When you founded your own firm, what were your goals? How have those evolved over time?

We started our firm in 2000 with the goal to create works that withstand the test of time. Works that weather well, that transcend style and trend, that resonate emotionally with the user and that have a lasting positive impact on their environment – whether that be an urban retail environment or a rural home. While these remain first principles, designing and building more environmentally sustainable work has become a major priority. We have also become increasingly focused on the character and quality of our studio culture, helping it become a thriving, nurturing, collaboratively creative environment for our team and those with which we partner.

Tell us a bit about your approach to architecture and what has shaped your vision.

We try to start each project as a blank page, minimizing preconceptions. We approach the work as modernists, with an interest in form, function, context, etc., but we don’t approach it with a preconceived design vocabulary. We prefer to get to know the client, site and project parameters and see where it all leads. The process of discovery is very exciting for us.

How would you describe your firm’s design style?

We’re focused on context, value and quality. It’s important for our values and those of our client or users (or community at large) to drive the characteristics of the architecture throughout the process. We explore how context shapes what we design, how it sits on the land, and how it orients to a view or away from street noise. Qualitative concerns determine material selection, roof shape, and detailing. It’s through answering these types of value-driven questions that we find more enduring architectural solutions.

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

Joe: I have a lifelong fascination with boats and am always interested in ways we can learn from a well-designed yacht’s efficient use of space, its self-contained systems, and the way beauty can be derived through form following function.

Mike: I am interested in the creative process as manifested by those operating in fields outside of architecture, such as musicians, writers, filmmakers, and artists. I am also interested (but very much a lay person) in the behavioral and social sciences and what makes us all tick.

Favorite way to spend a weekend in the Northwest?

Joe: We tend to spend many, if not most, weekends at our beach cabin on Orcas Island. In the summer we are either cycling or boating around the San Juans and north into British Columbia.

Mike: I like to work in the office on Saturdays and work in the yard on Sundays. I hang out with my wife and kids, read, or hit a favorite restaurant. I hike or ski when possible.

Favorite travel destination for inspiration?

Joe: I visited Japan for the first time last October and it was a kind of paradise for me. Both the historic and contemporary architecture there is incredibly inspiring, as is the natural environment (and the food – can’t not mention the food…)

Mike: NYC, Tokyo, Europe. Just bought plane tickets to Morocco for the spring and expecting gobs of inspiration there.

For more information visit: www.heliotropearchitects.com