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).
Adriana Meyer, AIA, was born in Guatemala City and attended architecture school at Universidad Francisco Marroquín, graduating in 1999.
She started working on residential projects while still a student, and began her career at HKS Architects in Dallas in 2000, specializing in healthcare and assisted living. Some of her projects included Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; St. Rose Hospital, Las Vegas; Lynn Cancer Center, Boca Raton, amongst others. She worked on many aspects of these projects, but specialized in planning and exterior design.
In 2007, she founded her own firm, APM Architecture. Meyer designed modern homes throughout Texas, working in Dallas neighborhoods like Kessler Woods, Highland Park, Forest Hills, and Bluffview, as well as Central Texas’ Hill Country and Oklahoma.
All have the common thread of being environmentally conscious with a modern aesthetic. In recent years she has designed a warehouse conversion to mixed use in the Dallas Design District. She is expanding into the commercial and assisted living markets.
CandysDirt: Your first professional work with HKS had you specializing in healthcare and assisted living. What drew you to that firm and that kind of architecture?
Adriana Meyer: I was drawn to a large firm environment for my first job in Dallas, because I wanted experience working on major projects and learn as much as possible. Healthcare was a great learning experience. I worked on planning and design. I quickly learned that focusing on how complex spaces are used, creates the best solutions. How to collaborate with a team and how to listen to clients were two of the most important lessons I learned.
I am still interested in those projects, even if my practice today is more residential/small commercial. One of the goals of APM architecture is expanding my team to allow me to work on larger projects, perhaps including healthcare in the future.
CD: You have an interest in creating environmentally conscious structures. Why is that important to you?
AM: There are many ways to minimize energy consumption and maximize comfort with the way a building is designed. Where I’m from, Guatemala, most mid-sized and small buildings rely on passive energy design. I think no matter the size of the project, paying attention to those factors can make a difference. Ideally, building shouldn’t need to be cooled and heated all the time. We should be able to take advantage of the outdoor conditions when possible. It is not just about the exterior materials used, but how to maximize natural light, ventilation, sun exposure, etc. I see it as part of basic design.
CD: How would you rate the climate for eco-friendly building in Dallas? What would you change and why?
AM: The mentality has shifted in a positive way, not just in Dallas, but overall. Certification programs like LEED reward energy and environmental design, and it is becoming more of a standard. It is not a design trend, but more of a change in mentality by everybody.
Architects and builders want to design and build more efficient buildings, and clients are more willing to explore better systems and materials. There is a better understanding that the initial costs are worth it in the long run.
CD: Most of your work is contemporary. How would you describe the atmosphere in North Texas for this style of architecture?
AM: I think the interest in contemporary architecture in the residential sector has been growing. I think it has something to do with the newer generations wanting something different than what they grew up with. I appreciate all styles, and I prefer neighborhoods that are eclectic and where every house is different, that’s what makes neighborhoods interesting. The demand used to be low, but now you see it modern designs everywhere, I think people want something unique, not picked out of a builder’s catalogue.
CD: What are some of the most popular contemporary elements clients want in their homes?
AM: It is hard to to put all contemporary design in one category, because there are vast variations to what it is considered modern. But in general, when people come to me they are very specific about wanting open floorplans, a lot of light, and outdoor spaces. There is no formal living room or isolated dining room. I see a lot more practical use of the spaces. People want to enjoy their living room and dining room instead of having those as display areas.
CD: You’ve gotten interested in real estate investment and development. What are some recent projects?
AM: My interest in this started in 2010 when the economy was slow and there was a lot of inventory of houses on the market. I bought a distressed house and hired a crew to help me transform it. It was a very successful project, the value of the house went up 150 percent.
I have a lot more work with clients now, so I haven’t done that recently, but I am always looking. I really enjoy the transformations that can be achieved. I have done that type of work for clients on their own renovations and the results are great.
CD: Tell us about your Dallas Design District warehouse conversion project. What were your goals and did you feel you achieved them?
AM: That project was a great challenge and I am very proud of the result. The client had a great vision for the space and it was a great collaboration. The 1-acre warehouse was converted into the offices of a film production company, the owner’s house, and rental apartments. This is a great example of using an existing space and transforming it to something totally different. I appreciated the trust that was put in me to be able to complete the project.
I did this as a one-person firm: I worked with the client, but also did all the drafting, code research, and coordination. It was an unusual project, but the space is great.
CD: What work of yours has been the most satisfying to you and why?
AM: Some are more satisfying because of the end result, and others because of the relationships that are formed during the project. Some past clients have become good friends after working together. I enjoy designing new buildings the most, but some of my most satisfying projects have been renovations/additions because of the challenges that have to be overcome.
A recent one that I am very proud of is the Abbott Addition in Highland Park. This was a 1970’s house that was very well designed by an architect who lived there all his life. The new owner had great ideas for the addition and transformation, and it was important to me to respect some of the original design elements that make the house special. The owners got a great house with the updates they needed, and the new spaces flow effortlessly with the original.
CD: What’s your favorite building in Dallas, residential or commercial, and why?
AM: There is a lot of great architecture around Dallas. I have enjoyed seeing the new art district buildings like the Perot museum and the Winspear Opera House make Dallas more interesting. One building that I have always liked is the Federal Reserve building. I think it has aged so well, which is not the case with many early 1990’s architecture. It is interesting in a simple way. Great forms and use of material.
If you know an architect (or are an architect!) who should be featured in this occasional column, please email Leah here.