Monday morning inspiration

Where do Architects find inspiration for their work? For me, it can be – and usually is – found anywhere that I’m not looking for it! It doesn’t matter if it’s an architectural project, or a linocut that I’m working on, or a knitting pattern: if I search for it, I can’t find it (especially on Monday mornings!). But when I’m not looking, it shows up.

It’s in the small details, the pieces of a bigger structure, and the contrast of light on textured surfaces that catch my eye most often, like the backlit etched plexiglass panels in a Strasbourg cafe (bottom left).

It’s in the paintings that I love: Tom Thomson, with whom I share a birthday (top left, from the McMichael Gallery); Emily Carr, who reminds me of living in Vancouver; and Mary Pratt, who brings me right back to my Newfoundland roots.

Since I was a student, I have found inspiration in the architecture, furniture, and graphic design of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (top right), and in the often overlooked design work of Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh. They also inspired some of my early studies in printmaking.

Almost 30 years ago, my M.Arch. thesis was inspired by small, sustainable infill houses like the ones designed by Architect Donald MacDonald in San Francisco (sketches at top, center). Build only what you need, simple yet sophisticated, filled with natural light.

Always sitting in the back of my mind is the architecture of home, like the utilitarian stores and stages of Newfoundland (top, center). People like my great-grandfather built with what they had around them. Form indeed followed function.

And sometimes inspiration is found on a construction site: the unexpected juxtaposition of objects that shouldn’t be where they are in a renovation project (bottom right). Patterns of light falling through scaffolding, or filtering through trees. The patterns of stone aggregate in a newly polished concrete floor, or the layers of ancient wallpaper in a hallway.

Architects file away these little bits and pieces for future reference, like file cards in a visual library card catalogue. An image, a shadow, a colour, or a reflection. Sometimes you can see it all around you and nothing sticks. And sometimes the simplest thing stops you in your tracks.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House and Toshiko Mori’s interpretive centre, Buffalo NY

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