Looking back at this year with thanks, it’s about you – and everyone who has supported, referred and hired Julia Miner Studio. More work has given us a new hire, Fangliang Shen, enabling me to leverage some time. Conferences in New York, Austin, Portland, and Boston have provided valuable insights as well as opportunities to motivate others and connect with old friends, colleagues and collaborators.

I have especially appreciated the Martin family this year, who have given me repeat architecture work as well as providing an open-door Maine home away from home to renew, visit with special friends, and paint. What a privilege to have raised my wonderful daughters while working at art and design, dual careers that cross-pollinate. Gratitude for this, with the seasoned creativity and confidence it kindles, brings a surge of energy to work these days. And as a woman-owned business, we need to double down. Only 17% of AIA members are women, while architecture schools are split almost 50-50. With that large attrition rate I look for ways to help and inspire younger women to stay with it.

Thank you for your support. Wishing you a very bright - and inspired - holiday season!

Round or Square?

Does the shape of a room affect our thinking? Atlantic editor Julie Beck writes that among Western cultures, people see the individual as separate from the environment. Move to a different house, you are still the same person. In South Asian cultures, she writes, “home isn’t just where you are, it’s who you are.” People impact their physical environment. But what about the reverse?

Ancient peoples and their descendants have built round structures through the centuries. The shape can be advantageous for efficiency and acoustics as well as for aerodynamics; in windy places the air flows around the building. Anyone might guess that rectilinear rooms and structures are preferred for accommodating furniture and art. Straight walls are easy to construct and prevalent materials have a rectilinear nature. Yet why does our President sit in an oval office?

Aspects of built space do affect the psyche. The psychologist Joan Meyers-Levy found that people in low-ceilinged rooms do better at solving anagrams with words like “restricted,” while those in high-ceilinged rooms do better with words like “freedom.” James Clear writes that, while researching the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk retreated from his University of Pittsburgh lab to the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi in Italy. "White-washed brick covered the expansive exterior," Clear writes, "and dozens of semi-circular arches surrounded the plazas between buildings. Inside the church, the walls were covered with stunning fresco paintings from the 14th and 15th centuries and natural light poured in from tall windows.” Clear quotes Salk as saying, “The spirituality of the architecture there was so inspiring that I was able to do intuitive thinking far beyond any I had done in the past. Under the influence of that historic place I intuitively designed the research that I felt would result in a vaccine for polio. I returned to my laboratory in Pittsburgh to validate my concepts and found that they were correct.”

There is that which has been proven. Just as convincing, there is that which we know from our own experience. What spaces inspire you?

The Round Square in the U.K. is one of a number of buildings said to have been built to a circular plan so there would be no corners for the Devil to hide in. (!)

Kitchen Renovation and Addition, Arlington, MA

This “no job too small” project came with big ideas!

Jessica served as a helicopter pilot and flight instructor with tours in the Persian Gulf and around the Mediterranean as a US Naval Academy graduate, She worked to implement socially and environmentally responsible business practices in organizations before attending The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. After grad school she worked for Cambridge Energy Research Associates, and recently she started a garden design business.
Jess’ positivity goes way beyond the nerves of titanium you might expect from someone who could land a helicopter on a battleship in windy, rough seas. The construction process hardly phased her. I’ve never seen anyone treat each contractor, consultant and vendor with more kindness and patience. She hired me when her current designer wasn’t coming through for her. One unusual obstacle we encountered would disappoint any project owner: the previous designer had gotten the wrong information about the front yard setback, and he’d designed the addition accordingly. Although I questioned the building official on his interpretation that ran counter to my experience, we kept the plan based on his plausible explanation. Weeks later, the city denied the contractor a permit. Back to the drawing board with less square footage and some wasted time! But also with an opportunity to rethink the plan. Instead of being angry, Jessica said calmly, “I know the new design is going to be even better.”

Music to my ears! Although careful research does help eliminate surprises, designing any size project is a fluid process with new discoveries along the way. A client that trusts the process to the extent that Jess did contributes to a better design. The tighter, angled setback we now were up against cried out for an interesting shape – a circular “bow” front with windows giving a more expansive feel and better views than the larger rectangular space we had before. The shape pays tribute to the garden Jess designed, to her new adventure in the business of creating gardens, and to her magnanimous qualities.

Meet the client. Jessica Lane

JM:     What is your favorite part of the project?

Jess:   The new space works without having added much square footage. The flow is great for entertaining.

JM:     What surprised you the most? 

Jess:   The curved shape of the bow window, which I wasn’t so sure about at first, is what always gets the compliments.

JM:     What else do you like?

Jess:   The small yard is a priority. I was concerned the addition might take away from the yard, but it actually enhanced it. The curved wall of windows connects me to the large old tree and landscaping I planted. It’s the neighborhood’s only house with this shape, giving my home a unique identity, but it fits in with the scale and texture of the street.

Iconic World Architecture


The grand Art Deco skyscraper, the Empire State Building, once stood as the world’s tallest building. Construction began on St. Patrick’s Day in 1930 and ended just 410 days later. Designed by William F. Lamb, it was declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.