I believe that architecture has the power to change our lives. Our world is undergoing monumental shifts in climate due to natural evolution as well as the impact of human activity.
Our firm is committed to the goal of utilizing environmentally sound materials, systems, design, and construction methods in the creation of our built environment, in order to reduce the impact of buildings on our environment.
There are maxims which help guide us. Two that guide my approach to architecture are William Morris’s advice to “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”; and my former University of Illinois professor Robert Riley’s proclamation that, “Architecture is the backdrop to life.”
I have long been drawn to the beauty and challenge of small homes and commercial buildings. My early experiences in residential design taught me that by strategically economizing space, the result is more interesting, more unique, and more in tune with human scale. There is little waste, and the clean, straightforward lines that come from this approach form a simple beauty that is often lost on grander scales. From a purely practical standpoint, designing buildings in this spatially economic manner provides a larger portion of the budget for the special details that personalize the space, and for quality materials that create enduring beauty and grace.
My early approach to design could best be described as a study in psychology: helping my clients identify the patterns and nuances of their lives, in order to create for them a harmonious backdrop.
Over time I’ve come to realize that once internal harmony is attained, it is equally important to focus on the external. In 1992 I had my first opportunity to work with a mixed-discipline team of design professionals to create a sustainable neighborhood. From that beginning, my desire to develop buildings that are in harmony with the environment has grown.
Logos such as those associated with Nike, Sprint and others have meanings that are not readily evident until you look back at their origins. I’ve been asked what the logo for this practice means, “It’s not a stylized letter, and it’s not part of a building…so what is it?”
This logo was born in a ceramics studio years ago. I was an art major undergrad, taking ceramics courses. The “Swoop” and the vertical lines started spontaneously appearing on pieces I was making. They seemed to hold some core value for me, the meaning of which I couldn’t readily discern. I just felt I needed to keep using them, and they became something of a short-hand signature for me, written on all the books and record albums I wanted to identify and regain from forgetful borrowers.
Sometime later a friend who had returned from studying for a year in Japan asked if I knew Sino-Japanese writing. I didn’t. He explained that he believed the combination of the curved line flowing between the straight uprights meant “student.” The meandering line was a stylized river, and the vertical lines were young and old trees. Together, he alleged, they mean “one who seeks after knowledge and wisdom.”
Whether or not my friend was correct, his explanation appealed to my young self — and to my young ego! So it continued to remain with me. With the passage of time and life experiences my relationship with the logo has evolved, mellowed and broadened. The “trees” and “river” still ring true…but the symbol has become far more about the world at large and far less about me.
The longer I practice and commit myself to the environment the more I understand and appreciate the interconnectedness of trees and rivers with all of life. They provide the two natural ingredients without which we cannot exist: healthy air and water. In turn we must provide protection for them so they can thrive. That sense of protection produced the last of the three elements of the logo: the circle. It symbolizes our atmosphere, our world, and a sense of stewardship for all that is contained within.
So this nascent “core value” from years has endured and developed into a symbol for something far-reaching, and is an unwavering reminder to me of what’s most important in all that I do in my practice and my life. It is simply the expression of these three elements: “Woods… Water… World.”