About The AIAAbout The AIA
Eric’s design ability, business acumen, and professional judgment are at the highest level as an architect and workplace peer. His integrity, collegial attitude, and disciplined work ethic are a valuable resource in a competitive, challenging work environment. He is currently professor of practice at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in Saint Louis.
Last architecture book read
Juhani Pallasmaa’s The Embodied Image
How did you make the decision to pursue a career in architecture?
Largely by chance and through the encouragement of others. Growing up I was always drawing, making, building. During my early education, I took every art and drawing class available, but never considered the potential career options related to my interests. By chance, I was offered the opportunity to assist a local architect. His mentorship steered me toward a similar path. I was actually enrolling in an engineering program when the principals of this office intervened and ask that I reconsider. I took their advice; the moment I stepped into an architecture studio I knew I was in the right place.
Where did you go to architecture school?
Oklahoma State University (BArch Professional); Washington University in Saint Louis (MArch Post-Professional); and international programs in Versailles, France (OSU) and Barcelona, Spain (WUSTL).
Did you have a specialization?
No academic specialization, but most of my professional career has focused on Architecture for the Arts.
What do you like best about being an architect?
Learning. The opportunity provided by each project to learn in an immersed environment. Each project brings the opportunity to immerse one’s self into a new place, a new set of circumstance, a new set of challenges, and, of course, new people. This continuous path-process limits repetition and encourages innovation.
A close second is the fact that we have a lasting record and lasting influence of our efforts.
How do you define creativity and apply it to your career?
Creativity in architecture is the poetic resolution of complex circumstance. The balance and synthesis of these many layers of influence is the beauty of our art form.
Do you approach architecture from an artistic or functional starting point? Are the two concepts exclusive?
Research is vital and central to the beginnings of any project. It allows for the thoughtful response to a given need. Having clarity to a project’s intention is also critical in its early stages. The ability to balance both the pragmatic and poetic is what architects do well.
What’s your favorite building and why?
This is an unfair question. The historic and current records are too vast.
If any, who are your role models?
They come from the most unlikely of places, but include family and anyone who makes me realize that I’m capable of doing more, giving more, enriching a community, reaching further, and inspiring me to leave a lasting impression.
What project you’ve worked on are you the proudest of the result?
Saint Louis Art Museum (David Chipperfield Architects with HOK). A six-year endeavor in my career, I was central to the successful development of the project’s most innovative strategies and material qualities.
If you had to choose one of your projects to represent your work, what project would you choose?
The next project . . . because it provides the platform to engage, reconsider, learn, and refine a body of work.
What projects, other than your own work, do you find inspiring?
I think it’s important to look outside our profession for inspiration. Art, History, Fashion, the Vernacular, Language, Music, our Environment, Ecosystems and other industries—the more diverse one’s interests, the more relevant one’s work. The world that we respond to is the largest source of inspiration in my approach. I also believe a representative “body of work” is more important than a single project.
What are your guiding principles for your design work?
We discuss the idea of project tenets—principles or beliefs—quite often in our work: place, program, cultivation, synthesis, performance, realization.
What do you want to be your legacy?
What I value most are former students sending hand-written thank you notes years later, when a client becomes a life-long friend, or the delight that accompanies unsolicited appreciation of our work.