The oeuvre of Lake|Flato Architects, Inc. based in Texas, USA has been best described by Thomas Fisher, Educator and Author, University of Minnesota, “Their work demonstrates that beauty and sustainability are not mutually exclusive and that our future depends upon our rediscovering how we once built and what we once valued: humility and honesty, respect and restraint.”
Building anything within the restrictions of major environmental considerations is already tough but Lake|Flato Architects simplify this by believing that sustainability and design are two sides of the same coin – balanced, integrated and inseparable.
They are pieces of a coherent, place-based approach to a building that successfully merges with the landscape. Simply defined, sustainable design is smart design that looks beyond the building and considers the larger context. Architecture should respond to its particular place and be a natural partner with the environment.
The resultant architecture born of such thoughts and principles has the power to move emotions much in the way of a beautiful ballet or a piece of art does. In 2004, the American Institute of Architects awarded Lake|Flato the prestigious Firm Award – the highest honour an American architecture firm can receive.
We at Home Review presented Lake and Flato a few questions to better comprehend their defining work ethic and collaborative vision. This is what they generously shared with us.
How would you describe the vision of Lake|Flato Architects and what is the firm’s most defining principle?
Lake|Flato believes in architecture that is rooted to its place, responds to the natural environment and merges with the landscape. With a palette of regional materials, we create buildings that are tactile and modern, environmentally responsible and authentic, artful and crafted. As stewards of the natural environment and our client’s resources, we shape every project with empirical environmental knowledge and energy modeling resulting in sustainable strategies that artfully respond to each site’s unique context.
What would you say are the hallmarks of your approach to architecture?
Once the designers’ pens start hitting paper, if they don’t already have a sense of how they’re going to connect to that site or climate, then they’ve missed a huge opportunity. We strive to create spaces that connect its occupants to the surrounding context whether it is a natural creek side landscape or an urban sidewalk. We strive to create experiences that unite visitors, observers and the environment into one seamless experience.
Name a few architects (living or dead) whose work you iconise. Which of their qualities do you like most?
Frank Lloyd Wright (organic process and connection to place) Glenn Murcutt (simplicity, material palette and climate derived response) O’Neill Ford (attention to regional values and local climate).
Nowadays we see a lot of ‘starchitects’ who have an almost hollywoodian aura. What are your thoughts regarding this?
I think all it does is that it helps to elevate the profession within pop culture, but it can create stereotypes that we sometimes have to inform our clients about; they could potentially perceive architects as mere award driven designers and not designers who would be responsive to their needs and the environment.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges your practice faces now?
One of the challenges we face is proving design value through science and metrics while still delivering the intangible romance part of what our architecture strives to deliver.
What would your advice be to a budding architect who wants to walk the path of sustainability?
This is an opportune time to be an architect that specialises in sustainability, as recent surveys suggest, there is a shortage of designers with this knowledge.
A survey of 448 American Institute of Architects members found that there is a lack of workers with skills related to sustainable design – a rapidly growing segment of the industry. 56% of firms surveyed reported difficulty in finding employees with adequate sustainability skills, and that number jumps to 72% for smaller firms.