in commercial retail, or not retail, commercial office. But yeah, unfortunately, I, sorry to report that it's, it's now gone, but it was kind of, it's kind of a neat, a neat, piece of history I suppose for us.

Jamie:

There's an

Ben:

interesting, Temporal nature to his work. And he almost embraces the fact that they only live for so long. And, I know he just traded out, a mural in New York, for a new one of his own. But, that's part of it. And that's maybe one of the things I wanted to talk to you guys about is, the, the themes that are in his work are universal, but his work itself sometimes only lives for a short time before it's either, replaced or covered up or tagged or, or something. And, and he almost doesn't care about that. And the, and the other side of that too is that he finds sort of like leftover pieces of architecture. Often it, it's rare when a new building would be designed around his piece or, or any piece really. And, I think that's maybe a lost, opportunity or a missed opportunity. this is a, a, a photo from one of his murals in, in Seattle, and I liked this little vantage point because, you know, he started out with those kind of DIY stickers and, like, like pay stubs, like, like what you're seeing in the foreground. But, you know, now he's getting commissioned, I think that's a hotel, in the background, kind of like through the filter of the fence and whatever. and it's, you know, six stories tall or whatever, But, there's a little bit of a, a continuity there and the before and after. But, I would, I would love to collaborate with an artist like, like him and, and there's many other muralists that I love too, but it seems like they come in afterwards

Jamie:

most of the time. Y well, and I, I, I think that that's the, I think that that's part of the, the tenant or the, the core of their process is that it's, it, it's, you know, the collaboration part I think is something that they would appreciate. you know, I think at, at some certain level, but I think it's, it's sort of what you're alluding to is I think that there's a, a tentative of, reaction. Yeah. Yeah. and, and, and timeliness, you know, and, and sort of the gorilla tactic of it all too. I mean, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm sure that you, you know, you've looked at it too, but it's, you know, the, you know, the Andre, the Giant, you know, kind of moniker, and, you know, image that sort of started, you know, his real, you know, kind of upward trajectory, you know, was, was a. Was a school project, you know? Yeah. You know, and effectively was, you know, something that was, an experiment, that kind of grew into something obviously much more. and, and, you know, taking that and turning it into a brand, I think is, you know, that to me is that moment as an artist, architect, creator, is the one that I'm still searching for, you know, myself. You know, that that level of confidence where you say, Hey, I've got this amazing idea, and people are reacting to it, and you're like, oh, I'm not really sure, you know, but I love it. And the process is there, but then that sort of, that, that, that moment finding, that moment, that switch where you say, you know, I think I can do a little bit more. and, and I think that, you know, that would be hard to capture if you were. Planning it all out ahead of time. And I think that that's the, the thing about our career, you know, in architecture is there is so much planning to it. Mm-hmm. just inherently in the, in the construction process. I mean, you have to, that the art, you know, kind of, and this kind of art, you know, is, is something that, I think runs counter to that. You know, so it's, it tho those two though, the processes might look similar when you're in them from the, from mm-hmm. you know, from the, the structural aspect of it. I think that they run counter to one another. That makes a lot of sense.

Kurt:

That's a procedure rights, the difference between procedure and process or, well, or structure, I suppose.

Jamie:

Well, and it's, and it's interesting to me now. I mean, and it, I, I just, I, I don't know why it just sort of hit me, but, The, and, and sort of even seeing it like this, I mean, like, I love the, you know, well, I, I'm gonna, I like aerosol art. how you feel. that's art. I love it. Yeah. Yeah. And, and you know, I understand how to make a stencil. so I'm, I might have made a stencil in my life, so, but, but I think what's interesting now is I'm, I'm in a position where some of my consulting work, is, I'm talking to people about balancing, sort of going back to, circling back to your initial kind of, you know, proposition, Ben, about working with a muralist, you know, as an architect. Yeah. is, you know, I work with a lot of communities where they're thinking about public art. and, and they're, you know, in some cases commissioning architects to do projects or, or individual businesses are, you know, within their confines or districts or whatever. And there's an in a need and an interest for public art and kind of curating that to some expect to, to some extent. And what's interesting is, is is that push and pull of regulation of it. like, like people appreciate, you know, public, you know, public art, but then at the same time, how can you regulate it or encourage it, you know, de you know, develop it and not hamstring the artists themselves, you know?

Kurt:

And, and actually, before Ben, sorry to jump in, I wanna kind of segue over and we'll come back to, to this particular image. But, as we were talking or you get, you two were talking, I started. I grabbed a couple of images here to throw into the mix cuz we were talking about architecture, our, our buildings and public art and mural and things like that. Here in Flint is the, the Flint Public Art Project has been doing this mural, project for few. it's been a while. I, I don't even know long. It's been a few, at least three or four years in hundreds of buildings in Flint. Yeah. There I go some, I, I, I sent Jamie a sort of, memorial, spray can So they bring in, they, they bring in artists from all over the world and they've coordinated all these fantastic murals. And one of my favorites is, is literally right downtown Flint on the front of the loft bar. and it was recent. It was a relative recent after Bourdain's passing mm-hmm. And the, the level of detail in many of these murals is like just mind blowing pieces of art. And, and I, I heard, I remember when this was getting painted, and I, I found out that the artist that did this one in particular, this was her first full scale mural. Oh wow. And she it was like, nailed it. It's like amazing. Yeah. Nailed it. Yeah. Right. It's like, and she has now, a couple other around town. I, I love

Ben:

these like public art projects. I know. in Southern California, long Beach has one. There's one in DC too. I didn't mean to interrupt you Kurt, though.

Kurt:

Keep going. Oh, that's no thanks. No, and, and I mean, I just screen grabbed like, a little Google image search for the Flint murals, but. one aspect. So o of these here in Flint, and it's this idea of like, how do we treat public space? Or how do, how does our public realm impact, day-to-day life, right? And for many of these buildings, they're abandoned or underutilized, you know, through a lot of circumstances here in Flint. and these murals, the concept of this mural project was to kind of showcase the artists have, you know, relatively available canvas for them to, to work on. But for me, as an architect, I kinda look at these as a, a sort of, this, the temporality that we talked about, but like as a stepping stone toward bring, casting a positive light back on these empty buildings, which once were very, you know, vibrant. parts of our commercial and residential community in Flint, but have, are in a sort of transitional phase and mm-hmm. hopefully bring back this idea that they're not, lost, like a lost cause. And there's a chance for, for architecture and, and in these, you know, these existing buildings to have life. And Jamie and I have talked about, we haven't talked about this so much, and I've never really brought a image into the podcast, but we have talked about what he does now with the historical commission and, and sketching and imagining how to, and as he just mentioned, right, like talking with communities and how to regulate or create some sort of structure around these public arts. So anyway, it's very interesting. I, if you ever make it to Michigan, you come visit. Me up here in Flint, Ben, you know, I could take a, there's I think at least 300 murals now. It's like, oh wow. In it's an insane number that they've, grown to. So there's

Ben:

a hope that's built into this that is, inspiring and, and al also, there's a freedom in mural painting and, and this is definitely a part of Shepherd Ferry's work as well about, political activism and, much the way Blue Bottles brand and, and their values kind of, resonate with me. shepherd Ferry's values do the same and, and, you know, it's about social justice and inequity and, and, preserving the planet and all, all these things that are kind of tr near and true to pretty most architects, if not all. and he's. and other muralists are able to like bring that meaning, so fluidly into their work. It, it's, it's harder to do that as architecture and, and in, in some ways the opposite perspective is easier to express architecturally the, the sort of like hierarchical, the power to the power that is easier to be expressed architecturally than the opposite. You know what I mean?

Jamie:

Yeah. I mean, I, I think that that's, you know, we, we have a sketch that we just literally talked about, that, I, I thought, well, you know, now we have Ben on, you know, maybe we should talk to him about it too. but I, I did a sketch, in. May of, or late May, maybe first week of June, of 2020. And, and it was, you know, wrapping the octagon, in, in DC And it just, it sort of, you know, just exactly what you're talking about is that, you know, there are these big ideas, there's these big struggles. there's these big concepts that are, you know, kind of universal discussions. and how, you know, how can you have the immediacy of a moment, you know, manifest itself? Well, it's certainly not gonna manifest itself in a building cuz it takes too long. Yeah. but can it manifest itself in art and. you know, and, and, and be a commentary to a certain degree too. And I think that the, the thing, you know, the thing that I appreciate about artists like Shepherd Ferry and Christo and, you know, people who are purposely putting their art in a very, very public space. Yeah. you know, I mean, and some of it's ego and ambition too. I mean, you, you can't do what you do if you don't have a little bit of that. But, to move the needle on the conversation, and not be afraid, you know, to real, you know, I mean, there's a recognition, there's a lot of people who are gonna disagree with you, you know? I mean, that's, and, but you still do it anyways. and, you know, that's, you know, because at your core, your beliefs, you know, push you to do it, you know, that's, that's art. You know, that's brand. You know, that's oftentimes the difference between architecture and art. that, you know, for myself, I, I find myself that way too. It's like, well, you know, it's, it's, it's maybe in an architecture point of view, it's like, well, I, maybe you're not our client Yeah. you know, kind of situation, but, you know, in, but I think that there's, the, not just the temporal nature of it, but I think it's just a sort of the, the faster process of it. you know, that that I think that, that, that appeals and maybe that's, maybe that's the appeal as, as, as an architect too, is to, to kind of have that as a, a counterpoint. But, I dunno if you've seen, I dunno if you'd seen this sketch before, so I

Ben:

remember, I remember when you did this. That's awesome. but yeah, I mean, the speed of, of concept to reality as a visual artist is a different.

Jamie:

timeline,

Ben:

let's just say. Right. We've been concept to reality for

Jamie:

a building, Yeah. Well, I mean, and, and you know, you know, two years prior to this, I had been, I'd never seen Christo's work in person. Hmm. You know, never had been to any of his, you know, public art projects. But it was really, really, and, and of course they take for, I mean, you say, you know, they're fast. The, the art is fast. Like the, the, like the visual art is fast. We all, you know, can, you know, appreciate that. But the installation, you know, now you're talking almost like a building again. So, you know, you know, there's that planning and, and timing and coordination, collaboration and, you know, you bringing in larger teams to execute larger things. Even the murals of like Shepherd Ferry, I mean, you know, those large, he's having to bring in larger teams of, of folks. Yeah. but yeah, in, in 18. that summer, M and I went to to London and got to see, his musta kind of the, the oil barrels. and you know, again, you know, talking about the environment, you know, talking about climate action, you know, that was a project in his case, you know, Christo and Jean Claude, I mean, had, I think they had been planning that project, in more than one location. and it eventually ended up in Hyde Park in London, but like for decades, you know, I mean, there was, there was drawings that went back, you know, decades, you know, that he had used to, fundraise for the project and sort of get people's kind of, you know, eyes and ears and thoughts kind of centered around it, which is also kind of akin to architecture, right? I mean, we have those, those early concept sketches where you're trying to convince somebody to do the right thing. on a project or a building, or, or to kind of grapple with the idea that you're, you know, you as an architect are, you know, proposing, it, it's, there's a, there's a lot of, there's quite a lot of process similarities, even if, even if there are, you know, quite a few differences too. Yeah.

Ben:

And that, that's so neat that you were able to see that piece in real life.

Jamie:

Oh, yeah. I, it was, I mean, just the, the sheer scale of it was just like, you know, it was, it was, it was dumb big. I mean, it was just

Ben:

You can't feel that from the photos.

Jamie:

You gotta, no, no. And, and, and I think the other part of it too was, it was sort of the, the beautiful juxtaposition of this public art piece in this historic garden, this historic park in the center of London, you know, on the water, you know, with the swans going by, you know, and, and it's about oil and energy and consumption. And you know, that that moment when you, you're, you know, for me sitting there, you know, drinking a coffee and my, you know, and EMS being very patient with dad, you know, so I can, you know, sketch, for a moment. but it was, it was a beautiful day. I mean, we had, we had a lot of fun, but, yeah, I mean, you kind of, you recognize, you're like, this is really strange. You know, this is like, you, it's a beautiful piece, but this is, this is really surreal. And, and I think the, the power, the innate power of that is exciting. or it was, at least for me, so. Yeah. Paddle boats. I mean, come on, Right?

Kurt:

I thought this one of, of all the, I was just trying to grab it in, throw the image in. But, yeah, this is interesting, the, the, what Jamie mentioned about Gail in real, in real life versus, you know, the concept sketch phase or the presentation phase. But I mean, you know, we, we often, I've been teaching university and so, trying to teach young, you know, young students, future architects, how, you know, how to think about proportion and scale and site and context and, and, you know, lately right, the, the soup dujour is, is like an Instagrammable. Image rendering, right? They like to, they, they like to match what they see. And so their renderings tend to have this, this very hyper-focused detail on, and, and sort of missing some of the bigger picture. And so trying to understand, it's been interesting for me to try and express like the, the idea of scale and, and context. Like thi like this image is reminding us. And, and if you get to be there, you know, what is it like in person versus, just the, the photograph as you said, Ben. So yeah, it's, it is like a bucket list thing for me. Well, I don't know if there will be many more Christo installations cuz we lost, lost Christo.

Ben:

Right. So I guess some could come back potentially. I mean, the drawings exist and Right. You can see that. But, but yeah. Yeah. I've lost that moment. But there's, I mean, there, there's something to wanting to create a space that someone cares about enough or, or feels enough in that they make a Instagram post or story about it. Like, there, there, there's a value in that, but it's sort of like, I, I see it like the, the intent of like lead certification, for example. Like some of our clients think that the lead certification is the goal, and that's not the goal. That's the, that's like a side benefit, right? Like the point is to make a building that performs better, that has a better experience for your, the users and like the certification. Okay. That's nice. But, and like, I would, I would say the same for, you know, the goal is to create these amazing spaces for the, the experience of the people that are there. And yeah, if they care enough about it to put it on their Instagram, like that's cool too. But sometimes we get like backwards in our thinking.

Jamie:

Well, and I was sort of curious just because, you know, the, the scale of your firm and the studio that you're in, and then, and then also the types of projects that you're doing. I mean, they're, they're, they're bigger buildings. and you know, from a process standpoint, I mean, Kurt and I were, have been having this sort of running thread. I mean, and I think it's just, you know, part of the education model, but also sort of the way that we both, you know, tend to, it resonates with us. but process to us is almost product. Yeah. and, and I'm curious how that, that feeling, you know, would be applicable to where you are. You know, I, it. you know, you know, both from a studio point of view, but also from a, from the, the types of work that you do. Yeah, the,

Ben:

it operates on a couple different levels, honestly. And, you know, I, I work on a studio. There's about 40 of us, and I'm, I'm on the front end. so our designer, or I think there's, or 10 of us now. and yeah, we're, we're providing housing. and there's a newb ability in that, which is cool, but there's also, an economic piece of it that makes it really difficult. You know, there's, there's just this downward pressure towards costs on everything that we do. But at the same time, our clients are, you know, some of the most profitable corporations on in the country right now, especially the last couple years. And, there's this weird dichotomy. Plus we're in this housing shortage. So the way we approach it is like, we're the advocates for the users who don't have a voice, who won't have a voice for literally years. and our favorite clients, or, or maybe just the, the ones that are the easiest to work with, see the value in our perspective of trying to advocate for them. And the ones that we don't get along with the most are the opposite. That, that don't care and, don't see that like, you know, some of these moves that we can make, or decisions that we can, edge towards a, a better choice than a less good choice. the ones that don't care are, are the ones that we don't quite get along with, but both in, in, in the, in the studio itself though a lot, oftentimes it's just about, creating an environment that's fun to create in. And I, I work really hard on trying to. Keep everyone that I work with like inspired and, and encouraged and, and kind of just moving because it's, we, we spend a lot of time together and so the buildings that we're creating are, are part of it. And obviously the main part, but there's another part too. And it's just like the joy in our, our daily lives and what we do every day. And we do some funny things, like we write haiku's about every project that we do and we literally use it as like a, a verbal diagram to try to like center our choices. And if we point back to this haiku, it helps us to like figure out like what, what are the priorities? and so, it's kind of an interesting contrast, in a lot of different ways. Like it's about the building, but it's also about doing the design work. It's, it's about the user, but it also has to. Get built and yeah, we don't help the user at all if we can't design something that our clients can actually construct.

Kurt:

Right. yeah. I assume you also work on, affordable housing, not just market rate?

Ben:

Yeah. Honestly, like my favorite projects are often affordable. There's a, there's a power in the constraints of it, you know, if you know where the edges are. and we, we, we do a lot of like tax credit, affordable housing. And so, we can use. The constraints of trying to score well in the tax credit applications to make, to compel our clients, to make a lot of really good choices. Mm-hmm. And so the resultant is our, our affordable work is, is often my favorite.

Jamie:

It's, it's a way to convince the client that it was really their idea to begin with. And you use, use all the mechanisms at your power and disposal, which include, you know, like, here, here's this proforma that's coming out of the, the tax credit, you know, process. and it, it's sort of, it's leading us to this design solution. How do y'all feel about that? Yeah. And even better

Ben:

if there are some of our clients that it is the right and then they know it and they're like, alright, here, here's what we gotta do. What do you got? Like, let's, let's, that's even better. Here's my vision. Where can you take it? And those are the, those are my favorite. Well

Jamie:

have you just bef before you, before we leave that though, Kurt, I just wanted to ask, Ben, I, I hadn't thought about it that way until you brought up the affordable housing tax credits and, and that process. have you done any historic, historic tax credit projects, you know, where your capital stack is, your, you're actually layering, you know, one and the other on top of it and doing adaptive reuse or rehabilitation projects?

Ben:

So we're working on one right now. Now, it's not affordable, but it is, we're kind of bringing a historic resource back into life. Like, so it was originally a bowling alley. but it's, there's a fire in like the 1950s and it's been just like an office building since then. And so we're gonna turn that into the amenity space for this new residential community. And so we're gonna put two apartment buildings on either side. And then the middle is this historic building that becomes kind of the connector. and so we haven't crossed over on Historic Plus Affordable, but we've done it separately. So now I'm intrigued. So maybe we can find,

Jamie:

well it's, add that into, yeah. That's cool. Well, and it's interesting cuz it's like I haven't, my, I myself haven't done the affordable either. you know, I, I, there was a project or two that, In a previous firm that we were, we were looking at some affordable housing tax credits, and I was just starting to understand that process a little bit, but it's not, you know, multi-family was never my forte, mm-hmm. you know, and, and it's, it's not necessarily where, you know, a lot of my work ever, ever was. we did a little bit of it, from time to time. always practice as a generalist, so it was, you know, you're sort of learning a lot of things along the way, but I have in my focus on historic tax credits, and, and how those projects kind of, you know, occur, have encountered quite a few that are, are trying to, to utilize both. And, and certain development groups are, you know, are getting really shrewd about how to make, you know, a, an existing building that is. made everybody kind of scratch their head for a really long time. How do we get this thing back online? Yeah. And make it, and make them, and make the dollars work, you know? they find a way to utilize both tax credit systems and, and I just, I, we have a project now, in the office that, you know, someone has sort of brought that, brought that back to our attention, you know, and so I've been trying to read a little bit more about it myself.

Kurt:

well the only thing I was gonna add that, here, you know, here in Flint, I've, I've went off on my own a couple years ago and I've got a variety of different project types. and luckily, cuz I enjoy this, I enjoy, I equally enjoy multi-family and, and, as much as you do Ben and, and I, I'm working with a local Flint nonprofit developer on some affordable housing. and, and, and this, this one aspect of what I'm about to say could probably turn into a, a whole other episode about perception of affordable housing. It's

Jamie:

our part two with Ben Kaden. Yeah. The return

Kurt:

can't wait But the, it's, it's, anyway, the, it, it's a complicated, you know, we're working on some, well, yeah, that, that tax credit structure, I'm not necessarily involved in in that much. It, it's just more understanding of the, the, the pace, the hurry up and wait Oh, yeah. Aspect, working with the contractor and the, the developer and moving through all the hoops and hurdles and things. but here in Michigan we're using, in, in order, like one example of gaining credits as using higher levels of, energy efficiency. In buildings. So one, pathway is that National Green Building, standard, I guess the N G B S. Yep. And, and so it, you know, one of the push, some of the pushback you get on affordable housing is that it's cheaply built and you know, for poor people. And so you build it as cheaply and terribly as possible. I'm working on, well, one's in construction and two more are gonna go into construction. And I can guarantee that these buildings are not cheap, they're not cheaply constructed and they're way more energy efficient than the sort of existing conditions of one in two family houses. Of the people that are kind of, you know, You know, poo-pooing the, the, the, the typology. And unfortunately it's hard, it's very difficult to like sort of, turn, turn certain minds. But you know, when, when it comes to construction method and, and means, you know, the, the client, the contractor and i a we're, you know, in order to receive the credits you have to, you have to meet certain thresholds. Yeah. So it's in a, in a value engineering exercise, if, if you use a piece of jargon, you know, certain measures don't get taken out of the project cuz they, they, you want them to be there in order to gain the credits. Plus also provide a more, a higher level of, of, of amenity to the, to the user, like you were saying. So that, that part of all the work, right? All the headache and hurdles and hoops that the government. State and local put you through to get through to these, you know, permits and so on is still worth it once you realize how well you know, how good of a home you're creating for somebody, you know, a, a new apartment in, in my case. So anyway, so I was trying to keep that from turning down negative town, you know, Yeah. And the NIMBY stuff, but we could definitely go, that could go into a whole other. That's the, talk

Ben:

about that. I think you were very, thoughtful in how you described that condition, and I totally agree with you.

Jamie:

Well, and, and I think, you know, what's, what's neat is, and, and this might be a, maybe, maybe we bring Ben on back on and then, and we also invite Ilia. Oh yeah, because, you know, I think, you know, the, the, the third leg of this chair, or table, you know, is it a chair or is a table in that analogy? I don't know. Stool. Stool, dammit. It's

Ben:

kinda a, a like table like chair. Yeah,

Jamie:

exactly. Thank you. Thank you, Ben. Thank you, Ben. Picking me back up. no, so it, yeah, it, it's that affordable aspect, you know, which is, which is also sort of an equity aspect of things. Yeah. And, and then the historic resources is really, you know, you know, both about community culture and telling a story in my mind. But then the last part then is that whole, you know, climate action. And, you know, if as architects, you know, and as architects who advocate, it, you know, we can't, and then, and, and who educate, I mean, whether informally or formally, We, we can't, we can't not be doing our work without thinking about, you know, a climate response. I mean, and whether, you know, whether it's, like you said Ben, you know, you know, a means to an end where you're, you know, a, a client understands, you know, a lead criteria and, you know, and that's more formalized or it's just sort of informing our design decisions, and processes. That's, that's the reality of our work. I mean, you know, the greenest building is the one that's already there. and you know, I mean, Carl said that and everybody, you know, uses his quote and, you know, and that's, that's super important. But I think, you know, what it is to me is it goes so much more beyond that. And that's why I'm like, that's why it's sort of, I'm passionate about it is cuz as a sort of a disruptor type, you know, kind of artist architect is that. Yeah. The greenest building's not one that's already there, and we're not using enough of them. And we need to, and we need to educate people on how to approach that and see the value in it and convince clients to see the value in it or communities. and if, if the communities say, yeah, we see the value in it, but our regulations don't allow it, well then maybe we need to look at the regulations. You know, maybe the code, maybe the code isn't catching up, you know, or, you know, whatever, whatever parameter it is. because at some point it's a design problem, you know? I mean, and, and it's not just, you know, the joke about architects thinking that they can design their way outta everything, but, you know, in some respects, what we're talking about, you know, it, it, it is, there's a reality to that. I mean, it's, it's, it's true.

Ben:

And going back to Kurt's, Flint art project, the artists are picking up on these buildings as. blank canvases and, and we need to look at it as blank canvases for Yeah. For future redevelopment, for bringing back vitality to our cities and all those things. Yeah.

Kurt:

Yeah. That's a good way to put it. Maybe, yeah, I, I, it might, it was my infinite amounts of free time. I, I might try and, take AI in Flint and try and spin off on what the art project has done and, you know, be fun to maybe have a, a design, you know, I mean, we default sometimes to design competitions, but how do you sort of raise awareness of the building or the programmatic aspect of the building? but then coupled with this art, I think there's a power in that. So fascinating. There's so much, there's been so much fun to. Catch up with you, Ben. It's like we haven't had a pandemic since the last time we talked I know. Yeah. We, we could probably talk

Ben:

forever,

Kurt:

maybe Yeah. Well, I know we've hit about an hour. I'm maybe a little, little over so we can head to the, to the wrap up the, I guess before I flubbed the outro, we, when we, when we talked with Evelyn, so she asked us if we were gonna be in San Francisco. So are you planning on going to the conference this year? Oh yeah. Yeah. You guys there? We, we are, we are. We are also gonna be there with some remote recording devices, Oh, very cool. Yeah. Cool. Pull off. Yeah.

Jamie:

We're we're, yeah, we're doing full Gorilla Coffee sketch, like, and you are welcome to join us.

Ben:

So, oh, would be a joy. I look forward to that. And it'll be great to be in the same place at the same time as you guys It's been a minute. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That sounds cool. Yeah,

Kurt:

thanks.

Ben:

Thank you. It's been really fun to catch up and I can't wait to talk more, whether it's on the podcast or just in real

Jamie:

life. Absolutely. Thanks, Ben. Thanks guys.