James came to architecture by way of art, rather than engineering. After working in the set department at Juilliard and for sculptor James Turrell, he studied architecture first with Peter Eisenman and then at Yale University. Moving to the Hamptons after some large-firm stints in Manhattan, James connected with the more hands-on lifestyle here. He described growing up in the country as just that. “We would dam the creek and build things with wood... And I think I missed that, and I came out here because it put me back in touch with hammers and nails.”
He founded James Merrell Architects in Sag Harbor in 1988. He loves architectural philosophy, and pondering big questions like What are the architectural metaphors of our time? When he’s not drawing houses, writing about houses, or thinking about houses, he sails a Europe Dinghy. He is married to the novelist Susan Scarf Merrell.