Contributor: Bryan Clark Green, Ph. D.
Capturing the Architect’s Voice is an oral history project designed to address one common question: what is it like to be an architect in Virginia? By recording conversations with architects (and others in related professions) at various stages of their careers, this project proposes to assemble a collection of interviews with the community of Virginians who earn their livelihood by designing, constructing, and caring for buildings. Interviews are conducted with architects of different backgrounds and experience, ranging from students currently in architecture school, to those in the early stages of their practice, to mid-career architects, and those who have retired from the profession. When possible, engineers, developers, and preservationists are also interviewed. The result is an oral history archive that captures the myriad experiences of this unique community. With support from AIA Virginia, this project seeks to record the lives of architects who practice architecture in Virginia today. The Heritage Conservation Foundation, a 501 c (3) foundation was created to support this oral history project
The audience for this project is a cross-section of Virginians, including school-age children seeking information about what architects do, students in architecture programs looking for a more in-depth sense of what their future professional lives might be like, and researchers interested in new insights into the lives and careers of Virginia architects. The oral histories could also inform exhibits, archives, and other research projects.
Interviews are typically conducted in each architect’s office, though other locations have been used. The oral history files themselves would be collected in a high-quality audio format (.wav files) and used to create transcriptions of the interviews. Both audio files and transcriptions will be posted to the Heritage Conservation Foundation website as space allows. In addition, documentary photographs are taken during and after the interview, and are supplemented by photographs supplied by the architects themselves, depicting themselves (and their colleagues) at various stages of their career, as well as images of various projects with which they have been associated. These items, combined, create a vibrant archival record capturing the experiences of each architect. Interviews make it possible to capture this experience more vibrantly than a biographical description, a resume, or a project list. Detailed interview guidelines, releases to be signed before interviews, and instructions for use of the archive have been developed with input from all interested and involved parties.
The objective is to create an archive that may be expanded over time. The project is expected evolve both in items collected (such as the inclusion of video), and in the products produced (such as various publications and/or podcasts). To that end, the immediate goal is to collect information in a high-resolution capacity, so that it can be adapted to future uses. Judicious and transparent editing will be undertaken as appropriate. The archival audio files and transcripts, however, will remain complete and unedited, unless certain passages are redacted at the request of the interviewee.
Although the archive itself is the primary goal, multiple products may be created from it, including:
- The interviews, or portions of them, could be mounted to a website, either as digital recordings or transcriptions, and used for other educational purposes.
- A series of podcasts will be developed, as individual profiles of architects interviewed or as thematic episodes.
- Publications, such as a book of interviews, may also result, allowing this material to reach a larger audience.
The overall intent is to blend the voices of those with the most experience with those at earlier stages in their career, so that a diversity of individuals and approaches are reached.
As the project develops, feature excerpts of interviews and other highlights will appear in this publication.
Are you interested in sitting for an interview? Would you like to suggest someone who you think we should interview? Interested in supporting the project? Do you have suggestions for questions that you would like to make sure that we ask? If so, we would like to talk with you.
Bryan Clark Green, Ph.D.
Executive Director, The Heritage Conservation Foundation
About the Author
Bryan Clark Green, Ph.D., is Director of Historic Preservation at Commonwealth Architects, in Richmond, Va. He is also the founder of the Heritage Conservation Foundation, which was established to support the Capturing the Architect’s Voice Project.
All images courtesy of the author.