Roy Harrover


Somehow, some way years ago, I heard or read about how the architect of the Memphis International Airport was inspired by a pyramid of champagne glasses at a New Year’s Eve party.  (I’m still unclear if it was the champagne glasses or the spaces between the glasses).  While researching, a.k.a. Googling, the source of that story, I learned that rather than a champagne glass, it was a twisted hyperbolic parabaloid that gave the structure its martini-glass shape, and there was no mention of a party.  (So I have a great imagination or a terrible memory – or both)?

But then the research got really interesting.

More than a reference to a cocktail, I learned that the design of the airport was not only award-winning, but also cutting edge for its time, utilizing two separate levels for arrivals and departures, along with jetways, for example. This was in 1963.

And the architect was Roy Harrover.

The airport may have been his most famous creation, but he was also responsible for the design of Mud Island, a Memphis city park sitting on a sand bar in the middle of the Mississippi River.  Having grown up in Memphis, what is most memorable to me about Mud Island is the full-scale model of the river flowing through the park from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, which is represented by a splash pool at the end.  Major cities are laid out along the river’s route, their main roads inlaid with steel and little steel bridges connecting the riverbanks.  And these are just two of the many architecturally significant landmarks Roy Harrover created in Memphis.

Lastly, I learned during my research for the champagne pyramid story that this distinguished local architect had passed away just the week before Christmas at the age of 88.

I hope, in some serendipitous way, some of his creative talent will find its way to me and I can follow in his footsteps, leaving designs that inspire and bring joy for decades to come.

So this New Year’s Eve, I filled my martini glass with champagne and made a toast to you, Mr. Harrover.


The Welt

More specifically, the BMW Welt – German for “world” – located in Munich, Germany and the headquarters of my favorite automaker.  I imagine in the future I will discuss in more detail this tornado-shaped structure, one of several breathtaking facilities in BMW’s world.  For now, it is a great example of why I did not pursue my middle school career dream.

This dream was born in my eighth-grade art class, the last of my educational experience.  I never liked art or creative writing.  I didn’t like doing anything creative, because I wasn’t creative.  I had my moments, but for the most part, being asked to do anything creative generated high levels of stress and anxiety for me.

But in this particular class, we were assigned something different: draw a floor plan of our dream home.  And for some reason, that assignment generated a level of excitement in me that no other assignment ever had.  I don’t remember any stress and anxiety.  I knew what I wanted my dream home to look like – including a circular driveway – and I went after it, laying in the living room floor with the Sears catalog to make sure I drew the furniture to scale.  And that’s the moment I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

But then I remembered that I wasn’t creative.

I couldn’t be an architect.  I could never come up with a design like the Welt.  Or the Memphis International Airport, the design of which was inspired by martini glasses at a New Year’s Eve party.  That’s what creative people do.

So I became an engineer instead.

It wasn’t until I had been working a few years that I realized I may have been wrong.  Wrong in the belief that only super-creative people could be architects.  Yes, there are insanely creative people creating insanely creative structures, but there are also architects out there designing factories, with plain metal siding and plain metal doors.  I know this because I worked with them.  There must be a place for me somewhere on that continuum.

Ah, if I had only learned that lesson sooner.  About the time I realized maybe I could go after my dream, my husband’s job moved us around the country, to little out-of-the-way towns, with no opportunities to learn or work in the field of architecture.

But now things are different.  My husband’s job has moved us to a larger city with a major university, offering a master’s program in the college of architecture and design; several local architecture firms; and a variety of opportunities: residential, institutions, and historic preservation.

So now is the time.  Here’s my five-year plan:

  • 2017 – reading books about architecture, design, history, etc.; going on tours; writing about what I learn
  • 2018 – drawing, sketching, learning software; continuing to read and write
  • 2019-2021 – hopefully by this point I’ve made some connections and can work or intern with a firm, building a portfolio, until…
  • 2022 – my daughter graduates from high school and I go back to school

And maybe one day create a Welt of my own.

Ok, George, You’re On

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

The quote above is from George Eliot.  I have heard versions of this saying a lot, but when I asked Google for the words to the exact quote, I learned that George was not George at all, but Mary Ann Evans.  So it seems even more fitting that my guiding quote to achieving my BHAG is from a fellow female.

My BHAG (big hairy audacious goal, a phrase I read about in the book Good to Great) is to pursue a dream I had over 30 years ago.  My intention for the new year is to begin the process of turning that dream into a reality and write about it, here, each week.  I’m not much of a writer, but as Brian Tracy says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.”

So George, I’m putting you to the test and I plan to prove you right.