Before his time at SHYFT, Jeff frequently bumped into and collaborated with many members of the SHYFT team. Jeff worked with Zane Muntz in the 2000s at another firm. He worked as the architect on many West Des Moines Schools projects with Eric Simon as the CM. One summer day while biking, he ran into a SHYFT Employee and she said, “Hey we [Bluestone Project Solutions] changed our name to SHYFT Collective and we moved downtown. You should check us out.” He said, “cool” and was at SHYFT within one month.
Q: How is SHYFT different from other firms that you have seen or worked for?
A: Having been in traditional practice for most of my career, it’s great to have the opportunity to collaborate with team members outside the design profession. Although there can be a lot of collaboration in a traditional firm, the magic really happens when professionals from real estate, construction, project management, and design are working together on a project.
Q: What are some projects you are currently working on?
A: · South Main Phase I and II, Pella Market, EveryStep’s Kavanagh House Renovation, Char Residence, Central Iowa Shelter Services, Assisting DEV Partners on developments.
Q: What is the one thing you are most proud of since joining SHYFT?
A: · Seeing the design team grow and the project types grow. Working on the first Integrated Project Delivery projects at SHYFT.
Q: What are a few of your career highlights?
A: · I was always interested in Integrated Project Delivery and finding better ways to deliver a project. Being able to experience IPD has been a highlight.
Q: You designed your own home! Can you tell us a little about your process or your design style?
A: · The Zwart House as I like to call it is on Zwart Road in the Historic Owls Head District in Des Moines. I was taken by the wooded lot and surroundings and was intrigued by the 35ft – 40ft slope from the front of the site to the back. The site feels like you are up in the trees.
There were several challenges to face. The soil was bad, the sharp fall of the site, two points of access from Zwart Rd at the top and Terrace Rd at the bottom, and the many trees. My minimalist nature wanted nothing but a box sitting on the site. I created 9 parti diagrams studying site access and views. I researched houses that were narrow and 3 to 4 stories. The house needed to be designed in sections to accommodate the slope of the site.
The geotechnical engineer recommended the house sit closer down the site off Terrace Rd which led to the garage access off Terrace Rd. The front door is on Zwart and is three floors above the garage. The main floor was on the third floor, guest rooms and bonus room were on the second floor, and the garage was on the first floor.
I was obsessive with the idea of a minimal box carved into the site. I wanted the footprint to be as small as possible to maintain the trees. To keep the house narrow, the main house was one box, and the circulation was pulled out of the house into a secondary box that ran from the first floor to the fourth-floor roof deck.
The SHYFT design team was a great resource for quick reviews and critiques to keep the vision on track. I wanted to keep the idea of being in the trees like a treehouse. The windows are all sized the same and placed at the ends of paths of travel in the house. Every direction walked in the house terminates to the view of the trees. The interior of the house is painted the brightest white on the Sherwin Williams fan deck allowing the change of the seasons to color the rooms. The exterior is painted the darkest black on the Sherwin Williams fan deck. The black contrasts beautifully against the winter snow, the summer green, and fall leaves. The architecture interest is done through narrow portions, window placement, and monolithic black cement board siding.
A key point I learned from the process; it’s best to embrace the challenges and constraints a site may offer. The challenges can create unique architecture. Many times, sites are cleared and leveled to make a clean slate to create architecture that doesn’t respond to a site or any context.
Q: Any fun facts you'd like to share?
A: I’ve completed two Ironmans. I was once dropped off at an abandoned beach hotel in Cuba with no working phone. My daughter talked me into getting two kittens last fall. I wasn’t a cat person. Now I’m a proud cat dad!
Thanks, Jeff for your hard work and dedication to making the SHYFT team great!