The Architectural League Questionnaire:
B. Alex Miller and Jeff Taylor

The Architectural League Questionnaire

Jeffrey Taylor and Alex Miller are the principals of the New York City firm Taylor and Miller. They received the League’s Emerging Voices Award in 2011. Click here to read the interview.

What word or phrase do you most overuse?

[A] Context

[J] How am I going to pay my bills?

If you could have designed any building in the world, what would it have been?

[A] When I was in Iowa there was this grotto that a priest had built next to the church. I mean, Gaudi, eat your heart out.  Every bit of it was with precious stones, it was the most obsessive-compulsive thing I have every seen.  It had all the different Stations of the Cross, it was just this organic, amazing incredible thing. He probably spent 60 years on and it is in the middle of a town of five thousand people. That was one of those moments where I thought, wow there’s somebody out there who is just doing this for the spiritual edification of it, that is pretty amazing.

What typeface most represents you?

[A] Arial?  Definitely the more minimal, it is a New York thing.

[J] We use script, it is a little bit ironic, Edwardian script, I think.

What is your favorite airport?

[A] LAX, I go through there so often it almost has this weird homey feel to it, so just experientially when I get there it is like I am on my way home.  It is an extension of home, which is a weird thing, so it is nothing to write home about. It is a tough program because spatially I don’t like to be in airports, they are so big and vast they feel a little corporate.

[A] I like how the Eames airport study, tried to reduce the distance you had to walk to get to the airplane. They would put you on bus to get there, and of course the airplanes would vertical take off, because that was the future. That Eames study airport would be my favorite airport.

What is the one thing you always pack when you travel?

[J] Aspirin

[A] While I have been writing the book I have been carrying an assortment of 6 or 7 books everywhere I have gone for the last five trips.

What architect from the past do you most admire?

You’ve got to love the renaissance guys who were doing art and architecture.  They didn’t get pigeonholed, they got to do anything.

What is your favorite city or town?

[A] I love New York.

[J] Paris is the most beautiful place in the world, but I love the attitude in New York.

If you could own any masterpiece of art, what would it be?

[J] There’s a deKooning, one of his first breakthroughs–it is abstract.  He painted a door in it. I don’t know how obvious the door is but the door was his way out of there.

[A] For me, I would go for my wife’s paintings.

What book has had the most influence on you?

[A & J] East of Eden

What is the last song or album you listened to?

[J] I am getting most of the music I listen to now from my son, there is this song called “Black and Yellow.”

[A] tUnE-yArDs

What is your favorite piece of clothing?

[J] My favorite ensemble is jeans, t-shirts, and boots.

[A] I like my MIT Press t-shirt. I love that graphic and–you know someone is a friend if they come up and say “MIT Press,” we can talk…

Name one obsessive architect behavior that you have.

[A] I twirl my hair.

[J] The scary thing is that I do that too.  We both had that habit before we got together.  We have pictures of both of us sitting there contemplating—he calls it the brain crank.

What is your idea of misery?

[A] Thinking about the idea of misery.

[J] I sometimes think that being an architect or designer is pretty miserable. Every single space you walk into, you notice everything, and it never stops. It is hard to get a break from your own brain sometimes, which really can be a little maddening and miserable at times.

What is your idea of happiness?

[A] Dinner at home.  Home cooked, a glass of wine.

[J] I would have to say jumping on the trampoline with my kids.

If you weren’t an architect, what would you be?

[J] I would be a chef . (I would go from one hellish profession to another.)

[A] I once joked, it is not a profession that exists, but I wish that I could drive a very fast car for a living, not a race car driver, just being someone’s delivery person from NY to LA, in an Austin-Martin DB9.