Julie Huynh, Assoc. AIA, is an intern architect at Kendall / Heaton Associates in Houston, where she is currently working on the Golden State Warriors Arena in San Francisco. Julie is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, and alumna and mentor to the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program and Terry Foundation. Julie enjoys attending classes at The Jung Center and regularly contributes to a peer reading group, The Collective Perspective.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Amarillo, which is considered "West Texas," even though it's actually located geographically north within the heart of the Texas Panhandle. Amarillo is a small, conservative city that may be more reminiscent of suburbia than city. It is widely known for two particularly unique attractions: on view year-round is its display of 10 colorful Cadillacs buried nose-down in fallow farmland at the same angle as the Pyramids of Giza, a spectacle that may come just secondary to its generous 72 oz. steak dinner, complete with a baked potato, salad, bread, butter, and shrimp cocktail.
Fortunately for me, I've grown to know a different kind of Amarillo. I grew up where the sunsets were the most vivid paintings stretching across the horizon, where the backdrop to the black night sky allowed the luminosity of the stars to glare ever more brilliant. I grew up in a place of contrasting scales, and it's made me realize how remarkably profound those scales can be.
Pen, pencil, or computer?
I can already sense the looming cloud of doom, but I will have to say computer. That isn't to say that the pen and pencil aren't quite as mighty as the sword — each medium serves a very different purpose. I know how much the architectural community takes pride in its precious pens and pencils, but the evolution of technology has unequivocally introduced a realm of exhilarating opportunities! Is it such a terrible thing to embrace?
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in people. I have a fascination with humans, the human mind, and human interaction. A substantial amount of what I enjoy reading is research in the fields of sociology and psychology. I remember a time when I was browsing through the social sciences section of a used book store, and though I didn't realize it at the time, it turned out that the book I decided to purchase was actually a textbook for the State University of New York in Buffalo. Who purchases a college textbook to read for fun, right? Oh, but of course that would be me. It was a rather awkward realization at first, but the content was so captivating that it didn't really matter that I was reading a textbook. It didn't make the information any less valuable; if anything, the fact that it was a textbook may have even made it more valuable for me — not because I developed an inflated sense of pride for being so "scholarly," but because it led me to question how society assigns value and meaning. That question, in itself, is very much related to inspiration.
What is your favorite time of year?
My favorite time of year is the transient moment when verdant greens start to become warm glows of red, orange, and yellow. There's something about the transformation that I find profoundly alluring. I think it has something to do with the process of change, or the inevitability of change, or maybe both. My favorite place to have witnessed this change is (surprisingly) in LA, where I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to intern with Craig Hodgetts and Ming Fung during my last year in architecture school. At that time, I spent many weekends in the park or in the hills, watercoloring and writing in the midst of nature's ephemerality. The autumn season isn't nearly the same in Houston — but it does help that everything comes in pumpkin flavor!
What is the one building that you just had to see for yourself?
Zumthor's Therme Vals in Switzerland — no question. Perhaps it wasn't about seeing the building, but rather more about experiencing the building and embracing the immensity of its beauty through the experience. After all, it was just another giant rock buried in the earth, yet I found myself becoming thoroughly, unabashedly, and completely immersed. The massiveness of the stone juxtaposed against the fluid presence of the water is a relationship symbolic of endless possibilities — opaqueness and transparency, boundaries and boundlessness, simplicity and complexity. Hearing and reading about it, you would never be able to wholly grasp the magnificence of it all, almost as if it's too ethereal — too perfect — to truly believe. That's certainly how I felt prior to my visit, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that others have felt the same.
What type of advice would you offer to young professionals?
Be vulnerable. Persevere. Stumble. Learn. Trust. Believe. Confide. Learn. Engage. Commit. Produce. Learn. Inquire. Discover. Explore. Learn. Ask questions. Ask good questions. Ask bad questions. Find answers! And learn. And breathe. And repeat. Always, always repeat.