Profile: Emily Henry
Hon. AIA Dallas
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Profile: Emily Henry
Emily Henry is a landscape architect and principal at Studio Outside in Dallas. In January, she also assumed the presidency of the Dallas Center for Architecture Foundation. Nate Eudaly recently visited with Emily to learn about her background and goals as DCFA Board president.
Emily, congratulations on the DCFA Presidency! Please share with our Columns readers about where you grew up and tell us about your family and childhood interests.
My early years were spent in Macon, Georgia, and then we moved to Augusta when my dad began medical school. I have fond memories of my dad’s achievements while he was in medical school. He graduated first in his class and was named the Physician’s Physician. After he finished medical school, we moved back to Macon for him to begin his neurology practice. My dad had lots of interesting cases and was able to help many people in our community. My mom is from England, which expanded my worldview.
My mom and dad both encouraged me to develop my scientific and creative interests and aptitudes. My mom encouraged me to take piano lessons, and I also learned to play the guitar and drums. My dad designed furniture, which fostered my interest in design. I liked languages and the arts, and I was also very active in sports. I was like the little boy my dad never had. I spent a lot of time in blue Umbros (soccer shorts) and a dirty T-shirt. Playing soccer, I developed leadership skills. Starting in the eighth grade, my coach would work with our team to develop a mission for the season that included strategies and goals to win our games. I have continued to apply these concepts throughout my years of school and working career.
What influenced you to become a landscape architect?
I attended the University of Georgia with a goal of meeting many people from different backgrounds. I started as an advertising major but switched to landscape architecture. The combination of creativity and designing interesting spaces was very appealing to me. My favorite courses focused on ecology and sustainable processes that have a low impact on the natural environment. My senior project, inspired by my dad’s work and his impact on people’s lives, was to design a healing space at an existing children’s hospital in Macon to provide a therapeutic environment for the patient, families and the dedicated doctors, nurses and staff. I lost my dad in 2009. His influence continues to inspire me in my work.
What brought you to Dallas?
When I graduated, I chose to move to a larger city. I chose Austin rather than the obvious choice of Atlanta because Austin seemed more interesting. There, I started work at Land Design Partners (eventually acquired by Stantec). My husband, Josh, and I met at the University of Georgia and after dating long-distance for two years, I decided to move to Dallas to join him. With the move also came a new company. I was attracted to the culture and projects at TBG and joined them about 12 years ago. For my first eight years at TBG, I worked on a cross section of projects, which gave me a broad base of experiences. Since I have always enjoyed meeting and interacting with people, I spent the majority of my time creating new relationships and opportunities for TBG. In my new role at Studio Outside, I lead the business development initiatives for the firm and hope to grow the exposure and influence of the firm’s talent and creativity both locally and nationally.
Tell us about your family.
My husband, Josh, works for M-Files, a business software firm where he uses both his creative and technical skills. We have two daughters, Isabel, 5, and Claire, 2, who both have my husband’s red, curly hair. They attend a Spanish immersion school, and the oldest now speaks fluent Spanish.
What hobbies do you have, and what do you do to unwind?
I enjoy playing guitar and sometimes play the drums. I like to paint and attend concerts. I appreciate most styles of music, especially singer/songwriter artists like Patty Griffin, and I am an unapologetic Pearl Jam fan. My husband is the musical expert, so he keeps me educated from the earliest influencers to the latest hit makers.
What are some of North Texas’ strengths?
Even though North Texas is the fourth-largest metro area in the country, its communities feel like a small town. We have a diverse economy influenced by both domestic and international companies. Dallas is still a young city that is maturing into a great, vibrant one. Individuals can get involved and make a positive impact on this growth.
Credit: Shirley Che
What are some key areas where our region needs to improve?
Our region still needs to more fully address social inequities, physical barriers, and segregation issues. We also must deal with the problems of homelessness and childhood poverty. We need to eliminate socioeconomic disparities and strengthen our urban fabric in an inclusive fashion.
Favorite landscape/public spaces—what do you like about them?
I like the great public spaces in Atlanta, including Piedmont and Chastain parks. They are both very urban and inclusive. I’ve been able to spend time in Innsbruck, Austria, and enjoyed their great trail system and multimodal transportation system.
Which landscape architects have influenced you?
I am inspired by the work of Fredrick Law Olmstead. He created simple spaces that created the ultimate respite for all walks of life to enjoy.
What advice would you give a landscape architecture intern starting in practice?
Try to work on a wide variety of projects and interact with a multitude of people. Invest in your community while being patient and continuing to learn. Slowly but surely, you’ll find your way.
What are the greatest challenges facing the landscape architecture profession?
The landscape architecture profession is in an interesting place. In general, our field is in tune with the massive and almost overwhelming issues and challenges that impact our world. We must continue to be aware, responsible and intentional. The New Landscape Declaration, which was issued in 2016 by the Landscape Architecture Foundation, outlines key goals that our profession must strive for.
What are your primary goals as DCFA president?
My biggest goal is to empower the DCFA board to be more engaged and involved. I am hoping to create task forces that focus on growing programming partnerships, defining new financial strategies, and leading a capital campaign for our new space in Republic Center. This new home allows us to grow our influence and to embrace a broad spectrum of the design community as well as architectural enthusiasts, tourists, students, and beyond. The Foundation is growing and as it gains momentum, the partnership between DCFA and AIA Dallas is growing stronger. We are excited to see how the new center will become a resource for the architectural industry and the community at large. The new downtown location will strengthen our connections, as it is directly across from the new Pacific Plaza and a short walk from DART and the McKinney Avenue Trolley.
What inspires you as a professional?
Since Dallas is a young city, there are great opportunities ahead, I want to collaborate with others and continue to be surrounded with motivated and passionate people as we work toward the common goal of making Dallas a better community.
What guests, living or deceased, would you have at your ideal dinner party?
I’d invite musicians Otis Redding and Eddie Vedder. I’d love to have Steve Martin, and I’d also include my paternal grandfather, Jimmy Shoffner, a thoughtful watercolor painter who passed away when I was still very young.
Interview conducted by Nate Eudaly, Hon. AIA Dallas, executive director of The Dallas Architecture Forum.