Frank Harmon - Architect
Frank Harmon Architect stopped taking on new projects in November 2015. He now collaborates with Somos Design, an architectural design collective in Raleigh, NC. Frank will continue to write Native Places, a collection of drawings and writing about buildings and landscape: www.nativeplaces.org. He will lecture at conferences and teach at the College of Design at North Carolina State University.
Recently Frank answered three questions:
1. Why did you decide to retire?
I don't think one ever retires. You simply do other things. One of our goals in life is to be happy, and I've decided to fully pay attention to that. I realize that a visit from my daughter or the shape of a flower gives me at least as much pleasure as designing another building might give. My son publishes a magazine in London, how great is that? Or dinner with friends?
And, what I want to say in architecture can be done with a pen and watercolor brush. I don't need an office to do that.
Of course this is bittersweet. I shall miss coming to the office each day to work with bright young people and to work with craftsmen and builders I respect. But they will continue to do new and better things, which I will enjoy. The future of architecture is good in their hands.
2. Do you have plans for the future?
Surely one of the greatest things about retirement is that you don't have to have plans for the future. You don't have to work somebody's schedule. I trust that I will find the things that fulfill me, read the books I want to read, enjoy the beautiful house and garden that Judy and I made, visit my children, and think. What could be better? I could take up the study of butterflies, which I left off 60 years ago. Did you know there are over 2,000 kinds of butterflies in North Carolina?
3. What will become of your firm?
Beginning November 1, 2015, I stopped taking on new projects. I will finish three houses in Raleigh and a marvelous arts center in a former hosiery mill in Star, NC called Starworks.
I am fortunate to end my formal career with great projects and clients. The people of the First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh were the best clients I've ever had for a large project, and it was an honor to have 2,400 architects for my clients at CfAD. Recently I finished two tiny houses, one for two potters and their children in Seagrove NC and another for a couple to retire to on St. Helena Island, SC. These houses were satisfying far out of proportion to their size. Now I'm finishing three houses in Raleigh; all are very different and each is a portrait of its owner.
I've also been fortunate to work with some of the best people I know. Jacob Burke and Tika Hicks will do great work in the future at other firms. Suzy Cash and Hannah Ross will stay with me helping to finish projects. I will continue to teach, write, draw and have fun.
As to what will become of the firm, every architect has the responsibility to empower the next generation. I have a collection of photographs of young architects who worked for me over the last 35 years. Many have since started their own firms. Some are here tonight. Their faces tell me that the most important things in a career are not the buildings but the people, the clients, the young architects and the builders who join together like actors in a play to create wonder out of nothing. It's been a marvelous adventure.
As an architect my goal was to create buildings that were portraits of clients and places. Native Places is a natural extension, creating portraits of landscapes, buildings and objects in words and drawings. Go to www.nativeplaces.org to view the project and sign up for the bi-weekly mailing.