Alan Sumner, FAIA
Registered Architect | MO, TX
Education: Bachelor of Architecture, Texas Tech University
Why did you choose architecture for your profession?
“From very early in my life I was attracted to drawing and did so incessantly. I didn’t have access to additional art classes to explore various mediums, composition, etc., but I did foster my passion for the joy of drawing. And then I had a truly sudden realization during my first week of classes as a Freshman in engineering at Texas Tech. At that time, architecture was a department within the School of Engineering and while I was walking down a corridor, I came upon rows of student architecture “solution boards” mounted on the walls with professors holding “jury sessions” judging those boards and assigning grades. At that precise moment, I knew I had to change majors. I had found a path to fulfill my passion for drawing to pair with my drive for technical solutions that had drawn me to the Engineering program in the first place. While in architecture school and being exposed to the multitude of options within my future profession, it quickly became evident that my talents were in planning and design. The creative process has always yielded the most rewarding feelings for me. It is also the most frustrating. Searching for a solution can be drawn out in time or it can happen unexpectedly quickly. But when it comes together, the results are always exciting.”
What has been your favorite project of your career thus far?
“Before moving to St. Louis in the early 1990’s, I was proud to be a part of a dynamic architectural community in my hometown of Dallas. One of my favorite projects during that time was a sixteen-story Sheraton Hotel located between Six Flags and the Rangers Baseball Stadium. It was a “minimalist” style of contemporary design in all white pre-finished metal cladding which was relatively new to building exteriors in the US in the 1980s. The entry lobby was a “wow space” – I designed it to be extravagantly oversized with a two-story lighted water wall and extensive skylighted space frame defining the ceiling.
Another building I designed that was a truly satisfying effort was Crockett County Public Library in the small, east Texas town of Crockett. Our firm was honored with an AIA Dallas Chapter Design Award.
During my time with ACI Boland, three projects stand out in my mind as favorites for varying reasons.The Moonrise Hotel on Delmar Blvd. was unique for a variety of reasons. Our client, Joe Edwards, wanted his boutique hotel to have a slight Art-Deco appearance and be a fun place to stay or simply visit. Tying the seven-story hotel portion to the existing 1930’s funeral home exterior shell was a definite design challenge.
The Cedars at the JCA on Highway 40 in St. Louis was the longest single project in my career, spanning just over five years from early planning and design to opening day. I master-planned the 30-acre site and designed the buildings for the complete continuum of care for senior living.
One of my favorite clients in recent years is MiTek Industries. We have an amazing relationship with this global corporation and MiTek’s CEO really trusted us in every aspect to build their new ground-up 100,000 sq. ft. office building for their corporate headquarters. Our firm designed and planned every facet of this endeavor - from space programming, site planning and building design to space planning, materials, colors, furniture, lighting and graphics. In addition to partnering with MiTek on their corporate office spaces, we have also designed their industrial spaces.”
What other art mediums do you indulge? I know you used to watercolor – any others?
“I discovered water colors as an architecture student. We could express our design solutions in the media of choice; i.e. water colors, pen & ink, pastels, tempura or acrylics after our sophomore year. After trying all these media, I found a “groove” with a combination of pen & ink mixed with watercolors.
I’ve been painting landscape watercolors for years. Some good, some not so good, but something I still enjoy very much. I bought a 5’ X 7’ canvas with the idea of trying an abstract painting using acrylics. It’s still canvas, but I still know inspiration is all around me and can strike anytime. One day I will fill that canvas.”
What inspires you when you begin a design?
“Whether it’s interior space planning, site planning or building design, when I begin a design, I naturally and initially fall back on my years of experience and the core design principles I was taught in architecture school. In architecture school, we were taught architectural history every semester for five years. These courses opened our eyes to the contemporary leading architects around the world. I still keep up with the design luminaries of today. Whether it’s new materials or unique geometry, I really try to keep my eyes upon the design leaders of our profession. They never cease to amaze and inspire.”
Is there a type of project on your bucket list you would like to design?
“I have had the opportunity to design so many different building types throughout my career – single-family, multi-family, hotels, condominiums, senior living, multiple types of healthcare projects, office buildings, retail, mixed-use buildings, distribution centers, libraries, elementary schools, continuing education centers, etc.
I am inspired by architects that have transformed museums in recent decades into buildings that are the primary art form that happens to contain art. For that reason, museums hold a special fascination for me. Probably because I haven’t designed one…yet.”
Who is your favorite architect?
“Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects.”