Portland State University's Department of Architecture has published a new book of interviews with several architects called Verge: Between Education and Practice. There are Portlanders represented here such as Jeff Kovel of Skylab, Logan Cravens of SERA Architects, Robert Frasca of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, and Brian White of Architecture W. There are also several prominent designers from Seattle, Vancouver, and a few other places in the region.
I've been perusing the book over the last few days and thought I would pass on a few random questions and answers. Mostly the conversations tend to focus on design education and running one's practice, but there are a few random other ones as well. For example, Brian White has an interesting answer when asked what his favorite building is right now:
"On this hill on Northwest Broadway, right when you cross the highway and you start to go up the hill. It is to your left, an assisted living building, I-shaped. It is green, [and] the columns are on the exterior and it is [by] a no-name architect. I like it as a mark in the landscape, actually a very beautiful building with landscaping. It is similar to what a lot of people are doing in Europe now, in terms of very simple commercial and the way it is expressed. The glass is green, but there is something very nice about it, kind of like the Christian Science Reading Room downtown. My office is down underneath a bridge. And it is pretty cool. It is not a piece of architecture but an architectural space."
Later, Holst Architecture co-principal John Holmes is asked what he thinks should be focused on for students in architecture programs:
"Drawing is very, very important, being able to think with a pencil. It doesn't necessarily have to be careful or pretty, but being able to think three-dimensionally and being able to draw that. You draw something and then you react, then you draw another thing. It's not that I did my drawing and here's my idea, it's more like I did a hundred drawings and here's the best one. Each one of those drawings is fast and encompasses a lot of thinking...
The other thing is being able to understand money when you draw something. People come out of school very talented, but it takes a long time for that person to understand money. When you are in school, you don't have to deal with that, but that's really where I think a lot of people fail in the profession. It takes another level of creative thought to take a more discerning and disciplined approach."
And finally, Daniel Mihalyo of Seattle's Lead Pencil Studio talks about the challenge of integrating place and regionalism into one's work:
"I definitely used to think that was of primary importance, especially coming out of [the University of] Oregon, which has a very powerful learning structure based on regionalism...In the grand scheme of things, though, I feel like the economy is ridiculously powerful and crushes the weaker force of regionalism. The pace at which things are being built and the scale that change is happening makes it impossible to produce enough regional work to really create a lasting influence. I see a lot of firms that attempt to create regional work but it's being lost in this giant machine that's churning out millions of square feet a day. Even so, we feel it's really important that all architects get the basic grounding for understanding how to build work that's appropriate for the climate and to understand that the sensibility of light and orientation to the landscape is completely different in the Northwest than it would be in Phoenix."
Verge: Between Education and Practice is available through the PSU Department of Architecture and (I believe) at the AIA/Portland Center for Architecture.