New York-based architect Lee Mindel received his Master of Architecture from Harvard after obtaining his B.A., Cum Laude with distinction at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked for the New York architecture firms of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and then Rogers, Butler, Burgun, before forming the firm Shelton, Mindel, & Associates with Peter Shelton in 1978. Since the formation of Shelton, Mindel & Associates in 1978, the architects have strayed from the dictates of their modernist training to avoid the trappings of a signature style. Their formal explorations steadily oscillate between the "modern" and the "traditional," directed in each cast toward a carefully wrought simplicity. In addition to the firm’s architecture and interior design expertise, it has a product design division with collections for Knoll, Waterworks, Jack Lenor Larsen, V’Soske, and Nessen Lighting. Shelton Mindel & Associates is the recipient of 17 AIA awards for interior architecture, three design awards from the Society of American Registered Architects, a Progressive Architecture citation, three Roscoe awards for product design and most recently the 2004 American Architecture Award from The Chicago Athenaeum. The American Institute of Architecture, the National Academy of Design, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts have exhibited the firm’s work in both traveling and permanent exhibitions. Both Peter L. Shelton and Lee F. Mindel have been inducted into the Interior Hall of Fame, and in 2000 Mindel became a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Question: Are you happy?
Lee Mindel: My parents were very motivated educated people and they really just wanted us to be happy, but being happy when we were being raised has a different definition now than I think what parents think happy for their children is. Happy was in that era what I think parents projected would they would make them happy and not necessarily what would make you happy. Some still trying to figure out what happy is.I am working on it. It’s a work in progress, but I know when I was premed in I believe in School and I just ---- because my father was a --- he was a dentist, he was an orthodontist and he was a real estate developer. Kind of like all makes stuff things, but he came from a very different era in which he knew what was like not to eat. He lived in cold water flat and he was going to provide for his children the American dream and not get married until he could give them a kind of education that he had pursued for himself. He went to Harvard in the depression and so that message of making that contribution in being something and thinking and solving problems and surviving and overachieving that goes with it was a message that was kind of drilled into all four of us and my three sisters and when I started at his premed and was kind of meandering a little bit I got into this bow house course. We called it sticks and stones where they gave you big lump of clay on a table, it is a pickup sticks and some volumetric shapes and for a semester you were exploring what all those shapes and things were and I thought “well this is great. This is fun.” And at the irony is that exploration of form is something that informs how I think every minute and every day because architecture and design teaches you how to see and if you can learn how to see and you learn how to communicate then may be you can do almost anything that you set your mind to because its being open like that and vulnerable and sensitive to that kind of thing that those early courses taught me about visual and emotional components of architecture and design.
Yes. I think --- but I wouldn’t have listened to it anyway because I was so driven in the product of my generation which was this ---- kind of baby boomers and it was our generation that was ---- had the responsibility of changing the world and so given that burden of that responsibility no matter what anybody said to me I probably wouldn’t have listened to it, but if I were now a child and I still I could think I am a child in lot of ways and I would like to hear this advice now I would still feel free to take on anything that I thought would be interesting and not be afraid.
Recorded On: 6/1/07