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December 2006


MEET THE ARCHITECT

Harrison W. Gill
by Alexa Stevenson

AN ARCHITECT DRAWS ON A RESPECT FOR LOCAL CONTEXT AND HISTORICAL CONTINUITY

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What's your design philosophy? In the process of bringing buildings to fruition, the architect's role is similar to that of a composer. Sometimes, however, allowing some of the other players in the process to improvise can result in a brilliant performance. Who has had a profound impact on your work? My wife and professional partner, Patricia. You're noted for your shingle-style residences. How did this become a "signature" of yours? Having grown up in the South, I was largely unfamiliar with the shingle style. Encountering this type of residence throughout New England, I recognized it as a vibrant and uniquely American form of building. It represents an indigenous and ongoing design tradition in which humor, whimsy and freedom of expression all have a legitimate place. Our practice, however, is by no means limited to shingle-style designs. Where do you live in Connecticut? Cranbury, Norwalk's quiet corner. Describe your home: An 80-year-old Connecticut farmhouse on a wooded acre full of children, books, mice, cats, dogs and music. Which item of furniture in your house would you never sell? Nothing is indispensable! Name a source of inspiration: Small East Coast cities where beautiful buildings and historic structures meet the sea. I strongly believe: We all need to design and inhabit smaller, more intimate buildings and spaces. What are your favorite materials? Connecticut field stone, cedar shingles and glass. What's your guilty design pleasure? Fine midcentury-modern furniture. What's something you can never have too much of? Glenn Gould playing the music of Bach. Do you have a favorite building or structure? Jefferson's Rotunda and the Lawn at the University of Virginia is the finest man-made space in North America. What is your greatest extravagance? Acquiring rare architectural books everywhere I go. What would you do for work if you weren't an architect? My wife, father and grandfather are all architects. It never really occurred to me to do anything else. But I could probably be happy as a writer or a musician. What is your favorite element of a project? Seeing a new building take form after spending months studying it on paper. Name a dream client: Jackson Pollock.

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