Ellie Ratcliff

You grew up in a family of architects. How did that shape your interests in design?

My interests are very related to theirs. They both design a lot of public projects. Sometimes it’s hard for me to draw the line between my interests and what I’ve been exposed to growing up. I believe that being an architect is to work in service to communities and cities andpeople. It’s less of an artist profession, and more of a public service, because buildings, even

private buildings, exist in a public space. That philosophy has come from conversations I’ve had with my family and my friends.

Who else has inspired you?

At the Monterey Design Conference, Julie Eisenberg said something I found inspiring: the story of a building is meant to be discovered, it’s not something that gets told to you. And as she was telling us the story of some of her buildings, we could see that story embedded in the construction of a wall or a specific material or form. There is a legacy and conceptual aspect to that story that is meaningful and helps inform the work.

What else guides your designs?

I had a professor in architecture school who said,“You’re not going to create anything that’s moving or affecting for others unless it’s based in reality.”

I think about that a lot. For example, how do you use the natural element of light to create something special, instead of just relying on smoke and mirrors? A simple move can sometimes be transformative.


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