Each year, D Home recognizes the Best Architects in Dallas. This year, we invited the principals from the 61 winning firms to tell us about their architectural dreams—who they’d love to design for, where they’d live if they could choose any Dallas address, what made them dream of becoming an architect, and more. The answers are illuminating, and sometimes surprising. (We also asked them to sketch their dream projects, which you can see in the November/December issue.)
And of course, scan down to see the complete list of winning firms, each of which employs a talented team of professionals ready to help design your dream project.
Who or what made you dream of becoming an architect?
“I grew up in a very small, one-bathroom frame house. My parents did not have a lot of money, [yet] they were always doing something to improve our small house—remodeling the kitchen, adding a laundry room, adding a screen porch, expanding the living room. They did the work themselves and I think seeing this influenced me.” —Laura Juarez Baggett, Laura Juarez Baggett Studio
“I spent many hours in the chapel of St. John’s Episcopal School as a student in the late 1980s. It’s a masterclass in carefully controlled natural light striking deceptively simple geometric forms. O’Neil Ford and Arch Swank drew the chapel, which was completed in 1963. They taught me what architecture was before I even knew what the word meant.” —Nicholas McWhirter, SHM Architects
“My elementary school was brand new in the late ’70s and included all sorts of groovy design features, such as an arched bridge over a waterfall, sunken reading pits, clear plastic bubble windows just like on a hot rod van but much larger, and even a dovecote in the hallway. It opened my eyes to the idea that anything could be designed and that buildings could be witty and idiosyncratic.” —Jason Erik Smith, Smitharc Architecture + Interiors
“I was 7 years old, in Chicago with my family, on a boat in Lake Michigan, and saw the Lake Shore Tower by Mies van der Rohe. It was brand new and sent an architectural Cupid’s arrow through my heart.” —Max Levy, Max Levy Architect
“My two uncles were prominent architects in Guadalajara, Mexico. Visiting their studio as a young boy, I was stuck by the energy, the color, the drawings, and especially the models. It looked like the coolest workplace I could imagine.” —Gregory Ibañez, FAIA, Ibañez Shaw Architecture
Besides your own, what notable Dallas residence is your dream home?
“Nimmo’s House on Ricks is a house we love. I can’t quite picture it looking so good with all our kids’ toys, dog hair, and our unopened Amazon boxes laying around. Our 1920s house in Old East Dallas just seems to fit the mess of our busy life and look good doing it.” —Nick and Leslie Nepveux, VeuxDeux Design
“Not quite notable, but there’s a modest and humble house in south Dallas, that sits not too far from a creek, with about three acres of open land surrounding it. Next to the home stands a tall and wide live oak providing the right amount of shade during the summer, but just enough sunlight during the winter to filter through. The porch wraps three sides of the home, allowing for cool breezes to pass through on warm days and sits just above the ground plane to view the horizon while watching the sun set.” —Jesse Rodriguez, JRAF Studio
Who is your dream client, living or dead?
“Mark Twain. I’ll bring the gin. How much fun would that be?” —Clayton A Nelson, CA Nelson Architecture Group LLC
“George Lucas. I would love to pick his brain regarding the film-making process. On some levels I feel it is very similar to crafting a piece of architecture.” —Enrique Montenegro, SHM Architects
“Probably it would have to be a musician. Dead, maybe George Gershwin. Living, probably Peter Gabriel.” —Lloyd D Lumpkins, L. Lumpkins Architects, Inc.
“I, like many of my colleagues on this list, have designed homes for some of the most recognizable names in this city. My dream client is not a specific person, but someone I can work with on an equal basis to develop their home, without blowing in the wind as to whatever is on TV right now, or what is “trendy.” It is someone who wants a home to help them live their family’s own contented life; a client that allows me to design free from what some “expert” tells us we all should want, and design, instead, what makes us happy. That being said, I would not mind designing a home for Jon Baptiste.” —Patrick Lynch Ford, Rogers-Ford, L.C. Architecture and Interior Design
“George Clooney in Lake Como…for obvious reasons!” —Tricy Magadini, Bernbaum/Magadini Architects
In what ways is Dallas a dream city to be an architect in? In what ways is it difficult?
“I think Dallas has a blanket of architectural styles and many absolutely beautiful homes and estates. We are lucky to have history here. The Park Cities’ oldest homes are ones to study and emulate. It is hard to live here because sometimes people don’t realize how important it is to preserve historical homes. My tiny town of Decatur, Alabama, has at least 100 homes on the Historical Register, and everyone cherishes them. I wish that passion for preservation existed here.” —Christy Goode Blumenfeld, Blume Architecture
“I’m going to answer the second part of this question first: It is difficult because this part of North Texas is mostly flat, has few water features, the trees are rarely tall enough for me, and it’s too hot for the sort of outdoor living in my dreams. However, as a city in a southwest state, a rancher state, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of the rustic ranch, the mesquite trees, the rich colors of a prickly pear, and how the landscape doesn’t crowd the skies.” —Sarah M. Harper, Harper Design
“The wonderful thing about Dallas is the constant striving to be better. There is a willingness to try new approaches and look for the very best of everything. The flip side of this striving is a tendency to disregard buildings designed with a classic elegance that may not be currently on trend. There is often a willingness to sacrifice the old for the new, without regard for whether the ‘new’ is equal to the quality and integrity of what it is replacing.” —Bart Shaw, Ibañez Shaw Architecture
“Dallas is a pretty ideal city within which to practice modern architecture. There are few HOAs to impose stylistic restrictions, and the city seems to have embraced a wide range of styles that make up the unique character of our neighborhoods. Modern, traditional, and eclectic all appear together, and I feel it generally works well. Sometimes I feel there is a sentiment of ‘this is how we always do it’ in construction, and I feel we have to overcome outdated mentalities so many more homeowners have better, healthier homes.” —Dan Eckelkamp, Eckxtudio for Modern Architecture
“Dallas has a rich heritage of architecture, combined with the patrons that provide for the buildings to come to life. It’s a vibrant ever-evolving city in which to practice.
“The difficulty can be the lack of appreciation, restoration, and preservation of smaller well-crafted projects, Dallas has lost some significant structures over the last century that can never be replaced.” —Cliff Welch, FAIA, Welch Architecture
Recognizing that every client will have needs, opinions, feedback, and preferences that differ from your own, how do you compromise your artistic vision with their reality? How can a client convey those differing opinions without becoming a nightmare client?
“’Compromising artistic vision’ is the wrong way to look at it. We are not artists, and we have a responsibility to deliver a service and product that far supersedes the requirements of a sculpture one can live in. We first seek to understand our potential clients and confirm we have shared goals prior to jumping-in to just any project. From there we are collaborative and leverage what could seem like ‘unique’ requests as an opportunity for creative solutions. We ask our clients to be brutally honest with themselves and with us, upfront, so we can minimize looking for solutions to the wrong problems.” —Jason Erik Smith, Smitharc Architecture + Interiors
“I think my calling is to bring order to a client’s ideas for their home, helping them move toward a workable, functional, and beautiful built object. The design process is to bring those possibly disparate ideas together to a delightful solution, knowing that some ideas might need to be gently discarded. I do not design clients’ homes to be my dream home; it is their dream. I have my own dream and I can bet it is not what they dream about.
“My overarching goal is to understand what the client wants during the proposal process. Although that may require me to spend some time prior to engagement on the project, it helps me analyze any issues I may have with the design direction. This allows me to respectfully resign, if best, before we get far.” —Patrick Lynch Ford, Rogers-Ford, L.C. Architecture and Interior Design
“I think, in the end, I try to remind myself that this is their home. I’m not out to create a shrine to myself. I see what I do as a service, creating a place and home for my clients. And that ought to reflect how they want to live and what they consider comfortable or beautiful or interesting. At the outset of the project, I ask clients to provide images of things they like and don’t like, anything from exterior to interior details. Providing the client with the freedom to communicate what they are drawn toward and the sorts of things they really don’t like sets a tone from the beginning that ensures they know I understand this is their home. I don’t need to create a statement structure that leaves a legacy other than one that is meaningful to the family who enjoys it.” —Sarah M. Harper, Harper Design
“I make a promise to every client to share my opinions openly. not to do so is a dis-service. It is important to provide a logical and pragmatic reason (beyond I just don’t like it) that I would feel a particular way about a design decision. In the end, I am a consultant, and obliged to do as the client wishes. Sigh.” —Clayton A Nelson, CA Nelson Architecture Group LLC
“When a client has differing opinions or ideas, I always prefer to meet in person to discuss their goals and ideas. Design is a complex process and conveying their goals can be a challenge. In person I can sketch out ideas and what I think they are saying to get to a clear understanding and investigate options. Communication is the key and I often find we might not be as far off as it might seem in a text or email.” —Eric LaPointe, Studio EL73
Dream Makers: The 61 Best Architects in Dallas 2022
A Michael Architecture
A. Gruppo Architects
ABEYTA • TIBBS ARCHITECTURE LLC
Barry Bull Ballas
Bob Anderson, Architect
C A Nelson Architecture Group LLC
Clinton & Co
David Benners Architecture
Domiteaux Garza Architecture
Eckxstudio for Modern Architecture
Eskenasy Ferguson Architecture
Far + Dang
Harper Design Projects
Howard Glazbrook III Architects
Ibañez Shaw Architecture
Ikemire Architects LLC
Janson Luter Architects
Jerry L Coleman, Designer LLC
Jessica Stewart Lendvay Architects
L. Lumpkins Architects
Larry E. Boerder Architects
Laura Juarez Baggett Studio
M Gooden Design
Manolo Design Studio
Marc McCollom Architect
Max Levy Architect
Malone Maxwell Dennehy Architects
Oglesby Greene Architecture
Richard Drummond Davis
Risser Design & Development
Robert Clark & Associates
and Interior Design
Ron Wommack Architecture
smitharc architecture + interiors
Stephen B. Chambers Architects Inc.
Stephen Zepeda Architecture LLC
Turner Boaz Architecture
Turney & Associates
Welch Architecture | Interiors
William S. Briggs Architect