The Young Architects Forum, a program of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the College of Fellows (COF), is organized to address issues of importance to recently licensed architects. The YAF’s online publication CONNECTION, featured Michael Graves Architecture & Design’s design team in their Jet Set Feature Story. Those who participated shared insights in a question and answer format on what it is like working in overseas market as a firm based in the United States. Designers Patrick Burke, Karen Nichols, Trevor Lamb, Tom Argires and Sara Minsley were interviewed by the Young Architects Forum. At various stages in their professional career, they discussed both the firm’s depth and breadth of experience as well as their own personal growth and development as integral parts of the design practice today.
Michael Graves Architecture and Design (MGA&D) is based in Princeton, NJ and New York City. The firm has completed numerous projects overseas and received over 300 awards for design excellence. The firm’s founder, Michael Graves, FAIA (1934-2015) was the recipient of the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement, the AIA Gold Medal, the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton, the Richard H. Driehaus Price, and the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. Today, the practice continues to mentor the next wave of young talent while also taking on large-scale projects in Sri Lanka, India, Egypt, China, Singapore and the United States.
Here are some of the answers and insights from the Interview.
Karen Nichols comments on experiences working with an architect-of-record
“Instead of designing hotels that could be anywhere in the world, we realized that the character could more authentically interpret local vernacular. Typically, we do the design in the U.S., and the technical detailing and documentation are handled by local architects. In the Nile Corniche project, we and our associate HKS produced most of the architectural and interiors documents in the U.S. with advice from the local architect-of-record.”
Sara Minsley comments on her experience working in Sri Lanka
“In a high-rise residential and commercial project we’re working on in Sri Lanka, the towers need to be naturally ventilated. That drove the floor plans and façade design. If this project were happening in the United States, the plans and facades would have been influenced by other practices. In our projects, the architect plays an important role in synthesizing different cultural building practices while still maintaining our aesthetic design goals.”
Tom Argires discusses organizational differences in the build process
“Some countries place the architect at the top of the project responsibility matrix with the project management team and the contractor – slightly different from the American standard. This reversal of roles makes us think about tasks such as negotiation, scheduling, sequencing, and construction techniques through a different lens.”
Trevor Lamb recalls opportunity and growth as a young professional
“MGA&D is good at involving junior designers in larger, international projects at the earliest stages, and thus allows us to observe how seasoned architects in the firm manage clients, project teams, and design. For emerging professionals, this provides invaluable, first hand exposure to a successful framework for how we as a firm like to run these projects.”
Patrick Burke looks back on 35 years of experience outside of the United States
“Instead of designing hotels that could be anywhere in the world (the client actually wanted us to emulate a project we’d designed in Miami), we realized that the character could more authentically interpret local vernacular. Local craftsmen could easily build low-scaled brick and stucco buildings with vaults and domes and create a visitor experience tied to the climate, culture and landscape. This was a great lesson respecting the context.”