Mattia Flabiano, AIA

Mattia Flabiano, III, AIA, ACHA is president and senior principal at Page, where he has practiced since 1980. His experience at Page prepared him with the leadership skills which have allowed him to take on positions with many organizations both within and outside the profession, including as the 2021 and 2022 president of the Architecture and Design Foundation. Here, past Foundation president Emily Henry, ASLA visits with Mattia about his background, inspiration, and what he envisions for our city.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Dallas and am the oldest of four boys of an Italian family. My grandfather immigrated to New York in 1921 from Canada and started a terrazzo business in Dallas. My brothers and I all went to Hillcrest High School in Dallas, and, besides my move to College Station for college, I never left Dallas. I ventured off from our family business to become an architect and now live in my family heirloom house, aka the House of Terrazzo, in North Dallas. I have proudly worked at one firm for 40-plus years and although I haven’t lived in any other state, I have he has traveled all over the world representing Page.

What inspired you to practice architecture?

Starting at 12 years old, I worked alongside my father, uncle, and grandfather laying terrazzo. I worked all throughout high school, college through holidays and summers. The more experience I had in the field, the more I was inspired to be the one designing the whole building versus focusing on just one detail of the building.

My career at Page started in 1980 after I graduated from Texas A&M. At the time, Page focused primarily on health care work. I learned everything I know about health care planning from my mentor, Kang Wei, until he retired about 10 years ago. Eventually, Page began to diversify into all mission critical work around 1985 and became increasingly more diverse in various project types. Now I act primarily as a generalist. I run the Dallas office, sit on the board of directors, which drives the business strategy and goals for the firm ­– over 700 people – as well as lead many of the business development pursuits and strategies for project interviews.

When do you feel most energized or excited about your work?

I feel most excited when developing a strategy for our clients and for a project pursuit. No matter the size of the project, I like to act as a live wire Energizer bunny that pumps up the team and prepares the pursuit approach with great enthusiasm.

I am also energized when serving on various boards that share my passions and values. I’ve been the chair of the Board of Directors and the Board of Governors for Downtown Dallas Inc., I’m the immediate past president of the Architecture and Design Foundation, I sit on the AIA Dallas Board, and I just stepped down from ArchiPAC, which lobbies to help push AIA’s strategic missions forward – climate change, resilience, small businesses, etc. – at the national level. I also represent Page on the AIA Large Firm Roundtable, including the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and finally, I serve on the Advisory Council at Texas A&M College of Architecture and chair the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.

What drew you to participate on the Architecture and Design Foundation Board?

MF: I am inspired to develop a message that energizes and activates our members and community. This started nationally with my involvement in ArchiPAC, and then Joe Buskuhl approached me to get more involved locally. I really like that the Architecture and Design Foundation is outwardly focused. It is a powerful way to educate the community about the relevancy of architecture and design in our communities. I get excited about reinvesting in my community and supporting programs and events. Although I grew up in Dallas, most of what I learned about the communities in our city was through my involvement in the Landmark Commission (15 years). This taught me important lessons about how to bridge the gap between growing communities alongside development without ripping the heart out of the existing neighborhoods. This has driven me to communicate why architecture and design is critically important in helping to solve these issues.

I noticed that you are involved in a lot of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion subcommittees. What inspired that?

Whitney Young Jr. came before AIA in the 1970s and shared that only 2% of architects are Black. Fifty years later, we still have the same problem. We need to change this. We need to be purposeful and set tangible goals to increase diversity within the architecture community. The 2030 challenge was established to double the number of Black architects by the year 2030. The investment starts with exposing parents and children to the profession and support their education through programs and scholarships. Ultimately, the hope is that this will influence kids that this is a viable profession, and you can utilize this degree to give back to your community. Architecture impacts so many people through planning, housing, etc., and empowers creating vibrant communities that can sustain themselves economically and socially while celebrating diversity and inclusion. It makes me excited.

What do you believe is Dallas’ greatest asset? Greatest challenge?

Dallas’ greatest untapped asset is the Trinity River corridor. Other cities such as Tulsa have capitalized on a similar asset and created an unbelievable public realm for the community to gather and enjoy a variety of amenities.

Dallas has a strong can-do business community that strengthens our city. We need to ensure that we capitalize on this momentum and promote businesses without leaving the community behind. The fact that we have food deserts in our city is almost criminal, especially with the economic growth we have seen over the last 40 years. Dallas’ greatest challenge to balance those two.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Unlimited empathy. You don’t see that one in the movies, but it’s lacking in our world today across the board.

What do you hope your legacy will be when you are gone?

To have made an impact, specifically with all the organizations in which I have been involved. I spent time and energy to expand the influence of these organizations, whether funding strategies or my efforts allow the board and Foundation to focus on programs, scholarships, and the highest need.

Interview conducted by Emily Henry, ASLA, Director of Business Development at Suffolk Construction. It has been edited for brevity and clarity. This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 “Vibe” issue of AIA Dallas Columns magazine.

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