style…final words


Sigh…thanks Brian Paletz for suggesting this. The very thought of addressing style and sorting through the customary arguments for or against things old, things new or somewhere in between feels exhausting. I’ve struggled to find time to write lately only to have our Architalks topic be focused on a word I dodge and avoid. If you’ve read my blog at all in the last seven years, you know I’ve addressed this often. So, forgive me for recounting the many earlier posts, but I hope the preponderance of evidence of past rants, rambles, and rages should make my point if I haven’t been clear until now.

Oh, Modernism Who Art Thou: For those who carelessly throw around the terms modern or contemporary, I share my doubts of really knowing what either of these means. Nothing has changed in the past six years.


Traditional Architecture: Feeling the need to address the obvious, I share my thoughts about traditional architecture dare someone to criticize me of having a limited palate for only modern architecture (of course how can that be since I don’t know what means). I was still criticized. I’ll say it again, no architect dislikes traditional or classical architecture. We just hate (can I say that), strongly dislike false historic attempts and poorly executed traditional buildings. These are probably the hardest buildings to do well and one cannot “drape” classicism on most contemporary buildings without a painful result.


Not just a Modernist: If someone didn’t get the point before, I came out and said it again.


The Simple Foods: To steer the conversation away from “style”, I attempt to address the elements of architecture that inspire me and my approach to design – a focus on the simple things:  materials, textures, hardware, fixtures, form and most importantly, space. From there, style becomes unimportant.


Today a bit of Yesterday, hopefully, a Tomorrow: As an architect who largely works with existing buildings, a site visit inspired a few thoughts. “It is important to remember that architecture was here before us, and I certainly hope we make architecture to be here when we’re gone. let’s make good decisions and not borrow against tomorrow.”


History Lesson Needed: Events in my own practice that involved style, history, present and past evoked this outburst where I began to finally see through people’s opinions about an architectural style that has nothing to do with architectural superiority or quality. It is more shallow than that, unfortunately.


Search for Authentic: A weekend trip involving a 1940’s diner, inspired thoughts about my naïve idealism for creating architecture that is authentic rather than faking something that only fools our eyes. We find that it is perhaps impossible to achieve this; my opinions of most building construction today is revealed through my sarcastic diatribe fueled by the afterglow of a satisfying bacon and egg breakfast in one of my most favorite types of restaurants.


Order off the Menu: Never being afraid to tackle architectural topics of controversy, I make a connection between searching for an architect much like one chooses a restaurant. I share my thoughts (and opinions – don’t worry), recommending one research the type(s) of work their architect of choice does and does well. Some architects claim to design “whatever” one wants with an air of confidence and proficiency in multiple representations. I posit an argument that better results come from ordering the type of food that is offered on their menu.


What Are the Rules: Finally, I come right out and say what I thought I was saying all along. My biggest trouble with the design of traditional or classical architecture today stems from the failure of most designers ignore the foundation of why these structures of the past are so good. The architecture of the past is far more than copying and pasting details onto a simple box. I conflate thoughts about our architectural past with similar rules for contemporary architecture today.


Well, that was actually fun, but after so much senseless debate over visual superiority, I must concede that it will never end. I can apprehend why the architecturally uneducated American prefers what they like and ignore their own inconsistencies. I don’t believe it’s linked to a superior style any more than I believe most architects (currently practicing) prefer what is considered “modern” or contemporary due to a brain-washing process initiated in architectural education and perpetuated by the architectural media. These arguments are more complex and deeper but a resolution will likely evade the profession during my lifetime.

Does it really matter? Well, that’s one of the questions. Now you must start all over at the beginning.20170213_191501.jpg

Please take some time to read the posts of my friends and their take on style for this month’s topic on Architalks.

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
The AREsketches Style

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Should You Pick Your Architect Based on Style or Service?

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Stylized Hatred

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Name That Stile!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks : Style

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
What Style Do You Build In?

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You do you

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
What’s Your Style?

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Architectural Style

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
5 Styles of an Aspiring Architect

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Architects Atelier (@sokokyu)
Loaded With Style

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Regression or Evolution : Style

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
What’s in a Style?

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Architectalks 23 – Style

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Defining an Architect’s Style

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
style: #architalks

style…final words

14 thoughts on “style…final words

  1. I’ll admit that as I read through your post, I found myself paying more and more attention to the books in your library. It became clear that you and I have about 90% of the same books (at least in the images you shared). The other 10%? I sadly don’t have any of the GA Houses … now I’m sad. Maybe we could create a kickstarter called “Get Bob the GA Houses Books that He Should Already Have”

    I like the sound of that.

  2. I think the best response is, You’re welcome. Oh and great post! I too found myself gazing at your architectural library. One that appears to dwarf my own.

      1. Sorry, didn’t mean to post a double comment. I didn’t think the first one had gone through. Really did love the post, and I typically dread the conversations of what architectural “style” you either like the most or closely relate to. I just try to do good architecture for our clients and let everyone else decide where they think it belongs. I hoped that the subject would go off in directions I never even thought of, and I think from all the posts I read it accomplished that.

  3. michele grace hottel says:

    i would comment on your comment on my post but my comments keep spinning, not sure what is up with that, BUT…
    Back to style: having grown up in Pittsburgh, actually having lived in three houses just in Dormont that are all now over 100 years old., I do not know if my style would be the same if I still lived there as it is because I have lived in California (both San Diego and Los Angeles). One of the best things I heard from both Alan Forrest (in 1988), “Los Angeles is so ugly, you can’t help but make it better”, which because there were so many “historical copies of styles” in Los Angeles and none of them really relating to Southern California, you can really express yourself whatever way you want and one does. Knowing Marc Appleton and having worked in his office in the early 90’s, I respect designing and constructing in a certain period style with exact details and it is not for the faint of heart or budget. My second comment about style and emulating history, comes from living in Denmark where they think that 100 years old, is “not very old”. So to “remodel” an existing building that is 100 years old, is not a big deal because this is a country that bore vikings and the Viking ship museum is as modern as it can be (because modern is a historical style now).

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