Archetypes: Michael Allen

 In Culture, Interviews

A conversation with Michael Allen, architectural historian, preservationist, director of the Preservation Research Office and an advocate for the City of St. Louis.


What is your current mood or state of mind?

What makes you happy?
People who transform places where they live.

What is your idea of misery?

Having nothing to do.

What did you eat for breakfast today?

Two waffles.

What’s one word that describes you?

What trait do you value most in others?
Lack of pretense.

What’s your favorite occupation?

What’s your favorite color?

What is your favorite food?
Anything with spinach.

What food do you like the least?

If you could have dinner with anyone (dead or alive) who would that be?
Minoru Yamasaki, an architect who has had such monumental disasters with his buildings.

What vice do you most tolerate in others?

What talent do you wish you had?
I wish I knew how to swim.

Who is your favorite artist?
Max Beckmann.

Who is your favorite author?
Jane Jacobs and Wendell Berry.

Who is your favorite architect?
Edward Garden.

What excites you?
A really good idea.

What do you consider a turnoff?
Following tradition when it is wrong.

What do you love?

What do you dislike?
People not learning from the past and not being mindful of their actions. Selfishness.

What are you most looking forward to?
Turning 40.

What is one thing you wish would happen?
That our civic leaders would commit to fixing the problems of North St. Louis.

What’s something interesting that you just learned?
I learned this week that there was a private company that was planning on doing an elevated streetcar in St. Louis in the 1880s. It even published a book on how it would work with maps.

What is your personal motto?

“Why not?”

In another life, you’d be:

A vegetable farmer.

What is your current obsession?

What is your favorite word?


What is your least favorite word?


What’s on your “bucket list”?
Live in the middle of nowhere; see all of Europe; finish reading all of the books in my library; and stop driving a car.

Your hidden talent:

Personal hero:
The Shelley family of Shelley v. Kraemer. They saved St. Louis.

If you could have a conversation with your younger self, what would you say?

“Don’t stop dreaming.”



Michael Allen, director of the Preservation Research Office.

Michael Allen, director of the Preservation Research Office.


Photo credit: Photo by Wesley Law

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