Why Authenticity in Architecture Matters

Why Authenticity in Architecture Matters

I was 22 years old, full of myself and sitting in a seminar desk across from Charles Foreman Johnson, who had recently been named as one of the 100 best design professionals in the world by Architectural Digest. Between the others, sitting proudly on the desk, was a model. I had been describing to Mr. Johnson this model that I had lately finished in school had been the greatest function of structure of the previous 50 years.

Mr. Johnson listened quietly while he awakened the model, appearing from above and ducking to an eye-level view. My verbal dissertation finally stopped, but Mr. Johnson maintained quiet. Surely, I thought, he had been simply thinking about the magnificence that stumbled upon his seminar table. After a couple of moments, he leaned back into his chair and scratched his brow. Then, after what seemed like forever, he spoke: “What you have here, Eric, are three very good ideas. Unfortunately, you’ve stuck them all together into a single design. The home lacks integrity; it lacks authenticity.”

Then he motioned for me to cup my hands together and look through them the way a young child would pretend to look through a telescope. I looked in the front of the home, then the other hand, then the correct. Although I certainly didn’t wish to acknowledge it, I instantly understood what he meant. My great piece of architecture suffered from multiple personalities — there was no single notion that tied it together, and it did indeed lack authenticity.

Why does authenticity make for wonderful architecture? Let us look at six examples of authentic interiors and exteriors, and why they work.


1. Sweeney Lake House, Minneapolis

The facade of the home is clean and striking. Two substances, two bedrooms using parallel geometry and an opening that’s obviously the entry. What would you envision the interior to be, based on this facade? The answer determines the home’s authenticity.


Well, here is your master bathroom of the same home in the previous photo. Striking, clean lines. I love the simple usage of two substances to get the floor and a single big window with a view of the lake beyond. The design of the bathroom perfectly marries together with the exterior. This home has authenticity.

More photographs from this project

Caputo Construction

2. Montecito Residence, California

The solution to this home is promising: intriguing substances, intriguing procession and small glimpses of this design. What would you expect the interior to be, based upon this image?

Caputo Construction

The interior doesn’t disappoint: exposed steel, open spaces, metal decking and an architectural dialogue that meets the promise of the home’s approach.

Too frequently we will see a film that does not meet the promise of this movie’s poster or trailer (I might be just a bit bitter about the last picture I saw). That can be a very disappointing experience. Authenticity in design maintains and meets the home’s promises.

More photographs from this project

3. Nevada Home

Here is a picture of a dining room of beautiful lyricism with a rhythmic, exposed structure, a clean area and consistency in substance choices, all creating spatial integrity. The furniture was designed and constructed specifically for this particular space.

And this is your front door to the same home. The design in the doorway begins the rhythm of the distance beyond.

“This above all:
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

— William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Architecture must share the very same qualities of authenticity that we appreciate in individuals.

More photographs from this project

Neslihan Pekcan/Pebbledesign

4. Children’s Room, ” Turkey

This image is a wonderfully lively kids’ bedroom. The Lego notion is carried through consistently with imagination and creativity. Truth be told, I love Legos and still play them … together with my kids, of course.

The colour brings the space to life. Not overdone or underdone, this magnificent area has integrity.

More photographs from this project

De Meza + Architecture

5. San Francisco Bathroom

This image reminds me of an Eric Carle illustration. The room has a wonderful use of colour and texture in the floor and in the drawers. It is a whimsical space that is not trying to be overly serious.

More photographs from this project

Shouldice Media

Shouldice Media

6. Timber-Frame Home, Canada

Last, for people who may bewail my almost exclusive usage of contemporary design, is this gorgeous home. Too frequently homes of a more conventional style are merely a facade, together with the interior standard at best, as well as the promises of the exterior are unkept.

Thankfully, that’s not the case for the home. This is the interior of the room found in the tall roof portion of the former image. It is a real architectural experience that’s true to the style, right down to the thick, rough beams, tall distance (just as we would expect from the exterior) and detailed connections.

Architecture must be authentic, just like a person — true to its culture and its own historical context, together with the thread of a common notion carried consistently throughout.

We have all been lied to in art — if it be a film, a book or an exhibition. Little is worse, in the context of structure, compared to entering a home that promises much and delivers little. A home should deliver well beyond its own promises with whimsy and surprise, just like a great picture. Architecture needs to be authentic to be successful.

More: Simplicity vs. Simpleness in Architecture — and Why You Need to Care

See related

Comments are closed.