Tag Archives: AIA

Bringing Meaningful Design Conversations to Omaha

August 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Architecture as an intellectual endeavor extends far beyond brick-and-mortar structures. For designer Andrew Conzett, architecture is a form of problem-solving and way to rewrite immediate questions about the built environment through a culturally sensitive lens. Early in his career, he positioned his curiosity at one of Omaha’s most creatively focused firms, developed numerous discipline-blurring projects, and helped curate a robust series of lectures with the Omaha chapter of the American Institute of Architects. This fusion of localized projects and international discourse is one that not only pushes his own practice forward, but also challenges existing norms and perceptions of regional architecture.

Conzett grew up in Omaha. Since a young age, he was inspired by his father, a civil engineer at a large international firm, and his mother, who was consistently involved with social service and nonprofit organizations. As a soon-to-be licensed architect, Conzett is a cocktail of both. He has always been keenly interested in art and landscape, both of which were influential in his childhood years and helped to inform his atypical response to the “I-always-wanted-to-be-an-architect” story ubiquitous amongst peers (many say it was from building with LEGO bricks as a child). During high school, a design competition piqued his interest. This community-focused extracurricular project, which combined multi-disciplinary teamwork and a design-based approach, prompted him to apply to the College of Design at Iowa State University.

While at Iowa State, his intense studio assignments were mixed with conversations and projects with artists and creative thinkers. Working alongside a diversity of artistic studies pushed him to see the multiplicity of architecture. During his final year in the architecture program, one of Conzett’s classmates responded to his non-binary projects by asking, “Do you want to be an installation artist or architect?” Conzett did not know how to respond; however, this prompt of either/or has now become a defining feature of his practice.

While studying, Conzett diversified his architectural coursework with internships at the Omaha Public Library and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, where he interned with artist Sean Ward and curator Hesse McGraw. After graduating in 2010, he moved to Omaha and was soon commissioned to design an office pod installation at the headquarters of Bozell. The project resulted in a spatial intervention that was recognized by the AIA Central States Region’s Excellence in Design Awards for “Detail Honor and the Interior Design Best of Year Award for Budget Interiors.”

His interests in a diverse range of project types brought him to his current position at Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture in 2011. At the collaborative open studio in north downtown where architects work alongside interior designers, graphic designers, artists, and engineers, Conzett is staying busy outside the office as well.

His CV for research-based and experimental projects is dense. Stepping one foot outside the firm, Conzett has worked collaboratively on award-winning projects with Emerging Terrain, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Council Bluffs Park System, including River’s Edge Park. Each project allows him to intensely research form, material, and site. They also provide an instant design-to-built-project process that allows ideas to come to fruition faster than with traditional design-bid-build projects, which often take years to complete. These research-based projects also speak to his interest in architecture as built form that has the ability to blur lines between disciplines and methodologies.

For Conzett, “contemporary architecture practice requires thinking about new methods and materials, and thus inspires me to seek out unique project types as a way to expand my knowledge of design and the built environment.”

His most recent endeavor, the AIA Omaha lecture series, conflates his efforts in community activities and intellectual pursuits. Organized in collaboration with Ross Miller and other AIA Omaha members, the 2017 lecture series is a thought-provoking forum for design thinking. Bringing in award-winning international and national architects, such as Mike Nesbit of Morphosis in Los Angeles and Kai-Uwe Bergmann of Bjarke Ingles Group in Copenhagen, the role of these lectures are two-fold. First, they are an opportunity for professional architects and the general public to participate in architectural discourse. Secondly, the lectures provide a voice for a range of architectural practices that are advancing disciplinary boundaries.

While the series may seem hyper-niche, the visiting lecturers produce a diverse range of project types. These architects discuss the scholarly and tactile impact of design beyond simply making buildings. As award-winning content creators, the lecturers stimulate the public and challenge architects to aim their work to an elevated level of design excellence.

“It is always good to hear professionals talk about their design process and work,” says Emily Andersen, owner of DeOld Andersen Architecture. “But it is even more important to have lecturers come to Omaha that are truly challenging assumptions. The lectures bring the potential of a meaningful conversation that allows us to see into the creative process of other design professionals. And so I really appreciate the work that AIA does, as well as Design Alliance Omaha to help bring that discourse here.”

In all of his work, Conzett is running against the boundaries of the discipline with a keen understanding that traditional definitions of architecture and the built environment deserve to be challenged and pushed forward. “Opportunities such as professional work with [Alley Poyner], design-build exhibition and installation commissions, and the AIA Omaha lecture series are all ways for me to continue to experiment with and better understand the practice of architecture,” he says.

Visit aiaomaha.org/lecture-series for more information.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

NE/IA Chapter of ASID 
Project Awards 2013

December 9, 2013 by

Environments, spaces, rooms—it doesn’t matter what they’re called, but integral to their existence are interior designers. Professional designers conceptualize, coordinate, and execute their visions to create projects that are stunning, exciting, and functional. The ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) Nebraska/Iowa Chapter recently submitted design projects to be judged by the South Florida ASID Chapter. The following pages illustrate a sampling of the award-winning designs for business projects produced by the NE/IA Chapter ASID professional designers this year.


Ballantyne Strong Corporate Offices
AVANT ARCHITECTS
Lori M. Krejci, AIA, Allied ASID

 This open office plan reflects the future direction of the organization, a transition from traditional thinking toward a more modern method of working with increased employee interaction.


Riverfront Place Tower II Lobby
D3 INTERIORS
Lisa B. McCoid, AIA, ASID
Brianne Wilhelm, Allied ASID

Contemporary, bold, and modern, a foundation of neutral gray and taupe features pops of red. Rectilinear forms blend with organic, flowing shapes, and a commissioned wall sculpture, inspired by the changing levels of water, reflects the building’s proximity to the river.


Holiday Inn, Mercy Campus
THE DESIGNERS
Marilyn S Hansen, FASID
Nikki Skomal, Allied ASID

Dramatic colors reflect the city lights of red, green, blue, violet, and saffron. Art was selected for scale, contemporary design, and colors that unified the complete project. A local artist created a night scene of the city’s skyline for the project.

Q&A: Jared Gerber

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann, Kent Behrens, and Tom Kessler

Inspired by design from a young age, Jared Gerber knew early on he was destined to go into architecture. Today, he makes his living helping homeowners design custom living spaces that not only reflect their personalities, but also fit their natural environment.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you first come to discover your love of building design?

A: I think the architecture seed was first planted while I was growing up in Virginia. We would take school field trips to Colonial Williamsburg, and I found myself more interested in the architecture of historic buildings than anything else. I really enjoyed studying the aspects that make a building unique—the setting, the form, the details…and trying to discern the things I liked and disliked about a particular building. These experiences also gave me an appreciation for historic preservation.Ascott-07_Web

Q: Where did you receive your education and training in architecture? How did you end up in Omaha?

A: My family eventually moved to Nebraska, and I went to high school in Fairbury. After receiving my bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I decided to take a break and found a job working at an architectural firm specializing in churches in Charlotte, N.C. I loved being two hours from both the beach and the mountains, but I missed the four seasons and my family, so after a couple of years I decided to move back to get my master’s from UNL. Immediately after graduation, I found a job in Omaha. I’ve been here ever since.

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Q: Tell us a bit about your firm. Do you specialize in any niche of architecture or price range? What do you enjoy most about what you do?

A: I founded Gerber Architecture, PC in 2005. I started as a commercial architect but gravitated to the residential side after designing my first house project. I soon discovered that residential design is very rewarding because it has such a direct, personal effect on a client’s everyday life. Today, about 90 percent of my work is residential. I’ve designed a wide range of projects, from simple room remodels to multi-million-dollar additions and remodels to new-construction homes. I enjoy the design phase the most, as that’s the time when the creativity is flowing and there’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy with a project. I also enjoy the beauty of working with different clients. Each homeowner collaboration—discussing their wants, needs, and ideas—creates a house that is truly distinctive, and each offers different problems and solutions. And although most of the drawings are done on the computer now, I still enjoy doing the initial schematic drawings by hand.810-09_Web

Q: Tell us about one of your favorite projects. What challenges and rewards did it offer?

A: One of my favorites was a new house that I designed on a beautiful 40-acre lot south of town that was full of bur oak trees and teeming with wildlife. With a large acreage, you not only design the residence…the creativity extends to the broader view of the site, the approach of the house. Siting the house can be the most difficult task…the vegetation, views, sun patterns, and topography are all factors the homeowner will live with every day. In this case, there was an open, flat area that initially appeared the best placement option. However, after further analysis, pushing [the residence] back to a spot nestled within some trees gave the house a feeling like it belonged…as if it grew out of the site. The finished house is not huge—less than 3,000 finished square feet—but it’s the siting of the house, the quality of the spaces, and the craftsmanship of the details that reflect the homeowners’ personality and make it a great project. The house was featured on the AIA [American Institute of Architects] Omaha Home Tour a couple years ago, and I’m still getting feedback from attendees on how much they appreciated the house.Wehrbein-02_Web

Q: Tell us a bit about you personally. Family, associations, and interests outside of work?

A: My wife, Kristine, and I have been married for almost 24 years. We have two boys—Creighton, a sophomore at Augustana in Sioux Falls, S.D., studying archeology, and Drew, a junior at Westside High School. We enjoy traveling, touring houses, and trying out new restaurants. I’m currently on the board for AIA Omaha and help organize various events for our membership. Interacting with my fellow architects helps keep me updated on changes going on both locally and nationally. I’m also a bit of a beer aficionado and enjoy some of the local and regional craft beers and the monthly home brewer’s club at the German-American Society. I’m a former athlete and a huge football fan and often take in a Husker game with my boys.