This is the second Q&A in our series with local architects and designers. David Hyman is a principal with DECA Architecture in Portland, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2008. The firm, which Hyman co-runs with his wife and business partner, Sallee Humphrey, has been responsible for a number of architecture and interiors projects, arts and cultural institutions, educational facilities, retail and housing as well as furniture design and even glass sculptures.
Portland Architecture: When did you first become interested in architecture as a possible career?
David Hyman: I was in construction for 11 years. When the economy turned down in the early 80’s, I decided that it was an opportune time to change careers. I always had a passion for design and decided to pursue it. I closed my construction company and enrolled in architecture school.
Where did you study architecture and how would you rate the experience?
I attended University of Oregon. I thought it was a great education. They offered a good basic foundation in the skills required for an architectural career, but also gave you the freedom to steer your field of study in either a technical or more theoretical direction. I chose to take a lot of architectural theory and history classes and sought out studio professors with a more theoretical emphasis.
What is your favorite building project that you’ve worked on?
An International Student Center for KAIST (Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). The client wanted a building that appealed to foreign students attending the Korean University. But, it also required developing an understanding of what that meant within the context of the Korean culture. [Note: the project is pictured at left.]
Who has been an important mentor among your colleagues?
Truthfully, my most important mentor has been my wife and business partner. She is an interior designer and has taught me so much about client relations and marketing. She also has a very fresh perspective about design. Our debates about design energize us both.
What part of the job do you like best, and as an architect what do you think you most excel at?
I love the exchange of ideas that comes from designing a project, both with team members and with clients. I have spent most of my career as a designer, but as my wife and I have built our practice, I have learned to also appreciate the role of empowering others to express their design ideas. I enjoy that role as much as designing.
What are some Portland buildings (either new or historic) that you most admire?
Central Library, Union Station, Portland Art Museum, Visitor’s Center by John Yeon, Medical Clinic by John Storrs on NW 16th Ave., Wieden + Kennedy headquarters, Woodstock Library by Thomas Hacker
Pierre Chareau's “Maison de Verre”. [Pictured at right.]
Is there a local architect or firm you think is unheralded or deserves more credit?
There are a number of talented small firms that have emerged in the last few years. I would keep my eye on Paul McKean.
What would you like to see change about Portland’s built environment in the long term?
As much effort as Portland has put into reinvigorating the waterfront on the east and west sides of the Willamette River, with the esplanade, Tom McCall park, OMSI, etc, we still are far short of fulfilling the potential of that resource. The greatest missed opportunity was failing to relocate the freeway on the east side when we had the chance. We should be making much more of an effort to take advantage of the river with more parks, river walks and pedestrian focused development.
How would you rate the performance of local government like the Portland Development Commission, or the development and planning bureaus?
I think PDC has taken a lot of hits over the years, some deserved and some not, but I really don’t think they are given enough credit for their successes. They played and continue to play an instrumental part in creating a vibrant and successful downtown. And, their storefront improvement and DOS programs, as well as other financial incentives have helped to jumpstart neighborhoods in North Portland, such as Alberta, Mississippi, Killingsworth and MLK.
Would you rather live in a South Waterfront condo, a craftsman bungalow in Laurelhurst, a warehouse loft in the North Mississippi district or a mid-century ranch in the West Hills?
Condo in downtown.
Who is a famous architect you’d like to see design a building in Portland?
10 years ago, I would have said a beautiful modernist energy hog. But, today, I think’s that’s a false choice. I am decidedly modernist, but in recent years I have yet to meet a client who appreciated modern architecture and did not have a concern for the environment. We’re often forced to weigh the cost of sustainable solutions, but it’s a matter of degree, not choosing one over the other.
Name something besides architecture (sneakers, furniture, umbrellas) you love the design of.
I admire well designed housewares, particularly “Nambe”.
What are three of your all-time favorite movies?
"Brazil", "Blade Runner", "Chinatown".
Thanks again to David Hyman for being our
ginny Guinea pig. In the future we will be running additional Q&As with local architects, and if you'd like to join in, simply fill out the questionnaire using the same questions and send to firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo of yourself and a rendering or project photo.