Architect Nicola Springer Discusses Process and Creativity in Architecture Lecture Series
By Mary Margaret Hogan | Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Mary Margaret Hogan
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
On March 29th, architect Nicola Springer visited the Integrative Learning Center to present her lecture, “Playing with Process: Explorations in Engagement.” Appointed Vice President of Kirksey Architecture in 2011, Springer discussed her values regarding the creative process of designing, including the collaboration required from one’s clients. Springer, having grown up in Barbados as a child, connected her architectural aspirations to the island. “The sun was a huge part of my existence and the island gave me a deep awareness of space,” she said. “I decided to become an architect at ten years old. I loved drawing and I loved the outdoors--I just had to put two and two together.”
The Kirksey Architecture firm has been recognized with many accolades, including Architecture Firm of the Year from the Texas Society of Architects (2012) and Houston Business Journal’s Largest House-Area Green Architect (2010), among many others. Kirskey’s current team includes 150 individuals, which is on the smaller side in the field. This knowledge-based firm prides itself in its high performance, and its EcoServices center the main focus on sustainability and green building solutions. “Cost-effective and energy-efficient is our motto,” Springer noted.
Beginning in 2009, Springer began as Kirskey’s PreK-12 Team Leader and discovered the importance of putting fun in functionality. Her teams began their work with creating a promotional video that went viral. When a staircase is placed next to an escalator, the escalator is almost definitely used over the stairs; but, in an effort to showcase their belief in thinking outside the box, they created a staircase that acted as a piano when walked on. Sixty percent of people used the musical staircase over the escalator, and Springer’s team already had their first notable success.
Springer and her team also started their process with their concentration on keeping clients actively involved and engaged in the visionary development. Whether they were parents, educators, or students, Springer strived to represent their desires and needs in the final product by actively listening and talking to all parties involved. She discussed her team’s unique approaches to creating a design that embodies its people and purposes. Specifically, Springer noted one of her first projects that involved immersive workshops and discussions with the parents, teachers and students that desired a better learning environment. “How can architecture contribute to learning?” acted as the centric question for the discussion.
The team utilized and coined the concept of “Play Theory” during their creative process. “One of the most important things you want to remember is to have fun and that you enjoy your process of designing,”
Springer explained, which is what they believed would stir imagination and productivity in an entertaining and enjoyable way for the community to contribute. They created a word association game that worked along with “Play Theory” and handed them to participants. Here, their clients would connect words such as “productivity” with “light” and “community” with open” and deepened Springer’s team’s understanding of their consumer’s ideals regarding their future work and learning environment.
Nicola Springer’s light-hearted speech was poignant with the architecture students in the room. Her emphasis on professionalism was equivalent to her insistence that the creating process needs to be fun in order to be advantageous. Collaboration and compromise are integral as well, for the final design should be customized to the clients and constituents needs and visions. Kirskey Architecture continues to grow with Springer as Vice President. While keeping their collaborative brand for their clients, they are responding to the paradigm shift in architecture and keeping up with the necessities involved in the 21st century.