The Studio 9: It’s A Disease

by Tim Alatorre

Noelle Lee, LEED AP ’08, brings a unique story of lost jobs, world travels, and fighting off “Architecture brain mush”. She shares what she’s doing to stay connected to the profession while waiting for the economy to recover.

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Show Notes


  • Last Hearst Lecture for the season, this Friday
    • Scott Marble: Marble Fairbanks
    • Friday, February 26th, 2010, at 4:00pm
    • Business Rotunda, Room 03-213
    • Teaches at Columbia and taught one of the first “paperless” design studios.
    • His Firm website:
  • New Practice/Un-Practice
    • As traditional jobs vanish, startups bloom.
    • Recessions tend to accelerate the formation of new firms.
    • Gen X & Y are perhaps better equipped to startup their own practices more than their predecessors were.
    • With the lack of internships and associate positions, they have to set their own career path.
    • Improved technology makes communication more accessible.
    • Many low to no overhead business models are sprouting up across the country.
  • US architecture billings index down in January-AIA by 2.9 pts to 42.5
    • New project inquiries index lowest since July.
    • Lenders set stringent equity requirements.
    • All 4 US geographic regions stayed below 50 in billings for January, as well as 3 of the 4 construction sectors.
    • The AIA’s billings index, begun in 1995, is considered a measure of construction spending nine to 12 months in the future.
    • Billings and Inquiries Indices Last 4 Years
  • AIA Names 9 Recipients for the 2010 Young Architects Award
    • The Award is given to professionals who have been licensed for 10 years or fewer (regardless of age) and have demonstrated leadership as well as made significant contributions to the profession early in their careers.
  • Architects Synthesize Carbon Nanotube Buckypaper
    • Decker Yeadon Lab Synthesis Video
    • Decker Yeadon, a NY Firm that focuses on applying advanced materials in architecture, has developed a substance called “Buckypaper”
    • Buckypaper is made from carbon nanotubes, or buckytubes.
    • sidenote: carbon nanotubes are cylindrical Fullerenes, sometimes they might also be spherical as in the buckminsterfullerene C60 molecule, regardless of the variety of shapes they come in, all the molecules in the Fullerene family are composed entirely of carbon.
    • This is another reason why Haley LOVES Bucky 🙂
    • Buckypaper is said to be hundreds of times stronger than steel, it can filter particles, conduct and disperse heat like metals and can conduct electricity.
    • Being the first architects to make Buckypaper, a great deal of interest from the scientific community has surrounded the research of Buckypaper.

Rapid Fire Questions

  • Cal Poly or Berkley? CAL POLY
  • Autocad or Revit? AutoCAD
  • Parallel bar or T-Square? Parrellel bar
  • Facebook or LinkedIn? Facebook
  • Arch Record or Arch Digest? Arch Record
  • Drafting dots or tape? Tape
  • Yellow trace or white? indifferent! – white
  • Ad Markers or Prisma? Prisma
  • Pen or Pencil? Pencil
  • Mac or PC? indifferent! Again!! – only had PCs, but Cal Poly runs on Mac’s so they’re the same in her book

Score: monosodiumgluteate: MSG


  • What is she up to?
    • Graduated in 2008, currently not working in an architecture firm.
    • Prior to graduation she had a job lined up in SLO but a week before graduation the department she was to work in was dissolved.
    • Moved to Idaho, where her sister lives and had a bunch of interviews and things looked promising but most of the firms were waiting to decide on any new hires.
    • Trying to figure out where to go, what to do… currently working as a general manager in a restaurant?
    • Planning to come back to architecture when things turn around.
    • While it’s driving her crazy that she’s not currently working in architecture she’s still trying to stay plugged into architecture by visiting a local firm, Modus Architects, and sitting in on meetings and she used their study materials to get LEED Accredited, this firm is awesome for doing that!!!
    • Entering competitions to stay creative and involved.
    • Arquitectum Competitions and Events
    • Death By Architecture
    • Trying to make the most of keeping her skills and using them so she doesn’t lose touch with the design process.
    • Writing articles, reading articles to keep her mind from “going to mush”.
    • Looking at possibilites to do things locally, like converting an empty lot into an openair market.
  • Are you currently working towards licensure? If so what is your progress?
    • She’d like to get going on it, but money is an issue right now.
    • Haley mentions some resources to work towards your IDP requirements without working in architecture:
    • Refer to NCARB for opportunities to gain IDP experience while unemployed:
    • Use the FREE online resource: the Emerging Professionals Companion, where you can complete activities and exercises that count towards your IDP experience requirements:
    • Attending AIA Continuing Education seminars/lectures can also count towards IDP.
    • But you NEED an NCARB Record to record these hours ($285)
  • Noelle talks about her cross country trip, since she’s unemployed she has time to travel.
    • Being speechless while visiting buildings that she loves and studied in school keeps her inspired and driven.
  • Current observations of economy
    • Directly, trying to make it for the time being until she can find a job in a firm.
  • Any thoughts on Cal Poly grads out in the industry?
    • Love, love, loves her education from Cal Poly!!
    • She feels that her education has given her a great background of design in general, architectural design skills are the mother of all other design skills.
    • Use your vocabulary of design skills can be applied to a myriad of other fields, she’s gotten into jewelry design.
  • Any thoughts on how the program is changing/improving?
    • More integration of technology and having to learn programs on your own as well as the need of hand drawing, it would be good if they offered a whole quarter to learn programs but still emphasized the importance of hand drawing becuase there are still applications where it is appropriate.
  • Is there something you wish you had done or known when you were still at Cal Poly?
    • Wished she would have gotten into IDP at the time she was in school and had interned every summer, so she missed out reporting those hours.
  • What kind of advice can you give to current Cal Poly students?
    • Try to intern as much as you can. Cal Poly teaches you the design aspect, but working in a firm helps you see how a firm really functions and how to apply your drafting skills.
    • Most of the time the job offers you get are from the firms you’ve work for in the past.
    • Take advantage of the work shop.

About the Author

Tim Alatorre