This is the beginning of a new occasional series on Portland Architecture called The Architect's Questionnaire, in which a series of architects and designers answer a basic set of questions about their career, inspirations, lessons and motivations.
Q: When did you first become interested in architecture as a possible career?
A: Growing up, I loved getting lost in the process of drawing and building things. I lived abroad for a year after high school and then enrolled at the University of Oregon as a fine arts major. Not completely satisfied with the arts program, I applied and was accepted into the school of architecture. I didn’t know much about architecture as a career at that point, but I appreciated the rigor of the architecture program, and figured that I would get a great education whether I pursued a career in architecture or not.
Where did you study architecture and how would you rate the
At Oregon, the first thing I learned was not to be as concerned with the sculptural ‘object’ I was creating as with the ‘place’ I was making and the interconnected series of places which make up our world. That perspective really broadened my view of the world and the responsibility that architects have to shape the environment. That being said, it would have been great to have more classes dedicated to the purely sculptural quality of design.
The Waipaki Residence in Kauai, Hawai’i. It’s currently under construction, and the last project I worked on in Hawaii.
Who has been an important mentor among your colleagues?
At Yost Grube Hall I worked with Joachim Grube on an additional to a church he designed with Pietro Belluschi. Joachim is a true modernist and humanist in the sense that he sees his work as a chance to improve people’s lives. Working with him on a Belluschi building gave me the chance to connect with the first generation of modernists in Portland.
What part of the job do you like best, and as an architect what do you think you most excel at?
What I like best – The excitement, shared with my clients, of seeing their buildings taking shape. What I’m best at - solving problems through design.
What are some Portland buildings (either new or historic) that you most like?
Belluschi’s Equitable Building, The Japanese Garden, Pioneer Courthouse Square.
To name a few: Jorn Utzon’s Sidney Opera House, Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea, and Luis Baragan’s Casa Gilardi.
Is there a local architect or firm you think is unheralded or deserves more credit?
There are many small firms out there doing high quality work under the radar: Yanni Doulis, Design Department, DAO Architecture, Reveal Architecture, just to name a few. I am very proud of the work that we are doing at Terraforma. There is also the local 11xDesign movement of architect/developers designing and building their own cutting edge projects.
What would you like to see change about Portland’s built environment in the long term?
Keep building our green infrastructure. Plant more trees, convert surface parking lots into parks and plazas, extend light rail lines to southeast and southwest neighborhoods, improve and increase the city’s sidewalks/bike paths, schools, and parks.
Not only has the city created guidelines for smart and sustainable growth, they have also created programs which motivate citizens to improve their city. So it is an example of not just good planning but also good follow through.
Would you rather live in a South Waterfront condo, a craftsman bungalow in Laurelhurst, a warehouse loft in the North Mississippi district or a mid-century ranch in the West Hills?
I’d love to design my own home – but for now we’re happy in our light-filled 50’s ranch in a pedestrian friendly southwest neighborhood.
Sverre Fehn. He is 85 years old and still practicing in Norway. He is a very sensitive modernist who would understand our climate.
Which would you rather be responsible for: an ugly LEED platinum building or a beautiful modernist energy hog?
First of all, it’s hard for me to see this as “either – or”. One thing architects are trained in is to reconcile seemingly contradictory requirements. Architects aren’t purveyors of style, we are problem solvers – and to respond to the environmental crisis, and to do so in a profound and poetic way is one of the greatest challenges facing us today. To me, beauty is the highest objective of architecture. We should surround ourselves with a built environment which uplifts and inspires. Conserving our natural resources is everyone’s responsibility. There is only one earth, and we need to take our stewardship seriously.
Name something besides architecture (sneakers, furniture, umbrellas) you love the design of.
Surfboards. Like a building, a surfboard is a man-made object through which we experience nature. Every surfboard is handmade and unique, and the surfboard shaper and glasser pour their hearts into their craft. It’s another example of how art is a critical part of the human experience, and that not all things can be mass-produced.
"8½", "Baraka", "Buena Vista Social Club".
Thanks to Nathan for playing along. If you are a Portland architect and would like to have your own answers to the Architect's Questionnaire published, feel free to email them to me at email@example.com. Coming up will be Q&As with architects Michael Great, Brett Schulz, Richard Brown and David Hyman.