Al Harris

Firm: Populous

Title: Sr. Architect / Principal

Alma mater: Univ. of Kansas

Hometown: KCMO

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Why did you go into your chosen field?

Architecture found me my freshman year in high school. Prior to the annual 9th grade middle school career fair, I had no idea what an architect was. All I remember was when the architect dressed in a suit and tie came in with a model of building and told us if we had artistic ability and were pretty good at math, we should consider architecture as a career. It may not have been his best pitch but I swear when he talked about what he did, he was speaking to only me. To this day, I still keep in touch with some of my high school friends who remember the day I said, “I’m going to be an architect” back in 1991.

What gives you motivation to progress your design career?

Shortly after I got licensed in 2006 I was encouraged to get my name added to The Directory of African American Architects (https://blackarchitect.us/). That’s when I learned what most in our industry know now: that African American architects represent about 2% of all licensed architects and African American women represent approximately 0.4%. If intentional and authentic change in society and our communities is to be realized it will only be because we’ve invited ALL citizens to the table. It will take diverse (looking) minds to fix our diversity problem in architecture. As I’ve grown in architecture, I’ve shifted my focus of career progress outward. Representation matters today more than ever. Black and Brown kids need to see the possibilities; a path forward. I use my platform to expose architecture and design to young minds in communities that may not see or know what an architect is or what they can do. My goal is simple: bring awareness to a career path/option they may not know exists. I look to Inspire and equip the next 9th grader (or 5th or 6th grader) to apply their love of art, building, and problem solving in the direction of design.   

What is your most meaningful project, and why?

One of the joys of working in the sports and entertainment design industry is the Home Opener. I never tire of walking around the concourses watching fans experience their “new thing” for the first time. It’s even more special when my kids can experience it with me. So with that, I have two projects that will always hold a special place because I was able to bring one of them with me to their respective home opener. Spring Brooks Stadium, Coastal Carolina University: My baseball fanatic son was 5 when he came with me for the 2015 dedication and opener. He even got his own nameplate on his chair during the recognition ceremony.

Wildcat Stadium, University of New Hampshire: Not sure how many 8 y.o. get All Access Passes to their first collegiate football game but that’s a memory my now teenage daughter still talks about – reveling at how big the football players were as she walked around with the photographer capturing all excitement during the game. Is it a coincidence she’s got a growing passion for photography…?

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