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Good Architecture Balances ‘Technical Rigor with Artistic Inspiration’

FOX Principal J.P. Spickler, FAIA on Loving the Job He’s Always Wanted to Do

After more than three decades of working in the field, J.P. reflected on the evolution of his profession, what constitutes good architecture, and his role as both designer and mentor. A Partner of FOX Architects, J.P. was recently elevated to the American Institute for Architecture’s (AIA) College of Fellows. He characterized the honor as extremely gratifying, but also humbling.

“This honor is given in recognition of your body of work,” he said. “It’s an acknowledgement of the positive impact that you’ve made to both the profession and society. One of the important goals of the College of Fellows is to foster better young architects. So now I’m focused on the ways in which I can leverage this honor to both fuel my continued dedication to creating good architecture and broader mentoring.”

In reflecting on what he likes most about the firm that he help to build, J.P. explained that FOX Architects is large enough to design and execute multiple projects of complexity at the same time, but not so large that he can’t stay engaged in the day-to-day work.

“Engagement with my colleagues and clients through every stage of a project is important,” J.P. explained. “We see ourselves as trusted advisors and partners in the whole process.”

“When I started in the profession, we did all our work by hand, no computers!” J.P. recounted. “Now we use complex, sophisticated tools and programs, not only to execute the work, but also to communicate designs to our clients. We used to think of architecture as ‘sticks and bricks,’ but now we’re orchestrating so much more. Building technologies, and the ways in which people use buildings, are more complex than ever.  Our design process now considers all the systems of a buildings, for both today and the future.”

J.P. particularly enjoys the challenge of transforming older, obsolete office buildings.  The recycling and transformation of antiquated structures into new, viable corporate architecture is an expertise of his.

“Fifty percent of office buildings in our urban cores nationally were constructed before 1980, and most of them weren’t designed to last more than 25 to 30 years,” J.P. noted. “People see an old, abandoned warehouse, and they can imagine it transformed into loft-style condominiums with vibrant public spaces. But many see an old office building from the 1980s and think, ‘someone should tear that down and replace it.’ Except, we can’t simply throw away half of our downtowns nationally! This is a complex design challenge, the outcome of which has created a successful portfolio of corporate structures that together are revitalizing the urban fabric.”

FOX Architects’ core competency is in corporate commercial architecture. Given that, J.P. underscored the importance of the balance between the firm’s architecture studio and its interior design studio.

“If you’re designing an office building, you must understand who is going in it and how they intend to live and work in that everyday environment,” he explained. “FOX Architects’ strong balance of interior design with architecture creates smarter environments.”

J.P. always wanted to become an architect, and he is passionate about the art and science of the craft.

“Good architecture is a balance of technical rigor and artistic inspiration,” J.P. stated.  “We must facilitate the functions and requirements of a building, while also endeavoring to create environments that heighten the human experience. Our profession requires us to balance a lot of divergent disciplines. It’s challenging, but that’s what makes it all so rewarding.