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Jessica Boldt
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Jessica Boldt

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Designing for the Future, Learning from the Past

This past Monday on the 9th of July, sitting near the front of the lecture room was a little girl with a messy ponytail, holding a sandwich and eating quietly like a little architect, waiting for her dad to present. Small Firms Roundtable brought in four panelists who early in their career worked with some of the most influential names in the local architecture community, such as Frank Welch, and have now founded their own small firms. Ron Wommack, FAIA, as the moderator, opened the discussion by emphasizing the importance of what we are exposed to when we first begin to develop our values, and how the initial experiences in our career help form us for the future.

The panelists sat in an orderly row in front of the lecture room and each briefly spoke on what it was like working with architects such as Frank Welch, or for firms like Oglesby Greene. Continuing the legacy, these architects learned how to be architects working for small firms and understanding how each component fits together when designing a building.

After the panel discussion, each panel member prepared a short presentation to showcase how the lessons they had learned from their mentors translates into the work that they are doing today.

Thad Reeves, AIA, of A Gruppo Architects, emphasized “being closer to the streets” working for Oglesby Greene, and how he is now a contractor for the houses he designs because in the past once the design was out of his hands the care for detail would drop off. Scott Marek, AIA, of Marek Architecture, quoted Frank Welch when designing homes in saying that there should be “surprises when you go into a home.” Marek also made a point of incorporating the surrounding environment into his designs, a way of blurring the interior and the exterior. Rizi Faruqui, AIA, of Far + Dang, also spoke about pulling what is outside into the interior with the inclusion of natural light and “setting” the house into the landscape, like Frank Welch’s the Birthday.

Absorbing the ideas and the wisdom that each presenter brought with them, I was left wondering about the little girl in the front and how she will grow up being exposed to this kind of environment. We are all children learning how to operate in the world effectively, but by learning from mentors such as these architects, we can excel faster. It is important to consider now how to be a better mentor to those around us, and how to learn from each other while we all strive towards perpetual growth.

Catch our next Small Firms Roundtable in September!