Having grown up in California in a time when architecture was going through its “awkward years”, I became aware, early on of the unfortunate fact that buildings tend to outlast stylistic taste – often by a significant number of years. Whether it be the 1970’s Spanish-minimalist 2 story tract home that features a garage as its primary design element or the sunken living room. For better or worse, design decisions last, but don’t always endure. For this reason, when I’m asked the question, “What style of building do you design?”, the answer is, “One that will ideally last!”
Beyond the fact that styles change, there are many elements that play into architectural design decisions. Whether it’s the owner’s preferences, the site topography, climate, views, neighborhood aesthetic, budget or code considerations, the answer to the question of style can be as varied as the personalities we design for.
Fortunately, every site and every project we work on provides clues as to the best way to proceed. A building located on the cliffs overlooking the ocean might have large windows to capture a view. Since a large opening in the wall requires a relatively modern material (steel) to achieve this, a site might lend itself to a modern or midcentury modern style concept. A client building inland, where there can be large fluctuation in temperature between day and night, might consider employing the use of thick walls to take advantage of temperature lag. This would indicate a style consistent with an adobe building.
Additionally, building technology is constantly changing, allowing us to live comfortably in areas where traditionally – due to climate – it was difficult. Though we lean on technology, we find that studying the lessons learned from buildings that have been historically successful in an area makes for a more harmonious, more efficient building.
While our approach to designing a building is not too limited by the criteria offered by a particular site – i.e. there’s no reason that a modern building won’t work in the desert or a Spanish adobe on the coast – by being aware of all that a site or a project has to offer, we are able to design a building that will endure, will be energy efficient and of a style that continues to be relevant.