Renowned local architect George Suyama visits BC

George Suyama sharing presentations with his audience on Feb. 8.

George Suyama’s teachings and practice align with his quote: “Looking at the building as an object is really antithetical to creating a sense of place.” He believes that houses are containers for activity rather than objects of activity, and this idea resonates throughout his work.

Suyama spoke as a guest to BC on Feb. 8, brought to campus by the Interior Design Student Association. Suyama founded the Seattle architecture firm Suyama Peterson Degucki in 1971. The firm states on their website, “As architects, our goal is to create spaces that evoke a quiet, emotional response. We believe that the use of elemental forms and minimal means can result in architecture that has nuance, depth and richness.”

George Suyama sharing presentations with his audience on Feb. 8.
George Suyama sharing presentations with his audience on Feb. 8.

On Feb. 8 he presented numerous photos and blueprints of the firm’s residential and commercial work, speaking on each of them individually. Nearly all the seats in the room were occupied, and listeners seemed engaged with and curious about the work and concepts presented throughout the evening.

“We like to design everything when we get into a project,” Suyama said. “From the original concept down to the accessories that we put into our projects. I think that is not that unusual lately, but when I was starting to do that, people didn’t do that very often.” He shared photos of sculptures, tables made from local fallen trees and customized building structures.

“Our culture is a little old fashioned,” Suyama said. They all use drafting boards and build models and prototypes. They all have computers, but they don’t use them for design. “We believe in the real versus the virtual.” He tends to think that students nowadays believe that virtual simulations are theoretically real, when in fact they are not. “It’s so easy to design in a computer and make it feel like you’re finished, but you haven’t even begun.”

He spoke about creating buildings with a “sense of place” that connect with and don’t impose upon nature. “Making a place is the opposite of making an object,” he said. “Places have a love of nature. You don’t want to harm what you love. If you really do love nature, then anything you do, anything you build, shouldn’t screw up nature. That’s the bottom line.”