James Garrett, Jr., AIA

4RM+ULA  |  St. Paul, MN
website  |  4rmula.com

TOWARDS A NEO-DECO CENTURY: 4RM+ULA’s Integrative Approach to Art and Architecture
Thursday, September 8 @ 8:00 am – 9:30am



I will present ten (10) 4RM+ULA design projects for discussion—some built, some unrealized—that exemplify the intersection of Art and Architecture in contemporary practice. Through our work, I will introduce and explore the concept of Neo Deco Architecture and present it as an effective conduit for sublime communication and expression.

Art Employed as Process (Engagement)
We view art as an accessible medium for communication with clients and end users of our buildings. Art has the power to break down socially-constructed barriers like class, ethnicity, and language—giving people permission to let down their guard and explore thoughts and engage in conversations that they might not otherwise share in ‘polite’ company. To these ends, we work through techniques that include; sketching, collage, cognitive mapping and model-making.

  • Juxtaposition Arts Campus Masterplan
  • Great River Landing

Art Deployed as Outcome (Expression)
We see Art-integrated/Neo Deco Architecture as a vehicle for client and end-user empowerment by affording them the opportunity to outwardly express who they are, their intentions, hopes, dreams, and aspirations—how they see themselves and their place/role in society—in the world around them. Clients need to understand that there is no greater marketing opportunity than building in an intentional, self-expressive way. In fact, I would argue that there is an enormous Opportunity Cost associated with failing to maximize a buildings potential as a visible manifestation of its owners’ values.

  • 4RM+ULA Office
  • Juxtaposition Arts Classroom Renovation
  • Juxtaposition Arts New Art Center
  • Lowertown Ballpark Public Art
  • Fortune Cafe
  • Green Line LRT

The following collaborative projects are examples of a hybrid approach; Art Employed as Process and then Deployed as Outcome: 

  • The Weisman Plaza Design Competition
  • The Rondo Commemorative Plaza


Participants obtain a general introduction to 4RM+ULA’s design process and outcomes. Participants gain a general familiarity with the concept of Neo Deco Architecture. Participants gain a general familiarity with the concept of Art—employed as process. Participants gain a general familiarity with the concept of Art—deployed as outcome.


James artistically deploys technology and green design principles to articulate an evolving comprehension of the 21st century city.

Born on the Caribbean Island of St. Thomas and spent his formative years in St. Paul, Minnesota where he developed an early interest in the workings of cities—especially the buildings, people, and interstitial spaces that compose them. As a visual artist and published writer—trained as an architect—he expresses the urban condition through the lenses of art and design. His work employs diverse media (aerosol, ink, critical text, digital collage, physical sketching and material modeling) to explore complex theoretical topics from a unique, ethno-experiential perspective.

James is a registered architect in the states of Minnesota and New York. He holds an A.B. Degree in Architecture from the College of Environmental Design at the University of California (Berkeley, CA) and an M’Arch degree from Parsons School of Design (New York City, NY). He is a 2015 American Institute of Architects MN Chapter Young Architect Award recipient who currently serves on the Metropolitan Council Livable Communities and Transit Oriented Development Advisory Committees.

His creative work and art installations have been shown in New York City and Minneapolis, where he successfully completed a residency program entitled, “The Artist Is In”, at the prestigious Minneapolis Institute of Art for the “Marks of Genius” exhibition in 2014.

In 2002, he co-founded 4RM+ULA (FORM + Urban Landscape Articulation), a full-service architecture firm focused on Transit Design, Transit-Oriented-Development, and urban infill redevelopment projects.