Thursday, August 10, 2017

Inviting the Outside In

Louis Kahn once said “A room is not a room without natural light”, and here at the JMA team we couldn’t agree more. Natural light is an architectural element that is on the same level of importance as any other structural element needed in a building. A well-lit room gives someone a refreshed and uplifting feeling. Light is one of those powerful elements that can change the whole appearance of a home.

I am sure there has been plenty of times when you have been in a home or building and it gave you a vibe like the “walls were caving in." A dreary and darkly lit space can definitely give a home that effect. A good way to combat this is by expanding living spaces, opening doors and breaking down the barrier between indoor and outdoor living.

Unifying Outdoor and Indoor Living Spaces

When JMA designs, we see the outside as not separate from the home, but as an extension of it. Designing a house is an exciting art form because you want to choose the best layout, materials, and overall design aesthetic to draw the visitor in. Your house should make guests feel like they have a strong gravitational pull leading them all around the house.
The beautiful entryway at the 7th Street Brownstone
For our interior renovation project at a 7th Street Brownstone in Jersey City, we expanded the doorway lintels to create continuity from the entrance of the home, all the way to the back patio. As soon as you enter through the door, you get a perfect tunnel like view to the back patio area. It is almost as if the patio is calling you forward and a lovely natural light surrounds you as you move through the house.
Dining Room Designed by JMA
Creating Desirable Places in Your Home

At the 7th Street Brownstone, we gave it a complete transformation because it was not living up to its fullest potential. The home was very cramped, had a drab kitchen, and not enough natural light. JMA made some much-needed modifications using expansive windows and skylights to allow an abundance of light to flow throughout the kitchen. It’s amazing to see the positive energy the house now exudes with the brand new spacious layout and inviting aura. 
Contemporary Kitchen Designed by JMA
Finding Your Room Showstoppers

The 7th Street brownstone is a standout project for the JMA team because it has so many unique characteristics and personality in all the rooms. Personally, I think the kitchen is the ultimate showstopper. Everything about the kitchen screams JMA because it is the perfect combination of a functional and beautiful space with a sense of timelessness.

When we renovated the house, we aimed to make all the rooms become seamless and have a nice flow with each other. The beautiful cedar wood is the material that ties the whole house together. The red cedar wood addition we created in the back gives the house an earthier look. If you only looked at the patio we created, you might think it belonged to a house in a cabin somewhere, not an urban area like Jersey City.
Red Cedar Wood Patio Designed by JMA

JMA loves using our creativity and technical skills to give our clients their dream homes and fulfill their artistic desire. We encourage other architects and design professionals to always keep an open mind when designing. You never know when inspiration may strike and cause you to create that perfect masterpiece.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Why Furniture Matters When Designing Your Home

Interior design is exciting because it shows off one’s style and gives you a canvas to display how you want to express yourself.  Each design decision can’t be made lightly because it could be like a bad domino effect waiting to happen. Choosing the right furniture can either make or break the interior layout of your home.  Especially if you live in a city like New York where space is a challenge, you don’t want to choose furniture that is too bulky, boring and adds no value. The furniture’s size, dimension, and design are all factors that must be cohesive and complimentary to each other.

Choosing The Right Furniture Pieces
Furniture helps set the stage for creating a welcoming and relaxed environment for your guests. It is important to maximize the functionality of your space and pick that perfect couch, cabinet, table etc., to make your rooms come to life.
 West End Apartment designed by JMA

Importance of Dual-Use Furniture

JMA recently did an interior renovation for a West End apartment located in the Upper West Side. We wanted to create signature-customized pieces that worked for specific rooms. In the foyer, we sought to make a cabinet storage piece perfect for books, shoes, and other items. Dual-use furniture is beneficial because it adds function and a unique special touch to your apartment. The bookcase was custom-made to have sections that were cut various sizes and heights to stir interest and make the room look taller.
Storage cabinet designed by JMA
Foyer at the West End Apartment

Another furniture piece JMA had fun creating was a modern white cabinet at the 5th street townhouse project. The built-in white cabinet is not bulky, blends in with the rest of the room, and creates an illusion of higher ceilings. The cabinet is a focal point in the family room because it displays personal memorabilia and an example of our client’s personality. At the base of the cabinet, we wanted it have a unique geometric style door and a storage space to provide privacy.  
Modern Cabinet designed by JMA 

Creating Unexpected Furniture Arrangements
I always believe that when you go into someone’s home the furniture helps narrate the design story and creates a vibe. In the living room at the West End Apartment, the style we were aiming for is a modern streamlined look with a “Mad Men” feel to it.

The standout furniture pieces we created were two dark colored wood cabinets. They are both high-quality pieces and give the apartment a cool contemporary flair. The longer furniture piece makes the room look wide, spacious, and gives it a twist. The dark color compliments the light colored herringbone floors and highlights the white trim moldings. The diffused accent lighting in the apartment creates a warm ambiance over the intricate details of the apartment and the furniture.
Dark wood cabinets designed by JMA

Sometimes when you shop at stores, you see a plenty of items that look too “cookie-cutter.” These pieces are mainly all about the function and have little to no unique design style to it. JMA is great at combining function, beauty, and comfort all into one package. When decorating your home it’s okay to splurge on customized items because it allows the room to reach its full potential. I believe designing is all about trusting your instincts and having fun with customizing or buying furniture pieces to create the vibe you want. Furniture is just one of the design factors that helps draw your guests in and defines the space, so make sure you are choosing good ones.

  • Fusaro, Kim “10 Tricks to Make Your Home Look Bigger”. Women’s Day. Hearst. Nov. 21, 2011 Web.
  • Margolies, Jane “12 Decorating Do’s and Don'ts From Top Designers” House Beautiful. Hearst.  Web. Feb 19, 2014

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Psychology behind Urban Design

Have you ever wondered as you walked around the city why some public spaces attract crowds of happy people, and other spaces you want to run from? The difference between the two is whether or not that architect was successful in creating a design that embraces its community and inhabitants. A city must include buildings and public areas that benefit society, not hinder it. Urban design is the process on how we achieve this goal. It is an important tool architects and planners use to enliven and enrich the experience of urban life in cities, like New York and Jersey City.
Urban design gives character to buildings and neighborhoods as a whole. It’s fascinating when architects and urban planners use their talents and knowledge to construct buildings and create public spaces that uplift the entire energy of city. Urban design is special because it can promote community involvement and enhance people’s quality of life.

What is considered a good urban design?

Good urban design affects your mood, makes you feel happy, and you don’t mind staying in that space for a long time. For instance, in the city the High Line is a great example of this type of location. On any day during the week or weekend the High Line is filled with hundreds of people who happily meander through the area. Urban design should be functional and attractive for its inhabitants. All public spaces should serve a specific purpose from the placement of a bench, to the placement of flowers and greenery.
The High Line located in NYC

JMA’s Urban Design Projects
Jorge Mastropietro creates spaces that bring people together whether they are inside or outside the home. For all of his projects he always keeps in mind how that building should perform and how to make people feel comfortable around that space. 
The perfect example of this type of building is Jorge’s Newark Affordable Housing Projects. It is a group of homes that provide the residents and visitors with a welcoming and positive energy. The houses are located in a low-income residential urban density within a suburban neighborhood in Jersey. The project called for a design of a family residence that could be placed on a single lot as a free-standing unit, while being versatile enough to be repeated in a group setting that looks deliberate and appropriate.
Newark Affordable Housing Projects, designed by JMA
The resulting module engages the street traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, with planes of various volumes on several different scales. Jorge designed the facade of the homes to be very appealing, a plus for pedestrians as they walk by. He did this by using a variety of sustainable materials like red cedar board; aluminum clad wood, and corrugated metal. All these various materials help stir interest in the viewer and provide a unique appearance on the street-scape.

In addition to the pleasant appearance of the front of the houses, the backyard spaces are just as functional and beautiful. All the homes have a backyard space that helps residents connect back with nature. The backyard area is a very warm space, giving the residents a place to interact, relax, and have a good time.
Newark Affordable Housing Projects (Backyard)

Jorge designed each apartment with function and resource efficiency in mind. The residents who live on the first floor still have a sense of privacy with their doors not so close to the sidewalk. It also doesn’t make pedestrians feel like they are intruding in someone’s personal space.
Urban design helps people live, work, and relax in happier and functional spaces. It is a important process architects and planners use to adapt to the psychological desires of people.  It is amazing how one wrong design decision can make a space feel dreary and unreceptive. Architects should create buildings that motivate people to be drawn to it and makes them never want to leave. 

  • EUKN Research. “Urban Design, how important is it for cities?” Web.
  • Ellard, Colin “Cities and their psychology: how neuroscience affects urban planning”. The Guardian. Web Feb. 4 2014.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Architecture as an Art Form

Architecture is a highly complex beautiful work of art. The essence of art is expressing oneself and sparking a conversation with the viewer. For instance, I love walking around the city, and coming across a building that forces me to question “How does that building stand up and not tip over?” Architectural forms genuinely are meant to benefit society and not hinder it. Some people have a romantic fiction of the term art defining it, as “art is just art”. However, I believe that all art has a function; at the very least, it has a purpose to convey a unique message.
Calatrava’s Oculus at the World Trade Center
When Jorge Mastropietro designs, he is always thinking about how each person is going to be living in that space, and how will he create a structure that responds to the needs of its users. Architects have a certain responsibility to construct buildings that are functional and have a meaningful place for people to dwell.  Architecture is truly an art form; imagine visiting two different houses, one house built from a generic blueprint that satisfies the fundamental requirements of a house. Moreover, this house would just be to provide shelter. Then, compare it to a house like Jorge’s XS House, a house designed with purpose and pleases the senses. For instance, Jorge designed a unique water feature in the XS House that is both a pleasing sound and sight.  It gives the home a kinetic, natural energy.  This type of architecture will always be far more engaging as a habitat for the owner and to the passer-by who views it. The XS House, like all of Jorge’s projects, is a great representation of good architecture that also fulfills the artistic desire.
XS House designed by JMA

Architects have an ultimate mission of conveying emotion through space and form, by the means of a combination of various parameters such as light, materials, proportions, etc. The XS House is beautiful construction made with high quality materials. The house is based off the relationship with the inside and outside space. The interior is the refuge of the house. The outside is what binds us to nature and to society. The inside plays with the lights and shadows, with walls that are variously open and closed, ranging from transparent to solid. The result of this project is a beautiful and simplistic modern style home.

Architecture is the recurrent form of art in our lives; life simply would not be the same without it. For instance, architecture without art is merely construction and this alone does not afford any value to the soul.  Jorge believes that architecture satisfies the poetic needs of human beings. Architecture is a unique type of art.  It takes creativity and vision for architects to design buildings just as it does to write a novel, sculpt, or how a painter would paint on a canvas.

The Character of Adaptive Reuse

Did you know about the impact historic preservation can have on a city? Historic buildings, despite their aesthetic appearance and symbolism, can pose challenges in today’s modern society and people’s evolving changes. Look at New York decades ago, many of the buildings were once large factories made for different purposes such as manufacturing. Today, that is no longer the case, our city’s workforce evolved and those buildings changed to become more useful for the times they are now in.
Old factory buildings in New York

With the purposes for those buildings are no longer relevant and functional, this is when adaptive reuse kicks in. The old structures are adapted for a new use and have new life breathing into it.

Adaptive Reuse Saves Cities
If adaptive reuse no longer occurred, our city could consist of structures falling apart, abandoned buildings and more. Adaptive reuse has become an important tool to promote preservation along with economic viability of buildings and vitality of neighborhoods and districts. For instance, Jersey City is a historic district and the process of adaptive reuse is thankfully, trending in this area.

Jorge Mastropietro, loves designing in these types of neighborhoods because he appreciates historic districts and wants to update their buildings to fit today’s modern needs. In his project 526 Manila, he had the opportunity to alter the primary function of the structure while retaining some of the architectural details that make the building unique.
526 Manila Townhouse

The original house, an 1880 townhouse, was a 4-story brick building. JMA’s mission was to create two different 2-bedroom duplex apartments. JMA adapted the existing space to the new needs of modern life but kept the charm of the original style in its façade.
The house is situated between five similar row houses from the same period, which is the reason why the front elevation has only been restored and is further kept untouched.
Adaptive Reuse Reduces Energy and Resources
It is beneficial for architects to reuse an existing structure and shell because it reduces the need to manufacture and construct the building with new materials. Thereby, reducing the need for additional natural resources and the energy required to use them. 
Depending on the integrity of the building, it is more affordable and easier to renovate or to add on to existing buildings rather than to build new. The economic savings may differ from project to project.
Our 526 Manila project is a building that has great presence in the community due to its location, as well as its row style streetscape.

When JMA was working on the 526 Manila renovations, we made sure the interior also included changes to fit today’s needs. For instance, the environmental issues today have skyrocketed. Therefore, we used eco-friendly materials like bamboo floors, high efficiency appliances, and double pane windows. To provide views, the wall of the east façade (rear) on the first three levels, were opened and replaced by sliding windows partitions. In the lower apartment, the living area, kitchen and living room, were installed in the parlor level in order to get the best views. The living spaces were opened up to the exterior and the unrestricted views span from the front to the back of the house.
Stairs by the entrance at 526 Manila
Designed by JMA

Interior at 526 Manila

I think preservation and adaptive reuse should be a subject that is important to everyone. These historic buildings have a spirit to them, when they were first built; they represented the people and how they lived. For an architect to dismiss a building’s story is a shame because the entire city loses a part of its culture.  I love architecture because each building creates a narrative for our lives and the narrative always has the chance to change as time moves forward.

Sarafides, Athena. “Creating Sustainable Communities.  A guide for developers and communities-  Building Reuse and Adaptive Reuse”.  NJ Gov. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Web September 2007

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Architecture in Buenos Aires, Argentina

It is hard not to fall in love with Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is an amazing city known for its vibrant culture, stunning European influenced architecture, the tango, and its Jorge’s hometown!
About Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, and it is the largest city in the country. The city lies in Pampas (fertile plains); it is close to the coast and located right off of the great Rio de la Plata. Buenos Aires is a port city; local residents often refer to themselves as Porteños.
About 3 million people live in the city of Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires has a mild climate year round. The average temperature is 18º C (64.4º F), making extremely hot and cold days infrequent. Therefore, it is the perfect weather for visitors to explore the city in any season.
The city is nicknamed the “Paris of South America” because it has a European sophistication with a combination of Latin passion. Buenos Aires is known for its wide boulevards, grandeur architecture, incredible food, nightlife, art centers, and the famous tango.

Buenos Aires Architecture

Teatro Colón
No trip to Buenos Aires is complete without a visit to the Teatro Colón. Teatro Colón is one of the top theaters in South America. It hosts the most famous artists of national and international opera and ballet, and is acoustically considered to be amongst the five best concert venues in the world.
Exterior view of the Teatro Colón

The Teatro Colón was designed by many different talented architects. The original designer of the theater was Italian architect, Francesco Tamburini. After his death in 1891, the project was continued and modified by his partner Víctor Meano, the architect of the Argentinian Congress building. In 1904 Meano, had passed away and Belgian architect, Jules Dormal finished the construction in 1908.

The total area of the theater is 624,000 square feet. It has 7stories and covers an entire block. The main hall of the theater is designed as an elongated horseshoe-shape. The hall seats a total of 2,478 people with a standing room that can fit an additional 500 people. The main hall in the orchestra pit can hold 120 musicians.

The Teatro Colón's is a beautiful interpretation of classical architecture with an eclectic style. The basic aesthetic of the Teatro Colón is Italian Renaissance influenced by Neoclassical. You can tell it is this style, because of the triangular pediments, geometric proportions, and many columns. In addition to, the architects also wanted to incorporate French motifs in the theater like the mosaic tiles you see on the floor.
The foyer of the theater is extremely impressive with its luxurious high quality materials. The design elements included are marble, dramatic statues, and stained glass. The columns are constructed out of red hued Verona marble, Portuguese marble is used for the two lions that guard the central staircase, yellow marble from Siena, and white marble from Carrara can also be found throughout the foyer. The beautiful chandelier in the center of the auditorium has 700 light bulbs. This elegant chandelier casts light upon the golds and reds of the upholstery, carpets, curtains, and trim.

Architecture in San Telmo
San Telmo is a historic neighborhood known for its cobblestone streets, corner cafes, and casas chorizo. Casa Chorizos are traditional Buenos Aires homes first built in the 1800s.  They are long narrow houses consisting of a central courtyard with all the rooms surrounding the patio. The rooms in a straight formation against the property line give it a sausage like (chorizo) appearance. 
Cobblestone street with Casa Chorizo houses

What makes a Casa Chorizo house so special?
The layout of a chorizo house has a suspended ceiling that forms an air pocket creating a good insulation for the rooms. It provides residents with a great deal of light and ventilation to each room.  Jorge’s childhood home in Buenos Aires was built in the Casa Chorizo style.

Jorge's childhood Casa Chorizo home that was  built in the 1800s
He has many fond memories of the comfortable living space his house provided to him and his family. It had amazing cross-ventilation even without any air conditioning or ceiling fans. This was due to the building’s layout; each of the rooms had thick walls creating exceptional insulation. The transom windows above the doors and windows pushed warm air across and out of the building.  The veranda provided a buffer from the high summer sun, but allowed the low winter sun to project light into the bedrooms. The grape vines growing above provided perfect shading for the space below. Jorge is a passionate believer in architects designing buildings with comfort and resource-efficiency in mind.

Another great example of a Casa Chorizo house is the famous singer Carlos Gardel’s home. He purchased it in 1927 and in 2003; it was converted to a museum holding memorabilia of his life.  Today, visitors can take free tango classes and watch screenings of the tango legend.
Famous singer, Carlos Gardel's home in Buenos Aires

Carlos Gardel's chorizo style home turned into a museum

Interior view of the chorizo style layout

Argentines take extreme pride in their country and their beautiful culture. Buenos Aires is a must see destination for architecture lovers. It is a city that once you visit you will never want to leave. So what are you waiting for?


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  • GypsyNesters.”7 Things Not to Miss in Buenos Aires”. HuffingtonPost. HuffingtonPost, 25 Dec. 2013. Web, 11 June 2017.
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  • Posada Palermo Buenos Aires “The Casa Chorizo”
  • Interknowledge Corporation.“Buenos Aires Introduction” Web. 11 June 2017.