Londonist Interviews ... Architect/Artist Michael Murphy

By tikichris Last edited 136 months ago
Londonist Interviews ... Architect/Artist Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy is an American architect and illustrator living in London. Growing up in San Francisco and attending university in the desert states of Arizona and New Mexico before working in Dublin and London, Michael has a singular vision that’s uniquely his own. With the recent release of his London series of Giclee prints, we thought now would be a great time to have a chat with Michael about his art.

Rather than Londonist ascribing our own interpretation of your art, would you please describe your style to our readers who haven't had the pleasure of viewing your work?

The style is my interpretation of traditional architectural illustration with a great attempt to present the potential drama within all good design. The viewpoints are meant to be as cinematic as possible yet as an architect I still have the urge to retain some semblance of reality in terms of perspective and structure. Just can help it, but I think that small dose of reality actually helps the images of the buildings in that it helps the imagination of the views to actually see themselves within the scenes. The actual pieces are high quality giclee prints on watercolour paper. They look absolutely beautiful and I credit the great printers that I use.

Would you consider yourself more of an architect or an illustrator? What's the connection between the two disciplines and how do they influence the other with respect to your work?

Always an architect. It's like joining the priesthood. What the illustrations allow however is to design a structure without the usual constraints of budget, location, and clients. Fantasy architectural illustration has always played a valuable part of the architectural discourse throughout history as it is the one place where ideas can be completely free and the influences can be wholly from one's own creative spirit. Eric Mendelsohn used to sketch in the trenches during World War One and went on to produce some of the finest architecture of the 20th Century.

You've recently released a "London" series of Giclee prints. The images suggest a future as it might have been envisioned about half a century ago, which give the series a nostalgic quality. Care to elaborate on the inspirations behind the series?

The goal of the London series, as well as all of the other images, is not merely to try to recreate the ephemera of any particular era but rather to introduce my personal architectural tastes within a slightly out of sync context. What I attempted to do with the London series was to insert an idea that I had for a building within the milieu of what I regard as an exciting aspect of British culture ie Bond's “Thunderball” mini-sub, psychedelia, Vespa scooters, etc. It's all meant to go back and forth in cultural history simultaneously, and certainly favours mid-century design details, which I love.

One of your London prints, entitled "Cocktail before Target Practice", features the silhouette of a helicopter atop a building with the BT Tower in the background and an intense yellow sky. Who's having a cocktail with whom and where?

I really like that one - it's actually probably the darkest one of the entire set. The "sub-reading" behind that was that a military man or MI5 agent was on an assassination assignment (hence the rooftop) and decided to drop in and have a martini before getting on with his wet work. The term "target practice" was used to further enhance the bleakness of it all.

Got a favourite building or architectural feature in London?

The long gone Mondial Building was one of my favourites. Golden Lane high rise next to the Barbican. Lancaster Hotel. Everything by Zaha. I love the 101 too. What's going on here in the commercial sector is some of the best in the world - very brave and confident uses of colour I think.

Any future plans or projects?

I finally decided to put brush and pencil to board and am now working on a series of paintings. Having to relearn long lost architectural presentation techniques is great fun and very rewarding. I'll keep you posted.

View more of Michael’s work at

“Cocktail before Target Practice” image appears courtesy of Michael Murphy.

Last Updated 20 September 2007