Architects Talking to Architects: Scott Specht, AIA

Scott Specht, AIA, is a partner at Specht Harpman Architects in Austin, TX. His firm also maintains an office in New York City. Specht Harpman's award-winning work includes commercial, institutional, and residential projects, as well as custom furniture.

Specht with son

Scott Specht, AIA, and his son – courtesy Scott Specht, AIA


Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a completely anonymous suburb of Tampa, Florida in the '70s. It was a kind of aesthetic blank slate, and I was exposed to very few notions about what architecture or design involved. I remember seeing the new exposed-concrete Tampa International Airport terminal when I was a kid and asking my dad when they were going to paint it.

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

It would have definitely been something science-based with research involved. I'm a nerd.

Pen, pencil or computer?

I'm unable, at least in the initial conceptual phase, to think while using a computer. I was the last generation of architect to go completely through school without having to touch a computer, and I think my brain is just hardwired at this point to think with a pencil or X-acto in my hand. It's pretty inefficient, but I still usually find myself sketching all my details out on paper as a first step.

Where do you find inspiration? 

I love the highly-engineered yet usually unnoticed materials and products that are around us. Things like plastic ice-cube trays, temporary roadway barriers, stackable Coke crates, and styrofoam packaging can often inspire ideas that work outside the standard palette of architectural materials. On occasion, I've been able to directly deploy these things in my projects, but that takes a client willing to go along. 

Specht Office

Specht Harpman exhibit at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture – photo by Taggart Sorensen

Although my work is very different in character, I'm fascinated by the work of Bruce Goff, who similarly incorporated unexpected and sometimes bizarre materials and formal strategies in his projects.

Bruce Goff Home

Bruce Goff-designed Bavinger House in Norman, Oklahoma – photo by Jones2jy, courtesy Wikimedia Commons


What is your favorite city to visit?

I like dense, cobbled-together places that show the evidence of many layers of rethinking and rebuilding, often with some traumatic historical context thrown in. Hong Kong and Tokyo are amazing in this way, as is Berlin. They don't exactly make for a relaxing visit, but they're fascinating nonetheless.

Kowloon, Hong Kong

Apartment building facade in Kowloon, Hong Kong – photo by istock (archives)

Do you listen to music when designing? What kind?

I used to find one album, or even one song, and listen to it over and over while designing. I'm sure there's some neurological reason why this is comforting, or helps with concentration, but it is fortunate that I had good headphones so as not to expose anyone else. The content was eclectic, but usually something in a minor key and semi-depressed sounding.

What is your favorite time of year?

Anytime but summer.  

"Architects Talking to Architects" is a new weekly column on the Texas Architects blog that spotlights architects from across the state at different points of development in their career. All participants are given the same list of 10 questions with instructions to answer any six, giving them the opportunity to highlight the items they feel are most interesting. If you would like to join in this conversation and be featured in "Architects Talking to Architects," email