Luis Ibarra and Teresa Rosano, RA, LEED AP, began their breakout session by explaining how and why they develop their own projects in addition to doing custom work. Ibarra shared examples of how the couple's background informs their architectural philosophy. For example, his grandmother grew up in a simple but elegant and proud structure that he visited often as a child. Rosano witnessed her father building their Adobe home out of the ground where it stood. These impressions inspire the husband-and-wife architects to design simple shelters that are distinctly of their place and interact responsibly with the land.
Ibarra then presented three custom homes by the firm: the Garcia, Downing, and Winter residences (see them at. www.ibarrarosano.com), discussing specifically how each responds to the landscape. It was these projects that led the couple into development work, he added, thanks to the influence of Page Repp Jr., of Repp Design + Construction, who built the three houses. Repp became a friend during that time, and the three soon began to envision how they could bring good design into urban Tucson, Ariz., and therefore prevent more sprawl and unchecked building on virgin desert.
Next, Rosano explained the specifics of forming Dreamspace, the separate development company in which she and Ibarra have invested. Dreamspace hires their firm, Ibarra Rosano Design Architects, as a client to design the houses. The two partnered with Repp and one other couple—former clients Desi and Jerry Winter. Rosano says collaboration among all partners works well, adding that the back-and-forth with Repp is especially rewarding, because he has a degree in architecture and understands the process from both design and construction standpoints. The Dreamspace goal is to show Tucson that good infill design is possible and that these projects add value for both homeowners and the entire neighborhood.
Rosano also discussed the challenges of being your own developer. For her and Ibarra, the biggest hurdle is always Tucson's Land Use Code (LUC), which she says discourages density and building smaller or smarter. One example she gave is a project called The Double, which was originally planned as a three-unit development. Zoning laws prevented them from dividing a large corner lot into three single-family homes that would have been similar in size and scale with other houses in the downtown neighborhood. She also explained how those same codes constricted their buildable envelope for the Slice to a mere 16 feet wide—even though the lot is 40 feet wide. Despite these frustrations, the partners will continue to push against the LUC by voicing their concerns and demonstrating how good architecture makes a difference.
Rosano concluded the presentation with six mandates that she and Ibarra consider key to a successful business (and life) partnership:
1. Love what you do.
2. Choose your clients wisely.
3. Understand where you work.
4. Find the right solution.
5. Let people see it.
6. Don't forget to live!