Studio Sessions Vol.11

Ted Van Zee

est. December 2017

Our final episode of Season ONE of Studio Sessions is upon us.  And appropriately, we have saved our biggest mystery for last.

Mr. Theodore Van Zee, the quiet enigma of the of the office.  He is the proverbial duck in water… calm and quiet up top with furiously paddling feet below the surface.  Ted’s role – maybe more so than any other’s – has been evolving over the course of his first year.  As our office transitions to new technologies, Ted has acted as guide.  At the same time, however, he’s also put himself in a position where he can expand his own skill set.  Aside from a beautiful family and one of the greatest chef-tastic wives on the planet – Ted has brought much to our office culture… and now it’s time for a deep dive into all things TED.

So without further gilding the lily, here is Mr. TVZ…

Where are you from and how did you land in architecture?
I was born and spent my younger years near Gainesville, Florida where my mother’s family lived at the time. Halfway through middle school we moved to Russellville, Kentucky where my father’s side of the family managed several farms. As a child I had a natural curiosity for how things worked. This usually involved learning from my father or older brothers around the farm. My father has the philosophy that nothing broken couldn’t be repaired, which on a farm that includes everything from mechanics, electrical, medical, to timber framed barns, and personal home construction. Architecture was a natural response to my upbringing.

Where did you go to school/college?
I completed my undergrad at Western Kentucky University in 2008. Eight years later I finished my Master of Architecture degree though Southern Illinois University.

Describe in a few sentences your role at i/A.
During my time at i/A I’ve assisted with moving the firm towards full Revit integration on all of its projects including developing custom Revit Families and components to match i/A’s standards. I’m learning a lot building upon my previous experience with the insight and knowledge of my co-workers. i/A continues to provide me many opportunities to grow and expand upon what I have learned so far in my career.

What is your favorite part of the profession thus far?
My favorite part of Architecture is the wide range of locations and requirements of projects. There is always a unique challenge with every project and it is my job to figure out the best solution. You may hate those difficult challenges when they happen, but if you have given your best, you’ll always look back on them with pride.

Describe an i/A project you have recently worked on.  Regarding the project, what kind of challenges had to be solved and what was interesting about it?
My first day with I/A I was introduced to the USEF project due to my experience with Revit. While I had a lot of experience modeling in Revit, I had little prior experience developing a complete contract set through Revit. USEF was a good project for me in that I was able to develop several families to match i/A’s standards; a particularly memorable instance was something as seemingly simple as creating an adjustable downspout. Revit is a very powerful piece of software with fantastic tools for drawing nearly anything you can imagine and then allow what you’ve drawn to self-adjust as things change. Yet it has no built-in downspout tool; if you draw them freehand you will find yourself adjusting them constantly as things change.

What three traits describe you?
Tall, Persistent, Man of faith

What is one of your favorite memories as a kid?
Climbing a large oak tree that grew in the middle of a neighboring field where I grew up. This was easily the oldest oak tree I have ever seen.  The trunk, approximately 10-15 feet in diameter, split off into several large branches that sprawled out dozens of feet, touching the ground and then rising back up resembling full size trees themselves.

What is the best and worst advice you received?
The best – Lefty-Loosey, Righty-Tighty. Easily the worst advice was the recommendation to run before I married my beautiful – now wife – Mattea.

[Editor’s Note: #MarryUp]

What trends in the architectural industry are currently sparking your interest?
Building integrated management. Not exactly new, but the more I think I’m learning about it the deeper into the rabbit hole I go.  It’s very interesting because of all the tangential fields and potential sources of information that can be included.

What do you like to watch, listen to, or read?
Lately, after we get our 5-year-old and 1-year-old off to sleep, my wife and I have been watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or one of her cooking shows. We also love to watch IT Crowd, The Office, and anything with Kiefer Sutherland. For the last couple years, I’ve been listening to a lot of power/heavy metal or classical, although I’ll happily listen to about anything but country or rap. In the car as a family, we usually listen to the Foo Fighters or Audioslave because those are groups we all like. Most of my reading is now informational-based reading online depending on what I may be working on at the moment. I’ll still read various magazine articles or a newspaper here and there, but it’s mostly very specific information that I go looking for rather than picking up a book and reading for the enjoyment of it.

[Editor’s Note: TVZ is woke]

If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be and why?
Energy storage. There are loads of energy production methods out there and infinite ways to use energy, but when it comes to storing that energy for later use, there are some serious hurdles to cross. Finding a cheap and reliable method of storage that has minimal drain or friction, is easily charged, and used has still evaded us into the 21st century.

Do you have any nicknames? What’s your favorite?
Ted, Teddy, Tree, Yoder, Pansy Van Zee (my wife’s favorite) are just a few. Having grown up under nicknames, I don’t have a favorite or least favorite really. Although, for the last five years, Daddy has been growing on me. The name someone calls me reveals more about them and what time period in my life they first met me.

[Editor’s Note: While this is poignant, TVZ, you maybe should never have let “Pansy Van Zee” slip…]

What is one thing you cannot resist?
Food. Growing up in a family of six kids, I learned that if food was available that you needed to eat. It’s difficult to break that mindset especially when my wife is such a good cook.

Fill in the blank: I once met _______
Caroll Spinney. You may know him as Big Bird and the voice of Oscar the Grouch. He had stopped by to visit with a friend/associate of mine while traveling to a conference where he was planning to sell some of his artwork.  His artwork is awesome by the way.

If you could be anywhere right now where would that be?
Exploring someplace I’ve never been. If my wife had a say, I would be at home working on our never-ending home remodel.

What is your favorite indoor/outdoor activity and why?
Being outdoors in good weather. Camping and hiking with my family. My wife enjoys the camping part, but not the hiking. We try to go camping a couple of times per year usually somewhere in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Every September, we go on a camping retreat with our church family and it is easily one of our highlights every year.