The Building That Made Me Want To Be An Architect

Architecture professors reveal what inspire them.

Professor Chow asks students to describe this image. What do you see?

On February 6th, the Berkeley Connect in Architecture program invited Department Chair Tom Buresh and Associate Dean Renee Chow to answer a simple question – what building made them want to be an architect. But the answers were far from simple.

For Professor Tom Buresh, there was no easy answer. “It’s hard to have favorites,” he noted. Buresh admitted he never expected to be an architect. It was in an unusual place that his interest was sparked – not in front of a majestic building, but in a library. An abstract floor plan of a house fascinated Buresh, launching him onto what became a life-long journey in architecture. Later, when Buresh visited Rome, he was amazed at the Pantheon, which was unlike anything he had ever seen in his hometown. When a student asked what place most inspired him, Buresh immediately thought of Italy. “A professor once told me that there was one place to visit, and that was Italy. It’s where I always go back to for inspiration.”

Professor Renee Chow, too, found it hard to pinpoint a building. “What convinced me to be an architect are places.” Chow said. “Venice. Charleston. New York. San Francisco. I fell in love with places and how to make them better.” Today, Chow focuses on the relations of objects in a place and designs accordingly. To demonstrate, she showed the students a picture and urged the students to describe the environment to her. “Lots of green,” said one student. “Fish,” pointed out another student. That is how we describe places, according to Chow. We pull out objects to represent the whole, the same way we pull out the Empire State Building to describe New York City. But thinking about relations – the way these objects interact with each other – is what excites Chow.

When asked of a city that represented relations, Chow chose Charleston. “It is one of my favorite cities. The houses kind of depend on the next house. It’s beautifully sustainable.” Chow said. “It’s hot and humid there, and each house gets shade from its neighbor.”

Professor Greig Crysler, Director of Berkeley Connect in Architecture, also joined the conversation. Having grown up in the “Canadian equivalent to the Midwest,” Crysler found London liberating when he attended university there, and it was there that inspired him to be an architect.

Students shared too! For one, the building was of her own imagination. She commented, “In 6th grade, we had to draw a floor plan of our house as an exercise in spatial thinking. But I thought my house was the most boring house ever. So I designed one instead.” Spoken like a true architect!

posted by Katherine Wang
Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant