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September 21, 2021

Q+A with Tom Lane


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Architect Tom Lane has been with Whitten Architects since 2017. Before that, he practiced in architectural offices in Boston and Salt Lake City where he worked on a variety of project types including art museum, library, and custom residential. Tom has designed site-specific homes in a variety of climates including Southern California, Northern Utah, and New England. As an author and illustrator, his work is published in the Architect's Guidebook to Structures text book. Below, Tom shares a bit more about his early summers in Maine, the parallels between art and architecture, and how he enjoys the state with his family.

Q. What do you remember about your early Maine summers from when you were growing up?

A. Growing up in Massachusetts, our family was invited to visit our neighbor's camp in Maine every summer. The trip began on the old elevated I-93 through Boston. For all its faults, the rusting green bridge provided glimpses of old brick buildings, modern glassy architecture, and views through post-modern arches.

Arriving in Maine was marked by hearing the crunch of our tires on the gravel driveways, the woodsy smell of pines, and the sparkling summer sun on the lake. The camp's shaggy cedar shingles and stone fireplace seemed to grow out of the land. It was an idyllic summer setting. The tacit rule was that kids were allowed to roam, returning for mealtimes. Most hydration was provided by a vintage refrigerator stocked with oddly flavored and unusually branded sodas like grape and Moxie.

The lake provided the pleasure and excitement. Spidery canoes, leaky fishing boats, and high-powered motorboats were all part of the scene. My memories are of sweet lake water, experiencing freedom, and laughing with old friends that I still have today.

Q. What first drew you to art?

A. I have always liked visual art. As a child, I loved looking at drawings and cartoons, and I loved the act of drawing. My grandfather and grandmother were trained in studio art. There were paintings and sculptures around growing up, some finished and some intriguingly unfinished.

Q. What parallels do you find between art and architecture?

A. For me, what art and architecture have in common is the process. I am interested in artistic work that is informed by the process of making it. I think the results are richer and more relatable, be it a painterly landscape or a fieldstone house.

Q. What about Maine inspires you?

A. Maine is an inspiring place. I find inspiration in the diverse landscapes, the hardy people, and the rugged built environment. Today I was noticing the daylight: the pre-autumnal light casts broad dark shadows. It's delightful that the daylight is distinctive at each time of year.

Q. How has the WA team and project portfolio evolved since you joined?

A. Whitten Architects has core values but is otherwise open to ideas from clients and team members. Since I joined nearly 5 years ago, the office has grown to meet our clients' needs. The work during that time reflects our clients' interests and our values. Some of that work is contemporary in architectural language, and it is all site responsive.

Q. What speaks to you most about the firm's philosophy and approach?

A. Our approach is about collaboration. We invite participation from our clients and welcome input from our colleagues, consultants, and builders. Each project is reviewed by the whole team at various stages. We believe this is a refining process that yields a design for a particular client and specific place. Our design philosophy is all about the site. As an architect, this is an exciting way to design because it is about inquiry and dialogue. What is the site telling us? How should the architecture respond? I enjoy asking these questions and discovering answers.

Q. What do you like to do when you're not working?

A. Outside of work, I enjoy being with family and friends and being a novice at various activities, like hiking, skiing, and playing the drums. I hiked in Baxter State Park for the first time this year and was seriously impressed by the scale of Mt. Katahdin and awed by the beauty of the surrounding landscape.



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