Studio Sessions Vol.7

Adam Gillett

est. January 2013

How would one describe Adam?  Well, it’s really difficult – and that’s why we’re going to let him describe himself!  Adam has now been with i/A for FIVE years… and to be perfectly honest – he has become an enormous asset to everyone on the team.  Between his seemingly limitless knowledge of mainstream AND fringe topics, and his tendency to always have that thing you need neatly stored in his car (seriously – need a screwdriver? a camera? a snowblower? it’s in his car), he has become someone who truly embodies what our firm stands for.

So – thanks for five great years, Adam – this one’s for you.. (well, it IS you I guess..)

Describe in a few sentences your role at i/A.
I am a project architect at integrity/Architecture. I work directly with our principals to keep projects on track, on time, and on budget through the stages of drawing production and construction. I coordinate with a lot of people in my role – coworkers, engineering consultants, vendors and manufacturers, contractors, and our clients. A significant part of my job is to provide organization and clear communication for everyone involved.

As an architect, what exciting industry trends do you see?
The most interesting “industry trend” I see is actually the paradigm shift toward the efficient use and sustainability of resources. This manifests in many different ways – design & technological tools to economize construction such as BIM, a reinvention of traditional building products such as mass timber building systems, revaluation of assumed spatial requirements such as micro homes, and the broad acceleration of building sciences to name a few. What I enjoy the most about this is the honest and open dialogue regarding accepted building practices – and how they may benefit from change. To paraphrase: the unexamined practice is not worth maintaining.

What has surprised you most about working at i/A?
I think I would qualify my response as the “most impressive” rather than the “most surprising”, but there are two things: 1) The expansion of the firm over my five-year tenure and 2) the transparency maintained by the principals and employees. Both have fostered a fantastic working environment where everyone can learn and grow individually, which in turn helps the firm learn and grow.

Describe an I/A project you have recently worked on.  What kind of challenges had to be solved and what was interesting about it?
One recently completed job is the Pleasant Ridge Shopping Center here in Lexington. Even though it was a retail shell building (a relatively simple construction), it had a few challenges: two tenants where constructing inside the building while the shell was under construction, some site conditions were unknown prior to construction (records not available), and the site was being developed in tandem with other adjacent projects which we were not involved with.

One particular issue that illustrates the complexity of the situation was the sanitary sewer connection depth being unknown prior to construction. It turned out to be much higher than believed and, as a result, there was no room for error in fixture and line installation. Upon discovery, i/A met on site with the plumbing engineer, building contractor & plumber, and tenant contractor & plumber. Some creative spatial thinking was applied and the best  solution was agreed upon with no change to the material contract for the building or tenant. The solution to this restrictive situation was executed with relatively little difficulty since all related parties were present and agreed on the way forward. Communication is timely and vital during construction – it must be prompt and clear to all related parties. It also reflects the i/A principal of transparency with all collaborators (clients, contractors, consultants, etc.) – be open and honest when a problem arises, so that we can focus on solutions.

What are you most passionate about professionally? Personally?
Professionally I am driven by challenges – exploring new frontiers with coworkers, collaborators, and clients to foster construction that is uniquely suited to the project requirements. Fortunately for me, there is no shortage of challenges associated with a field as complex as architectural practice: technological, spatial, managerial, budgetary, etc. I am a person who likes to learn and synthesize in an effort to grow and evolve. I also enjoy music, reading, and random, situational humor – the quickest way to stop evolving is not to laugh (citation needed).

Tell us three things that most people do not know about you?

  1. I’ve never had any training in computer science or computer information systems. I’ve just absorbed what I was exposed to growing up, and otherwise supplemented with autodidactic learning. (Editor’s note: this is utterly shocking to me – seeing as how Adam seems to know more about I.T. than I.T. itself)
  2. I still make mix tapes (USB drives) for friends. Sharing music is important, but standing in the yard with a little thumb drive over your head is less impressive than it used to be.
  3. When I cut my hair after college, it was the largest male donation to Kentucky’s Locks of Love (at the time).

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a Midwest small town – a lot of them – born in Mullen, WV and raised in Mt. Pleasant / Big Rapids / Hillsdale, Michigan and Jackson, Kentucky. It was a good amalgamate of small-town experiences and I can confuse people with my accent… So it’s a win/win.

Where did you go to school/college?
The University of Kentucky’s College of Architecture in Lexington.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Travel and learn about different cultures & peoples. Despite being a creature of some habit, I’m fairly comfortable adapting to new work environments and could adopt a “global office” – as long as my laptop has power & internet. I could open the i/A New Zealand Middle Earth branch office!

Do you have any short term or long term goals?
Yes – they’re kept safely hidden away in my secret volcanic lair. Wait, I’ve said too much.

What makes you nostalgic?
Not much in particular – I certainly have recollections that evoke powerful nostalgia, but there aren’t specific triggers. Music is probably the closest I have to a trigger since I tend to recall the situations I first or last heard an album.

Do you have any hobbies or interests?
Music, reading, graphic design, and movies are probably my most prevalent time-sinking hobbies.

If you had the chance to visit any building/monument in the world, all expenses paid, what would it be and why?
I would visit the International Space Station. Society has created many remarkable and beautiful buildings/monuments, but building in space is such a challenge (and until very recently in our history, an impossibility) that I couldn’t pass it up. It embodies the idea that we can accomplish more together through collaboration. Plus, it seems like a good way to get an all-expenses-paid trip into space.

Do you volunteer? If so, what is the cause and what about it makes you want to volunteer for it?
Yes – I try to actively participate in a local organization wherever I live. When I lived in California it was OBUGS (Oakland Based Urban Gardens) and currently, in Lexington, it’s the ACE of the Bluegrass Mentoring Program and the AIA East Kentucky Chapter. I am drawn to volunteer organizations that try to give something to the community (children and teens in particular) through education. “The purpose of education is to help create a better human being.” – Lynn Westfall, educator

What book or movie has impacted you the most?
The book that impacted me the most was the first I read because it started me on a good path – but I don’t remember what it was. Other than that, some impactful ones have been A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy; Diet for a New America; Dune, Foundation & the consequential series; House of Leaves; and The Pinball Effect: How Renaissance Water Gardens Made the Carburetor Possible. Subject to change… daily.

What is something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t gotten around to it?
Artificial Intelligence that can automatically reply to interview questions based on a person’s social media footprint. No particular reason.

Do you have any nicknames?
Not really. Some college friends called me AC, and I’m okay with that.

What is your favorite ’90s jam?
This is deceptively challenging since I have over 9,000 tracks from that decade in my personal music library. How about [insert something you haven’t heard before from the ‘90s]. Seek it out, listen, and enjoy.