Columbus-based Tim Lai Architect is one of 50 finalists in the Who’s Next 2.0 green home design contest− quite an accomplishment as more than 400 architecture firms entered the contest late last year.
Basically, Tim Lai Architect’s entry −a lake house− reflects the firm’s design philosophy: creating simple, sensuous spaces with delightful surprises that transcend everyday experiences.
“Normally, lake houses tend to orient all rooms toward the lake view, creating a singular way of viewing the lake and, therefore, quite boring,” says Eliza Ho, principal at Tim Lai Architect, which is named for her husband and sole business partner.
“We proposed an alternative by creating a central courtyard as the house’s internal focus,” she continues. “In this way, the owners are free to choose their focus: the lake view, the courtyard, or both. Also, the courtyard brings ample natural light into the interior and promotes natural ventilation. In essence, the courtyard embodies the idea of balance between indoor and outdoor environments.”
Founded in August 2010, Tim Lai Architect remains a two-person operation.
“We’ve used different consultants and independent contractors to help out production,” Ho says. “This has given us much needed flexibility and kept our practice nimble.”
Though the firm generally takes any project that comes its way, Ho and Lai say they like to focus on projects where they can potentially attain a balance between concept, function, and beauty.
To date, their proposals for the Clinton Theater site, a redesign of the Glass Axis facilities, and the renovation of their private residence, which they would like to achieve LEED Platinum certification, are among their favorite endeavors.
“The autonomy and freedom entailed in the self-employed practice are the common ideal for many design professionals,” Ho says. “We established our firm to pursue our dream.”
They also have noticed that Columbus doesn’t have many modern-style buildings, which could help them establish a niche, she says.
“We hope to help change people’s perception about modernist buildings as bad and boring,” she adds. “We want to create a modernist style that is respectful to the past and sensible to human needs and desires. We want to balance the technologically and efficiency-driven modernist styles with human touches.”
The biggest challenge Ho and Lai have faced as business owners is time management, as they’ve juggled billable projects with marketing and design competitions.
“So far, we have tried to allocate equal amount of time toward all three aspects, but we also try to be flexible according to workloads and deadlines,” Ho says. “For example, there were some months that we simply couldn’t afford time for marketing because of deadlines for different projects. But there are other times that we could spend time on marketing, which is extremely important because it helps us make sure we know who we are and our strengths. This will eventually help us stay focused on our target audience.”
To learn more about Tim Lai Architect, visit LaiArchitect.com.
All renderings courtesy of Tim Lai Architect.