Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Reginald Thomas

New York, New Jersey Reginald L. Thomas, AIA has garnered over twenty years’ experience working with a diverse group of distinguished architectural/design firms in New York City.  Reginald L. Thomas Architect LLC specializes in historically based, high-end, residential projects. Recently, he has added commercial and institutional work to the firm’s diverse clientele. His work has been featured in several prestigious publications, notably The New York Times and Architectural Digest.

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ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect? 

  • I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was 10 years old. During a weekend visit to the local art store to purchase paints, a how to book on architectural rendering caught my eye.   I remember thinking that the floor plans seemed magical.
  • We can thank Mike Brady, of the then popular Sitcom, the Brady Bunch, for that.  My first introduction to renderings and models came from watching the episodes after school and I was hooked.
  • Growing up in New York City, however, I visited the Museum of Natural History and MOMA regularly.  I was fascinated by the dioramas at the Museum of Natural History and the artwork at the MOMA and so at first, I dreamt of being an artist and being able to create this kind of beauty.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?    

  • I grew up in the South Bronx, so the first challenge was of course, money.  I fretted about how I was going to pay for college or even how I was going to apply to college.  It was stressful to think that I would have to help my siblings after college and therefore not be able to realize my own dreams.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?   

  • I’ve had the pleasure of working with corporate giants, entertainment and sports celebrities as well as hard working people who are interested in living in beautiful spaces. All are special to me.  Each project has its own individual story However, I have had clients that allowed me to design and build every inch of their space including the furniture. That’s amazing in today’s climate.

How does your family support what you do?    

  • College was a priority in my household as both my parents attended college.  My dad for his Associates Degree and my mother for her Master’s in Education.  , Although I did not have money I had an abundance of support for what I wanted to accomplish and an expectation that I get there.

How do Architects measure success?   

  • I believe versatility is a skill we all value as designers. We build projects that are beautiful as well as functional. Being able to create an aesthetically pleasing space to satisfy each of my client’s specific   taste and at the same time ensuring that it functions is its own reward.

What matters most to you in design?

What do you hope to achieve over the next 2 years? 5 years?

  • To grow my business using all of the experience I’ve garnered over the last 30 years in multiple jurisdictions.
  • Like most artists, I also wish to push the barriers of my creativity while remaining true to the traditional and timeless nature of my designs.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?    

  • Paul Rudolph for salesmanship, talent, and cultural navigation skills which were beyond belief
  • Frank Lloyd for his skill, as well as his ability to convince his clients to be daring and tenacious.
  • Julia Morgan for her dedication and ability when she was the only one, and her clients who recognized and rewarded her abilities.

Do you have a coach or mentor?

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why?

  • The Great Pyramids of Giza. They are pure form, functional and beautiful.  It was once written by an early 19th century explorer who catalogued the proclivity for ornamentation throughout the known world that what we are able to see of Egyptian Architecture now is this architecture represents the last 2500 of this work in decline, what left of this 5000 year old architectural culture.
  • If that be the case, then how much more glorious the architectural vocabulary of this civilization must be. The elements of order including the concept of hyper style halls must be astounding. These are the elements that make an edifice “timeless.”
  • Notre Dame du Haut: The building teaches the intangibles of architecture as art. How does one use light as a design element?  Most people will never even notice how the intangible shapes made by light in their space let alone the effects on their psychological health.
  • The Mildred B Cooper Memorial Chapel: The boundaries that identify characteristics of nature and the difference from manmade structures are so blurred I this building that it is magical. I think in this design he did make his mentor proud. It is truly great work.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades? 

  • I think we are finally reaching the point where we are accepting the fact that we are part of a global community.  That means a true understanding, in real time, of the relationship and importance of urban design, architecture and interior design etc. to the human conditions.
  • Our use of technology will continue to grow at a rapid pace and architects will be required to leverage their expertise to benefit the world community especially in the areas of sustainability, and resilience.
  • I am most excited by the possibility of the profession as the lead, taking on the real-estate profession as developers

What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries?

  • The digital drafting board and smart drafting solutions. The stylus is back, Instant 3d models and the expansion of BIM as a tool.
  • Wireless outlets
  • ASCII, GPS, LiDAR technology continue to advance. Assisting historic preservation giving a vision of what was formally unseen thereby assisting design and limiting errors.
  • 3d modeling, as a tool, will advance to the point that we will grow more independent of contractors and furniture designers

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?  

  • The reading of a Pattern Language. The book continues to teach me to think in layers until I get to the optimum solution.
  • Jean Michele Frank: The comprehensive business model that he practiced was one to be envied and to be emulated.
  • My mentors Max Bond and Richard Dozier.
  • New York City designers that I’ve work for like Peter Marino and Juan Montoya

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

  • A Place of worship on an island site

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

  • I hope to inspire the next generation through visibility. African-American descent represents a very small part of the architectural demographics.
  • I hope to write treatise and guides thereby leaving a guide to others to build on.
  • My suggestion always is to be assiduous; to be relentless, recognizing that  this is a lifelong area of study, one that requires . “long distance runners.”

What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates?

  • The best advice for K-12 is to engage with architects when they come in to your schools on career days.  It is important as this stage to really get a clear understanding of what an architect does and the value of architects’ play in their daily lives.
  • College students: Provide information and honest dialogue on expectations after graduation; how to set reasonable and attainable goals, and lastly the many ways to measure success.
  • Financial guidance on how to plan for a secure retirement.
  • Explain what it means to own one’s own firm.

What does Architecture mean to you? 

  • Architecture is life.  It is the culmination of the aspirations of the human condition at different time periods.
  • Architecture means being conscious of the places and spaces we occupy as humans.  It’s being in the unique position of being able to effect change in the communities welive in a way that is unique to no other profession

What is your design process? 

  • Client interview: Do more listening than writing.
  • Who or what community am I designing for.
  • Identify client particulars not just in program but culturally. How does the client perceive and use space. What is the corporate or family dynamic?
  • Where am I being asked to design?
  • What are the constraints of the site or space?
  • How do I make it function perfectly and at the same time be beautiful?

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

  • Apart from very early on when I wanted to be an artist I have never given thought to being anything else, however, if you were to ask my father, a surgeon would have been his preference.

What is your dream project?  

  • One that encompasses urban planning, landscape architecture, architecture as sculpture, interior design and furniture design; the complete package in the vernacular of the local culture.

What advice do you have for future Executive leaders?  

  • Seek out and work with like-minded people who share your vision and whom you can trust to honestly evaluate, and counsel you.  Also, do not be afraid to delegate or share responsibility giving you the time and space you need as the leader to imagine and create.

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry?    

  • The challenge of finding curious and willing junior staff who are willing to put in the long hours needed to really learn the ins and outs of the profession.
  • Loyalty
  • Finding staff that is willing to learn how to build, even, by drawing the components rather than by cutting and pasting.
  • My hope is that with the advances in Wacom Tablet technology we will have monitors as drafting boards and stylus as pencils causing the young architect to unconsciously pay more attention to what and how the building is being created.

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years?

  • The executive leader must to be able to leverage the power of the internet and especially social media

What are some executive insights you have gained since you have been sitting in the executive leadership seat – or what is one surprise you have encountered as the world of business continues to morph as we speak?    

  • I have been surprised at how much television, social media and the internet have impacted the decisions we now make as leaders.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?   

  • Improving and adapting are keys to longevity and to success.   Be relentless in your desire to grow and learn recognizing that learning is a lifelong pursuit.

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

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

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

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Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Caterina Roiatti of @TRAstudio

Who is Caterina Roiatti?

Caterina Roiatti received her Doctor in Architecture Degree from the IUAV Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia in Italy, she is a Fulbright Scholar and received in 1985 her Master in Architecture from Harvard, where she attended both the GSD, and the Harvard Business School. Prior to founding, in 1995, TRA studio together with her Partner Robert Traboscia, she worked in the modernist offices of Peter Forbes and Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, gained large scale experience at Kohn Pedersen Fox and worked on interiors and identity projects at Vignelli Associates.

She began her own practice in 1995 following a five year association with Mathias Thoerner Design where she was the project architect for several flagship stores worldwide and the coordinator for the branding programs. Having worked in fashion, she understands how, like couture, a well designed interior can empower and improve the user’s self-esteem. TRA studio Architecture pllc, founded in 1995, is the New York based firm led by Caterina Roiatti, AIA, an architect originally from Venice, and Robert Traboscia, an environmental designer and an artist.

For more information: Web Site  ; Facebook Page ; Instagram ; Twitter ; LinkedIn

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect? 

My whole family were architects, as hard as the profession looked, they all loved it.  

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?

This profession presents a new challenge every day, but you get more confident with experience, in the beginning, it is much more difficult to believe that you will find the solution for the project you are working on. Architecture requires endurance, when you are young it is easier to panic.

Any memorable clients or project highlights? 

Always the first “big”, (or bigger), client: the New York Academy of Arts, after eighteen years they are still our Client!

How does your family support what you do? 

I work with my family, my husband is my partner.

How do Architects measure success?

Surviving first, followed by feeling in control, followed by having fun working.

What matters most to you in design? 

Longevity of our projects, timeless design.

What do you hope to achieve over the next 2 years? 5 years? 

I always think I will design a skyscraper, but really all projects are a challenge, so they are all good.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why? 

I like to look at Herzog de Meuron projects, they approach restoration and adaptive reuse with the same surprising solutions they employ when designing new buildings, yet they remain respectful of the context and historic structures. To me preservation/adaptive reuse is not a specialty, it is simply another aspect of design.

Do you have a coach or mentor?

I think you have to mentor yourself first, but my partner is really my most important mentor.

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why? 

The last project we are working on, favorites come and go, depending on what I am preoccupied with at the moment.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades? 

My partner and I often marvel at the fact that architects are more and more needed, technology, sustainability, safety requirements, regulations make the profession more complex, which in turn gives responsibility but also control to architects. Other professions are becoming kind of obsolete, everybody can to a certain extent be their own photographer or graphic designer.

What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries? 

We cannot design anything without 3D modeling, I think programs like Revit will be the norm soon for all disciplines.

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design? 

The eye of my partner Robert Traboscia, nothing goes out without his approval! In general, I am very curious and I look for new information and inspiration everywhere.

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

All, we do everything and get into all challenges. It is amazing how quickly you can become an expert in a new building type, but you always need great consultants. 

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

I would tell them that it can be exciting every day, not many professions can offer that, but if you want to make any real money you have to try to be part of the development process and invest in your own projects. Right now we are trying to get our first development project going, it is very exciting.

What advice would you give aspiring architects?

Study all subjects, you will need to know a little of everything.

What does Architecture mean to you? Lifestyle What is your design process? If you could not be an Architect, what would you be? What is your dream project? The next  What advice do you have for a future Executive leader? 

Executive thinking

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry? 

The first challenge is always to keep the studio financially healthy, we owe it our staff, the second is to recognize bad clients and the most important never do excellent work, not work you might not want to show! 

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years? 

It takes longer than that to be successful 

What are some executive insights you have gained since you have been sitting in the executive leadership seat – or what is one surprise you have encountered as the world of business continues to morph as we speak? 

We are still a small studio, although we have been in business many years, we do learn every day, may be the most important lesson we learned is always strive for more control, not less. More involvement in your projects makes you more essential and, frankly, creates more opportunities for financial reward.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful? 

Are we that old that people see us as successful just because we have been around a long time? I always think someday we will grow up and truly finally be…

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

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

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook