The Strange Habits of Top Architects

Well-known architects are easy to admire or dismiss from afar, but up close, oddly humanizing habits often come to light. However, while we all have our quirks, most people’s humanizing habits don’t give an insight into how they became one of the most notable figures in their field of work. The following habits of several top architects reveal parts of their creative process, how they relax, or simply parts of their identity. Some are inspiring and some are surprising, but all give a small insight into the mental qualities that are required to be reach the peak of the architectural profession—from an exceptional work drive to an embrace of eccentricity (and a few more interesting qualities besides).

1. Playing With the Same Toy All Day (The Eameses)

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© Eames Office

© Eames Office

Charles and Ray Eames were prolific in their work, producing over 900 multidisciplinary designs. TheMusical Tower was one of these, a 5-meter high rearrangeable xylophone tower. For new staff members, the entire first day would be spent playing with this one toy. This creative initiation was important for the Eameses, who believed that spending a day listening to and observing someone’s musical experiments provided valuable insight to their personality.

2. Drinking a Lot of Alcohol (Alvar Aalto)

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Image <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alvar_Aalto1.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a> (public domain)

Image via Wikimedia (public domain)

“Architectural art cannot be created in an office-like environment”, Alvar Aalto once said. Taking this to extremes, Aalto was known to have “drank like a fish,” and boozing in the office was common—aiming, of course, for an artistic bohemian air rather than unproductive drunkenness. [1]

3. Never Ever Getting a Good Night’s Sleep (Leonardo da Vinci, Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn)

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Image credits, clockwise from top left: Public Domain <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LEONARDO.JPG'>via Wikimedia</a>; Public Domain photographer Al Ravenna <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frank_Lloyd_Wright_portrait.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a>; <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:R._Buckminster_Fuller_with_his_domed_city_design.jpg'>Wikimedia user Steve Yelvington</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 4.0</a>; Robert C Lautman

Image credits, clockwise from top left: Public Domain via Wikimedia; Public Domain photographer Al Ravenna via Wikimedia; Wikimedia user Steve Yelvington licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0; Robert C Lautman

Architects have long been associated with unusual sleep patterns, with some more unusual than others.Leonardo da Vinci, Buckminster Fuller and Frank Lloyd Wright were all polyphasic sleepers, taking short naps every three or four hours instead of a long night’s sleep, while Louis Kahn would spend his daylight hours teaching, napping until 10:30pm, and then beginning a “day” of work at his office. [2]

4. Climbing A Mythical Norwegian Mountain Every Year (Snøhetta)

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© <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dovre_Sn%C3%B6hetta_Gryta_B.JPG'>Wikimedia user Bjoertvedt</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>

© Wikimedia user Bjoertvedt licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Climbing a Norwegian mountain may be considered an odd team building exercise for architectural firms, unless your firm is Snøhetta. For Snøhetta, whose founding inspiration and namesake is a mountain said to house Norse gods, an annual trip to climb that very mountain makes a lot more sense. The purpose of the trip has changed as the firm has grown: “We use the time to talk about what we’re doing and where we want to go,” says co-founder Craig Dykers. “We used to go just for the sake of climbing but now it’s got to have more meaning.”

5. Really Loving Yourself (Zaha Hadid)

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© Brigitte Lacombe

© Brigitte Lacombe

There are many stories of Zaha Hadid that suggest the most important person in her life was herself. Examples include being several hours late for a Vogue photoshoot in her own home or only furnishing her apartment with objects she designed herself. While many of those in her inner circle have attested to her kind heart, this attitude of self-love was also also the heart of her headstrong philosophy; in her own words, “I never took no for an answer. I never sat back and said ‘walk all over me, it’s OK.’”

6. Really Loving Others (Eileen Gray)

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Image <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eileen_Gray.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a> (public domain)

Image via Wikimedia (public domain)

The inspirations behind Eileen Gray’s designs were often people she loved. The hallmark of this was perhaps the ill-fated E.1027, built originally for her then-lover Jean Badovici. Even the name itself was “code for an affair of the heart.” E stood for Eileen, while the numbers corresponded to letters in the alphabet for J,  B and G, signifying Jean, Badovici and Gray—her name “holding his.”

7. Having Sex Several Times a Day, Even if You’re Eighty (Frank Lloyd Wright)

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Image <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frank_Lloyd_Wright_portrait.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a> (public domain, photographer Al Ravenna)

Image via Wikimedia (public domain, photographer Al Ravenna)

Frank Lloyd Wright was said to have an “inexhaustible supply of creative energy” that allowed him to maintain a habit of only beginning drawings for clients a few hours before they were due to present. His wife also reported a similar inexhaustible supply, but one of sexual energy. She claimed that even at eighty-five, he could go at it twice or thrice a day. She even sought medical advice and was offered potassium nitrate, thought to decrease a man’s sex drive, but decided against it in the end. [2]

8. Creeping on Your Building Users (Denise Scott Brown)

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© Robert Venturi

© Robert Venturi

When asked what part of her work brought her joy, Denise Scott Brown admitted to essentially creeping on people using her building. Visiting the Perelman Quadrangle at the University of Pennsylvania, she observed thirty or so students sitting on the rising steps “like bees in a hive,” just as she had envisioned. Taking her to be some “old lady in a skirt” who they did not know, they simply looked puzzled and could not understand why she was grinning broadly at them. [3]

9. Lying Quietly in the Dark, Deep in Thought (I.M. Pei)

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via http://blog.newx.com/

via http://blog.newx.com/

I.M. Pei has noted how over his long career he has come to rely less on drawing on paper, and more on drawing in his mind. For Pei, much of his best thinking is done in bed at night with the lights out, sometimes with a trip to the bathroom to scribble ideas down. If it didn’t look as good on paper as in his mind, it would be back to bed to think some more. This nocturnal process meant that even for him it was hard to distinguish the sources of his ideas, which came to be increasingly dream-like.

10. Eating Monochromatic Meals (Luis Barragán)

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© <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/esparta/3573608700'>Flickr user esparta</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY-SA 2.0</a>

© Flickr user esparta licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

You are what you eat, or so they say. So for an architect who championed color, it’s perhaps not surprising that Luis Barragán was known to order entirely pink-colored meals, such as sherry-drizzled melon halves.

11. Taking Your Porsche out for a Spin (Ricardo Scofidio)

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© <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Porsche_-_356_B.S._-_1962_(M.A.R.C.).jpg'>Wikimedia user Croquant</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>

© Wikimedia user Croquant licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

We all have preferred ways to blow off steam and for Ricardo Scofidio, of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, that includes a 1963 vanilla Porsche. Having also owned a Saab 96, Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV and Jaguar XK150, Scofidio is a clear car enthusiast but also creatively credits the mind-clearing abilities of pure speed.

2016 BCO Awards Name the Best Office Buildings in the UK

2016 BCO Awards Name the Best Office Buildings in the UK
 

The British Council for Offices (BCO) has announced the winners of the 2016 National Awards. The BCOAwards program was established to recognize “ top quality office design and functionality and sets the standard for excellence across the office sector in the UK,” providing a benchmark for excellence in design and functionality. This year’s ‘Best of the Best’ winner was The Enterprise Center at the University of East Anglia by Architype.

“This year we have once again seen a fantastic range of diverse and innovative workplaces, highlighting Britain’s position at the forefront of the global office sector. The Enterprise Centre stands tall as both a dynamic and collaborative work and event space, and as a benchmark in sustainable design,” said Emma Crawford, Managing Director of Central London Leasing at CBRE and BCO National Awards Chair.

Continue reading to see this year’s winners.

‘Best of the Best’ & Corporate Workplace: The Enterprise Center, University of East Anglia, Norwich / Architype

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Courtesy of British Council for Offices

Courtesy of British Council for Offices

The University of East Anglia’s The Enterprise Centre was praised by judges for showcasing low carbon and sustainable design at its best. Judges commented that the workplace offered a wide range of highly flexible accommodation with incubation and collaborative spaces for new and developing businesses in a building equipped to deliver for the 21st century.

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Courtesy of British Council for Offices

Courtesy of British Council for Offices
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Courtesy of British Council for Offices

Courtesy of British Council for Offices

Commercial Workplace: The Leadenhall Building, London / Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

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Courtesy of British Council for Offices

Courtesy of British Council for Offices

The Leadenhall Building holds its own in the London’s ‘City Cluster’ with its striking form the result of the elegant resolution of a myriad of issues.

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Courtesy of British Land and Oxford Properties

Courtesy of British Land and Oxford Properties
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Courtesy of British Land and Oxford Properties

Courtesy of British Land and Oxford Properties

Refurbished/Recycled Workplace: Alphabeta, London / Studio RHE

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Courtesy of British Council for Offices

Courtesy of British Council for Offices

The restoring and reformatting of a series of historic buildings to create Alphabeta has created an active and vibrant communal “village.”

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Courtesy of British Council for Offices

Courtesy of British Council for Offices
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Courtesy of British Council for Offices

Courtesy of British Council for Offices

Fit Out of Workplace: Berghaus HQ, Sunderland / Rock Townsend

Sunderland’s Berghaus HQ was praised for strongly reflecting the brand’s ethos of ‘live for adventure’ through impressive solutions such as the sky rail and climbing rope staircase

Project up to 2,000m2: Bunker, Littlewoods Complex, Liverpool / Shedkm Architects

The flexibility of space offered by The Bunker in Liverpool impressed the judges, with the open plan floor plate giving the space the potential to be split into two, three or four units on each floor.

Test of Time: BBC North, Salford / Wilkinson Eyre Architects + Chapman Taylor + ID:SR

BBC North was selected by the judges for its quality of design and in-built flexibility, enabling quality content to be consistently produced as occupier numbers steadily increased.

Innovation: LandRover BAR Team HQ, Portsmouth / HGP Architects

Portsmouth’s LandRover BAR Team HQ was awarded for innovation due to its highly sustainable and energy efficient design coupled with an incorporation of impressive facilities such as F1 style meeting rooms and a state-of-the art gym.

The BCO also awards regional winners in each category, which become the shortlist for the national award. More information on the award, along with the regional lists, can be found at the BCO website,here.

Entries for the 2017 awards open on Wednesday 5th October 2016.

News via BCO.

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