Fill in the Blank: John Senhauser - Design Bureau


Walnut Woods Residence

The Palisades of Mount Adams
A 33,000-square-foot, 10-unit condominium complex in Cincinnati, Ohio

Indian Hill Residence


Fill in the Blank: John Senhauser

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

by Lesley Stanley
photos by Claudia Susana, Scott Hisey, and Craig Thompson

Even with 40 years of award-winning design under his belt, John Senhauser isn’t ready to give up yet. The laid-back architect talks mind-blowing structures, why failure is never the end, and his once-potential career as a cowboy.

Being an architect means... Being dedicated to articulating the “built” environment, and to establishing a meaningful or coherent relationship between the parts and the parts of the whole. It’s all about asking the right questions.

A structure that blows my mind is... The chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France. I’ve never physically visited the building, but I really became interested in it when I was a student. It was the first time I realized one could infuse a project with a whole myriad of meaning, from symbols, to light, to religious artifacts.  Also, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, which I visited 12 years ago. It’s simply sublime how it captures and uses light in a way that hasn’t been duplicated anywhere else I’ve ever seen.

If I weren't an architect, I'd be... Miserable or lost. When I was four or five years old, I wanted to be a cowboy, but once I knew what an architect was, at age 10, that’s when I decided that’s what I wanted to be. I enjoyed making model airplanes and cars, and it got to the point where I had leftover parts from kits, and I started designing and creating my own things.

Every home should have... A rescued dog. Your whole perception of things will change, and you understand what unconditional love is about. I’ve had a rescued dog, Cedric, for nine and a half years. I literally took him out of the street and took him home. All of us in the office have a dog—we’re dog people.

A designer should never... Fear either misconception or failure, for without these, there’s no possibility of discovery or invention.

I’ve never been good at... Basketball. I’m short, and I can’t jump very high. But realistically, I’m not good at saying “no.” It stems from the fact that I truly believe there are many shades of gray. I have to investigate all possibilities before I could arrive to some absolute like “no.”

I’m happiest when... I’m working. I love what I do, and that in itself has its own rewards. I’m not interested in retiring. 

I’m obsessed with... Detail. Active detailing separates good buildings from architecture, in the sense that good buildings perform necessary functions. But when you can reconcile everything in typical economical terms and still find you have something left, something that embodies community spirit, uplifts your senses, or brings new meaning to your life, then I think architecture exists.

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