|Architecture, Designer, Interviews|
“When “expression” and “content” coincide, something exceptional is born.”
Craig Steely is a San Francisco and Hawaii based architect. His designs are cool and unique – “contemporary West Coast architecture with a clean Zen sensibility.” They have been awarded recognition by the American Institute of Architects and published widely in books and periodicals. In 2009 Craig Steely was selected as an “Emerging Talent” by the AIA California Council. The architect from San Francisco has been a guest lecturer at Berkeley University, at Cal Poly and at many design conferences. Recently I had the pleasure to have a cyber sit down with him afer he returned from a trip to Japan. Before the interview I read that Craig’s “charisma really comes from a deep-rooted stability, a sense of health and vitality, and a freedom from inner hang-ups.” I so agree with this… Craig loves to surf, skateboard and play music around campfires.
What was the moment when you knew you would be an architect?
I remember the exact moment when I decided to be an architect. I was with my family staying near Sea Ranch. I had spent the morning sketching these houses and there was a Sunset Magazine laying around that I looked at and thought, ” Oh, I should do this. I could do this.” It sounds so naive and funny. I was 15, I think.
Is there something that connects all your projects?
My work…it’s all one building really! When I look at my projects I see a string of an idea starting from my first and continuing on from my latest. Certain projects are linked variations of a specific idea and other times themes appear and reappear in later work as my experience has grown. I see an exploration of contrasts along similar lines: opacity-transparency, heaviness-lightness, action-reaction. This idea string morphs to suit the circumstances and gets refined from one project to the next.
Looking back at your first project what design knowledge do you wish you had back then?
I wish I would have had the confidence and maturity to tell the clients they didn’t need so much.
What do you enjoy most in your work?
Getting to the core of an idea. Simplifying it, clarifying it, making it stronger and more obvious by reduction. That and hanging out on job sites.
What do you love to do when you are not designing?
Surf, skateboard, play music around campfires.
Who are your favorite artists?
Fine artists? Let’s see…James Turrell, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Olafur Eliasson, I find direct inspiration from them in my architecture. I always like Anthony Caro, Jean Tinguely, Niki De Saint Phalle.
Your favorite books?
Too many to name just one. I like writers who can ride the fine line between profundity and absurdity. My favorites are Graham Greene, Joyce Cary, Haruki Murakami, Richard Braughtigan.
What does success mean to you?
It’s the moment when I’m dreaming or sketching and the perfect idea appears out of the confusion of words, ideas, feelings and thoughts.
What’s your advice to upcoming architects?
Only do it if you have to do it. There are too many architects doing work they are not invested in or really don’t care about…the world is littered with these things.
My signature question – what are the most important design elements?
When “expression” and “content” coincide, something exceptional is born.
photos: Craig Steely Architecture