Studio Sessions Vol.5

Joey Nolasco, AIA, CID

est. November 2011

OK so we’ve learned a little about Aaron and Joe… but what about the elusive Joey Nolasco?  What’s his deal?  What makes him tick?  What kind of insane nicknames does HE have?  Well, wait no longer because Justin has finally excavated all the dirty details from our fearless Co-Captain.  So sit back, relax, pour an ice cold glass of Tito’s and settle in…

Describe in a few sentences your role at i/A.
My primary role in i/A is business management. Our ownership is represented by three individuals with complementary roles and responsibilities within the firm. My primary focus is on marketing, customer relations, finance, and overall operations. Strategic planning that enables growth and development of both the company and our staff is where I hope to provide the most effective support within i/A.

As an architect, what exciting industry trends do you see?
Most certainly the economy has been on an upswing over the past 5+ years. Many public projects are being funded and private clients are still very actively building. Recently the blurring of lines that traditionally separated these two sectors has created exciting new opportunities for creating great design. We are seeing more private clients involved in public projects and they are spending the money to make great architecture. There are multiple ways in which private and public projects are intertwining but the reality is that more often than not these projects tend to bring bigger budgets and more sophisticated design tastes.

Another interesting trend that seems to continue rapid growth and become more important to firm development in today’s changing world is information and modeling technologies. Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been around for quite a while now but it seems more recently that the peripheral industries are catching up and expanding uses for BIM. Oculus Rift / virtual reality, 3D scanning with point cloud information, and 3D printing are just a few of the things evolving around BIM that continues to increase our collaboration and presentation capabilities.

What do you value most in your position at i/A?
My position allows me to teach and I believe that I am a teacher at heart. Right out of school I agreed to teach as an adjunct professor of architectural technology at a local community college. I also managed the mentoring and intern program within the firm I was working at that same time. I have always enjoyed sharing knowledge and learning by interacting with others along the way. I consider myself fortunate to be able to work alongside those handling the lion’s share of production within i/A because I truly feel folks grow quickest through collaboration and exposure.

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?
Recently construction was completed on a small Emergency Services Building that i/A designed for Madison County EMS in Berea, Kentucky. This project was not complex by design or function, but the site selected by the owners proved to be one of the most difficult sites to work in the history of my career. This project is proof that the scale of a project is no indicator if its complexity.  The site geotechnical information came back with pyritic shale and silty soils throughout not only the entire building area but also included over one hundred yards of utility excavation (basically, the property was a giant bowl of unstable dirt that had to be removed). Once exposed, pyritic shale must be coated with asphaltic material to encapsulate the shale or it will swell and possibly damage foundations and sewer / storm lines.  So, from the beginning of construction we had to monitor and meticulously manage trenching and excavation activities. It turned out that during grading and excavation we also encountered one of the wettest winters on record. So as soon as the foundations and utilities were mitigated, our attention turned to trying to get the silty soils to hold compaction.  Once compacted and tested the slightest rain would soak the soils and silts would turn the well-compacted material to mush. We worked with the owner, geotech engineers, civil designers, and the contractor to come up with a plan for compacting and remediating all areas of flatwork. The entire drive and slab areas were compacted with heavy stone and we were finally able to get the site and building pad ready to go vertical.

The important thing to take away from a scenario like this is that you must always strive for transparency, collaboration, and inclusion with all parties at all times no matter how difficult the obstacles. Honesty and a low ego are important when tough decisions and conditions are faced. I enjoy working through tough issues and getting input and buy-in from all those involved.

If you could have any job in the world for a day what would it be?
I honestly think my job is the greatest, but it might be cool to be an astronaut for a day if it was one spent in outer space!

What three things do most people not know about you?

  • My son is the fifth generation of Italian sons named Joseph, and that’s why the name “Joey” stuck so solidly with me.
  • For years I owned four-wheelers and would be found most weekends out with friends and family riding and jumping on tracks and through the woods. My business partners are glad I am not up in the air, jumping a 500lb machine anymore.
  • I grew up in the construction industry. My father started out as a self-employed contractor. I first started working in an architectural firm during the summers while still in high school almost 30 years ago.

What are you most passionate about professionally? Personally?
I am most passionate about collaborating with as many people as I can professionally. I enjoy exposing myself (and our staff) to different design ideas, methods of detailing, and ways of communicating using drawings. It is important for the growth of a firm to stay engaged in new technologies, materials, and business trends. Collaboration is a great way to do this. I am not opposed to sharing tricks of the trade because I am so passionate about learning through sharing.

Personally, I am most passionate about my family and our heritage. I want to carry on a family history of hard work and perseverance. I want my kids and future generations to understand hard work and honesty will carry you far in life. I would want to be remembered as a person who kept their word and was transparent with others.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Pennsylvania but we moved to Southeast Kentucky before I started school. I grew up in a holler called Cockerels Trace with much of my extended family members spread along the valley.

Where did you go to school/college?
I graduated high school from Knott County Central and went directly to the UK College of Architecture where I earned my Bachelor’s degree.

Do you have any muses?
My wife (and high-school sweetheart), Carissa, with whom I have spent well over half my life.

Do you have any pet peeves? – If so, is there a story behind it?
I expect everyone should be organized, on time, and well prepared for the task. Lack of organization drives me nuts. A good friend of mine, who shares this same pet peeve told me he realized at a young age he was never going to be good at sports so he had to pick something to be good at and he chose to be particular. That has stuck with me. My father is an extremely organized and particular man as well, and I grew to expect the same characteristics from myself and strive to foster that in those around me.

No limitations, if you could do anything within 48 hours what would it be?
Visit the town in Italy from where my great-grandparents immigrated.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I discovered very early in life that I was good with art and making things that people were interested in and were proud I could create. That excitement really made me want to do something with art. I wasn’t sure what that would be at the time. I remember thinking it would be cool to create makeup for horror movies.

Do you have any nicknames?
My closest friends and even some of my family called me by a well-deserved nickname (Wild Child) in my younger days.

Do you have any interesting items on your desk and what’s the story behind it?
I have a fondness for fountain pens. I love the feel of a fountain pen in my hand as it strikes the page. The owners at the RedMile gave me a very special, gold nib Pelikan pen. I keep it on my desk in a stand beside a bottle of ink. I dip the pen and hand sign our checks when they are ready to go out the door.

Do you have any other interests?
Anything with a motor interests me. I actually have an all original, 1953 Studebaker Commander at home. It was the car my father took his driver’s test in when he was 16. Given more time and a much larger garage, I would have a collection of many more things motorized.