28 November 2014

The Houses of Portland (Street, Phoenix, AZ)


Phoenix 058

The journey continues for Nate as he explores the neighborhood he now calls home. Multiple seven mile journeys of city driving through unnecessary traffic to anti-climatic big box stores leads him to question why he makes such trips. The gasoline challenge suffers as a result of these zero-value added expeditions.

As the world bustles about this Black Friday for half priced toasters and TVs that were not nearly as good of deal as the TVs on sale last Tuesday, unbeknownst the masses, Nate begins his photographic essay of his neighborhood to more intimately discover what lies within in an effort to mitigate the aforementioned problem.

Nate hasn’t yet located an outlet for space heaters and a bottle of wine within walking distance for good reason. He only made it to the block behind his house, one of the most beautiful streets in Phoenix. Captivated by the seamless blend of modern and 1920s craftsman architecture, he invites all who are able to enjoy respite from the chaos of the city on the urban oasis that is Portland Street.




Phoenix 035   Phoenix 009   Phoenix 002

Phoenix 057   Phoenix 029   Phoenix 014

Phoenix 052   Phoenix 055   Phoenix 065

Phoenix 069   Phoenix 049   Phoenix 041

Phoenix 039   Phoenix 042   Phoenix 072

Phoenix 040   Phoenix 062   Phoenix 036

Phoenix 053   Phoenix 004   Phoenix 022

22 November 2014


As Nate continues to grow from a young bud in the architecture profession, it is a constant struggle to decide what is “good design”. This detail is the essence of his livelihood in this profession. Bad design has the inherent problem of low client yield. Low client yield creates hunger pains.

At a recent presentation by the grandson of Charles and Ray Eames, an idea was put forth that is so simple, yet so beautiful. Good design keeps the guest-host relationship at its core. Indirectly, this principle is extremely biblical. Love God, and love others. Hosting is an act of service that communicates and gifts love. Creating space, architectures, and products with inviting interface is the measure of success.

IMG_20141121_210328_216On a very elementary level would someone want to be in the space? Would they feel comfortable? Would they be engaged on a multi-sensory level? The founder of Local First AZ said that the greatest measure of satisfaction of a city is not the great weather or the convenience of big box stores. It is, in fact, the feeling of connection to the place on a personal level. Are the qualities of a place unique, inviting, and interesting? Does one have a sense of purpose and belonging while they are there?


The homes, businesses, and infrastructure of successful cities, whether they know it or not, have nailed the guest-host relationship. The guest-host relationship is a very selfless, human centered approach. Space that nails the guest-host relationship is the backyard at the OHSO brewery in Arcadia. With places for bikes and treats for man’s best friend, a night is well spent in this fun, inviting, energetic, and personal space. The challenge for Nate will be to go beyond the pen and paper and engage in his own creations the same way he would engage in all the spaces he so thoroughly enjoys.

17 November 2014

Space in Time

It is the first real week in Phoenix for Nate since he has landed. Monday rolls around, and the calendar is blank. Knowing nobody and having no plans would typically be daunting or depressing for Nate. However, it is becoming clear that weekends with no plans typically turn out to be some of the best weekends. Nate is in an interesting season where he has more free time and fewer connections on his hands than usual. This is not his typical modus operandi. His Tucson calendar was fearfully packed back to back with social engagements and commitments. It sounds greatly fun and fulfilling, perhaps even productive. Saying “yes”, especially saying yes in the moment, just because there was space on the calendar somehow had become the default. Burnout quickly manifested, and emotions were splattered across the kitchen floor.

Phoenix is the opportunity for a cold-reboot.

Unbeknownst to the world, Nate is inherently clawing at the door and fighting thoughts of loneliness that are complete lies fueled by dangerous precedent.  Everything is more than fine.

Warren Buffet claims that “successful people say no to almost everything”. How could that be possible? The key would be disassociation with the lie that busyness is synonymous with success. What if a schedule free for spontaneity was the new benchmark for success?

This new season, however, is teaching him how imperative it is to leave space in time.These free times can be some of the richest and most fruitful. The conclusion – when one isn’t fueled by obligation – they are fueled by passion. They are doing what they do out of love. Love wins. Love wins the hearts of others and the heart of God.

The previously daunting vacant schedule turned out surpass most plans he would have contrived himself. Adequate rest was had. Quality time and service at the house was done joyfully and lovingly. Nate studied Fred Guirey architecture on the ASU campus and built a gingerbread replica with old friends. Guided by the wonderful Local First Arizona representative, he ate delicious celebrity chef pie at Pie Social. While walking off the pie coma, Nate happened upon the Fortouls Brothers art opening at the pop up 40OWLS gallery on North Central Avenue and McKinley. Nate has stories to tell about the weekend – stories he never would have had time to generate in the past. Stories he would have driven by wishing and wondering.

Not so ironically, Nate also learned the space in time concept beautifully complements the gasoline challenge. Biking takes time and requires alternative routes. This weekend took him down the enjoyable, quiet neighborhoods of Willo, Coronado, and Yaple Park. Neighborhoods that overflow with modest beauty unveiled by space in time. Slower paces allow for easier pauses. Pauses to think, process, and express gratitude.

As Nate becomes connected through work and church, will space remain? More importantly, what will happen to his heart if space disappears?

14 November 2014


Giant Coffee on 1st Street and East McDowell Road is a fabulous place to sit and watch the city go by at a slugs pace. Delicious coffee fragrances the air while hip baristas turn up the Passion Pit playlist. LED man on the side of the Phoenix art museum perpetually strolls faster than the dented Mitsubishi Lancer at rush hour.

Nate was raised on driving from A to B in Phoenix, even when you could see B from A. This precedent escalated , leading Nate to spend 25,000 miles and approximately $3500 on solo travel his last year in Tucson. At an estimated 35 miles per hour, this equals over 700 hours a year.  If one spends 16 hours awake per day, this equals over 40 days of continuous driving. 1/9 or 11% of Nate’s year was spent in the car, alone. Scary, isn’t it?

It is easy to write off a twenty minute drive here, a 40 minute drive there. Nate did. It added up.  This caused him to consider how valuable alone time was to his mission. Was it above spending time with God? Family? Friends? Having fun? Living out his purpose? How about overall health and well being? 30 pounds and countless sleep deprived, acid-reflux troubled nights later, the pile of Mountain Dew bottles overflowing from the backseat floor indicated there may be a bigger problem.

Watching life in Phoenix from Giant Coffee forewarns repeated history if intentional steps aren't taken. Therefore, the framework for Nate’s adventures in Phoenix is going to be very specific. Reconsidering what is an acceptable distances for recurring activities may cause him to say no to some “good” opportunities. What opportunities will emerge, however, if more time is spent connected with people, locally? Easily repeatable interactions are likely to grow deeper without the secret bitter resentment of exhaustive travel and effort.

How much healthier will Nate become if he can walk or bike to places in the neighborhood? What beauty will he observe at pedestrian pace? How much more generously will he be able to give with the money he isn’t spending on gas? How much more time will he have to write, engage, and rest? How much richer will his fellowship be when there is actual time to dedicate to it?  What spontaneous relationships will he build and what lives will he impact traveling with others on the light rail? Time is finite, and that is becoming more evident as years tick by.

It is going to be counter-cultural to live out this vision in conjunction with the existing infrastructure. Is it inconvenient? Likely. Is it more work? Yes. Will it pay off? Exponentially.

The challenge: use one tank of gasoline per month. Excessive travel to require an alternative solution,  polite declination, or global alteration.

12 November 2014

Welcome to Roosevelt

It’s time to tell a tale about how Nate landed in a very specific community within the megalopolis. In the weeks leading up to the move to Phoenix, Nate had traveled up north from Tucson several times to explore housing options.  He was melting away in the August summer sun as the move became more imminent each day. Walking around with little energy to spare, Nate was ready to give up. After several seeming promising options fell through and all the rest were uninspiring at best, Nate was ready to settle. However, he kept recalling the idea not to let good compete with great. If these kept falling through, God must have a reason.

It wasn't an easy concept to live by. Walking confidently into the unknown while trying to reconcile a basic need such as shelter does not yield peace by the world’s standards. Nate begrudgingly came to the conclusion one Monday night before community group that if he was going to make it through this situation ulcer-free, the answer was not going to come from where he was looking. In what should have been option one, but was now a last ditch effort, he gave it to God.

Not half an hour later, Nate found an ad on Craigslist that caught his attention. It had just enough information to not write it off as a total dive, and the potential to be amazing. Immediately he emailed, then called, not wanting the opportunity to pass by like so many others. On the drive to home group ten minutes later, a return call came in. A meeting was now arranged to meet the following Wednesday. Fortunately, God had already released me from work that day. He knew what was going on.

Wednesday was slated to be the biggest storm in Southern Arizona history. People were gathering sandbags. Schools closed. Reporters warned you to stay off the roads, especially the interstate to Phoenix. Would Nate make it, or would he miss the opportunity and have to start from square one?

Nate miraculously made it to Phoenix through the immeasurable amount of rain and enjoyed a delicious burrito bowl at Chipotle with his sister. Standing on the grand porch of his potential home with an optional umbrella watching the light drizzle, he surveyed the situation from a global perspective. This home met far more of the criteria than the fallout options, and he hadn't even been inside yet. God wanted “great” for Nate, but until now, Nate had gotten in the way trying to obtain something “good". This was great.

By leading Nate into this community, he also led Nate from a good church community to a great one. On his way back from the Phoenix Public Market Cafe his inaugural Sunday, he overheard worship coming from a church  that he had noticed a time or two. Unfortunately he had already committed to a newcomer class at different church. As he drove to the class, he recalled another concept God had put on his heart. His new church would be about having community within his community. Even though this church was a fine, Jesus loving establishment, he traversed what felt like 5 distinct communities to get there. If Nate was going to trust God, he had to say “no” to this church.

The following Sunday, he walked 4 blocks home to Roosevelt Community Church where he was seamlessly plugged into a community group instantaneously. This sealed the deal. Again, God knows great. Community exists within the megalopolis when you let Him lead you to it.
Clearly, Nate was placed in this home, in this church, by God, for a purpose.

The journey isn’t over. The biggest challenge is yet to come. Roosevelt Row is known for it’s connection to the arts community. The richest rich and poorest poor co-mingle in Roosevelt. These assets and deficits come in many fashions - financial, spiritual, emotional, and relational. Roosevelt is not just a neighborhood, not just a tourist destination, it is a clearly my mission field. It is real life, amplified. Looking around, there is impact to be had. It would have been easy to be anonymous and disconnected in the fallout locations. God knew this too. Challenge accepted. Welcome to Roosevelt.

10 November 2014


A once young, still inherently reserved aspiring architect, we will call him Nate, recently moved back to Phoenix on a leap of faith. Life was comfortable for Nate after nine years in Tucson. He had great friends, fantastic church, and an all around good network and support system.

Meanwhile, an increasingly large dark cloud loomed over Nate as it does Tucson in general. His job was causing a slow death and getting further from the end goal as each day passed. Purposelessness and insecurity abounded. Change was on the horizon. God kept prompting him to move forward and trust that in order to get something great, you have to give up something good.

This crossroads was exhilarating and terrifying simultaneously, often resulting in a wash of indecision and resistance. God opened the door for both work and housing effortlessly, affirming it was time to go. However, the biggest dilemma is yet to come. Nate battles with feelings of isolation quite easily. The aforementioned purposelessness and insecurity have a subtle way of becoming the modus operandi. Therefore, it is of great importance for Nate to engage immediately, build relationships, and change the course of history.

The cost of not engaging – depression, confusion, anger, regret, and an otherwise boring and miserable existence. The opportunity - a fun, fruitful, deeply connected life that demonstrates God's character and good will for our lives to others.

Where does Nate start in a city of millions that has completely transformed in his nine year Phoenician hiatus? Where does one meet people, maybe even a wife, in a city known for transience, anonymity, and freeways full of empty carpool lanes?

Guided by the locals and God alone, this blog will be a chronology of his adventures to uncover, edify, and inspire both himself and the foreign territory of Phoenix he calls home once again. Will Nate become a true localist and thrive in the heat stricken megalopolis, or get lost in the shuffle and look back wondering why he has no story to tell?