2016 Circle of Excellence: Architect Harry Teague

Our Circle of Excellence awards pay tribute to five pioneering professionals who have paved the way for Colorado's design evolution. This year's recipients continue to enhance their legacy in our local landscape. Here, meet: HARRY TEAGUE, Principal Designer, Founder, Harry Teague Architects, Basalt

Portrait by Jennifer Olson

For four decades, Harry Teague has left an indelible imprint on the Colorado landscape, starting with his design for the Aspen Community School (his Yale thesis project) and continuing with his innovative work both for homes and for public buildings, including the Anderson Ranch Arts Center; the Bucksbaum campus for the Aspen Music Festival and School (which won a regional AIA award); the performance hall at Breckenridge Riverwalk Center; as well as restaurants and stores, including Steuben’s, Esprit, and Patagonia.

Pace residence, Aspen [Photo by Timothy Hursley]

“Harry shuns a picturesque approach in favor of a design method that weaves global modern design with the specifics of Colorado light and topography,” says architect E.J. Meade, principal architect of Arch11. Teague, who has been an instructor at CU and hosts design students at his offices in Aspen, “has spawned dozens of small and not-so-small practices in the Rocky Mountain West,” says Meade, “our own included.” Whatever the project, Teague says, he aims to “create buildings that can actually uplift the human spirit.”

Glacier residence, Aspen [2 above photos by Thorney Lieberman]

It’s in his DNA: “My grandfather [Walter Dorwin Teague] was very famous as an industrial designer, and it was an education just to go to his house, because it was filled with interesting contemporary and antique designs. My father was also an engineer and designer. At MIT, he designed a big, gorgeous, 16-cylinder car for Marmon; he later designed the first successful reclining dentist’s chair. Just going on a drive with my father was like taking a curated ride, because he wasn’t hesitant to pass judgment on absolutely everything he saw: vehicles, architecture, products. Being with him was an edited experience.”

Glacier residence, Aspen [Photo by Timothy Hursley]

Go West, young man: “As an undergrad at Dartmouth, I was on the ski team, and we came out to Colorado for the NCAAs and celebrated afterward in Aspen. And a next-door neighbor back home in New Jersey, who was the head of design at the Museum of Natural History in New York, told me I should come out to Aspen to work. I ended up working for Fritz Benedict, who was a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright. He taught me the importance of using materials that were indigenous to a place as well as how to read a landscape. In the mountains, you can go 50 feet from one side of a ridge that’s hot and dry to another side that is moist and mossy. And I liked the attitude out here: I got my master’s in architecture from Yale, and back East, everything had to fit into strict, traditional molds; here you could experiment and do things that no one else had done. That suited me.”

The Aspen Music Festival and School campus, Aspen [Photo by Timothy Hursley]

Pounding his own nails: “For the first seven years of doing designs, I built everything that I designed. The advantage is that you learn the capability of the materials—when you have metals or plywood in your hands, you get a feel for them. But the downside was that the length of time it took to build a project began to frustrate me; I felt like my design muscles were atrophying, so eventually I decided to focus solely on the architecture.”

Border house, Aspen [Photo by Paul Worchol Photography]

Shiny Metal House, Carbondale [Photo by Timothy Hursley]

Design philosophy: “At my firm, we’re committed to the social aspect of architecture, what I like to call the ‘new humanism,’ which is a belief that the way something is designed can truly nurture people and help them thrive. Second, we believe that buildings have a physical responsibility not to be energy hogs and to be sensible, durable, and practical in terms of maintenance. And last, architecture needs to be inspirational—it isn’t all just social science and physical science. It’s also poetry.”

2016 Circle of Excellence Award Presentation


Categories: Stylemakers