written by Dan Brunn
Ever wondered what it’s really like to be an architect? This week we are getting an inside look at a day in the life of renowned architect Dan Brunn. Read on for a play-by-play of his average day and some fun facts about his office culture at Dan Brunn Architecture!
7am – Wake Up
Before I get up and get going, I like to check a few emails on my phone. I recently subscribed to the New York Times, and love to sit down with the physical paper in the dining room and have a few moments to myself before things start to get too hectic.
8:30am – Arrive at the Office
On a typical day, I start at the office, but some mornings I’ll have a meeting at a job site first thing.
On the mornings that I start at the office, I like to get in before everyone else does, so I can have some time to really focus on certain tasks. Our coffee machine is always well-stocked so we are fueled for the day.
I work alongside my right hand, Monica Heiman on many projects. I’ll start off each day by asking what’s in store for the day, and we share our iCalendars so we both know the major milestones for the week. Overall, we are very goal-oriented.
The office environment is quite relaxed and we like to have fun! We take turns playing the music, but we also started a “banned” music list, and unfortunately for me, I can’t play ABBA anymore.
10am – Staff Meeting
We just redid the office, and we finally have a proper conference table! It’s been awesome to shed the old, unwanted items so we have a modern, streamlined space to meet and catch up.
Meetings are usually very casual at my firm. My management style tends to involve checking in with the team and then giving direction versus having a set plan right away.
10:30am – Client Meeting
I believe that one of the reasons my firm has stayed true to my vision is that I can intuitively read clients. I strongly believe in first understanding your client and the problem at hand, and then interweaving that with our own language to find a solution. Once a client sees and feels that we understand them, it’s much easier to carry out the vision.
We typically start a project in person, and I like to carry on at a personal level throughout the project. Sometimes of course, calls and emails are necessary. I have a no texting rule, though. I find that it’s hard to read emotion. This means that texts are solely for “Sorry, I am running late” or “Could you give me a call?” types of messages.
12:30pm – Lunch
Lunch can vary for me since my days are so packed and I am away from the office often. If I’m in transit during lunch, I’ll find something along the way. If I can, I also like to take lunch meetings with colleagues and clients, but I make sure to have at least one lunch with the office each week so we can stay connected. It gives us all a chance to be friendly, and I value those moments.
1:45pm – Site Visit
During site visits, we typically review an initiative or product sample. Today, I stopped by a coffee shop we are working on to review how the stone vein would align and fold. Then, later on in the day I met with a structural engineer regarding a new residential renovation project. We discussed the foreseeable issues, and came up with design solutions to addresses these potential issues from the beginning.
Later on in the day, I ended up at Bridge House, a project I am working on with Bosch. Right now, we are at the foundations stage of the project, and since it is a bridge house, there are some serious complications I didn’t expect from a structural perspective. The plumbing engineer wanted to review how we would get the drainage water across the bridge, and it is a bit tricky!
Getting a project done is a collaborative task, and requires an incredible team that can work together. I like working with people that can think outside the box and create solutions.
3pm – Starting the Design
As I sit down to map out a space, I first try to focus on what we are trying to achieve, disregarding the aesthetics. I ask myself “How can we make this space the best?” And then, my team and I ask a lot of questions and bounce ideas of each other.
Typically, my inspiration comes from travel. Once inspiration hits, then an image is born. It’s really quite interesting how it happens. The real magic though is editing everything down to the absolute minimum. Removing what is unnecessary and trusting that the vision is still intact.
In terms of designing the space, I first do a very quick sketch, in my mind, and then get into it on my CAD program. I love using this technology because we can sculpt in 3D. It’s like playing with fancy LEGOs!
From the initial concept to the day a project is ready to build, we go through so many variations of that original sketch. It’s a very long process with a ton of coordination. Sometimes a project is changed due to a client demand, but most likely due to city codes. The permitting process is most likely the least enjoyable part of our work.
4:30pm – Call with a Contractor
Since this profession is collaborative, I like to build and nurture relationships. This is DBA’s 12th year and we have really worked hard to find the right people to work with.
We are also quite loyal to our vendors. The way I see it, most of my day is spent with these people, so it better be enjoyable. There are a couple of contractors I like to work with and they make the job fun! Plus, they know what I will expect, so the communication is quite easy.
Sometimes though, things don’t go as smoothly as I’d like, so it takes patience and resolve to get to the bottom line. I have learned over the years to stay cool and let things roll because it always works out in the end. And since the architect is the glue that keeps all the parties working together, I try to be understanding and a clear leader.
5pm – Finish Up at the Office
Towards the end of the day, I am quite beat. Having to coordinate facts, figures and people takes its toll both mentally and physically. As it turns out, I tend to focus on marketing and graphics towards the end of the day. I find those tasks calming somehow.
7pm – Quiet End to the Day
My typical workday ends at around 6:30pm to 7:00pm. Then it’s time to hit the gym or go home, and I usually stop at the market to buy food. I like to cook when I can. If I am spending time alone, I’ll play guitar, catch up on my favorite TV show, or even take a drive around gorgeous Los Angeles.