Gary Justiss is a Birmingham based architect, who focuses primarily on designing in new urbanist communities such as Seaside, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, WaterColor. He has designed over 100 custom homes to date and is a member of the Seaside Institute, The Institute of Classical Architecture, and a founding member of The New Urban Guild.
He also plucks a mean bass guitar.
1. How did you become interested in design?
I had filled out a questionnaire about interests in high school and mentioned that I enjoyed drawing, drafting, engineering…really nothing about architecture. But, I always loved and did well in art so I guess the counselors connected the dots when they got a call from a local architect looking for a student to do some drafting. He trained me. I worked for minimum wage, $1.25 in 1972.
2. You’re a musician, as well as an architect, do you try to weave ideas from the music world into your home designs?
Absolutely I do. My main instrument is bass. It connects the rhythm and the melody so I tend to see things from that perspective.. art and function. Nothing is really beautiful if it’s dysfunctional. I also value editing. Every time I’ve had a chance to work in a recording studio, I wish I had played fewer notes. I’ve learned to think that way in architecture…value the blank wall…give space for others to contribute with art, furniture, landscaping or just a spot to rest your eye and breathe. I call my houses palate cleansers.
3. You’ve been designing on the 30A area for decades….what is the most notable change you’ve seen in that time?
Well, I’ve been driving from Birmingham to 30-A monthly now for about 25 years. One thing is now I can find a place to eat in the winter! I recall a few visits to the Winn Dixie Deli in the winters when all the restaurants closed! The most notable change though is the traffic and the energy level…. there is no real OFF season anymore.
4. Any favorite music venues in the 30A/Destin area?
Unfortunately most of my visits are pure business…one night and back to the office so I rarely get to hear live music on 30-A. But, of course there’s always the wonderful Red Bar! My wife and I love going down for the 30-A Songwriters’ Festival. My old band, Mile Marker 7 played a few gigs at Pandora, Seaside Amphitheater, Rosemary North Barrett square and the Alys Amphitheater so I have a special spot in my heart for those locations! I love the little in store concerts at Central Square Records.. got to play one of those with my friend Gabriel Tajeu from Birmingham who is about to tour Japan! BUT, 30-A needs a proper purpose built music venue which I OF COURSE feel uniquely qualified to design…. hint, hint…..
5. Any exciting projects you’re working on right now that you can share?
They are ALL exciting! I’m doing a lot of work for the Alys Beach Somerset Homes program so It’s nice to be able to continue having a major impact on the building fabric there. I’m doing a major renovation and addition to an Alys client’s home in Boulder Colorado. That’s been a pleasure. I have several custom homes underway on 30-A and it’s always exciting to see these become real.
6. What is your ultimate goal when a project is completed?
Since most of my work is custom residential, I always aim for the home to fit the owners’ like a finely tailored suit. I want to be proud of my work but, more importantly, I want the owner to love it themselves…. it’s their house after all is said and done. Also, I want my designs to fit into their context in a responsible way. This is why I prefer working in a new urban context… I know the urbanism will support the architecture and the architecture will, or should, support the urbanism.