Exclusive ILMA Interview with Tara Imani, AIA @Parthenon1 (Part 2)

What better way to ring in the new year than to highlight one of our new designer colleagues discovered on social media?

Tara Imani, AIA, CSI, is a registered architect and owner of Tara Imani Designs, LLC, a solo practice in Texas, focusing on residential renovations, commercial space planning, and architecture. She has been blogging for over a year now, beginning with her debut blog post on AIA KnowledgeNet in October, 2010 where she explored what is now a commonplace question in the field of architecture: “Is the Architecture Profession in Need of a Makeover Despite the Upturn in the Economy?” (<—You can click on the highlighted title to link to the blog and join the conversation).

The Parthenon ruins in Athens. "For complex visual and psychological reasons, it's an extremely powerful building."

The Parthenon ruins in Athens. “For complex visual and psychological reasons, it’s an extremely powerful building.”

Architect Q&A:

11)   Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?

This is a very interesting question because I try not to be defined by a certain style- I consider myself eclectic.  In thinking more deeply about this, I have to say it was my formal education at Ohio State that has by far been the greatest influence on me.  Sub-consciously when I sit down to design, I think about how we would go about solving various design studio problems and what would Professors Doug Graf, John Regan, Ben Gianni or Mas Kinoshita say about “that idea!”  It is incredible to think what an indelible imprint our design professors make on our creative thought processes.  Not to mention the influence of seeing how other students handle certain design problems.  We learn from each other.

Aside from my background, I draw inspiration and learn new ways of doing things by reading various architecture magazines.  But each client and project is different and it is important to respond to the immediate context, specific program needs, and design based on those parameters while addressing the required jurisdictional planning, building, and ADA codes (which are baseline requirements and should be exceeded).

“Every new project is essentially a blank canvas.”
~ Tara Imani, AIA


12)   Which building type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet?

There are so many building types I have not yet worked on.  I would like to take existing programs and improve them such as Student housing at universities, solving urban and suburban decay, revitalizing neighborhoods, redesigning and adapting existing facilities to new uses.  All of these projects excite me.

I would love to be part of a think tank team that tackles big problems.  I like a challenge and to work with people who want to make a difference and aren’t afraid to try something new.

I’m very entrepreneurial and loved being part of my family’s start-up, creating everything from marketing materials, the company logo, branding our image, hiring new people, determining our core services, implementing new software systems and setting up the daily operations.  Every day was an opportunity to wear many hats.

13)   How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?

I was asked to co-author a book on how to become an architect for emerging architects.  This was in August 2011 and I have yet to complete it.  I was gung-ho about the project and had actually been waiting for an opportunity to write such a book.  However, it has proved more difficult than originally anticipated—due to the rapidly changing A/E/C industry (with Revit, a move to BIM, IPD, and changes to LEED including a new International Green Building Code, etc.).  I was concerned that my lack of certain credentials would impede the book from being read.

The industry has changed so much due to technological advances that “seasoned architects” are in a reverse position of needing to be mentored and re-trained ourselves.

It is impossible to lead others without leading one’s self.”
~ Tara Imani, AIA

I get my inspiration and compass directions from architectural thought leaders such as James Cramer, founder of The Design Futures Council and Design Intelligence whose website and publications offer cutting edge information: www.di.net.  And staying active in social media also helps stay current on what other firms are doing- such as Tweet chats hosted by the AIA or reading posts on www.aia.org ‘s Knowledge Net forum—a place where mostly architects go to ask questions and share hard-won wisdom with one another.

And I look to outside sources in other arenas such Twitter where you can interact with such innovative leaders as Tom Peters, Vala Afshar, Lolly Daskal, and Frank Stephens whose thoughts and ideas can inform architecture in ways our otherwise insular profession has not had in the past.

The Louve Museum in Paris featuring IM Pei's glass pyramid at night

The Louve Museum in Paris featuring IM Pei’s glass pyramid at night

14)   What does Architecture mean to you?

This question reminds me of an ongoing conversation/debate we had on AIA’s Knowledge Net site a few years ago where we all tried to define “What is good design?”  Many of us easily fell back on Vitruvius’s Firmness, Commodity, and Delight (my favorite definition to date) while others said “modern” and still others wanted to focus solely on sustainability which, to me, is an underlying aspect that runs through all areas of design and is a pre-requisite consideration in the earliest stages of the design process.

When I hear the world ‘architecture’, I think of beautiful buildings like the Louvre museum in Paris or the Pantheon in Rome.  Architecture is synonymous with Aesthetics and cannot exist without a parti (French word for concept/diagram); a unifying concept/idea that makes sense of the project’s many parts.  This is what sets mere functional buildings with true architecture—that unspoken feeling of sublime awe when you experience a Gothic Cathedral (or so I’m told… I haven’t been to one- yet).

15)   What is your design process?

My design process is iterative.  It starts with meeting with the client and listening to their needs.  Vetting clients is very important and sometimes (even though as they say “beggars can’t be choosers”) it is best to turn down a project if the client refuses to understand the legal requirements of certain tasks or doesn’t have an adequate budget—unless you can assist with a creative solution to help them find a way to build it for less cost or come up with a way to assist them in raising the necessary funds.

“The client needs to respect the design capabilities and experience of the Architect.”
~ Tara Imani, AIA

Once the project goals, budget, scope of services (what I will do), and the fee (most important) is determined and agreed upon, the next step is to get a signed contract and a retainer fee.  Then, it is appropriate to begin to solve the design problem.

Sometimes, it is not possible to accomplish what I just wrote in the above paragraph as clients might be trying to decide if a particular site or lease space will work—in those cases, I can provide the client with a feasibility study for an agreed upon fee.

A lot of factors come into play that some clients might not be aware of—building codes differ by jurisdiction, fire codes are critical to comply with, occupancy loads are determined by square footages and use, construction budgets will be stretched.  It’s not a matter of merely “drawing up a set of floor plans”.  It’s a matter of orchestrating a confluence of design factors and meeting client expectations.

photo 2

16)   If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?

This is another intriguing question.  For years I was driven by a need to make others around me happy.  This led to being at everyone else’s beck and caw while ignoring my own needs.  It’s a delicate balance to pursue worthy goals without being selfish.

To answer your question more directly: I would like to be a writer or an actor.  I also enjoy dancing and the performing arts, so being an entertainer or speaker would be fun.

I feel I can do anything I set my mind to.

I’ve already mentioned some of my pursuits in play as a child; some of the other interests I had were creative writing, espionage, and organizing messy rooms/drawers/closets (even if it was someone else’s house).

Funny fact about me: At age 34 or so- when I was having a moment of frustration in the family business- I decided I would pursue my hidden desire to be a spy, so I called the FBI and asked them if they were hiring. LOL!  I really did that.  They said yes, they were but that the maximum age to train a new agent was 36.  I did the math and thought that it was too late to do that.  Naturally, I thought of the next thing: being a private detective.  So I opened the Yellow Pages and called a few (there are only a few listed anyway) and got an interview with one.  He was an older, handsome man much like the TV character Matlock.  Without looking at my resume or discussing anything, he looked directly at me across his big wooden brown desk and simply got right to the point and said, “Miss, you don’t want to want to be a Private Detective.” Insert uncomfortable pause. “Trust me.”

Of course, I was not satisfied with his answer. I needed to know specifically why:  Would I have to carry a gun?  Was he ever shot at? I think I asked him if the job required having to sneak around dark alleys at 3:00 a.m.

Well, he wasn’t specific in his responses other than to shake his head yes to all of the above and more.  I could tell his mind was made up so I took his advice and forsook any notions of suburban espionage.

17)   What is your dream project?

I would love to work on a Hollywood set although I’ve heard the pace is maddening.  My dream project is actually writing a book about Julia Morgan and having it made into a screenplay that I would get to co-direct.  I envision it as an epic period piece along the lines of ‘Titanic’ spanning her whole life- like a series- and showing to the finest detail what life was like for women in 1893 Paris when Julia was accepted on her third attempt into the L’Ecole des Beaux Arts.  I’ve envisioned various actresses playing her role from Julia Roberts to Angelina Jolie.  I think John Goodman or Brad Pitt would make a great William Randolph Hearst (Julia’s lifelong client).  So, it sounds like a match made in Heaven!

Click here to read Part 1 of this interview.

Tara’s Contact Info:

Tara Imani Designs 10333 Richmond Avenue, Suite 150 Houston, Texas 77042 Ph: (832) 723-1798 Fax: (832) 300-3230 Email: Tara@TaraImaniDesigns.com

The Villa Almerico-Capra (The Rotunda) by Palladio

The Villa Almerico-Capra (The Rotunda) by Palladio

Also Check Out:

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments.

If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

2013 is going to be great ~ Sending you lots of love, hope, peace, health, happiness and prosperity! 

Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
fax: 973.718.4641
web: http://fc3arch.com
Licensed in NJ, NY, PA, DE, CT.

16 Comments on “Exclusive ILMA Interview with Tara Imani, AIA @Parthenon1 (Part 2)”

  1. wjmarchitect says:

    Great interview- amazing how so many of us found our desire to design when we so young …


  2. Great post Frank…I found the interview so interesting, feel as if I know Tara now….


  3. Hi Frank,

    Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed on your blog. You’ve done an outstanding job adding appropriate links and selecting perfect architectural images to highlight my story.

    I can’t thank you enough for your generosity.

    Happy New Year blessings to you and your family!

    Sincerely yours,


  4. Well planned and executed interview. Questions direct and open to facilitate honest and healthy responses. Tara’s life experience shines and has broadened her resourcefulness and ability to enrich the design process and results for clients. Outward looking and forward thinking are only a few of the many qualities Tara has demonstrated.
    Thank you for this. Great work.


  5. Such a delight to start off the new year with your interview of Tara! Your questions make me feel like I had her over for coffee and now have a trusted friend to confide in. Happy new year to all and best wishes for a creative 2013!


  6. Angela Mazzi says:

    Great interview with one of my favorite introspective architects!


    • Hi Angela,
      It is great to hear from you, too. Thank you for taking time to stop by Frank’s amazing blog and reply to my guest post/interview. I do consider myself an INTJ more than and ENTJ; sometimes being introspective means being introverted (ref the book Quiet by Susan Cain). Anyhow, I look forward to reading your upcoming book. Please keep us posted on its arrival: “Career Crises.”

      And I look forward to meeting you too this year IRL. Let me know if you’ll be attending any of the conventions this year amidst your writing schedule and architectural projects…

      Meanwhile, I’ll see you on Twitter. 🙂


  7. segmation says:

    Did you know that A Branch of the Louvre Museum to be Built in Abu Dhabi?


  8. […] Exclusive ILMA Interview with Tara Imani, AIA @Parthenon1 (Part 2) […]


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