James Garrison’s architecture looks to create a synthesis of art, sustainability, and engineering. It is rooted in intellectual curiosity and problem-solving and embraces the most current technology of this era. He is intensely concerned with issues of social equity and sustainable architecture in a constantly changing world.
Jim’s architectural interests are extremely diverse with regard to program, scale, material and form. His sensibilities are informed by modernism and he maintains the conviction that the architect must understand and control the building process from design through construction. Valuing craftsmanship as well as digital precision Garrison looks to embrace the human connection to making, whether building of masonry or assembling prefabricated components.
Born in 1953 in western Pennsylvania, Garrison witnessed nature destroyed by surface mining and clear cutting. This led to a lifelong dedication to ecological protection and ever greater understanding of sustainability. In 1971 he attended the Syracuse University School of Architecture and there researched new forms of urban housing under the mentorship of Werner Seligman, graduating with design honors. While at Syracuse he apprenticed with modernists Lewis Skoler and Kermit Lee who conveyed a refined ethos for architecture and society.
In 1978 Garrison joined Polshek and Partners and soon after began to teach and conduct research in building design and technology in Columbia Universities Architecture school. He has combined practice, teaching, and research throughout his career and is now an Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the Pratt Institute.
After the rapid growth of Polshek and Partners in the 1980’s Garrison established a nimble, studio-based practice that has, for the past two and a half decades, relentlessly searched for new techniques to make the highest levels of design and quality available to programs from housing to public buildings.
Jim’s first building to gain national recognition was 500 Park Avenue, designed while he was with Polshek and Partners. It drew on his academic work as it sought to demonstrate the potential for modern architecture to re-integrate the fabric of the city. Located at 59th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan it synthesized the glass architecture of the postwar era with the masonry of the surrounding pre-war apartment houses. It was heralded by Ada Louise Huxtable as an exemplar of contextual design and received an honor award from the American Institute of architecture.
Jim was given a significant challenge when asked to design a new home for his alma mater – the Syracuse University School of Architecture. With 34 faculty critics, a very limited budget, and a damaged but promising early 20th century building there was much to accomplish. The design process unfolded with an analysis that uncovered the buildings original passive ventilation features and has led to new strategies for sustainable design. The finished building serves to unite the culture of the school of architecture and make its accomplishments visible to the surrounding university. It has won a NYC AIA design award.
The Pod hotel, now completed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is the among the most challenging of Garrison Architects buildings. It combines 250 modular micro hotel rooms, completely prefabricated in Poland, with an irregular urban site and a complex program of courts and terraces. It is an exemplar of sustainable construction and the potential for humane and elegantly designed prefabricated architecture.
Jim views teaching and practice as inseparable and mutually reinforcing. His teaching career began at Columbia University in 1984 where he taught core studios and directed the architectural technology curriculum until 1992. He has taught at the Pratt institute since 2008 concentrating on core graduate studios and specialized seminar investigations into industrialized building systems and sustainability.