Shelly Kappe introduces Robert Marquis, noting that he was born in Germany, but moved to the United States at an early age. He studied at the University of Southern California and at La Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. He returned to San Francisco, California where he opened his own practice in 1953. His body of work has been published, awarded and recognized over the years, while simultaneously lecturing and writing. He has been published in various journals.
Marquis discusses his office, emphasizing their concern with context, including view, orientation, topography, prevailing winds, and, in cities, the urban context. He discusses projects for low to middle income families in San Francisco, which attempted to create a sense of place and community. He stresses the needs of the tenants, and heightening awareness of social aspects of design.
Marquis discusses projects for the elderly, as well as rehabilitating crime-ridden public housing. His involvement in socially engaged projects provided him the opportunity to participate in the planning and construction of the Commodore Sloat School in San Francisco. Actively engaging the users in the design process led to a result that reflected their needs. Circulation determined form, and created a city-like organization within the design.
Marquis argues that historicism, in the sense of esoteric historical references, is irrelevant and meaningless to users. He presents examples of architecture that refers to history and to the site. He describes the implementation of energy conservation systems in his designs. He characterizes his goal as trying to incorporate user needs within a humane environment.
Marquis discusses his 1977-8 Department of Justice Office Building #1, outside of Sacramento, in which he is able to implement all of the elements he had been developing throughout his previous projects. His goal was to design a building which was energy efficient, respectful of user needs and humanistic. He developed a building which fit into its regional context, utilizing circulation as an organizing element. He implemented passive energy systems and sought to create a humane environment for its inhabitants, which would subsequently improve the quality of their lives.