Steve Dumez, FAIA, Design Director
What inspired your career choices?
I decided to become an architect in junior high school. I had always enjoyed drawing and sketching—creating visions for alternative realities. I also grew up in a small town, and my family moved to one of the first houses in a new subdivision when I was 12. I spent my afternoons “exploring” houses under construction in the neighborhood, imagining the spaces that would follow. Architecture seemed a perfect marriage of both real and imagined.
What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
Having a client understand and value the work we do for them. There have been instances where a client has walked into their space for the first time and just said: “Wow!” It doesn’t get much better than that.
What do you consider to be your greatest professional achievement?
Bringing good design into arenas where it was not seen as either necessary or possible. It’s easy to engage a client who has the desire for quality design; the truly difficult task is when you can bring someone thinking only about prosaic issues to understanding the possibilities and potential value that design adds to the conversation.
What is the best thing you’ve learned in the past 10 years?
I’ve learned better how to mentor. That, as a design-focused personality, sometimes can be a tough thing to do. By all means, I’m not there yet, but I really have worked to try to cultivate a creative environment in our studio and to make room for many divergent ideas to surface before settling on a direction. It also helps having smart, talented people around you.
What do you consider to be the worst invention of the past century?
What are the biggest challenges facing designers today?
The embedded sense of urgency in our culture today. With cell phones and e-mail delivering the ability for instant communication, there are intense pressures placed on the design process. Sometimes the right solution requires time to think through, and thoughtfulness is often sacrificed when the demands for instant access and gut decisions are present. It’s the only reason I still like to fly….the airplane has become a place of refuge and where I get my best work done.
If you could have selected another career, what might you have been?
Hard to say really… I love what I do. It would likely involve making—perhaps a craft such as woodworking where attention to detail and construction is paramount. There is a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in a job well done, and architecture takes so long to complete that gratification is often too long delayed. That’s why I love to cook—instant gratification!
What advice would you give to A&D students or those just starting out in the field?
Learn how to edit your own work. Design is very dynamic, highly iterative process, and developing a methodology by which you can clarify design intent and distill that which is fundamental to the work is critical. Design is incredibly fulfilling, incredibly hard work, and it often takes a mountain of oysters to find a pearl.
What would you like to leave as your legacy?
Places that inspire.
Read the story on L.B. Landry High School in New Orleans designed by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple