A Q&A With Architect Joeb Moore

Meet this year's CTC&G Innovator Award recipient.
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Joeb Moore accepts the 2022 CT IDA Innovator Award. Photography by Paul Bickford.

In addition to being a founder of Greenwich architectural and design firm Joeb Moore & Partners, Joeb Moore is adjunct professor of architecture at the Barnard/Columbia undergraduate architecture department and graduate design studio professor/senior critic at Yale School of Architecture. He also is on the board of trustees of the Cultural Landscape Foundation and the Oberlander Prize for Landscape Architecture.

Site Plan Slice House

Site plan of Slice House. Landscape architecture by Kathryn Herman Design.

What advice can you give young people interested in a career in architecture?
Architecture is a social-critical art form. I would suggest starting with the humanities. Expand your interest and curiosity about the history of ideas—from nature to the arts, sciences, crafts and technologies—in all the major cultures around the world. Architecture is not only about the representation, the idea or concept, but also the making of the thing and the physical, material world. We need broad, open thinking and public intellectuals and makers who consider what a civic life and society is and might become. In this sense, we have a lot in common with provocative science fiction writers and sensitive, deep historians. Architects shape the future by understanding the past and present in unexpected ways, and making these visible and felt. In this sense, architects are time-travelers. We do not just shape space, form, material and geometry, but rather historical flows. These invisible flows are our true material or medium. In other words, making the invisible visible.

How has your personal history shaped who you are today?
I have always had a love of art, science and science fiction books and learning—but learning by doing. I remember a game I played in elementary school to learn about the structure of words, sentences, language. The purpose of the game was to string together a series of basic forms (cubes, rectangles, triangles, cylinders) and their bright, primary colors in such a manner as to produce a spatial–visual correspondence with words and sentences. The resultant formal– spatial strings (structures) were understood as analogous to writing and reading a sentence or paragraph. It left a deep impression, although possibly not the one intended. What I really discovered is design and architecture in those primitive, colorful geometric forms. I believe architecture, like dramatic writing, is a relational and deeply situational art. It is in the dialogue and the assemblage of these words, forms and spaces—when precisely crafted and well positioned—that we can produce extraordinarily beautiful, sublime and tragic recognition in the participant.

I realized much later in life that the meaning of the work is in its participant’s experience. It is in these psychic moments of doubt, of paradox, and double meaning that architecture finds its expression as a social and psychological art form. It is in the gaps, in the way words and things are precisely crafted and shaped together from which the power of writing and architecture emerges.

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A model of Slice House. Photography by Paul Bickford.

How do you think the pandemic has influenced the way that people live?
From a design decision point of view, I think our clients turned toward family-oriented spaces inside and outside. They were closer to home and secluded. How it will play out it the long run is still an open and important question.

What makes a house into a home?
Architecture is about people. It is the only art form we live. In my view, the house is a framework for living—for making/shaping a home and a flourishing life. The house is our backdrop and safe space from which we hang our deepest hopes, dreams and fears. A home is less a fixed place or room, but rather an emotional world beyond mere physical space, and a place that helps ground us, keep us connected to ourselves, our family and community. It comforts us and connects us to our past, present and future.

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Moore’s home overlooking the water.

What is your home office like?
I have a loft studio that cantilevers over a lake and river. It is akin to a bridge over running water or a boat floating above with large glass windows that look both up the lake and down the river. My studio desk actually sits between these two water views. It is reminds me every day that we are not above nature and its movement and flow, but in it, an active part of it. During Covid, I had to repeatedly remind myself how special and lucky this site, this home, and this studio space was and remains. I am surrounded by 100 acres of natural wilderness filled with indigenous wildlife. It is truly a relational and ecological experience that has made me more aware and sensitive to how our natural and cultural landscapes are intwined and codependent.

If you were in a different industry, what would it be?

What is your personal creative outlet?
Skiing, dramatic fiction, poetry, travel/ adventure, making and drawing things.

Where do you find design inspiration?
I find inspiration on many fronts—from floating in the stream of powder on a ski slope to artwork that confronts us. I also just find it in the everyday and the silent space or gaps where I stop thinking about all the things to do and just experience the light and play of all the wonder around me.

To view the 2022 CT IDA winners, click here.

The print version of this article appears with the headline: Joeb Moore.