Taylor & Miller Architecture and Design
Jeff Taylor and B. Alex Miller occasionally find the need to hire a clown. “We’ve got this one guy, he went to acting school and he’s a working clown,” said Miller, who founded Taylor & Miller Architecture and Design with his partner in 2002 while the two were still graduate students at MIT. Working mainly as a two-man team they have always built parts of their projects in their carriage house workshop in the Berkshires, but when they need to hire extra hands, they find unschooled hands are best. “If you’re working at a system that’s a very intuitive thing, like folding aluminum flashing, it’s almost easier for someone who has very little background in construction,” explained Miller.
Construction using experimental systems is at the core of the pair’s work. They gained wide recognition for Peel House in 2007, whose stacked, cedar-member facade provides opacity and transparency at intervals, revealing windows and doors through a perfectly uniform grid organized by digitally fabricated vertical teeth that maintain consistent overlapping.
Taylor began his career as a licensed contractor, but neither partner has a distinct role during the design and fabrication process. “We definitely share a brain, but we bring slightly different things to the table, and we like to battle verbally,” said Miller.
Though work in the Berkshires was plentiful, most of the firm’s current projects are in New York, including a private residence on East 5th Street with walls of carefully molded and lapped wood panels, and an office between 119th and 120th streets. The latter, a design for the non-profit Environmental Grantmaker’s Association, adapts to the office’s seasonal staffing requirements with a series of movable partitions akin to those found in libraries.
In spite of their hands-on approach, the firm is not a design-build operation. The geographical shift in workload could limit the amount of construction taking place in the Berkshires shop, but Taylor and Miller will not relinquish their approach to material fabrication. “Right now, we don’t have a mockup phase, because we’re designing through building,” said Miller. “We may develop a system, but there’s always a moment where we acknowledge if the system is not working. In that way, we are bending the way the material tells us to bend.”
The team has often eschewed profit in favor of creating their ideal designs, an approach that has gained them many first-person referrals and left them relatively unaffected by the slow economy and well-positioned to maintain their focus on material research in the field. “For the most part, we consider ourselves outsiders,” said Miller. “We took a very non-academic trajectory; we focused on getting projects built.”