Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to share his architecture and design ideas through speculative projects. His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

Beginning a renovation design for a friend

Beginning a renovation design for a friend

As you might know, I’ve been working with a good friend to develop a conceptual design for a building that he purchased here in Buffalo, New York. Why and how did I get involved with this project? After hearing both his personal story and vision for the building, I couldn’t wait to help him get a conceptual design together to advertise his ideas.

Here’s my good friend’s story

We sat at one of our local bars where we often meet and talked about all of our recent successes and future plans. After ordering a drink and some food, my friend went on to talk about a building that he has been planning to purchase for some time. He lives across the street from the building and sees it every day.

This abandoned brick building with a glass storefront has been vacant for years, maybe decades. Every day, people from the neighborhood walk by this building, and many others like it in the neighborhood, and simply ignore their existence.

So why was my friend interested in this building?

He went on to tell me a story of his mother and step father who met at the bar that used to be on the ground floor of the building. This local bar used to be a place where people from the neighborhood would go to spend their evenings and weekends. However, as Buffalo’s economy began to fall, the business began to fail and the building was abandoned.

A vision for the building

The building is located in a neighborhood that is currently a food desert. There’s very little access to fresh produce and there aren’t many restaurants in the immediate area. People have to drive 10 to 15 minutes to get to larger grocery stores and restaurants.

So, my friend decided that this building should be renovated and revived as the neighborhood’s local restaurant and bar with middle to high end studio apartments above. He also plans on purchasing the adjacent building, which I hope he does, and turning it into a local fresh produce market with apartments above and a greenhouse on the rooftops of both buildings. The greenhouse would grow fresh produce year-round, which will be used in the restaurant and sold in the market.

His vision is to turn these buildings into a place where people could come together and build new friendships and contribute to the revival of a neighborhood.

Well, that’s my understanding of his vision.

Running into time management issues

Today, I was able to carve time out of my schedule and focus on designing his project. As many of you fellow architects and designers know, it’s very difficult to juggle a full-time job as an architect (usually 9-10 hour days), some kind of fitness to help us stay alive, cook food, and help out a friend.

If you’re struggling with time like I am, what are some things that you’re trying to do to manage it better? If you’ve been here before and are doing amazingly well with time management, what are some tips and advice that you could share with us? Let me know in the comments section below!

Starting the design process with the studio apartments

Aside from the time management issues, I decided to focus on designing the apartments on the second floor of the building. The first design decision that I made was to remove all of the existing interior walls because they were all in very bad condition. This means that the entire building will be a total rehab project.

Apartment Existing Floor Plan

I also decided to remove a light well that the previous owner installed in both apartments, which didn’t make any sense at all. There’s no structural support below the walls of the light well, which you could see in the picture below, which caused the wall to slope towards the center of the building. I wasn’t able to inspect this hunch, but I suspect that the previous owner also removed a portion of the brick exterior wall that used to hold up the roof that covers the light well.

Existing Light Well

After removing these walls, I decided to start the design process with the bathroom of the studio apartments. I decided to locate the bathrooms where they used to be so that we could reuse the existing drain and sewer pipes.

Once I located and came up with a rough bathroom layout, I decided to locate the kitchen right next to the bathroom. This left a 7’-6 ½” space between the kitchen and the existing patio door adjacent to the bathroom. However, there is currently no patio outside of those doors. So that’ll be added when I find more time to work on this project!

Apartment Draft Floor Plan

Conclusion and next steps

Some days, like today, I find it difficult to sleep at night because I have so many projects that I want to work on and events that I want to attend. However, as you might know, it’s important to know when to call it a night and go to bed to recharge for another amazing day!

If you have any ideas or questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Thank you for joining me on my journey as an architect!


Slowly and steadily designing the renovation project

Slowly and steadily designing the renovation project

The endless journey of an Architect

The endless journey of an Architect