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Architects Outside of the Office

Today’s blog is the result of an in-house survey-of-sorts that I took to give our readers some insight on what we, at MKSD, do after work. Many of our individual posts discuss extracurricular activities; we find much value in sharing our stories of adventure with our clients & friends. The lives we lead outside of work are important to us as individuals, and also as architects. The things that we do make us better at our jobs, entertain us, and oftentimes sharpen our minds as skillful designers & craftspeople. I have included a few anecdotes along with photographs to illustrate the parallels between our fun times and our work.

Fitness, Sports, & Adventure

We all know that a balanced, happy life includes being healthy inside and out; getting exercise and eating well. MKSD’ers like to stay fit and healthy by regular visits to the gym, or other methods including running marathons, half marathons, & 5K’s. Below is a photo of Silvia & Jill after running the St, Luke’s Half Marathon in 2011.


Alicia also ran a 5K called Color Me Rad last month. She’s not quite a marathon runner, but this was fun and colorful!

Todd coaches his son’s little league baseball team, and he often takes his family to Allentown’s Minor League Baseball team – Iron Pigs games. Supporting the community is a great way to get involved as a local architect. And these boys look awesome in their MKSD jerseys!

Nick contributed a past blog about his love of scuba diving you can read here! Nick says, “As an architect, I love traveling to cities and exploring what’s around each corner, looking up at the many tall buildings, as well as going to rooftop observation decks to get a view of the vast city beyond. Scuba diving allows me to do just that, but in a whole new world. I can travel in any direct I want, and I always have something new and exciting to see!”

Gardening & Nature

The heat of summer is upon us, and gardens are finally blooming! John shared a post about his garden plans last month you can read here. Many MKSD employees take great pride in their outdoor spaces, like Jessica, who tells me that she obsesses over her flowers and gardens! “Flower pots have to have balance, texture, color, and variation in growing habit & blooming…” Those ideals hold true when designing dynamic spaces for our clients.

Besides digging in the garden, many of us crave the outdoors & the inspiration we find through nature. Camping, hiking, & biking are a few of the ways we like to spend time outdoors. We all empathize with architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, who preached theories about the relationship to design and the natural world. Below is a photo that Nick took while camping at Mt. Tammany at the Delaware Water Gap. He says, “As with Scuba Diving, I enjoy camping as an exploration of a “different world”. Instead of looking at buildings, I love to hike and look up at the tall trees, and down at the valley below from the top of a mountain. Getting away from the daily life of computers, phones and constant connection to everything brings a great sense of peace & relaxation.”


Family, Travel, & Photography

Definitely a major part of everyone’s time spent outside of the MKSD office, is with our families. Most of us originate from the area, so our ties to the Lehigh Valley are strong. An architect who prioritizes family is certainly an architect who thinks about other people’s needs and desires. We are fantastic givers! Understanding and empathizing with clients is one of our strengths, and I truly believe this comes from our desire to be good to one another, care for our community, and love our families.


Of course travel is always thrilling for an architect. Experiencing diverse culture and studying global design & architecture is a critical task to an architect. Many of our blog posts have been dedicated to the amazing and extensive trips we have taken individually. For instance, visiting the BMW museum in Germany proved to be an architectural adventure for Mark, and also a historical story about his car’s brand history. Gabe enjoys sight-seeing with her family as well; from her hometown of Toronto, Canada (City Hall photographed below) to Jefferson’s Monticello in Virginia. Appreciation for art, architecture, and history are all one in the same when travelling to a new place.


Along with the excitement of traveling domestically and abroad, we also enjoy the chance to become photographers. An architectural photography lesson would explain the techniques to get the right angle, center and align elements within the screen, and the “rule of thirds”. Alicia believes that some of these techniques are inane to architects because they are already constantly looking for “the right perspective” in their work and environment. Architects must understand, in scale, the experience of their designs by the users & clients. Below, Christian captures perspective at a shot of a pier at Virginia Beach, VA & Alicia quickly snapped a shot of the atrium in the PPL Plaza in downtown Allentown. Todd is also our in-house photographer for MKSD design projects.


Making: Legos, Music, & Cooking

There has been a growing trend in our office (as seen in photos below) of Lego building & collecting. Obviously, an architect favorite, Legos were a big part of childhood for most, if not all, of us! Building by hand, even in the smallest sense, can be intellectually stimulating. Todd & Jess claim to have a growing collection at home for their young ones as well! (Sounds like we have architects-in-the-making!)


Christian relaxes after work by playing piano & guitar. Writing, playing, and listening to music is extremely healthy for our brains, and I personally believe (in agreement with scientists studying the cognitive neuroscience of music) that we strengthen our brain function when we play an instrument & create music. I would even go as far to say that the way in which our brains perceive and react to music is very similar to the way our brains think about architecture.

Silvia explains the way she relates architecture to cooking (and we couldn’t have said it better ourselves!)…

Cooking utilizes some of the very same principals and skills you need to have and use when you are designing and building. Most of all  I love the fact cooking a great meal that it can be accomplished in a few hours but buildings take years to finish!

First off, start with a good plan for what you hope to accomplish.

The next task is to select high quality materials, using local products is always a great idea.

Having the right tools at hand makes the work flow smoothly.

It takes practice to perfect your technique, so be patient.

Make it all come together with good timing.

An appealing presentation always makes food taste better, so think about how it looks.

Lastly, sit back and enjoy what you have created and always share it with others!”

Nick also compares his passion for charcoal grilling to architecture. “It’s great to purchase all the ingredients you need, prepare the food for grilling, perfect a favorite recipe, and then enjoy the satisfaction everyone gets from eating the meal… Kind of like an entire project designed, constructed, and awarded a CO in just a few hours!”


Volunteering & Community

Quite a few recent blog posts have been under this umbrella. Ray has contributed stories of his volunteering through the ACE Mentor program, benefiting high school students who are looking at careers in the architecture, construction, or engineering fields. Lately, MKSD has been very involved in giving back to our community through the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley by completing design/renovation work at The Perfect Fit in Allentown. Read more about it in this blog post from last month.


I would like to note that inspiration for this blog was taken from an awesome post by the fantastic Seattle design architecture practice, BUILD LLC