Rice Design Alliance is holding its 2018 architecture tour April 7-8 and publishing this series of edited interviews on the theme "Balance: Celebrating Women in Design." In this interview, Kristin Schuster, Principal at GSMA, shared her experience as an architect and her understanding about Balance. She is a featured architect on the upcoming architecture tour for her design of 2253 Southgate.
Cite: How did you come to architecture and design?
Kristin Schuster: I grew up in Houston and came to the profession through an art history degree from Tufts. I returned to Houston to earn my architecture degree from Rice, where I really got to love the city as a transplant. It’s been a whole new experience living here after that. A big part of my journey as an architect has been this project. Designing a house for my family has given me the chance to go through the process and make the decisions that I help my clients make every day. I have certainly learned to empathize with our clients in a new way. Being the one writing the checks and watching the calendar move has been ... interesting.
Cite: Could you talk about your experience as a woman practicing architecture?
KS: I am a principal at GSMA which was formerly Glassman Shoemake Maldonado. The firm was founded by two partners, one female, Carrie Shoemake, and one male, Ernesto Maldonado. We are unique in that of nine people, six of us are women at the moment. Over the ten years I have been with the firm, we have had a very healthy ratio of men to women. While that is probably not the main factor, it has undoubtedly contributed to the environment in the office. We have a really wonderful team and we work together really well.
There’s a point in your career, in this profession, where you have paid your dues and you grow in your confidence to live a fully integrated life. At that point, your practice really is an extension of your values and your presence in the world. That is a difficult place to get to. There is historically not much support in getting there, and the profession loses a lot of talented people along the way. It is really important that we have flexibility and support so that life in and out of practice enrich each other.
Cite: The theme of the Rice Design Alliance tour is "Balance." What does that word mean to you?
KS: Balance is the ability to adapt to whatever is going on around you while remaining focused on where you are going. I grew up on sailboats where literally everything is moving and your only source of power is the constantly shifting wind. You cannot take a direct path to where you want to go. Balance is constantly adjusting, minding the details, and keeping your mind on the big picture at the same time.