Architects Talking to Architects: Mackenzie McHale, AIA

Mackenzie McHale, AIA, is vice president at HKS Architects in Fort Worth. 

Mackenzie McHale and her boys

Mackenzie McHale, AIA, with her sons. – photo courtesy Mackenzie McHale

Where did you grow up?

I was born in the "Grand Canyon State," grew up in the "Sunshine State," and left the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" to finish out my college days here in Texas. I am a melting pot of cultures, landscapes, and people. It has been an exciting journey that led me to my home.

Pen, pencil or computer?

Pen and computer, never pencil. Charcoal, yes. Pencil, no. I am entirely too opinionated about my pen selections. Call me a pen snob, but I have to admit, the computer has taken over as my means of communication and, really, my way of life. I look like a kid in a candy shop when I get a chance to pull out a couple of Prismacolors.

Where do you find inspiration?

I have recently been granted the opportunity to critique and lead a graduate studio at Texas Tech University on a healthcare project. This has been a newfound source of professional accomplishment and awareness for me. I find that I am inspired working to mentor and reach out to these students because, in return, they remind me of my growing distant past — a time when creativity flowed and the possibilities were so great. I realize I might not have appreciated that at the time. Now, I have been given another chance to explore possibilities of design within an academic setting coupled with my own professional experience to enhance projects. I have been so changed by the experience that I am now considering teaching architecture one day.

What is the one building that you just had to see for yourself?

Taliesin East — Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and home. As a Midwestern girl, this was a pilgrimage to neighboring Wisconsin. The short trip allowed me to see in the flesh the culmination of the parti sketches, construction details, furniture, and landscapes that I had passively collected in stacks of Wright books over the years. Visiting there was a small step that fueled a passion for architecture and the desire to hone my own professional craft. 

Taliensin East

Taliesin East, Spring Green WI Frank Lloyd Wright via Flickr; akasped

On my way to Taliesin, I was pleasantly surprised to pass by Louis Sullivan's National Farmers' Bank in Owatonna. I knew it immediately from the telltale repeating geometric detail, not from my studies. I went in like I was getting in line at Disneyland. I remember staring at the ceiling until my neck hurt.

National Farmers' Bank

Louis Sullivan's National Farmers' Bank via Flickr; pov_steve

Beer, wine or cocktail — what is your drink of choice?

Well now, I talk about being a Midwestern girl, but you know, I've converted to all-Texan when it comes to my preferred libation. Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. set up shop in the now-booming Southside district of Fort Worth, where I work and play. The beautifully appointed distillery is in a 1920’s refurbished warehouse. Their attention to design detail and Texas style was enough to turn this avid red wine drinker into a whiskey girl. I support local innovation, preservation, and originality where I can. I drink TX Blended Whiskey, on the rocks.

Architects aren’t known for their hobbies … do you have one?

My hobby is also my most cherished gift — my husband and my two boys, Lochlan (4 years old) and Sullivan (3 years old). Being a mom was something I dreamt of long before a career. We run, play, read, swim, and run some more. My kids feed my second hobby — photography. I can count 2,500 baby pictures of my first child before the four-month mark.

McHale's boys

Mackenzie McHale's boys. – photo courtesy Mackenzie McHale

"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!