Tangents by Out of Architecture

Our guest today, Rafael Robles, Founder at Duo Development, shares his experiences answering the question for himself of who gets to make the decisions? His journey from real estate, to development, to business strategy consulting led Rafael to found his own innovation studio, Duo, where he practices multi-contextual design, amplifying the impact a built project can have. 

Thank you for listening and I hope you feel empowered to take your own steps forward into your windy career path.

  • Creative, Resilient, Caring
  • The transition to running your own innovation studio
  • Exploring the Concept of Multi Contextual Design
  • Challenging Traditional Architectural Practices with Norm-making and Form-making
  • Insights from Working in Business Strategy
  • Establishing Duo and Its Ethical Approach
  • Creating New Realities through Multi Contextual Design
  • Working with Clients and Own Projects at Duo
  • Understanding the Community's Needs and Preferences
  • Incorporating a Local Restaurant into the Health Clinic
  • Securing a Federal Grant for Senior Services
  • The Concept of a Building that Shares Profits with Local Residents
  • Designing Starling: A Space for Liberation
  • The Importance of Context and Flexibility in Design
  • The Value of Architectural Education
  • The Challenges and Rewards of Starting a Company
  • Advice for Taking Control of Your Career Path
  • The Importance of Asking for Advice

Learn more about Duo Development

Guest Bio:
Rafa Robles is the co-founder and director of Duo. An innovation studio/lab that works to create built environment innovations for the benefit of society, Duo partners with organizations of all types through design, strategy, and innovation services, and by launching ethical real estate development and related ventures. Duo’s multicontextual design approach investigates and activates knowledge, wisdom, and beauty across a generative and evaluative process that explores Norm/Form-making. Their studio applies the lenses of economics, ecology, technology, culture, and ethics to enrich their practice and ensure that their innovations provide a societal benefit. Prior to Duo, Rafa’s work spanned design and innovation at Doblin (a Deloitte business), real estate development at Ranquist Development Group, and architecture at Studio Gang Architects. Since 2011, Rafa has produced numerous projects ranging from research to implementation across contexts and scales. His diverse body of work spans and crosses the boundaries of innovation, design, and business strategy, real estate development, urban planning, building and spatial design, digital ecosystems, visual and graphics, user experiences, and service design.
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Creators & Guests

Silvia Lee
Host of Tangents
Erin Pellegrino
Co-Founder of Out of Architecture
Jake Rudin
Co-Founder of Out of Architecture
Rafael Robles
Co-Founder of Duo

What is Tangents by Out of Architecture?

Welcome to Tangents by Out of Architecture, hosted by Silvia Lee. We’re highlighting some of our favorite stories from the amazing people we’ve met along our journey. We will hear how they created a unique career path for themselves from the variety of skills and talents they developed in and out of architecture.

Out of Architecture is a career consulting firm started by two Harvard-educated professionals interested in exploring the value of their skills both in and out of the architectural profession. We’re here to help you maximize all of the expertise you have honed as a designer to get you a role that fulfills and challenges you. We have the knowledge, experience, and connections to help you put your best self into the market–and reap the benefits.

Rafael Robles

Rafael: [00:00:00] I was running projects for Fortune 500 companies, designing new businesses, new products like apps, physical things. And so there were like these big questions that we were using design processes to basically tackle. And it's the same way that you design a building, you can design anything else, which is what you learn in school. But the problem is that in school, they say that, but then they don't tell you what that everything else is. And they don't show you a path towards getting a job and then everything else.

Introduction to Tangents by Out of Architecture

Silvia: Welcome to Tangents by Out of Architecture. Out of architecture is a career resource network helping designers apply their incredible talents in untraditional ways. We're highlighting some of our favorite stories from the amazing people we've met along the way. We will hear how they created a unique career path for themselves from the wide variety of skills and talents they developed in and out of architecture.

Silvia: Raphael Robles founder at duo development shares his [00:01:00] experiences, answering the question for himself of who gets to make the decisions.

Silvia: His journey from real estate to development to business strategy consulting led Rafael to found his own innovation studio duo, where he practices multi contextual design amplifying the impact of built project can have.

Silvia: Thank you for listening, and I hope you feel empowered to take your own steps forward into your own windy career. path.

Silvia: welcome to Tangents. I'm excited to have you here.

Guest Introduction and Background in Architecture

Silvia: Thank can you describe yourself in three words?

Rafael: Yes,

Rafael: creative. resilient and caring

Silvia: That's a fun group of words and I'm excited to hear more about that. And,~ uh,~ what is your background in architecture?

Rafael: Yeah. I studied architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, UIC. ~Um, ~I was there from 2012 to 2015. ~Uh, ~I started. My college,~ um,~ sort of tenure in a community college. So I studied at Harper College before that, where [00:02:00] I,~ uh,~ I didn't formally study architecture, but I studied art and, ~you know, ~some architecturally related classes like drawing, ~you know,~ sketching, things like that.

Rafael: ~Um, ~and then, so I guess in terms of my tenure in architecture, while I was at UIC, I started,~ um,~ I had two kind of like meaningful work experiences. One was at a smaller architecture practice that mostly focused on commercial work. So if you think about things like LA Fitnesses, um, that was my first internship and I really didn't like it. I found it super boring to do window details for LA Fitnesses. ~Um, ~but I also had not worked in an architecture firm before. So it was a really good learning experience. The group of people, it was a smaller office. So they were all very,~ um,~ very nice and caring to ~sort of ~teach me how to use CAD and things like that that are essential.

Rafael: That was my first year in architecture school. I was there and then,~ um,~ After that, I interned at Studio Gang Architects, and then I worked at Studio Gang for about a year after graduating,~ um,~ so my experience in [00:03:00] architecture school was a combination of,~ uh,~ going to school, to architecture school part time because I had already completed kind of general classes in community college, and then interning part time,~ um,~ plus, cause you know how architecture firms work. And so it was a really good, I would say, experience working for StudioGang and really putting a lot of the things that I was learning actively into practice. ~Um, ~so that's my formal architectural training is that.

Silvia: Awesome

Transition from Architecture to Running Own Studio

Silvia: . And what are you up to now?

Rafael: So now I run my own,~ uh,~ studio. ~So, um, ~My studio is called Duo. We describe it as an innovation studio because we engage in generally two categories. One is we,~ um,~ we like to say we operate ~kind of ~like an innovation lab and an art studio. Innovation lab meaning we work for clients who are working on,~ um,~ ~you know, ~interesting things.

Rafael: ~Uh, ~and then the art studio is we create our own work that we actually own and [00:04:00] launch. ~Um, ~and put it into practice. So we're building a building. We're the developers of the building. ~Um, ~right now in Chicago, we acquired three residential properties and we're,~ um,~ our project there is called Homekeep and we're ~kind of, uh, ~challenging the landlord tenant model.

Exploring the Concept of Multi Contextual Design

Rafael: And so At Duo, just to ~kind of ~expand a little bit more, we practice what we describe as multi contextual design,~ uh,~ which is a term that we use to, to ~kind of, uh, ~describe our work. My business partner, who's also my brother,~ uh,~ his backgrounds in public policy. ~So, um, ~and, and, and strategy. So we, we describe our work a lot in ~sort of ~like his side of things, this norm making, like where norms come from.

Rafael: And then my side of the thing is more of the form making, right? It's like design, art, architecture,~ uh,~ and so with multi contextual design, it's just the term we, we made to describe this norm and form making simultaneously.

Challenging Traditional Architectural Practices

Rafael: So we really wanted to expand traditional design practices, especially architecture, Okay. beyond just form giving and form making, because we, we often say,~ um, you know, ~in the age old [00:05:00] saying, form follows function. If architects design the form, then who designs the functions? And that's something that we think has not been questioned enough, and therefore, architects have been at the service of many problematic things.

Rafael: Because we, we don't own the projects. We, we work for people who own the product. So for Duo, we wanted to expand the practice into a new type of creative practice, and that's, that's what we do. Oh,

Silvia: I love hearing that. It's like actually using the skills you have to create something you want to see

Rafael: yeah, exactly. when I was a studio gang, I felt very inspired by the type of work that. They do. It's a really innovative firm that does really innovative buildings and really beautiful buildings and I was really inspired by how they use architectural theory and they really put it into practice and it feels very artistic.

Rafael: ~Um, ~but I was always curious about, like, where these requests for projects were coming from. ~So, ~if you're doing a tower, how do you know it's 10 [00:06:00] stories and not 9 stories? How do you know it's not, it shouldn't be 5 stories, right? And ~so, ~as architects, and this wasn't just in, in studio game, but as architects, you're ~sort of ~in service of this, Hypothetical client.

Rafael: And oftentimes I would even hear my professor say, if you want to do better projects, then you have to find better clients. That's ~kind of ~like common sense. But when I was a student, I would always think, like, why aren't we the clients? ~You know, ~it's ~like, ~if we're doing these projects that are self initiated, that are really interesting, and we ~sort of ~produce research, why not sort of like, take it all the way through and launch a venture and ~um, ~I own part of the building and ~you know, ~the whole thing and I think part of what I, so that interest basically led me to leave StudioGang, which was a difficult choice because I really just like the people there.

Rafael: ~Um, ~and I like the work and I left and I thought,~ well,~ developers choose what buildings should be. And so then I didn't know anyone. I didn't know any developers, so I got a real estate license as a broker and then I showed up at ~like ~Berkshire Hathaway and I was [00:07:00] like, Can I have a job? Basically. And they said, sure,~ um,~ which was funny because.

Rafael: Real estate agents are independent contractors. So almost everybody gets a job, ~you know, ~because it's like they don't give you health insurance or anything like that. You just, you find your own clients and you make your own money and all that stuff. ~Um, ~but that was a learning experience. So I worked in, I went from, ~you know, ~doing school, working in a studio gang to then like becoming a broker and then like selling real estate, which was not designed at all.

Rafael: ~Um, ~and it was like a very big shock to the system because, ~you know, ~it's, It's sort of like not architectural practice. So I had this existential thing of ~like, ~what am I doing? ~Um, ~but I just ~sort of ~kept going and I was like, I, I really want to figure out like why the built environment is seen as such a commercial commodity today.

Rafael: ~Um, ~so I was selling new construction houses and then the developer that was selling those. Those houses in Chicago basically met me and he, uh, he studied architecture himself at Cooper Union. So then he was like, why are you working in sales? You should be working for a developer at least. And so then he offered a job [00:08:00] in his practice,~ um,~ as ~sort of ~like a helper and a project manager later.

Rafael: And so I was doing things, anything from doing warranties on new construction houses. After you buy a new construction home, you get a one year warranty. If something breaks. You call the developer. So the developer got that call. I, I got the call and then I would go ~sort of ~figure out what happened and how to fix it.

Rafael: ~Um,~ and then, so that's 1 part of it. But then the actual development of buildings, this developer,~ uh,~ was local is local to Chicago still, but he develops,~ um,~ for sale, luxury housing, mostly, and I was really lucky because that developer, Was a really good mentor. I still have a good relationship with him, but I always say,~ like,~ I learned how to build buildings from him, not from StudioGang because of StudioGang, I was designing this like museums and towers and my training at UIC was very theoretical as like architecture theory, which I really loved.

Rafael: I know some people really don't, but I really, I really did. ~Um, ~yeah. And so I was always, ~you know, ~when I worked in the architecture practice I [00:09:00] worked on competitions, making lots of conceptual models and studies, doing a lot of conceptual drawings and diagrams, and so I never, I was never super interested in construction drawings, probably because I didn't like, ~you know, ~doing window details for LA Fitness and I just was traumatized.

Rafael: But anyways, I really learned how to like, how a building is built through the development side, because you really have control over everything. The problem with development, in my mind, was that,~ um,~ ~you know, ~architecture has a really big problem with diversity, but it's not as big as development, which you can imagine how big of a problem that is.

Rafael: So I, ~you know, ~when I was at the architecture firm, I never felt like the only brown person in the room. When I was in the developer's office, I definitely, not only did I feel like I was the only brown person in the room, I was usually the only brown person in the room in the development side. There's tons of, ~you know,~ people of color on the trades.

Rafael: And so I felt like that was problematic, of course, but part of what it really [00:10:00] made me realize is how decision making, how decision driven real estate development is. And so all these things that I was, you know, I sort of found my answer that I was looking~ ~~you know, ~for, like who decides and why their decisions that developers take or their decisions, ~you know, ~what buildings should be.

Rafael: They're decisions that businesses take that usually follow some strategy that they're, ~you know,~ that they're following business strategy.

Insights from Working in Business Strategy - EDITED TO

Rafael: And so while I was at the developer's office, then at the same time, my brother had started working for Dilwick Consulting,~ uh,~ as a, as a consultant and in strategy.

Rafael: And so we had as a kind of group and I talk about him a lot because he, him and I are business partners now, but as a, as a group,~ um,~ we had a lot of visibility into like where business strategy ~sort of ~comes from. And ~so, um, ~there's a, there's an innovation group within Deloitte Consulting called Doblin.

Rafael: They recently changed their name to Apply Design, which is not as good of a name. But Doblin is sort of what IDEO was ~ sort of ~to the west coast, [00:11:00] Doblin is to the midwest. And they started in IIT, and they started ~sort of ~from the industrial design practices, wanting to combine social science, design, and business.

Rafael: So it's a really interesting place with a lot of very interesting history that I had never heard about. And I had never heard about them working at a place like StudioGang, even though StudioGang has a lot of roots in IIT. ~Um,~ and so I applied to Dovlin, which is an innovation studio and they usually hired People with social science backgrounds, like anthropologists, sociologists, they hire designers from different backgrounds, and they hire business people, people with like traditional MBAs and things like that.

Rafael: So I applied as a designer, it's like comical because, ~you know, ~in the architecture world if you show up and you say I worked at Studio Gang. It's not like a huge door opener, but people know who StudioGang is and they generally get a sense. And when I went to Dublin, I said, Oh, I come from StudioGang.

Rafael: They were like, who is that? Is that like a marketing firm or something? And I was like, no,~ um,~ it's not. You [00:12:00] can look out the window. But,~ um,~ but it was great because then it was just talking about my work and my process and like design and things like that. And so I landed a job at Dublin. and I was there for,~ Um, uh,~ over four years.

Rafael: I finished my tenure. As a manager, I was a manager for, I think, over one year, but basically I was running teams in the innovation space, which is not just innovative companies, right? ~Like ~Studio Gang is an innovative company, but this was ~sort of ~the field of innovation, which is very small,~ um,~ and it's a world that I just didn't know existed.

Rafael: That was, like, really interesting because I was running projects for Fortune 500 companies, designing new businesses, new products like apps, physical things. new business models like membership platforms and restructuring teams like how to should add you know, like McDonald's innovation, right? Like how should their team actually collaborate with each other?

Rafael: And so there were like these big, big questions that we were using design processes [00:13:00] to basically tackle. And it's the same way that you design a building, you can design anything else, which is what you learn in school. But the problem is that in school, they, they say that, but then they don't tell you what that everything else is.

Rafael: And they don't show you a path towards getting a job and then everything else. So my path is super windy with. Architecture, then real estate sales, then real estate development, then business strategy, basically. So I sort of like, found my way from that curiosity of like, where, where does, who designs and functions, I found that, you know.~ you know.~

Rafael: I know who designs and functions. and all of that visibility.

Establishing Duo and Its Ethical Approach

Rafael: There's a lot of,~ um,~ ~you know, ~inequalities and inequities that manifest through the built environment. I'm a Mexican immigrant. ~Um, ~my brother and I were the first DACA recipients. And so I, we worked a lot in immigration advocacy.

Rafael: And so we wanted to ~sort of. ~practice with more,~ um,~ with a more ethical lens, not just more equity, not just more equality. It's like really bringing ethics into the conversation. Because again, we feel like design is a series of [00:14:00] choices just along the way. And ~so, um, ~so we, ~you know, ~we, we both were at Deloitte Consulting at one point.

Rafael: We left Deloitte Consulting and started Duo to work in the built environment. ~Um, ~But really thinking about things from an ethical perspective. ~Um, ~but part of our work at Duo is interesting because innovation firms don't traditionally work in the built environment. They don't design buildings. So you have this interesting gap of ~like, ~you have business strategy and it ends at like a building, call it, and then you have architects and they start at like the building, but they just say ~like.~

Rafael: We talk a lot in architecture about programming, and so you might say, oh, you have a cafe adjacent to a gallery, but how the cafe actually works, and how the gallery actually works, and what the experiences of being in there,~ like,~ mechanically, like, how many people do they have a ticket? Do they pay to get in?

Rafael: Like those things, architects don't design. And so there's this awkward gap between ~like,~ that we think is like a good opportunity is, that [00:15:00] transitioned for business strategy, but like in built environment, ~like ~what should a building be is something that, that we're super interested in.

Critique of Traditional Architectural Practice

Silvia: Yeah, I totally can see that because architects treat so much of it as design and they will put out things.

Silvia: I don't even know exactly where they get their ideas from, but then ~like, ~then it's occupied and it doesn't even operate the way they thought it would operate,~ like,~ unless maybe you have a consultant that's a specialist in that. And then they tell you what, but then it's always fighting with the architects and then it's ~like, ~no, it doesn't look good or it ruins the design or it's too late.

Silvia: The design is done. So it makes sense to combine. Everything under the same like mindset and then just have someone who can see through it. ~So, I mean, ~tell me more about this. I have some questions, but I'll let you start.

Rafael: Yeah

Creating New Realities through Multi Contextual Design

Rafael: . Yeah. ~So, ~so yeah, that that's exactly what you're describing is what we are really interested in.

Rafael: It's really combining like the physical design of the space with the experience of it and the business model. So that's what we do and like how we do [00:16:00] it is ~sort of ~learning from this like innovation process. Right? So like,~ Right? like, ~starting with social science is really like understanding context.

Rafael: So the reason why we call it multi contextual design is because if you think about the context of something, it's not just like aesthetics as a topic, it's just one thing. And usually in architecture, that's what we talk about. It's like,~ like, ~Does, is the building contextual to the neighborhood? Does it look similar to the neighborhood?

Rafael: Does it look like an alien landed? Whatever. ~Um, ~but also context, I think, includes the environment. It includes people that are in that environment. It includes the objects and the things that people use. And that includes influencing factors like history, policy. So are there policies that are oppressing people in a particular place?

Rafael: Is there a history of oppression in a particular place? Because when you design a building, All of those things matter. But today, most, most architects don't really consider that. And, or they might consider ~like,~ this isn't my role in society, right? It's ~like, ~my role is to get a request from a client. And if the client didn't consider those things, then.

Rafael: That's on them, [00:17:00] but as an architect, I'm just going to design this building and so that's why we think that the form follows function thing is really problematic is because this function that that is followed, ~you know, ~by form by a building can be bad. It can be inequitable, it can be, ~you know, ~not diverse, it can be racist.

Rafael: but if you don't actually actively say hey you know what this thing that you want me to build a prison. Is not good for society because XYZ, clearly we have prisons because there are architects that design them and everything that we have is a series of choices, right? From different groups.

Rafael: And so that's a problem. ~Um,~ partly because, well, we think like the way that I, to be honest, like, When we talk about our work, we don't even talk about problem solving in general. We think about like our work is creating new realities in the context that we're working in. Why? Because when you're problem [00:18:00] solving, usually you have to ~sort of ~choose.

Rafael: There's a million problems, ~you know, ~and ~so, um,~ Usually,~ like,~ if you want a self sustainability, you can tackle that, but then it's at the expense of something else, right? Aesthetics, or so,~ right,~ so it's like, today, when you think about something good, perceivingly good,~ like,~ affordable housing, when you build affordable housing, then,~ like,~ aesthetics are left out, which is, like, why?

Rafael: ~You know, like, ~people also want to live in nice places. They want to look at nice places. developers prioritize economics. So if a place makes you a ton of money, then it's at the expense of something else. And so part of the reason why we say it's like creating new realities is because as a designer, if you are in ~sort of ~like on the driver's seat and you're able to own this project, then you can decide sort of like, and imagine like, how should people live?

Rafael: And so like in this imagining we don't just prescribe it so a lot of our work starts with like people that are in the context that we're working in, and then co designing with them. But we see ourselves as providing a service to those [00:19:00] people so I know there's a big line of thinking, like architectural thinking about designing with not designing for.

Rafael: That's fine like we prefer that but then in our practice we really think of our work as designing in service of. the people that are around the, the projects that we're working in. Because sometimes again,~ like,~ our work is in the built environment, but it's not architecture. ~So, um, ~sometimes it could be a new policy that we're helping to create.

Rafael: It could be a new ownership structure. And ~so,~ these are things that manifest in the built environment, like, why are there landlords and why are there tenants? Why is the rent so high? Why is gentrification happening? And oftentimes what I think is. Problematic is that architecture wants to say,~ like,~ I've been to a lot of architectural talks and ~like~ heard professors say ~like, ~yeah, architects have power to solve these things.

Rafael: And it's ~like, ~they really don't because they don't have ~like ~the expertise. And so it's not until you, for example, my brother has a background in public policy. So it's not until you work with people from truly different backgrounds and not just like my critique of a lot of [00:20:00] architecture firms, especially like ~You know, kind of ~world renowned architecture firms is that they want to say that their teams are multidisciplinary.

Rafael: But in reality, in the office, you have architects with secondary backgrounds, and that's ~kind of ~like multidisciplinary or somebody who might have worked in a different field who got a master's in architecture and now they're like an architect plus a biologist or whatever. The beauty about a place like Dublin is that you had these researchers that had No idea what design was.

Rafael: You had these business people that like didn't see the value of design and then you had designers and so you were constantly in conversation and that there was this tension that I thought was healthy and at times annoying about explaining to somebody with an MBA that design isn't just making a pretty presentation, ~you know, ~it's like considering all these other things.

Rafael: ~Um, ~and similarly, they would validate their craft and like researchers would say like none of it matters if you don't actually understand the problem or you're asking the wrong questions. And so I think. All of that is what drove us outside, to be outside of like traditional [00:21:00] architectural practice, like to be honest, I'm not even interested in practicing architecture traditionally at all anymore.

Rafael: ~I mean, ~built environment, super interesting. Architecture as it manifests today, not at all helpful

Silvia: I think that's such a strong,~ um,~ like idea or that is coming through, people that are trained in architects, ~you know, ~they, they gotten some experience and, and they thought it would be different, but it's ~like,~ yeah, like what I, I, there have so many thoughts in my head, but,~ um, ~what I hear is ~like.~

Silvia: Our architectural training pushes us to be so diverse and,~ like,~ take into consideration everything and then develop a really strong concept, but then the end result of that is so static and it doesn't even,~ like,~ live up to the promise of what we originally invested into it,~ so,~ ~like, ~I totally agree with you and actually,~ like,~ I care more about how people interact with it more than, ~I mean, ~who doesn't love a great grand beautiful space, but, The impact is more so on people than something that [00:22:00] only architecture enthusiasts can really appreciate to some extent.

Silvia: ~Like, ~I think the impact is there on people in general, but it's so much more than just ~like, ~like you said, like the building itself is not where

Rafael: it's all at. Yeah. And it's like part of it, ~you know, ~like I would say, yes, ~I mean, ~we shoot for making beautiful spaces. And also beautiful experiences and also business models that work that are more equitable that aren't just like extractive, ~you know, so, ~but again, ~like ~if somebody, if I were a traditional architect, and I had somebody come and ask me for a skyscraper.

Rafael: I'd probably just be like, yeah, that sounds great. It sounds really cool. But you wouldn't really question like why this skyscraper is being built, where the money's coming from, or the labor practices. Because ~I mean, ~to be fair to architects, that is really not their field of expertise. It's not their job.

Rafael: It's not their scope, like the service that they're providing is like the design and building of this building. And so that is really more what drove me away from architectural practices that I [00:23:00] felt. Limited in actually having an impact on the things that I wanted to affect. ~So, you know, ~like we often use a cafe, like the design of a cafe.

Rafael: I, I use OMA. I never worked for OMA, but they have a project that I learned about an architecture school that is famous. Like they put a basketball court on top of a coffee shop. And I remember learning about it as an example of ~sort of ~like mixing the way that buildings. do programming and like super interesting, but I'd always say ~like ~what would have been really interesting is that if you shoot a three, you get a free coffee and then you're starting to ~like ~change people's behavior and change the way a cafe works, change the way a basketball court or like a sport is used.

Rafael: In conjunction with some other local amenity, like,~ like,~ so there are those interesting thing that things that I think with architecture is usually ~like, ~okay, build me a building and an architect's might say, okay, what's the program, ~you know, ~you know, it's like, they want to know what the building is and say, okay, I [00:24:00] want a gallery.

Rafael: I want a museum. And then it's ~like, ~okay, how many rooms, how big do you want the museum and all those questions are sort of like left to the client. And the client may or may not be good at answering them. ~Uh, ~and then, ~you know, ~some architecture firms too, to be fair, like They ~kind of ~helped to address that question.

Rafael: Chances are they don't know how to do a business model. So some of it is just ~kind of ~ideas. Chances are they don't do how to do proper, like, ethnographic style research, which in architecture, they just talk about community engagement, which is fine, but there's just like, All these professions that have been doing research in helpful ways and problematic ways in their own way.

Rafael: But I feel like the bubble of architectural thinking can deceive and does deceive practitioners into thinking that answers are not already out there. And so I think that's, again, just kind of like what drives me away from the practice and then you get into really practical things for like, when I started working at Doblin, I [00:25:00] was.

Rafael: My salary was significantly higher than at architecture firms or like any of my friends who were working at really fancy architecture firms. ~Um, ~my quality of life was better. I worked, I didn't pull any all nighters, like ~So, you know, ~there's a lot of things that can improve in the, in the architecture field, in my opinion.

Rafael: And, ~you know, ~that's why I'm not there anymore.

Silvia: makes sense to me. And so throughout your whole path of trying to find, answer this question, like who gets to make the decisions. So now you've created,~ um,~ a model where you get to make the decisions, right? And then synthesize everything that,~ um,~ that you feel that is important, but also with the skills and knowledge about how to implement them effectively, right?

Silvia: ~Um, ~do you want to share some interesting projects or ~like, ~maybe like interesting client dynamics, like who's you've worked with? And I do also just want to say this, that ~like, ~I love that,~ like,~ You're the one who's making these decisions because sharing a point of view that is not like common, ~you know, ~like being a minority is like people are never going [00:26:00] to design places for minorities if they are part of the majority because their mindset never has that like they do not.

Silvia: They can't even,~ like,~ understand what it's like, so how could they design for someone else? ~I mean, ~I say this because sometimes I'll talk to my husband and,~ like,~ being a woman, he can't understand what it's like, ~you know, ~just walking down the street as a woman. And I ~kind of ~have to,~ like,~ inform him of that.

Silvia: And,~ like,~ this comes up every so often. So I, it's ~like, ~I love the fact that,~ like,~ you, the person in control has the

Rafael: experience. Yeah, I have a really good example.

Working with Clients and Own Projects at Duo

Rafael: So Duo essentially operates in two ways. One is again, like we work with clients and then the other one is we do our own projects, with clients.

Rafael: So we work in Chicago. We're in Chicago. ~Um, ~there's an organization called Esperanza Health Centers that they had a building designed by,~ um,~ JGMA. It's a nice building. It's a health clinic. ~Uh, ~it's a non profit,~ uh,~ healthcare organization. And this clinic ~sort of ~sat ~you know, ~on a lot that had space for another building.

Rafael: And ~so, um, ~Esperanza had engaged an architect [00:27:00] to design the new building and the architect designed the new building,~ um,~ when the organization, so basically our first question to the organization was, send me the brief that you sent the architects. And the brief was, Not detailed at all. ~Right? ~So what's surprising is like an architect designed an entire building on this brief, right?

Rafael: Like based on this brief. And so the second question we asked the organization was, how do you know what the building should be? And they said,~ well,~ we're growing as an organization and we need 27 exam rooms. We think that,~ like,~ our financial modeling says, That will ~sort of ~work from a financial perspective for the company or for the organization.

Rafael: And we said that makes perfect sense. ~Um, ~but part of what they wanted was to be community oriented. And so we said, okay, what does that mean to you? And ~so, like, ~that's how we started the conversation, but it's really questioning ~sort of ~like. Where does these ideas come from, right? Like, how did you know, to be fair, Esperanza Health Care Centers is a health care organization.

Rafael: So their job is to, ~you know, ~sort of like think in [00:28:00] exam room numbers, how many people can they see per day, like all these things. And so we basically said, okay, we're going to do public outreach in this neighborhood. It was a neighborhood that's largely Hispanic. We're Mexican immigrants. So this is where your comment really resonates.

Rafael: Right. so we were able to do most of the engagement in Spanish. And that is not something that most. innovation firms ever have the capability to do. A lot of architecture firms just don't even do community engagement, which is a problem. ~Um, ~but a lot of the neighbors that we talked to, we went to churches, we went to stores, restaurants, ~you know, ~all these things.

Understanding the Community's Needs and Preferences

Rafael: And so we basically, we weren't asking people what they wanted necessarily, but we were trying to understand the context. What do they have access to? What do they not have access to? What kind of aesthetics do they prefer? Where do they take their kids? What are seniors doing? What are, where are parents working?

Rafael: Right?

The Concept of a Local Amenity

Rafael: And so all of it ~kind of ~informed this notion of ~like, ~long story short, it's like synthesizing into ~like, ~people really wanted a local amenity [00:29:00] that was a place. where they could go without necessarily having to consume something, without necessarily having to ~sort of ~see a doctor. so that's a lot of our work was that, is like really refining, like what should this building be?

The Artistic Approach to Building Design

Rafael: So artistically, that's why we're, we say like we're really interested in the notion of being, and it sounds very ~kind of ~like ethereal and artistic, but it's really like when you build a new building, everybody wants to know, right? It's ~like, ~what's the building going to be? You hear that all the time in passing.

Rafael: And it's not a loaded question, but it's a. But it's a hard question to answer if you are creating something new. And ~so, um, so, ~all in all, we,~ uh,~ ~you know, like, ~we were working with Esperanza, who's our client, and the, ~you know, ~the local residents of this neighborhood.

Activating Underutilized Spaces

Rafael: ~Um,~ and we designed... Actually, one of the Esperanza staff members,~ um,~ from the front desk was like in a meeting saying there's a lot of space that just is underutilized.

Rafael: It's like this hallway space and we just have chairs. What if we made some like super lobby, right? So we use that term. It's ~like, ~okay, super lobby. What would a super lobby have? And so we [00:30:00] basically activated a lot of the circulation spaces in the building, which were a lot as designed by this architect.

Rafael: It wasn't JGMA who designed the new building.

Incorporating a Local Restaurant into the Health Clinic

Rafael: ~Um,~ and there's going to be a restaurant component. So there's a local restaurant that is beloved in Chicago in Little Village,~ uh,~ called La Catedral. And they're going to now ~sort of ~operate out of,~ um,~ this health clinic. And people,~ like,~ love them. They have really good chilaquiles.

Rafael: ~Like, ~they're awesome. We're excited about that. They're going to do, ~you know, ~coffee. ~Uh, ~there's going to be programming for sort of arts. And so, like,~ so, like, ~in this process, The organization basically looked at it at the design that we were coming up with and it wasn't the physical design. We didn't do anything physically to the building.

Securing a Federal Grant for Senior Services

Rafael: And they were like,~ well,~ if we do all this, we might as well apply for this big grant to do senior services. And we said, exactly. This is where like the design with experience with, ~you know, ~business kind of comes in. So they applied for this. ~You know, ~for this big federal grant, they got the federal grant.

Rafael: So now they're going to operate senior services out of this building. There's going to be this restaurant component. There's going to be some arts programming, and there's going to be 27 exam rooms. [00:31:00] And so it's not like it's a, ~I mean, ~it's not like it's a win, win, win, win, win, right?

Rafael: It's ~like, ~it's just more It's a good example for us because it's a good example of how if you're more intentional and thoughtful from the beginning about all of these components, you get to better outcomes. And again, like the building that we were working with had already been designed. So it was a little bit of an exercise of ~like, ~what goes in the box that's already there.

Rafael: ~Um, ~and so knowing that a lot of our clients ~sort of ~struggle with They don't struggle, but like a lot of the kinds are, constrained by the realities of their field. And so ~like, ~in healthcare, you can do certain things, but you can't do certain things. There are nonprofit organizations, so they're allowed to do certain things and not certain things, right?

Rafael: There's all these norms. And ~so, ~We do our own projects so that we can have more flexibility and we can sort of like set a new precedent because a lot of times ~I mean, ~this is a little bit common sense but once you set a new precedent you show that something is possible it's way more likely that people will replicate it in a good way like, ~you know, ~they'll ~sort of ~be able to spread it ~so.~

Rafael: So that's why we say we [00:32:00] do norm and form making. It's ~like, ~again, we use to describe what we do, because it's really not just like form. Making, ~you know, ~like physical stuff. ~Like ~there's a lot of other things that go into it

The Concept of a Building that Shares Profits with Local Residents

Rafael: . ~Um,~ so that was an example of a client and the example of,~ um,~ something that we were really interested in was like sharing ownership or a building that shares part of the profit with local residents.

Rafael: So it's like, what if I went to a coffee shop? I go to a coffee shop all the time, right? Like~ Like~ a lot of people do. ~Um, ~but what if that coffee shop. ~Sort of ~paid you because you go there at the end of the year from part of their profits that you helped them get because you were buying their coffee. so we are developing now building in North Lawndale in Chicago.

Rafael: The project we call it Starling, like the birds, because starlings are birds that make this beautiful murmuration shapes and they don't have a leader. They follow their seven closest neighbors. So we were really inspired by that.

Designing Starling: A Space for Liberation

Rafael: But Starling is essentially The concept is a space for liberation. So again, when somebody says ~like, ~oh, it's going to be a cafe, we have a lot of mental [00:33:00] models around that.

Rafael: Mostly cafe, the mental model is Starbucks. Starbucks was invented by a business, right? Like that function was created by Starbucks, the company, and then given form by all kinds of designers, interior designers and architects, right? And so for us, we were like, okay, we don't want to just do sort of like, A program that is already there.

Rafael: And so North Lawndale is primarily a black neighborhood. There's a lot of history of disinvestment, a lot of history of racism, ~you know, ~intentional disinvestment by the state of Chicago, etc, etc. And so we were inspired by a lot of the conversations that we were having with residents, and we felt like a concept as a space for liberation would be interesting to explore as a project and so we ~sort of.~

Rafael: Then also looked at a lot of theory like Paulo Freire, Angela Davis, etc. And so we basically gathered to like these four activities that one can do to ~sort of~ reach liberation as [00:34:00] defined by you. There's no prescribed way to be liberated. So it's ~sort of ~gathering, you need to gather, you need to replenish, you need to learn, and then you need to create.

Rafael: And so those are ~sort of ~they can be verbs, but they can also be nouns. And so we were like, okay, how do you bring a space like that to life? And so we designed Starling. ~Um, ~for that one, we hired Canopy Architects. They were working on the form, ~kind of ~like giving part of it with us. ~Um, ~and the building is going to offer ~sort of, well, ~the building is a building, right?

Rafael: And so like,~ like,~ programmatically is a little hard to describe, but then we created sort of the experience of the building. So I'll describe it in the business aspect of the building, right? So it's ~like, ~you have a building, it's a physical form. In the building, there's going to be. a local coffee company who's going to run a cafe service, but the entire thing is not a coffee shop.

Rafael: So there's going to be a coffee component and they're going to roast there. There's going to be a small,~ uh,~ ~sort of ~sound studio podcast room,~ uh,~ because in North Lawndale, A lot of the history [00:35:00] that has happened has not been recorded. And so we are really interested in doing recorded history with a lot of especially like elders who live in North London.

Rafael: ~Um, ~there's going to be ~sort of ~a library outfitted with books on design, art, liberation. They're really expensive books on art and design as you probably know. ~Um.~ But we're working with a local organization who does that. And then there's ~sort of ~open space and there's a garden and there's a lot of big terraces outside, and it's a smaller building it's about ~like ~the interior space 2500 square feet small one story.

Rafael: The total square footage of the site is 6000 square feet, just for a lot of people might know generally how big that is. And ~so,~ part of what we really wanted is to be a neighborhood amenity so then we designed this new leasing model. So then we. Are leasing the space by the hour because a lot of neighbors were saying, ~you know, ~I don't have space to do a baby shower to throw my kid a party or, ~you know, ~to do repass and things like that.

Rafael: And ~so, um, ~we had to design a leasing model and along the way. It's interesting because there's all these structures, right? ~Like, ~work in the way that they always work. ~So, ~like, when you get a loan from a [00:36:00] bank, you have to produce a tenant and you have to show that the building is profitable and you have to.

Rafael: ~So, ~it's ~like,~ our work has been interesting because we have to sort of like, fit those requirements. Thank you. But we're doing it in a new way. And ~so, um, you know, ~it's been really challenging because especially like being a non traditional practice, some people say, Oh,~ well,~ so you're a developer. And the answer is yes.

Rafael: And then some people say,~ like,~ you're a designer. And it's ~like, ~the answer is yes. And you're an artist. And the answer is yes. And so it's ~like, ~it doesn't really matter what matters. It's ~sort of ~like the thing that we're creating. And ~so, um,~ so Starling is going to break ground. ~So, you know, ~we received grants from the city of Chicago to be able to do it.

Rafael: ~Um, ~we received a grants from Chicago Community Trust to be able to do it. And then 1 of the things that Starling will do is we're going to share the profit from the building with. with neighbors of the building. And so that's something that just to bring you to real time is we're defining exactly how that's going to happen.

Rafael: But we hope that it sets a precedent so that if you can imagine, if you, if the commercial spaces in the neighborhood that you live in, [00:37:00] give residents a little bit of their profit every year. That would be really cool. And then, ~you know, ~it's not gonna,~ um, ~I don't know,~ like,~ this is a little bit of a parenthesis and a tangent but like in architecture design, all design practices like we want to think about scale, and we want to think about ~like ~oh how does your affordable housing project solve affordable housing in the entire United States.

The Importance of Context and Flexibility in Design

Rafael: Part of the reason why we focus on context is because we don't think that one solution can work everywhere. ~So, um, ~we want to set this precedent, but then what we're excited by is,~ like,~ instead of thinking of a growth model, we think of a spread model. So it's like, how does the idea actually spread? How does other people, how do other people take it and then implement it in a way that fits their own context and...

Rafael: do it in a way that fits their own skills. And there might be somebody who builds on it, and maybe somebody who ~kind of ~changes it. ~Um, ~but we think that our contribution as designers is to also show some of these alternative realities, alternative paths, alternative models, so that then other people can start to [00:38:00] use them too.

Rafael: It's a very long winded answer.

Silvia: You know what? I love your long winded answers. ~Like, ~I could just sit here and keep listening, and I hope our listeners can take that away from it, too, because what I've heard is,~ like,~ one, you were ~kind of ~describing how,~ like,~ banks, ~you know, ~they want to see you in a certain way, but that's what architects do.

Silvia: We have building code, we have zoning, and then we have our designs that we have to fit into that to comply to that, but,~ like,~ we don't design to the letter of the code, because that's, boring, right? Like we don't just make boxes, we fit into those requirements. And ~like, ~that's the same thing you're doing, just a different medium.

Rafael: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I think I would say like one of the biggest learnings for me is I've, I was really lucky, like very lucky to end up ~I mean, ~what I always bet on is myself. And I think ~like, ~I say this often is that my education in architecture was extremely strong. Like I really did learn how to think.

Rafael: ~Um, ~and again, like the architecture school did a bad job at outlining the paths that you [00:39:00] can take. With those skills, I had to ~kind of ~stumble through, but in every step that I worked in, I was able to use those kind of call it architectural education skills to really think in a different way from people that were ~kind of ~already in that space and to really ~kind of ~stand out.

Rafael: And so some of the things that I brought to the table, even as silly as it sounds like knowing how to use Adobe. But then instead of doing renderings, you're using it to do different kind of like presentations or picking up. Like I know how to use Figma really well. And partly it's because I knew how to use Illustrator really well.

Rafael: And so it's just one of those things where ~like, ~again, the multi contextual thing, I won't beat the dead horse, but. You really can, we always promote people thinking of themselves as not like ~sort of ~one identity singularly, right? Like we are all composed of ~like ~so many different experiences and that's what makes design and art interesting is that each practitioner has their own experience and flavor of things.

Rafael: And so I think my [00:40:00] push for creative people is to like, be open to learning things that aren't perceivingly. in their field, like knowing how to use Excel to do a proforma, knowing what, when somebody says what's the business model, knowing actually like how to answer that or, ~you know,~ or how to participate in those conversations.

Rafael: Alejandra Lavena is someone that I think does it really well. ~You know, ~like he talks a lot about policy and architecture in terms of like his half houses. And that is a project that is a very good example of norm and form making. It's like setting a new norm and giving that form. And it's ~sort of ~like this, this new thing.

Rafael: ~Um, ~so I think, ~you know, ~It's, it's interesting because in other industries, there are a lot of things that you can teach yourself in a good way. So like Figma, I taught myself. I didn't go to school to ~like ~learn how to do UI UX design. ~Um, ~there are a lot of resources in that industry that are free or like quick boot camps and things [00:41:00] like that.

Rafael: That like part of the reason why I think architectural education is so strong is because it gives you a really good base and a really broad base to talk about, ~you know, ~UI UX design. It gave me a really broad base to talk to social scientists. about research because I understood ~sort of ~like I took art history classes and I took sociology classes.

The Value of Architectural Education

Rafael: And so it's almost like you have enough of a base to have a conversation, but if you're open enough to really learn how to interview somebody, or if you really learn how to carry out public engagement, or, ~you know, like, ~your skills can just ~sort of ~grow exponentially. And also, um, ~you know, ~for the younger audiences or people that might be thinking about their career path, I think it gives you so many opportunities to enter different fields.

Rafael: ~Um, ~and a lot of times I see people not applying to those jobs that they're interested in because they feel like their skills are so narrowly related to architecture. So some of it is like knowing how to talk about your skills more broadly. But,~ um,~ but yeah, I think architectural education is a design education [00:42:00] has been super valuable for me.

Rafael: And I know every program is different, but, ~um. ~but I really appreciated that.

Silvia: Yeah, for sure. And I think it goes both ways. Like the more you can do outside of architecture, ~like ~take other classes. And that's what I was told throughout my education is ~like, ~take figure drawing classes. Cause then you understand proportion through the human body.

Silvia: Like I learned how to use like Photoshop and Adobe,~ um,~ like a suite, even more from photography classes. And then it's ~like, ~and then ~like, ~then also take your program is. Programs as well. Like I also love Figma and I find that it's so helpful now that like I'm in this more tech space because I can take an idea and immediately mock up like something to show people to like, talk about my idea.

Silvia: And I actually find that that's a skill that not everyone has, but ~like ~as architects, that's all we do. ~Right. ~Is ~like, ~try to take an idea and communicate it to you.

Rafael: Exactly. Yeah. No, that's super important. And, and, and so it's really interesting for ~like. You know, ~because in architecture, so physical, a lot of it is like sketching and drawing [00:43:00] buildings.

Rafael: And so it's ~like, ~I found it really interesting to take, and it's ~kind of ~challenging, but like to take those things. And if you say, okay, represent a new experience for going to a cafe,~ like,~ if it didn't work, like it works today, where you approach a counter, it's like, what's the diagram that shows that?

Rafael: And ~like, ~really thinking about your representation skills in the context of ~like, ~visualizing other things like an app or a business model or, ~you know, um, you know, ~in the world of like design thinking and human centered design, they have specific tools like journey maps and personas and, ~you know, like, uh, ~business model canvas and experience blueprints, like all these things like are visual.

Rafael: Like I was super humbled when I started working at Doblin by graphic designers, cause they hired designers from all practices, not a lot of architects. ~Um, ~But in architecture, I'm like, yeah, I do graphic design, ~you know, ~because I know how to draw and stuff like that. And then I was working with graphic designers that were like, way good, ~you know, ~and so that was something that was even within the design practices,~ like,~ very humbling where I was like, okay, can you teach me how you do [00:44:00] that so fast?

Rafael: Or ~like, ~what are your considerations? Because. Maybe I'm thinking like too practically, pragmatically, or, ~you know, ~you really have to kind of like get over the fact that architecture is like one set of skills that is very helpful, but also, ~you know, ~coupling it with other practices. It's, is what makes it really interesting.

The Challenges and Rewards of Starting a Company

Rafael: ~Um, ~so I, I just don't subscribe to this notion of ~like,~ There's going to be the great client that lets me do whatever I want. And then I'm going to design the next sort of like aesthetic style for a building. There might be that person and you might do that, but then I think,~ um,~ ~you know, ~in terms of ~like ~a creative practice, it's been more interesting for me to see how my skills combine with other people's skills to make something really.

Rafael: Really meaningful. And

Advice for Taking Control of Your Career Path

Silvia: do you have any advice for someone, and ~like, ~this is ~kind of ~the question that I really want to ask is like, how do you take, how, what is your advice for someone to take more control of ~like, ~their life, what they want to do, [00:45:00] because, ~you know, ~at times your career can be like really stifling.

Silvia: It can make you feel like you are not in control of things because on a project, a lot of times you're not. But what, what are those steps to start like regaining back some like command of what you can do?

Rafael: one of it, not to just ~like ~use my own term, but I think like really looking at your context is really important.

Rafael: And I think that sometimes can be really challenging. So like, Where are you? ~You know, like, ~not just like the room, but ~like, ~what is your field? ~Like, ~are you in a, in an architecture firm that does LA Fitnesses? Or are you at ~like ~a architecture firm that does skyscrapers or more of conceptual place? Or you're working for a professor?

Rafael: Like, all of them are very different. And then also ~like, ~what skills do you have? ~Like, ~what is your background and your experience? So for example, for me, I had a lot of the immigration advocacy work that I had done. ~So, ~public engagement wasn't foreign, like I had already done that in, in ways, but I think it's not as accessible.

Rafael: It's like sometimes we see terms that are, [00:46:00] that are not like within our field, and then we're like, oh, that's not for me, ~you know? ~So I think part of, to answer your question, like part of the way that I think I found part of what I find useful, ~I guess, ~is really trying to contextualize the thing that I think I'm interested in to my skills.

Rafael: It's like, how could I participate in this?

The Importance of Asking for Advice

Rafael: And answering that question is really helpful because if you are interested in something, but you feel like you couldn't participate in it because you don't know enough,~ well,~ then you can maybe learn what you don't think, ~you know, uh, ~also, I think talking to people in that space, And not just ex architects, but just, ~you know, ~people that work in the particular field or company or industry that you're interested in,~ um,~ definitely talking to them is helpful because you can see ~sort of ~what they do every day and to answer this question of how can I participate in that, you can very immediately see, like, how, from, you can ask that question to another person,~ um, ~and I think that that asking is not something that[00:47:00] a lot of people do, like sometimes you really, ~you know, um, ~I in earnest can say that I've never turned anyone down that asked me for advice and I've never had anybody turn me down when I asked them for advice.

Rafael: ~Um, ~I think people want to, want to help if they can. And so even ~like~ reaching out to people on LinkedIn that you don't know and saying ~like, ~Hey, I noticed that you work for Nike and I, ~you know, ~I would be really interested to know about your experience. Sure. Not everybody's going to respond, but I think Most people don't ask that question and you'd be surprised by how many positive responses and how much people want to or are willing to share their time and share their experience.

Rafael: So from my windy path, I think like when I started working in real estate, I just ~like, ~went for it and I didn't talk to anyone. But then when I wanted to get into development, I talked to a developer. When I wanted to get into business strategy, I talked to business strategists and I talked to those designers about what they did.

Rafael: And, ~you know, um, ~when I wanted to start my own company, it's ~like, ~[00:48:00] you talk to people that have done it before. And so I think A lot of it is thinking of yourself less as a, like in a bubble and isolated and just try to be more relational without being afraid or really shy about asking. I think it sounds dumb, but asking is like a huge step in, in really like just broadening your perspective from people that are already there.

Silvia: Yeah, that's a great answer. And I can totally kind of like, ~uh, ~add to that idea because I think this podcast, I really love sharing people's journeys because I think it was so hard individually for each of us. ~Right. ~And because you don't know how to share this,~ like,~ hard feeling when you're in the middle of it.

Silvia: That's why,~ like,~ we want to share people's stories about they're doing really cool things, but there was like a really hard spot in the middle. And if we tell you What our journey was like, maybe you'll feel better about where you are currently. And then also share your story with someone else. It's ~like, ~this is the feeling that we want to put out there even more.[00:49:00] ~ ~

Rafael: ~Um, I mean, ~yeah, I mean, from a very practical sense, like if you're an architect in school or working at an architecture firm, your skills. Can land you many other jobs, like for those people that are kind of like, could I do it? Yes. It's a very easy answer. You definitely can. There's a lot of people that have this podcast obviously talks to a lot of those people.

Rafael: ~Um, ~but it was a big process and I think some of it was like, I don't know at what point they get this bug in you in architecture school and architecture practice, but it's like this notion of ~like.~ If I don't call myself an architect, then ~like, ~what is my identity, ~you know, um, ~and so I think getting over that was a thing, but once you are able to, then it's kind of like, yeah, it's exciting to think about how many things you can contribute to, how many things you can do,~ um,~ and, ~you know.~

Rafael: Starting a company is hard for anybody, but it's also not that hard. ~Like, um, you know, ~a lot of people start, like we started Duo when we were working at Deloitte. It was a part time thing, right? It's like a lot of the process was thinking about how could it work? What would we do? How would we want to work?

Rafael: ~Um, ~and really [00:50:00] combining all of our experiences into the company. So everything is, everything is possible. You can do it. ~You know, ~You know, it's like what I mentioned about,~ like,~ this. notion of liberation. Like we talk, we actually talk about that a lot in our practice because it's talking about what we want to do as individuals, what would fulfill us, and then how can we find that path.

Rafael: ~Um, ~we couldn't find that path in traditional companies, not, not in innovation firms, not in architecture firms. ~You know, ~my brother was a teacher, not in, ~you know, ~not teaching. And so ~like, ~but we really, We're passionate about the things that we were seeing. And so we, that's why we decided to make a company, but you don't have to make a company to do what you like.

Rafael: ~You know, ~there are plenty of places and plenty of things. ~Um, ~and what I've actually, what I love about this podcast is that as I was winding through my career path, I met so many designers that were like non, from nontraditional backgrounds, not necessarily just architects. There were some architects and the architects that I met in those spaces.

Rafael: had very similar [00:51:00] stories to mine in terms of like how they ended up in those places. But, ~you know, ~you know, if you talk to,~ um, ~people at big companies that you like, fashion designers, industrial designers, a lot of the times they, they have a windy path of their own. And it's kind of like, ~you know, ~this feeling of, ~I mean, ~in reality, like we don't have anyone to really talk to about it unless people ask, ~right.~

Rafael: But I find a lot of. lot of joy talking to designers that are wondering ~sort of ~like, where can I fit in and how can I switch my career path? ~Um, ~so I think this podcast is really cool for that reason. You can, you get to hear the stories. Thank

Silvia: you for that. And I also loved hearing about everything that you're up to.

Silvia: ~Like, ~imagine you didn't take one of these like paths or like any part of it and you like all of that just enriches where you are today and ~like ~was ~kind of ~necessary to grow. So yeah, it's great to hear all of that. Thank you for sharing.

Rafael: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And,

Silvia: ~uh, ~how can we keep,~ like,~ up to date on what, what you're up to?

Silvia: ~Like, ~I want to, I want to find more about your projects.

Rafael: with Duo, it's like anything, right? Like,~ Like, ~I think what's important [00:52:00] is like learning to see and like ~kind of ~understanding ~kind of ~like where you are.

The Future of Duo Development

Rafael: So we do a 1 of the challenge that we've been seeing is this financing piece,~ like,~ who gets loans to do buildings and why the bank deems them worthy and et cetera, et cetera.

Rafael: ~Um, ~and so what we're working towards doing in Chicago is becoming sort of like, disintegrated design, develop and finance. So that instead of starting with land as like this commodity is like, Oh, we're going to find some land and we're going to find the best thing to build for it. We're starting with people.

Rafael: So in a neighborhood, we want to start with that person that wants to open a restaurant, but maybe they don't know where to start or they can't get a loan. And so we want to help them to design, develop and finance their, their product. Like from start to finish, we feel like that would be a really interesting thing to collaborate with people in that way.

Rafael: we've already, Started to talk to some people about that, but in terms of how you might be able to keep in touch is our website is the best,~ uh,~ the best [00:53:00] source duo development that RG. ~Um, ~and I think we're going to start doing some social media work, but currently we don't because,~ um,~ we're relatively new and we feel like social media is not as helpful for the things that we do so far.

Rafael: But, ~you know, ~in the future, I think it might be.

Silvia: Yeah, or you'll find a new way to go about it. Yeah, I guess so. Okay. Thank you so much for your time. I had a lovely conversation

Rafael: here. Likewise. Thank you for, for the invitation.

Silvia: ~uh, ~

Erin: Hey everyone. It's Erin from out of Architecture. If you find these stories inspiring and are looking for guidance, clarity, or just need someone to talk to about where you are in your career, please know that we offer 30 minute consultations to talk about what may be next for you. If you're interested, head to out of architecture.com/scheduling to book some time with us.

Jake: Hey everyone. It's Jake from Out of Architecture. We love hearing your stories, but we know there's more out there that we've still yet to experience. If you or someone you know would be a good fit for the podcast and [00:54:00] has a story about taking their architecture skills beyond the bounds of traditional practice, we'd love to hear it.

Jake: Send us an email at tangents@outofarchitecture.com.

Silvia: Thanks for listening to our podcast, new episodes every two weeks. See you then