Inspiring Little Architects!

by Lauren Rubin

As an architect and mother, I always try to teach my children about their neighborhood and the city in which they live.  I’m sure I bore them most of the time, but I know that some of my talks are absorbed.

Both of my children are growing up with an interest in architecture and design.  I know, living in New York City makes discussing architecture easy, but truthfully, no matter where you live, if you are looking up and discussing what you see, architecture can be inspiring at any age!

To help my cause, I also collect children’s architecture and design books. The following authors have done an amazing job inspiring my family.  Not only do they introduce ideas, design and history but they do it in a fun and offbeat way.

Some of our favorites:

The Three Little Pigs, Written and Illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia

The three little pigs are portrayed by Frank Gehry, Phillip Johnson and Frank Lloyd Wright.  Famous architects that every little designer should know. The first little pig, Frank Gehry, builds his famous 1978 house of “scraps” and is blown down by the big bad wolf. Phillip Johnson, the second little pig, builds his celebrated glass house and it is smashed. Finally, Frank Lloyd Wright builds one of his most famed homes, “Falling Water,” of stone and concrete and the wolf is finally defeated. The illustrations are wonderful as are the little architectural design details found throughout the book.

 little architect_3pigs

One of the more well know kid’s building books is Iggy Peck Architect written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts.  The wonderful writing in this book is the real hook.  It is an amazing rhyming book that is witty and funny to both adults and children.  The drawings by David Roberts are wonderful with beautiful graphics and original design work.

It is my favorite book for reading to the elementary school classes and always the best gift for my teachers.  I even end my kid’s walking tours, with a cookie shaped and decorated like the Empire State Building and a reading of Iggy Peck!

little architect_iggy


The last book on my list today is Doodle New York by Violet Lemay and Puck Illustrations.  It is a “fill-in” drawing book full of whimsical graphics that enhance rather than contain a child’s imagination.  The drawings are simple but still structured and tell a great NYC story. This is my daughter’s favorite book.  Check out one of her creations!

little architect_doodle



All three of these books can be purchased at

But other great places to purchase these books and other great design items are:

The American Institute of Architects:

The Museum of Modern Art:



TAG/ Lauren Rubin

Built-In Envy

by Laura Knight-Keating

Can we talk about built-ins and how jealous I am of people who own their apartments and can have built-ins? I grew up in Indiana in a big house with a lot of built-in bookshelves and beautifully designed closets (actually designed by my dad – a lawyer who wished he was an architect!). When I moved to New York City at the age of 21, not only were there no bookshelves to house my gigantic collection but my room didn’t even have a closet. What?!

Ok so built-ins. There are tons of advantages to having built-in millwork in your home. Aesthetically, you get to design it to look exactly the way you want it to look – or you get to hire a brilliant designer like Lauren to design it exactly the way you want it to look. It can be inconspicuous and blend so perfectly that it seems like part of the wall.

Foyer_2 web


or super funky with punches of color and interesting geometric nooks:



Either way, it looks amazing and fits seamlessly into the room because it has been built to be an exact fit. You never have to worry about it falling over when one of your toddlers decides it is a great idea to climb it – another bonus! It’s like the difference between buying a suit at a department store and having one tailor made. A designer looks at what you are trying to display, store,…maybe hide…and creates a piece with compartments to match. Whether its books, albums, your tv, artwork…baskets and baskets of tiny toys…everything will have its place and all that you – or anyone else – will see is a well-organized area that looks like it was born to hold your stuff (because it was!)

Since most of our work is in New York City where storage is usually in short supply, Lauren has perfected the art of designing built-in millwork. Hidden storage, work space, play space, display space, she’s done it all. Check out some of these:



built-ins 1

built-ins 2

The only catch is the expense.  Specifically conceived by an architect and installed by a millworker, it can be pretty costly – but well worth it in my mind.  I have always imagined buying a home that I would live in forever so to me millwork would be one of those elements that would really personalize my space and make it that much more special. But even if you are more practical than I, built-ins are a valuable asset to a space. Who doesn’t love lots of storage? and anything that sets your home apart can only be an advantage.

If you are like me, still a renter…am I alone in the world?!…here are some fun solutions to storage that can move with you:


TAG/Laura Knight Keating

Balancing Act

by Lauren Rubin

Everyone struggles with work-life balance. The perfect balance is an impossibility. A decent balance is a realistic goal but for a mother and architect, sometimes defining ‘decent balance’ can be elusive.

When I started Lauren Rubin Architecture, my balancing act began.

I have had moments of success and failure along the way – thankfully more of the former than the latter! Most importantly, I have enjoyed the challenge.

The beneficiaries of this challenge, my kids, are not just bystanders. I have been fortunate in that architecture enables me to incorporate my kids (and my clients’ kids, of course) into my work. Every chance I get, I merge the two together.
At LRA, our favorite parts of every project are always the kids’ spaces. Whether it’s a bedroom, a playroom, a special little nook or on a larger scale a classroom or a library. We ask kids what inspires them and then we try to capture it and weave it into their surroundings.

We interact with our small clients, ask them how they imagine their perfect space, then together with their parents, we interpret their ideas into our designs.

It might be floating purple boxes or purple walls and blue skies:

purple boxes_purple walls


Their favorite hero or their favorite color:

Their bright ideas inspire us and infuse our designs with something unique. It’s that special touch that allows a child to see their suggestion take a physical shape. Those purple walls or floating boxes become a source of pride.

LRA works for schools, creating inspirational learning spaces for kids to grow.

A new language school for young scholars:


Or a pro-bono book room for a public school without a library:


My children are my inspiration. Every day, they excite me, they warm my heart and yes, exasperate me! They make me a better architect and a better person.

When we are walking through the city, I try to educate them about their surroundings and they re-educate me reminding me why I live in New York City.

I take their school classes on architecture walks through the city too.  And I have never given a tour without the students excitedly yelling out answers, asking thoughtful questions, drawing beautiful sketches, and leaving full of smiles.

We’re even working on a book series at LRA…hoping to have tours throughout the city….and you never know… all cities.

book images_revised


My work and my family are intrinsically connected, each year, each day, each moment. As we head into 2015, we are inspired and we continue to strive for that perfect balance…but we would settle for not falling off the tightrope!

TAG/ Lauren Rubin

Return to Riverside: China to NYC

by Audrey Choi

Riverside 66, the beautiful giant whale that landed in Tianjin, China.  My passion project for the past seven years. Although I have always wanted to work on small scale residential design, I was determined to see this unique and challenging project through. Finally the pretty images on paper became a reality.  It was truly an incredible experience to work on a building in such great detail and to finally see it come to fruition.  Especially after 7 years! And as it turns out, the giant whale brought me good luck – as shortly after construction was completed I joined the amazing LRA team and have been happily working on residential projects ever since!


Riverside 66 photo: Tim Griffith

The grand opening for this mega retail complex took place this September and I am so proud of what my team and I accomplished.  Along the north, is the iconic glass shell, a sleek double-curvature form that is supported by 22 seven-storey high structural concrete ribs. Along the south, a beautifully composed series of open-joint stone display boxes.  Just so that you get a sense of the scale: the length of the building is equivalent to the height of the Empire State Building!  The design has definitely evolved during the years as it became more of a reality and as we mulled over every joint, reveal, mullion and corner.  It was important that it not only impressed from far away but also at the pedestrian level.  Attention to detail is so critical to me, in architecture and in basically everything I do, so I loved obsessing over every detail like a crazy person.  Obviously it was impossible to cover every inch of the project due to its sheer size and intense construction schedule but overall, I think our team did an amazing job!


Detail shots courtesy of Jeff Kenoff (KPF)

When I joined LRA, I wasn’t sure how my experience working on large scale curtain-wall buildings would become helpful when designing apartment renovations.  But I’m slowly learning that my time at KPF has taught me so many invaluable skills that I can still apply to any project, no matter what the scale and scope. Now back at my desk in NYC, as I detail an apartment renovation on Riverside Drive, I can think fondly of my other Riverside project standing proudly in Tianjin.

TAG/Audrey Choi

From Opera to Architecture

by Laura Knight-Keating

At Lauren Rubin Architecture we are a group of women with a common interest in design. We all come from different backgrounds and we are different ages. Some of us have kids, some don’t. Some have one on the way (spoiler alert!). We are full-time and part-time, in school and out, Manhattan dwellers and borough dwellers, home owners and renters. What makes our firm unique is that we honor all the things that make us different and we try to make our work fit our lives – instead of the other way around. It’s unusual these days to find an architecture firm like ours and it makes our perspective and our individual approach to each project more personal, I think.

We just had our website redesigned (thanks Eric Perry Design!). We decided to add a blog. Everyone is super excited about it and we are all going to contribute.

The LRA Team

One week you might hear from me (Warning: topics may range. I’m not an architect in case I haven’t made that obvious…) and other weeks you will hear from one of my talented colleagues — including Lauren.

I’ve never written a blog before. In fact I’ve hardly even read any blogs before! On top of that I am one of two non-architects in the office so I guess it’s ironic and maybe a little funny that I am penning our first official post. I’m a theatre major. (I swear I will make my way back to architecture!) For a long time I worked for an opera company. Opera is one of those art forms people always say – you either love it or you hate it – and when I first started, I really hated it. You couldn’t avoid listening to it – it was piped in everywhere! Then one season I got the opportunity to perform in one of the operas – a small but pivotal role. The experience was truly magical and not only did I come to appreciate the art form but when I left there, I felt a real loss. I started working for a small architecture firm in Union Square. And just like the opera, I really hated it at first! The office was unbearably quiet – I didn’t understand what everyone was doing – headphones on and lines flying across their computer screens. I actually missed having La Boheme forced on me. I felt out of place. I was surprised by how technical architecture seemed to be having always imagined it as a wildly creative art form and architects as rumpled, gruff types with crazy hair and elbow patches on their corduroy jackets?! Wait, maybe that’s my Russian acting teacher…



Here nobody seemed to talk – unlike the opera where no one would stop talking. I felt most at home in the materials library where I liked the colorful pieces of cork and glass.


Clockwise from top left: cork flooring from; penny tile from, subway glass tile from, madras glass tile from


Gradually, I became immersed in the work – they were all talking – they just did it on google chat. I discovered how things actually get built. People’s lives depend on the technicalities. It turns out it’s just like the theatre – the freedom is found within the form. I learned what all those crazy lines represented and how those plans and materials transformed themselves into an elementary school classroom or a child’s bedroom and just like the opera, architecture wormed its way into my heart.

A decade later, I am writing my first blog post on a wonderful architect’s new website. My posts won’t be the most technical, I’ll leave that to the real architects but I will always share my ‘commoners view’ on the world of design and building. There is so much to look at and so much to say…even for a girl like me – who may or may not have any idea what she’s talking about!