Michael E. Willis, FAIA, NOMA, Founder, Michael Willis Architects, presents the lecture “Building Identities through my Practice—The Personality of Architecture” on Wednesday, September 29, at 12:00 p.m. cst via Zoom, as part of the 2021-2022 Rice Architecture Lecture Series, Building Identities, Fall Edition.
"In reflecting on Building Identities, my first thought was on two events—the 1930s Beaux Arts Ball in NY, where William Van Allen dressed up like his Chrysler Building. The other was the Bauhaus costume ball, where the participants wore costumes distorting the human figure, and blended them with abstract shapes, movement, lines, and light.
"I understand that we aren’t talking about costume balls, but what the architecture we build says about identity. In this case, my identity.
"How do we build? To move from ideas, and into the ground as foundation, as structure. And then to have that structure speak to the people directly: Does this architecture work for you? Does it do what you intended? And how does it speak to the buildings on either side of it, to the block, to the light, to the city? I will use six of my buildings to explore that identity."
Michael E. Willis, FAIA, NOMA, founded MWA Architects in 1988 and retired in 2016. He has been a design consultant for St. Louis, San Jose and San Francisco. He has taught at alma mater Washington University (BA 1973/M Arch 1976/MSW 1976), in 2015, 2017, 2020, and currently the Fall 2021 semester.
MWA’s work includes housing in San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, and post-Katrina New Orleans. Transportation projects include International Terminal at San Francisco Airport, Terminal 2 at Oakland International; and the Yerba Buena/Moscone subway station in San Francisco.
In infrastructure, Willis was architect of major Ozonation (disinfection) facilities, water reclamation, drinking water plants in LA, and SF’s Biosolids Treatment Plant adjacent to an historic Black neighborhood. He has been a panelist on many conferences from Harvard to Heidelberg.
He is a Distinguished Washington University Alumni for the University, and the schools of Architecture, and Social Work.
Construction of physical structures is inseparable from the construction of human identities. Rice Architecture aims to broaden our understanding of building construction and identity formation as two interrelated processes, seeking to close the gap between the social and the formal in the field of architecture and our world more broadly. Reflecting the pluralism of Houston as the most diverse city in the United States, Building Identities advances the agency of architecture in a new multicultural world. We believe this is an urgent theme for our school, our community, and our field at large.
All lectures take place CST via Zoom. All lectures are free and open to the public. Each lecture is eligible for one AIA/CES Learning Unit.
Please be sure to register online for each lecture to receive the link to join.
This lecture series is made possible through the generous support of the Betty R. and the George F. Pierce Jr., FAIA, Fund, the William B. Coleman Jr. Colloquium Fund for Architecture, the Wm. W. Caudill Lecture Series Fund, and Rice Design Alliance (RDA), the public programs and outreach arm of Rice Architecture.