Julia Miner

Architect and Painter

As a child, I made projects that told stories: books, miniature dioramas, drawings.  A passion for horses that I could only fulfill in my imagination, as there weren’t many opportunities to ride, helped me learn to draw.  I’m still transported by the creative process, whether it’s getting to know characters in my illustrations, basking in a landscape (painting) started on location, or walking through a space to be built in the future.

After graduating with the first class with women admitted to Dartmouth College, I received a Master of Architecture at Yale and worked for award winning firms in Connecticut, New York, and Boston.  A bike trip through Europe to sketch and photograph inspiring places solidified what was important to me in architecture.  I felt as drawn to the way the light hit the landscape and buildings as to the architecture itself.  When I returned I opened my own office, so I could express my own design vision and have the flexibility to paint and attend sessions at The Vermont Studio Center and DeCordova Museum School. Later, after traveling to Greece and Turkey, where I studied classical and Middle Eastern architecture and gathered ideas for The Shepherd's Song book, I moved to Arizona for a decade. From a studio in a historic adobe house with desert views, I completed architecture projects, two books, and paintings while starting a family. 

I like buildings that tell stories, so historic preservation and adapting old buildings to modern uses and sensibilities has become a specialty.  The greenest buildings conserve existing structures as well as energy.   As a landscape painter and nature lover, my commitment to sustainable design runs deep.  Designing for regional context with local materials contributes to what I call "the poetry of place," a lyricism and energy in the built environment that derives from many generations’ response to local climate, light, topography, materials, and culture.  

This philosophy is reflected in my paintings, where I try to express the unique light and evocative essence of a place.  I work mainly in pastel and oil, reserving watercolor for travel sketches.  I am constantly trying to make my work in oil and watercolor as vibrant and deliberate as my pastels.

An architect friend once told me, "What you do for children counts twice." Illustrating an occasional book that will inspire kids is a special privilege.  I’ve enjoyed creating a pastel painting series called RHYTHMS, drawn from the Food Project fields; part of sales goes to the Food Project, which employs inner city and suburban youth.  I enjoy sharing with students the process of making art, a book or a place we inhabit.  And I love helping my clients realize their hopes and dreams for their building projects, restoring and creating places that will lift the spirit for years into the future.