How to Define an Architect's Style

This post is part of the ArchiTalks monthly blog series, hosted by Architect Bob Borson. This month’s topic is: “Style.” At the bottom of this post, you’ll find links to some of the other ArchiTalk Bloggers. Make sure you visit them.

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Michelangelo. Rembrandt. Picasso.

Brando. De Niro. Streep.

Corbusier. Piano. Hadid.

What do all of these have in common?

Well, sure, they’re all well known artists from a wide variety of disciplines, respected for the numerous accomplishments they’ve made over their careers. However, I’m thinking of something even simpler.

Each of these creatives have their own unique ‘style.’ And not just any style, but ones that have thus far stood the test of time.



What defines ‘style’ though?

If I were to discuss the literal translation of ‘style,’ it could mean: “A way of behaving or approaching a situation that is characteristic of or favored by a particular person.”

We’re not born with a ‘style,’ per say. Instead, we’re shaped by the world around us.



We each develop our own way of doing things. That comes from experience, repetition, and experimentation. We understand our trade after many years of working directly in the trenches. Our experiences differ from one another because of where our interests and fate may take us.

Two people could learn how to build houses, but do so in completely different parts of the world, with two different firms, and two different clients. One person could learn what it means to build skyscrapers, while another develops low-income apartments.

The list varies so greatly because there is no one way to be an Architect.

What I consider architecture, may simply resonate with you as construction.



I was watching a very slick documentary series on Netflix called “Abstract: The Art of Design” recently. Each episode followed an important expert in their respective field of design. There are leaders in illustration, automotive design, and even architecture.

The ‘architecture’ segment takes an in-depth look at arguably the most influential rising star in the profession, Bjarke Ingels. What makes Bjarke so interesting isn’t the fact that he has effectively broken down many of the barriers of architecture (not literally) just by working through what he believes design should be.

One of his primary ideologies is ’Yes is More,’ a play on Mies van der Rohe’s ‘Less is More.’ Bjarke believes strongly in the service to the problem at hand, not to develop a pre-determined solution, but rather to understand each and every complication or hardship the future user has. Creation then comes from not just understanding the ‘primary’ problem, but all of the issues at once. By saying ‘Yes’ to the problems, by accepting them, the architecture he manifests transforms the issue into something unexpectedly simple, a concept that works.

Bjarke is a character.

I say this not knowing him personally, but having read his work, heard him speak, and now seen him in a documentary dedicated to him, Bjarke has a very distinct style of his own.

In my opinion, it’s one of the best there is. It’s the style that keeps you guessing and piques your interest. It’s the style that feels fresh because it questions the status quo.

It’s the style that inspires you to become better at your own.


My Architectural Style

As I keep learning what it means to be an Architect, I’m increasingly conflicted with what it is that I’m supposed to be doing.

My path has diverged into two paths. They meander around and past each other, but they’re always moving forward. On the one hand, I am the ‘teacher.’ On the other, I am the ‘designer.’

I don’t believe these to necessarily be at odds with one another, but I do find the that they are not always prioritized the same way for me. It’s kind of an ebb and flow. There will be days when all I’m working on is a personal project. The next, I’ll be helping a friend understand the tips and tricks for taking the ARE.

As look back at longer periods of time, I can see the months of painstaking detail crafted into a design competition entry or the first year I spent writing blog posts to teach others and share my voice.

In some ways, I don’t think I’m ever going to find the perfect balance of the sides to my style. The shades of gray that paint my style vary along the entire spectrum.

And I’m okay with that for now.


Choosing Your Own Style

As an architect, you don’t need to copy exactly someone else’s style. It would be futile to try. Instead, try a few on for size. Keep what works for you and leave behind what doesn’t.

Don’t confuse stereotypes with style. It’s true that many architects have been known to wear black on occasion, and possibly even some owl-like circular glasses, but that doesn’t mean you have to in order to be an Architect.

Don’t just be any Architect; be your own.



#ArchiTalks Crew

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Style, Do I Have Any?

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti) words

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
The AREsketches Style

Collier Ward - One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Name That Stile!

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks : Style

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
What Style Do You Build In?

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You do you

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Defining an Architect's Style

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
What's Your Style?

Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Architectural Style

Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Should You Pick Your Architect Based on Style or Service?

Samantha R. Markham - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
5 Styles of an Aspiring Architect

Kyu Young Kim - J&K Architects Atelier (@sokokyu)
Loaded With Style

Nisha Kandiah - ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Regression or Evolution : Style

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Stylized Hatred

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
What's in a Style?

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Architectalks 23 - Style

Blog, CareerMichael LaValley