Design Philosophy

    Touchstones of Design™

    Based in logic, beauty and humanism, Fentress' Eight Touchstones of Design form the foundation for our approach to public architecture and guide our “patient search” to discover the art inside.


    Public buildings involve process and commitment, periods of reflection and flashes of illumination.

    This process of discovery requires a psychological immersion in the realms of client and community, as do the site and the potential for a timeless design.

    As people move through a building, they help shape it. It’s a natural flow.


    Context is more than an intellectual consideration of the history or physical appearance of a neighborhood, city or state, and it’s more than the way new will live with old.

    Context draws on the senses, the sights, smells and memories that define a place and make it unique.

    Context grows from community, and people respond to it. 


    The collective beliefs, traditions and aspirations of a society help define and influence how individuals live.

    Civic buildings capture and reflect the shared strengths of a community, reinforcing pride in residents as well as stirring curiosity and respect in visitors. 


    A visitor’s first encounter with a building sets the tone for the experience within.

    Buildings should welcome those who enter.

    Simplicity always trumps confusion. 


    The creation of great public architecture is a social act, uniting people and place in a complex and worthwhile pursuit.

    A community gains a voice, and the architect translates, using their vocabulary to design a timeless building for the common good.


    The public process can be long, protracted, bureaucratic, complex and vulnerable to political upheaval. 

    It requires discipline and patience.

    This means concentrating on the end goal and avoiding the distraction of day-to-day “noise.”

    It’s all about the big picture, giving the community a building that serves well for years to come.

    Restrain the Ego

    A public building is part of the story of a community.

    It needs to tell its own tale, but never overpower its purpose or the people who use it.

    Nor is a building the autobiography of an architect.

    Community, site and program unite in a compelling building, where discipline brings the balance of design and function.


    A timeless design is built on intangible factors such as dreams and inspiration.

    Truly great architecture is not controlled by catchphrases of the times.  It transcends time and space.  It shows genuine respect for the environment, for people and for the universe.  It is, in short, about design that elevates and restores.

    It is about design that lasts, where function meets art in a building that is both timeless and memorable.

    Public architecture is designed by people for people, now, and for generations to come.