The Hord Coplan Macht Cool Box is a place to get to know some of the people and personalities who are delivering great ideas and leading work for our clients. In the Cool Box today: Hilary Thomas, Associate, Education Studio.
Did you have an “ah-ha” moment where you knew you wanted to be an architect? What was it?
My “ah-ha” moment was at the 8th grade career fair! Two architects visited and had a roll of drawings with them. They turned to a reflected ceiling plan and showed us how they have to think about the layout of the lighting and other ceiling devices. It was eye-opening. I loved both drawing and problem-solving, and I could see that the reflected ceiling plan was like a puzzle the architects had solved and communicated with a drawing.
“If I couldn’t be an architect I’d probably be an…”
Archaeologist. It would be fascinating to unearth historical artifacts around the world and research the stories behind them.
Tell us about one of your favorite projects from the last few years.
Edward M. Felegy Elementary School opened few years ago, in August 2014, but it was such a memorable project. The school system whole-heartedly embraced the concept of a playful and colorful design that would excite the students and also act as a teaching tool for the sustainable features of the building. Seeing the students’ (and parents’!) faces light up on the first day of school has forever made an impression on me.
What drew you to work at Hord Coplan Macht?
I originally intended to work in Washington, DC after graduating from architecture school. Hord Coplan Macht was the only firm I applied to in Baltimore. I could sense after the interview that the employees were very genuine and that the work would be exciting and challenging. I’d say I have a pretty good instinct!
Where do you find inspiration for projects?
I am most inspired by clients who are passionate about what they do. They inspire me to step into their world and understand how I can really help them with their built environment.
How would you describe your approach to tackling challenges when it comes to the client?
My approach to tackling challenges when it comes to the client has been to put myself in their shoes and really understand their priorities. Clients are expected to make several decisions every day, and part of our job is to help make the decision-making process more straight-forward and less stressful for them.
How would your clients describe working with you and your team?
Clients have said that I take initiative and that I understand the big-picture view of project delivery. They have also said that I am enjoyable to work with, which is very important to me! I want my clients to feel like I am approachable and dependable.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to up-and-coming architects?
Keep an eye out for people at your workplace who inspire you, and observe/learn what it is that makes them successful.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
I wish someone had told me to just be true to myself. I had this impression that I would need to pick one area of expertise and stick with that, however I have many interests and struggled with that notion. Now, I embrace that I am more of a generalist. It helps me see the big picture which enables me to deliver more successful solutions.
What aspect of Hord Coplan Macht’s approach to projects do you see really making a difference for clients?
The depth of knowledge and experience available at our fingertips. Hord Coplan Macht provides many opportunities for connecting with people in other studios by holding frequent events, such as happy hours, volunteering events, wellness activities, etc. The compassionate and enriched culture that has developed because of these opportunities makes it easy to facilitate cross-studio collaboration.