Shoptalk - David Coleman

You completed your studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, focusing on residential and community design; can you tell us about your introduction to architecture and how your studies influenced your modern aesthetic?

I was first introduced to ‘architecture’ as a kid growing up in New York. I loved to build tree houses and go-carts, and take excursions to Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. In high school I visited a Frank Lloyd Wright house – the only one in the City - and fell in love. I discovered Denmark while traveling around Europe on a Eurail Pass when I was a teen. That was the start of a lifelong romance with Scandinavia that informed many of my career and life choices, and continues to inspire me.

What was it about Denmark that attracted you?

When I first arrived in Denmark I was struck by the quality and thoughtfulness of everything I saw – the streetscapes, plazas, buildings, furniture, lighting and household objects were so well designed. The Danes seemed to have a natural talent and appreciation for everything. They managed to take a flat, cold, dark part of the world and fill it with light, joy and magic. I wanted to learn how to do that, so eventually I moved there, first as an exchange student, and later for graduate school.

Having received numerous awards on a national level for your significant contribution to architecture and society, are there any recognitions that have stood out in your career?

Three stand out as particularly sweet: my first award, from the European Union, for a sustainable community that I designed in Herfolge, Denmark; being named to the AD100 list of residential architects by Architectural Digest magazine; and being inducted into the College of Fellows by the American Institute of Architects for my contributions to design excellence.

Do you have a dream project, or location where you’d like to work?

Every project that allows me to connect with my clients, further develop my passion for merging building and landscape, and explore new ideas is a “dream” project, and I’ve had many. In terms of location, most of my projects are in cities, but I also love designing homes in rural areas – there’s a casual freedom there that can’t be found in a city, and an opportunity to design with nature as a partner.

If you were magically given three more hours per day, what would you do with them?

I’d spend more time painting, playing guitar, traveling and hanging out with family and friends.

Favorite way to spend a weekend in the Northwest?

Hiking to Blue Lake on Washington Pass or Goat Peak in the Methow Valley; taking the ferry to the San Juan Islands; walking around Green Lake with a mocha in hand.

Outside of architecture, what are you currently interested in and how is it influencing your design thinking?

I love to explore the Pacific Northwest landscape, and play the guitar. Both have had a profound impact on my work. The soft light, seasonal changes, and boldness of our wild landscape inspires me to bring more of the outside in and inside out. And the rhythm, texture and dynamic quality of fine music inspires me to design buildings in lyrical terms. Some years ago a client asked me to design a building inspired solely by “Music from the Hearts of Space,” a popular program on National Public Radio at that time. It was a challenging and inspiring process that resulted in a spirited, ethereal building.

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