I was strangely anxious leaving for London to collect an award with my name on it. Each area of recognition that had been cited in the letter from The President of the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) was for accomplishments that have involved thousands of people. There was no pressure, but I was nervous to be representing every one of my professional accomplishments and those individuals who had helped make them happen. I was reminded of significant moments along the way—the conviction of Bill Greehey to make Haven for Hope a reality; the drives up I-35 to the first meetings of like-minded “green” architects to help start USGBC in Central Texas; and the support of Sally Fly and AIA Austin to get this immigrant from Wales a job fifteen years ago.

James Andrews with mother and niece at the 2018 FRIBA Fellows banquet.As I arrived at 66 Portland Place, RIBA HQ in London, my mother and niece proudly walked me into the reception. The last time I had been there was as a student twenty-five years ago, buying books—one on Contracts, one on Philosophy, and one on Material Science. It reminded me of the variety of challenges we face every day in this amazing profession. As a friend had said earlier, “You spend your student life praying you don’t get an F. Then, your professional life hoping for one”.

The day was spent meeting other Fellows, students who were being honored, and a select group of Honoree Fellows such as the Mayor of London and great editors, writers, and engineers. I was one of fifteen Fellows honored this year described as “inspiring figures that represent the diversity, talent, and dynamism of architecture and the built environment.” The group was diverse, from those working with disadvantaged communities to designing infrastructure, both home and abroad—all carrying the desire to “support, influence and effect change.”

As we mingled with last year’s Fellows the conversations centered around where we came from, what we do, and interestingly, what we will do next. The RIBA wants this group to be “active ambassadors of architecture that create platforms to continue to effect change”. So, as I flew home I realized that this was not some form of lifetime achievement but a challenge to up the ante and get going with the next twenty-five years—hopefully, this was just halftime!

Our week in London was an opportunity for me to reflect on the impact the architecture profession has on communities every day, and the community at Overland that has nurtured my career through ups and downs. I am proud to be an architect and honored to be a Pheasant.

Thank you, Overland.

  • Rick Archer

    James, thanks for sharing about your experience. This award is well deserved. We are all very proud of you!