Architects Talking to Architects: Charles E. Brant, AIA

Charles E. Brant, AIA, a native of Kansas, has lived in Dallas for 11 years enjoying the neighborhood character of the city's constantly evolving districts. Currently, Brant is an associate and project manager at Perkins+Will focusing on the K-12 market. He is also an active AIA Dallas member: he has participated in and led the Emerging Leaders Program and is the current chair of the chapter's Public Policy Committee. Additionally, he has served on the planning committees for the Form Follows Fitness 5K, which benefits the Dallas Center for Architecture, and the NCARB ARE 5.0 Task Force.

Charles E. Brant, AIA – photo courtesy Perkins+Will

Where did you grow up?

I’m from Arkansas City, Kansas (pronounced Ar-KAN-sas not AR-kan-saw), a small town of 10,000 people in south central Kansas along the Oklahoma border.

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

I’d like to think I would have been a veterinarian, because I like animals and most seem to like me; however, I grasped the natural sciences better than life sciences. More likely, I'd have stayed close to the architecture field by practicing in some capacity in the engineering or construction fields.

The business field would also be a strong contender. On that note, more architecture programs should have business classes associated with them. We (architects) all need them. Architecture is a business after all. 

It's dogs like Bradley who make you want to be a veterinarian. – photo courtesy Charles Brant

Pen, pencil, or computer?

Pen. Professor Mohammed Bilbeisi of Oklahoma State University would be disappointed if I said anything else. The clear, clean lines of a single pen line require a certain level of confidence and understanding of what you are doing. The pencil has a beauty of touch that can be manipulated for different purposes, but it’s forgiving and allows for mistakes. The computer, while great for complex problems, is limiting in its mobility. Even tablets can be cumbersome and unreliable. As cliché as it is, you can always reach into your pocket, grab a napkin at a client lunch, and start to express an idea with a pen.

The immediacy and raw quality of a pen napkin sketch allows you convey the essence of an idea or detail. – photo courtesy Charles Brant

Where do you find inspiration?

From a design standpoint, I lean heavily on spaces I’ve experienced personally, which is why I like to travel and experience places as the locals experience them. However, this can be limiting. I understand my strengths and limitations and try to work within them, reaching to others when I need to. 

However, if you have ever finished a project and seen someone so excited to be standing in it, whether it be the owner, user, or visitor, you don’t need much more inspiration than that for the next project. Architecture is more about people than we sometimes care to admit.

The Rasin Building (also known as the Dancing House) in Prague by Frank Gehry is a testament to architecture working within limitations. The detailing of the Louvre Pyramid in Paris is also spectacular – photos by Charles Brant

Do you listen to music when designing? What kind?

Yes, it is a habit I picked up in architecture school. I find the ability to ‘plug-in’ and focus on a task more enjoyable (and more efficient) when I can listen to music. Spotify has helped with this ‘addiction.’ I keep a pretty diverse music collection, shaped by some close friends with diverse tastes — ranging from singer/songwriter, indie, folk, alt rock, electronica, some pop — it’s a long list. 

What is your favorite time of year?

Without a doubt, it’s fall. Coming from a little farther north, I grew up with long fall seasons filled with crisp morning air, a light frost on the ground, and amazing colored leaves falling from the trees. In North Texas, we occasionally get a nice fall season, but it’s just not quite the same.

What is the one building that you just had to see for yourself?

Sagrada Família. I thought it was really interesting in books and history classes, but seeing it in person (along with most of Gaudi’s work) is truly amazing. The creative mind behind his projects is well beyond anything I could imagine. I found myself in awe as I walked through the building. It’s no wonder it has taken 130+ years (and counting) to build it.

Sagrada Família by Antonio Gaudi – photos by Charles Brant

Beer, wine, or cocktail — what is your drink of choice?

Cocktails. My 'go-to' drink usually changes with the season:

Spring Gin & Tonic
Summer French 76
Fall Old Fashioned
Winter Irish Coffee

Although sometimes you just need something on the rocks.

What type of advice would you offer to young professionals?

Get involved with your local professionals and city. Build a network: in your office, in your profession, and in your city. Meet people outside of architecture. Get a mentor (or mentors) that you can trust to guide you. Get licensed. Work hard, but be smart and balanced. See tasks through to the right solution, not just the fast one. Be patient. Everyone started in the same place and moved up; it doesn’t happen overnight.

Architects aren’t known for their hobbies … Do you have one?

I have many things I like to do, but seldom make the time to do them. When I do make time, I enjoy hiking, travel, gardening, reading, etc. I just bought a house, which needs some renovation, so that will likely be my ‘hobby’ for the coming months… or years.

When I make time for my hobbies, I enjoy traveling and experiencing all that a place has to offer. The picture above is of my time at Moose Lake in  Minnesota, and the bottom photo is of my times in Vernazza, Italy – photos by Charles E. Brant

"Architects Talking to Architects" is a series on the Texas Society of Architects blog that spotlights members from across the state at different points of development in their career. All participants are given the same set of questions, with instructions to answer any six, giving them the opportunity to highlight the items they feel are most interesting. Is there someone you'd like to see featured in "Architects Talking to Architects"? Email communications@texasarchitects.org to let us know.​