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"Our buildings should be of a place and site themselves firmly within a city’s construct" says WPA founder Carrie Strickland

Works Progress Architecture (W. PA) Founding Principal, Carrie Strickland, shares 3 books that have influenced her life in architecture.

Carrie Strickland

Founding Principal At Works Progress Architecture

Strickland’s work confronts the challenge of making high standard of design possible while working within the constraints of tight budgets, fast paced development, and jurisdictional restrictions of zoning codes associated with urban
infill projects. Strickland established her uncompromising design practice within these aggressive constraints while building long lasting relationships with her clients and collaborators.

Launching Works Progress Architecture (previously Works Partnership Architecture) in 2005, Strickland’s first projects resulted in a series of endeavors that preserved the nature of the buildings that have made up the urban core of Portland for more than a century. Now working on a national scale, with offices in Portland and in Los Angeles, Strickland has designed buildings that merge into their context yet are provocative, modern and challenge the contemporary norm.

What 3 books have impacted your life in architecture and why?

The Hero and the Crown

Robin McKinley, 1984

I read this book at least a dozen times as a young child. The heroine is a shunned princess that discovers a book that contains a recipe for an ointment that is fireproof. Through trial and error she perfects the ointments and heads out to fight dragons. It's a twisting fantasy and is a story of finding your own way.

In the end she comes back and rules the kingdom on her own terms and it respected for the same nonconformity that was her challenge at the beginning. Not to mention turning gender stereotypes on their heads by showing how this young girl, that most would be rooting for her to be saved by the handsome prince - could become her kingdom's savior by bucking the norms, being damaged in the process - and wearing those scars like badges of honor.

I grew up in small town and always felt that I was supposed to be doing something else. A large part of founding my own firm, was the same drive and determination that I found inspiring in that young, but brave princess.


Elias Canetti, 1984

The novel’s main character, Peter Kien, is an obsessive misanthrope who lives with and for books – primarily his own library. All his experiences and opinions are filtered through the lens of how they relate to books. Through a confused twist, he is forced to leave his home – and therefore his extensive collection. He starts living in hotel rooms, having taken his beloved library with him – in his head. Each night, he carefully “unloads” each volume and stacks it carefully with all the others on the floor on paper that he carries with him in his valise.

I first read this book during my 1st year of architecture school at the suggestion of a boyfriend at the time. I returned to it when it was time to craft my architectural thesis. This novel was fascinating for its unabashedly constructed reality. Humans ability to carry objects with them and use them to make space - reconstructing what was once there in order exist in the present made a deep impression.

My thesis focused on designing a high-rise mobile home park – in which the occupants pack and carry their “homes” and travel from location to location. Knowing that you can never actual carry with you everything that shapes your world, you must rely on the mind's power to construct those places.

Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon

Chuck Palahniuk, 2003

The book alternates between autobiographical chapters, and lists of the author's favorite activities in his home city of Portland, Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Palahniuk guides the reader to eviction court for evocative storytelling, a massive Goodwill charity sale for purchasing clothes by the pound, and to clubs and sexual fetish organizations.

This one may seem like a stretch for an architectural tie, but actually is very telling of how I approach design in urban settings. Chuck takes the reader on a somewhat underground tourist trip of Portland – and while there aren’t the lists of picturesque viewpoints and top notch restaurants, you leave this book feeling like you’ve seen the real place and are better for it.

Our buildings should be of a place and site themselves firmly within a city’s construct. What you glean from a place can be much more than the obvious and surface level observations.

Architecture can give form to the seedy underbelly or the quirky politics of a jurisdiction. This is how you truly know a place and can design with an authentic voice.

Carrie Strickland architectCarrie Strickland architectCarrie Strickland architectCarrie Strickland architect
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