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Five Under 40: Architect Matthew Smith

Colorado Homes & Lifestyles' Class of 2018




Portrait by Jennifer Olson

A $100 PARKING TICKET on a hot, humid day in Washington, D.C., was the last straw that led Matthew Smith to head for Colorado. It was the summer of 2005, and he was working at his first professional job after completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture at The Catholic University of America. But the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native loved the outdoors, and a recent trip climbing the Grand Tetons with his dad had given him his “first real taste of the rugged Rocky Mountain West,” he says. “And I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if I could work out there?’” That fall, he interviewed at CCY Architects in Basalt, half an hour northwest of Aspen, and joined the team the following February.

Smith soon made his mark on the well-established, award-winning firm, renowned for its collaborative approach to designing contemporary homes and public and commercial projects. He also rose to the ranks of CCY’s leadership team, to which he was promoted last year, and he played a central role in incorporating computer-aided BIM (building-information modeling) technology into their process. “We’re now using virtual reality to get inside our buildings as we design them,” he adds. Yet, Smith still relishes most of all the hands-on craft of architecture. “Creating something out of nothing, that people get to inhabit and use and enjoy, is pretty powerful!”


The inviting terrace of a Castle Creek residence in Aspen. [Photo by JC Buck]
"I feel really blessed to have a career that not only fulfills me personally, but also that I practice in the outdoor places I'm personally passionate about." — Matthew Smith

PRESSING PAUSE: “Working with my hands is important to me, helping me think about how things are built or come together. Three summers ago, I took a weeklong immersion course in furniture-making at Anderson Ranch, an incredible facility in Snowmass Village dedicated to the fine arts. Working 9 a.m. to midnight for a week, while my wife let me avoid helping out with the kids, I designed and built a foyer display table made of ash for our house. Consistent with the work I’m drawn to, it’s simple in form but complex in details. If I weren’t an architect, I’d be designing and building furniture.”

THE RETRO APPROACH: “While technology and sexy computer renderings are becoming commonplace, and I’ve helped lead the charge of bringing that technology into the firm, I still need a pencil in my hand—I think best, create best, analyze best when I use my hands.”


The T.A.G. residence in Aspen. [Photo by JC Buck]

THE LONG HAUL: “Architecture is such a tough career for so many reasons. As the saying goes, ‘it’s an old man’s career.’ Getting out of school, you’re not going to be making a ton of money. My father, who worked his whole life as a law librarian for the State of Pennsylvania, told me to be patient with the process, to persevere. It takes time to build a practice, and you’re working long hours. But you have a professional degree.


The T.A.G. residence in Aspen. [Photo by JC Buck]

THE IDEAL CLIENT: “Any client who’s passionate about what you’re doing with them is a great client. I like a client who is clearly interested in rolling up their sleeves with you through the whole process, helping shape the project, creating rules and boundaries. It’s fun to get someone who’s willing to let you push their comfort level a little bit, who becomes an integral part of a collaborative team that prides itself in creating the work with them.”

HOW HIS GARDEN GROWS: “I built a raised vegetable garden in our back yard. I like being outside with my wife, Beth, and our two young sons, Avery and River, growing our own vegetables. This summer, we’ll have cherry tomatoes, spinach, snap peas, carrots and peppers. We’re big on the salads in our family.”

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