Joeb Moore, AIA
Porter Gifford Joeb Moore, AIA

In balancing design and teaching, Joeb Moore, AIA, of Joeb Moore & Partners in Greenwich, Conn., preaches what he calls the “double meaning” of architecture. Over time, says Moore, landscapes and their buildings evolve as social and psychological spaces, just as people evolve in their thinking and their interactions. “Recognizing this duality,” says Moore, who received a 2015 AIA Housing Award for his Bridge House, “makes us better people and more insightful architects.”

At the core of what architects do is to consider the inherent paradoxes we live and work with every day. As John Ruskin suggested, architecture is the most political of all the arts because it’s the only art form we live in. These spaces are inherently social and political, but do not allow for easy design resolutions. As such, there’s risk involved when you’re dealing with a client’s sense of identity and, frankly, when you’re giving shape and substance to the everyday spaces of their lives.

At its best, architecture isn’t just spatially and formally transformative; it is socially transformative. Toward this end, my practice recognizes and engages in the operative complexity that underlies culture itself. What a house could be is not about asking a linear set of questions. It’s about acknowledging the influence of patronal forces—the sensibilities of clients and how clients wish to project themselves. But it’s also about recognizing what I call disciplinary forces in architecture: harmony, unity, disunity, discontinuity. They are aesthetic concerns, but they are linked to ethical considerations—and to be an architect is to have an ontological state of mind.

All of our projects have a thesis that is developed through a series of conceptual models. These conceptual models, or tests, then allow us to take a principled approach to design. The “model” is less a thing and more an experiential trigger for me. And as our team gets deeper into the design process, we can refer back to these models and not lose the core ideas that generated the design in the first place. That model comes in handy with clients, too—I’m able to refer back to it to remind them of the idea that got them excited in the first place. Collaboration is always a journey, with ups and downs, and one thing I talk to clients about is a suspension of disbelief, because collaboration requires that they come to the design process with a sense of trust and hope—and that I come to it with a willing ear. —As told to William Richards