William McDonough is a visionary story-teller that happens to be an architect. When he moved to Charlottesville and took the post as Dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture in 1994, I had also just arrived. His ability to take this complicated process (relatively new to the industry) called sustainability and make it accessible to college students was a tremendous gift to my education. His approach to design was one of asking new questions. He challenges status quo in order find better solutions in ways that have not been asked or thought about in the past.
“A building should be like a tree, it should thrive on the Sun’s energy while embracing its surroundings.” ~ McDonough
This new way of thinking about design shaped my approach to architecture. It gave me permission to ask questions of tried and true answers of those more experienced in the construction industry. His guidance shaped the future of my career showing me a new normal that did not yet exist in the industry. He posed questions to students such as why did it take so many years to add wheels to our luggage? Why do we use something with an explosive tube and hundreds of chemicals to entertain our children (a television)? How can we deliver solutions for buildings that create habitat rather than destroying habitat (vegetated roofs / living system water filtration)? These were new questions to me and a new way of approaching design.
I can’t imagine something being beautiful at this point in history if it’s destroying the planet or causing children to get sick. ~ McDonough
He is not without controversy. However, the successes that he has had outweigh any negatives that blazing new trails might have caused along the way. Teaching me to ask new kinds of questions, not to accept “because that is the way we always do it” as an answer, and showing innovation as an expected outcome changed my view of the profession. He brought in leaders from around the world that were making smarter choices in their own communities. I was introduced to concepts that at the time were done only in the most innovative areas of the design industry. As a student, getting exposure to innovation as if it were standard, gave me a new understanding of the industry.
“How do we love all the children of all the species for all time?” ~ McDonough
William McDonough gave me a goal to strive for through my design career – stop looking for solutions that are “less bad, and start looking for solutions that are good.”
#105architecturalinspirations is a collection of architectural details, buildings, and spaces that inspire me. I am taking on the challenge of finding two projects to spotlight each week in 2015. Hopefully I will be able to keep up and this process of discovery will push me to create better design solutions for my clients as I research and learn more about those projects I enjoy most. I challenge you to add your comments below about this project and to post your own inspirations for all to enjoy.
Full List of previous #105architecturalinspiration posts
10. Richard Meier
14. Magney House