Issue 1
ISSUE
STORY TYPE
AUTHOR
10
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 28, 2024
In Search of Domestic Kintsugi
by Edwin Heathcote
10
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 13, 2024
The Perils of the Landscapes We Make
by Karrie Jacobs
10
PERSPECTIVE
May 6, 2024
Using Simple Tools as a Radical Act of Independence
by Jarrett Fuller
9
PERSPECTIVE
April 29, 2024
Why Can’t I Just Go Home?
by Eva Hagberg
9
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 22, 2024
Why Did Our Homes Stop Evolving?
by George Kafka
9
ROUNDTABLE
April 8, 2024
Spaces Where the Body Is a Vital Force
by Tiffany Jow
9
BOOK REVIEW
April 1, 2024
Tracing the Agency of Women as Users and Experts of Architecture
by Mimi Zeiger
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 25, 2024
Are You Sitting in a Non-Place?
by Mzwakhe Ndlovu
9
ROUNDTABLE
March 11, 2024
At Home, Connecting in Place
by Marianela D’Aprile
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 4, 2024
VALIE EXPORT’s Tactical Urbanism
by Alissa Walker
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 26, 2024
What the “Whole Earth Catalog” Taught Me About Building Utopias
by Anjulie Rao
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 19, 2024
How a Run-Down District in London Became a Model for Neighborhood Revitalization
by Ellen Peirson
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 12, 2024
In Brooklyn, Housing That Defies the Status Quo
by Gideon Fink Shapiro
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 5, 2024
That “Net-Zero” Home Is Probably Living a Lie
by Fred A. Bernstein
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 22, 2024
The Virtue of Corporate Architecture Firms
by Kate Wagner
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 16, 2024
How Infrastructure Shapes Us
by Deb Chachra
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
January 8, 2024
The Defiance of Desire Lines
by Jim Stephenson
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 18, 2023
This House Is Related to You and to Your Nonhuman Relatives
by Sebastián López Cardozo
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 11, 2023
What’s the Point of the Plus Pool?
by Ian Volner
7
BOOK REVIEW
December 4, 2023
The Extraordinary Link Between Aerobics and Architecture
by Jarrett Fuller
7
PERSPECTIVE
November 27, 2023
Architecture That Promotes Healing and Fortifies Us for Action
by Kathryn O’Rourke
7
objects and things
November 6, 2023
How to Design for Experience
by Diana Budds
7
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 30, 2023
The Meaty Objects at Marta
by Jonathan Griffin
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
October 23, 2023
How Oliver Grabes Led Braun Back to Its Roots
by Marianela D’Aprile
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
October 16, 2023
Can Adaptive Reuse Fuel Equitable Revitalization?
by Clayton Page Aldern
6
PERSPECTIVE
October 9, 2023
What’s the Point of a Tiny Home?
by Mimi Zeiger
6
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 2, 2023
A Book Where Torn-Paper Blobs Convey Big Ideas
by Julie Lasky
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
September 24, 2023
The Architecture of Doing Nothing
by Edwin Heathcote
6
BOOK REVIEW
September 18, 2023
What the “Liebes Look” Says About Dorothy Liebes
by Debika Ray
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 11, 2023
Roy McMakin’s Overpowering Simplicity
by Eva Hagberg
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 5, 2023
Minimalism’s Specific Objecthood, Interpreted by Designers of Today
by Glenn Adamson
5
ROUNDTABLE
August 28, 2023
How Joan Jonas and Eiko Otake Navigate Transition
by Siobhan Burke
5
OBJECTS AND THINGS
August 21, 2023
The Future-Proofing Work of Design-Brand Archivists
by Adrian Madlener
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
August 14, 2023
Can a Church Solve Canada’s Housing Crisis?
by Alex Bozikovic
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
August 7, 2023
In Search of Healing, Helen Cammock Confronts the Past
by Jesse Dorris
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
July 31, 2023
What Dead Malls, Office Parks, and Big-Box Stores Can Do for Housing
by Ian Volner
5
PERSPECTIVE
July 24, 2023
A Righteous Way to Solve “Wicked” Problems
by Susan Yelavich
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
July 17, 2023
Making a Mess, with a Higher Purpose
by Andrew Russeth
5
ROUNDTABLE
July 10, 2023
How to Emerge from a Starchitect’s Shadow
by Cynthia Rosenfeld
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 26, 2023
There Is No One-Size-Fits-All in Architecture
by Marianela D’Aprile
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 19, 2023
How Time Shapes Amin Taha’s Unconventionally Handsome Buildings
by George Kafka
4
SHOW AND TELL
June 12, 2023
Seeing and Being Seen in JEB’s Radical Archive of Lesbian Photography
by Svetlana Kitto
4
PERSPECTIVE
June 5, 2023
In Built Environments, Planting Where It Matters Most
by Karrie Jacobs
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 30, 2023
On the Home Front, a Latine Aesthetic’s Ordinary Exuberance
by Anjulie Rao
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 21, 2023
For a Selfie (and Enlightenment), Make a Pilgrimage to Bridge No. 3
by Alexandra Lange
3
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 8, 2023
The Building Materials of the Future Might Be Growing in Your Backyard
by Marianna Janowicz
3
BOOK REVIEW
May 1, 2023
Moving Beyond the “Fetishisation of the Forest”
by Edwin Heathcote
2
ROUNDTABLE
April 24, 2023
Is Craft Still Synonymous with the Hand?
by Tiffany Jow
2
OBJECTS AND THINGS
April 17, 2023
A Historian Debunks Myths About Lacemaking, On LaceTok and IRL
by Julie Lasky
2
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 10, 2023
How AI Helps Architects Design, and Refine, Their Buildings
by Ian Volner
2
SHOW AND TELL
April 3, 2023
Merging Computer and Loom, a Septuagenarian Artist Weaves Her View of the World
by Francesca Perry
1
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
March 27, 2023
Words That Impede Architecture, According to Reinier de Graaf
by Osman Can Yerebakan
1
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
March 20, 2023
Painting With Plaster, Monica Curiel Finds a Release
by Andrew Russeth
1
PERSPECTIVE
March 13, 2023
Rules and Roles in Life, Love, and Architecture
by Eva Hagberg
1
Roundtable
March 6, 2023
A Design Movement That Pushes Beyond Architecture’s Limitations
by Tiffany Jow
0
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 7, 2023
To Improve the Future of Public Housing, This Architecture Firm Looks to the Past
by Ian Volner
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Radical Potential of “Prime Objects”
by Glenn Adamson
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 20, 2023
Xiyadie’s Queer Cosmos
by Xin Wang
0
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
February 13, 2023
How Michael J. Love’s Subversive Tap Dancing Steps Forward
by Jesse Dorris
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 7, 2023
Finding Healing and Transformation Through Good Black Art
by Folasade Ologundudu
0
BOOK REVIEW
February 13, 2023
How Stephen Burks “Future-Proofs” Craft
by Francesca Perry
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 27, 2023
Making Use of End Users’ Indispensable Wisdom
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The New Lessons Architect Steven Harris Learns from Driving Old Porsches
by Jonathan Schultz
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Day Architecture Stopped
by Kate Wagner
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The Overlooked Potential of Everyday Objects
by Adrian Madlener
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 7, 2023
A Conversation About Generalists, Velocity, and the Source of Innovation
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
Using a Fungi-Infused Paste, Blast Studio Turns Trash Into Treasure
by Natalia Rachlin
Untapped is published by the design company Henrybuilt.
OBJECTS AND THINGS
02.07.2023
The New Lessons Architect Steven Harris Learns from Driving Old Porsches

The collector and rally enthusiast happily takes his rare 911s on—and off—the road, an uncommon act among vintage car hobbyists, to better understand the values of a well-oiled machine.

Steven Harris’s 1973 911 Carrera RS Coupe
Steven Harris’s 1973 911 Carrera RS Coupe. (Photo: James Lipman)

The original sin of the vintage car “hobby” is that many owners don’t drive their cars. Survey auction house catalogs and you’ll discern an inverse relationship between how brilliantly a car was engineered and how many miles it’s traveled. The tendency to treat such automobiles as a diaper-buffed asset class rather than a singular means of transportation poses an existential threat to the pastime: If younger generations don’t see these cars on the road, they won’t be inspired to learn about them. Poof! No more car culture.

That’s why collectors like Steven Harris are viewed, both within and outside the hobby, as downright heroes. The New York–based architect, 72, maintains a fleet of vintage Porsches that are gassed up and ready to run at a moment’s whim. He’s also something of an éminence grise of high-performance 911s. His extraordinary collection of race-bred RS models has been displayed at upstate New York’s Saratoga Automobile Museum, where Harris is a trustee, and features in the new book Air & Water: Rare Porsches, 1956–2019 (Schiffer Publishing). And though his peers may content themselves by watching their toys’ valuations skyrocket, Harris would sooner ship a rally-prepped, 60-year-old Porsche to rural Asia or South America and beat the scheisse out of it.

His obsession took root in childhood, taking sensory-overload trips in his uncle’s 356 A Coupe. But over the years, Harris developed an appreciation for Porsche’s purity of line, particularly that of the 911. That quintessential sports car, with a lineage traceable to the Type 64 of the 1930s, has acted as a muse for Harris throughout his career: His namesake architectural firm, known for its pared-down yet exacting work that invariably respects its context, has designed prestigious residential and commercial projects around the globe, and Harris has taught at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, a Manhattan nonprofit architecture studio and think tank, as well as at Harvard, Princeton, and the Yale School of Architecture, where he has sat on the faculty since 1984.

Such a trajectory, it turns out, pairs well with an appreciation for rare 911s. For Harris, that model—which the German automaker has meticulously tweaked, not overhauled, since developing its streamlined design decades ago as new needs and technologies have arisen, without compromising its look and feel—doubles as a vessel for knowledge in work and in life. The 911 has taught him about the value of making perpetual, iterative improvements, and of taking the time to determine the perfect balance of power and place, resulting in elevated experiences marked by ease, efficiency, and even joy.

Here, Harris discusses how he stumbled into collecting, the intersections between his cars and his craft, and the lessons a fussy, rear-engined, analog machine like the 911 may yet hold for a culture obsessed with speed, newness, and novelty.

Harris’s 1984 911 SC/RS Coupe.
Harris’s 1984 911 SC/RS Coupe. (Photo: James Lipman)

“My obsession with cars is probably more emotional than rational. When I was very young, my grandmother’s housekeeper taught me the names of all the cars on the road. My first contact with Porsche came at age 8, when my uncle purchased a 1958 356 A Coupe. I remember what it sounds like, what it smells like. That’s what really sparked the obsession. My dad later bought a 911 S, the car I took my driver’s test in. Around ten years ago I found a car almost identical to my dad’s car, right down to the smell. Like I said, obsession.

At the risk of sounding like George Romney, I don’t know how many Porsches I own. Let’s say it’s more than fifty, fewer than sixty. It was never my intention to collect them; after taking my dad’s 911 S to college, I didn’t buy one for another forty years. Couldn’t afford to. But coinciding with around the time I—ahem—bleached my hair white, I decided it was time to have a Porsche. The more I learned about cars like my uncle’s 356, the more interested I became in racier versions like the 356 A Carrera and 356 GT Speedster. So I got them.

The thing is, most people can’t tell which of these is super expensive or which is cheaper, which is something I absolutely love about Porsches. They don’t bling themselves out. No gold chains in the glove box. It’s only with study, and with use, that you learn what’s truly special about them.

That’s what attracted me to the RS models. They’re regarded as the ultimate 911s, and the ’73 Carrera RS is the holy grail. It’s not the fastest car, but there’s a magic about it. The brilliant thing about a ’73 RS is that the chassis and the power are in perfect balance. That notion of getting the power appropriate to the chassis extends to architecture, believe it or not. There’s the balance you have to strike between accommodation, the site, and the scale of gesture. Some architects make buildings that look like exquisite pieces of sushi on a platter. There’s another approach that positions the house in appropriate scale to its site and landscape. That’s Porsche at its best: balancing power to the chassis.

Some people count sheep at night. I count cars. And because I have a [fastidious] mind, I collect things in series. They made [around] sixteen versions of the Carrera RS, and I have them all the way through. Probably the rarest of them is a 1984 SC RS. That was the model made famous by the Rothmans Paris-Dakar Rally [now Dakar Rally] car. Eleven of them were sold to teams for rallying, and nine weren’t. I have one of those nine. It has some eleven hundred miles on it.

Most people who buy these cars wrap them in plastic and never drive them, treating them as an asset class you flip. That’s a game I’m no good at. You can get into any of my cars today and drive it cross-country. I really enjoy rallying. It’s why I drove a 356 in the Peking to Paris [Motor Challenge]—though we fitted a huge metal skid plate to the bottom of the car to protect it from rocks. And boy, did it get beat up. Yet despite all the special prep and abuse it took, I can jump in that car right now and drive it to the A&P.

Architect Steven Harris
Steven Harris. (Courtesy Cars Yeah)

Another example of my fastidious mind: I’m a big fan of misremembering things, because sometimes the misremembering—the misunderstanding—is more provocative than the real thing. I remember reading Foucault. I’d read thirty pages, then I’d have an idea. It wasn’t whether I got Foucault right; it’s that it sparked a thought. That extends to my relationships with rallying and with architecture.

Turning south from Santiago, Chile, toward Ushuaia, Argentina, you drive through what feels like a petrified landscape, like everything’s been dead for fifty years. But if you get a sprinkle of rain, everything turns electric green. When you’re rallying, you don’t see features of the landscape individually or anecdotally. They string together into a continuum. 

That same notion can inform how you make a building. I tend to think of a residential project starting at the curb, then there’s a piece of land, then the building, then the courtyard. But if you turn around and walk back the way you came, it’s totally different. How it unravels, the progression … that’s where the spark comes from.

Part of what keeps me interested in these cars and these experiences—and what I think distinguishes my attitude from other collectors—is that, even though I prefer the older cars, I accept that things evolve. The purists got upset when, for example, the 1998 RS shipped with power steering instead of hydraulic steering. Well, the future has been coming for a long time. How you meet it is what makes the difference.”


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.