Q: What drew you to architecture?
KB: My dad, Downing Thomas, was an architect with his own practice. I used to play under his desk when I was a kid. When I expressed interest in studying architecture he cautioned, “This is not an easy profession.” I am grateful for that because architecture school and practice are often quite different.
Since my Dad warned me about architecture, I pursued a dual degree in architecture and sociology for my undergrad. I learned as much as possible about both fields while I was in school and got a job in architecture and as a social worker. Through the experience of trying both, I learned that social work was not for me and focused my efforts on a career in architecture.
There was a popular book for architects called The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Everyone at the time was reading it, and I thought, “Okay I’ll read it and get a sense of what the field is like from a different perspective.” I was not too fond of the book. The protagonist, an architect, is a very principled hero figure with a huge ego and the book celebrated individualism over collectivism. I was left thinking the profession wasn’t a good fit for my personality.
I got some names of people who graduated from my alma mater who were practicing architects and had studied sociology in college, and I wrote to them. I asked them if they applied their sociology learnings from school into their profession. I didn’t get many letters back, but I got one from a woman who suggested, “Maybe you would be interested in community architecture.” And that’s what lead me to BRS.