For me, architecture begins with an idea. This idea can come from an owner’s program, the site, an image, an idea about geometry, form or structure, a view, or somewhere unexpected. Once I have this initial idea, I begin to work it, study it, and explore it. However, design is also a collaborative process, not done in a vacuum. I work to help my clients understand how the design is developing, show them alternatives, listen to their feedback, and involve them in the decisions that are made along the way.
In some ways I see myself as a sculptor. I tend to work from the outside in, initially working on the overall image of the building, the form and massing, and the basic organization and structure, with only a general idea of how the program spaces fit inside. I am interested in working with simple, pure, primal forms, and carving spaces out of blocks of mass. I generally do not try to “solve” the program, or work to come up with a plan and extrude walls from it. Rather, I look at many different issues moving around the design, looking from far away and then moving in close, flipping back and forth from outside to inside, and from two dimensional to three dimensional. If I get stuck, I change my plan of attack, and focus on something else. I explore the relationships between different aspects of the building and the site, looking to understand and integrate the pieces into a whole. Actually, it is more like integrating the whole around the pieces. I don’t try to rush the process of design; I take my time and try to put my heart and soul into it.
I am concerned about scale, proportion, volume, geometry, patterns, and alignments; as well as light, materials, texture, sight lines, and views. I try to incorporate elements of surprise and delight; and to differentiate or vary the volume, size, and scale of elements and spaces, from small and intimate to larger and grander, dark to light, smooth to rough. I like to use simple, traditional materials such as wood, stone, metal, tile, and plaster, and hand made materials of New Mexico such as adobe, mud plaster, and hand-hewn wood. Sometimes I like to use materials in new ways or in contrast to each other. I try to emphasize surfaces and mass, and seek continuity between different architectural elements. I like to use slight angles and out of square walls, intersecting offset geometries, and free form curves or circles that collide with straight lines or make transitions based on acute or obtuse angles.
I am also concerned with openings, windows, and doors. The patterns they make, and the focus and views they provide, are critical. I like to frame views to appear like paintings. Sometimes I open up to the big view of the landscape and the sky, other times I try to limit the view to be very specific and calculated, focusing on a single object, natural feature, or piece of the landscape, such as pinon covered hills seen without the sky. Although New Mexico is a land of big views, I do not think that every room has to have every view.
My buildings are grounded to their sites, but I try to provide a clear separation or transition between the man-made and the natural. Sometimes my interior spaces flow into exterior spaces and make the transition to the natural away from the building, using a landscaped or constructed edge, other times my buildings look like they fell out of space onto the site, with the undisturbed, natural site beginning right outside the walls.
I am not necessarily on any one path of exploration, working on any particular theme or idea, although there are common ideas and elements in my work. I don’t see myself as a modernist or a traditionalist. My work has characteristics of each, although overall my work has a more traditional feel, because of the basic forms and the warmth of the palett of materials and textures I like to use. Obviously, living in Santa Fe, I have been influenced by the historic adobe architecure of New Mexico and the Southwest, including Ancestral Pueblo ruins, more recent pueblo structures, and the villages of the Spanish and Anglo settlers; as well as the regional styles such as Pueblo and Territorial. I also draw from a wide range of historical influences such as the cities of Vesuvius (Pomeii and Herculaneum), Italian, French, and Iberian hill towns, and mainstream historic American architecture; as well as more modern work such as that of Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Luis Barragan, Tendo Ando, Riccardo Legoretta, and even contemporary southwest architects such as Antoine Predock, Rick Joy, and Dust. I have also drawn inspiration from painters such as Georgia O'Keefe and James Harrill.
I think buildings should be comfortable and responsive to the environmental conditions of their sites, especially climate. I try to make my buildings as green or sustainable as I can. To me this means working to provide energy efficiency, thoughtful use and incorporation of technology and resources used in the construction, utilizing solar energy where possible, and creating long lasting, low maintenance buildings, that are adapted to the needs of a modern lifestyle. I also believe in designing to provide a healthy interior environment, by trying to avoid the use of toxic materials and construction methods. Buildings should be livable, adaptable, and meet the needs of the occupants.
Finally, I feel that architecture should catch people’s attention, arouse their curiosity, draw them in, challenge their expectations, and maybe even teach them something. Each building should be unique, a specific response to the individual factors that contribute to, and influence its design. And, above all, buildings should be affordable.