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Architectural business inspires junior

For many individuals growing up during the early 1970s, the hit television show, The Jetsons, portrayed an illusive idea of what a home could look like, or the impractical thought of flying cars as transportation.

For Architects Jess Gonzalez and Francisco Mendiola at CDGI Concepto, building smart homes includes features like retracting glass windows, an automated home system and a design contrary to most homes; most people would say these are futuristic homes.

When I was offered the opportunity to spend two days with these architects, I was so thrilled that I hopped on the next bus to San Diego the following morning. Although staff members on The Feather Online have shadowed many prominent politicians, I thought it would be great to report on two of the top architects in Southern California.

I arrived early at the Trolley Station in Old Town San Diego, where we agreed to meet, April 4. Anxiously waiting at the depot, I stared at my phone until I received an incoming call from Jess, who was picking me up.

Immediately after the brief phone call, his car arrived and we exchanged brief greetings and were off to view some projects. Not even one minute into the car ride with Jess and he was answering phone calls from potential investors, workers and clients.

We drove to La Jolla where Jess and Francisco build the majority of their homes. I gaped at the homes of the rich and not-so-famous clients, the monstrosity of the homes overwhelmed me and I was in awe surrounded by all the beautiful architecture.

Our first stop was a home for a client that has an exceptional view of the ocean from the hill; with almost 60 percent complete, the home was gated in for the safety of others. Right away the electrician spoke to Jess in Spanish, asking him about the lighting throughout the home. He walked throughout the building indicating to the electrician where to place wires and electrical plugging, while other contractors needed his guidance at the same time.

After about two hours, when he wasn’t busy answering phone calls and talking to workers, I asked him, “Why don’t you have the floor plans with you, when the contractors ask you specific questions?” He replied, “I live, breathe and dream the homes I build, I am constantly thinking about them. Because I designed them there is no need to have the plans.”

Walking throughout the home I noticed that there was not a square corner in the entire home. Everything was round, including the walls and infrastructure; something I had never seen before. Jess explained that, “Not many architects can design homes on hills with curved features; in fact there are only a hand full of people who can do this.”

Meanwhile, a glass representative met us at the home to take measurements, but apparently Jess and the representative were not on the same page. Evidently, in order to build homes like these, you have to follow the housing code, which means installing a fourth inch fire-glass, in case a fire starts and will prevent it from traveling beyond the glass for more than an hour.

Later that day we left the project and went to another commercial property that was being remolded from the inside out on La Jolla Drive. Jess explained to me that his workers did not show up to work and the steel company was two weeks behind, which put the project on hold and conflicted with his schedule. One thing I learned from this situation is that you can’t have everything go as planned and to always hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

During our lunch break I had the chance to ask some questions which Jess was willing to answer.

Q: Have you built any homes for some famous people?

A: “Yes I built a home for a member of Blink 182 and a home for Ryan Klesko who played for the San Diego Padres.”

Q: Why do you think people have deemed square homes as the “in thing” or the most popular design?

A: “Because they know no better; there are no options. They only got three or four different styles and ultimately you choose something that has been around for hundreds of years.”

Q: Where do you get your inspiration for designing the homes?

A: “I studied organic architecture, which allows me to incorporate the shapes and designs within nature. If you look at a leaf or a mushroom are there any corners on it? No, because everything flows together; that’s why there are no corners in the homes we build, we want everything to flow naturally.”

Q: How long have you known your business partner Francisco Mendiola?

A: “I have known him for over 20 years, we graduated from the New School of Architecture of San Diego in 1989.”

After lunch we ran into some problems involving my passport being shipped to the wrong address and having to chase the driver all over San Diego; I needed my passport to enter and exit Mexico. Luckily Jess was kind enough to stall time and help me meet the driver somewhere downtown. Three hours later I obtained my passport.

Finally, Jess, Francisco and I were able to leave San Diego to visit a home modeler and a potential condominium housing project. After a lengthy drive into Tijuana, we met a person who builds model homes for Jess and Francisco’s company.

When I saw the the model I was in awe; the model was so beautiful, it looked real; even Jess and Francisco were amazed. Francisco whispered to me, “This dude is talented like none other.” The precision and the small details to the home were immaculate. Everyone in the room gaped at the model, but there was only one problem; we couldn’t fit the model into the truck. Finally, we came to the conclusion of shipping it through United Postal Service (UPS) or Fedex.

Once everything was squared away with the modeler, we traveled to a 200 plus condominium project. The infrastructure was already completed, which is always the hardest. While walking through the project I couldn’t help to think about how they were going to sell it, and if selling in this area would be a problem? Jess reassured me that these condos would be easy to sell, especially at $49,999.

After ending the day with Jess, I was inspired to pursue my dreams of becoming an architect. I had learned so much about architecture, and the careers responsibilities were much different than I had imagined. One thing Jess taught me, is to never give up; a challenge is just another obstacle to conquer.

For more opinion articles, read the April 19 article Disneyland trip fulfills childhood dreams.

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