April 30, 2017
Britt Jewett’s father was an architect, and from him he learned to draw and define his own style at a young age. “I was aware that I possessed an artistic gift,” Jewett remembers. “It has been the principal lens through which I see myself and the world. As an architect I approach my profession as an artist first.”
After formal schooling at Ohio State, Jewett headed to California, where, after a joyful stint with Charles Moore, he refined his understanding of architectural space while working with Barry Berkus on everything from residential interiors to urban planning. In Santa Barbara, Jewett oversaw the restoration of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Hall of Records. He also began exploring design themes outside traditional architecture, such as set design and installations for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
To expand his skill set and flexibility, he opened Studio 7, which he describes as “a collaborative design studio to afford me the freedom to work on a variety of projects not supported in a traditional office structure. The collaborative experience connects me with a wide range of artists and design professionals that inform and deepen my range of experience. My practice includes remodels (such as the modern Craftsman, pictured above) and new residences, specialty structures, architectural interiors, furniture, and lighting.”
G&C: What drew you to architecture early on?
Jewett: My father was an amusement park architect. I learned from him to appreciate the feeling of moving through a physical environment; my work hasn’t been nearly as animated though.
What’s been your favorite architectural field trip?
Two of my college professors were fellows of Frank Lloyd Wright; they lead a two-day tour of significant works throughout the Midwest. It was rare and intimate.
What’s your favorite public building in Santa Barbara?
The courthouse is my favorite building, not for its obvious decorative style but for its success as social and community resource.
Where do you find inspiration outside of architecture?
Public sculpture and installation art, especially the work of Richard Serra.
What do you most like about your job?
I like the scale of buildings. Balancing the form outside and experience inside is a rewarding challenge.
What do you most dislike about your job?
I don’t like doing billing. Donations haven’t been enough, though, so it is a necessary evil for me.
Go back and pick another profession.
I would be a sculptor, producing environmental or public art.
What is your current state of mind?
I am being towed up the first hill of a roller coaster.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I am laughing in a room of laughter.
What is your greatest fear?
Spending more than a day being wrong terrifies me.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I love my space at the Meridian Studios, and I do my best to keep it feeling extravagant.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Mass acceptance is overrated. Let your freak flag fly.
Which talent would you most like to have?
No one would argue that I could be better organized.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I continue to work on overcoming the fear of dreaming big.
What is your most treasured possession?
Lifestyle is more important to me than physical possessions.
Which living person do you most admire?
I don’t know. I am fascinated by Martha Stewart’s journey, though.
Which living person do you most despise?
I’d rather not start an argument.
What do you most value in your friends?
I value loyalty.
Who is your favorite fictional character?
The Dude, and I don’t have a close second.
Who are your heroes in real life?
People that operate outside the box but still have a balanced life.
On what occasion do you lie?
I’m not honest with myself about how complicated I make things.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Perseverance. I don’t give up easily.
What word or phase do you most overuse?
“Let’s go backward for a minute.”
What is your motto?
I worked with a Swiss architect that would close each meeting with the phrase “as always we will do our best” in his Swiss accent. It makes me smile.