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Ask a Designer: Amber Richane

Amber Richane has been a designer at Callison since 2006. Her background includes interior design, historic preservation and urban and environmental planning for private and public projects. As a LEED accredited professional, she frequently examines urban densities and design alternatives for efficient building development. Amber describes how connecting with the natural environment is always on her mind at home and at work.

When did you first fall in love with architecture?

Standing in front of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

What makes you passionate about design?

I am passionate about finding the right solution for a given problem. I want every proposed solution to be what is best for our client, strengthens our reputation as a firm and benefits the planet. It’s easy to find a solution that solves one or two of those goals, but the real challenge is to solve all three ― and that is the part of my work I enjoy the most.

What is your favorite pattern or rhythm?

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A…or the dendritic pattern of a leaf

Who are your artistic role models?

Frank Lloyd Wright ― except for his comments about “inferior desecrators” (I used to be one of those). Mother Nature is also an artistic role model of mine.

What’s your favorite creative activity?

Developing traditional black and white film photography in a darkroom

When and where are you most happy?

Anywhere my son is playing and I can watch how he makes other people smile.

Another activity that makes me happy is downhill skiing. I’ve loved skiing since the age of three. When I was in high school, I was even a ski instructor for a winter season. I find complete harmony when I am skiing. My mind clears; I concentrate on my breathing and my ability. Other than my son’s smile, it is my pure joy. Hopefully in a few years my son will enjoy skiing and we can share this favorite pastime together.

What is your favorite publication or book?

“The Ecology of Commerce” by Paul Hawken

What is the first thing you notice when you enter a building?

For the inside, it’s the ceiling since I’m always looking up. For the outside, I notice the entry sequence or approach, the space where people first interact with the building.

If you could live anywhere, in any structure, where would it be?

I would live in a chalet beside a mountain lake with a cute little downtown within walking distance.

Why is sustainable design important to you?

Sustainable design is not an option for me, it’s who I am. I don’t know how to be any other way. I look around me and see waste everywhere and I want to stop that waste from occurring. As one of our office Earth Week projects, I took everyone’s trash cans away and replaced it with a 6-inch flower pot to highlight how little of our waste actually needs to end up in the landfill. We can recycle 90% of all waste in our office. And since the experiment, only three or four people actually use a garbage can instead of the flower pot.

I also live as sustainably as I possibly can. I drive a 100% electric Nissan Leaf, and when I charge the car at home it is solar powered. Our home is as toxic-chemical free as I can make it and my son is in cloth diapers. I walk or bike everywhere I can (which is very easy in Santa Monica), and encourage others to do the same.

What are you currently working on, and why do you like it?

Manhattan Village in Manhattan Beach, CA. We are in the final meetings and waiting for city council approval. I am very excited that we might actually get this project through entitlements and into vertical architecture. I have learned a lot about what works when dealing with the public and what doesn’t resonate with them. The strategy of how to bring this project through the public approval process fascinates me.