Season 2:

Episode 13

August 10, 2021

The Philadelphia Art Alliance with Galia Solomonoff

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This week we’ll be talking with Galia Solomonoff, founder and creative director of SAS/Solomona Architecture Studio, in New York City. We will be speaking to her about the Philadelphia Art Alliance, which Galia completed in collaboration with JacobsWyper Architects in 2019. This project preserved and re-imagined a dilapidated building in the heart of Philadelphia and owned by the University of the Arts. Currently, it is a gathering spot for artists to share ideas and redefine the city’s urban landscape.

It is a profound misconception of our profession that the designs which are often most celebrated are the ones that are the most expensive. Galia shares her opinion on this topic and discloses how art can be made accessible to anyone, regardless of net worth. We will also learn more about the foundations of Galia’s architectural journey and explore how she has incorporated this theme of accessibility into her work.


About Galia Solomonoff

Galia Solomona is an award-winning and internationally recognized architect. Galia founded Open Office in 1999 and then SAS in 2004 and has been working in Art and Architecture ever since. Since 2004, the SAS/Solomona Architecture Studio has designed 97 built projects, an incredible number for a firm of six designers. The firm’s work ranges from adaptive reuse projects to new construction, and from private townhouses to large museums for art. Beyond this, Galia is a winner of the National Endowment of the Arts grant and has previously worked at Rafael Viñoly Architects.

Intro: [00:00:00] What goes into making an iconic building in America? What are the stories and who are the people behind the next generation of architecture? If your work touches the real estate industry in any way, or you’re just curious about what goes into one-of-a-kind cities and towns all across our country, join us on the American Building podcast. In season two, we learn about everything from skyscrapers to single-family homes, from the famous and soon to be famous designers and developers responsible for them.

This season focuses particularly on the pandemic and how our buildings will change in response. Our sponsor is the iconic design firm, Michael Graves Architecture and Design. And now your host award-winning host turned entrepreneur, Atif Qadir AIA.

Atif Qadir: [00:01:04] This is American Building, and I’m your host Atif Qadir. We are recording from the historic home of world-renowned architect, Michael Graves in Princeton, New Jersey. Check out this amazing space for yourself at Michael Graves Architecture and Design YouTube channel. Now let’s build something.

Today, our guest is architect Gallia Solomona. She is the founder and creative director of SAS/Solomona Architecture Studio based in New York. Since 2004, the firm has designed 97 built projects an incredible number for a firm of six designers. For her work, she is a winner of the National Endowment of the Arts grant. Previously, Galia founded Open Office.

Besides her design work, she is a professor of architecture practice at Columbia. Today, we’ll be talking about Philadelphia Art Alliance, which Gallia completed in collaboration with JacobsWyper Architects in 2019. The project preserved and re-imagined a dilapidated building in the heart of Philadelphia owned by the University of the Arts.

More broadly, we will talk about how art can be a part of good architecture, not just expensive architecture. So, thank you so much for being here with us.

Galia Solomonoff: [00:02:19] Atif, what a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you for the introduction.

Atif Qadir: [00:02:23] Absolutely. So both of your parents were doctors and imparted on you a mathematical mind and a natural sense for geometry and space.

What role did your parents play in your path towards architecture?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:02:40] The more I move forward, the more I see that science explains more and more things. My parents were very interested in what science can explain. And for them, it was about health. But for me, it started to be about beauty. Can science explain why a bird has beautiful colors, or a flower opens up in the spring?

And so it was a house that had a great sense of curiosity and the sense that there may be an answer for most things.

Atif Qadir: [00:03:20] And growing up, you were in Argentina, and in the 1980s, Argentina like Chile and other Latin American countries was ruled by an autocratic dictator and that resulted in a very contentious public environment.

How did that kind of experience growing up shape your particular childhood and perhaps your outlook in design as you got started?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:03:44] The way the military government from 1970 to 1982 shaped Argentina and my childhood was public space was not open. You could circulate, of course, you could use the street, you could use the squares, but you could not say whatever you wanted or act or protest or gather in large groups.

And so my sense of public space was that it was not democratic space. That public space had rules and also it shaped my understanding of things like the police, the military, the relationship between the way you behave in school and ended up in prison. And so all these things were connected. When you have an autocratic government, you have the sense that anything can be used against you. And so I grew up with that sensation and it took me many years in the U.S. to not be fearful of the police. And we can talk about that more because it has changed in the last years.

Like not be worried about I’m going to get your passport or going to get a legal paper. The government would take the passports away from people and that would be just a mild reaction. It would be like without your passport for months. And it would not be an explanation why you did not get your passport renewal or something like that.

Atif Qadir: [00:05:27] I think that type of comparison is something that people who are new Americans like myself and yourself can really appreciate. So for example, with my family, that sense of impermanence is something that was a big part of life before coming to the United States. So we were expelled from Bahrain during the Iran, Iraq war, and being able to come to the United States and not worry about someone basically saying, hey, tomorrow you’re out of this country is something that is such a unique aspect of the United States that I don’t think enough people appreciate this kind of dichotomy in like the 1980s, 1990s around that time. So I thank you for bringing that up

Galia Solomonoff: [00:06:08] I have that same dialogue with my son who is American raised and born here not to take for granted the way things are here.

Atif Qadir: [00:06:18] Absolutely. And then with that kind of a background, that type of context, you went to architecture school and you were determined to be able to practice in this wide breadth of imagination, but from the smallest scale to the largest scale. Could you talk about what your education in architecture was like and what that approach was like? Let’s say perhaps in comparison to what you now know in the United States.

Galia Solomonoff: [00:06:43] So I came to architecture through the Institute of Polytechnic Superior, which is an engineering high school. And the sense that major difference between the way architecture is started Argentina to the way architecture is taught in other places and in the U.S. is that architecture is considered a part of design.

So that it goes from urbanism to architecture to object design to graphic design. And so it’s on the surface all these shared rules. And so for example, the first exercise as a student of architecture in first year in Argentina, when I was a student in the mid-eighties to the late-eighties was to design a building in a city corner and to consider how the streets become the entrance, how the entrance becomes the room, how the room has windows that look out.

So it’s a circle. You go from outside-in from inside-out as a circle. So that sense has been something that I keep thinking about as I’m an educator myself.

Atif Qadir: [00:08:07] Cool. And in terms of that early education that you had there, you then moved after a year, you transferred to City College in New York City and then Columbia. You described the educational differences between them, could you describe some of the social differences of being a student at the Polytechnic versus City College and then versus Columbia.

Galia Solomonoff: [00:08:29] So when I came to the U.S., I had no real interaction before to anyone from the African continent or descended from Africa even though part of my heritage is North African in part, but I had a very limited understanding of the history of the United States, African American history or African-American people in the United States.

And so in Argentina, my social contact was mostly based on class, understanding that different classes, and class struggles, and the big 1970s confrontation between working class and the ruling class and like more like in my frame of thought. And then when I came to the U.S. at City College, first I was in the lower part of society in general.

I was a poor student with very little access to anything that class and education allows you here. Of course, I had my own background and education, and so it was not that difficult once I knew where MoMA was or where the end of the year show at Cooper Union was. You can get newspaper in the newspaper there, and you could find things to do in libraries in Lincoln Center, go to free concerts. And so immediately I tapped into that environment. And then at City College, the biggest change for me was to encounter African-Americans, African-Africans, and Caribbean-Africans, and understand how much I had in common with Caribbean-Africans.

We could talk in Spanish. We could talk about Spain as a colonial power, all kinds of different arguments. And then it was very exciting and difficult to see how any moment in history in the context of City College, we become incredibly contested. So it didn’t matter what we were talking about, whether we were talking about World War I, everything would become a complete discussion between the different point of view between African-Americans, Haitians, Nigerians, Kenyans, and all these different points of view.

And I realized how complex. And then a few years later, I go to Columbia and the things that were so bright, vibrant as discussion became completely academic like Martin Luther King was somebody completely remote. It was very different to see this in the nineties, which is very different than now, but the sense of Columbia, even though the concentration at Columbia was much more informed and much less in politics. Politics was not engaged at that time as a subject matter of current importance, it was more of like maybe historical relevance if you were talking about World War II and the Bauhaus, but it was not something that you would be talking as having any immediate effects on what we were doing as architects.

Atif Qadir: [00:12:07] That’s interesting because that basically talks about the privilege of being able to be remote from major turmoil or large-scale social issues. I think it was very descriptive the way that you described City College versus Columbia. So you mentioned Bernard Tschumi and you had the opportunity to work at his office as well as with Rafael Viñoly and with Rem Koolhaas, and then you started your previous firm Open Office. The last firm and your current firm art plays an increasingly important role in your approach to architecture. Could you talk about the takeaways and the learnings that you had in working at those three firms and then how you chose to step out and start your own firm and why you chose to focus on the projects you focus on?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:12:49] So Viñoly was the first firm that I work on. It was between first year and third year at Columbia as a student. So it was 1992, 1993. And it was the years of the Tokyo Forum when was doing the Tokyo Forum. The biggest imprint from that few months, because it was to work with SGI computer systems and to use graphic cards in the nineties, the computers were not networked, and so we would take a card let’s say drawing A 922 B and working on the bathroom section. So I am taking the plan and I’m taking the elevation, working on both drawings. When I’m done with the drawing, I return the card so somebody else can go and open the drawing. I have to watch who has and the card is not there. I have to look for who has that card and wait until that drawing is closed.

And so they incredible methodology of this work environment where it was gigantic open office. Hundreds of people, everyone with their cards, everyone with their computer. People with machines to one side room, because machines at that moment would tremendous heat. And so you had a window to the outside and an air conditioning system in order to keep those machines going. And then the model room downstairs.

And I ended up working in the model room. I would circle from the computer room upstairs or drafting room downstairs to the model-making room with a $2 million model that went to Tokyo that summer with its own fire extinguishing system, lighting, all kinds of wheels that would put it together. And then there was a great workshop and then there was the records. We would organize all the construction photos from every day into different files. And so the clarity of mind of that office, everything was meticulously organized to, to create buildings was very different from what I had ever done in architecture before.

And then I worked at Bernard Tschumi and that is, was very focused on competitions. Traveling works, public buildings. We never did a residence or a private home or apartment only public buildings, only buildings won by competition. And so I worked for Bernard doing the Student Center at Columbia. There was another university building in France and concentrated on all kinds of spaces for learning and with also how to communicate with form and with graphics.

Without saying the word auditorium, how do you make the auditorium part of the building or central to the building, or how do you make a bathroom accessible from multiple places? And so Bernard was very much focused on program and on publicness.

Atif Qadir: [00:16:27] The projects that really launched your career independently were DIA Beacon and The Jewish Museum.

How did you get those projects and what would you say role, did they play in shaping the rest of your work? That was to follow?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:16:39] I was still in MA when DIA started to percolate as a potential project. And it was through the introduction of Jessica and a sculptor that was doing a show at DIA. And she said I think you should be working with young people.

And I think she basically made the introductions to Michael Goldman. Michael Goldman who’s now at LACMA was our age was our peer and DIA was on 22nd Street and we were in Chelsea. Also, our house and our office was in Chelsea. And so we formed a group first to measure and help organize the work of DIA Beacon and then we did an exhibition with one thing that the other we were introduced.

And then he said, I think these kids can do the project and then, so it was like, it was a very organic relationship through friendship with the woman that is the director there, Claudia Gould with whom I had done a show at the space in 1999. And so it was a set of personal relationships that, that, that led to the sense that these projects can be done and we can do it and we can do it for the budget and things of that nature.

Atif Qadir: [00:18:10] So going forward to the project that we will be focusing on today, the Arts Alliance building. So the building is in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. And it was a renovation of a historic property that was used by the University of the Arts. Tell us what was included in the scope of work for that project for you.

Galia Solomonoff: [00:18:29] So the Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia it’s a very well-defined public space, surrounded by beautiful buildings that have changed over time, but retain their Rittenhouse Square has we think it’s enthralling importance. And so the Art Alliance, it’s a historic building that used to be a mansion, but then was gifted to The Art Alliance, and it became a place where artists would have shows and it would gather, and they had a restaurant.

But like all these institutions, they require constant nurturing. And so the city and the Art Alliance itself needed kind of a reinforcement of that nurturing energy. And so the University of the Arts associated a kind of marriage with the Art Alliance, I think 2018 or 17, And so we came in through a personal recommendation in 2018 or 19. I have to get back to you with the date.

Atif Qadir: [00:19:45] They start to blend together after a while.

Galia Solomonoff: [00:19:47] And then, so with the scope of work was to restore and make it into basically a home for the Arts.

Atif Qadir: [00:19:54] I’d imagine there’s a lot of challenges in that type of a renovation or reimagination of a space. So tell us about the particular problems or challenges that you faced in the renovation work that you did at the Arts Alliance building.

Galia Solomonoff: [00:20:10] So I’m reading a book called Inventing Downtown that it’s about art spaces in the fifties and sixties in New York. And when we were doing the Art Alliance, one of the things that we wanted to do was to make the doors larger so that you could move artwork inside the different rooms, but we didn’t want it to create a gigantic door.

And so what we did is we doubled the doors, but we, with the same detail that we created in a detail, we created a motif, and we did laser cut panels, doors with metal doors with glass, and then we reorganized the frame of the door using the existing frame, but then adding a section to it so that it would feel appropriate to the existing building.

And so one of the things that I always did, that I always try to impart in the students when I teach is there’s no material that comes in endless supply. Everything has to be done either on a timeframe or on a material frame. So if you do concrete, you cannot pour concrete forever. At some point, you have to change the track.

And if you’re doing bricks, at some point, you have to go for that day and continue the next day. If you’re using plywood, it’s four by eight, maybe 12 feet but that’s it. And so the idea of how you connect different materials that are fragmented in time or material size, it’s something that I work with constantly. And I try to think about not just what I like to do, but how is this going to be made.

Atif Qadir: [00:22:07] And I think also what, let me make sure I understand this correctly. So with the Art Alliance building, the scope that you were tasked with it, I think if I understand correctly, it’s about three areas. It’s one, it’s the layouts and the way the building is organized, two it’s the design and the finishes, for example, like the doors and the windows and the third one and peeling back a little bit was updating and upgrading the mechanical systems. Was that basically the three scopes of work?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:22:35] Yes, basically, it was mostly interior architecture and respecting the shell of the building and not altering the overall envelope of the building.

And we worked with JacobsWyper and they are the architects for the university. They work on many buildings for the university. And so they have a very long-standing relationship with the university and all the systems the university uses. And so we were supported by them and worked with them to integrate everything from the elevators, new elevator openings, into the existing buildings, to the mechanical, the larger or smaller mechanical rooms or mechanical panels or mechanicals into the existing architecture and lighting codes and things like that. Yes.

Atif Qadir: [00:23:28] Could you explain for our listeners who may not be, may not know this, so what’s the idea of an executive architect and a design architect? Why does that structure work and how do those two firms work together on a project?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:23:39] So, engineers, we built things in general. Maybe speculate and presented and send it, usually our world is about building things and we usually do things from beginning to end. Some projects I have been working with other architects as part of the larger team. If it’s collaborative, it’s one of the firms that I work with, and JacobsWyper it’s another firm. And one of the things that I tried to impart in my team is that it’s a horizontal organization.

So the traditional structure is that things beginning to end and then more common structure in large buildings and in New York City is there’ll be a design architect, let’s say Thomas Heatherwick, and there will be executive architect, let’s say it’s SLCE architect and they together, they will do a building for let’s say Related.

Now that is a model that I’m not really familiar with. I don’t work that often with that type of model. In the case of the Art Alliance, JacobsWyper is the executive architect and the architect of record. And I’m the design architect and interior architect. And so the way we work is we create a shared scope of work and shared tasks, and I present to them and then we, in dialogue, we edit the work and then we present to the client. And so one of the things that I tried to avoid is saying I did this or I did that.

First of all, because I think in the same experience that I was saying before, there’s no tabula rasa. There’s no starting from scratch and there’s no doing things by yourself in architecture. Architecture is a work of consensus, everything we do somebody pays for it, somebody builds it, somebody designs it. And so by the time something gets built, there’s at least a  number of people that have agreed that this is what we’re going to do.

And so in the case of working with JacobsWyper, I only move forward when I have convinced everyone in the team that’s worthwhile doing and it works fairly well. I’m very happy to be doing, we’re doing a second project together and I’m very happy to be working for this client and an association with JacobsWyper.

Atif Qadir: [00:26:24] Do you know what’s so interesting is anyone that’s worked in architecture, I believe has a sensitivity and appreciation for the teamwork aspect of our industry, but the highest award, the Pritzker Prize, often emphasizes the idea that design is actually this lone wolf process, where there is this one person that identifies the design and they’re the ones that are rewarded for that, as opposed to the entire team of many diverse people that are usually responsible for the production of it.

And I think that those are probably I imagine the most successful architects. As me, as a client, as a developer, I think it’s the architects that are able to think and to collaborate and to combine and adjust and make sense of difficult situations aren’t the best ones, regardless of any asset class.

Galia Solomonoff: [00:27:12] Absolutely. I think it’s our culture always looks for the individuals rather than the collective.

Atif Qadir: [00:27:21] And I think it’s probably not lost on us. If you look at the breadth, the entire length of people that have won the Pritzker Prize, it’s not very reflective of the entire body of people that work in architecture. It’s for a long time been dominantly males. So I think this notion of thinking more broadly in a new generation of architects like you to push that forward is exactly what we need.

I’m going to take a break here to let our listeners know about some great news. I’m very excited that we will be having Phil Gesue on later this season. He’s the director of development at Strategic Capital, which is the U.S. subsidiary of a major Chinese real estate development company. Our conversation will include many things from the differences in American and Chinese design sensibilities to immigration and all of this in the context of one of his recent projects.

So please subscribe to the American Building podcast now to stay up to date on all the episodes coming this season.

So Galia, one of the most profound critiques of our profession is that we exist to serve wealthy and wealthy interests, and the designs that are often most celebrated are the ones that are very unusual, very extravagant, and very expensive.

From your perspective, how have you tried to balance this desire for creative unusual work, with something that can be enjoyed by everyone?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:28:38] I think that’s a really good question. Let me try to respond to that from the point of view of art and working in the arts. Sometimes there’s a confusion that art it’s a pricey thing. It’s an expensive thing that only has value related to monetary value and it relates to Sotheby’s, and the big galleries, and the auction houses, and all these. When I think of art, I think that art is ever-present in every culture, in every level of culture,  and every level of society. And if you go to anyone’s house, you will see an object, a moment where something is celebrated and a photograph put to the side, a piece of canvas covering a table, things an alter of sorts.

These things always relate the past and the future, the child that is born, or the person that died. Like how do you commemorate somebody in your family that has passed away? What type of music do you put to celebrate somebody’s wedding? What do you do when a child is born?

And so all these things that are important moments. We all have objects and rituals to connect to those things. And so the idea that only wealthy and extravagant have access to art or have access to high architecture it’s not, it’s unreal. It’s not real. People that are not attuned to beauty and cannot see beauty if it’s doesn’t have a price tag, that’s the difference between something being expensive or something being beautiful.

And I’m very interested in beauty, but I’m not interested in expensiveness.

Atif Qadir: [00:30:49] Earlier on, we talked about some of your travel in Mexico and particularly what you had seen in handmade dolls as this representation that, that beauty and art doesn’t have to occur in the place that we imagine it. It must have to be in this kind of square box. Could you talk about that experience?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:31:06] Yes, so at Columbia, many times we take the students to different places and one of the places we go with the housing studio is to Mexico City to study collective housing in Mexico City. And one of the trips, one of the stops in that trip is to go to the markets, to the popular markets. Processes start there because we wanted the students to be aware of different techniques that people use for weeding, for fabrics, for colors, for ceramics. And so what you see is these beautiful options of things that are completely recyclable and used fully. And so I really admire that. I think that there’s so many lessons for us and for our futures.

And again, I use the word futures because I don’t think that there is a future. I think there’s many futures. And I think it’s really important to think about futures and to be aware that the future is a choice and so when you are in Mexico, you see the potentials.

Atif Qadir: [00:32:20] So you described this idea of art in many everyday objects and then also you’ve had the opportunity to work on a large scale project, The Underline in Miami. This idea that you can bring art to really unexpected places and make it much more accessible. Could you talk about how you hope to make art more accessible on a very large scale like this?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:32:43] So art is everywhere. It’s a question of allowing it to be, not taking it apart. Helping it. Allowing different communities to manifest their connection to the earth and their connection to ours, because it’s all connected. Music and dance and art and building, it’s all everywhere and connected.

And one of my favorite things is thinking about bricks. How many millennia have we been using bricks for and how much we still use bricks and ceramics and thinking about ceramics as something that it’s used for aerospace rockets that are going to space now have a very thin coat of ceramic material and the same ceramic that makes fillings in your teeth.

And then you have bricks that are another type of ceramics, but it’s all the same process of taking their from the earth, baking it, and using it. And so that sense of where things come from and how to use what we got and how to preserve what we have temporarily in our hands. It’s all part of the same cycle. And so I see The Underline, I see the Art Alliance, I see theUniversity of the Arts, I see the city of New York. I see the work that I do for houses all as being in relationship to the ground and the materials that are given and to think about resources as something that no matter the circumstances, I have to be careful of the resources.

Atif Qadir: [00:34:29] So the, you mentioned materials like brick, which was developed in ancient Syria and other materials from the earth, say, for example, felt was started in ancient Turkey. In all of these projects that you worked on, what are some of the materials that you’ve used besides the ones that you’ve mentioned that have allowed you to deliver a really iconic, beautiful product, but also be cost-effective as well?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:34:52] Yes. We used to do a lot of exhibition designs. Right now, that type of work, with the pandemic there’s not that much work being done for exhibitions or larger scale exhibitions at the moment. But one of the things that I love about doing an exhibition design is that we use wood materials, MDF, and we recycle many times the different components, but it’s all about color and thinking about proportions and colors and making things very specific.

So if you’re doing a show one month and then a year later you’re doing or maybe the exact same in the same space, but a completely different color palette, graphics, and volumetrics that you work with. And so I use color very purposefully. I learned from artists, when we worked with Robert, I learned a lot about color and light, and proportions from math.

I have a very deep understanding of the relationship between math and volume and the volume that something takes, and the volume that it displaces also, so that the negative volume, it’s a very important part of design too. And so the many lessons from the school years at Columbia University where we were working with geometry. Before you could just do a curve when you have to plot a curve knowing the quadratic function for that curve, all that is kind of embedded in me. The materials are I don’t, I really, I don’t really use any exotic materials. It’s materials that are available to everyone.

Atif Qadir: [00:36:51] Which I’m guessing is that sensitivity towards materials, probably going to be even more important as climate change. Like for example, here in New York and New Jersey, the weather getting increasingly more humid in the summertime.

So you’ve mentioned earlier that you’re a professor and you’ve probably had the opportunity to interact with many students over time. Many of our listeners are at the pivot point from graduate school, into their first job, or perhaps one of their early jobs and thinking of starting their own firm.

With the particular opportunities that exist now in a pandemic, it’s a lot of social change happening. What advice would you have to an architect just starting out or in the beginning portions of their career right now?

Galia Solomonoff: [00:37:31] So my advice before used to be, to not work from home because my sense was that you have to create an environment where you bid on yourself. You rent a space, you make a business card, you pay rent for your space, you get a computer and you, especially, my advice was especially for women because I had a sense that the domestic colliding the workspace and the domestic space was not fruitful. If you were also somebody that takes care of your home.

That I’ll have to revise that because there are a lot of creative ways now of working from home and re-purposing your home as a place that has a variety of functions, but I would say that my recommendation to recent graduates would be to consider the material world as something that you have to go and learn.

The limitations of the digital world, limitation of what you can do from you computer, they need to be met with the physical world. And there is a resistance in the world that you cannot replicate at home, or even in the digital environment. And so when I see the kind of break between the person working on a site and a person designing in a digital space, they are getting further and further apart.

And so when our educational system cannot, we cannot take people to go and work on-site. Somehow we have to find a way of learning that and connecting to that. And so my advice would be to do something physical as part of everything that you’re doing. And so one of the things that I always tell my students is that if an aunt or a friend is moving and they want to enlarge their kitchen or house. That is a good job to do. You don’t need to tell them no, go get another architect. You say, let’s work on it. Let’s try to get a permit, let’s try to get a construction team and go to Home Depot because there’s a lot of things that cannot be replicated in either the educational environment or the corporate environment.

And you will be much more useful as an architect. So I think those things, those simple things can not be taken for granted and cannot be misunderstood as something that somebody else will figure it out.

Atif Qadir: [00:40:31] I think that is such spot-on advice.

So I just finished renovating my parents’ house in Princeton and central New Jersey, and this was probably the smallest project I’ve ever worked on as an architect, either at, as a designer, as a construction manager or working for another person, then at development company. And I can tell you the amount that I have learned in my 50, 60 trips I did to Lowe’s about everything from the special types of European sized screws that you need if you just bought uh kitchen cabinet handles from Europe because you can’t use American screws on those types of things I think are so detailed and it allows you to have a much better appreciation of those two variables that count a lot. And if you don’t understand how all these pieces come together, your appreciation of time and money will only be a fraction of what it’s supposed to be.

So I love it. I think that is the best advice ever you gave.

Galia Solomonoff: [00:41:28] Wonderful, wonderful, I’m very proud that you did your parents’ home. So many people brush them off and it’s so important to take those asks seriously and to deliver to the best of our abilities.

Atif Qadir: [00:41:43] And I think particularly what I feel like when it is someone whether it’s your parent or a sibling or a spouse, like their space, their house, that you are working on your level of detail is going to be so high because in the end, anytime when I was at a certain point, we were like, oh, it doesn’t matter. It’s my parents’ house. Of course, it matters. And for me to then understand if you are looking for less than a crazy, a 16th inch of variation on the floor, what is that you need to do in order for that reality to actually happen? And if it doesn’t, what do you do in order to mask some of those fine differences on the levelness of a floor? So I think it’s a wonderful thing.

So I just want to thank you so much for joining us today on the American Building podcast, Galia. And if you want to hear the behind-the-scenes stories of how iconic buildings in our country were designed and built, subscribe to this podcast on Spotify, iTunes, Google, or wherever it is that you listen.

We all know that real estate is a really tough industry to make it. And how can professionals stand out and make a name for themselves in today’s world? You can hear from me, the team at Michael Graves, and many of our spectacular guests, like Galia on what we did to make it where we are. So you can grab our exclusive guide Seven Tips on How to Stand Out in Your Field at

Finally, we live in the richest country in the history of humankind. We must reach beyond the boundaries that we see and the boundaries that we create in order to help others build homes and communities. Today, Galia and I have made donations to City Harvest, which provides food for the food insecure in New York City.

I encourage you, our listeners, to support their worthwhile work as well. My name is Atif Qadir, and this has been American Building by Michael Graves.

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