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 last one here).
Alicia Chandler Quintans, AIA, is an Oak Cliff-based architect, interior designer, and preservationist. She founded JQAQ Atelier in 2012, a small design firm focused on solving modern design challenges for residential and commercial projects.
She graduated from UT Arlington School of Architecture in 1991, where she met her husband Joel, a collaborative partner for JQAQ Atelier and the Creative Director for UTA.
The summer after graduating, they stayed at a professor friend’s home in Oak Cliff, and fell in love with this southern borough of Dallas. The couple found a small, 1947 minimal traditional house in Beckley Club Estates.
“After almost 25 years, the house has transformed into a laboratory for ideas,” Quintans said. “We’ve updated the kitchen and bath, installed energy-efficient features, and added a studio on the property to serve as a workshop and guesthouse. The property evolves to suit our needs and interests.”
She’s a board member of both Old Oak Cliff Conservation League and Preservation Dallas, actively assisting in educating and strengthening historic connections between local communities, neighborhoods, and the built environment.
“By learning the history and sharing stories of collective memory, we better understand the sense of place in our community and provide an emotional connection, represented in form by our built environment,” she said.
CandysDirt: You hail from Graham, Texas, near Possum Kingdom Lake, and the city influenced your path to architecture and preservation. How so?
Alicia Chandler Quintans: Graham has the largest downtown square in Texas, surrounding an Art Deco courthouse. My appreciation for old buildings began in that square. I spent time at my mom’s office or at the Abstract Office, where I worked after school researching land ownership at the courthouse. Walking around the square is still one of my favorite activities when I visit and I always notice something new that’s probably been there my whole life.
Family and teachers encouraged artistic endeavors and I was a proficient landscape painter at the age of 12—my favorite subjects were old barns and trees. Thoughts of becoming an artist were changed by an English teacher who gave me the topic of architecture for a term paper. After countless hours in the Graham Public Library, I came away with a basic understanding that Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe were three influential architects, and I was eager to learn more.CD: Your family home also taught you about regional architecture, correct?
AQ: We lived on a farm, in a house designed for the Texas climate with well water, no air conditioning, a central hall, transom windows for air circulation, and a screened porch. Lessons I learned from living in the farmhouse and connecting with nature are with me today.CD: How do you bring your passion for preservation to your daily work?
AQ: The most rewarding part of my work as an architect is helping others realize the potential and benefits of preservation, restoration, adaptive use, and how these tools enhance economic development and revitalize existing communities. Every project has goals and challenges. By starting with a plan, and exploring options and ideas, usually the obvious solutions appear. If the buildings are old, I research the history of when they were built, who built them, and why. This sometimes leads to design decisions based on construction techniques, introduction of new or re-purposed materials, or contributions to the historic value. CD: What is your opinion of the state of preservation work in Dallas?
AQ: Dallas has taken grand strides this year within the preservation climate. This week, the Dallas City Council approved the extension of tax incentives for the Historic Preservation Program. A Demolition Delay Ordinance was approved recently, which gives a level of oversight to historic buildings Downtown and in North Oak Cliff. With budget approvals for adding staff to the Historic Preservation Department and the addition of a Preservation Solutions Committee, city hall is taking notice of how history can help shape future development.
Leaders of our city have seen economic development as “new construction.” The community would like to see a change in the thought process to include adapting existing buildings for stronger economic development. Studies performed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation Green Lab have proven that neighborhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings of different ages support greater levels of positive economic and social activity than areas dominated by newer, larger buildings. CD: What’s your favorite building in Dallas, residential or commercial, and why?
AQ: I’ve witnessed the transformation of streetcar-era buildings on Bishop Avenue in North Oak Cliff into a vibrant destination with shops and restaurants. This collection of buildings is my favorite in Dallas, reminiscent of a small town square, where you see friends and neighbors on the street. The urban scale of the buildings encourage street activity and each building is unique, yet contributes to the whole.
If you know an architect (or are an architect!) who should be featured in this occasional column, please email Leah here.