Lisa Laue, Collaborative Design for Better Environment.

July 21, 2016 5 min read

Novedge: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Lisa Laue:My name is Lisa Laue and I am a Designer for Hamilton+ Aitken Architects. As a firm we focus on projects that are central to the community, such as schools, civic buildings, and airports.

Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?

Lisa Laue: We are currently finishing the modernization of James Lick Middle school, here in San Francisco. This was the first project I worked on after joining Hamilton+Aitken Architects. The school is a 1932 Art Deco campus that needed major Accessibility, Fire and Life Safety upgrades to buildings and playgrounds. Special challenges for this four-story concrete structure included minimizing the impact of new concrete shear walls on existing finishes, and Design of the accessible path of travel within the building to connect nine separate levels from the entrance, through the building and to the upper play yard. The project includes classroom renovation, power, lighting and data infrastructure, toilet room replacement, and new seismic improvements. The final Design includes two new elevators and a major reconfiguration of the basement level to provide new science, art, music, and dance classrooms. Hamilton+Aitken Architects- Lick AuditoriumJames lick Auditorium, Modernization mostly completed.
The new classroom building for Burlingame Intermediate School District was just completed. This new two- story building provides 12 new classrooms for the intermediate school’s rapidly growing campus. The building acts as an accessible bridge between the upper and lower campus areas, and saves valuable learning space by enclosing a large, attractive outdoor area to serve as the new “heart of the campus”. The building was designed to support the District’s plan for twenty-first century learning – each classroom has access to a breakout room for small group and individual instruction, and every classroom on grade has access to an outdoor learning area which also serves to create a buffer between the classroom and the nearby play yard. Two pairs of classrooms are designed with a movable acoustic partition, allowing  classroom activities, as well as school-wide events. The building is optimized for maximum energy and water efficiency as well as enhanced educational performance with plenty of natural light, shading form direct solar gain, a high- efficiency heating system, and natural ventilation. Hamilton+Aitken Architects-BISl_East ViewBurlingame Intermediate Design Rendering; the project was modeled and rendered in Vectorworks.
Another project that I worked on recently was the holdroom prototype at San Francisco International Airport. The project covers approximately 10,000 square feet between two gates in the International Terminal. The goals of the project are to improve queuing, circulation and to enhance the overall passenger experience in the terminal, which was originally designed in the early 1990s. The new holdroom layout will utilize existing tandem seating along with new lounge seating, workstations, powered side tables, custom benching and a living wall. Our design team was guided by SFO’s Principles of R.E.A.C.H. (Revenue Enhancement and Customer Hospitality) and has engaged the pertinent stakeholders and the SFO Design Review Committee to develop the Design. The final prototype will be installed during the fall of 2016 and analysis of the space will inform future holdroom renovations throughout the rest of the International Terminal Building. Hamilton+Aitken Architects- sml_SFO ITB - OverallSFO Holdroom Prototype, modeled and rendered in Revit.

Novedge: What is the office culture like at Hamilton + Aitken Architects? 

Lisa Laue: My bosses chuckle when I describe our office as being like a big happy family. However it is the most accurate description for our office culture. We all enjoy what we do and the environment fosters collaboration. The strength of Hamilton+Aitken Architects, as a small firm, comes from working together with our individual strengths to form an unbeatable team. The principals, Chad Hamilton and Susan Aitken, have over 25 years of experience each, and encourage us to ask them questions and learn from them as well as others within the firm.

Novedge: What is the firm's approach to sustainability?

Lisa Laue: H+A is also committed to incorporating Sustainable Design strategies into our projects as a way to not only reduce our clients’ operational costs and the carbon footprints of their facilities, but also as a way 
to ensure the health, safety, and enhanced performance of building users. We believe that Sustainability applies to new as well as existing buildings. Recently we participated in DSA’s 7x7x7 initiative, which involved case studies of different school typologies within California. We explored ways in which a historical 1920s school could be updated to be net zero energy and water, while providing a 21 st century learning environment. We are also in the process of becoming a certified San Francisco Green Business, as part of our continued commitment to Sustainability.

Novedge: What software do you use? 

Lisa Laue: Depending on the project and or the client, we use either Revit or Vectorworks for our BIM modeling. Working in both programs, keeps us flexible in our modeling methods and helps us be adaptable to new software. The office has used Vectorworks for quite some time, which allows us to really maximize the power in all the customization possibilities. Beyond setting up the plug in objects to have our standard defaults, we utilize a common workgroup, so that all of our resources specially developed to our needs are in a central location for the whole office. This really helps us be consistent throughout the projects in the office and saves us much time. Since the release of the Mac version, Bluebeam Revuhas also become an important part of our workflow. The efficiency of markups in Bluebeamis great, since we are working towards becoming San Francisco Green Business certified. The ease of use and powerful tools, like compare function, really help us significantly reduce the amount of paper we use.

Novedge: Did you always wanted to become a Designer?

Lisa Laue: No, I wanted to be a math teacher. It was the combined interest in art, math and science that made me consider Architecture as a profession. I think my love of math is what makes me particularly enjoy the problem solving aspect of Architecture. However, I really enjoy creating environments that people can enjoy.

Novedge: What is Good Architecture?

Lisa Laue: We believe that good Design grows out of the human use of space. Rather than imposing a specific style or ideology from the outside, Hamilton + Aitken Architects develops Designs that evolve from program and from the way people use and enjoy space; that are uniquely appropriate to the client, the natural surroundings, the site, and the community involved.

Novedge: What sets Hamilton + Aitken apart from the competition?

Lisa Laue: Our clients have told us that we are good communicators, and that we provide a variety of options to solve their problems, rather than a single dogmatic solution.

Novedge: Do you think Design is a social activity? If so, explain.

Lisa Laue: Yes, we believe design is a social activity. Design starts by understanding the needs of the client, and or the stakeholders of the project. The problems cannot be fully understood without engaging the client and stakeholders in a thorough conversation. There are then explorations which occur within the design team, and with consultants to determine possible solutions, and ultimately the best design.

Novedge: What is the best advice you have ever received in your career?

Lisa Laue: If you leave architecture school feeling like you know very little, then you are doing it right. The more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know. The important part is recognizing when you don’t know something and finding the resources to gain the knowledge.


If you want to find out more about  Hamilton + Aitken Architects visit their website  and follow them on Facebook.

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Barbara D'Aloisio
Barbara D'Aloisio

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