Exclusive ILMA Interview with Kurt Kalafsky, AIA @KurtKalafskyPosted: October 13, 2013
When and why did you decide to become an Architect?
When I was in HS I took some mechanical and architectural drawings classes (yes hand drafting) I really enjoyed it and the teacher encouraged me to pursue it further.
What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?
Setting priorities and committing to a future profession is always challenging with all of the potential distractions on a college campus. I was working during all of my breaks and summer recesses and getting a lot of real office experience while attending Syracuse University. Syracuse was a very design focused school with very little thought put toward what we would actually be doing when we got out. After my third year I choose to transfer to NYIT Old Westbury. While still focusing on a high level of design, most of my professors were also practicing architects. I believe this balance of two very different types of education has helped me to become the Architect that I am today.
Any memorable clients or project highlights?
Every client and project is memorable it its own way, they are all unique with a different set of problems to solve. Ultimately that’s what an Architect is, a problem solver.
How do you balance design with your family life?
I value my family time very much. I get involved with my kid’s activities not just as a spectator but as a coach or a scout leader. I started coaching youth football while I was still in college and I was parents that just dropped their kids off and others that took a more active role. With very little exception, the kids that excelled were the ones whose parents showed an active interest in what their kids were doing. I learned a great deal about parenting dos and don’ts before I ever had children of my own.
How does your family support what you do?
They are my #1 fans and supporters. A little over 20 years ago my wife was pregnant with our first child, we just purchased our first home and I come home one day and tell her I want to quit my steady job and start my own firm with some friends. She was behind me one hundred percent and now we just celebrated the 20th Anniversary The Aztec Corporation and Aztec Architects LLC.
How do Architects measure success?
I can’t speak for all Architects, but I measure it by going to work every day and enjoying what I do. Constantly learning about the industry, business, how other businesses work, what makes people tick…
What matters most to you in design?
Solving the clients problems and making their dreams a reality.
What are the challenges you face realizing your vision?
Getting to know who my client is and what their vision is. Understanding where they’ve been and where they what to go.
What do you hope to achieve over the next 20-30 years?
I don’t put any limits on my future, I guess I’m at a point where I enjoy working with younger people in our profession not only teaching them what I’ve learned but also learning from them.
Who is your favorite Architect? Why?
I have eclectic tastes in architecture, from Michelangelo to Frank Lloyd Wright to Bruce Goff to Richard Meier. I really enjoy architecture that brings nature into the design and reacts to the site and its surroundings regardless of who the designer is.
What is your favorite historic and modern project? Why?
I find the classic lines of St. Peter’s Basilica awe inspiring. The detail that went into it is truly amazing. I also love the Library of Congress in Washington DC, easily my favorite building in a city with so much great architecture. I’m also really enjoying watching the progress of Santiago Calatava’s new Transportation Center at the World Trade Center Site.
Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?
That’s going to be largely up to the next generation of architects to determine. We as a profession face many challenges and if we don’t stay at the forefront of today’s issues political, technology, business…. we will be left behind. We need to continue to show our communities the value that we bring to the table.
Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?
I believe that we are influenced by the totality of our life’s experiences. I don’t believe there is any one person, project or experience that has been life changing for me. I also think we need to keep an open mind to best serve our future clients.
How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?
Keep them excited about learning; if we stop learning we will have no value.
What does Architecture mean to you?
Architecture is both a process and a result. The process of defining the clients’ problem or vision and the process of solving that problem to get the end result that they are looking for.
If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?
I would probably do something outdoors with nature, maybe a park ranger or something in the field of wildlife management.
What is your dream project?
The next one.
You can follow Kurt M Kalafsky on Twitter: @KurtKalafsky.
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