With each new or renovated building, with each new developed site, park or street, with each new school, library, home or business, a community is changed. With each new structure, there are consequences in the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people who encounter these interventions. The question we ask ourselves is, what are the public values of each new intervention? What are the possibilities for buildings to be critical, educational, or therapeutic in our city? We are responsible to the program, budget, and schedule, we also ask, what is the public value outside the lot lines of the project? What are the consequences of an intervention in the community of public experience?
Design time in a project is very short in comparison to the life of a building. We feel responsible to make structures last and serve their community for a long time. In Mississippi funds to build are rare, funds to build well are inadequate, and funds to maintain are even more rare. Our design work can be an investment that grows in value over time. For us, continued usefulness means three things; a durable structure, a flexible plan and an engaging form/environment. We work to make durable buildings with a simple palette of materials that we use and reuse to capitalize on their economy, and our growing construction and detailing experience. We work to make spaces and buildings that are loose in their fit to program. We work to make buildings, spaces and sites that are engaging and alive. We avoid spectacle, borrowed language or applied narrative. We keep the work quiet, fitting in and not fitting in; born from research and the site of the work. A durable, loose fitting building that is alive and enigmatic is one that lasts. A structure that is durable in material and memory is sustainable.
We see practice as servant leadership. For us the role of an engaged architect includes teaching. Teaching through the work, in the way the projects can open inquiry about our circumstances, promote real social interaction and increase craft and skill in building.
Cities, landscapes, and buildings are teachers. They frame our interaction. They articulate our values. They can facilitate or inhibit social life. We learn what is private, public, shared and negotiable. Our work as architects is to make physical forms and spaces that promote the best of human possibilities. We believe in cultural growth. Growth however is not possible without criticism, resistance and proposals that promote active inquiry. We witness how authoritative structures of consumerism can rob us of engaged spatial experience. We make form and space to awaken the slumbering subject. We work to create projects that are scaffolds for inquiry. We strive for mixed use, diverse spatial circumstances in character-filled environments. We see this work as therapeutic.
We believe our role, in our state of unskilled labor, is to use the process to support the growth of construction skill and handwork. Today’s contractors are managers who hire marginally skilled subcontractors to complete the actual work. We have no unions, few trade schools and even fewer apprentice programs. In traditional contracts, means and methods are separated from the architect’s responsibility. Since the contractor is at risk for performance, they are solely charged with the means and methods of construction, but they often have only rudimentary knowledge and skills. The quality of building construction often suffers. We have included in our work, training, performance standards and practice mock-ups designed to develop skill and an ethic of craft for the projects. While an architect’s knowledge is second hand, together with a contractor, we can develop a level of craftsmanship that is superior to the status quo. Contractors carry the skills and ethic on to future jobs. We now have contractors in the area who are able to achieve exceptional architectural concrete work, masonry, and metal work.
“Form” for our practice, is neither the object nor the perception of the object. For us, it is the field of transaction between. We avoid overly formalistic designs, esoteric language-based strategies and indulgent materialism. We craft contingent open space where meaning is in process and the result of play between choice and invitation, between intention and opportunity. We reach out into the world with anticipation, memory and purpose. Likewise objects/spaces present challenges, opportunities, and invitations. In-between, in space and in time, we form experience.
Experience is thinned by the speed of concept communication, by overly instructive language, and dealing in collections of superficial types. Architectural space disappears, as we acquiesce into being entertained and make choices in a nominalized world, full of prepackaged instruction, and superficial pleasures.
We believe architects are world builders (however small). Architects make the places that frame and facilitate our work and play, the places where we reside, meet, eat, learn and visit. Architectural space can stretch us beyond the conditioned subject slumber of the consumer/media market to expand our senses, our capacity, and our understanding of who we are and who we want to be. Architectural space can promote inquiry and growth.
Our form strategies to awaken the subject are subversive. To build resistance, delay and indirection from the more dominant language structures requires surprise. To open the possibility of creating an elusive rich space of color, light, shadow, weight, lightness, psychological positioning, and ultimately to shift authority (choice) to the individual requires an open formal design strategy. We seek to make conditions that are abstract where the building/space has a pre-language rooted presence. We strive for form that requires description and is alive in the environment. We experience buildings in motion, in time, with anticipation and in memory. If a building is different; darker, heavier, duller or brighter than it was yesterday, it remains slightly illusive. It raises questions in our memory, promoting awareness, description and re-measurement in experience and fostering inquiry in form.
Activities and functions, the things we do, are not the most important criteria for making space. At a more fundamental level, we strive to make space that is grounded in the spatial/psychological postures through which we navigate life. We seek risk and security, independence and belonging. The psychological postures of spatial experience are established early in infancy. From Adrian Stokes and Melanie Klein, we find a compelling proposition. Our first experiences are enveloping and unselfconscious. We belong. As we grow, we discover independence and imagination, but we are also exposed and at risk. As individuals we mourn the loss of belonging but would not sacrifice imaginative freedom. Stokes and Klein proposed we could look at all of life as a process of seeking some measure or balance between these first fundamental postures. In forms that prioritize transactional openness, we strive to make each space foster both of these postures, in time and by choice. We attempt to make each space multivalent and appeal to the limbic instincts of behavior. An invitation in form, allows posture(s) to be inhabited. Each space or network of spaces offers conditions that are enveloping and exposed.
There are many manifestations of authority in form, from the hierarchy in cities, to the position, scale and material distinctions between institutions and commercial structures. In the past, religious buildings, civic buildings, and civic spaces framed public and civic life. Today, corporate interests, market instruction and entertainment assume dominant interest in characterizing public space and conditioning public behavior. As cities become more characterized by corporate/market interests, public space becomes filled with structures of instruction. Often, the instructions are aimed at eliciting consumption. Signs and commercial forms of identity replace civic form/space. Cities become functional, segregated and overlaid with structures of authority. With more instruction there is less civic engagement, debate and individual inquiry.
In our practice, we are interested in form that invites individual inquiry by shifting authority from institution/market instruction to individual investigation. We move away from codified typologies and narrative structures that prematurely explain form. We work to make spaces and buildings alive and environmentally illusive. We engage in network planning for looseness, contingencies and opportunities for social exchange. In community planning, we avoid the imposition of utopian solutions in favor of community-led, action-oriented interventions and initiatives that instigate open ended growth. To revive our disenfranchised, functionally segregated inner cities, we promote density, mature diversity, mixed-use, mixed-income community development.
Design excellence = Comprehensive Performance for a Healthier Society and Environment
We believe architecture is more than shelter for a group of functions. While architects are responsible to a client’s program, budget, and schedule, these are merely the technical rudiments of building. If a work is to be architecture – if it is to last and foster critical, educational, or therapeutic public experiences – it must go far beyond shelter and offer more than a sign of status or be an object of spectacle. It must be inspirational, achieve comprehensive performance; help make a healthier society and environment and be a meaningful contribution to its community’s story.
Environmental & Social Health
Design leadership is the imaginative work to guide the team – owner, architect, special consultants, governing agencies, and public – through a design conversation that leads to more than a functional solution. We strive for a project that serves its purpose, its community, that is equitable, durable, maintainable, sustainable, energy efficient, and a low consumer of resources. We strive for a project that reduces carbon dioxide (C02) emissions and preserves and expand natural habitats. We strive for buildings that are educational, inspirational, flexible for long-term use, economical in operation, and easily maintained.
We strive for buildings and sites that connect to users, visitors, and communities in meaningful ways. We strive for buildings that we want to be in and around, that provide purpose and joy.
To read more about our Program for Environmental and Social Health, click here to download our program.