I am often asked who I admire in my industry. There are two people who immediately come to mind; one I had the immense pleasure to work for while I was with NBBJ and the other I've had the opportunity to compete against for a project or two. These two people are Rysia Suchecka, IIDA who is a consulting partner at NBBJ http://www.nbbj.com/people/rysia-suchecka/ and I.M. Pei of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners http://www.pcf-p.com/a/f/fme/imp/b/b.html.
Now that you have read their biographies let me elaborate on why I envy them below.
I once watched a documentary about I.M. Pei and his work. I was left with the impression that he is a thoughtful and kind man. He came across as humble and grateful for the opportunities that had come his way. He truly loves what he does and puts his heart and soul into his work. He also pays close attention to the locations where his designs are going and he pays homage to the culture of that community. This is also a great trait I found in Rysia Suchecka. The message I received from observing both of these very accomplished designers is that as we move to the future we should not completely disregard the past nor should we ignore the history and culture of the host country that has allowed us to design new buildings on their land.
There are countries outside of the United States that long to westernize and modernize their architecture. China stands out in my mind. Where there were many low buildings that exuded Chinese culture within their design details there now stands many modern high-rises which may or may not integrate Chinese culture and history. I stand assured that the buildings I.M. Pei and Rysia Suchecka worked on have the culture of the land somehow integrated into the design.
I learned from both I.M. Pei and Rysia how important it is to study the area that surrounds where the new design will be built. They express the importance of walking the streets and stopping in a cafe with an outdoor patio so you can observe the people, the fashion and the different modes of transportation they use. Rysia suggested I eat their food, drink their local drinks and talk to the people who live there so I would have a good understanding of what is important to them. She taught me to always seek to understand the culture and what it is about the culture that is important to the people who live there so that I may honor those aspects of their culture in my designs, no matter how westernized or modern they become.