The lines of the structures with Scott Lindenau’s contemporary architectural signature lean toward the horizontal. Even the roofs are flat, horizontal planes. That even-handedness is reflected in the way his firm took shape since he founded Studio B Architecture in 1991.
“When we talk about the structure of Studio B, we’re a horizontal studio. I participate in the great majority of projects, but everyone contributes and has authorship. That’s the beauty of a smaller practice,” says Lindenau, design principal and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture.
“My role is to direct much of the design work and facilitate and mentor and push ideas around, but I encourage everybody to participate.
There are 12 of us from 11 different design schools,” says Lindenau, who trained at the Rhode Island School of Design. “One person doesn’t have all ideas. And all can design. That’s important.”
Lindenau also subscribes to an egalitarian ideal of architecture for everyman and everywoman.
“Architecture is a very labor-intensive profession, but some people think you need to be wealthy to hire an architect. Architects in many ways are problem-solvers. The information we provide saves clients time and money and helps facilitate projects. Thoughtful design matters in how we live and work, and getting really good architects to work with is important.”
Studio B actually has two studios: the flagship in Aspen, and the Boulder studio opened four years ago.
The obvious question: What does the “B” stand for?
“I get asked that a lot. I knew I wanted to have my own firm when I was doing my thesis. I wanted it to be without my name so it could be about all the people, not just me. Studio A seemed too obvious, so I went with Studio B.”
Though based in Colorado, the firm currently is working on out-of-state projects in California, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Florida. “We want to work with a national audience in different landscapes and contexts,” Lindenau says.
And with different building materials. Studio B prioritizes locally sourced products. The firm has vacillated over the years, and typically handles a 50-50 balance of residential and public buildings. They’ve designed everything from a church to a winery, a school to a fire station.
Eighty percent of Studio B’s current projects are residential. Whether the spectacular Edge House near Aspen to Brick City, a textural home in Denver, the architecture is both simple and bold. It’s as if Lindenau’s 20 years of practicing yoga perfected his balance of yin-yang.
“Contemporary architecture is a lot more trendy over the past five to eight years, but we’ve only ever done modern. We don’t categorize it, but the history of my practice has been about clean living,” he says. “There’s a clarity of resolution, of materials and transitions and details — an ability to strip down a project to its essence in a restrained form with a connection to the outdoors.”
Studio B worked its way onto the A list of architecture firms in part because it knows its place.
“The work we do is very specific. We’re not a fit for a lot of people. If you know what you want, and you have a picture, and you just want somebody to build that, we’re not for you,” Lindenau says.
“We’re taking you on a journey through design, an exploration, and arriving at a solution you never thought you’d come to. We’re educating clients about what design can do. That’s very much who we are,” he says. “Our clients find us, already knowing what we do. We don’t advertise.”
Lindenau recognizes clients as the key element in the architectural mix.
“Doing great work takes a great client,” he says. “We meet with clients four or five times to make sure we share same passion and philosophy about design. Clients get jazzed about the process. We usually see them weekly, and they’re engaged in decisions on every cabinet pull or towel holder or light switch.”
For many Studio B clients, home is where the art is.
“Clients who love art, architecture and design are a good fit for us. A lot of clients come to us with a book of their art and some of it is critical to integrate into the house itself or as focal points of certain rooms,” Lindenau says.
“In many ways, residential work is a vessel for ritual. Houses are memory collectors in a way. You put your favorite pieces from trips or family things that are important to you in your house. How you integrate those things into spaces and rooms matters in the design,” he said.
Mitigating environmental impact also matters to Lindenau. Studio B prioritizes sustainable construction strategies and mitigates environmental impacts by using indigenous materials. John Keleher, a construction consultant and owner’s representative widely involved in Aspen architecture since 1973, worked with Studio B on three projects: two fire stations and a residence.
“Scott is very ecologically attuned and very concerned about energy efficiency,” Keleher says. “We used a lot of solar collectors on the flat roofs.”
Keleher appreciates the Studio B’s attention to historic detail on the masonry structure that houses the Aspen fire station and the Aspen Thrift Shop.
“It’s contemporary architecture, all masonry, but they found pictures of the original 1880s fire station that was torn down a long time ago. The facility that replaced it didn’t have any connection to the original building. But from the old photos, [Studio B] picked up the historic theme with vertical steel on the façade to try to replicate part of the original fire station and remember our history,” said Keleher.
Studio B tries to work with materials, siting, and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems that help protect the Colorado environment so revered in Aspen and elsewhere.
“We’re proactive about using materials we can easily source and are readily available without shipping around the world,” Lindenau says. “We’re very aware of how we orient to sun and shade, to wind patterns.”
Most Studio B projects have floor-to-ceiling double- and triple-glazed windows to afford views yet regulate temperatures. And the designers are well aware of Colorado’s intensive UV damage to wood, a building material not commonly found in Studio B designs.
“Even though wood is easy to work with, it’s a huge maintenance issue in Colorado with the painting and staining,” he says. “We use a lot of hearty, board-formed concrete, steel panels, glass. And we like brick, especially elongated brick.”
Lindenau also likes drawing and emphasizes the skill for his staff. He closes the office to take his team on sketching trips to gain design exposure. Before the staff grew to its present size, they traveled together to Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Marrakesh, Helsinki and Stockholm.
“Now we take a week off and go draw the landforms in national parks,” he says. “It gives people here an opportunity to take time off and get away to new landscapes and see different architecture. We keep journals.”
And from their creative well, he and his architectural team keep drawing out new, fresh design ideas.
“Our best work keeps coming,” says Lindenau. “We keep evolving.”
Studio B Architecture
Architecture + Interiors
501 Rio Grande Pl., Suite 104
Aspen, CO 81611
3550 Frontier Ave., Unit A-2
Boulder, CO 80301
Colleen Smith, a frequent contributor to the magazine, lives in a 1921 brick bungalow. She’s also written for Sunset, Coastal Living, Fine Books & Collections, Faerie Magazine, many other magazines and newspapers. She is the author of the books Glass Halo and Laid-Back Skier.
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