My history has taken me around the world in search of architecture and design solutions that make sense. While no place is perfect, there have been nuggets that have turned into principles that I feel are crucial in getting the most architecture for your money.
While in Germany as an instructor for a traveling studio, I learned many things, but two stand out. First, everything is designed. Whether we like it or not, there was a decision to build anything that exists. The places we seek are usually the ones that have listened and responded to what is heard. The ones we don't, most likely had another agenda... The second thing is that simplification is not simple. While everything appeared new and modern in Berlin, the up close detailing was intricate and required thought. I am sure somewhere in the process, someone said the words 'we don't do things that way, we have always done 'x''. To be able to think of a clean finish and persevere past the historically used detailing as the only way is key to creating a cleaner simpler world.
The largest project I have ever been a part of was the renovation of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. This was the greatest example of another principle - respect the past, but build in the future. This icon of American sport was in dire need of upgrades to the suites and press box to keep up with the everchanging needs of the user. After careful consideration of what existed and what was desired, we decided to strip down to what was the essence of the place and build up around it. And while the new Pressbox looks and feels modern, at every connection to the stadium, there is a seam that had to respect and respond to the history.
While big projects are sexy and the notoriety may be greater, I enjoy the one to one response of the home design and renovation world most. The ability to fulfill an owner's goals and dreams with a place they love to be in is what I enjoy most. I have contributed to over 100 homes in my work and have enjoyed each one in some way. This also includes 3 places that were mine. They taught me some lessons about what things really cost and what really matters. These experiences brought me to my main principle...what is really needed? And while I have my value judgements for my own needs, it is fun and creative to work to find and deliver on others values for their own space. Stripping down to the basics of what you really need allows some unique avenues to open up to give you things you really want, without putting you in debt prison for things you are 'supposed' to want.