Interview with the Architect
John, when did you first become interested in buildings? How did you decide to pursue a career in architecture? I was moved by the ancient archaeology in present day Turkey while I was with my parents in high school. We also traveled through Europe and saw the great cities. What was most interesting to me were the older towns, villages and metro areas rather than the newer. The stone carvings of the Greeks and Romans especially were influential as I imagined how people lived and built so many thousands of years ago. The historic Islamic architecture was also dramatic.
I was not immediately interested in architecture though but music instead; I originally thought (electrical) engineering was a good field. But after I took several elective courses in the physical sciences and humanities I realized I would be most satisfied with a career in architecture.
Could you tell us about yourself and your 35 years of career? After completing my two year apprentice period in Texas working for commercial architects I move to Orlando feeling more at "home" with the stucco and tile buildings here. I decided to specialize in custom home design and began with smaller homes until I started accepting larger commissions which meant that more attention to detail and historical style and accuracy was very important. Present day university trained architects have been 'forbidden' to reintroduce details and forms from pre-industrial times in their current works . But it seemed that the most interesting and beautiful houses were based on historical forms and those traditions were important to maintain in favor of the prevalent Modernist theories.
How do you define your architectural approach? There is a practical aspect first that must be met. Site, budget, client specifications and vision are important basics that should be addressed carefully. Architecture is an 'art and science'. If the art cannot be evident the project has failed. The rote aspects are clear for every architect to master. But if a project doesn't have something else other than sticks and bricks, it has not met the definition. A house especially is a very personal expression, one of the few grand statements that can be made in such a customizable fashion. Mystery, timelessness, romance, evocative historical artistry -- all are important. Essential.
Could you tell us about MasterWorks Design International and your team? We have a small team as our projects are individually addressed and take time to create properly. I personally design all aspects of the house from exterior to interiors. My adept CAD drafting team has years of experience to properly execute the designs. I draw the facades and interiors by hand. I think no other way can achieve the period style look most discriminating clients expect.
What type of projects does MasterWorks Design International specialize in? We specialize in Italian and French Renaissance revival architecture. That takes you from the small Tuscan or Provencal country house to the larger villas and chateaux. But my university training was based entirely on Modernist concepts so we also offer that approach to design, conceptually in working out the planning and technical aspects and in creating unique ‘Modern’ designs.
What type of services do you offer your clients? We can offer Schematic Design only or continue through basic construction documents, specifications, additional detailing and Interior Design. Sometimes we do only the conceptual floor plans and facade to test a design on a particular property. We also offer remodeling services on select projects.
You offer luxury real estate plans in historical European and American traditional styles. Could you tell us about your house plans and their features? We develop the floor plans with a geometry that will satisfy the facade and general style in mind. We try to incorporate some aspects of the historic period style layouts if possible. The plans must satisfy all aspects of site and general room associations. One must keep in mind that the 'originals' were built almost entirely of stone with wooden roof structures and slate or ceramic tile. Thick walls and a profuse detailed program often are compromised in the translation to common materials and building techniques but we can create the same effects in many cases. We can obtain hand worked stone with accurately carved classical detailed moldings inside and out. There are manufacturers that offer synthetic materials that will achieve the 'look' required and these must be carefully examined for their use. Real marble and limestone floors are essential. Door and window hardware should be close to the 'period'. Door and window casings, crown moldings, ceiling treatments, wall paneling, fireplaces and cabinetry should be complementary to be ideal. Some watering down of the strict classical idea is possible. I don't believe in 'transitional' design much as one cannot be 'modern' and 'traditional' effectively.
Many of our designs have two story plus spaces similar to historical models. All houses attempting to correctly capture the details and proportions of a particular period style should have attendant room proportions. This is very important as it informs the elevations (facades) which must be completely proportionate in size from window to wall openings and spaces, ratio of height to width of openings, continuity of moldings and trim, etc. -- which all contribute together to make the facade believable and have that 'timeless' effect.
Starting from the Greeks and Egyptians, temple building was about declaring a belief in something greater and larger. The sites for these monuments meant that the structure was imposed on the landscape rather than it 'blending' in or being somehow sympathetic to the existing site. When these models were used for houses and upon subsequent revivals that idea softened a bit but regular geometry in gardens and attendant facilities were the original idea.
In how many different styles do you offer house projects? How many different projects do you have in your portfolio? We can offer just about any period style in mind. Architects who do this have had to go through their own research as this is not currently taught in the academic schools of architecture. Finding a good architect to interpret the Owner's ideal is an important first step. We have designed mostly Italian and French 'revival' styles and their derivatives. Some eclecticism is also evident in several of the 'mansion' projects where a few ideas are combined.
Can clients make any customization on your plans? How long does it take to complete a project's customization? While we have prepared designs for many interested people over the last 30 years it is very rare to find two clients' interests so similar that we can customize existing plans but the main point is that every house we design is ‘made to order’ per the Owner’s unique specifications and site conditions. We start from scratch and the design is one-of-a-kind. The time it takes to complete the documents to construct a house is based on how quickly the Owner can assess the Schematics and suggest the changes that may be necessary, how large the project may be, whether or not we are creating the interiors, how much specialty detailing is required, etc.
What are the most important factors that affect the project cost? Project cost is affected by the general style and period, the authenticity of materials, the conditions of the site, the quality of materials and workmanship, the level of detail on the exterior and interior, and the time required to complete the project.
What would you recommend to clients who want to build or redesign their home? I think that a realistic view of design and the construction process in general is helpful. For first time builders, studying as many house facades and floor plans possible is suggested. Understanding the various historic period styles is a must – in terms of culture and politics as well as artistic development. Going to see the ‘originals’ in person makes you appreciate the scale, use of materials, and level of artistic and technological development at the time in order to realize the difficulty of creating an exact reproduction.
Building a house ‘from scratch’ is a giant step of faith for anyone. Owners shouldn’t gamble with their resources but select an architect and builder who have years of experience and understand/love what they do.
What is the best advice you have received, and what advice would you give to young architects?
Young architects have to decide what is relevant and what is desired; what is good architecture and what is bad. They must study pre-Modern design as throughly as Modern and Post Modern architecture. They should start to draw and design by hand before using a computer. They of course have to study current technologies and materials and how they behave under different applications and weather. How apt is machine design vs. hand design and construction? Traveling to see significant works of architecture and studying the building design and application of technology is important. Working under a recognized architect is a good first step.
There is a blog here: https://floridaluxuryhomearchitect.blogspot.com/
We also have several videos, a few of which are as follows:
VIDEO: Millionaire Luxury Homes Portfolio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibawe7IzSOA&t=99s
VIDEO: French Chateau Castle Plans https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOMwyNE5tPs
VIDEO: French Chateau GMA presentation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DFyT7VDj2U&t=27s
VIDEO: Contemporary Modern Designs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffdJLLgR0FY VIDEO: Tuscan Mediterranean Lake Villa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-SMsbhyaYI&feature=youtu.be
VIDEO: Italian Venetian Oceanfront Villa https://vimeo.com/user12848381/review/155044375/50aec79248
VIDEO: Exotic Mediterranean https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUtnB9WNbRE
GATES VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95FvawYI4tc
FIREPLACE VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95FvawYI4tc
What is coming up next for you? We are seeking to work in new areas where luxury period homes of this type are recognized and desired and for builders who appreciate the technique and approach that we offer for discriminating Owners. I hope to finish writing some thoughts on classical design and it’s appropriate use for today’s custom home builders and also detail the rift between period style and modern architecture, from art to politics.
Anything you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?
We design houses at several levels of detail and budget. We can create ‘Starter Mansions’ at a smaller size and scale or duplicate a period chateau very closely.
Why am I an architect and continue in my profession?
I do this because I found that it must be – and is --a work of passion rather than simply a ‘job’ to fill my time. It makes no sense to do it otherwise.
It is to me an art form that conveys meaning and spirit. A period home recalls our aesthetic heritage. The final object is more than the sum of its parts and should be evocative in some way. It should be inspirational on several levels -- and of course solve basic living functions in the end.