Guiding Principles

Any architecture is only as good as its underlying principles. The quality of the guiding principles and the sincerity with which they are applied are always reflected in the finished product.

Below are brief descriptions of principles that have guided my architectural practice over the last 25 years. Many of these are difficult to fully communicate in writing, without the experience of being in and around the houses themselves. If you would like to know more about how these principles might be applied to your built environment, please call or email. Initial consultations are free of charge.



Listening well and working closely with clients on interpreting their vision of home is a privilege and a pleasure. Ideally, a working partnership between architect and client will create a home that is truly yours; a home in which architectural form and style reflect your unique needs, interests, values, and aspirations.

Sustainable Architecture

In all my projects I include working with clients to consider sustainable construction strategies in accordance with each client’s project, budget, and lifestyle. Building sustainably will have the greatest impact on the environment— and on the people who practice sustainable living—when it becomes more about lifestyle and less about "a checklist of things I can do to save the planet." Such "things I can do" can be very important, but in my experience, they are most effective and meaningful when they come from the heart.

Natural Form Patterns

When we are moved by the beauty of nature, we are responding at the deepest levels to inherent patterns of integration and order; because these patterns seem to be in us as well, we feel at ease in their presence. In observing natural forms and consistencies that occur between one landscape and another, patterns of underlying structure emerge, and these patterns can guide architectural design.

One example of natural form pattern is the additive quality of nature. Nature simply adds to or intensifies what is already present, yet what is added maintains its own uniqueness. For example, moss on a downed tree trunk adds to the roundness already there. A forest intensifies the earth beneath it. In the same way, a house is an extension of its site, growing from what is already there rather than imposed upon it. The way in which it is designed ensures its belonging. Continuity, displacement, and territory are other natural form patterns that are widely employed in nature to create places of infinite variety, character, and meaning. 

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.

—Richard P. Feynman


Natural form patterns are not applied for their own sake but are chosen to support the goals established by the client. Just as nature supports life, this way of working provides a gentle and flexible framework for the many personal decisions that add style and grace to a project, expressing the individuality of the owner and making each project personal. The beauty and harmony that result are a reflection of the guiding patterns and not of the cleverness or ego of the architect.

It is a set of circumstances which build, much more than the architect. If you grasp the occasion, the occasion makes the architecture.

—Lucien Kroll, Architect



In simplicity lies great elegance and power. Something complex on the surface may still be simple at its core, contributing to a feeling of unity and wholeness. Much of my architectural career has been a movement towards simplicity. The following description of the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi expresses the kind of simplicity I value most in architecture:

The simplicity of wabi-sabi is probably best described as the state of grace arrived at by a sober, modest, heartfelt intelligence. The main strategy of this intelligence is economy of means. Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry. Keep things unencumbered, but don’t sterilize. Usually this implies a limited palette of materials. It also means keeping conspicuous features to a minimum. But it doesn’t mean removing the invisible connective tissue that somehow binds the elements into a meaningful whole.

—Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers



The creative use of transparency in nature is stunning. Here are four types of transparency that I find most useful in the making of meaningful places.

  • Materials that can be seen through directly, such as glass or air. Various configurations of windows and other openings in walls create continuity between inside and outside, or one space and another, by means of transparent material or the absence of material.
  • Screens. Screens involve a combination of transparent and nontransparent elements. Trees, leaves, and clouds in their endless variations are examples of screens in nature. A few of the many examples in houses are handrails, trellises, columns, and mullions. Screens can be used to create partial containment and variations in light, rhythm, scale, and mood.

  • Our ability to “see into” things. This is different from the previous two types of transparency, in that it doesn’t involve seeing with the eyes so much as sensing with the mind and body. Outer appearances can contain clues as to inner structure, allowing us to see into the heart of an object (and perhaps into our own hearts as well?...), revealing something of how it came to be and something of what its purpose might be. In the best of built environments, we can glimpse the intelligence behind its making and feel the continuity of this intelligence from room to room. The form of the human body reveals much about the skeletal structure beneath. Brush strokes on a painting imply the hand, brush, pigment, and movement of their maker. Sloping layers of rock give us an impression of the structure below. Exposed columns and beams allow us to discern the flow of weight towards the earth.

  • The passage of time. In nature, the effects of time are often openly displayed; an object may reveal a precise record of everything that has happened to it. This, in some sense, allows time to be transparent. In the end grain of wood, a wide growth ring indicates a wet spring decades ago. The color of weathered wood reflects rain and sun long past pulled into this moment. The essence of this is expressed in this passage from Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren:

Things are either devolving toward, or evolving from, nothingness... coming in and out of existence, leaving the subtlest of evidence. Wabi-sabi, in its purest, most idealized form, is precisely about these delicate traces, this faint evidence, at the borders of nothingness.

Sociable Architecture

People tend to be drawn to the kitchen in most homes, regardless of how nice the rest of the house is or how dismal the kitchen may be. Observing myself and others in relation to many different types of kitchens, I have identified simple ways in which kitchens facilitate our basic social impulse and experimented with how they can inform the design of kitchens in specific and houses in general. For details, please see the Sociable Kitchens page of this website.

Architecture can do no more, nor should it ever do less, than accommodate people well.

 —Aldo Van Eyck, Architect


Other Considerations

In addition to the above theoretical underpinnings, there is always the nuts-and-bolts core of any responsible architectural practice: technical proficiency; current knowledge of materials, suppliers and costs; respect for established budgets; stewardship of the Earth; and kind and caring dedication to providing a quality service.