Staff Spotlight: Connor Byrne

Connor shares his insights into his career as an architect and how he finds inspiration from all around the globe.

Photo of Connor Byrne
June 29, 2023

This month's Staff Spotlight is Connor Byrne! Connor is a well-rounded architect with experience in all phases of design. He has a passion for creating contextual architecture and solving complex problems and brings a focus on well-detailed and sustainably designed buildings to the project teams. Connor is currently working on the new ground-up Gladstone Elementary School in Cranston Rhode Island which is currently in design.

Q: What inspired you to become an architect?

From a very young age, I’ve been fascinated with cities. I’d sketch houses, draw roads in chalk on the driveway, construct buildings out of LEGOs and blocks – complete with Brio train lines and Hot Wheels cars, and play the computer game SimCity. Today, I remain interested in how people experience the built environment and it’s extremely fulfilling to be involved in creating it.

Q: If you could give advice to a young designer what would you say?

My advice to a young designer is to take time to really observe what’s around you. Ask why certain things are built the way they are. Look at what may seem mundane but pay attention to the details of how things come together. Of course, the most important thing is to follow your interests, but you can learn so much by simply observing.

“Always read the plaque.”
     -- Roman Mars, 99% Invisible Podcast Creator

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

Architecture is more about solving problems than designing a pretty building, although it is that too. My guiding principle is to look at the design from as many different perspectives as possible: the needs and desires of all people, not just who will be using the building, site context, history, local traditions, etc. Ask as many questions as possible and from the synthesis of all this information the best designs are born.  

Q: What have been some of your career highlights/proudest achievements so far?

I’m very proud of passing all my exams and becoming a licensed architect, but nothing compares to seeing the smiles on the faces of people as they first inhabit a building you spent so much time working on. Seeing a project go from an idea to drawings on paper (or screen), to seeing it constructed and then finally finished is so rewarding. I’ve worked on several school projects and the smiles of the children are especially rewarding.

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

Several cities come to mind, but Chicago is my favorite. As the birthplace of the skyscraper, Chicago has no shortage of them. Neoclassical, modernist, and contemporary styles are all well represented. It’s where Frank Lloyd Wright got his start and where Mies Van Der Rohe first practiced in the US. It’s also home to some fantastic urbanism and world-class parks.

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

It’s so hard to pick one favorite building or architect. Both the Pantheon and La Sagrada Familia immediately come to mind as awe-inspiring. But a contemporary building that maybe my favorite is the Oslo Opera House, and by extension Snøhetta, my favorite firm. I was fortunate to be able to visit and tour the opera house back in 2017, and it certainly lived up to expectations. Built as the first development in a revitalized area of Oslo, its most iconic feature is its habitable roof. Following the Scandinavian principle of “right to roam,” the public plaza extends down to the sea and over the top of the building as well as through the lobby, creating a building that is also a landscape. I was so impressed by the integration of public space as well as the building’s striking form.

Oslo Opera House Exterior in Oslo, Norway
Oslo Opera House Interior in Oslo, Norway