Jeffrey Dungan, award winning architect and designer just released his first book, The Nature of the Home: Creating Timeless Houses. The Alabama based creative channels his expertise, teaching others how to create their dream home. We were lucky enough to get the chance to ask him some questions about his design process and favorite recent projects.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
JD: I would say that easily the most rewarding part of my job is working with people. Two major relationships are the clients without whom we would never be able to do meaningful work and who in many ways are our partners in making beautiful thoughtful places. Also the energy and passion of the people who work with me in our studio are key in the design and execution of these ideals we hold so dear.
What is your favorite recent project you worked on?
JD: Favorite recent project? Well, I am very lucky in that at this point we just take projects we really want to do and feel strongly about the relationship with the client, so it would be difficult to choose a favorite as it is to say which of my daughters is my favorite! If you put a gun to my head I would say I really enjoyed working on a large estancia in the Dominican Republic. We are creating an entire farm complete with horse stables and some smaller guest houses called casitas as well as a large main house for entertaining. We imported a 150 year old barn frame from Pennsylvania and designed the house around that with lots of glass and a wrap around porch and outdoor courtyards and a swimming pool- just to add some complexity its all done using the metric system, and I’m still working on my Spanish.
You said in your interview with Cashiers that your biggest fear was white paper, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
JD: Well I just don’t like a big old piece of blank white paper staring at me, it conjures up notions of writers block or similar scary creative instances. I can do it but I tend to grab a piece of whatever is laying around including paper plates old construction drawings or in once instance wax paper from a kitchen and draw on that. Plus I draw very small at the beginning so its what Bill Clinton might call “sufficiently deniable”. Its all part of a personal process of thinking out loud with a pencil which is not rocket science but is central to my creative method.
One of our early clients once said, they never knew that having a designer remodel their home would help them live a better life. How do you think an architect can bridge the differences between how they live their lives and how they want to?
JD: Everything we live in was designed by someone, somewhere at some time- I think the question is, was it designed thoughtfully? Is it beautiful to you and does it move you in some positive way? It is clear that if and when the answers are yes to these questions our lives are elevated from the old into a new experience. Its powerful and pivotal to feel the difference. The question is not CAN an architect do it- the question is DID they do it, and when done well- the answer is obvious. Our goal is to help people live better lives. That is worth getting up for every day in my book.
You stated on your website that if you listen to the site the house will almost design itself. How does the site and local products help inform your decisions?
JD: When I talk about the site I am talking about a few things, context is a huge definer of any great design. Where are the best views, and which views would I like to eschew and how does the sun come across the site every day- because its not changing its path. What I really love is nature and the movement of the earth in its rise and fall, I’m looking for the spot in that terrain that will easily and readily accept a house, and how the shape of the house could most easily fit into it. When people say that the house looks like it grew out of the site or that it appears as if it had always been there- it's the best compliment they could give.