Learning Curve: Architecture is Art by Atelier Drome

My second year in the Interior Design and Architecture program at University of Idaho was all about abstraction. The studio based its curriculum on discarding the notion that a building is a just a box. A building can be much more than just a box. Humans need to inhabit spaces that are much more than boxes to lead a healthy life since we spend about 93% of our time indoors (Environmental Protection Agency).

The Elements of Art are line, shape, form, value, space, color and texture. All of these can be used to make a space for humans to inhabit. Architecture isn’t only about simply making a space for humans to function properly in, though. It’s also about giving the user an experience to stimulate interest. Otherwise we would just live in boxes.

A growing body of research in cognitive science illuminates the physical and mental toll bland cityscapes exact on residents. Generally, these researchers argue that humans are healthier when they live among variety…or work in well-designed, unique spaces, rather than unattractive, generic ones
— Jacoba Urist, The Cut

Contrasting two different buildings will show how valuable art is to architecture:

Arts West, University of Melbourne

The free flowing, geometric form of the coffered timber roof and vertical arrangement gives visual interest while at the same time mediates natural daylight and assists natural ventilation. The texture of the wood that is scattered throughout the building gives a clean, natural and fresh feel to the space. Lastly, the open space in the center of the building allows for flexibility and balance to the rest of the turns and corners surrounding the rest of the structure.

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While artists work from the real to the abstract, architects must work from the abstract to the real.
— Steven Holl, The Brooklyn Rail
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Health Sciences Center, Louisiana State University

The form of this building is exactly what my second-year studio told me not to do: make a perfect boxed structure. The interpreted line that the small windows dotting the building make, make it feel like a prison from the outside: boring to look at. The color of the building is very bland and is the same throughout the exterior.

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images from Arch Daily; The Times-Picayune


Learning Curve is an ongoing series from the perspective of our interning students who are currently in school to become the world’s next generation of designers.  

This edition is by Jessie Macomber who is in her final year in a double major of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Idaho and will be headed on to the Master of Architecture program next year. Her continuously curious mind and love of art drew her to the design profession, and she can often be found studying and sketching everything around her.  “I looked at Architecture and Design as something that took art and turned it into something practical – something that made an impact on how people lived their lives,” Jessie says of her decision to choose a path in design. Rounding out her love for the built world and art is the importance that she places on friends and family in her life and the impact that has on how she views the ways in which design can enrich lives and ultimately help bring people together.

Learning Curve: Parametric Design by Atelier Drome

There are various ways to approach a new design. From hand sketches, to model building, collages, photography, 3D modeling, etc. Architects learn to become inspired and use various medias to convey their ideas. One growing example of an approach is parametric modeling. With computer technology gaining speed, parametric design features parameters within a program, such as Grasshopper, to clarify and encode relationships between elements.


Designing with many iterative shapes makes parametric modeling a useful tool. It allows for quick manipulation to a specific design. Factors that may call for change and response include zoning heights and setbacks, natural daylight, shading, structural frame, floor areas, etc. All this can be instantly manipulated with a change of a number in the code script. With many factors having an impact on several iterations until coming up with the product of a final design, parametric modelling uses time efficiently to make these changes to the interior, exterior, and detailing. Therefore, designers can go through more options with a client in an efficient time period.


As a student, what fascinates me the most with parametric modelling is the form you’re able to achieve. While most modern architecture is represented with flat planes or rectangular forms, parametric modelling can create curved, manipulated, and twisting shapes appealing to speculate by the eye.  A studied example in which parametric modelling was utilized are the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi. Aedas Architects were able to utilize parametric script to design the towers’ responsive façade screens. With the location’s direct sunlight, a sustainable approach was taken to create kinetic screens to self-move and respond to the sun exposure at various times/days of the year.  In return, this provides more shade to cool the interior and eliminate unnecessary HVAC use. The individual iterative shape of the screens themselves were derived from the “mashrabiya” which is a local traditional Islamic lattice. Here, parametric modelling became a solution to combine culture with sustainability and design.


Learning Curve is an ongoing series from the perspective of our interning students who are currently in school to become the world’s next generation of designers.  

This edition is by Anastasia Spassennikova who is in her first year of the Master of Architecture program at the University of Washington. With a love for both math and art, architecture felt like the obvious path that would meld the two into one exciting career. Her passion for the profession grew when she realized it was a gateway to learning about people and locations in various contexts. Designing a building for a specific client allows the designer to learn more about that individual's background and interests which makes every project unique. With the rare extra time outside of her studies, Anastasia enjoys exploring the world around her through drawing, painting and actively travelling to see things first hand

mood board monday: wallingford residence by Claire Grotz

Owners of the Wallingford home are looking to make their current residence more usable according to their daily needs. They are attracted to wallpaper and statement pieces in what would otherwise be a very simple, traditional room.  The rooms will be used as an informal private retreat with smart storage solutions to keep their space organized and functional. Happy Mood Board Monday!

furniture & accessories by Claire Grotz

At Atelier Drome, we are design curators - with  knowledge of and access to both current and timeless designs to complete your space. Our interior design services strive to refine and compliment your ideal aesthetic. Whatever you need to make your home or commercial space feel truly finished, we can help you find that special item you didn't even know was missing.

bellevue healthcare by Claire Grotz

Bellevue HealthCare, a locally owned and operated medical supplier, has been in business in the Pacific Northwest for over a decade.  So when they approached us to design a new headquarters for them in the heart of Redmond, we were thrilled! Their new home is located in a 13,360sf office building.  Adding new interior partitions, we were able to create multiple open work areas, coupled with playful independent office pods.  Additionally, a generously appointed kitchen and employee lounge were added, as well as updates to the conference room and reception area. Working in tandem with the builder, DLH, many of the existing elements were re-purposed and given new life.  All new finishes were selected and the space is now sporting an edgy, raw aesthetic.  This once cavernous and dull office space is now an upbeat and exciting place to work.

lighting illuminated: 5 key considerations by Claire Grotz

Aesthetically, lighting fixtures can be like jewelry for an interior, adding a bit of sparkle and just the right finishing touch to a space. Functionally, there is a lot more to selecting a fixture than just its dashing good looks. The right (or wrong) lighting selection will make or break a design, regardless of how well the rest of the space has been crafted. Below are five key concepts to understand when selecting the right fixture.

UL listing
The UL, or Underwriters Laboratories, is an independent US company that tests and verifies consumer products to ensure their safety for the public. It is important to select a fixture that has been tested and approved by the UL, especially if it is going in a bathroom it will need to be UL listed for use in damp locations.

Lamping refers to the type of bulb (or lamp) used in a fixture. Different types of bulbs have different light outputs, require different amounts of electricity, and have varying lifespans. For example, LED lights have a much longer lifespan (as much as 10-15 years which is great for fixtures in locations that are difficult to service) and they are also a great option for saving on energy costs. Some fixtures can accommodate different types of bulbs, but others cannot. Be sure to check the specifications to see whether the fixture uses a bulb that is readily available in your local store, or whether it is something you will need to special order, as this will impact the ease of maintenance over time.

Lumens are the measurement of light output from the lamp, or bulb, as mentioned above. We are accustomed to understanding light output in relation to the watts of an incandescent bulb, but with so many other options (LED, halogen, fluorescent) a little math is needed to determine light output: The total output (lumens) you will get from a fixture is equal to the wattage of the bulb, times the lumens per watt for the bulb type. Therefore, a 60w incandescent that produces about 15 lumens per watt will give off only 900 lumens, whereas a 60w LED that produces 30 lumens per watt will give off 1800 lumens. (Hence the energy savings of switching to LED lights.)

Color Temperature
Color Temperature refers to how visually “warm” the light output appears. It is measured on the Kelvin scale of 1,000K (warmest) up to 10,000K (coolest). This influences the “mood” you want to set. Psychologically, a room filled with “warm” light (2,000K-3,000K) gives a sense of cozy intimacy and is desirable in restaurants or living rooms. A “cool” white light (3,000K-4,500K) tends to make a space feel vibrant and bright, which works well in offices or bathrooms. Daylight falls around 4,600K-6,500K, which feels energizing and crisp and is great for task lighting.

Finally, the CRI is the Color Rendering Index, measured on a scale of 0-100. Different light bulbs (and hence the fixtures that require them) will vary when it comes to how accurately colors appear under the light. This is separate from Color Temperature, and gets very scientific very fast. To simplify the concept, what is important to note when selecting lighting for spaces where color accuracy is crucial (like a design studio, salon, or your dressing area at home) is that the higher the CRI number, the more accurately you will see color. Daylight has a CRI of about 75 and typically in a living space you will want a CRI of 70 or higher.

As you can tell, the art and science of lighting can be very complex, and we haven’t even touched issues like beam spread or control systems. For large projects or public buildings where lighting plays a critical role it is often desirable to engage a lighting consultant. However, understanding these five key concepts is a great starting point for discussing the basics with your architect or designer, or shopping for fixtures on your own.