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Gensler Voices: Willie Kirkpatrick, Gensler Houston

This Q&A is part of a series of interviews with Gensler architects, designers, and others in the firm about their career journey, and the impact that design and architecture can have on our communities and enhancing the human experience. Here, we sit down with Willie Kirkpatrick, architect, Gensler Houston:

What brought you to Gensler?

I was employed at another firm when a friend and employee at Gensler called and suggested I would be a good fit for a project that he was working on. I was skeptical but he insisted that the work would be both rewarding and challenging. I interviewed and accepted the offer. I’ve been with Gensler now for 10 years and, as promised, it has been rewarding and challenging.

What was your first introduction to the field of architecture and design?

I was attracted to architecture at the age of 13 when a middle school teacher told me that I would do well at drafting. When I started high school, I had an influential industrial arts teacher who really helped me see that architecture was what I wanted to do. After qualifying for the Texas High School Industrial Arts Competition, I received a Lyons Club Scholarship, which I used to attend Texas Tech University.

What type of projects are you currently working on right now?

Presently, I am the senior project manager overseeing construction administration on a 13-story courthouse building in Austin, Texas. This project is very technical, which is exciting for me because every day brings a new set of challenges.

If you could choose anyone, who would you like to design a project for?

There’s not a person who I can say I’d like to design a building for. However, I would love to be part of a project designing a racetrack complex. I am a huge fan of auto racing and would love to work on a facility that is similar to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix hotel that literally has the racetrack built through the hotel.

What do you like best about working as a senior project manager?

The best thing about it is the opportunity to solve problems and bring perspective to different situations. In all of my project roles, I have played the part of manager, mediator, confidant, and trusted advisor to the client. At the end of the day, what I like most about the projects that I have worked on is the satisfaction of knowing that my team and I have helped to create something that others enjoy experiencing.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I am a big fan of Leonardo da Vinci’s work and inventions. In addition, I find inspiration in reading books on biblical history, especially understanding how things were built in ancient kingdoms that remain today, wood working, and automotive and industrial design.

What excites you most about the future?

Seeing the willingness of the younger architects who go out into the field to understand their craft firsthand. I want to teach younger architects how to navigate through work in the field by getting them involved in site walks. It is exciting for me to have a hand in showing them the process.

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