Architects Talking to Architects: Julien Meyrat, AIA

Julien Meyrat, AIA, received his Masters of Architecture from The University of Texas at Austin. Julien currently works as an associate at RTKL Associates, where he specializes in the planning, designing, and documentation of commercial projects. Additionally, Julien serves as a board member for the City of Rockwall Architecture Review Board, a position he has held since January 2010.

Julien Meyrat, AIA visiting the Eiffel Tower with his 8-year-old son, Emile – photo courtesy Julien Meyrat

Where did you grow up?

All over the world. I was born in 12th arrondissement of Paris. My French father worked for a large bank that sent the family to Singapore for six years. Following that expat experience, we briefly returned to France, and then we were off to Louisiana, my American mother’s home state. We lived in New Orleans for a year and another five years in Baton Rouge. By the time I was in the 10th grade, we settled for good in Dallas, where many in my family continue to reside. After finishing high school, I spent a year as an exchange student in the East German state of Saxony in the small town of Falkenau near Chemnitz, where I was able to experience all the dramatic changes taking place due to that country’s recent reunification.  

Landscape of Falkenau, Saxony, Germany – photo by Julien Meyrat

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

I would probably be working as a diplomat for the Department of State. I love learning languages (I speak four fluently) and was actually a political science major at Southwestern University, a small liberal arts college in Georgetown near Austin. And yet, I was always drawing — animals, machines, people — for as long as I can remember. Fortunately, I discovered that architecture was the one discipline where I could indulge in all my personal interests and still draw.

What sort of music do you like to listen to?

Even though I wasn’t even born at the time, I’ve always been deeply fond of progressive rock of the early 1970s and its myriad stylistic offshoots— symphonic rock, electronic space music, German krautrock, and proto-ambient pieces. Listening to British multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield got me started on this kind of music. I’ve been told by my older colleagues that his hit 1973 album "Tubular Bells" was a kind of musical staple in the studio at architecture school. Once in a while, I’ll take a break and listen to nothing but French chansons, a rich genre that combines the rhythmic beauty of the French language with lively jazz and pop arrangements. I like a lot of classical music, too.

Tubular Bells (1973), Mike Oldfield – album artwork copyright Virgin Records

Where do you find inspiration?

Historic rural landscapes. It’s where nature interacts with the man-made with such overwhelming clarity. Old farm houses, barns, or rustic villas situated in a gentle pastoral setting always remind me what beauty is at its most essential. The weathering of these structures reinforces the notion of time and helps something seemingly simple convey so much meaning. I’m always amazed at how such a straightforward approach to the environment results in a diversity of cultural landscapes throughout the world. It’s what I most remember from my travels. It’s why I’m particularly attracted to contemporary works by architects that have demonstrated a regional focus through rural inspiration, such as Glenn Murcutt, Marlon Blackwell, Samuel Mockbee, and Lake Flato.

Finding inspiration in Cordes-sur-ciel rural landscape – photo by Julien Meyrat

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

Wherever I go, I’m always looking to see if there’s a building that I’ve studied or seen published that happens to be nearby. It’s not unusual for me to take a few detours from my travel itinerary to see some Le Corbusier masterwork that other people in my party will never fully appreciate. Sometimes they are pleasantly surprised, such as when my wife and I visited Corbu’s Chapel at Ronchamp or his Villa La Roche. I hope to see his Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles the next time I travel to France, but I’m happy to see any and all examples of his work. I still make sure to explore all the obligatory ‘old stones’ with my family since I like those, too.

Ronchamp by Le Corbusier (1954) – photo by Julien Meyrat

Couvent Sainte-Marie de La Tourette by Le Corbusier (1959) – photo by Julien Meyrat

What community activities do you participate in?

For the past four years, I’ve been a member of Architectural Review Board for the City of Rockwall.  Appointed by the city council, it’s a small advisory body to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.  We are given the task to review architectural plans, perspectives and material boards submitted on behalf of almost all the new commercial developments going up in the city.  If the board doesn’t recommend the project, it will not get Planning and Zoning’s approval. It’s actually an effective way to raise the overall standard of design within the community.  We’ve managed to improve in modest ways the prototypes imposed by retail chains wanting do business with us by adding more articulation and glazing to giving them incentives to use a more attractive prototype.

"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. Have someone you'd like to see featured in "Architects Talking to Architects?" Email to let us know!