Small Firm Forum: Annual Show and Tell

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Free AIA Members / $3 Guests

1.5 CES LUs

SFF Host: Donald Wardlaw, AIA

This month Maggie Maiers, Alice Cheng and Gregory True will share some of their work with us.

Maggie Maiers, AIA: Maggie Maiers, AIA feels very fortunate to have stumbled across a profession that blended many of her interests.  She didn’t identify Architecture as a possible profession until the middle of her first year of college.  She grew up in San Francisco, attended public school and got her degree at UC Berkeley.  She worked for three East Bay firms for a total of 14 years, then started working on her own in 1995.  Since working on her own she is stunned to realize she has completed 152 projects in 21 years.  The projects ranged from residential remodels, additions and two new residences, all in the East Bay.  Maggie stopped taking new work in 2016 and has completely removed herself from any architectural practice.  She would like to share some of her work and influences today.

Alice Cheng, Architect: Growing up, I was fortunate to have a calligrapher/poet father and musician/dressmaker mother.  I wanted to be a painter and architect from an early age.  I realized halfway through college that the two majors conflict and that I must make a choice.

Big bold design gestures are intriguing but being pragmatic can be gratifying.  I like to design things that matter, for ordinary people who really need the help.  I think design should be pleasing, and the process end with a good story or a memorable experience.  Much like a theatrical performance, or a sweet note played on a 100-year-old french cello, it leaves you feeling warm but not clear as to how or why.

Three times I thought to expand my education, but the founding principal of my old firm talked me out of it.  He convinced me that traveling around the world will be more enjoyable and educational, so I listened and began my journeys. Travel, photography, sketching, and playing my cello have become my creative outlets.  Architecture is a means to satisfy my analytical, spatial problem-solving interest, but no longer my creative outlet as I had once hoped.  Greg True is a kindred spirit, and together we have great fun working through the challenges, one project at a time.

Gregory True, Architect: I was asking Roger Larson, an architect whom I admired greatly, to write me a letter of recommendation to help me get into grad school.  We were sitting around his dinner table nursing a glass of wine and talking about the idea’s pros and cons.  His wife Janice came out from the kitchen drying her hands with a dish towel.  She scolded, “Roger, your’re not trying hard enough to talk him out of it.  Remember, we LIKE Greg.  Don’t let him do it to himself!”

In spite of this attempt to dissuade me, I did eventually became an architect. My career synthesizes many influences from my life’s experiences, including the time I spent in the Art Dept at UC Davis, and my many years as a builder/contractor.  Collaboration is key to the design process and how I work.  Alice and I first worked together in 2002, when we were both at ELS.  We started arguing right from the start, and were off to a great start.  We continue to challenge and inspire one another in our collaborations.

Learning Objectives:

  1.  Gain insight into a variety of service niches other small firms are exploiting.
  2.  Learn how other small firms juggle design, client needs and business realities.
  3.  Gain insight into the important relationship between inner drive and rewarding work.
  4.  Gain a useful perspective that ties one’s own challenges to those others face and master.



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