Personal Background of JohnBorn and raised in the piney woods of East Texas, in the small blue collar town of Center which had a hardwood flooring plant, a poultry plant, and seemingly countless chicken hatcheries. I grew up fishing for bass and perch (mostly at Toledo Bend). My father loved machines - motorcycles in particular. Art came from my mother’s side. Her father was an early photographer, when it was still a new craft, with enough wood working skills to make his own violin. Early I pursued drawing and by ten, I was asking my mom for summer art classes, where I practiced my favorite drawing genres: hot rod dragsters and cartoons.
Building BikesWhen I was twelve, we moved into a house that was connected to a motorcycle shop my father built and owned. Since motorcycles came in crates unassembled, from age twelve on, I worked every day after school, on Saturdays, and in the summers assembling motorcycles - hundreds of motorcycles. As if that wasn’t enough, during off hours, I worked in the shop customizing my own motorcycles, making minibike choppers or altering engines to double their displacement. I had the opportunity to race motocross, ride trials bikes, and travel across ten states in repeated long distance trips on road bikes.
As the end of high school approached, I decided I did not want to spend the rest of my life in a motorcycle shop, so to the disappointment of my father, I decided to go to college. I took what I thought was a big step and entered a local state college as an art major. I lost the hair and gained a seriousness about what life was for. In a time of much internal exploration, I decided that art alone did not satisfy my desire for concrete tangible accomplishment, so I decided on architecture.
College & travelI still wonder how . . . but I was accepted at the University of Texas at Austin during my first year at a local college. I had gone from building motorcycles and my high school graduating class of 125 persons to a university of 42,000 students. Architecture school is a wonderfully intense experience with a tightly knit subculture. Going days without sleep to work on studio project deadlines was typical. I applied my full effort to architecture school and my aesthetics, or previous lack thereof, was transformed. Almost as influential was a summer long solo trek across Europe focused on architecture that I took during my 3rd year. Since then I have been hooked on travel as a means of architectural education and creative recharge - returning for several long travel trips as well as work abroad.
FamilyBefore leaving school I became engaged to another architectural student and married shortly after. Thus began a time of marriage, children, and mortgage payments, but that is a different story.
CareerThe career fun started when I began my firm in 1988, eight years after college. It was only through the confidence and patronage a mentoring developer gave me that I was able to start a firm. During that time, I worked on hundreds of projects, won historic preservation awards including four years in a row, practiced abroad, was advisor to a college historic preservation program, and served six years as architect member for a local government HARB, however, I have greater satisfaction in the mentoring of 20+ architectural interns.
The project types have been particularly diverse (it might seem like I can't settle on a profession) from furniture design to town planning. I will discuss three projects I am particularly grateful to have been entrusted with: the Stocking Works, Witchell Salon, and Shindagha - one architecture project, one interior project, and one urban design project. Each represents the opportune project in which I defined my approach and formmaking skills. These show who I am (professionally).
ConceptualI have always favored dichotomous compositions over singular vocabulary solutions (maybe it has to do with me being a blue collar motorcyclist / white collar architect). Thus, in the Stocking Works, it even developed into a slogan (still working on the jingle) “Historic preservation through respectful contrast.” With this approach I could respect historic forms and employ modern new forms. It has defined most of my work, even non-historic projects. This approach is to set up contrasting form vocabularies as counterpoints to each other. Then, to place them in close proximity or intertwine them to create a composition of interest. The classic expression (for me that is) would be to use colorful, simple, sinuous modern forms inside a heavy historic context. It is most provocative when the contrasting forms employ an overlay of perceivable meanings, such as, a vocabulary that contrasts technology and tradition, masculine and feminine, or sacred and temporal.
SensorialI try to please the senses with interiors. The Witchell Salon represents my most extensive full environment design project where every item - curtains, mirrors, light fixtures, furniture, interiors, and building, was of single authorship. Unlike the design dichotomy typical in much of my work, this project is thoroughly cohesive in its vocabulary. It uses a saturated color palette with rich materials. The attempt was to create a signature image (for the client not me) and a seductive composition.
RationalShindagha is a large prime urban area (18 hectares) in the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, of which I participated in the redevelop design. It was exciting project for two reasons, first, it was my first large scale international project, and second, I was over there when the first Iraq war broke out. There is a complete mental shift about the process of design when I approach an urban design project. Shindagha was the project where I developed the opposite approach than what I employ for whimsical interiors. I feel the scale of urban design and its long implementation time, requires the design decision process be rational and documented. I refined a wholly rational design approach (after H. Hamid) to determining design form and adopted a documentation process for each step in the design process.
Of the three, I must admit that dichotomous compositions are closest to my heart. From my childhood in a motorcycle shop to land planning in Dubai, the diversity that has enriched my life and work, becomes manifest in my desire for multivalence composition . . . but that sounds pretentious, so earlier in my life I think I would have simply said that I prefer 10W40.