A handle on design

A handle on design

In 2007, Bob Gurney, David Jameson and Lee Quill won more than three dozen architectural awards among them.

Their work was recognized by local, state and national chapters of the American Institute of Architecture and by organizations dedicated to historic preservation in the communities in which they work. Although Gurney and Jameson are based in Alexandria and Quill lives in the city, they rarely design buildings here.

Alexandria is becoming like so many other places that have a Disneyesque view of historic preservation, Jameson said. I call the brand of architecture that seems to be popular in these places colonial. People need to understand that copying things sometimes diminishes their uniqueness and doesnt enhance their historic value.

In Europe, there are architects doing amazing things and proving that very modern designs can live harmoniously with much older structures than we have anywhere in this country. We have to be creative, Jameson said.

Gurney and Quill agreed.

Some of what we are seeing does a disservice to the very history we are trying to preserve, Gurney said. It is unfortunate.

Jameson and Gurney design primarily residential buildings and small commercial projects. They have both recently won awards for interior designs in Cadys Alley in Georgetown.  We didnt really alter the exteriors so we didnt have to go through all of the historic review that would have been necessary had we done so but we turned warehouses into beautiful showrooms that are retain their historic character, Gurney said.

Quill, who won an award for an adaptive reuse project just down the alley from Gurney and Jamesons projects, did have to jump through all of those review hoops, including a review by the National Park Service because the building is located on the C&O Canal and the National Commission for the Arts also commented on the project. 

We retained the historic character of the building and incorporated a very modern structure that works very well, Quill said. I am very proud of the design.

Good architecture, all three men said, meets the clients needs and is sustainable, Gurney said. Green architecture is just the latest marketing gimmick.

Good architects have been incorporating sustainable elements into their work for a long time. Jameson agreed. Look at the Parthenon, he said. Its a great example of a green building because of the way it is sited and the day lighting, he said. 

When each of these architects begins work on a project, I consider the site, then the uses and then begin to think about a building design, Gurney said.You have to understand the constraints of your site and what is going to happen in the structure before you can even begin to develop design concepts.

How much have computers replaced drawing by hand?

I dont know how to draw on the computer, Quill said. I use computer-aided design, of course, but I always start by picking up a pencil and drawing.

Gurney agreed but Jameson works a bit differently. I dont know how to draw on a computer either but I also dont draw very well by hand, he admitted. I draw in my head and then talk it through with one of the other architects in my office, he said.

None of them could pick a favorite project. Thats like asking someone to choose their favorite child, Gurney said. There are elements of many projects that I like.

Quill said his favorite project is the last one I did.Good design doesnt necessarily cost a lot of money. Some of my best projects have been small residential projects, Gurney said. Good doesnt always mean big.