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Friday Feature: Mark

Mar 04, 2011

Mark’s Friday Feature wraps up the series as we have covered almost everyone working in our firm. See the post by MTV’s Get Schooled that started this series.

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Mark. In my tenure with VIA Architecture I’ve lived near and worked in both the Seattle and Vancouver offices. I do a lot of different things – but so does everybody at this firm. In the simplest form of a description, my primary role with VIA is to solve puzzles. The method for that which keeps me running is producing and managing Building Information Model (BIM) files for interesting projects. I’m also good at fixing things for some odd reason. I get to work on cool projects like transit stations and mixed-use residential buildings as well. This requires an involvement of software knowledge with construction & design awareness.

What made you decide to go into your field? Also, what did your family think of your chosen field?
My father is an Electrical Engineer (retired), and had started two consulting firms during his career. Because of that, I was exposed to not only the A&E industry, but what it’s like to be a business owner and manager in that field. Looking back, I pretty much knew at an early age that I would end up in this field. However, where it became clear that it would be Architecture instead of Engineering was probably around high school. The right lobe holds more of my cognitive and perspective than the other.

My parents always wanted (and still want) me to be in a field where I am happy, and have a passion for. They knew what I was getting into, so it wasn’t like I was venturing into uncharted territory.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?
Probably my father, for the reasons given above. For design and pure Architecture, I’ve been blessed in my career to be around a number of people that are genuine practitioners. From them I’ve learned the most. The people around me are excellent teachers that I selfishly steal from as well.

My belief is the best teacher is one who provides inspiration that provokes contemplation. They’re farmers planting seeds. The principals and colleagues in VIA (past and present) also provide inspiration and influence for me on a daily basis. These lessons have no shelf life, are full of fiber and fat-free.

What inspires you?
The divine moment. Sometimes it’s referred to as the ‘Aha!’ moment. This is when the harmonics of an idea combined with the constraints of reality resonate correctly. It’s similar to the act of tuning a stringed musical instrument. The feeling you get when the string is vibrating to the perfect pitch is unquestionable. For application to the profession, one experiences this when they reach a design solution, or puts together the perfect narrative for a report. I’ve experienced this feeling recently even from putting together a specification section for vapor barriers that felt water-tight (pun intended). An epiphany can be a divine moment, but a divine moment is not necessarily a sudden realization.

When these happen, the elation is unparalleled. To seek them out, that’s probably my inspiration and motivation. Another inspiration occurs for me when experiencing a wonderful place that was designed with every element detailed and positioned so that each of these notes make the symphony that the author had intended.

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?
Most successful: The individuals that realize the balance between good design, efficient work habits, and business sustainability.

Specific attributes: Team player. This doesn’t mean that you have to be in the middle of everything.

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)
I don’t believe that the field is growing as much as it is basically adapting. This is a time of major change due to current political, environmental, and relative economic factors. Sustainability has had a huge impact on our field, and it’s just getting started.

On a somewhat related note, I also see a gap that’s growing between the construction savvy and the general design capabilities, in regard to the Architectural work force. Parallel to that is an apparent difference in construction document preparation and production abilities. In the 80’s there were a lot of people joining the workforce out of college that understood how to use the CAD programs that were new and regarded (reluctantly by some) as the future. Yet, as much as a lot of these people were comfortable with how to use the software, they didn’t know how to make it apply to producing a set of construction documents that conformed with the industry standard. Now our field is going through another transition from 2-Dimensional CAD to Building Information Management (BIM) that works in virtual 3D.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that we keep inventing new methods and means to design and produce the medium that will communicate these ideas. However, the basic rules and grasp of constructability and how to produce a drawing that someone could build from are still taking a secondary role. Bottom line: Don’t let the plough and tractor decide what to plant, and where it should grow (another farm reference).

What is the best advice you were ever given?
(Given at different times throughout…)
“The work comes first”
“Don’t be shy”
“Pace yourself”
“Keep it fun”
“Keep it simple”

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?
Pretty much everything listed immediately above with special emphasis on ‘Listening’.

Research is paramount as well. Whether it’s about the technology and products that are out there, the codes that we have to design by, the client’s background and vision, etc…

Never Stop Studying!

Also, keep it fun. If it isn’t, you lose the passion. If you lose the passion, then you’re in the wrong place.