Architects Interviewing Architects: Matt Fajkus, AIA, of Austin

Matt Fajkus, AIA, is the principal architect at Matt Fajkus Architecture in Austin, Texas. The award-winning firm, informally known as MF Architecture, focuses on sustainable residential design and small-scale installation. Matt is also an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin. 

Matt Fajkus, AIA

Matt Fajkus, AIA – courtesy Matt Fajkus

Where did you grow up?

I spent most of my childhood in the Austin area, and I went to high school in Elgin, Texas, where I was the fifth generation to live in a house on Main Street. I fell asleep to the sound of train whistles in the night, and did a fair amount of yard work, which I dreaded in the heat of the summer. I had a fascination for sketching and creating at a young age, but I also spent a lot of time outdoors, often attempting overly ambitious bike riding stunts, which resulted in getting stitches several times.

What sort of personal activities do you enjoy when your aren't at work?

I enjoy getting away to our family farm in Southeast Texas, but since that doesn't happen as often as I would like, I enjoy jogging around Austin and having an occasional drink with professional and academic colleagues, as well as other friends around town. I also enjoy getting away and going hiking — one of my goals is to climb to the highest peak of every U.S. state, and I've completed 25 so far.

On Guadalupe Peak, the highest natural point in Texas – courtesy Matt Fajkus

Pen, pencil or computer?

All of the above, and not in any specific order. I feel fortunate to have been at the cusp of the analog-to-digital transition early in my career. I love the immediacy and vagueness of hand sketches as well as the precision and possibilities of digital 3D modeling and rendering. I find it important to not pedagogically insist upon any singular technique, but rather use each as a tool in both the design process as well as representation. 

Where do you find inspiration?

I often find inspiration in work done by others outside of the field of architecture. I certainly learn a lot from work by colleagues in architecture, but often, the most provocative inspiration comes from other fields, including engineering, as well as visual arts and literature. I'm compelled and often inspired by the cinematography in films by Alfred Hitchcock, Jacques Tati, the Coen Brothers, and Wes Anderson.

PlayTime (1967), directed by Jacques Tati – screenshot via wikimedia; fair use

Hotel Chevalier (2007), directed by Wes Anderson – photo copyright Fox Searchlight Pictures

Do you listen to music when designing? What kind?

At the office, we usually play music out loud on speakers, and it's mostly of the mellow indie-rock variety, but varies a great deal. On any given day, the playlist could include Wild Nothing, The Smiths, Hank Williams, Morphine, The Cure, or Phosphorescent — with Beach House being our favorite.

What is your favorite city to visit?

Barcelona has always been special to me, ever since a semester of study-abroad and a summer internship with Mario Corea Architects. I'm intrigued by the overlapping grids from Roman times and beyond, and the interstitial urban spaces created by such intersections. I also enjoy the fact that a dense urban core is immediately surrounded by nature, including mountains and the sea, rather than endless suburbia. I've since been back to visit, and I still enjoy sketching and photographing the density of urban corridors and spaces, and its corresponding effect on the modulation of natural light.

Barcelona – by Matt Fajkus

What is your favorite time of year?

I prefer the fall, when the hot weather breaks for the first time, and cool, crisp air blows through as a reprieve from the heat.

What community activities do you participate in?

I recently led a group of young architects to volunteer our time in designing a new building for the Bastrop Children's Advocacy Center. The organization helps abused children, and the project was a meaningful and moving experience for us all. I'm also a volunteer member of the Austin-Koblenz Sister Cities delegation, which included a trip to Koblenz, Germany in 2011 to represent Austin as an ambassador, and I conversely helped host the delegation from Koblenz during its Austin visit in 2012. I also serve as an elected director on the Board for Cambridge Tower, Austin's classic Mid-century Modern tower.

"Architects Talking to Architects" is a column on the Texas Architects blog that spotlights architects from across the state at different points of development in their career. All participants are given the same set of 10 questions with instructions to answer any six, giving them the opportunity to highlight the items they feel are most interesting. If you would like to join in this conversation and be featured in "Architects Talking to Architects," email communications@texasarchitects.org.