European Architecture

During several trips to Europe my life has been greatly enriched by enjoying numerous examples of interesting architecture.  The architecture shown in the pictures below was constructed during a time frame spanning from the 21st century back to the Middle Ages.

Rick Metzger image 1

Author’s Own Photo – Trier, Germany

Since I’m prone to walk great distances, I’ve had the chance to observe how in many places the buildings themselves are enhanced because they surround very pedestrian-friendly spaces with no vehicular traffic.  The picture above taken in Trier, Germany shows a nice example of this.  I think this feature of buildings in relation to such spaces is more prevalent in Europe than here since much of the architecture in question was built long before automobiles had to be considered in city planning.  Incidentally, during a visit to Antwerp I was about to take a picture of some great architecture surrounding a wonderful space when I saw a McDonald’s flag nestled among the buildings!  Considering the incongruity of that “Big-Mac Attack” I decided to forego taking a picture of that particular space and architecture in Antwerp.

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Financial Design for Millennials and College Students

The million dollar questions that every financial customer of ours wants to know is “How do we get millennials, in particular college students, into our branches?”

The answer is not an easy one.  And it’s not because this generation is so different from the rest of us, it’s because of the age group.  Gen Y a.k.a. “the millennials” are a large and lucrative population segment to pursue, and financial institutions are in constant competition for their business and their brand loyalty.

For this particular article, I am going to focus on the 18 to 22 year old segment of the millennials, or college students.  That is because the designers at K4 are the experts in the financial sector and we have been asked what should a branch designed for college students look like.

We assembled a focus group of college students that attend the College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning at the University of Cincinnati.  We thought architectural and interior design students would have a vision of a financial branch that attracts them and works for them.  The first question was, “What is your favorite retail store?”  Believe it or not, it was not the Apple Store.  They selected Fossil, Banana Republic and a spinoff of American Eagle.  If you do not have a frame of reference for these stores, think “industrial eclectic bohemian.”  They are clean and organized but utilize reclaimed wood and textures.

Image Source

REI Retail Store by Callison, New York
Image Source

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5 lessons I Have Learned as a Co-op at K4

Before I started my first Co-op with K4 Architecture + Design, I had no idea what to except.  There were so many questions running through my mind.  What skills will I use that I learned from school?  Those samples I have to order are free right?  Is my boss cool? What if I don’t know how to do that in AutoCAD?  I get my own desk!? It’s hard to be perfectly prepared for your first co-op because everyone’s experience is different.  Below are the top five lessons I learned on my first co-op that may help you get a better understanding of the work-study experience and the relationship between professionals and students.

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5 Tips for Using LinkedIn as a Business Development Tool

I am a strong believer in using LinkedIn as a tool to build business relationships, and utilizing your connections to meet the people who can help move your business or product forward.   Below are some tips that can help you and your company move past using LinkedIn as a job search or recruitment tool, and start using it as a way to prospect smarter and connect faster to the right people.

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Designing to Eliminate the Traditional “Line”: Teller Pods Vs. Counters

As branch transactions continue to decline, the thoughts of branch transformation continue to be important to the strategic growth objectives of financial institutions and their need to consider the redesign or reconfiguration of their current facilities.  Essential steps in making this branch evolution include integrating new technology, and introducing new processes that can perform the same traditional financial transactions in smaller physical spaces, with increased efficiency and less staff.

One approach that many of our current clients are inquiring about, and investigating, is the movement away from traditional teller lines or teller counters and toward the teller pod concept.  The teller pod, and this alternative style of transaction delivery, was originally introduced and made popular as an up-and-coming trend by Washington Mutual (WaMu) several years ago.  This new approach to branch design replaces the traditional teller counter with “pods” where customers or members stand side-by-side with the tellers, rather than opposite them, behind a counter.  The pod concept gives the  lobby an open and spacious feel and removes the barriers between customers/members and tellers, which many feel is a more personal approach.

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Enhancing Brand Identity in the Fast Casual Dining Market

In today’s busy world, dining options are constantly evolving.  While companies like McDonald’s and Burger King have controlled the fast food market in the past, a new hybrid has emerged on the scene in recent years called fast casual food.  According to The Washington Post, “The market for fast casual food, which is almost but not quite fast food, has grown by 550 percent since 1999, more than ten times the growth seen in the fast food industry over the same period.”  Fast casual dining aims to capture patrons who are looking for dining at similar price points as fast food but with better quality ingredients, more interesting options and unique, inviting spaces. makes the claim that “To keep up with fast-casual players, more quick-service restaurants are updating the look and feel of their interior and exterior design.”

Within the past year, K4 has been fortunate to partner with the up-and-coming local fast casual dining company Tom + Chee, that you may have seen on ABC’s Shark Tank.  We were hired to develop layouts for every new franchise location and have worked with them to provide the best space possible for more efficiently producing the variety of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup that they are famous for.  With the number of dining options on the market it is essential that Tom + Chee have the quickest systems available with interesting branding throughout their stores and seating options suitable to the clientele and flow of traffic.

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Vacation Leads to Personal Development and Increased Creativity in Life and Work

Spring is in the air! As the warm weather rolls in and the days get longer, it’s the perfect time to take a break, breathe some fresh air and get out of town!  What better way to boost creativity, gain a new perspective and increase work productivity than travelling. Successful writers, artists and even physicists have had some of their best discoveries and successes while away from home or living abroad. Travel allows your mind to relax and be open to new experiences and ideas. As the famous writer J.R.R. Tolkien said, “Not all who wander are lost.”

Travel Boosts Creativity.

Curiosity of a new environment can awaken your senses and make you acutely aware of your surroundings.  Whether it’s a remote countryside in Scotland or a trendy London restaurant; exposure to culture, movement, color, and texture provide you with new experiences that can be interpreted and transferred into your daily life or your next design project.

London, England     Isle of the Skye, Scotland     Montreal, Canada

London, England                                      Isle of the Skye, Scotland                                   Montreal, Canada
Author’s Own Photos

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Teamwork: An Essential Feature of an Exceptional Building Program

Since the process by which buildings are designed and built entails the efforts of many interested parties, a very important feature of an exceptional building program is good teamwork.  As the design team point person, there are many ways the project architect can contribute to the achievement of successful teamwork.

As is true with any endeavor, the business of achieving high quality teamwork is enhanced by effective communication – the topic of my blog posted 12/8/14.

At the inception of a project, all members of the design team must be informed of and understand the Client’s budget, time frame and design parameters for the project.  In accord with that information, agreements must be entered into with the Client and consulting engineers which concisely describe the scope of design services by and compensation for each member of the design team.

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Interactive Teller Machines

As teller transactions continue to be on the decline each year, financial institutions are exploring new and better ways to define the overall branch experience. Branch transformation seems to be an everyday part of our vocabulary as designers for financial institutions, since banks and credit unions seem to be in constant evolution with their facility design.  Branch networks are challenged to provide more efficient operations and staffing, while continuing to provide enhanced services to differentiate themselves in their marketplace and reinforce their brand.

One approach that seems to be gaining momentum is the introduction of Interactive Teller Machines or ITMs.  These devices are capturing the attention of the financial industry because of the potential to reduce both personnel and operating costs, while offering greater security features and reducing the risk of fraud and the threat of robbery.  Financial institutions staff the ITM’s with live tellers, serving several branches and drive through facilities from a central location or call center by means of real time video.

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Building Industry Overdue for Disruptive Innovation

I recently finished reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, who also authored the  Steve Jobs biography. Both books are amazing reads of the “who’s who” among digital pioneers who are behind the technology driving everything we now take for granted. The digital age exploded with the invention of the microchip- and Moore’s Law, which predicted that the complexity-factor in micro components, read ‘capacity’, would double at a factor of 2 per year, while the costs would halve. This has proven itself out and led to us all carrying around complex micro-computers in our pockets everyday.

“…a key lesson for innovation: Understand which industries are symbiotic so that you    can capitalize on how they will spur each other on. If someone could provide a pithy and accurate rule for predicting the trend lines, it would help entrepreneurs and venture       capitalists to apply this lesson.

- The Innovators, p. 183

So what does all this have to do with the Building Industry? Unfortunately, not much. While new products are being developed with newer, lighter, stronger and more energy efficient materials, and there have been leaps in the technology and software to design and model new buildings, there have been exactly zero disruptive changes to  the way buildings actually get built.

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