Shoptalk - Stuart Silk

What has led to your firm’s continued success over the past 30-plus years?

Silk — Our team. We are led by incredibly talented folks including Amanda Cavassa, Dave King, David Marchetti, Michael McFadden, and Brie Nakamura. These individuals represent the firm’s future. As a group, we work collaboratively and share design authorship. We emphasize our values over the bottom line and prioritize the importance of integrity. We promote from within by offering continuous training for our people which instills loyalty and engagement and reinforces our structure as an employee owned company.

How have you seen your career evolve over the past decades? Has your personal approach to architecture changed?

Silk — Although we are constantly improving our methods and means, our approach to architecture has not changed since the firm’s inception: We honor each client’s goal to create a home that is unique to them and is functional, light-filled, and beautiful. We view each new relationship as a partnership and a shared journey of discovery. We work to create a supportive environment, so each client feels comfortable to engage deeply. This ensures a sense of true ownership. In this process we continuously search for new solutions to questions of functionality and aesthetics.

When did you add interior designers to your team?

Silk — Everyone that works here has a strong affinity with how people are intimately connected to the spaces we design. We wanted to take that a step further and ten years ago we hired our first interior designer to take it to the next level. This has resulted in a truly integrated, holistic approach that provides a seamless experience for our clients.

How long has sustainability been a focus for your practice?

Silk — We have been actively focused on sustainable design for the last 12 years. We approach each client with a menu of green options that they can choose from to make their home as healthy and sustainable as possible. Our clients become our partners in reviewing options based upon their goals, upfront costs, and long-term benefits.

Outside of architecture, what other fields are you are most interested in and how do they influence your work?

Silk — Physics and philosophy fascinate me. I am endlessly curious and always seeking to better understand how our world works. I like to try to understand things through the lens of science, and when that sometimes fails, I turn to philosophy.

What can you tell us about your approach to materials?

Silk — Materials reinforce our aesthetic objectives and convey meaning. We prefer tactile materials with texture and movement that enrich the experience.

What do you think about the advancements in the materials and products industry in relation to the aesthetics of your work?

Silk — There are many new materials available today that weren’t available ten to twenty years ago. These materials improve a building’s overall performance and expand the range of creative solutions.

How is context an important element in your projects?

Silk — Every project begins with a careful analysis of each site’s context including sun, wind, views, and surroundings. Responding thoughtfully to context is critical to a home’s success, whether it is in the city, the mountains, on an island, or the desert.

Favorite travel destination for inspiration?

Silk — I love visiting Japan. Their culture’s approach towards building always shows commitment to uncluttered, hand-crafted solutions that seem to defy style and yet have resonated for centuries. It carries over to all facets of life. A small grocery store or delicatessen is a beautiful work of art with everything arranged thoughtfully showing attention to every detail.

What project is your office currently working on?

Silk — We are working on a very exciting Mid-Century home in the Palm Springs area as well as a family compound on the shores of Lake Chelan.

Best way to spend a long weekend in Seattle?

Silk — Hanging with my grandkids, going on a hike in the Cascades, and dinner with friends.

How did you get into architecture?

Silk — My mother is very passionate about art and architecture and introduced me to art at a young age. When I was twelve, we went on a three-month-long family trip to central Europe and visited eight different countries. The trip left a big impression on me. She claims I scaled every bell tower in Europe. I fell in love with the many cultures I experienced, the architecture, and even painted watercolors of picturesque sites.

Later, while in college, I studied fine art and art history. One year a few friends got together and rented a ski house in Vermont for the winter. The house was designed by avant-garde architect David Sellers and was called the ‘Bridge House’. This house was a 3-dimensional sculpture with six levels and many interconnected spaces. This was like nothing I’d ever experienced. David had gone to Yale (where I ended up going) and was bigger than life. The house had been on the cover of Life Magazine. I thought, “Wow, this is really cool!” That’s when the notion of becoming an architect was hatched.

Apart from architecture, what are you passionate about?

Silk — I love to hike, fly fish, and bird watch. These passions are what led me to the Pacific Northwest and bring me in touch with the natural world which informs the work we do. I have an active yoga practice which not only settles the mind but engages notions of balance and movement which are important to the thoughtful orchestration of the many aspects of design and function.

I also love to travel and observe the built environment which brings me closer to the roots and origins of western architecture as well as cutting edge modernism. This grounding informs the work we do. I’m thrilled that quite a number of our staff also travel.

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