October 31st, 2018 – Happy Halloween!

How does your garden grow or rather how does your garden die?

A few days ago I was walking through the garden and said good morning to Mati, she pointed out a Tree Collard and noted the dying leaves. She says she can’t yet bring herself remove the leaves because of how striking the color change is. The lower half of the plant is changing from bright green to deep red, a vibrant orange and an iridescent purple. Mati Moon, the Ilan-Lael gardener, is industrious and talented at plant care but she also has a keen sensibility for allowing the garden speak its true colors. Below are photos taken of the dying Tree Collard.

Photo credit Laurel Costa and Mati Moon



Below: The full Tree Collard from which the above photos were taken




August 15, 2016 – A Large-Scale Mosaic Comes Together!


For the past three to four months, our wonderful tiling team has been hard at work on a large scale floor mosaic (16 feet by 16 feet!). Today was a big day, as two of our team laid out all the pieces together for the first time. We are so happy with the results. That small empty space over by Emilie on the right of the image is the space for the final piece of the puzzle: a tiled loon.

All that’s left for this large piece are finishing touches before we pack everything up to drive it out to Minneapolis, MN for install! Laurel (left) and Emilie (right) will soon set the piece into the floor of a patio space for our friends’ foundation.

This project was a learning experience for all – never before have we worked on a tiling piece to be installed in a climate that sometimes goes below zero degrees. Because of the freezing conditions the piece will eventually have its home in, not one tile in the entire 256 square foot space could be touching each other. We jumped headfirst into that challenge and had fun creating free-flowing forms with even spacing. The whole Hubbell team is so excited to see this piece finally settle into its home out in Minneapolis! Stay tuned for more updates!

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Building Update 6/2/16

It’s been a busy week! The crew sprayed 3 coats of concrete on the new Ilan Lael building. It finally looks like the end is in sight! I’m looking forward to sharing more progress, and can’t wait to show off at the Open House in a few short weeks! Check out the inside here!


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Ilan-Lael Building update 5/27/16

Hubbell Hill was a buzz with activity today. We sprayed the first coat of concrete onto the frame of the newest Ilan-Lael Foundation building. This is an exciting step forward and marks another milestone towards completion. We can’t wait to show off the progress in just a few weeks at the open house!



Ilan-Lael Building update 5/19/16


As time races towards the Father’s Day Open House, we are preparing for you to join us in Santa Ysabel. We are excited for everyone to come see the progress. I am thrilled to share that the newest building will be sprayed with concrete on Tuesday. This is a major step toward completion.

A New Summer Intern Arrives at the Studios

About me

Ilan-Lael and Hubbell and Hubbell architects’ most recent student intern at the Santa Ysabel and San Diego studios, Tanner Eitman, jumped into her first week with several firsts: making tile mosaic designs, starting a blog, working with concrete in the new visitor center buildings, and – her personal favorite so far– creating a small glass dragonfly in the stained glass studio.

The community-based workshop environment is familiar to Tanner who grew up within a tight-knit family in Cleveland, where both parents participate in the local Beachwood Community Theater.  

“When I was this tall,” says Tanner holding out a hand to indicate about two-feet, “I’d hand nails to my dad while he built sets.”  Her mother, a singer and actress, and sister are both active in the theater. “I acted in plays until about the fifth grade and later helped with lights and sets.”

Tanner, a third-year University of Cincinnati BSArch student, is part of University of Cincinnati’s Cooperative Education Program for Architecture (called co-op) that began in 1906.  The program allows students to alternate three months of study with three months of internships. This summer, under the wings of James and Drew Hubbell (and a multitude of studio craftsmen and women), is Tanner’s third and last internship until she graduates.  Previously, she was at Centerbrook Architects in Connecticut and had the opportunity to work on one of the firm’s projects to renovate the Temple Tifereth Israel, where she and her family are members. Last year, Tanner enjoyed the vibrancy of an internship in New York City at Nelligan White Architects with an international team of architects from Bulgaria, Ghana, Italy, and Nigeria.

The university co-op program allows students to know whether or not their chosen field of study is what they ultimately want to do as a career choice, and has given Tanner more insight on whether or not she wants to continue with architecture.  “I also enjoy interior design, and am good at science and math,” she says. “And, this may sound strange, but I’ve considered a career in Special Education. One of my three sisters has Down Syndrome and I’ve watched her thrive in programs that help special needs kids with recreational and practical skills.

“But, for now, I want to be able to apply what I learn here with future projects, and being in this beautiful setting.” Picking up her camera, she snaps photos just as the late afternoon light catches a stained glass window reflecting a rainbow of red, violet, and blue colors.

Along with missing her family’s two blue-heeler dogs, Gabe and Hunter, Tanner is looking forward to a traditional hometown gathering when about forty family members convene in Cleveland every Thanksgiving for a long weekend to share food and presents.  

When asked about settling back in the Midwest after her studies, Tanner doesn’t hesitate.  “No, I want to live where it’s warmer! I’m planning to spend time at the beach this summer too.”


Ilan-Lael Center Building Update 5/11/2016


“We have reached a milestone!” exclaimed Kim, the general contractor. Today we passed the rough inspection. This means that all the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing elements are in place, but the walls are still open, and the floor isn’t finished. Passing this inspection means that no changes need to be made. The walls are still open, so if changes were necessary, everything is easily accessible.
After the inspection, 16 tons of sand were delivered. The next few steps involve combining, the sand with water and cement. This mixture will be pumped out and sprayed onto the roof and ceiling of the new building. Using a large crew, while faster, can cause inconsistencies. We are using a small crew, which it allows the crew to be careful with the intricate details.
After this is done, the building will be plastered. A second accessible bathroom will be added. Then finishing work, such as door frames, windows, and final touches to the floors. When pouring the concrete floor slabs, plywood templates were laid into the floor at the entry. This creates an inset that allows stone pavers or mosaic tiles to be added without changing the height of the floor. This is consistent with the completed buildings.
I wish you were here to share our excitement about moving forward!

The Process: An Interview of James’ Hubbell

I doodle a lot of little small things to get a feeling. In the beginning I’m trying to tell what the light is like, how to approach the building, the feel of the land. I do them really fast and don’t think about them too much so they lead me somewhere. Next I do I really small model. Sometimes I’ll use blocks and pile them to see what the three-dimensional view of the building is like. If possible I like to do an elevation so I can see what the building looks like with the land, typically in watercolor.I do a lot of watercolors. There are times where I do 3 a day. What I find myself doing is placing things the same way nature is placing things. You could never teach architecture this way. But this way I am trained to be conscience of the land. To be one with nature. Sometimes your hands will do things you didn’t mean and you’ll step back and see that it works that way, which is why I start with a model first. If it’s structurally complex I’ll talk to a friend who’s an engineer. Then I talk to Drew to get a spatial feel and advice.

Even as the building begins to take on a definite shape, it is far from being finished. When I get the budget and the permit, to me there’s still the process of building it. Details and concepts are constantly being changed throughout this process.The exciting thing about being an artist is trying to figure it all out. I like to call it listening to the music: putting your foot where the music tells you to put it. It’s not that you have goals, but these steps are meant to lead you in a direction. If you name the goals they become rigid. It is like giving a name to love and beauty and saying you know exactly what it is.

The building isn’t done when its finished. It has a life that lives on, even after it is gone. You think that when you die it is the end, but even then you leave something behind. All of these buildings have a journey, just like us. If there were a different contractor it would have been different. All of the lives that touch the building are woven into it. It’s not just the building its this whole web of aspects that are intertwined. The building is alive and its life has just begun. There is no ending and no beginning.

Updated: 4/18/16

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James Hubbell with the Colegio La Esperanza

Recently  James Hubbell volunteered  with the Colegio La Esperanza founded and supported by the Americas Foundation. He has been visiting and helping the school flourish for over 20 years.  This video was created by Alex Tamayo, the number one photographer for the San Diego Union Tribune, to show all the amazing work being done in Tijuana .

 Please watch the video here!


Building Background on Ilan-Lael Center

Drew Hubbell; Architect, Principal of Hubbell & Hubbell Architects

The design was based around the buildings creating a courtyard that function for gatherings. Once Dad (Jim) had a general concept and clay model I gave input on the size of spaces based on their purposes and also the materials with which they’d be made of. We decided on Performwalls for the base. Though the blocks are large they can be stacked on end to create soft curves and the foam can be shaped to soften the edges. Both of these features fit in with the architecture of the Ilan-Lael compound. The materials were selected first for their fire resistive qualities along with their green features. These are both areas of focus in our studio work. Dad’s work is an inspiration in many ways. Mostly by the way he lives his life and sees everyday as an adventure, a bit like a child. He also taught me to trust nature and to draw on her influences so each design is unique to its specific site.


Updated: March 28, 2016


Building updates are coming to this page soon. In the meantime stay caught up with this gallery of images taken throughout our term up on the hill.

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