The apps, books, movies, music, TV shows, and art are inspiring our some of the most creative people in business this month
The struggles and triumphs of prominent women in leadership positions
The major tech ecosystems that battle for our attention and dollars
Whats next for hardware, software, and services
Our annual guide to the businesses that matter the most
Leaders who are shaping the future of business in creative ways
New workplaces, new food sources, new medicine–even an entirely new economic system
An award-winning team of journalists, designers, and videographers who tell brand stories through Fast Companys distinctive lens
When it comes to building a house for a billionaire, money isnt a constraint but the stakes can be very high. Here, architects, including those responsible for creating homes for the likes of Bill Gates and David Geffen, talk about the challenges of bringing unrestrained visions to life.
Building a home is surprisingly similar to designing a suit. With enough time and care, and money, an architect can tailor a house expertly to fit a clients lifestyle. According to some of the most prominent architects and designers, the craft of building a home for a billionaire comes down to listening, understanding how various elements compliment one another, and establishing a relationship with the clientregardless of the high-priced demands.
The great gift an architect can give a project, and the client, is the sense of tailoring, detail, an awareness of posture, the comforts of a fine lining, the relaxedness of the gentle drape, the ability to create seductive openings, the taut closing and elegance, says Diane Lewis, a New York-based architect and a professor at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union. Architecture has a silhouette and a cut, too. The whole project from concept to construction is an exciting unveiling revelation.
Several architects around the country focus on this particular craft of making a couture home for the few clients who can afford itclients like the co-founder and CEO of the Oracle Corporation, Larry Ellison. To design his Japanese imperial palace of a home in Woodside, California, Ellison selected Paul Discoe, who is known for masterfully incorporating Buddhist ideology into practical design. For architects like Discoe, a strong design philosophy is the guiding force in the process of construction from the initial blueprint to the Welcome Home doormat stage.
Enlightened by Buddhism after spending five years in China, Discoe developed an affinity for Asian design that has been prevalent in his work ever since. He now considers Asian architecture, particularly Japanese and Chinese, to be his specialties.
It is interesting to see how much design is bound by culture, he says. Asian architects take Western approaches and arent afraid to be fresh and far out with it, to be really daring. They dont have these pre-conceived notions of what a Western building should look like, they feel free to break from tradition. In the same way, Western architects play and experiment with Asian themes more freely.
For Discoe it can be as simple as mixing styles and historical periods, combining the design of a teahouse and a barn. It was this philosophy that caught Ellisons eye, as he also has an affinity for traditional Japanese architecture.
For James Cutler and his firm, Cutler Anderson Architects, nature plays a significant role in their design philosophy. We try to understand the nature of all the components, the institution, the land, the weather, the flora, the fauna, the materials, so that we can work with them, he says. When you work with nature, it takes on a will of its own, its own spirit. We want to release that spirit.
Cutler, who has been practicing for 30 years, is the architect behind Bill Gatess residence in Medina, Washington. He worked with Peter Bohlin to bring elements of nature into the Microsoft billionaires home complex. In 2007, Bohlins firm, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, received the Design Award for Custom Housing from the AIA Housing Committee.
Whether building a home for the richest man in the world or just another billionaire on the list, Lewis says that money should never play a part in an architects design philosophy. In the tradition of the maker-architect, that is an architect who deals with poetics and can conceive the spatiality detail and texture of a structure, it isnt necessary to talk about expense, Lewis says. Great architectural qualities arent intrinsically expensive; the expense is in getting them implemented in the contemporary market-driven building industry.
Lewis infuses similar principles into her work with the future brains of the students at Cooper Union, where she is more mentor than instructor. I must teach them to build the structure with the integrity, attention to fine detail, in a non-mercenary state of mind in order to arrive at a work of architecture; that is the expense: time, patience, and an elevated state of mind. Thats why it is called expensive.
A clients demands and the architects vision must strike a perfect balance in order for the house to meet the expectations of the design. Sometimes this balance is achieved through a collaborative process between all parties, but most times, especially in building a billionaires home, the client has learned to trust that the architect will manage to turn their dream home into a furnished reality.
The better the client the more creative freedom they give you, Discoe says. And Larry Ellison was one of those clients. According to Discoe, it took fifteen minutes for Ellison to draw what he wanted on a lined piece of paper with a ballpoint pen. He was very clear and didnt care about the cost or the time. It was ten years from that initial drawing until the full completion of the home.
With all of his billions and no time limit on achieving his housing goals, Ellison demanded the best. As creatively liberating as that is for an architect, the fact that so many economical limitations were thrown out the window placed more emphasis on Discoes job and the final product.
There was no compromise, no cutting corners, no financial or time constraints, no pressure only to deliver the best product possible with expert craftsmanship, Discoe says. With these expectations, theres no one to blame but yourself if something goes wrong.
Fortunately nothing did go wrong. Ellison is satisfied with the home, and Discoe is currently working on a smaller project for Ellisons property next door.
Cutler also takes his clients expectations into careful consideration. To make them part of the process, he closely reads his clients written requests, and personally walks them through the property and relays his design ideas and thought process regularly. Ultimately, though, Cutler has final word on all the design decisions.
Each family has a set of needs that they express in their written program. Im not going to tell them how to live their lives, Cutler says. They give me the landscape and the budget and then I try to bring all those elements together. This is what we do and how we operate, if they think they can do my job and dont need me, then they shouldnt hire me.
So far, no one has walked away. To this day, Cutler claims 100% satisfaction with his clients, including Gates. But he doesnt talk in detail about that out of respect for the clients privacy.
Peter Bohlin, who assisted Cutler with architecting the Gates home, and Ron Herman, landscape architect for the Ellison home, expressed the same concern. It is not uncommon for the high profile client to demand to have everyone involved in their housing project not speak with the press due to privacy and security concerns. In fact, a spokesperson at the architectural firm Gwathmey Siegel wouldnt even confirm if it was responsible for Michael Dells home in Austin, Texas.
One thing Cutler will go into detail about is how the Gates residence incorporates sustainable practices. Cutler Anderson Architects takes an environmentally friendly architectural approach to its projects. Cutler oversaw the use of recycled timber to construct the Gates residence.
The land is a major client. Designing a home is about choreographing the experience of connecting with the landscape, he says. When you emotionally connect with the land, you fall in love with it. When people love something, they dont want to kill it. Its about changing attitudes, not just changing our technology.
Discoe has been using urban logs, that have been recycled, in all major construction projects and recently designed a cardboard zendo, which is like a tent for meditation purposes, for the Burning Man, the annual creative arts festival in Nevada. He is, however, critical of the current sustainability movement.
Its a fun thing to talk about, but you cant pretend to care about sustainability if you drive a car and you fly in planes, he says. The use of petroleum is reprehensible. While I was in Japan, I came across a small village. Everything they needed they got from a quarter-mile radius, no waste and no imports. Thats truly sustainable.
Although sustainability now seems like a modern trend, Lewis explains that an architects intrinsic knowledge of nature is a centuries old tradition of the art of design.
In Japan and in Nordic cultures, trees that grow on the north side of the mountain, tempered by cold wind and shade, are used for the wood to build the north side of the house, and the southern trees that grow in heat and sun are used for the south faade, she says. The consideration of wind and air circulation, the use of shutters, screens, pivoting and sliding walls, solar infusion, thermal insulation from thick storage walls, sunshading with bris soleil [a shading devices for controlling solar gain and adding stylish features to a building] construction walls have all been a prevalent part of architecture and represent its inextricable connection to the environment.
These architects believe that a building shouldnt stand apart from nature; it should complement it.
A sure way to get to an architects brain is through his or her ear. When coming up with the perfect, design, its about learning to be quiet.
If you are patient and you listen, all the piecesthe setting, the environment, the client, the ground, the budget, the timewill tell you how exactly they will fit together, says Discoe. The design will become clear without having to force it.
An architects inspiration comes from the almost surreal way in which the elements of design all come together, like trying on a couture suit. Buddhism, or nature, or the posture of the project, every brain has his or her own terminology to explain the inexplicable art of design.
The posture is how the living and the site and the formality of the construction fit together in a magical appropriate way, says Lewis. The cost of the house should be determined from the appropriate posture of the project.
Its like walking into a classroom full of children. When you ask them a question, they all raise their hands and want to yell out the answer, Cutler says. They all want to tell you their story. My job is to take that cacophony and turn it into music.
Its official: 2019 had the hottest June ever recorded
How higher minimum wages help create more equal communities
In S.F., Lyfts promise of better bike share hits a roadblock
5 LGBTQ issues that need the same energy you just gave Pride Month
The Bottle Cap Challenge now has an official champion, and its not John Mayer
A casual fans guide to jumping right into Stranger Things season 3
Welcome to post-reality: Apple will now fake your eye contact in FaceTime
The Band-Aid of the future knows when youre healed
How Costco quietly became a $7-billion fast-fashion powerhouse
Email is broken, but its not going to die anytime soon
The simple reason why men do less housework, on average, than women
How to manage a team when youre younger than everyone else
Fast Company & Inc © 2019 Mansueto Ventures, LLC