Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Greening of Fritz Haeg: Architect Fritz Haeg Was a Manhattan Power Player Who Designed All the Right Spaces. Now He's Creating the Good Life in Los Angeles with a Hip School, Edible Landscapes, and One Really Gay House

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Greening of Fritz Haeg: Architect Fritz Haeg Was a Manhattan Power Player Who Designed All the Right Spaces. Now He's Creating the Good Life in Los Angeles with a Hip School, Edible Landscapes, and One Really Gay House

Article excerpt

Fritz Haeg's house feels like the kind of place where daydreams are hatched, secret messages are decoded, and mysteries are solved. Maybe it's the birds' nests on the windowsill or the sleeping nook hidden behind a painting. Maybe it's the circular staircase descending into a subterranean space or the kitchen windows looking out into tree branches. It's not exactly the vibe I had expected from an architect living in a geodesic dome in the hills of Los Angeles. But it suits Fritz Haeg perfectly.

"The house is bizarre, but it has played a huge role in my work," explains Haeg, 37. "I'm a big believer in this idea of architecture and environment and the space you occupy dictating the life you're able to lead. There's a life that grew out of this house--it was the catalyst."

It's safe to say that whatever you first learn about Haeg isn't the half of it. He's been an architect for more than a decade. In his high-profile days in New York City, he worked on notable projects like the Tate Gallery and Peter Jenninge's apartment.

These days he's into a more West Coast sensibility. He's the creator of the Los Angeles-based project Edible Estates, which replaces suburban postage-stamp front lawns with cultivated gardens of fruit, herbs, and vegetables. And he's the founder of the Sundown Schoolhouse, a 12-week course focused on "the gently radical design, literary, performing, and visual arts" operated out of his home.

But Haeg, who's out, is also a lecturer, ecologist, sculptor, gardener, thinker, yoga practitioner, and ringleader. Everybody knows him or knows someone who does.

"He has so many different kinds of things going on," says friend and photographer Eve Fowler. "He comes from a big family, which is probably why he feels comfortable with chaos. He'll have 100 people in his house. It's very Andy Warhol."

Haeg's creative life seems chaotic, but only from the outside. "We're so quick to compartmentalize people: 'Oh, this is the ecology garden person who probably drives a Prius and does yoga,'" says Haeg, who actually drives a Volvo station wagon. "Part of my work is involved in making beautiful things, and sometimes my design is just about that and isn't obsessed with saving the world."

It's a bit surprising when you consider that seven years ago Haeg was living the architect's life in New York City, a dream he had focused on intensely from second grade through the architecture program at Carnegie Mellon University. Then, suddenly, he wanted to escape.

"It's architecture with a capital A in New York," he says. "I was really in a rut and confused how this was adding up. The way I saw it, there were two choices: I could start over entirely with a new career, or I could move to L.A." Haeg spent that first year on the West Coast with nothing but dogs and his garden. Such solitude seems remarkable now that it's hard to imagine him with a moment to himself.

Haeg says his busy life isn't completely frantic because all of his work fits into three overarching disciplines: architecture and art, ecology, and education. Or, as Haeg describes them, ecology, "the relationship between us and our environment"; community, "the relationship between us and other people"; and poetry, "the quality of our experience."

Everything Haeg is or does--whether it's a one-day performance art project at New York City's Whitney Museum or a morning yoga class in his all-blue studio--flows through those channels. …

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