Once Upon a Time: Vignettes from Dreyfuss + Blackford

January 6, 2015

As we embark on this new year, employees share memorable moments from their design careers:

SI_DB_Brian_Lefholz_02“Not so long ago (2004), I ran blueprints at a firm located in an old, converted house. Yes, actual ammonia blueprints, all run in a tiny closet with poor ventilation. The jury is still out if it caused any permanent brain damage.” -Brian Lefholz

“When I was still in high school, I got my first job in an architectural firm. The main “drafting room” was a windowless space where my Project Manager smoked at least two packs of cigarettes and hummed TV commercial tunes all day (his favorite was McDonald’s “It’s Mac Tonight”). Needless to say, I quickly invested in a Sony Walkman.” -Courtney McLeod Golden

“In 2004 our country was still terribly on edge as a result of the World Trade Center attacks and I learned first-hand that architects conducting site evaluations can be easily mistaken for scheming terrorists. I was on a site visit with my design studio in downtown New Orleans. The site was surrounded by tall office buildings and large parking structures. As part of the studio assignment, we each went to different parts of the surrounding area to photograph and document the existing context. As I began taking photographs of the office tower that bordered the site, two armed police officers approached me and I was arrested, unbeknownst to the rest of my group. They took me to an interrogation room and I sat there for two hours as the officers asked me questions and made phone calls to the FBI. They photographed and fingerprinted me, and then finally led me back to my studio group which had reconvened and was waiting for me. They were all shocked to see me being escorted by police!” -Jeff Walker

“One of the most precious moments of my “design” life to date was when my 3-year-old son pointed at a building and said, “My mom built this!” -Jenny Li

“Way back when I was a kid, I used to visit my dad at the office here and hang out with Lori and Carol at their desks and draw. Back then my focus was bridal gowns (I had previous aspirations of being a fashion designer!) Fast forward to when I started working here for the first time at the ripe old age of 20. On my first day, I was settling into my desk and found one of my childhood fashion design sketches lovingly placed at my workstation that had been filed away from earlier days. It was a great reminder that we are like an extended family here and it helped ease some first-day nerves.” -Jennifer Carlson

“There was a time when layers in an architectural drawing were physical layers of Mylar. We had to segregate line work on different sheets of Mylar so they could be used in various combinations to compose the finished drawings. The Mylar sheets were then temporarily merged in a vacuum frame, which produced an original for the drawing. The whole vacuum frame ‘technology’ went away when computers with CAD arrived on our desks. What a happy day that was for many reasons, not the least of which was we could finally retire (or more likely trash) our cranky, never-quite-working-right rapidograph pens we were so dependent on. Gosh, those pens drove us crazy. On a related ‘before’ note, when I started in this profession we mostly drew using lead holders. No matter how careful I was, graphite ended up on my clothes and/or me by the end of the workday. Because of this, it seemed better not to wear anything lighter in color than battleship gray!  It was yet another happy day when the architectural profession transitioned to computers…I could finally wear the full spectrum of colors to work – even white!” -Kris Warmdahl

Dreyfuss & Blackford Office

“I used to take shoe boxes and stack them up, in modernistic forms, and turn them into homes for my dolls. I didn’t care about the outside but the inside had to flow and have views. My destiny (as an Interior Designer) was set.” -Sherry Mack

“I came to Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects in 1993. As is often the case when new people are hired, they get the newest computer hardware so I got one of the very first color monitors in the office! Other monitors were still the black screen with either orange or green writing…lucky me!” -Lori Hall


“One of the best experiences to date was when I had the opportunity to work with Peter (Saucerman), Jason (Silva) and Courtney (McLeod Golden) on the Madera Master Plan. It was a great project for personal growth and accomplishment. Combined with the upcoming work on the Placer County Animal Services Center, I couldn’t be more excited about my architectural journey!  Animals + Architecture = 1 Happy Courtney!” -Courtney Johnson


My introduction to Dreyfuss & Blackford was earlier than most. I used to skateboard through and on our early buildings as a kid in the 80s. Together with my junior-high friends, I’ve been chased off the premises of many D&B projects.” -Jason A. Silva

“One of my first jobs was working for an office located in the airplane hangar where Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose” was constructed. At the time, it was the largest spanning wood truss building in the world. There were only four of us working in this spectacular space that was both inspiring and captivating!” -John Zorich


“My grandfather owned a construction company and my grandmother was an interior designer. My grandfather always told me, “Don’t work in construction, you will break your knees and your back by the time you’re 30! Be an architect instead and you can draw up my plans.” So, that’s what I have been focusing on for the last eight years; being licensed by the age of 30.” -Chad Garcia


“From my old office on Lakeshore Drive, I watched the sunrise over Lake Michigan after working all night long on a landmark Chicago hospital with senior master drafters. It’s a moment I will never forget.” -Scott Shannon


“In the year 2000, I got my first gig as an Intern Architect. I was so excited to finally be working in my chosen profession while still going to Architecture School. I was amazed at the depth of knowledge and wisdom the senior partner in the firm had in the twilight of his career as he approached his 72nd birthday. The first gem of wisdom I learned from observation. Always take a nap in your office during lunch. The second was to give the unpleasant tasks to the new interns, which in this case, was me. I had the duty of running blueprints in the back of office closet on Saturday mornings so the ammonia didn’t poison the rest of the staff. It would be easier to dispose of my body if I passed out from the fumes with no witness around to testify. Third was, if you let the computer do it for you, it only made you dumber. My boss had the ability to spout off an entire dimension string for the length of a building from memory for any project he was working on in the office at any given time. I am sure that came from the hand drafting days when he laid out the building with good clean dimensions.” -Brent Davies

“I got my first job in architecture while I was in undergraduate school before I had had an architectural studio. I really didn’t know how to do anything but got the job based on a personal reference and good grades. It was so embarrassing to admit that I didn’t even know how to read an architectural scale! I’m sure they were thinking, “Why did we hire this intern again?” Things got better but when I finally did have my first studio, my nickname was ‘bloody digits’. No matter how hard I tried, I would always seem to cut myself making models!” – Allison Fritz Salzman

“My first job out of college was for a small firm in western Massachusetts. Everyone worked at a drafting table but they were just beginning to venture into CAD drafting. They had one computer set up for AutoCAD in its own dedicated room. This was AutoCAD R 11… and it had the Tablet. In this same office, I learned to use Leroy Lettering tool. A lot has changed in the industry in 20 years. I would hazard to say that if you were to look at any 20-year time block in the industry, none has changed as much as the last two decades.” -Jennifer Costa


“When I was eight, something clicked. I realized I loved art. I would draw for hours. My eight-year-old eye would inspect other artist’s work trying to identify how artists like Gustov Klimt made skin glow. For the next five summers I basically split my time between reading, swimming, playing tag and drawing. That laid the foundation for an artistic interest that has never left. I find that I have a deep appreciation for all types of art. I’m not a designer myself, however to this day I spend time being creative and have an enduring affinity for creative contributions to the world that inspire through innovation and beauty. I’m sure that’s my attraction to the A&E industry.” -Aleta Sage

“There was always something really satisfying about hand drafting. It is a very direct process and the results are immediate. You know right away if it is correct, and if it isn’t, it can be pretty painful to start over…but at least you know where you stand. Not always the case with computers. I graduated from college back when CAD programs were in their infancy and one of my earliest exposures to the digital world was using punch cards to define mapping for a plotter. We had to design a simple structure then define all of the lines for the plot by punching the x, y and z coordinates for the ends of each line. Very tedious. The cards needed to be submitted to the computer lab so you didn’t find out if you made a mistake until the next day. If you did, or worse yet, dropped your cards so that they were out of order, you pretty much needed to start from scratch.” -Kris Barkley

“Creativity is my middle name. Well, in truth it isn’t, but it could be. I love, love, love to generate ideas and stories that are compelling, make people smile or make them think. When I first started in the A/E industry, I quickly realized that my style of creativity might be a tough sell. You want to do what on the cover of the proposal? Put a picture of an orange? You want to make it like a magazine and package it in a fruit crate? What the %$#! Enter Ron…my mentor, friend, now Godparent to my daughter and fantastic architect. He recognized my creative tendencies and more importantly, trusted me to do what I do best in tandem with what he does best: architecture. We got to the “show” with that first magazine-style proposal with the orange on the cover and eventually, others in the office gave me similar opportunities – even some engineers! Twelve years later, I am still in the industry and still willing to push the creative envelope. Thank you, Ron.”  -Erin Baily

“My first job as draftsman was in an engineering office in the Caribbean that was only air conditioned in the afternoons. Large format vellum drawings would be stretched tight and taped to drafting boards in the air conditioned offices at the end of the day, but by morning the humid tropical air would have caused the vellum to expand and curl so that they needed to be re-stretched before drafting could resume.” -Gus Fischer