How did you become interested in architecture?
My favorite smell in the world is sawdust. I grew up in Fort Worth as the daughter of a general contractor. My uncle was an architect, and I grew up wanting to be an architect. The only school that my parents were willing to pay for didn't have a school of architecture. I married, raised children, and found out someone wanted to buy the house we were in. So I was going to get to build a house. That was my first immersion in the built environment, and it was the most pleasurable experience I had up to that point.
How did you choose an architect for that project?
My goal was to choose the best architect for me. There is no one, best architect for everything. Larry Speck helped me narrow my list, and I visited those architects in their offices. I visited projects they had done. I talked to clients. I chose Antoine Predock to design our house. He was so much fun to work with, and he designed a place that shows me every day the importance of the built environment. I suggested to Larry Speck that the School of Architecture at the University of Texas have some course on how to be a good client because I think that is really an important thing in developing a great project.
What are the essential skills to being a good client?
It means spending a lot of time on how the design will function for you because no architect can read your mind. A client must be as involved as an architect, but they each have different roles. I do not know any more collaborative process than building. It involves a great contractor. It involves all the design trades—the civil engineer, the structural engineer, interior design, graphic design, acoustics. A client needs to make sure that they have the best of all those things and not quit until they have something they really believe is excellent.
What skills make for a good architect?
A great architect has equal portions of right brain and left brain. They are wonderful artists, but they are also wonderful engineers or analysts. They are great communicators, and they are inclusive. Sometimes the inclusive part gets given short shrift, but when they really listen to all the people that need to be involved, that is when you end up with a wonderful project.
Can you give examples of working with other architects and designers?
I worked with Sambo Mockbee and Coleman Coker. Now I'm working with a young architect, Nona Yehia. She lives in Jackson Hole, and we are doing a tiny little project there. I'm also doing larger projects for nonprofits, like the Wildflower Center in Austin. At the Dallas Center for Performing Arts, we chose Rem Koolhaas to design the Wyly Theater, Norman Foster to design the opera hall, and Michel Desvigne to do the landscape. I believe that at the same time the client spends a lot of time choosing an architect, they should spend the same amount of time choosing a landscape architect. When those two professions really work together, they inform each other, and the final product then can be even better.