Spotlight on Women in Construction

As a woman, I would like to say that it’s about darn time that the feminist movement is being kicked into gear. Women are finally getting more respect, opportunity, and equality. Although we’re moving in the right direction, there’s still more work to be done, especially when it comes to the construction industry. In 2016, the National Association for Women in Construction reported that workers in construction totaled 10,328,000, and only 939,000 – that’s just under 10% - were women. In a field that is still male dominated, not only are women’s energies focused on doing their job, they’re also focused on squashing any belief that they aren’t suited for it. To keep this conversation moving, I spoke with the lovely ladies of TECHNE to gain an insight to their perspective working in the field.
-Mariah Schlegel

Q: As accomplished Architects, do you find yourself still needing to “prove” yourself to male peers – architects, contractors, consultants?

KS: Sadly, yes.  I’ve found that over time this has lessened, although occasionally there are individuals who question my experience and knowledge.  In opposition to many situations I’ve encountered where individuals are fighting for the loudest voice or smartest person in the room, I believe our capacity to be vulnerable breeds trust.  Feeling the pressure to ‘prove’ myself or compete for those titles forces me to take a step back.  I work harder to provide the right answer or the correct information with the appropriate language rather than working as an equal with the team – it dramatically slows down the process.  My hope is that these instances create an opportunity to educate our male counterparts that women do know as much as them, that we can provide the same amount of value and that our seat at the table is a necessary one.    

JP: In meetings with my clients, contractors, and other architects, I try my hardest to not operate out of fear.

It can be easy to give in to the fear of being underappreciated, not respected, or of admitting there’s something I don’t know. It’s easy to speak up before I’ve fully formed my thought or before I have something considered to say. If I take time to evaluate the issues on the table, I can trust myself to identify an effective way of putting the problem in perspective. If my goal is just to be heard and just to be respected, I’m less successful.

Confidence is not knowing that everything will work out, confidence is knowing that everything will be all right if it doesn’t work out. I need to trust myself and trust that the people I respect will respect me.

MS: The question is a little different for me. Although I am a certified Interior Designer, the fact that I am an interior designer at all, already puts me lower on the totem pole of respect from my typically older, male peers. I have found that most everyone, including those in the field, do not know exactly what it is that we do. (I’ll put a link to the definition of Interior Design in the comments!). I had a recent experience, where the contractor told our principal, that he was actually ashamed that he had doubted me. He did not want to attend the weekly meeting if he wasn’t going to be there and ended up being pleasantly surprised once he realized that a younger, female, Interior Designer could carry a project just as effectively. It’s not so much about “proving” yourself to them, but revealing that you’re capable, smart, and responsible.

Q: Has the Feminist movement had any impact on your experiences within the industry, internally or externally?

JP: Feminism is believing that all people deserve to be treated like people. There couldn’t be a more base level belief. The Feminist movement has had a profound impact on my experiences. Every inch that the movement has moved humanity toward equality has made my life infinitely easier.  

Q: Is this the first time you’ve discussed this topic publicly? If yes, what do you think was holding you back?

MS: Yes. I have no issue discussing my experiences, but rarely do I find the appropriate platform to air my grievances, especially to the broader public. It is so important to take advantage of these opportunities when they happen, and carry on the conversation whenever possible.

Q: Any advice to give ladies – young or experienced – in the construction field?

JP: You can do this job. Your unique set of skills and talents will give you a unique and valuable perspective. Have faith in yourself and know that we are all struggling with fears.

MS: To all my younger, less experienced, and intimidated ladies reading – there is nothing but growth! The journey to confidence in this field can be turbulent, but with time comes experience. You have a unique perspective from anyone else, and your opinion is valid. Share it. Feelings are also valid, and you are entitled to respect. If you’re feeling that someone is talking down to you, do not be afraid to address the situation. If you refer to my experience above, sometimes your peers aren’t even aware that they’re treating you in such a way. All in all, you got this, lady.

KS: Know that your voice is just as valuable as anyone else in the room.  If you feel your confidence slipping, remember the passion you hold for your profession – it will provide you the strength you need to overcome any unwanted pressures or obstacles.


In the words of Mother Michelle Obama,

“Women and girls can do whatever they want. There is no limit to what we as women can accomplish.”


A Year In Review

As we approach the new year it’s only fitting for us to reflect on the amazing year we had in 2018.  In the vein of those lovely family newsletters you receive every year during the holidays, here are a few of our highlights:

We saw years of planning and hard work finally fulfilled with the completion of Saint Martin de Porres High School, Crocker Park’s Amenity Space and Hawken’s Innovation Lab. 

We celebrated (just because) with 100 of our closest friends at our summer Open House. 

We had our first TECHNE Visioning Retreat discussing ideas, refining our mission and identifying priorities for the year to come. 

We celebrated numerous milestones within the TEHCNE family – three newly registered architects, one NCIDQ certified interior designer, a new baby, an engagement, a wedding, and a 5-year + 15-year work anniversary.

We took two TECHNE trips: the first to Calgary and Banff with our friends from DIRTT + American Interiors and the second to DC for our office holiday party to see the progress of the Ballston Bridge. 

We dominated…in the first few weeks…of an 8-week trivia competition on ‘The Office’ and put in some really good effort re-watching the entire series. 

We fabricated and installed 8’ letters at Yellowcake’s final Hullabaloo fashion show.

We competed in an 80’s themed Whirlyball competition with American Interiors.

We spent the day riding roller coasters at Cedar Point dressed as pumpkins during Hallo-weekends. 

And of course, we launched our new website and have been having a blast writing this blog.

The new year will bring the anniversary of our 25th year in business.  While some things have changed, we’ve worked hard to ensure our values remain the same.  We’re fortunate to continue working with amazing clients in seeing their missions become reality and supporting the family culture we’ve created in the office.  We look forward to sharing our adventures and stories with all of you in the new year.

From our family to yours; cheers to 2019!

Kristen Mimms Comment
Field Notes: Tom goes to Seoul

On a recent trip to Seoul, South Korea I couldn’t help but frame my experience in the fast-moving metropolis through the lens of someone accustomed to life in a comparatively calm Midwestern city. With more than 13x the population of Northeast Ohio, Seoul suffers from near-constant gridlock but benefits from a vibrance and, with it, the commensurate resources Cleveland hasn’t seen for nearly 100 years.

Like Cleveland, Seoul experienced rapid industrialization, urbanization, and subsequent suburbanization. As the city sprawled after the Korean War, so too did its infrastructure. Over a mere decade, urban and industrial infrastructure was choking the last vestiges of nature out of the core of the city- particularly in the dense and flat CBD.

Hoping to spur economic growth by providing new recreation options to residents and solve the city’s chronic runoff problems, officials decided to do something bold. They made the controversial decision to remove a massive arterial highway and replace it with a long, meandering park and stormwater mitigation system.

(Image- Donghwan-Kim)

(Image- Donghwan-Kim)

After 3 and a half years of work, Cheonggyecheon, has become one of the most popular green spaces in the city. One would be hard-pressed to identify the location of the idyllic watershed in photographs from just 15 years ago when the stream was culverted by a double-decker 8 lane expressway. What was once chocked from sunlight by layers of concrete infrastructure is now a healthy watershed replete with dragonflies, pelicans, and innumerable native plant species (marking an increase in overall biodiversity of 639%) and teeming with schools of fish.

View of pedestrian bridge across Cheonggyecheon

View of pedestrian bridge across Cheonggyecheon

Stones allow visitors to cross the stream from within the park

Stones allow visitors to cross the stream from within the park



Tourist map of Cheonggyecheon

Tourist map of Cheonggyecheon

While the park is only 7 miles long and 50’ wide, the economic, social, and ecological impact on the city has been astronomical. Summer temperatures around the perimeter of the park dropped 11 degrees and particulate air pollution by 35%. With more than 64,000 daily visitors- thousands of which are out of town or foreign- the surrounding owner-occupied buildings along the banks of the stream have found newfound success and increased economic stability thanks to the throngs of visitors.

Like Cleveland’s own public square, Cheonggyecheon is a perfect example of how re-evaluating public spaces and civic infrastructure can be fundamental to remaking a city. Similarly ambitious projects are in the works along Lake Erie, but I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of culverted watersheds and highway-bisected neighborhoods that dot Northeast Ohio. What transformative potential could projects like this-big and small- hold for Cleveland? What would happen if we continued to re-evaluate our public infrastructure? And what kind of agency do we have as citizen-designers to push Cleveland towards a more sustainable, healthy future?

Our 2700 Degree World

Engaging, appropriate, modifiable lighting is a critical component in creating successful spaces. The fascinating thing is that so few people are aware of the power of lighting.

Lighting temperature is measured in degrees of Kelvin. In this case the word temperature is describing the color emitted by a light source. Imagine a candle flame and the range of colors from the wick to the tip of the flame. The color varies based on the differing temperatures across the flame. Incandescent bulbs radiate light energy and our current LED technology attempts to recreate that appearance. The important thing is matching the chosen light temperature to the activity and mood of the space being designed. This is true for every type of space.

When discussing light temperatures, we most often discuss options between 2700K and 6000K. If you’re anywhere near a designer, you’re going to hear some very strongly held opinions on which number is the best. You’ve found your way to our blog and therefore our opinions:

2700k is warm and cozy, approaching the color of candle light in feeling - this is where Danish hygge happens. 2700 and even the next step higher is the best for occupants’ skin tones and improves the mood of almost any space.

3500k is a bit cooler while still feeling in the ‘warm’ range, there’s still a tinge of yellow to the light. It’s acceptable, we’ll leave it at that.

4100K is starting to be crisper, a bit bluer even a little green. This can be described as more neutral but you’re reading the writing of people who think it’s fair to call it cold.

5000K is, in theory, simulating a bright sunny day. Let’s not even start.

6000K is called full sunlight. No. Just, no, not ever.

Lighting for movies and lighting in architecture have a lot in common. In movies, lighting can help the viewer understand how to feel emotionally. It can signify a specific mood and draw the viewer into the world of the story being created. How is lighting used in movies to make magic? Actually, to tell you the truth (and at Christmas you always tell the truth) it is all about lighting at the lower temperature. We have included a few images to illustrate our point. Ladies and gentleman, Love Actually:

Giving Thanks--Cranberry Sauce Ridges and All
Picture taken within Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.

Picture taken within Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.

A yearly tradition for us at TECHNE has been a Friendsgiving potluck lunch including an office roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes + gravy, green bean casserole, Brussels sprouts, and of course a can of cranberry sauce—complete with its signature imprinted ridges (no shaming, there is already enough ridicule to go around).  It is an important opportunity for us to appreciate the hard work, effort and support each of us provides every day.

It is also important for us to recognize and thank you.  We are very grateful for the opportunities we have had the fortune to be involved in over the past year; but are most thankful for the amazing people with whom we collaborate. These personal relationships are what allow us to pursue our work with the dedication and craft that is TECHNE, and we couldn’t do it without your support.

As we pause this week, departing our hectic daily pressures and sit with family and friends to celebrate thanksgiving; let us allow the importance of these bonds and traditions to be foremost in our thoughts and actions.  I think Lincoln said it best in his first inaugural address:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” - Abraham Lincoln 4 March 1861.

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.

The Curse of Design

When you’re driving, and you see a breathtaking scene, one that makes you pull over and stop. Do you wonder what it is that resonates within you? Is it the overlap of shadows? The subtle shifting colors? The structure of the trees or the rise of a hill? As architects and designers, these are a few of the thousands of questions we ask ourselves as we work.  If only it stopped there. This incessant analysis bleeds into every object, surface and environment we encounter in our daily lives. You can’t imagine the discussion that goes into buying a glass – how does it feel in your hand? Is it too heavy? Too squat? Too round? Not round enough? Is it just serving a purpose? Or enhancing your life?

A blessing? Or the ‘Curse of Design’? This compulsion requires us to continually seek answers to those questions through a rigorous critique of color, finish, composition, quality, feel, and function.

How did we get here? Is this nature or nurture? Born cursed? Or cursed by education? As a 7-year-old I wrote in my diary “someday I will be an architect”. Was this genetic? Or too many Brady Bunch reruns?

Whatever innate personality traits we have are focused and refined by an education process that at best can politely be referred to as rigorous and often crosses the line into obsessive. Don’t get me wrong, while a curse, it provides for a highly curated life; an amazing experience of well-designed and presented clothing, accessories, home décor, vehicles and even food.  We have a deep appreciation of the effort it takes to design an object well, and the moment of wonder and surprise felt at finding something special among the expected.

Good design is not a luxury.  Good design balances the inherently functional with a sense of beauty.  It is something that enhances your life and brings you joy. While we certainly wouldn’t wish our curse upon anyone, we do hope this will ignite a bit of inquiry the next time you hold a glass or smile as you pick up an object or feel content in a space you regularly frequent.