By: Gregg Stahr, Architect at Studio 21 Architects
Junior high is supposed to be little more than that awkward transition from elementary school to high school, easily forgotten with time. I was 13 years old, sitting in my last class of the day. Now, this isn’t usually the point where one decides what they want to do with their life, but this is where it happened for me. Art class had always been my favorite part of the day and I was fortunate enough to end each day with this creative outlet.
A month into the school year my art teacher announced to the class we would be focusing the next two weeks on architecture. I had never given architecture much thought at this point, as I’m sure like most 13-year-olds, I had much more pressing things on my mind, but as our teacher began the lesson with a slide show of famous buildings right here in Chicago, I became transfixed. From Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan to Mies van der Rohe and Fazlur Kahn. From Prairie Style and Art Deco to Modernism and Deconstructivism, I was hooked. I had no idea at this point how architecture impacted our lives in direct and indirect ways, but I knew I would never walk down a city street again without noticing the intricacies of every building.
Fast forward nearly 25 years to about two weeks ago. I’m getting home from the office and my daughter hands me a drawing she just made. “It’s Batman” she says. It’s for her younger brother and captures the essence of his current obsession. Impressed with my little girl’s artistic ability, and even more so with her willingness to do something nice for her brother, I let her know what a good job she did and hand it back to her.
She beams with pride, and as she takes the drawing back I notice a pencil drawn sketch on the back. I ask for the drawing back and flip it over to see a rudimentary floor plan of home sketched with the as much precision that the 13-year-old version of myself could muster. My oldest daughter has a love of art as I do, and I had given her a bunch of my old half-used sketch books that had managed to travel with me all the places I’ve lived since starting college many years ago. Seeing that sketch, I realized how from that point in my young life I have never stopped thinking about architecture and design.
To no surprise, a lot has changed in those 25 years. I have studied architecture in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Barcelona with each unique place influencing my ideas on what architecture is and can be. I love architecture in its many forms. Walking between skyscrapers in Chicago, through cathedrals in Europe, and museums everywhere is inspiring, but I have always cared most about architecture in its simplest and most important form, the home.
I have a family now and it is a simple reality; home is where we spend the majority of our time and share the most important parts of our life with the most important people. A home should be designed to reflect the unique lifestyle of those that live in it. A home should not just house your day to day activities and interactions, it should enhance them.
This is what I strive for on each project I work on and each homeowner I work with. This is why I became an architect.