Archives For modern architecture

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.”

― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

In the shadows of one of the most underrated pieces of New York City architecture, the Lenox Health Hospital (formerly St Vincent’s) in Greenwich Village, lies a wonderful new design addition to downtown, adding elegance and a welcoming public space: the NYC AIDS Memorial. Designed by Studio a + i who won a competition launched by Architectural Record and Architizer, the memorial is located in Vincent Square, on 7th Avenue between 13th and 12th Streets and features a distinctive, geometric steel canopy which protects the stone benches underneath. In the granite underfoot, the words of Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself” are engraved. The memorial is an inspiring example of how design cannot only empower people and unite communities, but also create compassion and healing.

Not even a block away from the LBGT center in the West Village, the site is in remembrance of St. Vincent’s Hospital, an important landmark for LGBT communities and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the 100,000 men, women and children in New York City that were lost due to the disease.

Lenox Health, formerly St. Vincent’s Hospital of Greenwich Village

By: David Plick

From Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West to Zaha Hadid’s London Loft and Philip Johnson’s home in New Canaan, Connecticut, we always have this fascination with the inner lives of artists. Of course, we’ve seen the work that they produced for their clients, where we recognize that a great deal of collaboration and compromise (sometimes begrudgingly) have been made during the design process. But what would they do if they had complete creative control, because they were simultaneously the architect and the client? That’s what we have here with Morris Bolter’s LA Mid Century modern (1966) near Lake Hollywood Park, which he built for himself and his family.

LA Mid Century Modern: Morris Bolter, 1966

Morris Bolter’s open plan design comes with gorgeous views of mountains and the Hollywood sign that can be seen from the Zen fountain. Architectural Digest called this LA mid century modern Bauhausian, and with the simple, elegant line, it’s clear why.

By: David Plick

8267996765_2ef43c308a_bThis article is for someone who just became interested in design and wants to know how to analyze architecture. Maybe you just moved to a big city, or you’re thinking about buying a modern home, or you just started dating an architect. At this point you’re probably wondering what exactly are the criteria for qualifying a building’s value? One option is to speak talkitecture and fake it. But, you’re better than that, so read this:

How to Analyze Architecture—questions to ask yourself:

What is the Building Built for?
Not all buildings should have the same shape and size. So, ask yourself, is this a residential, office, cultural (museum, library), or multi-functional building? Is it a government building (which means you’ll resent them spending your hard-earned tax dollars if it’s TOO nice)? Does the design match the purpose? How will the building be used? Does it seem useful?

Materials and Facade
What materials are they using? Glass, concrete, stone, recycled tires, shipping containers (very chic right now)? Is it clear how the choice in materials was influenced by the building’s purpose? How about the facade (aka, the exterior)? Does it seem appropriate for the building’s purpose? Does it have the client’s name in big, shiny gold letters on the side?

More on its Usefulness
If you really want to know if a building “works” or not, you should speak to someone who uses it, like the elevator operator or a tenant (in fact, it’s better if they’re not architecture aficionados because you’ll get an honest, unfiltered response—for example, if it’s a Gehry building, perhaps an architecture enthusiast would be less inclined to note its negative aspects). How does this person use the building? Are there facets of its functionality that they complain about? Like, is the bathroom in the kitchen? Do you have to go to another floor to access the bathroom? Wait—there is no bathroom?!?!? See what I’m saying.

What’s the Surrounding Area Like? Does the Building Fit In?
So, I’ll start with perhaps the exception to this conversation—some buildings are meant to be “disruptive” (did you see that duck up there?). The whole purpose of that design was to do something different. Now, whether or not you support disruptive architecture is a matter of taste, and I will not debate that here. But, you should recognize if that is the intention when you analyze the building. And if not, see if the building “fits in” or not. Now, I don’t mean that it has to be identical or even close to the design of everything else. But, on some level, it should make sense with the rest. Is it of a similar height, width, girth to he rest? A lot of architectural analysts believe that the scale of the building should match the surroundings and respect the natural environment.

So, this is actually extremely important in analyzing a building. We are deeply affected by sunlight, and a building should be designed with that in mind. In fact, how an architect works with light is what separates a chump from a talent. Ask yourself, how much natural light is there projected onto and into the building? Are the windows properly positioned to let light in? What does it look like when light is projected onto it? Overall, what is the building’s relationship with light?

Human Movement
How do humans move throughout the building? On stairs? Escalators? How do they ebb and flow? Would it be easy to get lost? Do you like walking around it or does it give you vertigo?

Get Inside and Play with the Thing
Buildings, to a certain extent, are machines, and machines were meant to be used. Use the machine and see if it feels good. Remember: Mercedes isn’t the best car because of that symbol on the hood. It was the superior engine that gave the symbol its reputation.

By: David Plick

moma_ps1_ffpDon’t look at pictures on the internet of Meeting James Turrell at MoMA. Just go and experience the thing for yourself.

That’s what I did. In fact, admittedly, I didn’t even know it was there. I went to PS1 last Sunday because I said to my roommate, “What should I do today? I want to do something that’s outside and free.”

She said, “Go to MoMA PS1. It’s both of those things, at least on Sundays.”

First off, MoMA PS1, unsurprisingly, given the organization’s devotion to architecture and design, is architecturally fascinating. They have all these brutalist concrete walls in the front and the building is a renovated Romanesque school. It still has the hardwood floors that you’d remember from 5th grade and those high windows in the entrances of rooms. In the basement you can explore old cavernous heating rooms with exposed pipes that they painted gold. The atmosphere in general is warm and inviting, yet the art is challenging.

Most of MoMA PS1 is currently the Mark Leckey show. But this article is about Meeting James Turrell, so I’ll just leave it at that.

After seeing a bunch of his stuff—it is funny and provocative; don’t want you to think I didn’t like it—I wandered upstairs and saw a door that was shut. There was a MoMA employee there like how they usually stand outside exhibitions, but I had never seen a door closed to an exhibit before. At this moment, I did have a lot of fear, thinking that this had to be exclusive, maybe only for inviteés or staff, but the staff member didn’t say anything. I looked at her and thought of Albert Bandura’s self-efficacy framework—if you believe you can do it, you can do it—and I reached for the door handle. I figured, if I’m not allowed to do this, they’ll say something.

A couple seconds later, as I entered the room, I was transported. Everything that had happened before a couple seconds ago was the past, and was in no way connected to the present. I sat (I don’t think that’s giving away anything) and observed. I saw people—mostly very stylish and from various races and ethnicities, because you’re in Queens and at MoMA PS1—full of joy and gratitude. It was like we could just look around at each other and say, “We all made it here. We did it.” Maybe I’m crazy, but there was a general feeling in the space that we were all so lucky to witness this. It was so simple, so natural. It was one of those things that just had to exist.

I stayed for about 15 minutes and that was the most serene 15 minutes I’ve experienced in a long time. After awhile I left because I felt like I had to, because I needed to give up my space for someone else to experience this.

And that’s what it was like Meeting James Turrell at Moma PS1.

By: David Plick

800px-taj_mahal_atlantic_city_new_jerseyThe following buildings could be bulldozed right now and humanity would only benefit: Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, Trump Plaza New Jersey, Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, Trump International Hotel and Tower New York, Trump Palace, Trump Place, Trump Plaza New Rochelle, Trump Tower New York, Trump World Tower, Trump Tower, not to mention all of his casinos, especially Trump Taj Mahal, which one has to wonder how that even happened.

But, then there are these three. Now I’m not saying these are architectural achievements. They’re no Whitney Breuer, or Broad Museum, or anything Bercy Chen has ever touched. I’m just saying they have a quality. They have an atmosphere beyond grotesque, shiny gold letters spelling out T-R-U-M-P against a rectangular, flat wall of glass. They actually aren’t complete pieces of . . .

Trump SoHo, New York, NY


This building was (and still is) controversial and hated by many, but what building of Trump’s isn’t? The most pervasive argument is that it attempts to disrupt the scale of the neighborhood by towering over all other buildings. I walk this neighborhood often, and while this argument was true when the reviews came out a few years ago, the neighborhood caught up, especially now with Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard dominating the Tribeca / SoHo / Financial District skyline.

What is striking about Trump SoHo are the skyboxes that protrude from its façade, giving the structure a sense of movement and fragmentation. Much better than Trump’s other buildings which are only pieces of . . .

Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower, Panama City, Panama

Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower

I’m so tempted to do a wall joke right now, but I won’t. This Trump building in Panama is peculiar looking, even adventurous. It’s postmodern and uses its architectural language to express a relationship with itself and its surroundings. It’s also clearly modeled after a vagina. But at least it’s shaped like something, and not just a piece of . . .

Also, the labia flaps opening like that have the function of creating views from all of the hotel rooms in the interior. It reminds me to Bjarke Ingels’ Via 57 West, but not as good.

Trump Palace, Sunny Isles, Miami

Trump Internatonal Beach Resort

In Northeast Miami there are five Trump buildings—Trump Towers (three of them), Trump Royale, and Trump Palace, the tallest—and all of which, add, and do not take away from Miami’s revered MiMo, or Miami Modernist architecture style. These buildings have character, and actually aren’t obnoxious at all. Also interesting to note is that one of the principal architects on the project was José Suarez, who was raised in Miami, trained at the University of Miami School of Architecture, and most likely identifies as American, but who was technically born in Cuba. Perhaps Trump is more open to diversity than he leads on, especially when he can make money off of the deal.

By: David Plick

Via flickr by Milo and Silvia in the World

Via flickr by Milo and Silvia in the World

He’s one of those divisive artists you either love or hate, so will the Frank Gehry exhibition at LACMA, simply entitled “Frank Gehry” be any different?

We think so.

Because whether or not you are an admirer of his work, the exhibit is important to Los Angeles simply because Gehry is an essential part of the urban design of the city. He’s been based out of Los Angeles since 1962, and contributed arguably its most important structure—the Walt Disney Concert Hall, not to mention Santa Monica Place, the California Science Center, his home in Santa Monica, and many other landmark residences which have established Southern California as a place to turn to for the new kind of urban living. Gehry has also been revolutionary in terms of engineering, most notably through his use of a machine called CATIA, a software tool used in aviation and automobile industries, which manipulates 3-D representations digitally. The exhibit showcases over sixty projects through hundreds of drawings and sixty models.

The exhibit will show upcoming and recent work including Gehry’s design for Facebook’s campus in Silicon Valley, his transformation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the architect’s most recent residential jobs—both private homes and large-scale developments. You will not be surprised to discover that the exhibition itself was designed by Gehry Partners.

Frank Gehry won the Pritzker Arhcitecture Prize in 1989.

The Frank Gehry exhibit at LACMA will run until March 2016.

By: David Plick

© RPBW, ph. Stefano Goldberg / PUBLIFOTO Genova

© RPBW, ph. Stefano Goldberg / PUBLIFOTO Genova

Renzo Piano is the great champion of public space. Whether the visitors and citizens of the city are aware of it or not, he improves their quality of life by sharing with them a living space designed specifically for the cultivation and dispersion of ideas and the enrichment of civic life. He’s the architect who cares about the individual’s experience of a building, who cares about how people interact with the space, and how the space then interacts with the world. At the Whitney Museum of American Art, much like the Centre Pompidou, or Beaubourg as he would say, he showed this by including a large area in front—a “piazza” he calls it—for people to meet, congregate, chat, and even loiter. He’s somehow simultaneously innovative and selfless. And because of this, he can masterfully fuse form and function, creating beauty for himself because he loves it and thinks it will save people, yet it all means nothing to him if he can’t share in this emotion with others.

Renzo Piano is Italian, but he is a citizen of the world. He made his home in Paris, but also has offices in New York and Genova. And today, it’s hard to visit a major international city without being able to experience the joy of a Renzo Piano space. There is a Renzo Piano “piazza” in Fort Worth, Texas at the Kimball Art Museum, in San Francisco at the California Academy of Sciences, in Chicago’s Art Institute, in Amsterdam’s NEMO Science Museum, in Rome at the music auditorium Parco della Musica, in Paris, Los Angeles, London, and now in the Meatpacking District—New York’s center for international art and fashion.

When I initially contacted Renzo Piano’s office for this interview, I didn’t expect a response. I thought he was far too internationally recognized and busy changing the world with beauty to speak with me, but I was remarkably and joyously surprised to hear that he not only would do the interview, but he would prefer to do it over the phone. I thought to myself, “That is so Renzo Piano. He would prefer the more human connection of a phone call, rather than emailing back and forth.”

Right now, I’m writing these words on the seventh floor terrace of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and what do I see? I see people congregating out front, sharing ideas and uniting to celebrate art and beauty. I see people peering over the edge of the terrace, interacting with the space. I see movement—the citizens of this city and the world moving up and down the stairs of the terraces and throughout the outdoor sculpture parks in this magical building that really looks like it could just get up and fly away, which was Renzo Piano’s wish because “the destiny of any architect is to fight against gravity. Actually, it is the destiny of everybody to fight against gravity.”

To anyone who hasn’t embraced this man and his work, do yourself a favor and not only experience his buildings, but listen to him speak. Listen to his genuine passion and sincerity when he speaks of beauty, art, and the poetry of architecture. Listen to him when he speaks of humanity and the joy of the collective experience. In his Whitney dedication speech he called his design “a bit impolite,” but nothing could be further from the man himself—who is gentle, kind, and sincere. Renzo Piano is not just an architect who makes mesmerizing buildings—he’s the kind of artist the world needs to bring us closer together, to share in the simple joy of a piazza.

TVOA: Your building workshop in New York is located on Washington Street, which is right around the corner from the new Whitney. When they approached you with the project eight years ago, had you already an intimate relationship with the Meatpacking District? Did you already have an idea of the style the neighborhood needed and demanded?

Renzo Piano: Actually, when we started, it was more than that. It was twelve years ago.

TVOA: It was twelve years ago? In your Whitney dedication speech you said that the process took eight years or nine years.

Renzo Piano: Well, for two or three years we were working on Madison Avenue and 75th street to make the extension on site, but this didn’t work because it was too much—too much trouble, too much work, too much money for too little result because it was impossible to have enough gallery space, so then we started and the client started to struggle about finding a new site, possibly downtown, because this is where Gertrude Whitney came from. And then, I remember, we went down to see three sites in the west part of the city in Chelsea. I got the impression that this site on Gansevoort and Washington Street was the best one so far, because it was at the end of the High Line. It was in a position where you could connect with the rest of the city. That was about eight years ago. And at that time, just walking in the street I saw the office to be let upstairs on Washington Street, so I said, “That’s the perfect place for our office to be.” I don’t know if the office came before the site, or the site before the office, but it was at the same time. So, that was the moment when we started thinking about that place, and the opportunities that that new place offered to the new Whitney. Of course, when you go there, even eight years ago, it was changing very fast—and clearly it was going to change. Because it’s a typical thing happening all the time, when you have an industrial place like that, it’s an inevitability—there’s going to be a mutation in the city, and that was attracting everybody, including me.

TVOA: What were the advantages of that space over the previous Upper East Side location?

Renzo Piano: Well, the reason why we fell in love with this place and immediately started to work there was to have space on the ground floor. That’s the most important thing that Breuer missed in the design for the building on Madison. He missed space in front of the building, to connect to the street. But in our case, we immediately thought we needed the space on the ground for pedestrians to come to enjoy the space, to make the building accessible, to create that sense of urbanity and openness. That was the most important thing in that moment.

Nowadays, when you think about a cultural institution like the Whitney, you think of something else. It’s no more like a fortress. Now, it’s more accessible. It’s a big revolution, but it took about forty years. When we designed Centre Pompidou, Beaubourg, it was ’71, so it was about ten years after Breuer made the Whitney. Beaubourg was one of the first public centers which had the idea that a public building should be accessible, not creating intimidation, but just openness.

I feel that a public building, generally speaking, especially when they are a building for culture, but even any public building like a library, school or university—they need to have this quality of openness and accessibility because this is what makes a city a better place to stay or to live. Cities are based on this. Cities are not cities when they are based on buildings that take possession of the land. They don’t talk to the streets. When you make buildings for public use, it’s the opposite. You have to make something that talks to the street, that creates a sense of communication, a sense of belonging to the community. In some ways, it was quite inevitable to move from uptown to downtown, to create a place that is more in this logic. Of course, the Breuer building is a great building. I love that building. I think it will always be there. Good quality architecture can survive forever, but the time had come now for the Whitney to have a different dialogue with the city.

TVOA: You mentioned the High Line before and that an advantage of the Gansevoort Street location was that this park terminated right at the museum. But, the High Line wasn’t completed or opened yet when you began your designs of the new Whitney.

Renzo Piano: No, no, it was not yet open. It was still in work. Actually, we collaborated in the design of the Maintenance and Operations Building of the High Line that is located exactly there at the end. So, we finished that about one year ago, but back then, at that time, The High Line was just a promising idea. It was just on paper for the moment. But it was clear that it was a fantastic and inspiring element that can happen in a city like New York—inspired from the strong, frank willingness—inspired by the industrial quality of the manufacturing. The High Line was inspiring in many ways. It’s a public space, elevated, inspired by our tallness in certain ways. Also, the form of the High Line, the language of the High Line, the semantics of the High Line, became part of the inspiring elements of the building. That’s for sure.

TVOA: Did you know what the design of the High Line at its termination near the museum would look like? Did you have the plans in advance?

Renzo Piano: Yes, the plans were done at that time. Diller & Scofidio made the stairs going down, so we knew that. We met with them, and they already made the project for the garden. So we knew everything. We knew everything.

TVOA: So, it was really inspired by so many different elements, not just a single vision.

Renzo Piano: When you make a project like this, you cannot just say, “I was inspired by this.” We were inspired by one hundred different things. The High Line was certainly one of those, but so was the street life. The other was the fragmentation of west Chelsea as a structure of the city. It’s not massive in that part of the city. It’s actually broken into little pieces. The buildings are not very tall, so the idea was that our building would be in dialogue, talking to that part of the city with the idea of breaking the scale of the buildings on the side coming down to make a transition to the High Line. And also, not to take the light away from the High Line. Because that’s the other point. In the afternoon, we are able to keep the sun and the light on the High Line for a long time. That was part of the idea.

And also, scale—the scale of the buildings coming down became part of the fragmented west Chelsea. And at the same time, with the fantastic location on the west side towards the Hudson River, it is exactly the opposite. The dialogue was not with the city. It was with the high-speed traffic of the highway, and then of course, the vastness of the Hudson, and the vastness of the rest of the country. You can feel it. You can feel it through New Jersey, feel the vastness of the sunset. The building is so reactive to each different direction. On the south side, the building must be in dialogue with the big buildings built in the 70’s—the big building right there on Gansevoort is just massive. And also, we got the sun. We decided to put an opaque wall there because you don’t want to have too much sun in the gallery. You can’t. But on the east side, you have this dialogue with the city. On the west side you have the dialogue with the vastness of the country. On the north side you have a dialogue with probably an extension. It may happen because the piece of land on the north of the Whitney is open to transformation. Because we are not using all the meat market space, of course, we are all only using the south part of that land. So, there’s extra land there. We felt from the beginning that this site was talking to a very different gravity in each direction—north, south, east, west, in a very strong, almost contradicting condition. On the north, it’s growth. On the south, it’s value. On the west, it’s the vastness of the sunset. On the east, it’s the fragmentation of the city. So the building had to react to all those things.

TVOA: Did the art itself influence your design decisions?

Renzo Piano: The collection was always in mind. The Whitney collection of American art is a fantastic collection: brave, strong, and free. I’ve said a number of times—freedom is what you feel when you look at that collection. Generally speaking, when you look to American art, it’s about freedom.

TVOA: Are there any works currently at the Whitney that you’re inspired by or pique your curiosity?

Renzo Piano: Mark Di Suvero is a great friend, and he has a beautiful piece on the sixth floor, I think. And Jasper Johns is great. I saw him in those days of the opening. He’s a great man. I have such a long list. American art is something that has always been inspiring. I’m Italian, living basically in Europe my whole life. For people like me, we grew up with the idea that freedom was coming from many expressions of American art. From literature—Kerouac and Steinbeck. All of this is about a sense of freedom. In theatre and music—John Cage and all those people. In theater, cinema, dance, ballet, the poetry of literature. It’s fundamentally the sense of the big prairie, the big space, for us. When you grow up in Italy, you have the double inspiration: one of course is gratitude for the history that has been feeding your family and your subconscious, but at the same time, you have this love for rebellion and freedom. So, for me, this idea of working on American art, and making a building for American art, is giving homage to this sense of freedom.

TVOA: How much did the history of the Whitney Museum and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney affect your process?

Renzo Piano: It’s very difficult to make a good building if you don’t have a good story to tell. It’s also difficult to make a good movie when you don’t have a good story to tell. It’s difficult to make a good novel if you don’t have a good story. Of course, you have to be a good writer. You have to be a good moviemaker. You have to be a good architect, but at the end, you need a good story. Otherwise, you are in trouble. And the Whitney is a great story, from the beginning with Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. She was a collector this lady. She was somebody rich in art, but free in art. She set up this funny club, a meeting place for artists. That’s another story. As an artist you had to pay one dollar to be a part of the company. At that time, it was 1920, or something like that. Downtown, not uptown. So, for forty years the Whitney was growing and feeding interest and exchange, emotions, in the southern part of the city. And then they moved uptown in 1961, and Mr. Breuer did a fantastic job. I always loved that building. It’s so strong, so brave.

TVOA: So you loved the brutalist design of the previous Whitney?

Renzo Piano: Forget the brutalism, it was a building with character. It’s a miracle because when you go inside, it’s quite perfect from that point of view. And many of the inspirations for the new Whitney came from there. I actually wanted to talk about this because inspiration is not like mimicking. Mimicking is wrong, but stealing inspiration is good. For example, in that building you used to take the elevator, and when the elevator was opening, you were right in the middle of the gallery. And this is what we also did, in a different way of course. And also, Breuer’s sense of flexibility, openness, the unpretentiousness of the space, for the gallery, is something we tried to preserve. And also the roughness of the material—Breuer used stone for the floor, and we used pine. But the pine we used is a special kind of pine that was recycled from old factories. And this recycled pine is almost like saying, “Artists, come and lay down whatever you want to lay.” That’s Breuer. That’s Breuer.

TVOA: To what extent did you collaborate with the Whitney staff? How involved were they in the process?

Renzo Piano: Oh, very much, from the top to the bottom. It’s immense work. We made this project in our office in Genova.

TVOA: That’s interesting that you actually didn’t make it New York. I would’ve thought that.

Renzo Piano: Well, people were traveling a lot—up and down, to New York, then to Genova, making prototypes, and doing a lot of testing in Germany. Architecture is a teamwork. And Adam Weinberg, of course, has been a constant presence. But other people, like Bob Hurst, Scott and everybody on the board, Mark Di Suvero, Chuck Close, who was a member of the design committee, and so many others—collaboration was essential. They first called me in 2001 or 2002, maybe. I was on site at the Morgan Library, and they invited me for a coffee at the Whitney, and I went for a coffee, but it wasn’t a coffee, it was a design selection committee.

(We both laughed.)

And when you say “Whitney,” you really mean those people: Adam Weinberg, Donald, Carol, the board, the curators. Architecture is a teamwork, and it’s hard to say who had the idea, but when you have a good client you don’t really keep account of what you did, what they did. It’s a nice game where you get together. Without a good client, of course, there’s very little hope that you can do something good. A good client, and a good story, and then eventually you can do something good.

By: David Plick

View from the kitchen in the Pine House.

View from the kitchen in the Pine House.

Modern Austin homes should reflect modern Austin feelings, and Faye and Walker embody this spirit. This firm is about as far you can get from the stereotype of the old, cranky, passive-aggressive architect with his T-square and general sense of longing. Think: mindfulness mornings, quinoa/foraged grass smoothies, holistic remedies, the Tao Te Ching, being self-aware and observing your feelings. Think . . . Austin.

Because let’s face it, we don’t live in the Mad Men, machismo, Leave It To Beaver America anymore. We’re Austinites who drink hemp milk, put coconut butter on our raw grain flagel, and eat eggs that our chicken, Eleanor Roosevelt, laid in our backyard. We seek modern Austin homes, not cookie-cutter, mass-produced-in-a-warehouse misery factories.

And Faye and Walker—otherwise known as Sean Guess, an architect who is so modest he names his company after other people—want to build these homes for you through communication and collaboration. He seeks “to contribute to the emotional capital of [his] community through considerate manipulations of the built environment.” He “works to create spaces that are experienced not just physically or visually, but emotionally and intuitively . . . and encourages clients to learn more about themselves and how they interact with the built environment.” Sean Guess sees architecture as a contributor to your emotional capital—how you feel and interact with the world, which in turn affects the work that you create. He seems to consider design, in its simplest state, just one part of the greater cycle of life.

So, what is emotional capital and how do you achieve it?

Quoted on his site from the French economist and psychological researcher, Dr. Bénédicte Gendron, who, by the way, has nothing to do with the field of architecture, “The concept of emotional capital is the set of emotional competencies which constitute a resource inherent to the person, useful for the personal, professional and organizational development and takes part in social cohesion, to personal, social and economic success.”

This belief in the interconnectedness between an individual and their space, their surrounding environment, and the work they produce, is epitomized in Guess’ Pine House, which focuses on how the inhabitants utilize the space. It incorporates an open plan and numerous built-ins, benches and cubbyholes, all thoughtfully and ergonomically placed. Pine House shows F+W’s ability to take something inexpensive and small, and turn it into something miraculous and inspiring.

Sean Guess of Faye and Walker is more than an architect—he’s an emotional capitalist. He’s a designer who is sensitive to his environment and the feelings of his clients. As Guess’ site says, “It is [his] goal to identify the factors most important to the users of spaces and bring them into harmony through thoughtful design . . . and achieve a formal and spatial solution.”

Harmony, thoughtfulness, self-reflection. The life in these modern Austin homes sounds just about right.

By: David Plick