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Five Under 40: Joseph Spears

Colorado Homes & Lifestyles' Class of 2019




Photo by Jennifer Olson

Clean, modern architecture that communes with the landscape from the ground up is Joseph Spears’ signature style. The Montana native headed south to build his vision and to show us what it’s like to be transported by a structure.

In the years prior to founding S2 Architects, Spears designed two fire stations, a vineyard and a wine-making facility, all in his signature minimalist style that sits harmoniously with the landscape. “Architecture exists to give us comfortable spaces,” Spears says.

The passion for building blocks and for taking geometry to new heights runs in the family. “The best part of owning my own company is that I get to work with my wife [a landscape designer] and to bring my kids to work,” Spears says. Our son likes doing hotel sketches and loves any hotel with big elevators. Our daughters are both into design. It’s surprising to me how aware they are—how quickly they jump into a conversation and offer their suggestions.” 


Photo by Ross Cooperthwaite
“Architecture exists to give us comfortable spaces.”
— Joseph Spears

AMAZON-BOUND: Joseph Spears becomes animated about his Earth-aware aesthetic when he speaks of the places he has visited and why he remembers them. It all started with a school trip to the Amazon. “As part of a foreign-exchange trip when I was in college, I got to spend three months in Ecuador. While there, we designed pop-up stands for the local farmers’ market, and we lived inside mud huts with a tribe in the rainforest. I was moved by how well they took care of how little they had. The huts’ floors were solid, super-clean and looked almost polished. It was really impressive to see.”

HIS MATERIAL WORLD: Spears gravitates toward smooth, geometric planes that coalesce with the nature he aims to serve and conserve. When he speaks of integration, his intention is to allow the architecture of a structure to act as a kind of sundial, tracking the movements of the sun by the slant of the rays hitting the walls to soften a building’s sharper edges. “I love the design aspect of architecture. At the end of the day, it comes down to being an advocate of design.”


Photo by Mountain Home Photo

WHERE AN ARCHITECT GOES TO CHILL: “I seek out ultramodern spaces when I go on vacation. If you’re looking for something peaceful, yet striking, I highly recommend the Viceroy Los Cabos [formerly Mar Adentro], at the tip of Baja California. It is a minimalist retreat designed by local architect Miguel Angel Aragonés. Mar Adentro means “into the sea.” It is definitely one of the most unique properties south of the border. Another favorite place of mine is Amangiri in Canyon Point, in southern Utah. Amangiri sits on a kind of supernatural, 600-plus-acre site. It was designed through a collaboration of three well-established, modern architects: Marwan Al-Sayed, Wendell Burnette and Rick Joy. I like how it honors the landscape. I also happen to like collaborative projects.”

DIFFERENT PAGE: “For me, the most enjoyable projects are those for clients who aren’t on the same page as I am. I enjoy watching people learn and explore and understand what something is about. I like listening to my clients and exploring new ideas with them.”


Photo by Mountain Home Photo

WORK IN PROGRESS VS. FINISHED WORK: On this issue, Spears takes sides without a blink. “Definitely work in progress! What goes into the process of creating something is so much more beautiful and interesting than the finished product. I post a lot of work-in-progress photos on Instagram.”

FUN HOUSE À GO-GO: “I would like for my carnival to be a collaboration with other architects. We could build an expo of 15 different fun houses. The main fun house would be mirrored, and you could see yourself reflected from different perspectives. It would be modern for sure, and the mirrors would have funky proportions."

See the rest of the 2019 Five Under 40 Design Award Winners

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