Building artful buildings is in Brian Brand’s blood. At a young age, he and his twin brother, Craig, became enamored with drafting plans and working on sites with their father and uncle in California. “I was always interested in art, drawing and building things,” he says. One particular riverside home sealed the deal early on. “I became very interested in the beauty and precision of the many drawings prepared for the home,” he says. Since, he’s become a preeminent architect in the Northwest.
This month marks the 47th anniversary of his decision to become a founding partner of Baylis Brand & Wagner Architects, now known as Baylis Architects. Throughout the years he’s maintained an artist’s mind-set and designed many projects including mixed-use buildings, athletic facilities, corporate headquarters and even a courthouse. Of particular enjoyment, Brian has had the privilege of designing more than 125 custom homes for clients in Hawaii, Palm Desert, Shanghai and, of course, Washington. Still, one of his favorite projects is the fitness expansion he created for the Bellevue Club ten years ago.
“It was like remodeling my own home because I spend so much time there,” says Brand, an avid tennis player, cyclist and overall fitness enthusiast. Earlier this year Brand talked with Reflections about what he’s learned from designing homes, being a lifelong creative and mindfully building a community.
Create a Fabric
“The architect Hugh Newell said that a good piece of architecture is like a classy woman in that it never screams at the neighbors, and I like that notion. Even if your building is modern, it needs to be in proportion [to] and compatible with colors and landscape to what’s around it. One of my favorite neighborhoods is Madison Park because you have buildings from the late 19th century among modern homes. It creates a beautiful fabric. If they’re done well, a house from 1920 can fit [next to a house from] 2015. And it showcases the evolution of a neighborhood and community. All great cities have that.”
“You can build a beautiful building that doesn’t destroy the land. A lot of houses I design are waterfront or on the side of a hill. You want the house to fit in, not stand out as something that doesn’t belong. For me, a good design starts at the property lines.”
“Our building process takes two to three years. Many people build houses with kids, and soon after, the kids leave and go to college. People are left thinking, ‘Why did we build such a big house?’ My suggestion is always to plan for spaces that can be converted to other areas—ADUs (accessory dwelling units), a guesthouse, a mother-in-law unit. Use two-thirds of the space for your living area, and think strategically about what to do with the other third. It’s a good idea to be able to essentially turn off that part of the house—the heat, lights, everything—and use it only when needed.”
Enjoy the View
“If you want a beautiful view, building on flat ground has limits. Frank Lloyd Wright suggested building on the brow of the mountain so you get shelter from behind and can see out and get a broad prospective view. That will give you a sense of protection and a view of the water.”
Densify the City
“I believe in densification. I’ve lived in the Seattle area for 49 years and been involved with the Bellevue Downtown Association for 25 years; I’ve been the chair and on the board of directors. We worked with the city to change the Bellevue Downtown Code to improve land use and livability. The new code adopted in 2017 allows for more modulated buildings, open space and height. Using less land for more people is important for growth in this area. Redmond, Bellevue—everywhere is headed in that direction, and I think that’s a good thing.”
For Future architects
“There are two pieces of advice I’d give to future generations of architects: the first is to do research for the school that will be the best fit for you. Second is to travel—live abroad and study the architecture in Europe. I didn’t do that. I’ve since traveled, but I wish I would have done it sooner. And also, do an internship or get a mentor. Being an architect is not all about drawing and design. You have to know a lot of codes and technical information, and your designs will have to fit into them.”