Commercial vs. Residential Architect. Husband vs. Wife.

Commercial vs. Residential Architecture - inside view of life in an architect's office | hpd architecture + interiors

Tune in for our first showdown at the AHH corral. Join us as host Laura Davis interviews her husband architect Bob Davis about the differences and similarities between commercial architecture and residential architecture. This episode will be of special interest to architecture students and interns. Please note: No marriages were harmed in the making of this podcast.

In this Episode

In Episode 74 of The Architecture Happy Hour Podcast, Laura interviews Bob Davis, Project Architect at HDR Architecture, Inc. in Dallas, Texas. Bob specializes in commercial and institutional architecture. He also happens to be our host Laura Davis’ husband. Here’s what we learned:

  1. Architects are like athletes in that different specialties and different sports represent and utilize very different temperaments, skill sets, and interests.
  2. Where he lived growing up and what experiences that lead him to choose a career in architecture.
  3. Which mentor at Texas A&M University influenced Bob to study critical regionalism.
  4. How to succeed as an intern in a large office.
  5. What skill sets are good to have in a large commercial office vs. a small residential firm.
  6. Two architects can serve different client types, and each contribute in important ways.
Commercial vs. Residential Architecture - inside view of life in an architect's office | hpd architecture + interiors

Notable and Shareable Take Aways

  • Bob has lived in Dayton, Ohio; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Springfield, Virginia, San Antonio, College Station, and Dallas, Texas. All very different areas of the US and all contribute to how he appreciates and thinks about buildings and landscapes.
  • Critical Regionalism is an approach to architecture that places importance on the geography and local culture of the place.
  • Bob was introduced to the concept by a professor named Vincent Canizaro, Ph.D. who now has published several works on the subject and teaches at University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).
  • Advice to Architectural Interns:
    • Make an impact and go extra mile to get noticed, you won’t get lost as an intern (and be doomed to do toilet plans forever).
    • Everything is important on a job, do the best of whatever you are asked to do.
    • The very best interns don’t dig themselves into a hole or hide at their desk. They engage.
    • Every drawing is related to every other drawing. Nothing happens in a vacuum.
    • The best interns realize they are part of something big.
    • Even the most minor details can have huge impact on everything else. Every line on a page means something – be thoughtful about your work.
    • In a residential office you have to do a little of everything, which is also how you learn.
    • In a small residential firm, your mentor is usually the firm owner. As opposed to in a large commercial office where your mentor might be a project manager in your department.
    • Keep ear buds out – listen to everything around you, soak in everything you can learn.
  • Skills of a good architect are universal regardless of specialty: listening, asking thoughtful questions, being resourceful.
  • It’s the exposure to different design problems, the desire to serve a different client and community, and the scale of the projects that starts to divide those who gravitate towards commercial vs. residential.
  • If you desire to make an impact on as many people as possible with the public buildings you design, you might be a (future) commercial architect.
  • If you desire to help a family, couple, or individual home owner live their best life in their home, you might be a (future) residential architect.


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