Mark Wallace Little
Like many architects I have had a lifelong passionate attachment to my work and to the larger mission of what we do. And like for many, it started when I was very young, which is not surprising since I am a child of an equally committed architect father and gifted artist mother and I grew up in houses that my parents designed and built themselves. On my tenth birthday, my father drove me 300 miles across Wisconsin to meet Frank Lloyd Wright, whom my father had known for many years. During the luncheon that followed, Wright, who was the only man I have ever known with a bigger ego than my father’s, referred to me as “the young architect” and I suppose that the die was cast then and there. On the way home my father told me that I would remember that day for the rest of my life. He was correct.
During my teenage years, I helped my father build our second home, a substantial renovation of a nineteenth-century home on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota. I lived alone in the house while working on it through my entire junior year of high school.
I went on to attend and graduate with honors from Stanford University where I received a full scholarship and was an Elizabeth Rankin Crossett Scholar. After several years of teaching, I attended and graduated with honors from the University of Minnesota Architecture School. Two years later I completed my internship and passed my California board exams for licensure as an architect. Some years later in the middle of my years of architecture practice, I attended and graduated from Yale University with an MBA, having graduated in the top 10% of my class.
The first two decades of my practice focused primarily on commercial and institutional buildings with also about one year designing commercial interiors. The last two decades of my practice have been engaged in the design of single-family homes. One of the most notable of my early projects was the rebuilding and seismic retrofit of Oakland City Hall, the first major building in the USA to employ base isolation a system that allows the entire 20 story building to move at the foundation level as much as to 2′ after an earthquake and then slowly move back to its original position. I was selected for that project in part because I have a strong engineering background, having had two years structural engineering coursework while in architecture school. This project won the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal.
My residential architectural projects include a home in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Sausalito, Mill Valley, Belvedere, Ross, Carmel Valley, Lafayette, Placerville and New Haven, Connecticut. The latter project, located on the edge of the Yale campus, was the rebuild and additions to the former Yale University President’s House.
Our current home, 1440 Westview Drive, is almost certainly the last home I will build, though I expect to design many more in the future. In many ways, this home is the culmination of a lifetime of learning about, and the invention of, living spaces.