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February 24th, 2012 - Kelley Chambers

All in a Day’s Work: Architect


okcBIZ writer Kelley Chambers shadows architect Anthony McDermid, principal at TAParchitecture.


 

In this job market, things are tight, positions are few, and many have decided to look for new occupations. This often occurs in a career field quite different from what one left by choice, or due to a layoff, downsizing or firing. Fortunately, I enjoy my position at okcBIZ, but wanted to see what else might be out there. Who knows? I might want to be an architect some day.

Just the image of an architect sounds glamorous and exciting. Names like Frank Lloyd Wright and I.M. Pei come to mind with innovative designs and iconic masterpieces. Architects proudly stand by their finished projects, and onlookers marvel at their creative process and applaud their work.

But being an architect isn’t just about dreaming up fancy buildings. Anthony McDermid, principal at TAParchitecture, gave okcBIZ a behind-the-scenes look at his profession.

He lives and breathes great design, from his wardrobe to his buildings. Spend any time with him and you’ll know he’s one who loves his work. He explains that he fell into architecture by watching it all around him during his formative years in England.

Bristol, McDermid’s hometown, was heavily bombed by Germany during World War II. This spurred an interest in the people who were designing buildings to replace the old, and rethink the whole city.

“I grew up in an environment that was rebuilding,” he says. “I was surrounded by construction, and I found that to be really exciting.”

This ongoing project was the basis for a young man’s passion that became a life pursuit. As a teenager, McDermid attended a career fair and spoke with an architect.

“From that first connection, I started to fantasize about becoming an architect,” he says.

COLLABORATIVE FIRM
After completing his university education in England, McDermid eventually landed in Oklahoma. But that’s another story. We’re here to talk about his job.

So, what’s an average day for McDermid? He arrives at his desk about 7:30 a.m. and usually doesn’t call it a day for the next 12 hours. But he stresses that those 12 hours are not

spent hunched over a desk. He might be on a conference call, then go into a meeting, then look over design plans from one of his architects on staff, then fulfill his own design responsibilities and then head to a presentation for a potential client.

With an appreciation for the dramatic, McDermid livens up presentations with offers as out-of-leftfield as suggesting he set his hair on fire. So far, it hasn’t come to that.

In the office, he is quick to point out that every project is a collaborative effort. He says the end result of collaboration is that every project gets better.

“Today, collaboration is not an option; it is a requirement,” he says.

McDermid says architecture has evolved from the days when an architect would design a building and then more or less be done with it. Today, TAP offers not only architecture, but planning, interiors and visualization. He says the architects of tomorrow must be prepared for an ever-changing and evolving work environment.

“We are involved in a range of design activities that are far greater than the traditional definition of architecture,” he says.

With 12-hour days, multiple responsibilities and numerous projects, how does McDermid keep things straight and ensure his mark of approval is on every design and plan?

“Every Monday morning, the entire staff meets and we go through every project,” he says. “At least once a week, I get a complete overview.”

Throughout the week, he says, he reviews projects and makes corrections, comments and asks questions until everything is perfect. TAP has 15 employees, half of which are licensed architects.

TAILORED TONY
No conversation with McDermid is complete without asking about his wardrobe. Known for custom-tailored suits, shoes made of exotic skins and ties and pocket squares in severely bright colors, he says it is not a show to present himself as an eccentric architect.

Instead, it’s just who he is. “My clothing is an extension of who I am and my personality,” he says. “This is not artifice; this is me.”

While every architect need not be a fashion plate, he warns, “Aesthetics are an integral part of any designer; beware the badly dressed designer.”

He offers some simple advice to anyone looking toward a career in the industry: “Call an architect and ask to come by and visit.”

“We get calls from high school students all the time,” he says. “I would encourage any young person interested in architecture to pick up the phone and call an architect.”

He says a person should have an interest in and enjoy art, math and science.

Fortunately for him, his main two responsibilities are not a drag.

“Architecture is about getting work and doing work,” he says. “I enjoy both.”

 
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