Q: To start – tell us a little of your background. Who is Adam Hermanson?
Adam Hermanson: I was raised in Big Sky Country – Billings, Montana. I was fortunate to attend Catholic schools there from the first grade through high school. Following graduation, I headed to Washington, DC, landing at The Catholic University of America for my undergraduate education. After four great years at CUA, I received a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. I then moved to Boston to begin studies at Harvard – receiving a Master in Architecture from the Graduate School of Design shortly thereafter.
My wife, Nicole – who was also raised in Billings – attended Boston University. She and I were married during our time in Boston, and we welcomed our first daughter during my final year of graduate school. After working in Boston for some time, we moved back to out West, ending up in Colorado. Since then we have been blessed with two more beautiful little girls.
We live in the northern metro area of Denver, and are active parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn.
Q: How did you decide to become an architect?
It was a very natural choice. Several teachers and friends of our family noted that I seemed to have interests that included both science and art. I was also able to visit with several architects at different firms in Billings, and every one noted that their job satisfaction was very, very high. The project-based nature of the profession makes everyday new and different – with new projects and new challenges.
I began working in a local architecture firm during my senior year of high school and gained a first-hand perspective on the practice of architecture. When I began studying architecture at CUA I came to understand it as my vocation, not simply a career or profession.
Q: How did you decide to open your own firm?
I enjoyed four years of practice at an excellent firm here in Denver before launching Integration Design Group back in 2006. I found myself looking for the next professional challenge, and the idea of starting a new practice had always appealed to me.
The decision was guided by prayerful discernment, and I have tried to establish a design firm that will serve faith-based and charitable institutions and organizations with the highest quality design services.
Because an architect is always a partner, we inherit the dreams, values, and purposes of an organization in order to serve its future needs. When the architect can align his values and vision with those of his client the architect serves their needs far more effectively. That is why I decided to step out in a new way, offering values and vision that serve the needs of faith-based organizations.
Q: What have been the rewards of practicing architecture?
The rewards are many indeed. There is great satisfaction as a project comes to fruition – knowing it will have a positive effect on the lives of many people.
Architecture responds to our human condition in many, many ways. It is about people – from its purpose, to its process, and its products. Without the needs, relationships, and appreciation of people there would be no rewards in the practice of architecture. Simply stated, the great reward in the practice of architecture is our participation in the transformation of the world, for the better, for others.
Q: What exactly do architects do? What are your key responsibilities?
The architect’s role changes throughout the course of the project. At the outset the primary role of the architect is to assist the owner in envisioning the possibilities for the future of their built environment. Then each project requires decisions to be made which eliminate some of the possibilities, and the owner rightly depends on the advice of the architect in this narrowing of the options. Then the architect brings all the necessary engineers and other design experts into the project and coordinates their aspects of design work. The architect brings together all of the project requirements and the design efforts of multiple engineers into a cohesive, integrated whole. All of this occurs under the guidance of the architect who guides the project, ensuring that the final design meets the requirements and goals set forth in the early stages of the design process.
I have a real appreciation of buildings that A) utilize authentic materials, and B) serve a public, communal, or ritual purpose.
One example is the Allston Branch of the Boston Public Library – contemporary design with elegant use of stone, wood, and daylight.
Another wonderful example is Christ the King Chapel and its Tower at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization here in Denver – exquisite design, grounded firmly on this earth and lifting our eyes heavenward.
Q: What are the key influences in your work today?
Our work avoids the contemporary emphasis on thinner, lighter, more synthetic materials. We favor design with ‘gravitas’ – having greater presence, solid authentic materials, and traditional order, proportion, and balance. And certainly these can be achieved with contemporary construction methods; however it requires that we pay greater attention to craftsmanship and detailing.
Almost all of our projects involve working in on or around existing buildings – so we are continually working to stitch old and new together – hence ‘Integration’ as part of our name.
Q: What church building has made the biggest impression on you?
I would have to name two. The first is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University in Washington, DC. It is a building of immense scale, such as is rarely experienced in the life of American Catholics. The devotional mission, its Marian dedication, and the rich integration of diverse artwork throughout make it an impressive and particularly American expression of our Catholic faith. The crypt church below the main church is particularly excellent. I had the opportunity to work, worship, and study in and around this building, and even received my degree on its east steps upon graduation from CUA.
The second is a chapel within a building – at the Dominican House of Studies adjacent to the campus of Catholic University. While a student at CUA I attended daily Mass very often with the friars who were teaching and studying at the Dominican House. We would join them in the choir stalls and participate in Vespers with them, chanting the psalmody back and forth across the chapel. The simplicity and order of the chapel along with the beautiful wood altar and reredos left a substantial impression on me as an aspiring architect – strengthening my appreciation of the role and value of tradition in the life of the Church.
Q: How do you think the role of the architect will change over the next twenty-five years?
It will vary greatly by the type of clients and projects that the architect serves. However, in almost all types of projects, digital modeling technology will allow tremendous integration of the ‘project delivery’ process – design and construction will be far more unified than they are now. This will change the role of the architect in many ways, not the least of which will be that the architect will participate fully as a team member throughout the entire project, not just as an adviser or consultant to the owner in the early stages of the project.
Q: What would you tell a Holy Trinity student if s/he asked you what s/he should study and do to be an architect?
- Art – Basic understanding of the principles of classical and contemporary design.
- Physics & Natural Sciences – Basic understanding of why materials behave in certain ways under certain conditions.
- Business & Management – Basic understanding of business and financial matters.
- Develop a love for the work and process of design – always looking for origins and consequences.
- Observe and engage your surroundings, both the natural environment and the built environment.
- Draw things and build things.
- Always wonder why things are as they are, how they could have been different, and how they might be transformed for the better!
- You must always to love to learn!