Thursday, June 30, 2011
Meet Roy T. Decker, AIA / Duvall Decker Architects /
Speaking Thursday, August 4, 10:15 - 11:45
In one sentence, how would you describe architecture to those outside the field?
Architecture is the making of forms and spaces that awaken and enliven us as individuals while serving and extending our culture.
Who or what most inspire your creative side? / How do you spark creativity?
I am inspired by the potential to serve the “public good” by promoting civility and growth. More than any other aspect, I am always interested in the effects of our work. I worry sometimes that architects allow service to displace leadership. These two activities, both so important to a successful practice, should complement and challenge each other.
I think creativity is sparked by being a close observer of nature and our habitation of space. When we see the complexities and subtleties of our world, and allow them to be our media, we can build spaces that are engaging and challenging.
What are you currently reading, whether it be books, magazines, or blogs?
I am currently reading “Teaching as a Subversive Activity” by Neil Postman. This is a second reading as we prepare for an educational project. I have been a teacher for many years, so I generally see most problems through a lens of education. It seems like we could do so much better as a society if we could institutionally allow excellence to replace minimal standards as our measure of success. I also enjoy online reading early in the morning – a series of sites; NYT, Wired, Local News, Local Free Press.
Different cities have different problems or dynamics. What’s the best thing about designing in your city?
Jackson, Mississippi is a typical middle-sized capital city. It suffers from a shrinking tax base, struggles to maintain services, and has a high vacancy/empty lot ratio and many other similar American urban problems. Despite these typical challenges, it is diverse and rich in cultural capital. It has a good art community, great restaurants, and good location. As an architect in Jackson and Mississippi, I have found willing community partners and clients interested in helping to solve some of our toughest urban problems. We have found interest in imagining what the next generation of our city will be and how neighborhoods will have to be transformed.
How do you balance work life and social/family life?
My wife, Anne Marie Decker, AIA, is my partner. We have two children, 10 and 5. Between our practice, home and children’s needs we strive for balance though achieving it can be elusive. We are both equally responsible in the practice and equally responsible at home. We juggle our time, often have our children with us, text each other a lot of updates, and have learned to be efficient.
Have you been to Memphis before? What are your current impressions?
Anne Marie is from Humboldt, Tennessee, so we travel through Memphis often on our trips to visit family. We have friends and family in Memphis and love to visit. One of our favorite stops is the Peabody lobby at Christmas time.
We have watched an impressive renaissance in Memphis, and though this economy has challenged it, we find it to be a hopeful example.
What are some things you most look forward to in your trip to Memphis? In this response, can you be specific about what exact food you are looking forward to?
Visiting Memphis is always an opportunity to hear great music. The Blues clubs on Beale Street are a draw I hope to have time to visit. And it is always great to catch some barbecue at the Rendezvous.
What can we look forward to in your presentation at the AIA TN convention?
Anne Marie and I have been working for some time exploring the idea of public work designed from a local perspective. Most historic public buildings borrow their culture, expression and appearance. We strive for our buildings to be borne from the local conditions. Using some of our projects, we will explore the value of cultivating local circumstances and knowledge in service of genuine cultural growth.
Any fellow speaker(s) you look forward to seeing present?
AIA Tennessee has assembled a very good group of speakers; all have great work and are impressive architects. I look forward to seeing them all.
What other hobbies, interests do you have outside of Architecture?
I am a Sunday painter. I enjoy painting quiet landscapes; places where there are no words. These paintings are a sort of research to consider moments and spaces in buildings when there are no words, explanation or instruction, just feelings, qualities and maybe a little inquiry.
Do you also have a formal position in teaching architecture or design?
For the first 15 years of practice, I was also a teacher. I lived a double life, not wanting to give up full time practice for teaching, nor wanting to shortchange teaching. When Anne Marie and I started Duvall Decker Architects in 1997, I left full time teaching to focus on our practice and to find some of that balance I lacked. Since then, we have taught together in visiting and adjunct positions, the most recent being the 2009 Paul Rudolf Visiting Professorship at the Auburn University School of Architecture. Attending reviews and serving on design juries are also rewarding and educational experiences.
We look forward to his presentation entitled “public work.” Read more on Roy in the convention brochure and through the links below.
Thanks so much Roy and Krystal for pulling together the responses and images for us.