Create a Common Language
The three-month research period gives the firm and its client a contextual framework they can share before beginning the design. On the Dallas project, for example, visits to the National Theatre in London made it clear to both the architects and the theater's directors that they needed something smaller than the 800-seat auditorium they'd imagined.
Simple Is Smart
When Prince-Ramus talks about smart design, he often says he likes a dumb solution that comes only from digging into a problem. In Seattle, for instance, debates raged over how the building's intricate, diamond-patterned glass exterior would be cleaned. The solution? Install carabiner clips, like those used by rock climbers, on the building's outside framework.
Prince-Ramus believes in the power of questioning first principles and discarding preconceived notions. With the Dallas theater, that meant asking why the stage and seating had to be hidden from the outside world. By putting the lobby underneath the building and the backstage space above it, architects "liberated" the chamber so it could be viewed from the outside.
Authorship Is Leadership
Many designers, architects, or business leaders might define a project's author as the person whose name is on it. Dismissing his profession's obsession with celebrity, Prince-Ramus says the author is the one who creates an environment where other people can succeed. A leader creates something not by taking credit, but by making spaces in which others can excel.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.