Say “hello” to James Harris, who joined our team earlier this year! James is a Ball State University alum, a Noblesville resident, and an advocate for historic preservation. As a child, James was interested in problem solving and the mechanics of how things worked. So, it was only natural he was drawn to architecture, which he describes as a “respected, challenging, and rewarding profession.” Here’s what James had to say about preservation, influential architecture, and the effect good design has on society.
You recently joined Curran. What attracted you to the firm?
I was drawn to the size of the firm, and when I reviewed Curran’s portfolio, I liked the range of projects and project types. I also liked the work they had done with non-profit organizations. After initially chatting with Shawn during a Ball State job fair, I had a proper interview. That’s when I gained a deeper appreciation for the firm and its culture.
How would you describe the culture at Curran?
Fantastic—the team is made up of talented individuals with great personalities. The office is laid-back while still highly productive.
Talk about the projects you’re working on.
Some of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on over the past couple months have been veterinary clinics. There is a need for them and for the services they provide. Previously, I had not worked on any animal hospital, daycare, or kennel projects, so it’s been enjoyable to gain an improved understanding of how these facilities operate.
How do you approach design? What does “good design” mean to you?
The ability to provide functional, practical, unique, and pleasing design solutions for all occupants, as well as the general public—even if it’s only publicly appreciated from the exterior.
It’s about changing the world around us.
Yes. Design professionals have the honor—and the responsibility—to create practical design solutions that shape the world around us. We can also live vicariously through our clients by placing ourselves in their shoes and imagining ourselves in the spaces we design.
What about clients who are hesitant about the design process?
I think it’s fairly common to have reservations about the design and construction process. Feasibility studies can help provide a better understanding of project goals, constraints, expenses, and outcomes.
Speaking of goals, what should the industry be doing to better itself?
Preserve, conserve, recycle, and reuse. In my opinion, we need to do everything in our power to minimize our impact on the planet for future generations. If we’re talking about architecture and construction specifically, we need to be cognizant of the ways we use available resources. We should always strive to create high-performance, energy efficient facilities that reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible.
Do your views about existing resources and their preservation relate to your appreciation of historic architecture?
So, I graduated from Ball State in 2020 with my Master of Architecture and a certificate in historic preservation. I really appreciate historic preservation projects and find value in restoring and reutilizing existing structures that speak to a community’s heritage. But nearly every project—no matter its scope or size—can provide a positive impact. The most fulfilling aspect of architecture is designing a project that is appreciated and helps improve the quality of life for surrounding neighborhoods and nearby residents.
It’s safe to say you have a not-so-secret soft spot for historic buildings. Do you have favorites in Indy?
Union Station, the Scottish Rite Cathedral, and the Stutz building immediately come to mind. I also truly appreciate Curran’s office, which is in a historic barracks building on the grounds of the former Fort Benjamin Harrison.
What about other cities?
I don’t have to go far to find great examples of architecture—Chicago and Detroit are great architectural “hubs” near Indianapolis. However, there are also fantastic examples of high-quality design applications in smaller Midwest communities. I’ve had the pleasure of touring some prominent buildings in Columbus, Indiana—another architectural “mecca” that’s nearby. I find enjoyment and draw inspiration from the built environment in general, but I always feel like a tourist when I’m exploring an unfamiliar structure or area.
In addition to traveling, what else do you like to do in your free time?
Woodworking, metal working, socializing with friends and family, and anything related to water—boating, swimming, fishing, etc.
Last question. What’s the greatest career advice you’ve ever received?
Maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life. Strive to be your best and provide great design work. Don’t sweat the small stuff. And drink more coffee!