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Exploring Life & Business with Gary Wang of Wang Architects

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gary Wang.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I feel so fortunate to have found architecture. Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, I later attended the University of Michigan, where incoming students are required to take general studies for their first two years before declaring a major. As the son of an immigrant family, I was originally supposed to be in a science related field. However, after taking a couple of pre-architecture classes, I realized I had found my life’s calling, and I was accepted into the architecture school. After earning my undergraduate and Master of Architecture (both from University of Michigan), I started the first phase of my career in Chicago, where I was invited to teach at a new school of architecture that was seeking accreditation. My research and practice focused upon good design for low-income neighborhoods, where budgets are always a limiting factor. The challenge of trying to make “something out of nothing” was an uphill battle yet entirely rewarding.

Life later took me to Boston and New York City for the second phase of my career, where my work took a sharp turn. Instead of constantly fighting the lowest of low budgets, I took a leadership role in one of the country’s most well-respected design firms. In this role, I designed high-end residential and commercial projects where budgets were seemingly limitless. I was able to push the boundaries of architectural exploration with new applications of materials and building forms.

My firm here in Texas, Wang Architects, has been the perfect setting to merge these two extremes of architecture into one practice. In each of our projects, we seek to maximize design value. We have a track record of executing projects that exhibit a beauty that far outshines their economic budgets. In all of our projects, we make strong relationships between public and private spaces, even within our single-family residences (where issues of public/private space are a particular challenge). We make spaces that are responsive to the outdoors and their environments and allow the outside to flow in and the inside out.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I would not say “struggle” is the right word, but the pandemic has impacted our practice in some ways. We have been incredibly fortunate overall through the pandemic and in many ways have been busier than ever. However, our methods of communication have changed. Before the pandemic, almost all our design meetings were in person. Since March 2020, the bulk of our design presentations have been virtual. That said, a virtual platform has allowed us to work with some clients that are out of state and even some that reside out of the country. During the construction phase for all of our projects, my office performs Construction Administration services as part of our scope of work. We represent our clients to troubleshoot construction issues, review shop drawings and provide quality control. Because of the recent materials and labor shortages, our work schedules have been impacted also. We have not been able to close up projects as quickly as we’ve wanted to. Controlling and predicting construction schedules was much easier in years past.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
As a creative discipline, architecture is unlike almost any other profession. You will never get “apples to apples” when comparing architects. I.e., if you were choosing between five of the best architects available, you will get a distinctly different product and project with each one. Architecture is different than professions like medicine or law, where there are benefits to ‘specializing’ in sub-disciplines. In architecture, “specialization” leads to atrophy in other compartments of the creative mind. In fact, the best architects throughout history are “generalists”. We are proudly generalists, and Wang Architects is one of the few design firms that can design exceptional spaces regardless of building type, scale, and style. We have designed additions and renovations for Texas Historical Commission landmark buildings, and we have also designed contemporary structures that utilize the most current technological applications. We design schools, restaurants, churches, offices, and houses for families.

Architecture embodies culture. At its best, architecture reflects – and in fact can direct – the mission of the people it serves, both now and for the future. All buildings have a responsibility to serve both their clients and their surroundings.

What was your favorite childhood memory?
I played music as long as I can remember. First it was the piano, then I played percussion more seriously. I learned discipline through practice and how to manage stress through performance. I grew up in a rough area, and music was often my escape.

I also always loved to draw. I didn’t realize that drawing could translate into a profession until I studied pre-architecture courses at the University of Michigan.

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Image Credits
Lake House (Gray) – Jordan Powers All others – Leonid Furmansky

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