On Thursday night, the design cognoscenti of Austin gathered at the Lytle Pressley Contemporary art gallery for a glimpse into the mind and practice of venerated local architect, Dick Clark. The atmosphere was warm and congenial as the smartly dressed crowd filled the sold out space in anticipation of Clark’s candid interview, conducted by Pressley himself. Less of a dialogue and more of a pointed Q and A meant to get at the workings of Clark’s creative brain, the session lasted about 45 minutes before it was opened up to the larger group for questions.
“Go travel” was the most important piece of advice that Clark had for others in the design field, clarifying that it’s not so much about seeing iconic buildings, but rather observing how the structures impact the people who interact with them on a daily basis. In other words, he recognizes that the most effective and beautiful architecture first and foremost has a function, and facilitating human interaction of some kind is almost always the key component.
When asked about his thoughts on the future of downtown Austin in particular, Clark had the audience laughing when he reminded them that there was a time not too long ago, when finding a downtown parking spot was easy — it was finding something to do afterwards that was difficult.
All jokes aside, however, he was quick to acknowledge with hopeful enthusiasm that “most of the world is realizing that it’s fun to live downtown — to walk out your door and have choices.”
But how does he envision that paradigm shift in the context of Austin?
“We don’t want to be New York City, but rather just a tiny Chicago — with better weather. The whole mentality of the city is maturing.”
The conversation flowed from Clark’s personal recollections and stories to Pressley’s reading of a list of opinions shared by friends, coworkers and employees (current and former) of Clark’s. The event, which was the first in a series of five, gave attendees a very intimate and personal look at the things that inspire Clark while also granting him a unique stage to discuss his career — in all tenses — from oblique angles.
As he discussed the three evolutionary phases of his decades-long career — raising local awareness of contemporary architecture, downtown revitalization, philanthropy — he was asked the inevitable question of how he’s able to maintain a fresh approach to his design work.
“Architects have an eye that just never shuts.”
Inside the Design Studio is a new monthly series hosted by Lytle Pressley. The second installment will take place on Thursday, February 9, featuring a candid conversation with Larry Speck.