InForm WINTER 2018 Issue 2
INTERVIEW WITH THE PRINCIPALS
by: Mina Rezaeian, associate Brininstool + Lynch
Collectively, David Brininstool and Brad Lynch have been leading studios and lecturing at architecture schools for more than 20 years.
David Brininstool has been associated with Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago since 1998 and is currently an adjunct professor. Brad Lynch started teaching at Archeworks in 2002 and has been a visiting critic at Syracuse University three times, taught a design studio at Illinois Institute of Technology and at Taliesin, and frequently lectures and does reviews at architecture schools globally.
As one of the newest associates here at Brininstool + Lynch, I sat down with them to talk about their experiences in the studios and lecture halls over the years.
Mina Rezaeian: David, what drew you to IIT and what has kept you there so long?
David Brininstool: Donna Robertson, the dean at IIT at the time, called and asked. I’ve stayed because, as an admirer and disciple of Mies, I am drawn to the opportunity to teach in his house and be a small part of that legacy. I co-teach the original Mies studio, which is meaningful for me – and I get the pick of the litter as far as future employees. There is also a strong sense of community at IIT, of which I enjoy being a part.
MR: Over the many years you’ve been teaching there, how has the Mies studio grown and evolved?
DB: The studio has remained in many ways the same, a predetermined problem we work to resolve: long-span, column-free space projects. We have started focusing, in line with larger changes at IIT, less on the object and more on the metropolis as an urban endeavor. Regardless of the focus, I have always maintained the method of developing the non-architectural concept—the bigger idea—first. All students struggle with taking time to develop “the why.”
MR: Brad, you’ve taught in Chicago and elsewhere, what philosophy do you bring to students, regardless of where or what you’re teaching?
Brad Lynch: The most important thing for young architects is to develop a confidence with their own abilities and talents. A technical skill set should become second nature for someone working in this field in order to be confident in their ability to produce good, competent work.
MR: What’s the most interesting thing about teaching architecture?
DB: That it’s a design problem in and of itself. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how you convey design. It’s a challenge. And what I’ve come to believe is you can teach a perception and a methodology and try and direct it, you can foster it, but you can’t actually teach design. I always emphasize to students that you’re designing what the program or end user needs, not what you want. It’s a value system – this is not an ego trip. The world is asking us for things that help them work better, live better. It’s not about us, the architects. The key is getting clients to ask for what they need. That’s the true challenge in all of this, really. You can tell right away if a student will get it.
BL: The challenge of giving students optimism coupled with tough love. Sacrifice and experience, and the ability to be self-critical help build success in architecture. I think it’s very important for students to understand the balance between theory and practice. In very positive ways, architecture is evolving as a profession from when I started – technology, equality, and environmental issues. Innovation has always been critical, but I still think it’s incredibly important to help students find what’s valuable and meaningful in all of it, in regard to building something that will last longer than a design trend.
MR: You are both Chicago architects who have been vocal about the power of the architectural legacy of Mies and Wright. What does it mean to you and how do you think you represent it in your lectures and studios? And what is the state of that legacy today?
BL: They were both extraordinarily good architects in very different ways. When I think of Mies’ methodology and process, it’s all Mies. But, with Wright, pick your fantasy. Wright’s intuitive thinking was amazing. He lived through three different periods of architecture and reinvented himself in each one. Chicago was the greatest city in the 20th century for architecture in the world. However, with a few exceptions, I believe we have some work to do in the 21st century in leading, rather than following, in order to maintain that level of excellence, innovation, and design leadership that made Chicago famous and relevant.
MR: What’s the most consistent advice you give all students?
DB: Keep it simple. If there’s a problem, get rid of it. If you can’t get rid of it, engage it. Don’t overreach.
BL: The only way you can sell a design is to be absolutely confident and passionate about what it offers. You must be critical of yourself and your ideas before you give them to others. You have to be ready for any and all critiques. Everyone has an opinion about architecture, you need to know how to accept informed criticism as well as how to respond to the less educated opinions.
MR: Do you find it difficult to both teach and manage your own firm?
BL: When I teach, the practice may suffer. But it also has great benefits – namely participating in the greater world of design. I would say that teaching and managing a firm can be mutually reinforcing.
DB: In teaching you have to stay relevant and that is also good for the practice. Teaching also gives you good insight into the next generation as far as people and who to hire and what their expectations are going to be. And I was able to hire you, Mina.