Favorite Place


This post is part of a coalition of architects posting on a single topic, each interpreting it in their own way, known as Architalks. This month the topic is your “favorite place”

What is my favorite place?  Easy…my own mind.

Now, I know that sounds egotistical, indulgent, possibly narcissistic, and quite probably what you’d expect from a film noir archetypal mad scientist, but it’s true.

I grew up a daydreamer.  My mind was rarely in the here, and the now, and I loved every second of it.  I played with LEGOs and video games, but I loved to create, loved to imagine, more than anything.  Architecture is fundamentally a creative act that requires a lot of thought, a lot of focused contemplation.  Everyone finds their own way, some sketch, some build models (3D or physical), Wil Alsop even begins with painting, I don’t…I think.


I can generate schemes fast internally, faster than I can sketch, faster than I can model.  I experiment, I test, I construct, I deconstruct.  I get them to a point and file them away for when I’m back at my desk or in front of my sketchbook where I document them.  Most of my best ideas come when I’m driving to work, or walking the dog or in a meeting or conference that doesn’t have my attention.  We live in a world of infinite distractions, where there is always an opportunity for something to assail our thoughts, confront our intellect, divert our attention, and finding moments for the mind to rest is difficult.

When I was 21, I went on an Outward Bound trip in the mountains of Montana.  Part of that experience is often the “solo” where participants go off by themselves for a day, or maybe several.  I spent 24 hours in two feet of snow with only a blue tarp and my wits, no TV, no music, no books, no friends, nothing but me and myself.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.  When you’re forced to just stop and think, creativity flows.  I like people, I have a lot of friends, but the opportunity to be alone with my thoughts is just as important.

When the early paragons of our Profession, the Corbusier’s, the Wrights, confronted their Architecture, it didn’t start with the URL for Archdaily, they didn’t flip open the latest magazine, or grab a tablet to peruse their Houzz app.   It’s difficult to find that time, to avoid the distractions, but it’s important, and I think it leads to better, less derivative design.

At work, when I hit a mental block, I go for a walk.  The building our office is in roughly forms a Y space, 2 levels of occupied space and a partially below-grade parking garage.  In seven minutes I can walk to the end of the top floor, down the stairs, traverse the first floor to the opposite end, then down to the garage, back off  to the opposite end, back up the stairs and finally down again to our office.  I don’t listen to any music, I don’t check my phone, I just walk, and think.  I’m that weird guy staring at my feet when you pass.  You probably smiled, I probably didn’t respond, and you probably assume I’m just shy, or a jerk.  In truth, I probably didn’t even notice you, but when I get back to my office, I usually have a few good solutions to test.


A perfect day for a walk in the park


I don’t go to lunch with people a lot.  I’m collaborating with people all day, and I like to have a break in the middle of it.  We have a park really close to the office, and when the weather is nice (or even when it’s not), I’ll head out there and go for a walk and just think.  Sometimes it’s about work, sometimes it isn’t.

But by far, my absolute favorite time for this is that 15-20 minutes in bed before I fall asleep.  There’s nothing I can do, nothing I need to worry about, nothing but me and my thoughts, like a little pause between days to think and contemplate.  I can reflect on what happened today, think about what I can do tomorrow, revel in a story I read or relive a movie I watched.  I love it.

I encourage everyone to take a break from the distractions from time to time.


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 If you’d like to explore the thoughts of other bloggers on the same topic, I encourage you to follow this links below:

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture
Where Do You Like To Go When You Aren’t Working?
Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
Ruby Slippers
Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Do You Have a Favorite Place?
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
favorite place
Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL
My Favorite Place
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
ArchiTalks meets #ThisOldHouse
Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen
Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
My Favorite Placein the Wild
Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design
Making Space and the Favorite Place
Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
favorite place
Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC
Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
Michael Riscica – Young Architect
MIT Chapel – My Favorite Place
Cinque Terre

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
Favorite Place(s)
Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC
Favorite Place – Architalks 8
Eric Wittman – intern[life]
my [first] favorite place


04 2015
  • http://www.hawkinsarch.com/ Andrew Hawkins

    Dude . . . I can totally relate to that. Nice that you stepped up to be the narcissist and say it out loud! But I do think that spending some time in your own head is always good. Espeically when you need to solve problems, which is what we do as architects every day.

  • Lora

    Great spin on the topic – and one I think we can all relate to!

  • http://proto-architecture.com/blog/ Jonathan Brown

    If you need narcissism, you can count on me!

    There’s always a place for collaboration, but being able to isolate and focus is critical for me.

  • http://proto-architecture.com/blog/ Jonathan Brown

    My extrovert friends just look at me like I’m joking with them, or clearly not communicating what I mean, because no one could actually WANT to spend time in solitude…right?

  • Meghana Joshi

    Of course it is!! My mind is where all my stories happen the way I want them to be, and yes it is my favorite too 🙂 Only realized that after reading you blog, haha! Enjoyed reading your blog..

  • http://soapboxarchitect.com/ Brady Ernst

    Great perspective. Perhaps it was an an un-innovative topic this week, but everyone else went the prototypical route: vacation spots, outdoors, favorite building!

    At least Marica McKeel, Lee Calisti, and Matthew Stanfield were realistic and talked about being home-bodies. You might need to seek psychological counseling, but please keep providing innovative and informative viewpoints.