Architects talking to Architects

February 25, 2013 — 38 Comments

I recently took the position of Chair of the Digital Communications Committee with the Texas Society of Architects, the state level entity of the American Institute of Architects. I am leading a committee made up of 11 other dynamic architecture type people and it is the charge of our committee to evaluate and develop some of the content that goes on to the TSA website.

There are a bunch of ideas that I’ve had for posts on my own site that for one reason or another weren’t going to work. I still think they would make for interesting reading so I am trying to bring them to the TSA website. One of the things that I wanted to change about that site is to give a voice to the individual – focus on the people who are architects. One of the ways I think we can bring attention to the individual is to have a weekly series titled ‘Architects talking to Architects.’


Architects talking to architects BandW

The premise for this weekly series is very simple: identify individuals at various stages of their architectural careers (students, interns, young licensed architects and seasoned architects) and ask them to respond to the same list of questions. Part of the reason I think this would be an interesting series is that it would focus on the traits or characteristics that most architects seem to share with one another, as well as celebrate our differences as individuals.

Every person on the TSA Digital Communications Committee has come up with a list of ten potential questions and we are currently in the process of evaluating which ten would make for the most interesting to have our interviewees answer. To give you an idea of how these articles might exist, I thought I would act as the test case. I would really like to hear (read) your input if you can afford me the time and the effort.


Texas Society of Architects Banner

Bob Borson Architect

When did you know you wanted to be an architect?

This is an easy question for me to answer because I have always wanted to be an Architect – even before I knew that the word “architect” even existed. The key word in that previous sentence is “knew” because I am at a loss to explain how a 5-year-old would know such a thing. I can also tell you that the moment this decision was clarified in my mind was on Christmas day, 1973, when I was 5 years old. That year I received from Santa Claus; a T-square, an orange 45 degree triangle, and a laptop drafting board

Where did you go to college? Is there anything about the architectural education experience that you have fond memories of?

I graduated rom the University of Texas in Austin in 1992 with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. It was a 5 year degree even though I took 6 years to complete it. Part of the reason it took me some extra time is that I participated in a travel abroad program and it changed how I viewed the world. Ever since that experience, I have endeavored to travel more extensively as well as expose my own child to other cultures and people.

How do you spend your time at the office?

I am the third man on the totem pole that has eight people on it – which means I am the living embodiment of “middle management.” I spend most of my time on the front and back ends of projects – the parts that deal with other people outside the office … Design and Construction Administration. I get to work typically around 7:15 each morning and leave at 5:00 to pick my daughter up from school. Most of the time in between is spent on the phone or writing emails.

Where do you turn for inspiration? How do you find it?

Simply looking at the everyday items from my environment is a good start when it comes to finding inspiration. Seeing something that you like, and then taking the time to understand why you like it, is a very rewarding process that frequently affects the way you ultimately see a thing. Other than that, I am deluged with design magazines and trade periodicals daily and while the information is sometimes outdated by the time I see it, the process of critically looking at what other designers are doing is very inspirational.

How do you spend your time when you aren’t working? Are you always an architect?

I have mentioned to several of my friends that I don’t think architects have hobbies – most of what they do in their off time are either an extension of their job or simply the development of a skill set that benefits their ability of an architect. That having been said, I do like to cook barbecue. Every summer I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the backyard standing around my smoker trying to the right color of blue smoke. It’s the sort of hobby that benefits my close friends. I am about to try my hand and crafting my own beer – should be interesting.

Do you have a favorite City?

It has to be Paris. I have been several times myself and a few years ago, I took my wife and then 5-year-old daughter there on vacation. I really like the speed at which the city moves, but it’s also easy to love the food, the museums and the architecture. What made this last trip so great – something that I hadn’t ever taken the time to appreciate before – was the number of outstanding parks and green spaces there were to enjoy. Our hotel was across the street from the Tuileries Garden and we spent many evenings walking the grounds while my daughter chased the birds.

Do you have a favorite building?

It is almost impossible for an architect to tell you what their favourite building might be and I’m no different. I can tell you that one of my current favourites is the Galeries de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie Comparée (Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy), part of the French Muséum national d’histoire naturelle (Natural Museum of Natural History) located within the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. The building is done in an architectural style called ‘Naturalism’, sort of generic term for Art Nouveau, Organic Architecture, and Expressionism. The building has seen better days but it doesn’t take an architect to appreciate some truly magnificent spaces and forms.

If you weren’t an architect, what do you think you would be doing?

I used to think that my backup plan was to become a chef. I think a lot of architects had this as a possible career trajectory, something that I find particularly interesting. If I could have been a chef who never had to wash dishes, this backup plan might have been my primary plan.

Do you have a particular sort or brand pen that you prefer over all others?

I used to be a sharpie man all the way but recently I started using the Flair felt tip pen from Papermate. I don’t like using ballpoint pens – it’s literally as if I’ve never written before if I try to use one. I have a few fountain tip pens but since I am left-handed, dragging my hand through fresh wet ink hasn’t worked out too well.

Do you still sketch? Do you think it’s a valuable skill in today’s marketplace considering the proliferation of digital renderings?

 I do sketch even though I sketch as part of a problem solving process rather than time and place drawings. Maybe it’s because I came out of college at a time when nobody was using computers but I still think there is something about the speed at which a sketch comes to life that requires a bit more patience. As a result of this reduced pace, I think I rely on a little more 3-dimensional thinking inside my head and I believe this has helped develop my ability to think spatially.


Bob Borson is an architect practising in Dallas, Texas, and writes a blog on what it’s like to be and work with an architect. To find out more, visit Life of an Architect, catch up with Bob on Facebook, or follow Bob on twitter @bobborson 


So there it is – a sample of what these weekly architect profiles might look like – of course we haven’t settled on the questions yet. Maybe there should be fewer questions, maybe the questions should have some facet to them that might highlight the nuances between the different levels of experience between the architects who respond. At any rate, I think this is a weekly series that would be of some value to all architects and soon to be architects. There is something to be said for finding out that we are not that dissimilar yet we are all still individuals.

I, for one, am very excited about the possibilities. I would really like to hear your thoughts on the idea and thank you in advance for sharing them with me.



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  • LGT

    As a student, here I go:

    1. It was 2009. I was in math class and was able to draw a complex figure from geometry lesson, and teaches was impressed and suggested that i pursue a calling of an Architect. Now i was a ,,bad boy” , lots of fights and stuff and was thinking: ,,It is a girl calling, I’m not going to draw some squared houses, barns and flowers” But later I ended up on internet, researching where i ,,met” Mies Van de Rohe,FLR etc. And i was amazed, and since i didn’t like to study theoretecal, and was more to practical branch of subjects. I started going to arch classes and was in love, even it was a girly thing.

    2. Its college in Serbia, so you probably don’t know much about it. But Architectural experience, well head hurts from bumping in poles while walking, because i was to detracted by looking in majestic facade in my local town, short after i enrolled and started paying attention.

    3. Well, because i am a student i haven’t started working yet, but was in some offices doing some volunteer work gathering ,,points” for CV and later job
    applications. Mostly i work till the cows starts flying, Buried beneath pepper and scribbles of columns, walls and such. But I injoy a playfull work station, where everyone works but still find a time in work day to crack some joke and laugh.

    4. Geometry, and ,,God is in details”, mechanics, biology, microbiology, and people/purpose of an building and clients wishes. in short, what is the purpose of a building, what kind of message should transmit, whats are necessities of a urban part of community etc , do a basic scheme for constitutions and make it pretty.

    5. well, maybe Prague, but there is always some distant parts of every town that is ancient and can see the time progress of a Town and that is my favorite part of any town.

    6. I don’t have favorite building. Why: well… its hard, the building can be a work of art, but if its purpose is taking a toll over its beauty, its just a monument. The beauty and price of a building is measured by happiness of a people that are occupying it.

    7. I would be a music producer/painter/inventor. that was my original calling before architecture came and ruin it . 😀

    8. There arent many brands of pen in my country. So my response would be rather dull, i often use ink based pen Stabilo point 88, fine 0.4 , and graphite Staedtler 777 0.5/0.3

    9. Of Course, sketching is still a foundation for architectural thinking. Before i put everything in Autocad, or 3ds max for basic conception i sketch it first to get a feel of what it should look like when it was realised.

  • Sheri

    How did you manage to find three identical men to sit around the table? Is the hair color, cut and style a prerequisite? Guess it is the new black…
    Hope you are searching for some diversity. Lol!

    • How did you think I was able to work AND blog AND tweet/Facebook? I have successfully cloned myself!

  • Small Town

    Started “crafting” my own beer a few years back…Experimentation coupled with the need for a refined process and patience makes homebrewing a perfect hobby for an architect.

  • Paul Gerber

    Hey Bob…interesting Q & A’s…so many possibilities for expansion!

    One lil correction you may want to make (or maybe not, a semi-bilingual Canadian spec writer might be the only one to pick it up) is in your answer to your favourite building…musée national d’histoire naturelle…you just “frenchified” (I’m claiming invention of that term) the word museum 😉

    • I’ll take your word on it but I got that spelling directly off the museum’s website. Maybe French and French Canadian are different?

      or maybe I still messed it up – either way, I’ve moved on already. 🙂

  • Would make a great podcast series… : )

  • I love this list and the idea! As a former local IIDA board member, I know it’s always a challenge to reach out to the broader non-design community, and this is a great way to do it.

    Questions like favorite city, hobby, and what you would have been instead. can be the most telling about a personality, and really do create a bridge between the architect/designer and our clients. Personally, my love of sports has been one of the best tools I have in interacting with clients outside of the project context. It’s nice way to humanize a profession that seems kind of snooty.

  • Ryan


    I, along with my first year architecture class of Mississippi State University visited Dallas this past weekend to see the arts district, visit fort worth, and wander downtown. I must say that I don’t think any of us expected the high caliber architecture around the city. The Perot Museum was also quite incredible, and I thank you for covering it this past year, it gave me a bit of a leg up on my classmates when it came to knowing something about the architect/design. I follow your blog closely and I feel very strongly that it has influenced the path of my education, or at least how I find application to some of the projects we work on.

  • David G

    I think that it is a good set of questions, and about the right legnth, but It would be nice to see one or two questions that get a little more into the level of experience and/or how they got to their current stage of their career.

    • yes – I think we need some a little more meaty and some that are less meaty. I don’t want to make it pithy but questions like “Which bug do you hate more, ants or mosquitoes?” has a role to play here.

  • Rick Wolnitzek, @Architekwiki

    Once you get this initiated with several interviewees, perhaps introduce one question at a time for each member of your audience to answer through the comments. I think it would be interesting to see all the perspectives. As a practical matter you will run out of interviewees eventually, but there is always a new question to pose.

    • it would take a long time to run out of interviewees but I get your point. I like the idea of presenting a question to the readers at the end of each post, maybe once we get the series established we can work something like that in. Nothing worse than a question that nobody responds to …

  • craig

    Hi, Bob. I love your concept of the Q & A. I wonder if the question of where one went to college might be an opening for snobbism? If one person went to a minor school, or no school at all, I wonder is others would feel superior and and be dismissive of their input?

    • Fair point. I’m hoping that there isn’t much snobbery that would appear because I think that we have such good programs here in Texas (that many of our interviewees probably attended) that it would be of interest to show the readers that these amazing people when to schools that they (the reader) have access to.

      Maybe I am projecting but I would be disappointed if anyone was dismissive of the input based on where someone went to college.

  • I think it’s a great way for you all (architects) to interact. Do you interact?

    • yes – of course. I’d even say that we spend too much time talking to one another. It’s the talking to those outside our particular demographic that I am most interested in. Here’s hoping

  • Kristi

    Looks great, Bob! Do it!

  • I love the first photo. Shines a whole new light on me talking to myself. My shrink would appreciate it. Actually architects can’t afford shrinks so we self analysis .

  • Texas Society of Architects

    Love it! Thanks so much for everything you’re doing for us, Bob. Can’t wait to see how this develops. The top photo is hilarious, by the way!

    • Thanks – we have a great opportunity before us, I am looking forward to the process!

  • Guest

    This is

  • Sophia

    This is great. I was a newsletter editor for a chapter of a professional organization (environmental focus) and we did a little column called “meet a member.” It was a similar ideas as this, but your questions are much more interesting! The questions you have here seem like they could be answered by someone no matter where they are in their career. I think the length is just right, people can read through it fairly quickly but still get a sense of what this person is about.

    • we still need to vet the questions a bit but the basic framework is in place. Getting to know the people behind the firm names is the most exciting part

  • Jyotsna

    Great questions, Bob. It will also be interesting to know how social media and access to all of this new information (especially about materials) has changed architectural practice. I am an architect working with a general contractor and often we have clients who come to us with opinions formed based on what they read “on the internet” . I wonder how architects deal with separating the grain from the chaff.

    • Since these initial interviews will be fairly short, we will have the ability to see how people are reacting to them. If we can see that there are some holes in the process, or that we need to evolve the questions to include or focus on other aspects, we will be able to make course corrections. That’s the cool part of social media – the real time component that allows for quicker evaluation.


  • Connie Lee

    I think the questions should give the architect an opportunity to speak more to his philosophy when working with a client. As a designer there is a level of respect we have for architects and the job they do but there is also a disconnect.

    • our initial goal for the questions was to convey the personality of the individual we were interviewing. I would hope that over time, the interviews will evolve to include more aspects.

      Thanks Connie

  • Our local AIA Chapter (AIA Columbus) has embarked on a similar project – they’ve been filming interviews local architects on various topics and will compile the interviews into one video to be shown at the chapter meeting (and other places) in celebration of the chapter’s 100th birthday in May. I took part and was honored to be able to discuss architecture with some great people from our area!

    • That’s a great idea – will you make sure to send me a link when it becomes available to view online? I would love to see how it turns out.

  • Karen Braitmayer

    Hi Bob – I wonder about exploring the traits or attitudes that lead folks to the place in Architecture as a profession that suits them. For example, I don’t provide traditional architectural services, and yet my career path is much like others – it just took a different twist. Some architects love the business of the profession, some teach, some work within institutions or companies. This would be a great opportunity to highlight the diversity of career options within the field. Great idea!

    • I think that is a great idea! To get things kick started, everyone serving on the committee has been tasked with identifying 5 people to “interview” and they have ben charge to work in their own demographic. FOr this to work AND be of value, we need to talk with as many people as possible so that the many faces of architecture are represented.

  • Collin Zalesak

    I think this is a great idea. I think you could actually expand on a few questions though such as:

    Sketch or Computer?
    Sketch: What type of media and why?
    Computer: What program and why?

    What is your favorite part of a project?
    Do you enjoy site visits?

    If you could design anything what would it be and why?
    (Commercial, residential, healthcare, historical, etc.)

    Do you prefer a larger firm or smaller firm, why?

    These questions interest me because I am a graduate student and I will be done with my master next May, and I am trying to get a broader sense of what firms are actually like and what is happening in the so called “real world.”


    • Hi Collin – I believe all of the additional questions you’ve listed have been submitted for consideration. The trick now is how to choose the best group that can accurately reflect the interests and curiosities of those we hope will want to read these articles.

      At any rate, you represent part of the group we are trying to acknowledge so I am really happy you think this might be a good idea.