Chris Sano, AIA, is a senior associate at BRW Architects in Dallas and has two young boys with big imaginations to keep him on his toes.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in San Antonio. I lived there until I went to collge at Texas A&M. After seven years in College Station, I was ready for something different and dismissed moving back to San Antonio. It wasn’t until I left the college environment that I realized how strong San Antonio’s cultural identity really is. It's embedded in daily life there and is hard to explain to outsiders. San Antonio is a special place, and I love going back to visit as a “tourist."
If you were not an architect, what other profession would you have persued?
In college, I would have said a graphic artist (in the two-dimensional sense). But now, I know how much I love creating physical objects and spaces that people can interact with on a larger scale. So today, I would say “builder of things." I really connect to the raw materials of construction (wood, steel, and concrete) and would love to work with them at an artisan level.
Where do you find inspiration?
Exploring new things with my kids. Even the seemingly mundane things are an adventure. The amazement in their faces with each new discovery is inspirational. As designers, we have the opportunity to create spaces that inspire. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; something as simple as a well placed window can shift someone’s perspective for the better. Discovery at any level is inspirational.
What is one building that you just had to see for yourself?
I haven’t made many exotic architectural pilgrimages in my day, but several years ago I had the opportunity to experience the American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (of course having no idea at the time that it would all too soon be demolished). I loved the quirkiness and beauty that was crafted into each small detail, which was so fitting for the folk art it showcased. It is pretty mind-boggling that MoMA would elect to destroy such a significant work of architecture, especially under so much scrutiny. I hate to think what negative message this sends to the public about the value that architects bring to our cities.
Do you have a favorite website or blog that you visit regularly?
I love the 99% Invisible podcast! It’s an independent radio show about design, architecture, and the 99%-invisible activity that shapes our environment. In a world (and profession) so dominated by visual stimulation, it is refreshing to be forced to use your mind’s eye during the audio storytelling. They also have a website that provides visuals to support each episode… but I strongly encourage you to always listen first! Then, go back and compare your mental images to the real thing. I’ve been known to drive co-workers crazy by retelling episodes from years past.
What type of advice would you offer to young professionals?
Maintain a positive attitude. Have fun. Enjoy the people you work with — both co-workers and clients. At the end of the day, we design buildings to improve the everyday lives of PEOPLE. Why not embrace that spirit beyond the “work” itself and bring it into the way you work? Don’t forget how many people you can positively affect every day without even lifting a pencil.