Public Lecture Series

Richard Fernau

Richard Fernau
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Room 419, 4/F, Knowles Building, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong
Improvisations on the Land: Houses of Fernau+Hartman
Richard Fernau

Lecture Abstract

What if architecture was conceived of as an improvisational art, like jazz, rather than as a fine art? What if an architect’s role was more like the role of a writer/director in film, where collaborating and improvising are a given and adapting to diverse circumstances is expected?

Architecture that resulted would be less derivative and generic, and more free to be idiosyncratic. It would be more open to being connected to the particularities of sites, climates, and circumstances of their making. Rather than encountering endless banal knock-offs of once current styles, we would begin again to encounter regional architectural dialects and the unembarrassed simplicity, vitality, and eloquence of the vernacular. As architects, we don’t encounter blank canvases; we confront a unique convergence of conditions and desires.

This lecture explores these themes through the houses of Fernau + Hartman, whose circumstantial and improvisational work seeks to express the diverse sites, climates and conditions of their projects.


Richard Fernau is a professor emeritus in the architecture department at the University of California, Berkeley. With an undergraduate degree in philosophy, he graduated with an architecture degree from Berkeley.  Subsequently he traveled extensively on a fellowship studying vernacular architecture abroad and across the United States. Following work with Jonathan Demme as an assistant art director for New World Pictures in Los Angeles and as an architect with Steiger Partner Architekten in Zurich researching green architecture, he opened his own practice in Berkeley in 1978. After his early projects gained national and international attention, he began teaching full-time at the University of California and formed an architectural partnership with Laura Hartman in 1981. In 1995 he was made a Fellow of the AIA. In addition to the office in Berkeley, he has a storefront studio in rural Montana where he pursues special projects and fly fishes.


****No registration is required. All interested are welcome****