2019 President of AIA Dallas
Talk About It
Profile: Richard M. Miller, FAIA
We are thrilled to welcome Richard Miller, FAIA, as the new president of the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Richard joined Hoefer Wysocki in 2017 as partner and higher education practice leader for the firm. With more than 30 years of experience in the sector at companies including Perkins+Will and Ellerbe Becket, Richard has completed over 40 major university projects, making him not only an expert but also an industry leader in the field. He has worked with distinguished administrators, faculty, students, and designers who understand the value of process and how careful research and methodology can effectively capture their vision for their buildings. Richard’s ability to guide a wide variety of groups toward a common goal is an instrumental skill he will bring to his term as president. Here he tells us more about himself and his goals for AIA Dallas.
Congratulations on the AIA Dallas presidency! To start off, tell us a little bit about yourself — where you grew up, your family, childhood interests.
I’m a sixth-generation Texan from west Fort Worth. I was greatly influenced by my father, a third-generation builder, and my mother, a passionate patron of the arts. Anytime you were in the pickup truck riding with my father, he would point out things to us about the built environment, which I now catch myself doing with my own family. My mother got me involved in the Fort Worth Children’s Museum, where I spent a lot of my formative years as a kid taking classes in free-hand drawing, ceramics, and sculpture. It was an incredible opportunity to learn those skills as a youth and to have parents who encouraged my learning process.
What influenced you to become an architect?
Aside from the obvious influence of my parents’ professions, it was a magical time in the early ’70s in Fort Worth. In October 1972, Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum, one of the most significant pieces of architecture in our time, opened and was built in my own backyard. Even as a kid, I understood how important that was. The building brought a lot of attention to this burgeoning city in Texas, where the West began, creating a form of cultural revolution. This atmosphere of excitement and optimism had a lasting impact on me.
Where did you go to school and what were some of your early jobs?
In the summers between school years, I worked for different Fort Worth architects such as Lee Roy Hahnfeld and Ronnie Wooten to gain experience. One summer I worked on the Caravan of Dreams, an avant-garde performing arts center and live music nightclub in Sundance Square, built in 1983. My claim to fame is the “underappreciated” (joking) copper canopy.
I graduated from University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor of architecture in 1984. It was a great time to be an architect in Dallas; everything was booming, and firms were incredibly busy. I took my first full-time job at HKS. It was a wonderful opportunity to get exposure and experience in a lot of different building typologies. It was at HKS where I met my current Hoefer Wysocki partners, Mitch Hoefer and John Castorina.
You’ve spent over 30 years of your architecture career doing higher education buildings. How did your passion for higher education architecture start?
Higher education is unique in that these buildings are located in strong campus contexts and because they are owned, operated, and maintained by the owners themselves. There is a sense of pride and ownership that does not exist in every building typology.
I came into higher education through collegiate athletics. After HKS, I moved to Kansas City and joined Ellerbe Becket’s sports practice, working on arenas and stadiums. I had the opportunity to work on the expansion of the Notre Dame football stadium. Being on the Notre Dame campus, surrounded by amazing architecture, resonated as such a deep sense of place and context, I was immediately fascinated.
Photo: Shirley Che
What are some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on, other than those you’ve already mentioned?
Right now, I’m working on the Collin College Technical Campus, a facility focused on workforce development and training that is preparing our community to be more competitive in the North Texas region. I am passionate about sustainable design. One of my favorite projects was the University of Texas at Dallas Student Services Building, which is LEED Platinum, the first in the state of Texas within higher education. I also really enjoyed working on the Richland College Sabine Hall Science Building, also LEED Platinum. The Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M was another project I was grateful to work on. That project gave me such an appreciation of A&M and its history, legacy, culture and traditions, which says a lot coming from a Longhorn.
For those who may not know, what leadership positions and areas of involvement have you had at AIA Dallas?
I became involved in 2014, when Lisa Lamkin invited me to serve as the director of advocacy. That set me on a path of serving the profession and our Dallas chapter. It turned into something much more than just having AIA after my name.
I served as the director of networks, chair of the Fellows Committee, and have been actively involved in the Committee on the Environment (COTE) and the Public Policy Committee. I also participated in the Texas Society of Architects and AIA Dallas Fellowship Committee’s mentoring programs.
What do you think are the biggest strengths of the AIA Dallas Chapter as it stands today?
I really appreciate the chapter’s commitment to mentorship. There is a lot of focus on leadership development and training, with the Emerging Leaders Program led by Pete DeLisle. Because of programs like this, AIA Dallas has taken a big step forward in leading chapters nationwide
You’re coming into an exciting time of presidency, as you will be the first president to serve an entire term in the new AD EX space. What are your goals for your presidency and what experience do you want people to have in this new space?
In simple terms, I want our chapter to focus on three key areas: membership, community, and accountability.
Membership is about our value proposition. What does it mean to be an AIA member? How can we provide greater value to our members, and how can we attract emerging professionals? How can we provide even better programs and continue to improve our leadership development and mentorship opportunities for professionals at all career levels? We need to continue to promote standards of excellence in our industry and provide value to our members and to our community.
Community is about our relationship with and commitment to our members, our industry colleagues, and our city. We have such an incredible opportunity for the new AD EX to become a catalyst to showcase architecture and design. It is a visible icon, our window to the city, which provides us the ability to see and be seen, but more important, allows architecture and design to be accessible to industry professionals, owners, developers, institutions, governments, and the community at large. We have the perfect opportunity for the AD EX to be at the center of this conversation.
Accountability is about the relevance and measure of success. It is about the responsibility we have to our members, the quality of programs augmenting our participation and engagement, the social contract we have with our community, and the commitment to the built environment. How can we as architects provide expertise and knowledge to the community and City of Dallas? With diversified growth in the region, architects and AIA Dallas need to facilitate the dialogue about the importance of architecture and design.
It's great to hear how energizing you are, and how that translates to our space.
I think we were always searching for a space like this. It’s location, our city, it’s context and all the steps we had to climb to get here — it makes it even more special. The Republic Center is one of my favorite buildings. Who doesn’t love this beautiful mid-century icon and the rocket ship on top?
What is your favorite building in Dallas?
When I think about architecture that inspires me in Dallas, I think of the Federal Reserve Bank by KPF. It is such an elegant and timeless building. I make a point to really look at it every time I drive by. The Wyly [Theatre] is another of my favorites. It’s been fantastic to have talented star architects design projects in the Arts District, and I look forward to celebrating talented local architecture firms in Dallas, too. That is something I want us to focus on at the new AD EX.
Who inspires you?
While he’s not an architect, one of my favorite designers is Thomas Heatherwick. Talk about innovation, creativity and curiosity! He brings forth such incredible ideas. Regarding architects, I have always loved the works of Renzo Piano and Norman Foster, but I try to find something that inspires me in every piece of architecture.
Photo: Shirley Che
What is something unique that people may not know about you?
After working 24/7on the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta with Ellerbe Becket, I took a sabbatical and moved to Guatemala in 1995, where I lived for an entire year. My roommate at UT was from there and had invited me to visit. I desperately needed a breather, and I wanted to do something that would refuel my soul. So I used that experience to travel throughout Central America studying architecture, visiting Mayan ruins, and taking Spanish classes.
I wanted to end on this: I found a quote from David Messersmith, FAIA, when you were elevated to a Fellow of the AIA: “His passion and enthusiasm are infectious, and it is this persona that makes him an unusually effective ambassador for the profession of architecture.” I can undoubtedly say that we agree, and we are excited for you to lead us in this next page of our Dallas chapter.
We have an incredible slate of officers lined up and a great staff on board. Everyone is energized and excited. I think this will be a fun year.
Interview conducted by Carolyn Mulligan, AIA, an associate at Corgan.