Mark A. Miller, a native Chicagoan, grew up in the abundant stock of post war industrial housing of the area. This influenced him at a very early age that there must be a better way for homes to be designed. A lifelong interest in improving his skill as a semi-professional musician and years of tinkering with projects and model making lead him to studying architecture at the University of Arizona. The school and living in the southwest exposed him to an emphasis in solar architecture and a new appreciation for the physiological importance of being close to nature. While at Arizona, he worked with professors Al Miller & Larry Medlin. Al Miller was the right hand man to Architect/Engineer/Philosopher Buckminster Fuller, while Medlin was a protégé of German architect Freii Otto, both continued the study of geodesics, tensile structures and doing “more with less” to minimize humankind’s impact on our “spaceship earth” as Fuller used to say.
While at Arizona, Miller was introduced to the Japanese martial art of Shotokan Karate-Do. The intense physical practice over time transcended into understanding how the practice of this art form was also a path to spirituality. With his thesis work, he began the endeavor of studying how architectural environments may be designed using eastern philosophy, to encourage the opportunity for experiencing this transcendence within its users. Miller continued his practice of eastern Zen disciplines after returning to Chicago, studying Karate with Midwest Chief Instructor, Sugyama Sensei. This was followed by studying the art of Aikido with 9th degree black belt, Midwest Chief Instructor, Shihan Aikira Tohei.
His first apprenticeship was with internationally renowned architect/developer Bertrand Goldberg. “Goldberg’s work attracted me for he was the only architect in town whose original work is founded on the forms found in nature, which resonated within me.” This was followed by many years with Evanston designer/builder Andrew Spatz, where he continued studying curvilinear design, construction management and working within the means of real costs of construction. In 1995, Miller opened his Touhy Avenue Beach studio in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. The firm is continuing the efforts started with Miller’s thesis work via integrating his philosophy within their residential, commercial and retail interior projects. Recently they were selected as one of five winners in the Dept. of the Environments “Green Homes for Chicago” International Competition. The prototype high-performance home (currently under construction) is both energy efficient and environmentally friendly in its use and choice of building materials. Besides his work, miller has also been asked to present his lecture “Zen in the Art of Architecture” at the Art Institute of Chicago and other venues which attempt to integrate and value the lessons eastern philosophy within our western culture.