Eddie Fortuna, Assoc. AIA
Credit: Eddie Fortuna, Assoc. AIA

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Last Page: Emerging Leaders

We asked four participants of this year’s class of the AIA Dallas Emerging Leaders Program to share with us items on their desks.

Ashlie Bird, Assoc. AIA
Designer at WDG Architecture

My desk essentials are a combination of personal flair and professional necessities. I bike to work with headphones to catch up on podcasts and new music. Whenever I need to work through a detail or revise an elevation trace paper is the first thing I reach for. I am a huge fan of giraffes, so I keep this antiqued brass one close for good luck. My plant babies keep my desk green and lively; occasionally, I even liven my space up with flowers. The scale is mostly used to wave down passing coworkers and the speaker is great for providing a little white noise during early morning or late-night study sessions. Note taking, sketching, and the many random ideas scribbled in between go into my notebook as a record of my day to day life. A little chapstick keeps me hydrated after chatting with coworkers and clients. Last but not least, water is the elixir of life, so I keep a water bottle on my desk for myself and my plant babies.

Cristina Driver, Assoc. AIA
Associate at CallisonRTKL

The selected objects I keep at my desk are items that hold value both on a personal and business level. As a composition, they express a fraction of my work ethic and personality.

Many of them are useful tools… pens, markers, and trace, because I feel more in control depicting my ideas, corrections and suggestions by the connection of pencil to paper.

The other objects are sentimental reminders of my passions…family, nature, traveling, architecture, and music. The photograph of my parents sitting with my twin sister and I remind me of their unconditional love, support and commitment they have given us over the years. Without them, I wouldn’t be an educated, grateful and emerging leader today.

I firmly believe we are who we are by the experiences we go through. Implementing my leadership skills at the office and in the community are a challenge, yet these objects propel me to keep moving forward.

Blake Thames, AIA
Project Designer at GFF

It's a conversation that I find myself having on a near weekly basis.

“Yes, this is a giraffe mug.”

And, “No, I’m not particularly fond of giraffes.”

It was a gift, though I’m somewhat embarrassed to say I can neither remember the occasion or the giver. More importantly, it just happened to be the only mug in my possession as I joined the real world and developed a daily habit of downing dark roast.

As far as mugs go; it isn’t very handsome, it isn’t especially well crafted, and truth be told, it’s somewhat cumbersome to use. As it turns out, a giraffe head doesn’t make a very comfortable handle.

Despite its shortcomings and lack of any real sentimental value, this odd little voronoi-patterned vessel has adorned my desk for almost 8 years, one of the few constants in the ever-evolving pile of creative clutter that is my desk, a faithful companion in my daily ritual consumption of caffeine.

No, I’m not particularly fond of giraffes.

But I’ve grown to be quite fond of this giraffe. It has personality.

Emily Collins, Assoc. AIA
Project Manager at SHM Architects

This collection of objects from my desk tells the story of who I am as a designer and at the same time correlates to who I am in a broader sense. My background is in both interiors and architecture, and I am lucky enough to practice both of these with a professional focus in single family, high-end residential design. My desk (and home in general) are always littered with samples – thus the carpet and finish sample – the more eclectic the better. The ARE Review Manual and headphones represent a constant strive, and sometimes struggle, to continue educating myself with books or podcasts. Lastly, and most importantly, the pens, scale, and scale figure suggest balance and proportion, two principles I try to keep in mind in my daily work and craft, but also in the bigger sense as I balance family (I’m a new mom) and career.


Contributed and photographed by Eddie Fortuna, Assoc. AIA, an architectural designer at Omniplan.