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James Brown, FAIA  


James Brown’s work explores ‘making’ at a variety of scales, from furniture and public art to architect as developer and urban infill projects that redefine the role of architecture.

James Brown’s career spans the fields of furniture making, public and gallery art, architecture, and design/builder. Rather than drawing distinct lines between these disciplines, he uses them to complement, inform, and cajole each other— and ultimately to strengthen the design solution. Having completed several successful design/build, naturally-affordable development projects in urban settings, his projects redefine the role of the architect to something more akin to the original master builder. These projects are experimental in that they challenge zoning and planning constraints, with the goal of creating affordable and duplicable strategies for other developers. 

The integration of art into Brown’s work is a constant discipline. As the architectural consultant for Robert Irwin’s J. Paul Getty Central Garden in 1996, he worked directly with the artist and was responsible for providing buildable details into Irwin’s conceptual designs. For the Avery Building, a 5-unit, mixed-use urban infill project, American contemporary graphic designer and illustrator Shepard Fairey created his largest permanent mural (at the time) onto the building itself, where the work remains. Brown’s connections to the art world are fostered efforts toward a complete practice.


In 2009, James was selected to join the prestigious Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. While in Cambridge, James wrote about and designed a binational city and park at the westernmost end of the  U.S.-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana at Friendship Park. This planted the seeds for what evolved into 2020/21's international campaign and design competition, BUILD THAT PARK.

In 2010, James and his wife Isabel purchased and renovated the 45,000 SF Weber Bakery, transforming it into Bread & Salt,  a gallery and experimental center for the arts. Located 15 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border in San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood, Bread & Salt hosts original works by local and international artists, eclectic events, and a curated assemblage of artisans, educational entities, and non-profit tenants - alongside a robust residency program and publishing house. It is comprised of multiple gallery, studio, and event spaces, and serves as a cultural hub and gathering place for the region’s creative community. 

In 2014, James was elevated to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects.

James' work has garnered  numerous  design awards,  has  appeared in local and national publications, and he has established a national presence. He believes in the credo of Roots, Deeds, and Feats; remember your history and build upon it, give to your community and colleagues, and attempt the improbable from time to time.

American Institute of Architects Fellowship 2014
Loeb Fellow, Harvard Graduate School of Design 2009
Board of Directors, The New Children’s Museum

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