Texas Architect May/June 2012: Urban Design
This “Urban Design” edition’s four features do not deal with urban design as typified by comprehensive plans for large swaths of urban environment. Rather, they represent four works of architecture that, by virtue of where they are, play important roles in a broader urban context.
In the Light … with Charles K. Thompson, FAIA article by Larry Paul Fuller photography by Julie Pizzo It’s a Monday morning at Archillume Lighting Design in Austin. Founder Charles Thompson, FAIA, is just now back from a four-day road trip on his 2009 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic. His time on the open road to Big Bend and back has helped to recharge his energy and clear his mind. So he’s ready for whatever awaits him. One thing awaiting him — along with meetings to attend, deadlines to meet, documents to issue — is a voice mail from a residential client who is surprised that the exterior lighting holes have already been cut into the high-end wood soffits. She thinks the plan was to wait until Thompson was available to field-verify the positioning. And, in fact, she is right. As it turns out, through a phone call to the client, Thompson finds out that “she isn’t angry; she’s just surprised.” The innate affability that helps Thompson navigate a potentially difficult client conversation seems somehow related to the laid-back, slightly quirky, aura of his office. Picture a suite of five smallish contiguous zones he shares with the three other members of his firm, all of whom happen to be female. Stepping through the front door of the space, one encounters a reception desk sporting color-changing LED accents (programmable to millions of colors) and eight rare lava lamps. Then there’s the “ego wall” of photos that show projects ranging from small residential to large commercial (not yet pictured is Austin’s Formula 1 racetrack project, now under way). And hanging all around are various types of lighting fixtures suspended from a wired pipe grid system. “You can’t very well view a ceiling fixture when it’s lying on a table,” Thompson says. On exhibit in his personal office is a casual array of lighting toys and gizmos acquired over the years. A classic “Lite-Brite” toy with a supply of colored pegs to arrange creatively into a matrix of lighted holes. A few mechanical toys that light up and spin around. And from his mom, an illuminated pink flamingo. The toys all set a fun tone for the office. “There are lots of people who gulp down some coffee and toast each morning and head to a job they hate,” he says, “but I’m glad to say that’s not me.” Thompson knew early on that he wanted to be an architect, and ended up defining his career for himself. Early drafting experience during 5/6 2012 Texas Architect 67