CJL - Christopher J. Lee Architects, Inc.


Archive for the ‘Architecture Articles’ Category


Christopher J. Lee Architects, Inc. won the distinction as one of the Top 3 Architectural Firms in Southwest Florida. We are honored to have been chosen one of the “Best of Business” and would like to thank Gulfshore Business Magazine, their readers, our clients, friends and supporters for their votes!!!



On July 13, 2013, CJL Architects won two Aurora Awards and one Grand Aurora at the Southeast Building Conference (SEBC) in Orlando, Florida which salutes Professionals whose work sets the standard of excellence in the Industry. Our projects receiving an Aurora Award included The Center for Specialized Surgery, and the Favalli Orthodontics & Pediatric Dental Office.

The Center for Specialized Surgery received an Aurora Award and a Grand Aurora for a new ambulatory surgery center – healthcare project. The project was constructed by Stevens Construction under a Design-Build Contract with CJL Architects providing the Architectural and Interior Design services.

The Favalli Orthodontics & Pediatric Dental Office also received an Aurora Award for a healthcare project. CJL Architects provided the Architectural Design; Wegman Design Group provided Interior Design services; and the project was constructed by Stevens Construction.

The Aurora Awards is the regions most recognized and prestigious awards program which takes place annually and is open to architects, interior designers, builders, landscape architects and merchandisers who have completed projects located within a 12-state Southeastern United States region including the Eastern Caribbean.

*CJL Architects have received 4 Aurora and 2 Grand Aurora Awards for projects since 2011.


The Architectural Process includes the development of the architectural design and construction bid documents for a building. This process can run smoothly in these phases:

  • Project Planning and Programming
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Construction Documents
  • Bidding / Negotiation Services
  • Construction Contract Administration

Project Planning and Programming

Is an inter-active process which involves participation by the Client with the Architect to ascertain the overall requirements of the project.

  • Is a problem-seeking process that seeks to identify a particular functional problem which the design process must solve.
  • Defines programmatic goals and objectives and identifies constraints and criteria for the project including space requirements and relationships.
  • Establishes the initial design concepts.
  • Identifies the constraints including the budget, the budget and the budget.

*This process lays the overall groundwork for the project.

Schematic Design

Is the initial development of the project design concept in which the Architect prepares schematic design studies consisting of drawings and other documents illustrating the scale and relationships of the project components for the Client’s approval.

  • Develops the placement of the building on the site and accommodates the locations of entry, pedestrian and vehicular circulation, and building services, etc.
  • Identifies the interior building spaces, rooms and adjacencies and establishes the “flow” of the functional floor plan layout.
  • Establishes the preliminary design style and appearance for the building exterior.

*The Schematic Design process insures that the Architect and the Client are “on the same page” with their ideas about the functional needs and wants for the project.

Design Development

Is the phase of the Architect’s services in which the Architect prepares the detailed drawings and documents that fix and describe the size and character of the entire project as to the architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical systems and building materials as appropriate.

  • Refines the design as preliminarily established in the Schematic Design and further integrates the various engineering elements within the project.
  • Identifies any Code and Review Agency requirements and evaluates the proposed design solution for compliance.
  • Further develop a review of the project costs associated with the proposed design for the Client’s review and approval.
  • Accommodates providing adjustments to the design as required to comply with the established programmatic or budgetary considerations.
  • Develops the final design drawings including floor plans, exterior building elevations, building sections and other pertinent sections and details as required to convey the overall project design concept/ project design for the Client’s approval prior to proceeding with the detailed construction drawings.

*Communication with the Architect during this phase of the project is essential so the finalized design concept can be approved to insure the project is maintained on budget and on schedule.

Construction Documents:

Once the Design Development drawings have been approved, then the Construction Documents are prepared and developed for submission for a building permit and issued to the various contractors to obtain bids for the work.

  • The Construction Documents (consisting of both the “Working Drawings” and Specifications) finalize the design and details and fully integrate the Architectural and Interior Design elements with the Structural, and Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection systems for the project.
  • In order to monitor the development of the Construction Documents, the Architect and our Engineers will conduct progress meetings at key milestones and will coordinate all disciplines.

*Once completed, the Construction Documents will provide the proper information to secure the Contractor’s bids and to receive the Building permit.

Bidding / Negotiations:

Is the phase of the Architect’s services during which competitive bids or negotiated proposals are sought as the basis for awarding a contract. During the Bid Period:

  • We will distribute the documents to the various Contractors or the Construction Manager for their bidding use.
  • We will develop any addenda that may arise as a result of questions asked by the bidders, issue any clarifications which may be required.
  • After the bids are received we will assist the Client in reviewing the bids and the final pricing analysis based on both cost and qualifications of the bidding Contractors and subcontractors and will meet with the Client and the to review for final approval.

*During this phase the Architect and the Contractor work together to review the costs associated with the bids received and analyze the bids to determine if anything has been overlooked or omitted and evaluate the accuracy of the final bid price.

Construction Contract Administration:

During the Construction Phase, the Architect typically serves the Client by assessing the project’s progress and includes the Architect’s general administration of the construction contract(s). These services typically include:

  • Reviewing and approving amounts due to the Contractor for their work in progress.
  • Reviewing the Contractor’s submittals and Shop Drawings.
    • Shop Drawings are the manufacturers or Contractors drawn version of information shown on the Architect’s drawings and are made to explain the fabrication and/or installation of certain items for the equipment installers.
  • Evaluating proposed substitutions in materials or systems (if appropriate).
  • Preparing change orders or issuing other directives in the work (if necessary).
  • Conducting field site visits to determine the general progress of the work and conformance to the requirements of the Contract Documents.
  • Monitor the Construction Schedule and review the Contractor’s progress.
  • Perform quality assurance procedures and require key individuals from each discipline to also conduct periodic site visitations.
  • Establish the dates of Substantial Completion and Final Completion for the project.
  • Confirm Contractor’s progress for preparing Close-Out Documents including:
    • Record Drawings.
    • Warrantee Manuals.
    • Final Project Accounting.

*Acting on the Client’s behalf during the Construction Phase, the Architect will assist the Client to verify that once the construction is finished, they will receive a completed project which is ready for occupancy before releasing the final payment to the Contractor.


Christopher J. Lee is most inspired by the infinite combination of design solutions available to him as an architect. And his repertoire of Southwest Florida structures is almost as diverse.

Mr. Lee’s seven-member firm handles elaborate commercial building design, like the two-story, 44,500-square-foot Interop Office Building in Fort Myers. They have planned elegant structures such as the Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples, as well as the Lee County YMCA, and an array of surgery centers, condominiums, churches, car dealerships and commercial retail centers.

“Each project has a certain unique element to it,” Mr. Lee said. “There are not set, pre-prescribed solutions to any design problem. We’re artists, we’re technicians, we’re tacticians. But we’re essentially there to solve problems for our clients. We give the solutions in the physical form — architecture is kind of a physical art. To me, that’s what makes architecture interesting.”

His firm won four Lee Building Industry Association Awards this year. It was the first time he had applied for the awards, in the 25 years since Mr. Lee started his own firm in Fort Myers.

Some of the projects come with big money, and demand elaborate structures. But Mr. Lee said he appreciates the challenge of working on a tight budget. First, he thinks about how he’ll make the building function with the look his client wants.

For example, when he planned Dwyer’s Irish Pub in South Fort Myers (soon to re-open as Icabod’s Wicked Good Food & Drink), the concept demanded a specific aesthetic.

“We definitely wanted a facility that spoke to Irish pub,” he said.

His team researched pubs and castles in Ireland to create the unique stone building that stands on U.S. 41. It adapted the European design elements to fit Southwest Florida.

“They don’t translate straight across,” Mr. Lee said.

Finally, there are the constant factors in building — the budget and schedule. Mr. Lee determines if a schedule is realistic. He’ll refuse work before rushing to complete a project.

Then he works out the cost.

“Budget is the overriding factor in any design,” he said. “But I don’t put it as the first item, because within any budget we can be creative and satisfy the client’s objectives.”

Another specialty is redesigning outdated buildings to lend them a more personable feel. In one outdated North Fort Myers strip mall, damaged in Hurricane Charley, Mr. Lee changed the color, form and proportions on a shoestring budget. It has no architectural intricacy — no embellished columns or intricate lattice. But it does have curbside appeal, making it more attractive to tenants.

“Good buildings can evoke certain responses,” he said. “Consciously or unconsciously.”

One of Mr. Lee’s favorite works is the Estero Fire Station. It was designed to fit in at Coconut Point. The same small design elements are repeated throughout the building like a melody. The walls are set at different levels so the overall shape has “movement.” The colors are warm and expressive, befitting Coconut Point’s Mediterranean-style architecture.

Some of Mr. Lee’s current projects, like the North Fort Myers Fire Station No. 1, will focus on green building technology, an industry trend. But the most significant change in architecture since his career began has been computer aided design and drafting. Still, you have to understand how to draw the designs by hand.

“If you don’t understand how to detail in Southwest Florida, the computer is not going to save you,” Mr. Lee said.

He moved to Florida from Ohio when he was 4 years old and grew up on Fort Myers Beach. Mr. Lee graduated from Cypress Lake High School in 1974.

At Florida A&M at Tallahassee, he earned a bachelor’s of science and architectural studies. He was also a walk-on for the football team.

“It was an interesting experience because at the time it was about 95 percent black,” Mr. Lee said. “That was probably the experience of a lifetime.”

He saw some of the prejudices and racial tension of the 1970s first hand, and said he left with a better understanding of people in general.

“Playing football, and interacting with your teammates, you put all that prejudice aside,” Mr. Lee said. “Understanding the unity of the team, how to work together and attain goals and be trusting of each other, regardless of race.”

That sense of teamwork is strong among Mr. Lee’s staff now, which includes his son.

“They feel the same pride of authorship in designing and developing a successful project (as I do.),” he said. “I feel strongly about the personnel I have. When you hire us you really get our entire firm.”

Mr. Lee also spent one year as an intern at an architectural firm in Jacksonville; afterwards, he graduated with a master’s in architecture from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Fort Myers was his first stop after graduate school and Mr. Lee made a living doing drafting work for a local firm.

Now, most of his business is from word of mouth referrals.

He likes to get up at 6 a.m. three days a week to play in a local pick-up basketball game, but the place you’ll most likely spot him is in the yard.

“To get out on the weekend and work in the yard is good therapy,” he said. “…Not thinking about clients or contracting details.”

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