Architects appreciate and envy the craft and quality in ancient construction that is virtually impossible to duplicate today. Historical buildings are magnificent because they encompass all those archaic design and construction qualities from that period of their own birth. When we attempt to “copy” those old structures today, they inevitably lack all those intrinsic qualities associated with their presumed age. Modern architecture is built with current technology, and the latest construction techniques and building materials. People live and work today in vastly different ways than they did long ago. A house in 1920 was designed to function for people with a very different culture and lifestyle, built virtually without building codes, and with limited materials and technology from that period. Although we may relish the simplicity of living in that time, we design today for “here and now”. Modern design has good technical reasoning behind its appearance. A new car looks, feels, and drives radically different today, than one from the 1920’s. In the same respect, architecture enables and expresses the culture and lifestyle we live today, with strict health and safety codes and all the technological advantages of modern materials and construction methods.

The site and surrounding environment are the root of any building design, and every project needs to respond specifically and appropriately to its “place”. Having a specific site before you begin any project is essential. Regional and local building materials, building forms, climate, terrain, vegetation, geological conditions, culture, history, all influence in varying degrees the project design for a particular site. Important physical constraints on the site are typically explicit in the building design. A site with significant limitations such as large trees or steep sloping terrain should not be immediately ruled out. Often times challenging environmental conditions result in the most creative and rewarding design solutions. The finished architecture will not stand out as an incompatible transplant from some remote part of the world, but blend with and respond intimately to that site and surrounding environment for which it was specifically intended.

Structure is an essential component of architecture, and one of the most influential elements of the building form. The structural system may be minimized as a subtle feature, or emphasized as a major aesthetic component of the design, but it is carefully planned and articulated to support and reinforce other critical elements of the project. Exposing or expressing the structural system is both appropriate and historically consistent with great architecture from our past across all cultural lines.

Materials have different aesthetic qualities and construction characteristics, and each should be utilized properly. Disguising a material to simulate another kind of material is superficial and misleading. An example would be cladding metal stud walls in thin synthetic stucco patterned to resemble a rustic cut stone facade. Even if you are pleasantly deceived by the initial result, with closer inspection the actual material becomes apparent, and the whole illusion self evident. The material will age and deteriorate faster, in different ways than the material it emulates, drawing more unwanted attention to the deception. If a heavy load bearing wall is more appropriate to the design, use a thick load bearing material which exemplifies those true qualities. Using materials honestly to express those inherent design qualities is fundamental to good architecture.

People sometimes equate good design with expensive lavish materials and ornate trim in over abundance to the point of overwhelming the viewer. “Less is more” does hold true. The quality of the space is much more important than quantity or amount of “decoration”. Clean and simple surfaces can be interesting and sophisticated given the right composition of form, materials, proportion, color, texture, etc.. Although sometimes appropriate, trim and molding are more often utilized in construction to hide misaligned materials, rough edges and other poor craft. They intensify and emphasize the superficial, while distracting from the subtle beauty and order of the essential architecture.

Successful architecture acknowledges no particular ‘style’ or ‘ism’. Buildings all have different characteristics, but each responds to and resolves its own unique set of problems, or has some specific reasoning behind that mystique. All the elements of the building work in harmony to reinforce one another and the overall sense of the project. Nothing is unplanned or happenstance. All aspects of the project such as form, proportions, structure, materials, colors, textures, etc. are designed and detailed in a cohesive way to emphasize that unique architectural character for that specific project and site at that particular moment in time.