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: Leanne Phillips, a Senior Associate in our DC Metro office’s Higher Education studio. 

What aspect of architecture drew you to the profession in particular?

Creativity and that no two designs will be the same to solve the same architectural parameters. Traveling and experiencing great buildings, both old and new, continues to enhance my desire for excellent design.

What parts of your personal life have influenced your work as an architect? Vice versa?

Growing up in a historic town where many of the homes were built between the mid-1700s and early 1920s, I developed an appreciation for craftsmanship and the rich history that cities around the work hold. Good design and construction that can withstand time is important.

How are you different as an architect now than you were when you first started out in the field?

As an architect, my knowledge in various subjects of the profession has grown exponentially, much of which can only be obtained with experience and working on a variety of project types in different capacities over the course of my career. Growth comes from experience, determination, and confidence.

What’s the #1 myth out there about being an architect designer?

Hmm…the biggest misconception I’ve encountered is that architects only design the building façade when in reality, we look at a project holistically from the site, relationship to other buildings, user approach, landscape, building envelope, and the interior spaces. We design for the user experience and needs, both inside and out.

What’s your favorite thing about your career?

The industry is ever changing with the advancement of technology and materials, and as architects, we must evolve with it. It’s hard to name just one! Architecture is a unique profession that is ever evolving and there is always an opportunity to learn something new whether it be a client, best-practices, trends, technology, materials and how to succeed with the work we do by improving the process. No two projects are the same and collaborating in a team environment allows a melting pot of ideas that become fine-tuned as the project progresses. It is rewarding to interact with users when a building is completed. Listening to their feedback is a constant reminder of why we do what we do. Architecture is fun, challenging and rewarding!

What’s the key to establishing rapport with your clients?

Communication is absolutely critical in establishing but also maintaining, an excellent rapport with our clients during and post-project. Secondly, we must listen to the needs of each client and develop a design solution that embraces the project parameters.

What’s the first question you ask a client when starting a project?

In the Education Studio, we typically kick-off projects with a ‘Greatest Hopes’ engagement exercise with key project stakeholders in which we simply ask, “What are your greatest hopes and your greatest concerns?” The feedback is prioritized and establishes the qualitative needs and measures of success for the project. The exercise allows each stakeholder to express what the project signifies to them.

Name a trend you don’t think is going away anytime soon and why.

Sustainability, but I don’t necessarily see it as a trend. As designers, we are to be stewards of the earth’s resources and many of the best practices are things we should be conscious of and integrate into our buildings.

What makes HCM stand out in the industry?

We are leaders in our industry, which is apparent by our on-going research that supports our design and best practices. HCM has great culture, allowing designers of all skill sets to pave the way with innovative and new ideas.

Are robots going to replace architects/landscape architects/interior designers one day?

I sure hope not! I foresee robotics having a place within the industry that may improve workflow and assist with complex solutions.

What’s one surprising fact about you that most people don’t know?

I previously owned a motorcycle! Many years ago, my mom left me her Honda Rebel cruiser. I owed it to her to learn to ride so I took a course at Harley Davidson and received my motorcycle license. I spent a couple years riding, but passed the bike on when my children came along. It was a fun time!

What was your first job?

My family owns a farm in historic Buckeystown, Maryland and as most children growing up in a rural area, you work the crops alongside your family from a young age. At the time, I thought I was missing out, but as an adult, I have come to appreciate the type of childhood I had (my friends weren’t allowed to drive their Dad’s truck at 8 years old!). My parents set examples of exceptional work ethic and values that have provided a foundation for my career and are characteristics that I find important and hold myself accountable to.