Team Member Q&A: Axel Weisheit

Axel Weisheit


Urban Architecture Studio

Axel Weisheit attended Rice University, where he received his bachelor of arts in architecture and bachelor of architecture degrees. Prior to joining Ziegler Cooper (ZC), he worked at the firm of Richard Meier and Partners in Los Angeles. In 2007, Axel joined ZC, where he quickly gained a reputation for his rigorous design aesthetic, attention to detail, and client focus. With more than ten years of experience in high-rise residential, commercial, retail, educational, and civic projects, Axel brings a diverse knowledge base to his work. Furthermore, while his primary focus is on design, Axel has in-depth experience through every phase of a project, from early programming on to construction administration.

Q: In your role as Design Director for residential projects in ZCA’s Urban Architecture Studio, you have designed some rather complex projects which include substantial areas of retail and office along with the residential component. As a designer, how does the way you have to approach these projects differ from the way you approach a purely residential tower?

The approach is similar, but design gets more challenging the more uses are added to the mix. For example, let’s assume a purely residential tower has its apartments stacked on top of a parking garage. In that case, the building’s column placement and the building massing only needs to work with the apartments and the garage. It becomes more difficult in a mixed-use project because the layout and massing must work well with all uses.

An office floorplate and a residential floorplate are different, requiring differing column spacing and floor-to-floor heights. The ground floor will often require column-free spaces for lobbies, loading, and transformer vaults. Yet another challenge is to provide the required dedicated elevators to the office component. Each challenge complicates column placement. The possible solutions are therefore limited before they impact the unit layout, so best-in-class unit layouts and cohesive exterior design demand innovative solutions.

For mid-rise projects that have a large grocer component (typically 40,000 to 90,000 s.f.) the challenge comes in routing the plumbing from the apartments and pool deck above so as to not interfere with the grocer. This is all further complicated by long-span conditions and column placement that the grocer may require in their space, like the 60-foot by 45-foot column spacing on our Buffalo Heights project. These issues have to be solved without adding too much height so the building stays below zoning and code-driven height limits – all while still meeting the building’s NRA targets.

Q: ZCA is more regularly asked to design these more complex mixed-use projects. In your opinion, what is the reason for that?

There are multiple reasons. A Mixed-use development with a residential and an office component is often more financially attractive than a stand-alone residential project. Say we add a 100,000-s.f. office component to a residential project – the overall development can share its parking and the expensive land between residential and office components, because each component uses the parking at different times.

Also, adding a retail component to the mix makes the property more attractive to prospective residents, especially if it is a grocery store. In that case, we have seen increased performance both in rents per square foot and in building lease-up.

Q: What do you think is the best trait to have as a design architect?

There is more than one trait, but it all starts with the passion to create a beautiful building. Good design takes an innate sense for proportions and composition. A designer needs a holistic understanding of how to design, document, and construct a building combined with the drive to continuously learn and improve the design.

Q: Tell us about what you like to do for fun?

I really enjoy spending time with my wife and daughter, going to urban parks, the zoo, and restaurants.

We also enjoy high-performance driving at local racetracks, which my wife and I have done together for almost a decade! I feel fortunate to have a spouse who has the same interests and enjoys time at the track as much as I do!


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