Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

Interview with John Gillis

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

gillis-webExcerpts from this interview appear in the Fall 2007 issue of Kaizen, CEE’s newsletter. Below is the full interview.

John Gillis has been a practicing architect in New York City for more than two decades. He has designed hundreds of residential, commercial, educational, and institutional projects throughout the United States. Gillis has also written widely on architecture and art for publications such as Economic Affairs (London), Interiors, Aristos, The Freeman, and Reason.

Kaizen: Why did you decide to become an architect?

Gillis: Well, I was interested in buildings from the time I was a small kid. By the time I decided to become an architect, at about age twelve, I had already been focused on things that I didn’t quite know were architecture, but were architecture. I just loved building things when I was a little kid, like various specialized toys, and making up things out of materials. I was interested in building as such.

My earliest memories are of buildings like the church that was visible from my window when I was three years old—it was a big, prominent structure. When I got bored in school as a young child, I used to sit and draw from memory the plans of buildings that I was in. I didn’t know that they were plans—I didn’t fully understand what was going on, but it was interesting for me to be able to look from above and see the organization of the house I lived in, or the school I was going to, or other buildings that I had been in, wondering how it all worked, drawing the next room, and seeing that things were organized in a certain way.

So I was fascinated by all those things. And then, when I was in seventh grade, going into eighth grade, I realized that I wanted to build—that that was what I wanted to do. I remember telling my parents that I wanted to build. I didn’t even call it architecture, because it wasn’t yet a case of clearly wanting to do something artistic. Instead, it was really a case of wanting to create buildings, and it was all in one big ball. It wasn’t organized or clear, but as soon as I realized that that was what I wanted to do, and because I was always a big reader, I started looking for books about architecture.

I realized quickly that there was a whole issue about how you organize things, how things look, as well as the mechanics of the function, materials, construction, and costs. It appealed to me because it was almost everything in life rolled up in one—it was artistic; it was business; it was engineering; and it was practicalities. My goal was, from that point on, totally clear, and I never changed. I went to technical high school to study architecture and then onto university architectural programs.