If you walk into Studio B Architecture + Interiors in Aspen, you’re likely to see the computers turned off, while the employees draw, sketch and craft study models. You might see CU Denver architecture students learning to sketch a nude model during the firm’s annual summer studio intensive. Or, you might even find the office empty because the staff is attending their annual vision retreat at the Aspen Institute or have escaped on one of their annual sketching trips.
These are just a few of the unique aspects which make Studio B a special firm clearly focused on design excellence. Founder and design principal, Scott Lindenau, FAIA believes that for an architect to truly excel, he/she must know how to draw, understand who they are as a designer and contribute to their firm’s collective vision.
The importance of drawing and understanding your design perspective
Lindenau’s passion for drawing and belief that it should be core to an architect’s skillset goes back to his rigorous design education. Originally a zoology major on the way to medical school, Lindenau took some time off to explore living a more creative life. During those formative years, he began to recognize design’s powerful role in our lives and chose to attend the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) for architecture. Because of the school’s fine arts focus, Lindenau took many art classes where he honed his appreciation for drawing, painting, sculpture and furniture, and it’s influenced his career ever since.
“We use the computer at Studio B, but we also employ several other design tools,” Lindenau said. “Learning how to draw and sketch is critical because it is a direct link between your brain and your hand. A computer can create seductive renderings, but it lacks the emotion and passion of a hand-drawing and the ability to see.”
That’s why every year Lindenau hosts a figure drawing class for graduate architecture students.
“Most architecture students don’t know how to draw, so I purposely lead that class with sketching the human form. I require them to pin up a drawing or sketch and explain why they like it and how it will inform their design-thinking and their making of architecture,” he explained.
Lindenau insists that the basics of sketching, combined with the medium’s ability to convey emotion, build an architect’s talent and toolkit for future projects. And by being in tune with your artistic passion, Lindenau thinks an architect better understands their point of view as a designer.
Studio B’s culture and vision
“I think when people feel they are heard and have authorship in the work, they are more committed to staying and making the commitment to themselves,” described Lindenau. “Even our design associates engage with clients typically from day one.”
Lindenau has purposely kept Studio B small since establishing the practice in 1991, because it allows the twelve-person team to wear multiple hats and get diverse experience on each project—from designing, working directly with clients and consultants to being on-site.
“I’ve structured the studio horizontally which means we collaborate and work in teams with everyone contributing to the authenticity of the work and the design conversation,” said Lindenau.
Annually, Lindenau takes his team on a staff retreat to the Aspen Institute, where they spend the day re-visiting who they are as a firm, where they are traveling as a studio and who their ideal clients and projects are and why. They review their mission statement—”design excellence in all we do, directed by unparalleled project management”—and what it means to each employee.
Before hiring a new team member, Lindenau interviews the candidate numerous times with others from the firm to evaluate their people skills, sense of humor, whether they fit within the studio’s culture and will have the ability to effectively communicate directly with clients.
A tangible example of his team’s bond, when the studio wins an award, the entire staff accepts it together.
Speaking of awards, Studio B has won more than 75 AIA design awards.
Design and Honor Awards
The numerous accolades have certainly bolstered Studio B’s portfolio and has led to increased business, but Lindenau said their motivation behind submitting for awards is about much more.
“It’s not done out of ego, but they validate our commitment to design and who we are as a design studio. We live and breathe architecture. If I’m going to spend two to three years of my life on a project, I want it to be exceptional. Awards elevate everyone who worked on these projects: us, the contractors and the clients,” Lindenau said.
Studio B has not only won numerous design awards, but Lindenau has also been recognized with AIA Colorado Honor Awards: In 2000 he earned Young Architect of Year, in 2017 he was named Architect of the Year, and in 2011, he was inducted into the AIA College of Fellows.
Though they have already achieved what many firms aspire to, Lindenau insists that “our best work is on the boards and is yet to come” from Studio B.
“Awards are humbling and important, but it’s not why we do the work. We put serious effort into our award submittals, so the jury can clearly see our process, how we assess a site and generate design strategies, diagrams and concepts,” Lindenau explained. But most importantly he argued, they are addressing real problems and creating meaningful solutions for clients.
After almost 30 years in business, Lindenau feels like he is just now hitting his stride as an architect and business owner, and he is eager to see what chapters come next and how the studio evolves.
His professional and personal life are significantly influenced by his love of travel, which was developed at an early age. He enjoys “getting out of his comfort zone and traveling to new and unusual destinations,”–most recently to Madagascar, Niger, Indonesia and Bolivia. And of course, his free time is often filled with sketching, drawing and photography.