Architects Talking to Architects: John Gates, AIA, of McAllen

John Gates, AIA, is a principal at Boultinghouse Simpson Gates Architects in McAllen. In 2008, he was named a Citizen Architect by the American Institute of Architects for his seven years of public service to the City of McAllen’s Building Board of Adjustments and Appeals. 

John Gates, AIA – courtesy Boultinghouse Simpson Gates Architects

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Missouri. I lived near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in a town about 30 miles north of St. Louis called Florissant. After high school graduation, I moved to Lawrence, Kansas, to attend the University of Kansas. After college in 1992, the economy for architecture students was not too different than it is currently. I was fortunate to find a job in Park City, Utah, with a small firm called Form15 owned by Hank Louis, the founder of DesignBuildBluff. After about six years in Park City, I moved to Salt Lake City to work for a larger firm. I got married in 1997, and a year later my wife was transferred to McAllen, Texas, where we have happily resided for the last 15 years. 

What is your favorite time of year?

I like the winter for a number of reasons. My family and I spend a lot of time in the winter visiting my Winter Texan in-laws on the beach at South Padre Island. In deep South Texas, the summers are way too hot and way too long for a pale Midwesterner like myself. I always look forward to mild winter days and cool nights. It affords me the ability to get outside more often and be more active. 

What is your favorite city to visit? 

Unfortunately, I've not had the privilege of traveling overseas yet. So, my favorite place to visit so far would have to be Park City. It's a historic silver mining town in the mountains of Utah with breathtaking scenery that offers much to do outside all year. The city has kept its identity from the late 1800s and has done a good job building on it to keep it thriving. It has a very strict Historic District Commission that keeps its downtown interesting while maintaining its authenticity.

Here I am in Utah's Lower Provo River. Flyfishing has always been one of my favorite past times. – photo by Nicole Gates

What sort of music do you like to listen to?

I was heavily influenced by music in the late 80s and early 90s. I have what my wife refers to as a "severely limited" taste in music: I like it loud. A few of my favorites include Tool, Deftones, Soundgarden, Stonesour, Beastie Boys, and Chevelle. 

Pen, pencil, or computer?

I use all three. I would feel limited leaving one out. I would say that, of the three, my strength is the pencil. However, I don't typically use pencil at work. I usually generate concepts in ink on tracing paper, integrate the computer fairly early, and go back and forth between ink and Sketchup.

This is a color rendering I completed for the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg. – courtesy Boultinghouse Simpson Gates Architects

Most of my personal artwork is done in pencil and watercolor, but I've recently started with a stylus on iPad.

Artwork in three mediums – by John Gates

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

I'm fascinated with the old stuff since becoming hooked on the H2 series Ancient Aliens. I would love to go see Teotihuacan, the Great Pyraminds, and Machu Picchu. The Perot Museum by Thom Mayne and Kimbell Art Museum by Louis Kahn are also both at the top of my list of next modern buildings to see when I get a chance. The Perot has not been around for too long, but I'm ashamed to say that I've not made the time to see the Kimbell yet. 

What community activities do you participate in?

Up until the birth of my second son about a year and a half ago, I was much more involved in community activities. Now, we are constantly chasing after him everywhere he goes, so my current commitment to the community involves making sure he doesn't destroy everything he gets a hold of.  

I've been involved with the scholarship committee of the local LRGV-AIA chapter, the City of McAllen Building Board of Adjustments and Appeals, and the HOA Architectural Controls Committee. Recently, I've begun participating in the South Texas College's Design and CADD program curriculum advisory committee. I also hold a class D soccer coaching license — I coached my son's soccer team for about seven years until he reached middle school last year. 

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"Architects Talking to Architects" is a column 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 to let us know!