Zach Farrell, Assoc. AIA, works on corporate office and retail project for 5G Studio Collaborative in Dallas. He regularly participates in AIA events, including Architecture on Tap and Success Teams. When Zach is not working, you'll find him running, biking, or creating something at his home in East Dallas.
If you had not studied architecture, what other profession would you have pursued?
Physics, astronomy, medicine, or the fine arts — especially sculpture. A broad spectrum, I know. Most people have favorite tabs on their internet browsers that consist of ESPN Sports Center, NBC News, or MarketWatch. I have links to quantum physics information, phys.org (news and articles on science and technology), and regularly check up on spaceweather.com.
My creative side came from my parents, who encouraged me to draw, paint, and build as soon as I could hold a pen, brush, or welding torch. My scientific side was influenced by my uncle on my father’s side who introduced me to Douglas R. Hofstadter’s “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” well before I could truly understand it. The one passage that stuck with me was a story about Achilles racing a tortoise. The story illustrated a mathematical equation dealing with logarithmic rules. Once it was explained to me, I was forever hooked on the world of geometry.
In the end, architecture would be the best fit for me — because a world of sculpture and art would not have nearly enough structure, and a world of engineering and math wouldn’t allow me to be creative.
Pen, pencil, or computer?
Pen. A pen allows me the freedom to express myself in a way a computer can’t, and stresses a sense of permanence that a pencil doesn’t. Every line must be intentional and carefully drawn. A pen demands control, but allows for independence. I always carry around three line weights: thin, medium, and thick. The exact thickness is not important, just as long as each is comparably different than the other two. This versatility allows more or less precision at multiple scales.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration mostly comes from whatever subject I am doing outside of the office. I just recently started reading “Introduction to Topology”, on the study of geometric properties and spatial relations. I could easily associate the subject with architecture, and it allowed me to think abstractly about the forms we make every day at the office. Other books I have read include “Anatomy” and “The Chaos Theory.”
As I ride my bike around White Rock Lake in East Dallas, I might think about the social interactions between runners and walkers, then wonder at the simple machines that make the wheels on my bike turn, and then marvel at the anatomy of the muscles that pull bones to push the pedals. The world is full of inspiration — you just have to know where to look.
Architects aren’t known for their hobbies…Do you have one?
I like to think that I collect hobbies. One day, I am biking/running around the lake. The next I am making a model ship out of bass wood or painting in my garage. The day after that, I am building a crystal radio that runs purely off radio waves. My most recent endeavors have been building a deck off the back of my house and exploiting the 3D printer at my office. I don’t think the world has enough in it to tame all of my interests.
What is the one building that you just had to see for yourself?
I had to see Parc de la Villette by Bernard Tschumi during one weekend in Paris while on my four-month study abroad in school. The folies, overlaid on the master plan of the “urban park,” was such an incredibly playful piece of architecture that I spent nearly four hours studying each folie. My favorite one, Folie L7, was the rectilinear piece that connected to the axial waving awning, which cut through the entire park along the river.
What type of advice would you offer to young professionals?
My advice to other young professionals is to find what you love to do and harness it. No obstacle, whether it is time, money, or foe, should ever stand in your way. A favorite quote from Kurt Vonnegut:
“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been.’”