As part of our #MeetRA #MeetYourArchitect #MeetYourDesigner series, I interviewed Whitney Ford who was my first hire for Rittiluechai Architecture. I have had the pleasure of mentoring and working with Whitney throughout her 10+-year career. Starting as an intern, Whitney has shown dedication to advancing her understanding of the industry and is now our Vice President. Whitney plays a major role in all design and production projects at Rittiluechai Architecture and is happy to speak with you about your next project.
#MeetYourDesigner Whitney Ford:
What is your architecture/design philosophy?
Design impacts our lives. I believe that we can utilize design as a tool to improve everyday experiences. From geometric forms to color, the elements which create space should be carefully selected based on the desired atmosphere. Function and form should be viewed as a holistic unit where each is massaged to create enjoyable space. As Frank Lloyd Wright said: “Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union”.
When you were a child, did you always want to become an architect?
I always wanted to be involved in some way in the creative field and have been an artist since I was able to hold a crayon. As with many children, I went through an astronaut phase. A bit of that explorer is still in me and I enjoy expressing it through the creative process.
What lead you to a career in architecture?
My interests in art, science, and the environment lead me to explore both engineering and architecture as potential paths during college. At the end of the day, my love for the arts made the studio environment at Oklahoma State very appealing so I chose the architecture path.
What do you like most about your career?
Each project always has something new to learn or a special problem to solve. I’m a lifelong learner and enjoy that architecture is a field where we must continue to grow at all levels.
What does your work entail?
At Rittiluechai Architecture, I wear many hats. A short list is managing client accounts, assisting with staff development, project design, project management, and developing RA’s office, CAD/BIM, and brand standards.
How do you approach new projects?
I like to start new projects by first getting to know the client and, when applicable, the end user. The more we can understand the use of a space and the way in which it will be utilized, the better the design solution.
Do you have a signature style?
I enjoy working with and selecting from a wide variety of styles. I believe that the style of a building should be a response to location, function, and client/personal branding style. My signature style is best explained in brief as thoughtful responsiveness.
Are you concerned about environmental and social sustainability and what role do these issues play in your design decisions?
I have LEED-AP credentials and am very concerned about the future of our planet and how the decisions we make today for the built environment have a long-lasting impact both environmentally and socially. I keep these factors in mind throughout the design process and select green alternatives whenever doing so is achievable within the project scope and budget.
What books do you have on your bedside table?
In addition to a large stack of ARE 5.0 study materials, I am currently reading “The Secret Lives of Color” by Kassia St. Clair and re-reading “BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice” by Randy Deutsch, AIA, LEED-AP.
Do you draw often?
Even though I’m able to draw proficiently in Autodesk Revit, drawing by hand is still an integral part of my design process. I also make time at least once a week for creating artwork and designs that are unrelated to current architectural projects.
When faced with a challenge, what process do you use to solve it?
I enjoy new challenges, they are what makes this job exciting. My process is to gather all known information and use it to explore all possibilities. Each option is weighed against the project goals, budget, and regulatory requirements in order to determine the best available solution.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s environment-focused approach, Claude Monet’s capturing the essence of a subject in light and color, Mies Van Der Rohe’s minimalism, Le Corbusier’s innovation, Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches, and Zaha Hadid’s trailblazing.
Which new architecture/design technology are you most excited about?
Augmented Reality. I love the idea of being able to go out to a site and showing someone their completed building before even breaking ground.
What changes do you expect in the industry over the next 20 years?
I believe that advanced drafting technology will make production work increasingly efficient leaving more time to focus on design improvements. I’m also noticing a social trend online (Instagram, Pinterest etc) calling for a return to craftsmanship and attention to detail. The field of architecture is starting to get a reputation for being only about creating blueprints, more efficient technology plus social awareness creates a recipe for bringing back focus on design in the architecture field. In short, I believe companies will find the younger generations won’t associate with places that aren’t visually selling their story by creating an experience. We are already starting to see this in the retail and restaurant industries.
What is your ultimate goal?
I’d like to leave the world a little better than I found it.
What advice would you give to young persons who are contemplating a design career?
Know where you want to be so that you can select the right educational and career path to meet your goals. Visit as many architecture and interior design firms as possible so that your expectations match reality. It would be a good idea to also visit other types of creative companies (graphics, fashion, industrial, artists etc) to make sure that what you choose to focus on is the best fit. You can always pivot throughout your career but you may as well start out in the right direction. If you are unsure, architecture is a great launching point because it translates well into many other career options. But do be aware that architecture studio at the best colleges takes a lot of time, dedication, talent, and drive. In architecture, you likely won’t be a starving artist but also don’t expect to make a doctor’s income. Anyone considering a career in architecture should feel free to contact me.
Do you have any hobbies?
As a lifelong creative, I have many hobbies: paint, sew, crochet, knit, decorate cakes, cook, and various other crafts. I have also recently gotten back into yoga with my 4-year-old and 1.5-year-old daughters.
What is your favorite color?
It is hard to pick a favorite, it varies depending on context, but I do tend to prefer to be surrounded by a mix of soft and strong blues in my home living spaces. Indigo and teal mixed with a cool neutral and some wood and metallic accents make me feel calm yet energized. Purple is also nice for relaxing yet energetic spaces.
What is the best moment of your day?
The best moment of my day is seeing my daughters’ smiling faces. Working on creative design solutions comes in at the top too.
What else do you want people to know about you?
I was introverted before it was cool…I’m happy being with my own thoughts and am energized by quiet. But, I also love being around people and sharing my ideas.