My dad loves architecture. His first degree was in drafting and we used to drive around the suburbs of Chicago, looking at the architecture in residential areas. I am pretty sure this is where my love of Architecture started. His job was in downtown Chicago and the buildings there only served to further spark my imagination.
Being from Northern Illinois one of the most notable architectural influences for me has been Frank Lloyd Wright. Despite being a morally defunct individual, FLW was a master of design and revolutionized Architecture in the Mid-West. By pouring over his works and reading at great length about his life and architectural philosophies, I can say that many of my ideas on design are shaped by his work.
Form Must Follow Function. Frank Lloyd Wright’s biggest influence on me is directly related to the “form must follow function” viewpoint. Have you ever been in a building that looks amazing, but has a bunch of space this is unusable? I remember going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and thinking basically that the building would be better served as something else. It is interestingly designed and has some great spaces, but as a place to display memorabilia and learn about the history of Rock and Roll, it just didn’t work for me. There were so many spaces that were unusable for what the museum was attempting to accomplish (mostly being a museum). One of the things that I have always been conscientious of is having spaces that meet the needs of their intended purposes. I believe that this is the fundamental purpose and responsibility of an Architect: Create a space that assists in the intended use.
My parents took our family camping when we were young. We camped and hiked and fished. Our lives were constantly spent outdoors and I have a great kinship with nature as a result. Another key thing that I focus on is the relationship between the world around us and the spaces we construct to divide it up. Another thing that bothered me about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is for being on the lake the side that faces that water has almost no windows. I can understand that this is a personal preference but why would you turn you back on such a powerful visual aid? That I don’t understand. Instead of blocking out nature, I tend toward finding ways to invite it in. Windows and spaces that are intended for looking outside or feeling as though you were outdoors are key elements that I prefer to include in what I design.
When I was in high school I was working for an architect named W. Bruce Meltmar in Rockford Illinois. The time I spent there was an amazing blessing. I learned a great deal about architecture in practice. He introduced me to Jazz and spent a great deal of time helping me understand everything that went into being an architect. Unfortunately I only got one summer with him, but while I was there I learned another valuable lesson, how to work in tight spaces. Bruce owned a property on the river in Rockford and wanted to redo the kitchen before either renting or selling the house. The only problem was that the space was very tight. It is harder to create a space that meets the needs when you are limited to what already exists, which in this case was very, very small. His main assistant came up with an idea (which Bruce mistook for my idea and somehow I got the credit. His assistant never corrected him that it was her idea on not mine. She was an incredible team player) that was way outside the box and it not only made the space great but was way less expensive than my idea. Needless to say we went with her idea and I learned a valuable lesson in the process: Just because you haven’t seen it done before doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done (It also doesn’t mean it should be by the way. This one works both ways.)
Everybody has heard the phrase “The customer is always right”. No they aren’t, at least not in architecture. When I was working for Contry Homes I learned the importance of helping the customer get what they want even when it isn’t possible. If it were up to the average Joe, his house would be missing key structural beams and support columns, oh and have a beer tap in every room. That is because the average person, although spending most of their time inside their house, has absolutely no idea how the structural stuff works. When a client would come in with one of our plans doodled on. It was my job to try and figure out a way to get what they wanted while having the house still stand and not be missing import pieces of structure. You might think this isn’t a big deal but there is more to it than just fitting what they had in mind into the current plan. After you accomplish that, figure out how it’s going to be built so it doesn’t fall down, then you have to check the elevations and roof plan to make sure you haven’t killed the “curb appeal” with what you just added. You need the elevations, floor plan, structural plan and roof plan to all work in harmony to get what they wanted to work and look good. My time with Contry Homes was very much like architecture and design 101 for me. I learned a ton and worked with some great people who made it all an amazing experience.
The last great influence is myself. I have been drawing buildings and designing various things for fun since I can remember. I have spent an immense amount of time exploring my own design preferences, testing my own dexterity and limits for visual ascetics and sharpening my problem solving skills. I have been working at this my whole life and that is why it not only comes naturally but is something that I am passionate about and excited to do.
Oh, and all my boring teachers for giving me a reason to doodle. You helped too.