Jeff Langham

Sixthriver Architects is a full service architecture firm and the largest corporate interiors firm in Austin, Texas. The firm strives to demonstrate that inventive and elegant design is achievable, even within strict economic parameters, by respectfully listening and responding to the client’s needs and desires. The company started in 1994 in Austin and has completed a variety of notable projects including the Austin Music Hall, Midtown Medical Office Campus, and Arboretum Park to name a few.

W&C Architect interviewed Jeff Langham, who has been with the company for two years, but designing buildings for 18 years now.

Walls & Ceilings: How many years do you have in the profession?

Langham: I have been working in the profession for 18 years.

Walls & Ceilings: What is your work history in this field?

Langham: After graduation I was able to find a position with Sprinkle Robey Architects, a small design firm in San Antonio, Texas.  I was very fortunate to be given the responsibility of managing projects from design through construction administration just a few months after being hired.  After 15 very fulfilling years, I moved to Austin.  Since moving, I worked for Architecture Plus and I have been with Sixthriver Architects for the last two years.

Walls & Ceilings: Where did you go to school?

Langham: I received a bachelor of architecture from the University of Arizona.

Walls & Ceilings: Did you have a specialization?

Langham: I do not have a specialization but my main function at Sixthriver is Project Architect.

Walls & Ceilings: Do you approach architecture from an artistic or functional starting point? Are the two concepts exclusive?

Langham: Ultimately, I believe our profession should strive to bring beauty to function.  Most of us are hired by clients that have functional needs; our fundamental obligation is to create a structure that meets those needs.  Our commitment to the larger whole should be that we meet functional needs in an artful manner, whether through expression of space, light, materials, sustainability or in other ways. 

Walls & Ceilings: If any, who are your role models?

Langham: My role models are those that make dreams a reality.  While still in school I took a trip to the Southern California Institute of Architecture where I had the pleasure of meeting Jay Vanos.  At the time, Jay was translating Eric Owen Moss’ poetry into functional architecture.  It was Jay’s job to figure out how to actually detail and document these progressive structures.  The concept of this role within the profession has become one that I greatly respect.  My role models are all considered “an architect’s architect.”

Walls & Ceilings: What projects, other than your own work, do you find inspiring?

Langham: I’m inspired by any projects that challenge convention and standardization. These are projects where materials and components are composed in a way that expresses their character.

Walls & Ceilings: How many buildings have you designed?

Langham: I have never tried to count how many projects I have completed as a project manager or project architect.  Some projects take eight weeks, some take five years.  Architecture is created by a team; I would guess that I have played a significant role on well over one hundred project teams in the last 18 years.

Walls & Ceilings: If you had to choose one to represent your work, what project would you choose?

Langham: The project that I would choose to best represent me is the Henry Guerra Branch Library, in San Antonio.  On a limited budget, we worked very hard to compose a palette of materials in a simple, contemporary manner.  The plan was compact and efficient.  Every space in the building—including restrooms and book storage—was filled by natural light. 

Walls & Ceilings: What are your guiding principles when designing a structure?

Langham: You have to know the rules before you break them.  Distill a problem to its essence and then distill it again.

Walls & Ceilings: If you could have any building to redesign—anywhere in the world—which would you like to address?

Langham: I think we all redesign, in our minds, every building we ever experience.  I also know that every project I complete includes five-to-ten things that I would love to have another chance to address.  While there are certainly buildings out there that need redesign, the only ones that I dwell on are my own. 

Walls & Ceilings: What types of products interest you? 

Langham: Products that exhibit craft, allow architects to challenge conventional notions of materials and building elements.

Walls & Ceilings: What types of products in the wall and ceiling industry really interest you?

Langham: I am currently very interested in many of the panelized wood systems.  These systems are so versatile in their use for walls and ceilings.  They can be used to achieve acoustical goals.  The can be used to manipulate light.  Their inherent natural finish adds so much to a project.