Steven Harris ‘68 knew at nine years old that he wanted to be an architect. He may have not known then how he was going to get there, but this intelligent and motivated alumnus took every opportunity he could to learn about the world around him. Today, he is an extremely successful architect and professor living in New York City who owns his own firm, Steven Harris Architects. Steven has been recognized all over the world for his outstanding residential architecture. He attributes his success to his attention to detail in the way people live, something that was first brought to his attention when he began at St. Johns as a sophomore.
Steven and his family lived in Jacksonville Beach and every day he would make the drive back and forth to Orange Park. Along the way, he noticed the simple differences in lifestyles between him and his peers. Many of his classmates lived in the Ortega area and he became curious about the differences between the two neighborhoods. This inquisitive spirit stayed with him after graduation when he decided to go to New College of Florida, Florida’s honors college. It was “a cool place and completely under the radar,” Steven says. “It had a progressive culture and a lot of people were hanging out there during that time, including the Allman Brothers and Cher.”
Instead of studying mathematics, engineering, or design-- typical topics for an architect-- Steven majored in philosophy. Ever since his days at St. Johns, Steven appreciated the liberal arts. He has fond memories of the class, History of Thought, with Mrs. Julie Newton. Studying philosophy deepened his understanding how people live and he is now able to incorporate the various lifestyle differences throughout his artitecture.
After graduating from New College, he took a year off and worked as a waiter on the Amtrak Silver Meteor from New York to Miami. One day, he stopped by Providence’s Rhode Island School of Design. After talking to the president of the school, he went there for two years to get his bachelors in fine arts. Then he was off to Princeton for a masters in architecture and during that time became a teaching assistant.
After he graduated, he was hired as a professor at Princeton, all while commuting to and from New York and flying back and forth to Los Angeles to work on a project. Steven never said no to a new opportunity and when the chances to teach at Harvard and Yale presented themselves, he knew he had to go for it. He has been teaching at Yale ever since and enjoys his quiet weekly drives away from the city to Connecticut.
Steven has continued to teach at Yale and travels often to work on projects, from a tower in Croatia to a home on top of a cliff at the southernmost point in Mexico. “Every project we do is quite different because the clients are different,” says Steven. “They sleep on different sides of the bed. They get up at different times of the day.” A master of precision, Steven is intentional about designing a building as it relates to its site. He is much more interested in the relationship between the inside and the outside than just the building itself, therefore each of his projects presents a different design challenge.
In his rare free time, he enjoys participating in driving rallies. Steven has a great love for old Porsches. He attends four or five rallies a year including the Colorado Grand and Montana’s Rams Horned Rally. His greatest rally adventure was the Peking to Paris, which is a 37-day drive from Beijing, China to Paris, France.
Starting from his earliest days at St. Johns, Steven has noticed and appreciated the differences in how people live and, throughout his career and many adventures has used those details to express his own creativity. Steven’s most impressive design is perhaps the life he has designed for himself by consistently learning about the people and spaces around him.