Qualities of Duration
The branch of a sycamore grows through the opening of a wall in a Manhattan studio. A pool-house on Long Island becomes a sod-roofed teahouse. An eighteenth-century farmhouse in Pennsylvania expands to echo the path of a meandering stream. Such are the inventive and inspired designs of Phillip Smith and Douglas Thompson, whose work stands out as an oasis of calm in an age of hyperspeed and information smog. Since they met in 1966, Smith and Thompson have sought out a “softer” alternative to the legacy of “heroic modernism,” a quest for spatial quietude guided more by instinct and gradual accretion than enforced concept and ideology. Taking Bernard Rudofsky’s emphasis on forgotten vernacular buildings and “architecture without architects” as the underlying theme in their work, Smith and Thompson’s sources of inspiration have varied widely over the years, from early European modernism to the barns and fishermen’s cottages of Nantucket, to the monasteries of Tibet, the hill towns of Italy and the stilted kampongs of Malaysia. Qualities of Duration is the first book to chronicle their firm’s complete body of work, detailing its numerous residential, commercial, corporate and institutional projects through 350 illustrations and a text by architectural historian Alastair Gordon.