Donald Singer

Architect’s Statement
by Donald Singer

Broward County has been good to me, and I am grateful. It has provided me the opportunity to work in an environment of relative freedom because of its newness. The advantage of an enthusiastic economy these thirty-five years has been the basis for the work you see in this exhibit.

In 1962, Elaine and I, fresh from school and not certain of where we should cast our lot, ventured across the country on a journey intended to make a determination regarding a place to best try to do creative work. To this day I am accused of planning the trip based on an itinerary of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, and deservedly so, but we met people in all regions of America, both Architects and clients of Architects, and learned that they were all simply people who cared. It was evident that, whether in Texas, California, Arizona or the Midwest, there was a certain percentage of the population who shared that sense of concern, and it would be that group from which would come the clients for the Architecture I hoped to do. To learn from Oklahoma Architect Bruce Goff, then world famous, and revered by some, that most of his clients came from the “Yellow Pages”and to hear from Wright’s son, Lloyd, that, yes the clients would come, but that one had to “be patient,” was actually reassuring. We were very young, and we had nothing but time.

It was not any intuition about the upcoming Florida growth that brought us back, but the knowledge that a similar group would be there, waiting, and the sense that it was, after all, home. Thanks, at least in part, to the place, the theory worked.

The buildings are testament to that, and my hat is off to the clients who have been part of that caring group. I have, since Sam Leder asked me to design his Animal Hospital, made a conscious effort to “push the envelope,” and move the thoughts of those caring and sometimes daring people through the uncharted waters of an Architecture that looked ahead, not back.

It is the spirit of this place, with its strong sense of identity based in its newness, which has, in no small part, generated the work. In addition to the impetus provided by the aforementioned caring people, that newness has been given shape by the intensity of the climate, the sub-tropical growing patterns and the techniques of construction that had become standards in a booming economy.

After seeing first hand what South Florida’s unrelenting wet-dry cycle does to wood construction, I made a simple promise to myself to use materials that would endure. The hostile sun-rain-sun cycle, the need to meet often minimal budgets and the desire to utilize commonplace construction methodology melded quite naturally into my motivation for the use of concrete and masonry.

The thought of covering up—of hiding from view—the elements of the construction, seemed to me to be no less than covering the very nature of the idea upon which the whole was based. It was those very ideas that I wanted to express. Chuck Reed had shown me the grace and clarity to be found by exposing masonry. The opportunity to leave visible the structure of the idea and hand of the craftsmen who did the work, was irresistible.

It was as if South Florida, in its rush to stay ahead of its own inevitable growth, had adopted its own “natural” “stone.” There was no need at all to carry stone from some other shore and pretend to capture someone else’s history. It could be made right at home in a marvelous variety of color and shape. The block was a wonderful, modular tool and what I quickly discovered was that the masonry became its own design-motivating force. In a sense, at a point, design would flow from the very idea of the material.

The block transcended status. It could work equally well in the most modest structure and in the most elegant. It also provided a mass that was both reassuring in coming to terms with Florida’s storms and a cooling element in the heat of the summer. Masonry is a first choice, but by no means the only choice. There is the plasticity of concrete, the delicacy of steel and (used protected from the elements) the richness of wood . . . all of which are viable materials when used to develop the humanity of Architecture . . . space.

It is space which defines Architecture. Space can be limiting or liberating, intimate or grandiose. It can provide a function or offer repose. When Architectural space truly defines the needs and aspirations of its users it does so by creating order from the disparate factors of program, budget and site.

The act of achieving that spatial order has been the “Design Process,” a long, and at times convoluted search for the very essence of what each building wants to be in order that it fulfill its potential, potential that is infinitely greater than “expediency of the moment” or someone’s arbitrary “bottom line.” Rather than being limited by such narrow focus, I have, along with the many good people who have worked with me and been such an important part of this effort, notably Craig Barry, my co-conspirator for 27 years, strived to assure that these buildings, this Architecture, consider the need for humanity in our cities and the growth of a qualitative life experience in our private lives.

We citizens of Broward County will leave behind us an image of who and what we are. That image, created in large part by the buildings we build, can and should be one of intelligence, grace and dignity. Once constructed, buildings contribute, positively or negatively, to the lives they touch for entire lifetimes, and beyond. We are what we build.

Our buildings are our legacy.
All that said, life is about more than bricks and mortar. Along the way the relationships with the people we have met through Architecture have become lasting friendships, and Elaine and I are proud that we can look our clients in the face, most of them, and feel good about what we did . . . and what they did. I find that, also, very reassuring.