by Jackie Cooper
We recently caught up with multi-talented architect, Steve McCollom, and asked him about his world.
JC: Tell me about what you’ve been involved in, Steve.
SM: Interior architecture for the past 25 years. First in Texas (where I’m from), then Washington D.C., and then I moved to California in 1998, where I’ve primarily been involved with interior architecture for workplace and academic projects. I’ve also been involved in business development activities including researching and developing marketing strategies.
JC: What would that involve?
SM: I do a lot of research to help design firms identify and qualify potential new business opportunities and I help them win work, including writing proposals. I also do some freelance writing and I contribute to a publication called “officeinsight.”
JC: Sounds as if you’re creative in multiple areas! So tell me, did you know that you wanted to do this when you were in Grade 1?
SM: (laughs) As a matter of fact, yes. I distinctly remember telling my kindergarten teacher that I wanted to be an architect!
JC: Being so creative, do you find that what you wear influences the work you do, or does the work you do influence what you wear?
SM: My work influences what I wear. I dress relatively conservatively, mostly pressed khaki pants and a blue blazer. But I like to spice it up a bit with hot pink socks or a colorful pocket square to keep things interesting. I think it’s the architect in me. If I’m working on an academic project, I tend to dress more conservatively. The project definitely influences what I wear. A bit like a chameleon adapting to the surroundings. I tend to take on the character of the project I’m working on.
JC: What’s your favorite color and does it influence your outlook on life?
SM: Orange. And I don’t know if it has an influence on my outlook, or the other way around. People do tell me they view me as an optimistic person: Sunny, bright, cheerful!
JC: What inspires you?
SM: People inspire me. The things people do to give back to their community. I love to be involved in projects that help make things better for people. That’s why I love to be involved in projects to do with learning environments, environmental and healthcare. Anything where good things are happening.
JC: What legacy would you like to leave? What would you like to be remembered for?
SM: I’d like to be known for caring about people – about my clients and people I work with. I’d like to know that the work I’ve done has enhanced peoples’ lives. It’s so gratifying to get feedback on a project and know that I’ve helped a client achieve their goals and objectives. It’s especially satisfying to see people enjoying the spaces I’ve created, watching their reactions and their smiles when they walk into a space lobby and see it.
JC: If you bumped into someone at a cocktail party and they told you they were going to redo their office, what would you advise them NOT to do?
SM: I’d tell them not to get in the designer’s way. Don’t be pig-headed and stubborn about an idea. Work together with the designer and let them help you create an amazing environment. Be flexible and open to new ideas.
JC: What is the most fun project you’ve ever worked on?
SM: My funnest project was the new headquarters for a government agency in Washington D.C. I know that sounds strange, but it was an amazing collaborative experience between architect, interior designer, lighting designer, graphic designer and everyone else involved in the project.
Everyone really came together in an amazing way and all the various talents were able to contribute and collaborate. The project took 3 years and we enjoyed every weekly meeting we had. At the outset, I never expected it to be such a rewarding and fun experience. It’s my firm belief that a really successful project draws upon the talents of all kinds of different people for its different facets. I’m a believer in the importance of collaboration between the architect, designer, dealers and everyone else involved. And I really believe that it’s important to listen to others and talk about ideas.
JC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your work and how did you overcome it?
SM: I was working with a client but being held siege by the client’s landlord who didn’t want me on the project. They had a designer friend they wanted to do the job. It was a really tense, acrimonious situation. Very difficult on a day to day basis.
The way I handled it was to keep a strong focus on my client and what they wanted and visualize how happy they’d be at the end. My client was very supportive and appreciative. Eventually, I approached the landlord to try to work things out. We had a discussion and it turned out that he really had nothing against me personally, he just couldn’t stand the firm I worked for.
JC: What do you do to relax?
SM:: I love to read. I know it sounds incredibly boring, but I love to read. I’m a reader. You can enter another world so easily by reading.
JC: What genre do you prefer?
SM: I’m particularly fond of histories and biographies. When I read fiction, it’s mostly historical fiction. Except when I travel by plane. I often just choose a quick, trashy read for the trip.
Steve can be reached at (415) 202-4044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.