Staff Spotlight: Carson Dallas

The world of architecture through Finegold Alexander Designer and Northeastern University graduate Carson Dallas’ eyes

February 28, 2022
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Recent summa cum laude graduate from Northeastern University’s Master of Architecture program, Carson Dallas is a talented young Designer at Finegold Alexander Architects. Passionate about questions of memory and place in adaptive reuse, Carson’s background includes multi-family residential work and design for the public realm. Nearly a year since joining the firm, Carson sat down with us to speak on her passions for architecture, including her inspirations, favorite places, and more!

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in architecture?

C: The small construction projects that my dad and I did when I was a kid initially drew me to the idea of architecture. When I was in high school, I tried to convince my parents to let me paint our kitchen cabinets and, as these things always seem to do, it turned into a much larger endeavor of hand-making new cabinet doors and face frames with my dad. These kinds of projects were among my first experiences with the process of planning, designing, and translating an idea into something tangible that makes life easier or more beautiful. However, the nature of architectural education is that you stop short of that final step. At this point, my interest in architecture grew around the unique problem-solving opportunities offered by design. I love the idea that you can chase any question miles deep to discover the core logic driving the system as a means of finding an elegant solution.

“I love the idea that you can chase any question miles deep to discover the core logic driving the system as a means of finding an elegant solution.”

Q: In what ways has the profession of architecture surprised you so far?

C: How essential good communication is in the day-to-day of a project as well as its overall success. Communication with your team internally. Communication with consultants. Communication with the owner. I’m inspired by the way that such large teams of individuals with diverse backgrounds and deep knowledge can come together to bring a project from concept to fruition. While collaboration is certainly one aspect of architectural education, honing communication skills is what allows us to access this expertise most effectively to make the leap from an interesting idea to a tangible solution.

Q: Do you have a favorite city to visit for architecture?

C: During a semester abroad in Berlin, our group visited Hamburg and I was blown away by the huge variety of amazing work there. The projects we visited were not just thoughtful design solutions, but were especially thoughtful responses to the environmental, ecological, and historic context. Some of my favorites were the Energieberg Georgswerder, Hafen City, the Elbphilharmonie, and the Energy Bunker.

Elbphilharmonie (L) and Energieberg (R) shot by Carson

Q: Do you have a favorite building or perhaps a favorite architect?

C: The site for one of our studio projects during my first semester of architecture school was the Christian Science Plaza and it’s been a special place that I’ve loved returning to ever since. It’s the first place where I was able to really apply some of my newfound knowledge. When I looked closely, everything started to come alive: the intentionality behind the patterning of the plaza pavers, the way the lighting illuminated the space at dusk and dawn, the axiality of the reflecting pool, gardens, and colonnade, the way the simple, concrete massings played off each other and the historic church (now an FA project!), and the way it subtly inspired people to linger. My interests have changed a lot since that time but I always enjoy returning to that space and remembering the excitement of seeing the world in a new way for the first time.

Christian Science Plaza shot by Carson

Q: What is your favorite moment or highlights so far, either in your studies or your postgraduate roles?

C: I have really enjoyed the opportunity to follow a project through from Schematic Design through Construction Documents and now into construction. I’ve never had the opportunity to become so familiar with an existing building or a design intervention and it’s been a very rewarding process. Since bringing a project through the phases of design is really just architecture in a nutshell, I suppose it’s a good sign that it’s been my highlight so far!

Q: Do you have any guiding principles in your design approach?

C: Start by establishing a system of guiding principles. As I mentioned before, uncovering the logic that always exists but is often concealed is one of the most compelling aspects of practice to me. Once you know the rules, you can think about breaking the rules in strategic, intentional ways. Someone once described architecture as circular problem solving and I really appreciate the idea that we can continually tighten up a design solution as we incrementally work around the edges of a problem.

Stay tuned for next month’s Staff Spotlight!