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Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal

This is my contribution to this month’s ArchiTalks topic, “Style”

The other posts are linked below; you can also find them on Twitter by following the hashtag, #ArchiTalks.


We don’t live in an age with a prevailing style of Architecture. As a younger man this troubled me. In drawing and painting classes I had learned the importance of mimicking established artists. In art history classes we studied the architectural orders and how correct details were derived from following certain rules of proportion. My thesis design project manifested my close study and admiration of Alvar Aalto’s work. At that time I was a compliant soul, content to spend my early years learning the rules of a prevailing style, and to thereby establish my place in the profession.

I learned two things straight out of college; that a working career in Architecture had very little to do with design style, and even if it did – there was no prevailing style to mimic and master.

~ ~ ~

I’ve adjusted well in the thirty-plus years since school. And I’m still a student of style, if not a practitioner of it. One of my favorite quotes on the topic is, “good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Good artists copy; great artists steal

The quote is attributed to several sources; such greats as Steve Jobs, Pablo Picasso, and William Faulkner  (as this article shows). The fact that the quote has been artfully reused (“stolen”) repeatedly is proof of its validity, is it not?

~ ~ ~

My current position does not allow for much attention to style. My side hustle however does.

As some of you know, I’ve been honing my writing skills in the past few years. I believe there’s an untapped market for well-crafted stories about our profession. I plan to start posing some short stories about architects and architecture later this year. Part of my learning has been the study of style – word choice, story structure, even publishing and marketing  strategies have elements of style.  I will keep you posted.


Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
style…final words

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
The AREsketches Style

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Name That Stile!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks : Style

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
What Style Do You Build In?

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You do you

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Defining an Architect’s Style

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
What’s Your Style?

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)

Architectural Style

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Should You Pick Your Architect Based on Style or Service?

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
5 Styles of an Aspiring Architect

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Architects Atelier (@sokokyu)
Loaded With Style

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Regression or Evolution : Style

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Stylized Hatred

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
What’s in a Style?

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Architectalks 23 – Style


  1. Tara Imani /Reply

    Hi Collier,

    I enjoyed reading your post and can relate to the same realization out of school that there was no prevailing “style” of buildings. No avant gard other than, as one of my co-workers in 1987 decided, the “international style.”

    But, I argued/lamented, what was that about? To me, the “international style” of buildings was boring and mundane and threatened loss of cultural differences that enriched architecture to that point.

    In a recent flight from Houston to Sacramento I was seated next to an older lady who struck up a conversation with me mid-flight about a book I was reading. We talked the rest of the flight. And she, an educational consultant, observed that “architecture is not a good field anymore because all borings buikt today are boring. They all look the same! They’re nothing but boxes.”

    Style matters, in my opinion. But the almighty dollar has undermined our ability to produce it.

    Thanks for letting me chime in.

    And I look forward to reading your architecture stories!!

    Happy Valentine’s Day,


  2. michele hottel /Reply

    thanks Collier!!! i believe there is that great creative spirit that we all share, and the whole “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” but it still gets on my nerves, lol!!! especially when people stand to make money on it 🙂

  3. Mike /Reply

    Collier, thanks for sharing! Your post made me step back and think, “huh, what is the style of today?” I’m glad to have read it, if only because it made me consider the time we design in more deeply.

    Good luck with your short stories!

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