Small Firm Architect Spotlight: Anne Fougeron FAIA


An interview with Anne Fougeron FAIA

By Mark English, AIA
Anne Fougeron head shot
If you want to be an architect, you've got to go out there and look at real buildings.
Since 1985, FOUGERON ARCHITECTURE is a nationally recognized design firm whose work exhibits a strong commitment to clarity of thought, design integrity, and quality of architectural detail.

A lot of the women don't get their license, but they do go into related professions.

You've got to claw yourself out of that hole. You have to fight the fight. You can't stay in the back, because nobody's going to fight that fight for you. NUMBERS MATTER.

So, 16% of the Fellows are women, but half the undergraduate architecture students are women! Where are they?

First of all, it's a tough profession, and it's not kind to women. It's not kind to anyone, really. And it's sexist: the developer world, the city-planning world, the engineering world are all male-oriented. Not everyone is an entrepreneur, either. It's hard to be the sole proprietor of your own firm - hard for everyone, not just women.

What do YOU think constitutes good design?

It's understanding of the various conflicting forces that make a building. There's budget - and there's lack of budget. There's context - and unwillingess to change. There's the client - and then there are the neighbors. All these different needs and constraints pull the project in different directions. Good design is the synthesis of all these forces in a way that still makes it work.

How do you convince someone that design matters?

A good design should last over time, be well sited, and include amenities that matter. Quality costs more, but they'll end up with something that's far more suited to their needs. It helps for people to have some visual training so they can understand the importance of design in the world. Unfortunately, the slash-and-burn budget cuts in public schools have gutted most of the arts programs.

What's your position on sustainability in design?

Build it right, build it once, and don't build it again.

People without design education tend to romanticize the past at the expense of the present.

What people don't realize is that bad architecture has been around forever - not everything that's old is good!

What's the most extreme design challenge you ever faced?

Convincing people that design matters, and explaining to them WHY it matters - without lying to them or being condescending. This applies both to private clients and to public agencies and officials. A lot of people just don't get it with modern design. It's like trying to explain why a great novel is worthwhile to someone who only reads the sports page or the gossip columns in the newspaper.

Tell me more about how buildings can emotionally affect people.

Buildings like the Notre Dame in Paris or Hagia Sophia in Istanbul convey commitment to a grand idea. They inspire awe and amazement that the building could be done at all. They take people by the throat.

Who were the teachers and mentors that influenced you the most?

One was Dan Solomon at UC-Berkeley, whom I studied with and later worked in his studio for 4 years. He was good at site planning and housing in an urban design context. Now there's more interest in that sort of thing. I think it's OK to include modern buildings in an old context, to respect the urban fabric but twist it a little bit. Here's one project we did - 1532 House - that manages to differentiate from the surrounding homes without overwhelming them.

What do you think of the training that young architects are getting today?

Architecture is not about sitting at the computer, making crazy dissolving morphing skins. It's about buildings. Buildings are made of stuff. They're built by somebody - a lot of somebodies. It's very labor-intensive. I always tell people, "If you want to be an architect, you've got to go out there and look at real buildings."