Architect James Dixon AIA, NCARB, calls Chatham, NY, his home. Here he maintains an internationally recognized office with a staff of six and a home for his family. Jim is among the Berkshires most gifted architects, whose tasteful designs can be viewed across the region and around the world.
What originally drew you to this area?
Like so many Berkshire residents, I started as a weekender. Back in 2000 we wanted a getaway from New York and stumbled upon Columbia County. I love the tranquility of living in the country, while having access to the region's many cultural events.
When you have guests, whats the ultimate venue/resource you like to share with them?
Like the weather, it all changes with the seasons. In the spring, you just can't beat the "cuteness factor" at Hancock Shaker Village's Baby Animals event. It's great for little kids and the architecture is some of the best in the country. The summer activities are endless; I'm particularly fond of the Tannery Pond concert series. They feature world-class musicians in a small performance space. This summer Emanuel Ax gave a stunning performance; I've also seen Midori, the Tokyo String Quartet, Carol Vaness. The list goes on and on. Of course autumn brings leaf-peepers from all over and I love driving visitors around the region and listening to them "ooh" and "ah" at the amazing colors. And it wouldn't be fall without cider donuts from Golden Harvest in Valatie yum! In the colder months, I can drive from my house to one of several ski resorts in less than 30 minutes and still be back at work after lunch.
Tell us about your studio or your work environment.
Our offices are located in the Village of Chatham, which is the quintessential American small town. We have five architects on staff here. We work collaboratively so the large, open space is great. For many years I kept my office in the Empire State Building but it's much easier having everyone here in one place.
Whats your favorite Berkshire ritual?
I love sitting outside at Rubi's in Great Barrington, drinking coffee and people-watching. It's a very urban experience without the hassle of a big city.
Where do you go when you crave solitude?
Well, with a set of nine-month old twins, I don't get much chance for solitude these days! When I do get a few moments, I love to roam around my property. We live on an old farm, and there are woods, meadows and a quiet stream without another house in sight. It's a wonderful way to escape a busy world.
Whats your favorite way to spend a Sunday morning?
I love Sunday mornings at the Old Chatham Country Store. When the weather's nice we have breakfast on the terrace with the babies and catch up with friends and neighbors. It's really the hub of our community. On weekend evenings they have some of the best food in the region, including my favorite Red Velvet cake.
What newspapers, blogs, or websites do you read every day?
BerkshireStyle, of course, which is a great resource for residents and visitors alike. Two of my favorite design blogs are ChicTip and Remodelista. For delicious real estate gossip nothing beats the RealEstalker. And for news I read the The Economist, The New York Times and The Chatham Courier.
Do you have a favorite space or building in or around the Berkshires?
There are simply too many from which to choose. There is such a variety of styles and typologies that have developed over the years. I love old barns, and that aesthetic has certainly influenced some of our work.
With whom did you study or train? What was their influence on you?
I did my graduate work at the Architectural Association in London. For my thesis I was granted full access to the archives at the Soane Museum. Sitting in the great architect's office, reading his letters and rifling through those amazing drawings what an opportunity that was.
How do you feel that living in the Berkshires informs your work?
Every day, whether I'm driving to the office, a site meeting, or just exploring, there are wonderful examples of architecture all around. I love the local vernacular and the endless variety of details. From the simplest farmhouse to the grandest gilded manor, I am surrounded by inspiration.
When not here, where in the world do you most enjoy spending your time?
I always enjoy seeing new places, but I do find myself returning to three places in particular. I spent several years commuting to Paris for one of our projects and got to know the city very well; I never tire of the City of Lights. Tuscany is my favored escape, and I can't wait to spend time there with my daughters watching them discover the food, the art, the architecture. We just returned from a trip to Charleston, South Carolina where I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents. But it's always nice to come home to Columbia County.