The Poet and the Storyteller


My son, Noah, is now an architect with his own practice. Went to Yale Arch. Sat near my old desk, the one that burned in the infamous fire, spring of 1969. He practices in Los Angeles, downtown. Riley Design Build, Inc.. I’m very proud of him. Thrilled he followed in some of my footsteps. Proud he didn’t follow in all of them.

We’re different architects. He writes poems with his architecture. Beautiful ones. Universal ones. Heavenly ones. I, on the other hand, tell stories with my architecture. Odd ones. Individual ones. Earthly ones. Our architectures are different. Doesn’t matter. At least to me. I like them both.

He uses light, shade, and shadow. Movement, by the eye, from space to space. Volumes, surfaces, insides, outsides. Clean lines. Tranquility. Economy and harmony in the use of materials. Structure expressed. Precision in details. Placement, just exactly right. Balance, both obvious and occult. Moods. Centeredness, the spiritual kind. His stuff is contemporary. Controlled. Classical. You can’t really explain it, except to theorize about it, to reason. It will change with the times, explore the new. It has to. His stuff is honest, really honest. He writes poems with his architecture.

My architecture is sensuous. Romantic. It tells stories about people and places and histories. It makes room for almost everything, for all the contents of individual, eccentric lives. Memories. Treasured things. Situations. Whimsy. Exuberances. Ambiences. Aromas. Sounds. Tastes. Textures visual and tactile. Shapes that mimic the human body. Gestures. Sociability. My stuff is empathic, sometimes bizarre. It‘s evolutionary, not revolutionary. You can easily talk about it. It isn’t all that interested in honesty. It steals and sometimes fibs just to make the story good. I tell stories with my architecture.

I think his stuff and my stuff can merge. Like a ballet. Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Don Q, or something. That’s the fun. That’s what’s interesting. That’s us humans. The stuff of deeply moving, sublimely transcendent poems and wonderful, even fantastic, defining stories. Both at once.

Jefferson Riley
Jeff Riley, FAIA, graduated from Lawrence University with a B.A. in Fine Arts in 1968, received his Master of Architecture degree from Yale University in 1972, and soon thereafter co-founded the firm of Moore Grover Harper, the predecessor of Centerbrook Architects. Lawrence University bestowed on him its Lucia R. Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award. He is one of four partners at Centerbrook Architects and Planners in Centerbrook, Connecticut.
Jefferson Riley

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