When Reinvention 2007's original (and much anticipated) keynote speaker, Peter Q. Bohlin, FAIA, was detained in Italy on a passport snafu, his colleague Ray Calabro, AIA, saved the day. On short notice Ray flew to Charleston, S.C. from Seattle to stand in as the keynoter, with just a few hours to study Peter's planned presentation and make it his own.
But the hundreds of architects in attendance had nothing to fear. Calabro gave a thoughtful talk that took us inside Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. He told us the firm has made a strong commitment to keeping houses in the mix of its many project types. That way, he said, "we're able to infuse our larger buildings with some of [the houses'] qualities."
Calabro showed a series of photos and hand drawings of BCJ's work to illustrate different philosophical points. The firm's own San Francisco office space--one of five around the country--demonstrates its ability to deliver powerful spaces using modest materials. Images of a visitor's center at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming showcase its skill at mixing rustic elements with a modern design. The house BCJ did for Bill Gates (in collaboration with Jim Cutler, FAIA) provided an entree for Calabro to talk about sustainability, noting the home's rainwater-harvesting system, its recycled woods, its senstitive siting, even its rebuilt salmon estuary. "It's worth going the extra mile to push for something you believe in," he says. "Often [the client] will thank you for it."
Other homes featured in Calabro's presentation illustrated the firm's passion for designing door handles, hardware, and other residential accoutrements; for celebrating the found conditions on the site and often working them into the design; and for obsessing over the technical rigor of its buildings. His final slide showed a photo of Bohlin and two other BCJ employees--getting across the idea that each project is a group effort. "We believe that collaboration is really at the heart of what we do," Calabro says. "We are much better together than any of us could be alone."