What project pushed you out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that experience?
The Santa Monica College Science Center (completed in 2003) would have to be the project. I had been the day-to-day project designer when about a month before plan check the senior technical architect left and the principal in charge went on extended medical leave. I had to lead a team to complete the documents, get them through DSA, lead construction administration, and represent the project to the owner. From this experience I learned (usually the hard way) that what you draw, write and say truly matters in terms of realizing design, meeting budgets and maintaining relationships.
If you could spend a night in one iconic building, which would it be and why?
Back before 9/11 we to Dulles Airport outside of Washington DC. After totally misreading the scale of a tourist map, we arrived after midnight to find the airport closed for the day, but waved through the glass to a janitor who let us in to look around, asking us to pull the door shut behind us when we left. Being in that building when it was empty gave me the same feeling as exploring the ruins of a Greek temple.
What advice would you give to young architects?
Architecture is a profession where you can do one thing for 30 years or 30 things for one year. This ability to move between depth and breadth has been what has kept things fresh and interesting for me. My advice is to take advantage to of every opportunity to fully explore and immerse yourself in the diversity of architecture before deciding whether you want to pursue one path over another. This is how I came to fully understand one of CO’s core values that “design is in everything”, whether planning a campus, working out a detail or writing a letter. Everything you do has value and contributes to realizing a design in its own unique way.
What is one of your hobbies?
Gardening is a passion that I discovered somewhat late, when I bought a house after more than 20 years of apartment living. We made many mistakes, but deciding to replace our lawn with California native plantings forced me to learn a whole new vocabulary and way of thinking in terms of design and ecologies. I originally thought that building a garden – planning & digging – was gardening, but the work, and the joy, comes from the time I get to spend in the garden touching, smelling, deciding what to leave and what to trim back. Most importantly, gardening has taught me the value of patience since gardens run on their own schedule and not mine. I have also learned just how tenacious the force of life is, even under harsh conditions and neglect, as our garden uses no irrigation whatsoever. I hand water for the first year to get new plants established, and from then on, it’s pretty much “survival of the fittest”.