Philip Durham Biography

At Home Magazine
July/August 2006

By Christy Marshall

Photo by
Dilip Vishwanat

The 2006 At Home Architect of the Year

In the first At Home Architect of the Year contest, the entries were varied and imipressive. But just one walked off with all the honors.

Architects are like actors — complete one job and audition for another, make each vision your own and turn it into a reality that both enthralls and excites. It's the "art" in architecture that makes the great architect a star, not just one of the cast.

For our first award competition, we asked for entries in two categories: new construction and renovation of an existing structure. The contestants ranged from small shops to large firms; the projects from minor add-ons to brand new large houses. The work was impressive, but Phil Durham of Studio|Durham stood out from the rest. He won for the construction of a new house in Ladue, as well as the renovation of an old factory into his own office and home.

The son of a minister, Durham was born in Rhode Island and grew up in New York. He came to St. Louis in 1979 to attend Washington University and never left. His first job in architecture was working for the behemoth Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum on large commercial projects. "In my six-and-a-half years, I had seven bosses," Durham says. "My last one and I didn't get along, to put it mildly." So he formed Studio|Durham. At first, Durham ran the firm with fellow architect Elva Rubio; since 2000, he's been on his own, with a staff of six.

Calling himself "the last of the Mohicans" Durham still draws his plans by hand. "The idea of staring into a computer all day is not my idea of how to work."

Studio|Durham has a mix of clients, but Durham's ideal is one who wants something interesting, who challenges the architect but who adds limitations. And when the architect meets the challenge with designs that are both bold and livable, he's pronounced At Home's Architect of the Year.