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Start Fresh on Each New Project: Bart Prince

Bart Prince is an American architect who was born June 24, 1947 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He toke an interest in architecture at a very early age, before he knew what the name for “architecture” meant, he began making drawings and building models. Today, he is a well known architect for his creativity and innovation. He has been given several awards, such as, The Architectural Digest 100 world top architects and designers.

Bart Prince

The Interview

1. When and how did you know that you wanted to become an architect?

I was very young when I knew I wanted to be an architect though at the age of 6 or 7 I didn't actually know what the word for it was. I was making drawings and building models and by the 2nd grade had even received awards (for what they're worth) for drawings I had made. This desire was somehow a part of me from a very early age.

2. Your philosophy is to “begin again and again”, when do you know that you’ve accomplished a perfect architecture?

The idea of "beginning again and again" (Gertrude Stein talked about this idea in art and life) refers to my desire to start fresh on each new project rather than bringing preconceptions to it based on previous work. Some architects have a 'bag of tricks' making everything they do look the same in terms of general characteristics no matter what the type of building.? I want to respond to the client, program, site, climate etc. in order to allow something fresh to result. When you work this way there is no limit to creativity or the kinds of ideas which will grow naturally from the situation. You know as these things begin to develop when you have something that well expresses the problem you are working on.

3. If the site consists of sharp mountains, will you make the building’s appearance round or will you try to make it look like the nature as much as possible?

For a site located in the mountains or near mountains your response to it will depend on what you want to accomplish. There are many ways to respond to a site. In some cases you might feel the type of building you are doing 'wants' to become a part of the site and blend in or appear to grow from that site. Nature does this well. In another instance your approach to the site might be to stand apart (a butterfly or beautiful colorful bird standing on a rock) to allow the natural beauty of the surroundings to proclaim itself while you make it clear which part is man-made (man is of course also a part of nature).

4. How have your approach to architecture developed since the day you graduated?

"Graduation" is an artificial event so really had little to do with my development (except to say that I had survived my education). My approach has continued to grow and develop toward becoming what I feel best expresses each individual project and client. This is a moving target since you always know the 'next one' will be better as will the one after that. Architects never complete their 'education'.

5. You say you don’t think of styles and fashion that much, but rather new ideas and creativity, where do you mainly get your inspiration from?

True Architecture has nothing to do with 'styles' or ‘fashion’. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. Styles and fashion are constantly changing and are artificial whims of the moment and are not connected to serious design. We've seen a number of silly 'isms' come and go over the years. Most recently things like "Post-Modernism" (totally ridiculous!) and "Deconstructivism" (another made-up 'ism').

Today it's the re-run of 'green' and 'sustainable' which are ideas which go back through history and are now being 'reclaimed' as the latest ideas (though you may notice these always seem to be somehow connected to money more than they do design).

My inspiration comes from everything I see and experience. Every artist takes in and synthesizes all of the information around him/her and then expresses new ideas based on an understanding and response to the things affecting each new work. I work from the inside-out not the outside-in. In many of the buildings we see today, 'architecture' is what falls off the building in an earthquake. It is applied and has nothing to do with an IDEA or the structure of that building. True architecture integrates all aspects of design and construction.

6. What do you believe can be the reason for some people to be afraid of using their creativity?

People are taught to be like everyone else from a very early age. I believe that every person is inherently creative but our 'education' squeezes this out of us. Instead of treating a student as a unique, creative individual out of whom the educational process wants to bring the best qualities, the student is considered to be a 'vessel' INTO which information is pumped (thus killing and replacing all of the best unique qualities). The student if filled with 'required' information and is considered 'full' at graduation. Often you end up with PhD's who have been educated beyond their capacity to act or think without simply recounting what they've learned.

We are taught to fear ourselves and our own ideas. I've even heard 'professors' (professing what, I don't know) tell students that everything has already been done. All the students can do is learning to re-arrange and organize what others have done before us. Ridiculous! We get trapped by 'ineffectual intellectuals' who are actually quite insecure themselves.

7. How do you think the future’s architecture will look like?

Nobody 'knows' the future but there has certainly never been a better time in history to be an architect in my opinion. We have access to information and tools which were unimagined to those who worked before us. The question is what will we do with this power? Will we really know how to actually 'respond' and then act or will we continue to 'rearrange' what has come before us?

We also need to understand what constitutes true architecture as opposed to the Disney-like environments being built in places in the Middle-East, Las Vegas and downtown almost everywhere? The architecture of the future ought to look like nothing we've ever seen. I believe it will become more elastic, more athletic as we come to understand materials and processes which make our ideas manifest.

8. What advice do you have for an aspiring architect?

Any aspiring architect should learn all he/she can about what is meant by the word 'architecture' and begin to ask WHY when looking at everything. You need to begin to trust your own ideas and to develop and exercise your imagination. This is not done by imitation but rather by understanding, assimilation and synthesization of all you experience. This is a wonderful world and life and you have the capability of making it even better.

9. Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?

I think I've probably said enough. This is a huge subject and these ideas are not easily put into a few words.


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    1. [...] "My inspiration comes from everything I see and experience. Every artist takes in and synthesizes all of the information around him/her and then expresses new ideas based on an understanding and response to the things affecting each new work. I work from the inside-out not the outside-in. In many of the buildings we see today, 'architecture' is what falls off the building in an earthquake. It is applied and has nothing to do with an IDEA or the structure of that building. True architecture integrates all aspects of design and construction", architect Bart Prince. [...]

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