Rewarding Design

Architect John Priestly III

Q. How do you approach a new project?

A. At its core, designing is simply problem solving. It’s a three-dimensional puzzle with an infinite number of possible solutions, factoring in cost, codes, structure, aesthetics, functionality, and history.

Q. Can you take us through your particular design process?

A. To narrow in on the best design solution, I put a lot of energy into programming. Before putting a line on paper—not a screen, thanks!—I get to know my clients and their inclinations well enough to represent their interests at all levels of the project. Let’s face it, the person who can hire an architect to design their house, say, is most often a successful, worldly, and interesting individual; it is typically a pleasure to collaborate with them.

Q. Do you have a specific style you are known for? Or gravitate toward?

A. My belief—and practice—is that it is unprofessional to embark upon design with preconceived stylistic inclinations. As with every other aspect of the process, the building’s aesthetic must emerge organically from contextual and programmatic imperatives. Being able to create in any style is one of the most satisfying aspects of my work.

Q. How important is collaboration?

A. Satisfying as well is assembling and channeling the energy and expertise of a broad team: owners, builders, consultants, and craftspeople. If architecture is frozen music, as an architect, I am more conductor than composer, artfully guiding the building’s gestation while avoiding application of my personal stamp.

Q. What is the most gratifying part of your job?

A. Architecture over the course of centuries, if not millennia, has never been about designer recognition. My rewards come from producing an enduring commodity—a gift to my client and to the community. To be able to do so, while exercising my love of creation, is sublime.

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