PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE
with Erik Peterson, Nikal Conti, Scott Carson, and Ron Skoog of PHX Architecture
Recently, Team DSC® had the opportunity to interview the Principals of PHX Architecture – Erik Peterson, Scott Carson, Ron Skoog, and Nikal Conti.
In our conversation, they each revealed their own unique perspectives on the meaning behind PHX Architecture’s tagline “Living Architecture,” and how they utilize this philosophy to breathe life into their many custom residential and commercial projects as well as the greater community.
Today, we wish Nikal Conti much success as she ventures from PHX Architecture to endeavor new architectural, engineering, and design projects.
We also congratulate Ron Skoog, AIA, LEED-AP as he recently became the newest PHX Architecture Principal whose focus will be to further the firm’s commercial, hospitality, restaurant, clubhouse, and sustainability markets.
With Ron at their side, Principals Erik Peterson and Scott Carson look forward to advancing the talented team at PHX Architecture into a very bright future. Together they will continue to embrace leading-edge technology, cultivate the next generation of architects with their annual high school summer camps, and inspire new residential and commercial designs both in Arizona and throughout the country.
Nikal Conti: When we approach the meaning of “Living Architecture,” there are several areas of focus that embody this concept that has become integral to the fabric of PHX Architecture.
We first consider how our clients live, work, and play within their space. We look at the person, we look at their lifestyle, we look at their business – we look at what they’re going to actually be doing and the design evolves from that. We ask how we can create a design that encourages and really brings about that desired experience. This is what inspires the diversity of styles that come from the PHX Architecture team.
For example, when a client comes in to have us design their custom home, we ask how many bedrooms they need, but really what we want to know is:
When you get up in the morning, do you like the sun in your window?
Do you enjoy having coffee on your deck?
Do you live for entertaining friends and family?
How do you imagine living in your home?
This really is the most important aspect because we have clients who come from colder climates like Chicago or Boston. They have an opportunity to live a specific lifestyle that’s drawing them to Phoenix. They want us to help them re-imagine what their life will be like living here.
The space we design is really a backdrop for everything that is going to happen inside of it. Our team works diligently to focus more on the living part of the project versus the nuts and bolts of the project. When we distill it down to its essence, architecture really becomes about living in the space.
Erik Peterson: We break architecture down to where we feel there are three different types. There’s theoretical architecture, which is only written about and rarely ever becomes reality. Then there’s architecture where you buy a specific style or look and it’s more a commodity. Then there’s the third type, which is very much specific to each client’s needs, who they are, the site conditions, and how they’re going to use that project. To us, this type of architecture is more of a living thing than the other two, where one is just theoretical and the other is more a commodity.
In this sense, “Living Architecture” is a great embodiment of what we stand for as architects. We’ve received feedback from every one of our clients that they absolutely love living in their homes because there is a livable, human scale to it. Their home becomes a living entity by providing an atmosphere that helps enhance how they experience their home.
Ron Skoog: Additionally, creating a pleasing human environment that lives in harmony with the surrounding natural environment is the basis of sustainable design. Sustainable design principles are a key component of good design and a matter of best practices for providing human comfort and environmental stewardship.
Should a client desire to record their project’s sustainability features via a rating system, the LEED Certification rating system is one of a number of sustainable design rating systems available. Critical to successfully implementing such a complex certification process is a cohesive team with first-hand knowledge and experience, which is why PHX Architecture looks to partner with teams like DSC who have the expertise to effectively put forth sustainable design.
Designing with environmental sensibility is part of the composition of what makes quality “Living Architecture.”
Nikal Conti: Another aspect of “Living Architecture” is that we believe architecture is a living thing in and of itself. It’s always evolving and will eventually take on a life beyond what any of us could have ever imagined.
Our team has been in the industry long enough to see trends come and go. Our goal is to create, if we can, timeless architecture, whether it’s a Mediterranean or Modern style or something classic like the project we completed with Desert Star Construction, La Grande Maison. We also know that as a body of work, our projects will continue to evolve and change, depending on the needs and lifestyles of our clients.
Scott Carson: Adding to Nikal’s idea of change within architecture, we can see change happen directly within the home we design. Often we think of buildings and houses as a stagnant thing. A building doesn’t move – it doesn’t live.
In actuality, everything around it and inside of it is always changing. We spend a lot of time onsite before we begin our design. When we take in the quality of the surroundings by being onsite, those outdoor spaces suddenly become so invigorating that we want to incorporate them somehow into the living space as well.
For example, there are ways we can play with the design of the walls, doors, and windows so the natural light enters the space through specific areas, allowing us to accentuate aspects of the outdoor world from within the home. One way to achieve this natural movement of light within the home is in the placement of the truss.
We typically think of a truss as a standard set of beams where the light moves across the room as it passes through. What happens if you start to change the design of the truss so its position and location also changes depending on the home’s orientation to the light? Suddenly, we start to control how the light plays within the space. Throughout the day, the light actually lives in that space, and as it changes, our clients experience nature living inside their home through how the light enters the truss, how it lands on the walls, and how it lights up the surrounding environment a window.
They’ll begin to experience everything that’s living outside like the plants, the animals, and the light because of how we design the light to come through. Now you have the outdoor and the indoor start to come together by using design to blur the line between them. Suddenly your home becomes about living in nature and being a part of nature at the same time.
Ron Skoog: Another interpretation of “Living Architecture” is that good architects are typically interwoven with their community. The PHX Architecture staff is very involved on a personal level with sharing their time, experience, and creativity in many organizations throughout the valley including working with schools, student organizations, church building committees, neighborhood organizations and professional organizations like American Institute of Architects (AIA).
Our team gives back to the community as a firm by participating in community support activities through local charities, hosting our Summer Camp for students, and providing a percentage of professional services to specific causes via a pro bono program. Donating our time and expertise resonates with what it means to be a leader in the community by providing the knowledge, training, and experiences we’ve gained in our profession in order to benefit our fellow citizens.
Nikal Conti: Everyone at PHX Architecture is very passionate about what they do. We live, breathe, and love architecture to the point where you might consider us obsessed with it. We’re reading books all the time. We’re traveling. We’re talking about it. We’re going to and giving lectures. So for us, as a team, “Living Architecture” also becomes an embodiment of the fact that we live for architecture simply because we are so extremely passionate about it.
Today’s PHX Architecture Principals (from left to right):
Scott Carson, AIA, NCARB, LEED-AP – Erik Peterson, AIA, NCARB – Ron Skoog, AIA, LEED-AP
PHX ARCHITECTURE and TEAM DSC®
“A high-caliber team like Desert Star embraces whatever is going to enable them to provide a superior experience, because they are extremely customer-service driven, as are we at PHX Architecture.
As an architectural firm, we’re early adopters of new technology like 3D modeling and Revit because it enables us to enhance the client experience. I know Desert Star embraces a similar philosophy of being the first to utilize cutting edge technology, because they’ve always been innovative in using and developing proprietary programs like their Team DSC® Mobile App.
Both of our teams have always held ourselves to a higher standard, which is why Desert Star Construction and PHX Architecture are leading that charge of incorporating the technology that is going to best enable our clients to envision a project, communicate an idea or better understand a detail or finish.”