Architects Talking to Architects: Bob Bullis, AIA

Bob Bullis, AIA, is client relations director for Rogers-O’Brien Construction in Dallas. He also represents the interests of local architects as a member of the AIA Dallas Board of Directors. Bullis received his Master of Architecture from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), where he also served as an adjunct professor teaching design and watercolor studio. He advocates for sustainable design, virtual design and construction, and champions collaboration between design and construction professionals. He is an architect’s architect and values the role architects play in the construction process as visionaries, problem-solvers, and the caretakers of the health, safety and welfare of the community.  

Bob Bullis, AIA

Bob Bullis, AIA – photo courtesty Bob Bullis

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Austin but was raised in Buffalo, NY, mostly known for its record snowfalls and relentless winters. Looking back, my childhood hometown was fairly Rockwell-ian. We lived in a turn-of-the-century clapboard home located on the village green (Veterans Park) along with City Hall, the post office, the elementary school, two churches, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Hall, and the Boys Club. Our front porch, and those of our neighbors, lined the park on three sides; the fourth side was home to the civic structures.

I fondly recall the park amenities, including the community wading pool, which doubled as a skating rink in the winter, and the VFW memorial, a WWII artillery canon that also served as a play structure for neighborhood kids. With a bit of nostalgia, I have come to realize that my hometown would score very high on the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Survey and would definitely qualify as a TND community by today’s standards.

snow in Buffalo

Did I mention it snows in Buffalo? (1977) – photo courtesy Bob Bullis, AIA

If you were not an architect, what other profession would you have pursued?

I might have been a college professor, a contractor, or perhaps a stonemason. I hang out at stone yards on weekends in search of that perfect piece of flagstone. More to the point, in the last four years I have been afforded the opportunity to “live the dream." I have practiced architecture, taught at UTA, pursued my passion for watercolor painting, and finally, I am fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming “Bob the Builder” (smile). Good things come to those who wait.

Pen, pencil or computer?

How about a paintbrush? I learned to watercolor from the late RB Ferrier while in graduate school. Over the years, I have honed these skills and used them for the good of society (another smile). Design, watercolor, and now construction are all a means to an end for me; this is the betterment of our built environment one project at a time.

For the record, UTA’s modus operandi was definitively Koh-I-Noor rapidograph pens, largely .05 or smaller.

Bullis Watercolor

A sample of my watercolor work. View more.image by Bob Bullis

Where do you find inspiration?

I find my inspiration in the people who have crossed my path. The relationships and mentoring moments they shared have made me who I am today. To all the mentors who have shaped my life and career — too many to name here — I am appreciative and indebted to you. I look for opportunities each day to “pay forward” this debt.

UTA students

Influencing the next generation of architects while teaching at UTA. – photo courtesy Bob Bullis

What is the next building you plan to travel to in order to see for yourself?

I was captivated by Robert Hammond’s keynote presentation at last year's Texas Society of Architects Annual Convention in Austin. He shared his dream of creating the High Line in New York City through the founding of the Friends of the High Line. Walking the High Line with my friends and family moved to the top of my architectural bucket list after seeing that presentation.

NYC High Line

The High Line – photo by istock, ferrantraite

What community activities do you participate in?

Here is a chance for a shout-out to the AIA…. I joined AIA in 1990 and was immediately entrusted with a committee chair position (KRMDC). During my 23-year tenure, I have been active in, and held nearly every position of leadership in, my chapter. AIA often catches heat when looked at through the value-add lens. Is membership worth the investment, some ask? Through the years, I have received tremendous value from my membership and the relationships and opportunities it has presented me. My take is that, as in any volunteer organization, you get out what you put into it.

Bob and Gloria

I'm pictured here with Gloria Wise, executive director of AIA Dallas in the 90s. Gloria was instrumental in my early involvement with AIA. – photo courtesy Bob Bullis

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.