For all the globalizing changes wrought by advances in communication technology, residential architecture remains overwhelmingly a local matter. And that suits Mark McInturff, FAIA, just fine. Architecture and armies need the same thing, he insists: “A small number of heroes and a large number of soldiers.” For nearly a quarter-century, McInturff Architects has been content to offer its neighbors in the Washington, D.C., area the opportunity to build or rebuild with access to the full range of modernist expression. But while the focus of the work is local, its quality has drawn broader recognition, in the form of national design awards and publication in national magazines.
“I think Washington is one of the great urban designs in the world,” McInturff says. “It’s also largely based on a classical tradition. But it’s been proven over and over that modernism can fit into both situations.” McInturff, who cites influences from Wright to Mies, has done well in creating each design anew, without resting on his previous work. More than a signature style, the firm’s portfolio reflects an enthusiastic handling of detail, emphasizing and celebrating, rather than eliding, material connections.
And, befitting a local practice, the firm’s buildings do share a certain native quality that derives from a subtle appropriation of regional materials and motifs. “Even though we’re modernists,” McInturff explains, “we have no interest in throwing out the past.”
What is the most gratifying aspect of residential practice?
The emotional engagement of the clients; they really care about what they’re doing.
What is the most frustrating aspect?
What is your mission statement or firm goal?
To do the very best job we can with whatever our clients and we can bring to bear.
What is the most indispensable tool in your office?
The No. 2 pencil. The computer hasn’t replaced that yet.
What software does your firm use?
For myself: SketchUp. It’s changed my life. I can sit in front of the computer for hours and work with that. It’s so engaging.
For everyone else: ArchiCAD.
Who is your ideal client?
A spirited, creative person who doesn’t have time to design a building.
What is your favorite building?
Le Corbusier’s Church at Firminy.
If you didn’t have the time to design your own house, who would you hire?
It would be my son, Jeff, who just started graduate school at the University of Maryland School of Architecture. Otherwise, it would be W.G. Clark Architects, in Charlottesville, Va.