Arcbazar.com recently had the chance to speak with Jeff Ribnik one-on-one about his experiences as an architect. In addition to lending his advice about the importance of understanding the bigger picture of any architectural project, Jeff discusses his career path and what keeps him passionate after years in the field.
Can you tell me a little about where and with whom you work?
Well it’s a one man firm in Columbus Georgia, and I’ve been practicing here since 1987. Though, I have been an architect much longer than that.
How did you get into the field of architecture?
At a very early age I knew that’s what I wanted which it made life a little easier because I was able to gear my efforts toward getting into an architectural school from a relatively young age.
Where did you go to architectural school?
I went to Georgia Tech, The Georgia Institute of Technology (which we call the MIT of the South), in 1968. I came there from New Jersey which is where I’m originally am from, but I loved the South so much that I just sort of stayed down here.
How have things changed since you were in school?
The funny thing is that the work I do for Arcbazar is more like the work I used to do in school. We were very used to competitions, and used to generating a lot of ideas, whereas when you work in the normal business place, the number or creativity of ideas are not quite as precious as getting out very practical, functional, typically a little less creative solutions. Yet, the competitions bring out the more creative side for me.
Is that one of the reasons you enjoy using Arcbazar?
Absolutely; it really brings me back to those college days when I was really pressing my brain to come up with creative solutions. When you look at some of the work that other designers are doing on Arcbazar, they are very much like what we used to do in college. You’ll see presentation boards like the ones we used to use to try to impress our professors, just as with Arcbazar where you are trying to impress the clients.
In your professional career, what types of projects are you typically working on?
Stylistically, we are pretty traditional here down south. We don’t do quite as much modern stuff as you might see on Arcbazar, but basically I do a wide range of projects in my professional practices which ranges anywhere from residential houses to churches to restaurants to medical offices to retail spaces. It is a pretty wide range of projects that I typically work on.
Do you have a favorite type of project to work on?
My favorite type of project to work on would be one that I get to put a new twist on something that is normallty considered very ordinary. A project where I give a slight new twist to something old or traditional.
Any favorite projects that come to mind?
There is a project I’m working on now which is sort of a mini-mall which will have many restaurants in it with a common food court. The fact that it is a little different from the typical retail space makes it a very interesting project.
Being that you work with clients from many different types of spaces, Is there any advice that you could lend that comes in handy in all types of settings?
Yes, the first step I would advise everybody to take is to make sure that you fully grasp the existing situation. If it’s an outside project, that you know what the neighboring buildings look like and totally grasp the setting that your design will be in. Also, it is vital to know the parameters that you can change as well as those that you cannot change. It’s important to get the accurate idea for what you can and can’t do; otherwise you’ll be wasting time proposing something that is impossible or uneconomical, especially if it doesn’t fit with its setting.
At what point are you, the architect, consulted in this process?
Typically the client will already have the concept; sometimes we can point out something that they never considered, but generally it begins with the client. Yet, because the client has limited knowledge of what is possible, by coming to a designer or architect they typically come to find that there are possibilities that they never considered.
Are there any misconceptions that clients hold about what you do?
Yes. There are frequently clients who feel that we are just a drafting service, only there to draw it how they see it, even if we know that the design could be much better.
What keeps you excited about your line of work?
I am consistently looking forward to the next phone call, because you just never know who’s going to call. It could be someone with a very exciting project, or perhaps a minor celebrity or someone you already know who has gotten your number (which has happened to me a few times) – you really just never know who is going to call.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers or the other designers and architects on Arcbazar?
Firstly, I thoroughly enjoy competing on Arcbazar because it makes me feel as if I am back in my college days competing for the best designs all the time. Secondly, I would say that once the results are posted, it is always so interesting to me to see how other designers and architects from all over the world tackled the same problem. Maybe they thought of an angle I didn’t think of; it is so pleasing to see the others’ talents and their presentation techniques. It really is amazing to me the quality that I see on Arcbazar. Sometimes it’s also just heartbreaking when you see a design that you know is just fantastic, but the designer or architect didn’t win any awards for it, even when you know they spent a long time on it, or had a really great concept.