Architecture's rising stars discuss their path to the profession
Each year AIA's Young Architect Award is presented to a group of early career architects who showcase exceptional leadership and have already provided significant contributions to the architecture profession.
We spoke with six recent recipients about what drew them to architecture, the most fulfilling aspect of being an architect, their dream project, and more. The first part of this series with Young Architect winners is here.
What first drew you to architecture?
Ryan Murphy, AIA, Shamrock+: As a kid I was always tinkering, building a contraption, drawing, or taking apart the old toaster to discover what made it work. This profession melds creativity with functionality, which continues to be my mental playground.
Kimberly Tuttle, AIA, Gensler: I was always interested in architecture, and there are photos of me from a young age with a toolbelt around my waist, helping my father build things. I've always been a creative person, so for me, the big choice was to either pursue architecture or music, and I chose architecture after I spent three years in high school taking architecture courses.
Beresford Pratt, AIA, US Army Corp of Engineers: I was initially exposed to woodworking, fabrication, and graphic design through technical education courses through middle school and high school. I was good at math and slated to be a civil engineer, but I had no idea what architecture was until a teacher invited me to their architecture model making course.
David Wilson, AIA, HGA Architects and Engineers: An obsession with Legos, my dad introducing me to an architect when I was 16, and a high school teacher that started an architectural drafting course on a whim, even though only 4 or 5 of us students signed-up. I was hooked.
Brien Graham, AIA, LPA, Inc.: My love for Lego and drawing initially sparked my interest in architecture. The ability to create a building from an idea kept me interested.
Jacob Davis, AIA, archimania: The ability to create space, form, and texture with simple and ordinary materials.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of being an architect?
Murphy: As architects, we’re empowered to create positive change on large and small scales. Our ability to think critically in three dimensions brings people together to solve the world’s problems.
Tuttle: Since I no longer 'practice', the idea of helping early career professionals figure out what they want to do and where they fit into this profession is extremely rewarding. There is no one size fits all, and I truly believe that there is a place for everyone in this profession - it's just figuring out what you're passionate about, what you're good at, and finding the place for you that will support those wants and needs.
Pratt: The diversity in my roles and day to day responsibility varies. As a design manager, educator, and designer I wear so many hats depending on my environment and the people I get the pleasure to engage with.
Wilson: Our “day job” creates a positive impact in communities above and beyond our own selves. Also, starting with a conversation or a sketch and years later seeing the built space in use by our clients never gets old.
Graham: Knowing that I have the opportunity to shape society and the next generation of learners through the schools I help design is an incredible feeling.
Davis: Engaging with clients through a process that reveals to them how design and architecture can reflect their values and enrich their everyday lives.
What is your favorite representation of architecture in culture?
Murphy: I love how a single building can anchor a place. The original Sears Tower didn’t have to be shaped the way is to embody Chicago. The Burj Khalifa didn’t have to be quite so tall to build an entire city around it. Every time I see a photo of the Colosseum, for a split second, I’m still in Rome.
Tuttle: For me, architecture is all about how a building can elevate the experience. The most moving buildings I have ever been in are the great cathedrals in Europe. It's such a magical experience, and I am always in awe of how these buildings were constructed.
Pratt: I would have to be my favorite architect and building by Carlo Scapa, Castelvecchio, because of the simple fact it’s a living breath laboratory centered around extraordinary details and materials, by a glass blower turned self-taught architect. This building explored custom metal working, work working, masonry, light and so much more.
Wilson: I think representations in popular culture don’t properly portray the collaborative and team-oriented aspect required for good architecture. Every building requires countless passionate people, decisions, and years to come into fruition.
Graham: Community centers and libraries are my favorite because they promote togetherness and continual learning.
Davis: When design can elevate existing building stock to enrich communities, enliven streetscapes, and contribute to a more resilient future.
What is your dream project?
Murphy: I’ve always wanted to land in a remote area and build an ideal city from the ground up with people who share my values. We’d use all the best technologies and materials available that preserve our natural resources, protect the planet, and prove what’s possible. I guess I’ll see you on Mars.
Tuttle: Designing my own home one day. I spent a decade designing high-end homes along the coast of Maine, and we go back every summer. One day, we'll be able to own a small piece of land and design a home that connects to the beautiful nature around us.
Pratt: I would love to work on a small design build community project that allows community members to be active contributors in both the design and construction process. These type of full circle projects turn into mobile active learning classrooms that educate everyone engaged.
Wilson: Any project with a large community impact, small environmental footprint, and a collaborative, inspiring client.
Graham: I would love to design a school that my children would attend.
Davis: The next one…