Blog / Architecture Quotes (and some thoughts…)

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This home was designed to take advantage of its waterfront site, provide open, modern spaces, and be relatively affordable to construct.  Using simple forms enlivened by energetic porch roofs, the design creates sunny, open spaces with the flexibility to host 2 people or 20.

“We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” — Winston Churchill
My favorite quote. Architects believe that architecture is important, that it can affect human lives and behavior for better or worse. This quote succinctly affirms this.


“Form ever follows function” — Louis Sullivan
This is the most famous quote about architecture, though it is usually abridged (“form follows function”) and often mis-attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright or others. I believe it is also often misunderstood. It is generally invoked to suggest the idea that buildings should be efficient machines, with little emphasis on ornament or qualities to warm the soul. I believe that Louis Sullivan, who designed astonishingly lush ornamentation for many of his buildings, meant “the purpose of a building should be the starting point for its design”.


“God is in the details.” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Many people look at Mies van der Rohe’s buildings — minimalist, modernist structures with simplified geometry — and think that there are no details. But the more you strip a building down, the more important every connection becomes.


“Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music.” — Goethe
My daughter is a composer. The design process she employs when composing — considering proportions, rhythmical variations, contrasts, modulations, tension and release, theme and variation– are the same that I employ. She has found that one of the most useful books for her composition is “101 Things that I learned in Architecture School”.


“The extent to which you have a style is the extent to which you have not solved the problem.” –Charles Eames
Good architecture responds in specific ways to its site, its context, its program, and its users. A thoughtful approach to all of those factors means no two buildings will have a similar form. When architects have a signature style, it means they are not responding to at least some of the particulars of any given project. There is a famous architect still working today who has designed a day-care facility and a war memorial that look identical. Charles Eames, and I, do not approve.


“Architecture is like portraiture, buildings embody their patrons” –Unknown
This is not true for all architects (see above), but I find it important. Most buildings will endure for longer than most clients, however, so a degree of adaptability is also important.


“If it isn’t beautiful, then it isn’t sustainable.” –James Wines
Buildings must be loved to be maintained, they must be maintained in order to last, and they must last to be sustainable.


“An architects mission, simply stated, is to improve the quality of life of human beings.” –Toshiko Mori
Good architecture is about facilitating positive human interactions. It is not about making something pretty (though that can also be important), it is about making spaces where people can find meaning.


“Nature is ever changing—the color of the light changes throughout the day, the color of the season changes. But architecture is static, inert, and that creates a dialogue between the human made—architecture—and the organic and dynamic—the natural world.” –Richard Meier
Buildings exist in a setting, and if designed thoughtfully, can contrast with and enhance that setting.


“Everyone wants the same thing, rich or poor, not only a warm, dry room, but a shelter for the soul”. Sam Mockbee
Architecture is important.


“You usually find that what works is better than what looks good…the ‘looks good’ can change, but what works, works.” –Ray Eames
Style is the least important aspect of architecture.


“The difference between good and bad architecture is the time you spend on it.” – David Chipperfield
All of the arts are more perspiration than inspiration, but none more so than architecture.


“All fine architectural values are human values, else not valuable.” — Frank Lloyd Wright
Buildings represent us.


“Architecture, even at its most accomplished, will only ever constitute a small, and imperfect, protest against the state of things.” — Alain de Botton
While architecture is powerful, its message is subtle…


“You think philosophy is difficult, but I tell you, it is nothing compared to the difficulty of being a good architect.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein
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