Danelle Briscoe, Assoc. AIA, is an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Galveston. I loved growing up on an island, especially one with so much history. The historic architecture engrained an appreciation for permanence from things that are well designed and made. At the same time, all the hurricanes and storms I experienced first-hand taught me how unstable anything can be in the face of the natural environment.
If you were had not studied architecture, what other profession would you have pursued?
Viticulture or beekeeping by day/product design by night.
What sort of personal activities do you enjoy when your aren't at work?
Playing with my sons; they are so funny. Surfing when I leave near a coast; swimming is a good alternative though. Gardening. Having dinner with friends and family.
Pen, pencil or computer?
All of the above, back and forth to which ever tool suits the task. I’m from the generation that learned to draw and model by hand to design but saw the birth of CAD in the workplace. I was a resident intern at Centerbrook in Connecticut in 1994, and I stayed up all night many nights trying to get CAD drawings completed. The computer kept crashing because I was hatching all the walls in the drawing. It was a somewhat painful experience and not unlike the transition to BIM I see today.
Where do you find inspiration?
Art museums and garage sales — both let you take in space and time through someone else’s perspective. In a museum, I get to experience how the architect controls light or configures a complex program. The artwork in and of itself shows such a range of subjects and how it can be handled. When I was little, my dad used to ask me, "You want to go sailing?" He meant garage-saling. At a garage sale, I always feel like I’m allowed to adventure into someone else’s collected memories. I find myself wondering … how did they use this thing … who made this and how … why they are letting this go? You can uncover such treasures there.
What is your favorite city to visit?
That’s a tough question because I like most cities for different reasons. But if I had to choose one, I’d say Istanbul. I traveled there the first time with Frank Gehry on a studio trip in graduate school. He wanted us to experience the space of Hagia Sophia. I’ll never forget the quality of the light, the smell of incense and spice, the sounds of call to prayer bouncing off the all domes, and the sense of awe and calm I felt there. To add, the food markets, music, and people were like none I had ever experienced before — all amazing.
Do you listen to music when designing? What kind?
Yes, absolutely. It really depends on my mood. If I need a burst of energy, I’ll listen to the Pixies. During my last design charrette, I was listening to Leonard Cohen a lot for some reason, and sometimes I’ll listen to classical to feel cleansed.
What is your favorite time of year?
Springtime. I love it when the cold has passed and plants are so green and blooming. I can finally shed my coat and wear flip-flops. I love to garden, so spring is like a release from prison for me. Spring showers are so cleansing mentally. Dark skies and thunderstorms in the South emphasize the greens and can be so intense and moving.
What is the next building you plan to travel to in order to see for yourself?
I will be in Los Angeles in May and hope to see the Helios House by Office dA – a LEED certified gas-station completed in 2006–2007.
What community activities do you participate in?
I clean the pond and organize the garden activities for first grade at my son’s school, Casis Elementary.