by Gordon Nary
Gordon: As professor of Architecture at the University of Hartford's College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture, and former Chair of the Department of Architecture and Associate Dean, your contributions in the fields of architectural journalism, research, teaching, and practice are somewhat overwhelming.
What initially inspired you to study architecture, where did you study, what was your most challenging course, and why?
Michael: I was inspired by my grandfather, who was an architectural draftsman, so I decided I wanted to be an architect when I was in the fourth grade. I studied architecture at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, where I also developed an interest in writing. So, pulling these two passions together, I have spent most of my career writing about architecture. In school, my most challenging course was structural design, because it required a lot of math, and I have never been good at math!
Gordon: Who are some of the architects that you find inspirational and some of the buildings they have designed?
Michael: There are many architects whose work I admire. Among them are Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, Louis Kahn, and Cesar Pelli. I think Wright’s Fallingwater House is one of the most moving works of architecture I have experienced. But I also admire many of the anonymously designed buildings that are incredibly powerful, and these are often spiritual spaces. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is one of the most amazing works of architecture that I have experienced.
Gordon: You have written more than 20 books on architecture including five books for children Please share the titles of your children’s books with our readers
Michael: The children’s books are among my favorites. They include Architecture Counts, Architecture Shapes, Architecture Colors, Architecture Animals, and From Arches to Zig-Zags: An Architectural Alphabet. All of these books can be found on amazon.com.
Gordon: I love Faith & Form and I anticipate that some of our readers may want to subscribe to it. Please share with our readers your perception of the spiritual aspects of great architecture.
Michael: Religious buildings have a capacity to transport our spirits. When you are in these places, they can cause you to transcend your everyday existence. It has to do with light and materials, sound, and art. They are often the creations of many people, often anonymous, and that also makes these works of architecture moving. They are also places that people have been using sometimes over hundreds of years. Being in those places with that much history is part of what makes them transcendent.
Gordon: If some of our younger readers are considering a career in architecture, what advice would your give them?
Michael: See as much architecture as you can, not just looking at pictures, but actually visiting the works of architecture. When you visit these buildings, note how they make you feel, what appeals to you and what does not appeal to you. Develop a sense of what kind of architecture you would like to create, and perhaps the best school to follow that dream, one that values architecture in the same way that you do.
Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.