Memphis in Meantime

Recently we went on a road trip.  Road trips are a big deal this summer as aging boomers exaggerate stories of past vacations while loose in large station wagons as kids.  Air fare was so expensive the only way we afforded to carry a large family a long distance was by car.  Seat beats optional.  Family trips are focused on getting everyone to the airport these days, back then we were focused on the daylong/nightlong car ride to get there.  (Check out this book on the subject, “Don’t Make Me Pull Over!” by Richard Ratay).

Anyway, we figured out how far we could fly, rent a car, then drive back to Wilmington in a week.  We landed on Denver.  We plotted a course through Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina to get back home.  We spent our first two days in Colorado.  Denver, we thought, would be the trip highlight, and we had a good time.  Once in the car we watched the countryside roll by in slow motion.  Like Lon Chaney changing into the Wolfman, the view outside morphed from high plains to hilly scrubs to Mississippi delta right before our eyes.  Try that at 30,000 feet.  Our plan was to rest up in Memphis before striking out for home.

We imagined Memphis as a waypoint.  But Memphis turned out to be the highlight of our trip.  We toured to Graceland.  (Check out the two-volume biography of Elvis by Peter Guralnick, “Last Train to Memphis” and “Careless Love” then put Graceland on your bucket list).  We went to the civil rights museum at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was assassinated.  We stayed in the Peabody Hotel and watched the ducks walk into the elevator.  But most importantly, we felt like we were home.

Memphis is like old Wilmington.  Sure, the Mississippi is bigger than the Cape Fear river and Memphis is bigger than Wilmington like Savannah, but it’s not as brassy as Charleston, and not as commercial as New Orleans.  I was immediately at home.  Downtown Memphis is mostly old buildings with a lot of old signs from the 50’s and 60’s.  Cold Cathode tubes spell out brand names to light up the night.  Summertime humidity settled around my shoulders like a favorite bathrobe.  I hummed old Bob Dylan lyrics, “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again”.  I pretended I was JFK.  But instead of, “Ich bin ein Berliner”, I said, “Nací en Memphis”.

We had a great time, but the next time we may forgo the road and fly into Memphis to spend the week.

Turtle Talk

Man vs. Nature is an ongoing struggle equally relevant to all inhabitants of our planet. In architecture, there exists a dilemma regarding building where we “want” to build and where we “should”. Pushing forward into nature, whether seeking a water bound coastal sunrise or majestic snow capped mountain view, is our way of reaching out and becoming part of the surrounding beauty.

Successful design will always embrace the natural features of a site. Capturing daylighting and views, with purposeful building orientation to utilize any natural heating and cooling features of the terrain is a must. “Where” a building is located is the absolute very first design consideration made.

Responsible placement includes various considerations, many pre-determined by local planning development and zoning departments. These entities work to contain town and city growth within decided acceptable parameters. Pervious and impervious paving and landscaping surface ratios, property setbacks and height restrictions, are all recommended to enhance our built environment within a region.

In coastal cities, there are location specific guidelines focused on the point where buildings interface with the water.  These guidelines are ever fluid, changing and evolving by necessity as the coast changes, with erosion and time. As careful as we are to guard this point of contact between man and nature, there are continuing repercussions of pushing the limits of our built environment, even when the pre-determined zoning criteria are followed and met.


One consequence of our desire to build where nature and man will most certainly battle, is its effect on sea life dependent on the beach for basic animal reproduction. Unfortunately, nesting Sea Turtles fall directly into the path of our desire to enjoy the  beach fronts where we build.  Thankfully, our coastal region has stepped up to solve and control this man vs. nature moment with local organizations such as the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project.

The Sea Turtle Project reaches out to the community to provide information that beach-goers can easily follow to help save the sea turtle eggs and hatchlings.  Volunteers protect the sea turtle nests along the island beaches by providing built physical barriers and constant monitoring, as seen in above photo of a current Sea Turtle nest on Carolina Beach. They assist with the hatchling turtles journey from nest to sea with guiding trenches and protection from overhead predators. What better way to bridge the gap between man and nature … for more information visit

Leah Stephens



College Campus Visits

As a High-School student enrolled in college classes and a new 17-year old, there is something which I have been giving a lot of attention to recently. College. And just as importantly, college visits. Now, my High School offers a special program in which seniors mat stay and continue classes for a fifth year. This means that I have two extra semesters to take as many college classes as I can before moving on to the real thing. Furthermore, the college credits I gain from these classes will transfer over to whatever school I ultimately enroll in. However, this does not mean that considering what colleges I want to go to is something I can continue to put off. Figuring out what school I want to go to is much easier said than done. At times it seems as though there are either too many options to pick from, or too few. So, I have been doing my best to narrow down that list. Right now, there are about four or five colleges that I’ve decided I would like to attend. The job is still are from over, though.


Rather recently, I was able to go on my first official tour of a college campus. Because both of my parents teach at colleges, I am already rather familiar with the layout of a campus, and I have been able to visit the campus’ of other colleges out of town from time to time. The school in question was N.C. State, a rather prominent college in North Carolina. They offer academic programs that I would likely be interested in, and walking around the buildings those would be hosted in was a great way to see what my time there would be like.


There are still other visits to be made, of course, and I hope to be doing them soon. Until then, however, I’ll keep thinking about what career path I want to go down, and which schools would work best for me. Of course, I still have to do my best to get into those schools, once I’ve chosen them.

A small conversation

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Europe on a mission trip. It was not your standard mission trip to a place with no running water where you help build houses and such for communities.  No, this trip was about spending time and pouring into the families, specifically their children.  These long term missionaries leave their homes and the comfort and support of their families behind to move to a place, where they often don’t know the language, to create a place to live where they spread the love of Christ.

My group went there to look after all the children while the adults were in conference sessions for large time periods during the day/evening.  We were able to play games, enjoy the amazing playground facilities, and just let them be kids.  There were about 50 children total whose ages ranged from toddler to teenager; and let me tell you- They. Were. Awesome!

One day I spent some time with a child, named David, who knew my job was in architecture.  He told me about how he liked to draw and asked me to draw a house with him.  We ended up drawing a floor plan of a house together.  I asked him the typical things like what do you want it to look like or have in it? He drew as we talked making a theater room to one side, an art room for his big sister, guest rooms with multiple bunk beds (I’m talking like 6 bunk beds in one room), and a long hallway where they could line up all their shoes. His ideas were fun and imaginative, although he nearly forgot to add a bathroom to the house! Once he felt he was finished, he then moved on to another activity and person in our group.

His creativity and imagination were refreshing because I can often get bogged down with the function and minutiae of things.  This simple time we had together reminded me to embrace that childlike faith and imagination I once had because really great things can come from them! Remember to not disregard the small conversations or ideas because you never know the impact they might have on that other person; like David’s time with me.


Cameron Pease – Senior Designer

Lost Art

As a recent graduate from the Architecture School of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, my academic background includes a substantial amount of practice in digital software and parametric design methods. However, as neat as this may appeal, this focus can lead to a lack of knowledge and domain of older techniques.

The idea of drawing by hand may sound intimidating for an upcoming architect whose main education was throughout an innovative, digital revolutionary, entrepreneurial focused, pioneer academic system in the island.  Beautifully hand drawn images were the norm 20 years ago just as a computerized image (render) is now. Computers have not only affected the human behavioral pattern in society, but also transformed the fashion in which we represent our drawings and communicate as architects.

Just a while ago, we were working with hand drawn scheme proposals for a client. This indeed was a pleasant change of pace at the office. It took me around three days to complete this task and prepare it for submittal. Unfortunately, engaging in this pleasantry became challenging way too soon for me. Anyone who has begun a diet on a Monday, and thought about giving up on that same afternoon, can relate to this.

Talking about my drawing afflictions with my coworkers here at the office has been unquestionably soothing. They understand my background and have been at the best disposition to share their own knowledge, experiences, advice, instruments and even lend me books on the matter!


This simple exercise became rather inspirational for me. Thus, I will keep working just as diligently to improve my hand drawing skills.


Nore Santiago, Designer

WATER IS LIFE – Reverse Osmosis System

When my family and I prepared to move here four years ago, we were already concerned with the quality of the water. The Cape Fear River travels a long way before getting to the watershed where we were going to be planting our family and who knew what the river might pick up along its way? We asked around the UNCW biology department, where my husband had been accepted as an assistant professor, before arriving to see if anyone else held the same concerns, but heard nothing alarming until last June when the news about GenX emerged.

In a nutshell, GenX is an untested chemical compound modified to be slightly less toxic than its cousin, known carcinogen, PFOA (or C8). GenX was being dumped into the Cape Fear River near Fayetteville and it was found in our drinking water, including other endocrine inhibiting compounds. It also came to light that the water has been contaminated for the past 30 years. While most people who have lived here their whole lives report no adverse affects, many others do not appreciate being the test cases of exposure to these chemicals without their knowledge. We begrudgingly embrace both attitudes, so we ironically raise our water glasses at restaurants, say “GenX!” while clinking with a wink and a smile and joyfully drink, but we also got serious about installing a reverse osmosis (RO) system for our home. RO is the most effective way to filter these compounds out of the water.

The crack researcher, my husband, got online and chose the Home Master TMHP HydroPerfection Undersink Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System. Being of Japanese and Jewish ancestry (double whammy) we value economy and efficiency. The RO process generally wastes a large amount of tap water to produce a small amount of purified water. We chose one with a pump which forces the water through the system resulting in only 1 gallon of waste per 1 gallon of RO water; this is as good as it gets! We were able to install this system ourselves and we did it only for our drinking and cooking water at the kitchen sink rather than a whole-house system. Furthermore, it has a high capacity tank on reserve, includes UV filters, iron filters, and adds remineralization all for $445. There were other undersink solutions that we considered ranging from $188-$285.

Installation was easy especially since we have a corner sink and had plenty of room for the storage tank. We were also able replace our hand held water sprayer with the RO spigot, so we didn’t have to drill another hole into our countertop.

We had only two hold-ups. We first had to hire an electrician to install an outlet receptacle for the pump under the sink. Secondly, when we were testing the installation we had a small leak which was taken care of with an incredibly smooth and respectful customer service call with Home Master that only took about 45 minutes to resolve. They threw in a free set of replacement filters for our trouble.

We still have the option to split one line of RO water over to the refrigerator to supply the ice and water dispenser, but neither of us want to crawl under the house to feed the line! Our son is now 3-years old; maybe he’ll do it in 10 years! For the time being I continue to make the ice by hand as I did before but instead of the cloudy ice that I had accepted before as normal, we now enjoy the most beautiful, crystal-clear, remineralized ice. In our household, we call it “Elsa’s power!”

Audrey C Kanemoto Penneys – Senior Designer

If you prefer reality rather than the manufacturer’s professional advertisement shots, here’s what our installation looks like!

Installation of spigot
Installation of tank
Installation of filters
Elsa’s Power!

Hello, My Old Friend

I recently went to the theater to see the box office phenomenon “Black Panther”, and to my complete surprise, I spotted an old friend there. This friend is not a person, but rather a building. Midtown Atlanta’s High Museum of Art was featured in several of the film’s museum artifact heist scenes.

This is not the first time since moving away from Atlanta, just over a year ago, that I have caught glimpses of the iconic Richard Meier creation on the big screen. In this instance, the building plays a British museum… and perfectly so, I might add.  But, I’ve also recently noticed its performance as a hospital in the newly released TV medical drama based in Atlanta, “The Resident”.  The museum plays Chastain Park Memorial Hospital, under the administration of Bruce Greenwood (and who wouldn’t love him as a costar?).

The High, is unforgettable architecture. The building is simply Art itself, and apparently taking up a second occupation these days in film. My first visit to The High was as a second year student studying for my Bachelor of Architecture degree in Atlanta.  Our design studio scoured over every inch of the building, sketching and noting the design features that pull the visitor’s gaze away from the treasures within, to gawk at its wonder.

Utilizing several methods of capturing the perfect viewing daylight from above, there are skylights and famous light scoops overhead, added with the museum’s latest expansion designed by Italian Architect Renzo Piano. This building visually grabs you, whether there for an afternoon of dissecting design concepts, or just to meander through endlessly connected rooms of notable collections of paintings, sculptures and furnishings.

After that first most memorable visit, I returned countless times over the years to visit the art within the art, paintings on loan from the Louvre, China’s Terracotta Army exhibit, the Tempera paintings of Andrew Wyeth, the wildly famous Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer, and on and on, and on……  Atlanta’s skyline may be dotted with the recognizable architecture of American greats like Phillip Johnson and Michael Graves, and local masters such as the late John Portman, but the building that will always stand out in my mind (and now on the big screen), is the High Museum of Art.


Leah Stephens, Designer

Now, for something completely…..

Recently I sent a floor plan for a new home to a client.  We had met several times, discussed what they wanted and developed a program of spaces and room sizes.  But this was the first time the client saw a floor plan and our vision of the design.  They hated it.  The client told me the plan “misses several things we discussed, and I think the layout is unworkable”.  Luckily, we have thick skins, and recognize that criticism can be more useful than compliments.

Our job is to interpret what you want, but also, to show you things you haven’t thought of yet.  This means more than copying an image from Houzz or Pinterest you show us and calling it ours.  Robert Kennedy once said, “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”  Part of what we do is present ideas you haven’t thought of yet to see if you like them. This is one of the reasons you hired us, but it also means that sometimes you won’t like our first draft.  It turns out that we learn more about our client every time we discuss a look, or feature of your design.  Even if we blow up the first scheme, we still know whether you want separate closets, or need room for a grand piano.  The building blocks we develop can be rearranged in many ways, resulting in many different schemes.

Don’t be afraid of telling us if you don’t like something.  If you work with a designer who tells you what they designed is the “only” way it can be done, get up and walk away.  I call these people Design Nazis because they remind me of the “Soup Nazi” in a Seinfeld episode.  There is always another way of solving a problem!  We may not be smart enough to figure out it out right away, but I know there is an alternate solution.

So, bear with us.  We wouldn’t show you a design unless we loved it, and I am disappointed when you don’t love it too.  But in the end, we will have a design we both love, and it will be worth the effort.

Office Intern

My name is Caleb Doyle. I am a sixteen-year-old college student and, as of late, an intern at Cothran Harris Architecture. For many years now I have been interested in both the fields of Engineering and Architecture, however, I never would have thought that I would be working in such an office so soon. I had recognized that such a position would let me definitively know how much I really enjoyed Architecture, and if I did, possibly pave the way for me to move on to true employment in the field. Though such a career is uncertain, I have definitely gained experience that will help me no matter what. More recently, I have also decided to further my interest in Architecture by signing up for a fall class at my school that will teach its basics. Should I remain interested in Architecture rather than moving on to another technical field, my time here will prove to be quite valuable.

I first arrived at the office in the summer of 2017, where I worked between my spring and fall school semesters. It didn’t take long for me to come to like what I did. My job as an intern in this office started simple but quickly grew into something like a full-time job. I first had to acquaint myself with the software and systems used throughout the office, but once I did I moved on to assist in the drawing and filing of architectural plans. By the time that summer came to an end, I knew that I would want to return the next year.

Sure enough, I was able to find my way back to my earlier internship position in May of 2018. This time around, however, I had more widespread responsibilities as I would be both managing the offices’ new website, as well as continuing some of the same work that I had become so familiar with a year before. Now that I had returned, I planned on staying for the summer, helping out around the office in any way I need to. Right now it is still a bit early to be thinking ahead to next year, however, this internship is not one I would like to pass up.


Welcome to our new website! You’re changing how you use the web and the devices you use to access it.  It was time we changed with it.  Our new site is designed to be phone and tablet friendly, as well as still work with desktop computers.  Let us know what you like best, and of course what you don’t like.