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Friday, August 10, 2007

Voices of Design: Rob Sinclair

I have a great empathy for Architects, it is a unique profession, because it walks a fine line between artist, engineer and builder. I trained in architecture and worked for architects most of my life before seguing into Interior Design, so I have had the opportunity to get to know both vocations well. Today's Voice of Design, is an Architect with whom I have done several homes, and his work continues to get better and better. His ability to capture and create a sense of place, while working on large scale residences sets him apart, from a lot of his contemporaries. His work has been featured in many magazines, including Architectural Digest, but the humility and passion with which he approaches his work, has always been an inspiration to me, and he as acted as collegue, friend and mentor. I hope you enjoy his insights as much as I did. Also check out his website at: www.sinclairaia.com for many more examples of his work.
MC: Tell us a little bit about your background, where did you study? What other offices have you worked in etc…
RS: I grew up in Southern California…in the OC…the beach was my home and play yard.
I will be forever connected to it’s expanse and it’s ever changing atmosphere.

I stayed in California through the State College program….and attended Architecture School in San Luis Obispo.
I attended an extension program of the School of Architecture in Copenhagen Denmark in my final year.
and traveled extensively throughout Europe for the entire year….visiting all points of Architectural interest
from vernacular to modern vocabularies.

Upon my return to the States…my interest in Architecture changed from object orientated perspective
to a surrounding oriented perspective.
I was less inclined to design a singular object as architecture and focused on creating spaces outside and within
that captured an atmosphere…capturing the quality of the space …was my interest…this quality of space….
creates the movement so important to the occupants…..this movement is felt within.
This is my passion…..to move people.

This concept transpired in my time in Europe.
This transformation of a quantity and object based life and viewpoint to a quality based life.
Ones life is their work….they are one…..integrated.
MC: Have you always wanted to be an Architect?
RS: No…I was training my artistic skills through high school and the first years of college.
What started with drawing skills evolved into sculptural skills ….this lead me to architecture.
I loved Math and Art…..Architecture was a perfect balance of these two very different types of interest.
The analytical and intuitive combined to create a whole in my life as an Architect.
MC: One of the things that I think really defines your work is an easy, relaxed sense, it really captures vernacular architecture in its essence, how did this come about?
RS: Thank you….for this comment.
Well…that is who I am….. easy and relaxed….so it makes sense that these qualities are seen in my work in architecture.
Vernacular Architecture is random….a great word my teen age boys use….random.
Random is spontaneous, free, ever changing, additive……. Vernacular Architecture has life, mystery, diversity..

One works with the building masses….to form space created by the structures.…these non spaces are courtyards,
loggias, outdoor rooms, verandas, .these spaces are open to the air and sky, they cost very little to form.
…these spaces occur between the structures…
It is this space that unites the random nature of vernacular architecture of Italy, Spain and Greece.
This space is as important as the piece of architecture itself.

Vernacular Architecture has a simplicity, a purity and honesty in it’s use of materials and its form. They are one.
Simplicity, purity and honesty…are qualities that I try to live by.
MC:Do you find that most people who hire you have a realistic idea of what they are getting in for when they start?
RS: In the beginning…..I simply try to get to know my clients.
It is a start of a long relationship….a two to three year relationship through construction of their home….and beyond.
It is an awareness of where the client is in their understanding of this process and giving them the support that fits their needs.
Some clients have built many homes and others this will be their one and only.
Some clients want to be part of every decision and others want options to select from and others want us to surprise them.
Everyone is different….we customize the process to meet the needs of a client.
We want our clients to feel safe in this process
We like to make the process of building a home to be a joyful event.
In our mind, what could be more joyful than realizing your wishes and dreams with your home.
MC: I think that people are intimidated by architects, building a home seems like such a daunting task. When you begin a project, where do you start?
RS: We start by simply talking….about everything…. We drift in and out of home discussions.
It is a building of a friendship….we simply try to understand all aspects of a clients life.
This is usually done with about three to six hours of conversations…no set questions….
Just casual conversations.
We pay special attention to the first things mentioned about their house….these are usually their main concerns.
We write this conversation down….into a six to ten page program…..all their wishes, wants, types of rooms,
Feeling of each space….we find out what their favorite view is on their property and try to place their main viewing room in that location….
We talk a lot about natural light…the quality of light in each space….
The bottom line is we try to find this essence …..in our conversations….
This essence defines the clients and will also define their house.
MC: If you were not an architect what would you be?
RS: I still paint….I would be an artist.
All the qualities in the architecture we bring forth are also see in my art.
I have a very wide range of Artists that I admire.
All are working with light….and movement.
Raphael, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner, Monet, Rothko, Kahn and Turrell
MC:Who were and are your greatest influences?
RS: My greatest influences comes from the work of Thoreau and Goethe.
In Architecture my greatest influences come from Alvar Aalto and his work in Finland
and the Minimalists.
The Minimalists, Luis Barragan, Peter Zumthor, Tadao Ando all work to
strip their architecture down to the purest form to capture a quality of feeling.
They minimize all aspects of a piece of architecture to capture the fullest
expression of a feeling….they work to move a viewers soul.

MC: And do you see any trends in design?

RS: The treads in design are toward the simple, the crisp, the unadorned,
Small is beautiful is back…with open spaces.
The social aspects in the flow of a house is very important to my clients.
How the family relates to each other in their house .
This quality of union and interaction is a very strong influence.

Sustainability and the health, the greenness, of a house is also becoming a strong need.
Houses that express serenity and calm are also becoming so important
in these times.
MC: Tell us about your favorite project, what makes it special to you?
RS: We are very lucky…..we have no favorites.
We have all wonderful clients, with exciting sites and programs
We are very excited with all or them…..they are all expressions of our clients lives….
and dreams.
MC: What projects do you have on the drawing board now that you are excited about?
RS: We are currently working in the hills of Belair overlooking the Belair CC.
on the water in Newport Harbor, in hills above Carmel overlooking the ocean,
in Santa Monica….on Adelaide Street overlooking the Santa Monica Canyon,
also we begin work in Cabo San Lucas on the top of hill in the Palmilla overlooking everything.
….and many more wonderful sites…in the hills and ocean sites in Orange County.
MC:20 years from now, looking back on your body of work, what would you hope to see?
RS: Integrity and Serenity.

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