How long have you been in the Baltimore/DC area? I’ve been in the area my whole life. I grew up in Bowie, MD, and went to school at the University of Maryland, College Park.
How did you get into design? I was always interested in art as a kid. I took a career aptitude test in high school which indicated that I should be an architect. I was good at math and always enjoyed touring old buildings so I thought it would suit me.
How did you first get involved with NDC? I started volunteering with NDC about a year or two after moving to Baltimore to begin my professional career. I wanted to get more involved with community engagement and design, and be more involved in schematic design. In the field of architecture, when you’re starting out and just doing red lines for the majority of the day, volunteering is a good way to gain additional experience. By volunteering I was able to interact directly with clients, manage meetings, and develop the design at a level that was unavailable to me in the workplace early in my career. So, not only was I doing something good, giving back to the community, but I was also helping to further my professional career. I have probably worked on about 10 or 11 different projects with NDC over the years.
What motivates you to volunteer with NDC? You feel like you’re giving back to the community—really helping people out—while also using your talent for design. It’s an opportunity to have more of a managerial role, more of a hands-on role, than you often get in an office setting.
What do you find most rewarding about your work with NDC? When you have that conversation with the client and they say, “Wow, you really helped me see something that I had never thought of before.” Helping a client visualize what is in their head, but that they haven’t had the chance to really think through. Helping them grasp that dream, so to speak. A lot of the time, you don’t get that kind of experience professionally; often you hear about client wants and needs second-hand. I think hearing feedback firsthand, from the client, is invaluable to the design process.
I think we should have more of the entire design team involved with those kinds of interactions in a corporate world, too. I think it’s important that all the voices are heard, and the only way for all the voices to be heard is if you have a lot of ears listening.
What is inspiring your work now? I recently went to a great conference called Reclaiming Vacant Properties. It really brought home the struggle with vacant housing in America, particularly in the center of the country. In Baltimore, we have a lot of the same issues of vacancy. It’s important that, as designers, we try to this address in any way we can.
I have also recently been serving on the National Resiliency Education Working Group for AIA National, too. Through the group we have been developing ways we can educate architects to think about resilient design, designing to anticipate shocks and stresses like natural disasters. We’ve also discussed aspects of social resiliency, looking at how we can design ways to make our communities more inclusive, but still safe and secure.
Has working with NDC changed the way you practice design? Yes, it makes me want fight more for community input in design. I believe that you can develop a project that both satisfies community needs and project-specific goals budgets. It is important to hear what everyone has to say to establish the design and compromise where necessary to create the best solution for the project.