In our ongoing series, Interview with an Architect, we speak with leading voices in the North Texas architecture community and learn about their work, development issues in our community, and good design practices and principals (you can read the first one here).
Larry Paschall, AIA, is Vice President and founding member at HPD Architecture, an architecture and interior design firm located in Dallas focusing on residential architecture. Since their inception in December 2007, HPD has focused on new construction, renovations, and additions for private residences primarily in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
He’s also the unofficial ambassador for the Dallas architecture community as a co-founder of The Architecture Happy Hour, a monthly networking event that brings together hundreds of professionals from a wide array of businesses, including architecture, design, and real estate, as well as design enthusiasts and a host of other people.
The event followed the launch of The Architecture Happy Hour podcast. He and HPD colleague Laura Davis, AIA, started the podcast in November 2009, which has 48 entertaining, educational episodes on topics ranging from “Can I Be My Own General Contractor?” to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and Dallas’ need for brand-name architecture.
Paschall earned his Bachelor of Environmental Design degree from Texas A&M University and lives in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas with his husband and two basset hounds. In his spare time, he serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, and as a board member for their charitable organization, the Leadership Education & Advocacy Program.
CandysDirt.com: You are the co-organizer of the highly acclaimed The Architecture Happy Hour, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary. What made you decide to start it?
Larry Paschall: We needed one because in 2010, we were a firm that nobody knew and we needed a way to help build a network of people that we could reach out to in the community.
At the same time, it was an opportunity to tell everyone “come to this event because it’s a very smart thing to do.” We noticed that the only people architects wanted to network with are other architects. The happy hour is a chance to meet other people who would be excellent referral sources and contacts down the line. I know three Realtors who can tell me what’s happening in the market, for example. This is information that might be vital to what we do as an architect. And because we know all these people, we can better serve our clients because we are better plugged into the community.
People are seeing the value of building connections. There’s a metalworker from Waco who comes, and an interior designer from Oklahoma City who schedules her time in the Design District to coincide with the happy hour. There’s a stylist, and for him, it’s become a social gathering.
The next one is April 15 at Fashion Glass & Mirror in the Design District’s Trinity Lofts Building. People should register and RSVP on our Meetup site so we have a head count for beer, wine, and nibbles.
CD: In your capacity as the happy hour co-founder, a podcaster, and as Chairman of the Board for the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, you act as an ambassador for the architecture community. What’s the biggest thing people are surprised to learn about the profession?
LP: Culturally, we have Mike Brady and Frank Gehry—people know about “starchitects” or nobody.
People are often surprised that we can draw houses, that we design homes. They think we only do big buildings. That’s because you don’t necessarily see the private work we do, but rather the big commercial buildings, like the opera house and symphony hall.
Another thing people don’t understand is that 80 percent of the members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) are small businesses, but we don’t hear about any of those people. We’re supposed to be for the elite and the prima donnas, but we’re not.
CD: That leads me to my next question: Architect-designed houses are often perceived as the domain of the wealthy. Is that wrong?
LP: That is a mistaken perception. If you see a residential project in a magazine, it will probably be a multimillion-dollar property in Seattle or Europe. No one thinks they should call an architect first when they are working on their house, but that’s what we are here for. We know contractors and when they are working with a client who has house design ideas, they say, “You need to talk to an architect first.”
CD: What are your thoughts on the Texas infatuation with “bigger is better” in real estate?
LP: There’s a mentality that we have to keep up, everyone has to have what the neighbor has. As the neighbor’s houses have gotten bigger, our houses have gotten bigger. Land is cheap, and as a developer, I’m going to put as much house on that land as possible to get the most profit.
Think about it: 1,200 square feet was a great house in the 50s. Now, it’s 2,500 square feet and you’re expected to move out of that house in three years and get something bigger. What happens is you have people in their 50s and 60s and they’re in a 10,000-square-foot home and they’re not using half of it. They’re stuck in that when something smaller would have possibly been right from the beginning.
People should ask themselves, “What are we going to doing with that space? Are we entertaining every night? Do we really need it?”
CD: You and your husband live in a 1961 house that’s 1,600 square feet. Why did you choose a smaller footprint?
LP: There are two of us, two basset hounds, and we don’t have kids. We’re also not the couple that has dinner parties every weekend and for holidays, it’s just family.
We had looked at jumping up to about 3,000 square feet with a renovation, but we realized if we stayed in our current footprint, the things that were important to us in that 3,000-square-foot plan, we could get in 1,600 square feet if we arranged the space well.
We doubled the size of our kitchen and increased the size of our master bath because it was tiny. We had a front room we never used, so that’s where our new dining room went, and some of the old dining space became the master shower. The space was there, we just had to figure out how to use it. The big thing was increasing the size of the kitchen so we could both stand in there without accidentally knifing each other.
CD: What’s your favorite building in Dallas, residential or commercial, and why?
LD: I do not have one because there are so many different buildings in Dallas that it’s hard for me to say, “that’ the one you have to go and see.” Most buildings can be appreciated for different aspects of their style, perhaps the fact that there’s a historic aspect, or maybe it has some unique characteristics.
For example, one of my least favorite buildings is the Perot Museum. I think it’s big and fat and ugly. But there are aspects that are unique, like the cast concrete panels for the exterior. The Winspear Opera House has one of the worst lobbies in the world, but you look at the building from the outside, and its giant red paneled top looks astounding.
Leave a comment with any questions for Larry Paschall and check back for another Interview with an Architect soon!